US World Cup soccer gestalt: Slow, reactive, and naive.
December 2006 Archives
CAF might have dropped him from their nominees for African player of the year but Aboutreika shows why he will be the player of the future for Egypt and Africa. In fact, I don't see what can stop Aboutrieka taking Egypt and its talented squad to World Cup 2010. Unless Hassan Shehata has some of his more famous feuds as he did with players like Mido and Zidan.
The Glo-CAF nominees for the best African player this year was pruned down to three. Mohammad Aboutrieka was dropped of the list. Four out of the five players were from the European leagues and only Aboutrieka made the top five. Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria/ Portsmouth was the other player dropped off the list. The list now includes Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast/ Chelsea, Michael Essien of Ghana/ Chelsea and Samuel Eto'o of Cameroun/ Barcelona.
Mohammad Aboutrieka's exclusion shows the CAF's bias for the bigger European leagues. Aboutrieka took Al Ahly to the FIFA Club World's Championship where his superb skills earned Ahly a third place finish, the best in the history of African club soccer. He also got Al Ahly their record fifth Africa Cup of Nations and the CAF Champions League title in 2005 and 2006 with his goals.
The CAF again nominated Samuel Eto'o whose injuries have kept him on the Barca bench for a long time. Eto'o is a great player but to win an award like this, productivity should be of prime consideration. In fact, Frederic Kanoute has a better case for nomination bringing Sevilla to the top of the La Liga with his goal scoring. The only problem is that he plays for Mali, a country that is mostly overlooked in African soccer.
Mohammed Aboutreika's exclusion from the African player of the year award is a disgrace. The CAF award should be given to the player who made the most impact on African soccer. Aboutreika single handedly put African club soccer on the world map leading Al Ahly to international glory. He is a low profile player known for his humility and dedication to the game. He leads a club that apart from a few exceptions, consists of Egyptian players. Al Ahly games are rarely shown on European TV channels but we get to see Drogba and Essien every weekend. Obviously CAF believes that high profile soccer stars playing in the bigger leagues deserve more.
Clint Dempsey is almost set to join US compatriots Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra at Fulham. The only issue seems to be the prerequisite playing time in international matches under new work permit rules. Demspey's injuries have curtailed his international appearances. A tribunal will decide Dempsey's fate. If the deal is not scuppered then Dempsey will add to the growing ranks of US players in the top flight of the FA.
2002 is a distant dream for US soccer enthusiasts. This year showed where the US soccer team actually lies in the world order. Being outplayed by the Czech Republic, barely surviving a bloody match against Italy, and then falling against Ghana showed the naivety of the US team. Bruce Arena's inflexiblity in allowing players to play in their natural positions and then keeping his in form players out of the line up cost the US. As did his messianic faith in Claudio Reyna whose plodding form reduced the US attack to a standstill. Landon Donovan was virtually absent in this World Cup.
Clint Dempsey and Bobby Convey were the best players but were first victims of not playing their positions and then being under utilized. The US played their best match against Ghana but it would be a stretch to say that about the first half. It was only when Reyna was taken off in the game, we finally saw the attack flowing with Beasley slotting a delicious cross behind the Ghana team and Dempsey finishing off that fine play. Convey brought in a lot of energy up the left flank and his speed and change of pace really bothered the Ghana defence.
Two highlights or lowlights: Haminu Dramani stripping the ball from a slow reacting Reyna and then racing in for the first goal. Razak Pimpong's fine piece of acting as he lay writhing in the penalty box after Onyewu won a clean header. Stephane Appiah put Ghana up for good with the resulting penalty.
Bruce Arena was let go and Claudio Reyna retires from international soccer. Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa make a hash of the TV coverage. Juergen Klinsmann turns down the US job.
The year of US soccer is captured in this gestalt: Slow, reactive, and naive.
Arsenal has a genuine problem with more physical teams. To see Robin Van Persie get rattled by Sheffield United's John Morgan was to see a clinic in effective intimidation. In fact, the Blades defenders physical shadowing of the Arsenal attack pushed Tomas Rosicky into hasty and inaccurate passes. Rosicky was made irrelevant. Arsenal relies on one touch short passes to keep the flow. They make passes projected on where the player will be. This sort of anticipatory soccer relies entirely on timing and space. The Blades were so effective in denying space to the Arsenal attack crowding out the supply lanes that Arsenal was forced to play a far more up tempo game than they usually do. The game opened up with Cesc Fabregas substituting Hoyte but some great emergency goalkeeping by Phil Jagielka kept the Gunners away. The familiar pattern of too many passes in the box again proved Arsenal's undoing. It was strange but there was no player who wanted to have a go at goal. Arsenal blinked a lot in this match being pushed and crowded away from the ball. However, as poorly as Arsenal played, the Blades played a superb match.
This weakness is being picked up by the teams throughout the Premiership. It is not just Bolton that physically punishes Arsenal. Arsenal digs itself into a hole by falling behind and then has to pull out a win in the second half or eke out a draw. Sometimes the effort is not enough as proven by losses to West Ham, Fulham, and now Sheffield Utd.
Arsenal's inconsistency is a reflection of the relative youth and inexperience of its players and no doubt this team will be ready in a year or two to challenge for the title but Wenger should make this game about relying on goal attempts. For that you have to have players who show some hustle and initiative.
1) The headbutt that was heard around the world: It cost France the World Cup
Zinedine Zidane in his swansong match of his stellar career and on the brink of taking France to a second title in this year's World Cup decided that his pride was more important than Les Bleus. He reacted to Marco Materazzi baiting his mother and sister, and leveled him with a headbutt. It proved costly with Zidane sent off and a visibly rusty Trezeguet shooting the ball over in the penalty kicks that gave the Italians their fourth title. The consolation, if ever there was a player who deserved to be leveled, it would be Materazzi. The headbutt becomes a defining point in Zizou's career and his worth as a player will never be complete without this discussion. There are very few that believe that the Azzurris would have won with Zidane in the line up.
2) The Azzurris win the 2006 World Cup: Amidst scandal and suicide
The Azzurris showed what wins teams the World Cup: Teamwork. With their discipline, opportunism, and their faith in their defense, the Azzurris marched to their fourth title. All this in the maelstrom of the worst scandal in soccer history with four clubs implicated in the Serie match fixing. The scandal shook Italian soccer with even the Vatican expressing their dismay. Worse was to follow as disgraced Juventus sports director Gianluca Pessotto attempted suicide during the World Cup, which necessitated Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluca Zambrotta leaving squad duty, to visit their friend in the Turin hospital where he lay recuperating from massive internal injuries.
3) Germany finds itself in the 2006 World Cup: Klinsmann and his merry men
Germany did not win this World Cup losing to their arch rivals Italy in the semifinals, 0-2 in one of the most entertaining matches in the tournament. However, by the end of the World Cup, Germany as a country discovered a new found exuberance shaking of ages old stodginess and stoicism. A change wrought by Juergen Klinsmann and his merry men who did not hold back their enthusiasm and animation on the field. The new Germany showed it did not care too much for Donald Rumsfeld's characterization of it as Old Europe. Klinsmann made it cool to watch German soccer. No mean feat for someone who had been dismissed as a California bimbo by the German soccer establishment.
4) The Serie scandal: Jogo Feio, Fiat, and Juventus
The Serie scandal exploded when tapped phone conversations revealed that Juventus's general director, Luciano Moggi, nicknamed Lucky Luciano by his critics, discussing the assignment of referees for league games with Pierluigi Pairetto, the refereeing official for Italy's soccer federation -- a clear violation of league rules. But that was only the tip of it. Other parts of the transcripts, culled by investigators and reported by the Italian news media, show much more: players and managers being threatened and blackmailed; numerous discussions over refereeing assignments before games; allegations of collusion among coaches, federation officials and a popular soccer talk-show host; the blacklisting of those who challenged the corruption; and, of course, the lavish greasing of palms. In the end Juventus was relegated to the Serie B and AC Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio took point deductions and the faith of a country in its sporting heroes took a beating. The scandal prompted Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a close aide to Pope Benedict XVI to say ''From a good Italian and from an old fan, I am sad and disappointed. I would have always liked that sporting events were genuine.''
5) The sun sets on the British Empire: The club buyouts
This year continued where the following few years left off. After oil as an investment, foreign consortiums found British soccer clubs ripe for the picking. Portsmouth, Aston Villa, West Ham, and most recently Liverpool, the most storied English club succumbing to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's, Dubai's billionaire ruler. A third of the Premiership clubs are now owned by a motley crew that includes a Russian oligarch, a reclusive NFL owner, a fugitive Israeli gun runner's son, an American credit card baron, an ex FIFA vice president, and of course, Al Maktoum, a horse and camel racing addict. But does the average Premiership fan care that these people have no clue as to Lou Macari's fish and chips shop? Nah. As long as it gets them a title even as the player's paycheck is being cut in Jumeirah.
6) Internacional beats Barcelona: South America still hangs tough
Internacional beat Barcelona in the 45th edition of world club supremacy, in the FIFA World Club Championships (aka Intercontinental Cup) between a South American vs a European club. South American clubs have shown that they continue to hold their own even in this age with most of their star players leaving for the more lucrative European leagues. Indeed, Barca has its share of South Americans led by Ronaldinho, Messi, Edmilson, Sylvinho, Saviola, Belletti, and Thiago. Yet, all of Barca's firepower came to nought, as Adriano Vieira slotted a goal for Internacional in the 72nd minute. The exodus of players from South America continues unabated but when it comes to the greatest club, South Americans edge Europeans out 24 to 21. Last year, Sao Paolo beat Liverpool, 1-0.
7) Boca Juniors self destruct: The Argentinian Apertura is won by Estudiantes
All Boca Juniors needed to do was to win one game in the Apertura to win this year's Argentina title. In a stunning collapse, they lost their final two games to Belgrano and Lanus. In the final standings both Boca Juniors and Estudiante were level, necessitating a playoff game to decide the Apertura title. Before the Estudiantes game, Boca coach Ricardo La Volpe had vowed to resign his job if his team did not win. The threat seemed to work as workhorse Martin Palermo scored the first goal for Boca sending their fans into ecstasy. However, goals by Mariano Pavone and Jose Sosa pulled Estudiantes through. La Volpe was expressly brought on by Boca honcho Mauricio Macri on August 22nd to take Boca to the title after Alfio Basile was selected to lead the Albiceleste.
8) The year of the new kids on the block: Africa is the powerhouse
Four out of the eight new teams in this World Cup were from Africa. Angola, Cote D'Ivoire, Togo, and Ghana. And France's squad that nearly won them a second title were mostly composed of players from former French colonies in Africa from Algeria to Senegal. Africa's competitiveness is reflected in the fact that soccer big hitters like Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroun, and Senegal could not find a spot in the World Cup. All though no African player made it to the FIFA top 23 squad, players like Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, Bakari Kone, Haminu Dramani, Emmanuel Adebayor, Hatem Trabalsi, Ziad Jaziri, Mohamed Kader, made their mark this World Cup. African players lead the Premiership. La Liga, and Ligue in most goals scored. El Ahly won the third spot in the Club World Championships and Mohamed Aboutreika showed that he is Africa's best player. However Africa was not the only big winner, as Trinidad and Tobago's Soca Warriors showed that they had come to play in their matches against Sweden and England. Although they lost, they quickly earned the love and respect of fans everywhere. The Socceroos were pipped at the post by a heartbreaking Fabio Grosso acting job but the Guus Hiddink coached team showed that they were genuine and gritty with tons of talent in Timmy Cahill, Brett Emerson, Lucas Neill, and Harry Kewell.
9) Ferenc Puskas passes away: The incandescent days of Hungarian soccer
The soccer world mourned a legend when Ferenc Puskas died on 17 November, 2006. He was the star in a team that boasted legendary players like Sandor Koscis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, and Joszef Boszik, that made Hungary virtually indestructible in the 50's. He scored 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary and led them to an Olympic title in 1952. Puskas also captained a Magyar team, the first foreign team to beat England in English soil in 1951. The Magyars pulverized the English, 6-3. In the 1954 World Cup, Puskas almost led the Magyars to their first World Cup title but in the final he was injured and the Magyars lost to the Germans, 2-4 in a match known as the Miracle at Berne. With Alfredo Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Francisco Gento, and Jose Santamaria he was part of the legendary Real Madrid teams that won 5 Spanish championships, 3 European Cups, and 1 Intercontinental Cup. He scored 155 goals in 179 apperances. When he died, an emotional Alfredo Di Stefano said "He was a better person than a player. And as a player he was extraordinary." Puskas returned home to Hungary, virtually penniless, a victim of his unbounded generosity as a human being.
10) Juergen Klinsmann rebuffs US soccer: Is Jose Pekerman next?
The search for a big name coach for resurrecting the fortunes of the US World Cup team took a nosedive so fast that it became a nosebleed when Klinsmann on December 7, 2006 rejected US Soccer's offer to make him the new coach of the US team. Virtually every soccer fan in the USA had rationalized reasons for his acceptance. California home, married with an American wife, loves the fitness and conditioning skills of American sports, highly telegenic, and so on and so forth. In the end, Klinsmann probably did not find the US job challenging enough. After his rejection, it is the turn of Jose Pekerman's name being bandied about. The problem is that he understands only Spanish. But wait a minute, there is hope. Pekerman is related to Gregory Peck and due to this proximity should understand English very quickly, consequently taking up the US coaching job. Not.
This is Soccerblog's list and there are of course many more which might be equally deserving. If you have any that you want to highlight please feel free to bring it to our attention. We can always create another list. Matthew Taylor's goal is not an event.
With 5 days left to go in the year here's one look at Soccer in 2006 from A to Z.
Happy Christmas to all soccerblog readers.Here is a compilation by someone called Wezz of the top 50 goals in the Champions League.(video)
25.26 minutes of goals to watch on Christmas day - if you feel so inclined..........or if you wish take a look at an unlikely Christmas miracle.A letter recalling a soccer match played between english and german soldiers on Christmas day 1914 - -in the middle of World War 1.
Ever so often there comes a moment that convinces me how utterly removed professional sports in the USA is from the fans. The recent fracas involving Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks shows how sports revolves around players, the coaches, the broadcasting companies, sports agents, and even the announcers. Missing in this equation are the fans. Nobody cares about them.
Watching a professional team sport like basketball, baseball, or NFL is similar to watching a canned product. Excitement is hyped up to recorded chants of "Lets go Knicks" or the music from Jaws. There is nothing organic that happens in the stands with fans developing their own songs or chants. Why would they? Everything is soullessly handed down to them. Everything is perfectly orchestrated. From the flashing lights in the arena before the players are introduced in the best Michael Buffet impersonation of "Lets get ready to rumble" to the 7th inning stretch in baseball.
Soccer is all about the fans. In recent years, with the increasing number of takeovers and escalating ticket prices, we have a more commodified version of soccer, especially in the Premiership but in the rest of the world the devolution of power still lies in the hands of the fans. And nothing is more emblematic of this power than the myriad soccer rivalries or the soccer derbies all over the world. We see fans in their thousands attending Fenerbache play Galtasaray, singing and chanting, unfurling the club banners, with fireworks going off in the stadium, and police being brought to control rioting in the stands and on the field. Fans regularly post video clips of the rioting. In Cairo, the rivalry between Al Ahly and Zamalek is so fierce, foreign referees are brought in to officiate matches because local referees are often physically assaulted and even issued death threats if they are perceived as biased.
Many of these soccer rivalries are rooted in deeply historical divisions between religious sects, socioeconomic classes, and migrant populations. Sectarianism underlies the celebrated Old Firm rivalry between the Celtics and Rangers. The two teams pit the Protestant population of Glasgow that traditionally support the Rangers and the more recent Catholic immigrants, mostly from Ireland who form the fan base of the Celtics. The rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate, mirrors a power play in Buenos Aires between the city's indigent blue collared workers who support Boca and the patrician European elites and their preference for River. In Kolkata, India, a crowd of over 100,000 regularly turns out to see Mohun Bagan play East Bengal. This bitterly contested city derby sees the aspirations of the Ghotis, the traditional inhabitants of the state of West Bengal represented by Mohun Bagan against East Bengal, a club formed by the exodus of migrant Bangals from Bangladesh, who came in their hundreds of thousands during India's independence from England in 1947.
There is nothing that even remotely comes close in the USA. Sectarianism is unheard of. The concept of a meritocratic society obliterates plebian and patrician distinctions. Immigrant populations arrive to get a slice of the American dream, not to create a diversion with a rival soccer club. The concept of a derby in professional sports is unthinkable. It makes no commercial sense. Why would you want to waste money on two versions of the same sport in the same city. Siphon off the TV, advertising, and merchandising money that rightfully belongs to one club? In the rare instance that there are two teams in the same town that play the same sport as in the New York Yankees and the Mets, keep them apart in two different leagues. When they do meet in their six meetings as part of the interleague matches, exploit it as the subway series. The longest and most compelling rivalry in US sports history between the Yankees and the Red Sox, fueled by the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees from the Sox in 1920 is a genuine one but largely based on the myth of the "Curse of the Bambino", exorcised only recently when the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004. However, the most enduring US rivalry pales in comparison to even the bitterness of a lesser known soccer rivalry as in Portsmouth and Southampton. This is because the Red Sox is assured of meeting the Yankees every season unlike the system of relegation in FA soccer, that gives an added impetus to the rivalries. The most rabid Red Sox fans would shake their head in disbelief if a foreign umpiring crew was brought into officiate a Red Sox and Yankees game.
Professional sports are addicted to made for TV rivalries, an ephemeral phenomenon peculiar to the US. For a brief intense moment in the late 90's a rivalry sprung up between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. Pat Riley, the Heat coach had been spirited away from the Knicks with promises of virtually unlimited power and resources to shape the Heat franchise. A defection that rankled many Knicks supporters. At the core of the rivalry too, was the personal animus between Larry Johnson of the Knicks and Alonzo Mourning of the Heat. A fallout of the years that both players spent playing together at the Charlotte Hornets, where each considered themselves as the franchise player. The animosity came to a head when during a bench clearing brawl, one was subjected to the ridiculous sight of Jeff Van Gundy strapped around the leg of the scrapping Mourning taking a few wild swings at the Knicks. In all these ingredients the TV sports pundits saw the makings of a classic rivalry, touted as epic battles. As soon as it was proclaimed as such, it disappeared when Larry Johnson retired. Another transient rivalry began with the Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, largely centered around a special fan, Spike Lee and his itinerant trash talking with Reggie Miller. And now we have the Miami Heat vs LA Lakers rivalry that is this year's Xmas special on ABC which sees Kobe Bryant against his nemesis, former club captain and minimalist speaker Shaq O'Neal. A rivalry very dependent on the well being of Shaq. When Shaq decides that his 4 NBA titles are enough and hangs up his boots, ABC will have to go looking for another hoops rivalry.
In all these instances it was not fans looking through the perspective of historical divisions of class, religion, or migration. It was players, coaches, broadcasting companies, sports pundits, and announcers, taking the lead. An indicator of where fans stand in this hierarchy lies in the 3+ hours of a NFL game that in all reality should take a little over an hour to complete. In order to milk each moment into an economic bonanza for the broadcasting companies, fans are treated to 'dead time' when players mill around doing nothing on the field during the game as the TV station takes advertising breaks. The expansion of the game to 3 hours or more gives opportunities to John Madden to indulge his soporific and sententious prattling. Madden is an astute observer of the game and when he says someone is a very under rated running back he probably is spot on. But then comes the Dr Phil moment when he turns to Al Michaels, and says that he is not just a good running back but a great human being. A long winded explanation follows. The deification of a player is complete. A taste of this came when Marcelo Balboa and Dave O'Brien called some of the soccer matches for ABC during the World Cup. Their commentary was a pastiche of a weather report and moral proclamations. Very little of it had to do with the game. In soccer most fans would not know the name of the announcers or even less care what charity Didier Drogba gives his money to. This relative anonymity is what keeps soccer fans relevant.
The estrangement of fans from professional sports in the US is crystallized in the rank bewilderment at the recent failures of the US teams in the international arena. The basketball team did not win this year's World Championships or the 2004 Olympics at Athens. The US baseball team crashed out in this year's inaugural Baseball World Classic, not even making the semi-finals. Did not the script say otherwise? After all the meeting of the champions of the American League and the National League is billed as the World Series. The ancillary industries that US professional sports spawn, write the script. In that script the fans form a footnote.
Some Christmas cheer for the gunners. Arsenal ran rings around the Blackburn Rovers scoring 6 goals to their 2.
Elsewhere Manchester United dismissed Aston Villa by 3 goals (video) to none.Chelsea stay 2 points behind them with a narrow win over Wigan thanks to this injury time goal from Robben.
So the Mourinho v/s Ferguson question now is.....Who will blink first ?
"All I can say now is 'stay tuned' - years from now, people will look back and see 2007 as the start of something remarkable for our sport in India,"said one Sepp Blatter as he promised to launch a "special initiative" to improve the dismal state of soccer in India.India failed to qualify for the 2007 Asian Cup, ending at the bottom of their group with Zero points from six matches. 24 goals scored against them just two scored by them.
India's current FIFA ranking is 157.
So all fans of Indian Soccer are hoping that this idea of Blatter will turn out to be one of his better ones...!
Cannavaro didn't really live up to his best defender in the world status as Real Madrid go down by three goals to Recreativo Huelva.
Wasn't it Elton John who sang " Sorry seems to be the hardest word." ?
Mourinho may well be humming a few bars of that song now as he says the word .............!
Juventus vs Bologna.
A minute of silence was observed before the game for two Juventus youth players who drowned in an accident at the club's training facility earlier. As they walked out onto the field, Juventus players wore shirts over the their jerseys bearing the names of two youth players – Alessio and Riccardo – .The game was marred by this controversial goal among other things....take a look.
Uli Hoeness has dashed Owen Hargreaves's hopes of joining Manchester United in the January transfer window -- again! "Nothing's going to happen during the winter transfer window," Hoeness told German television. "We've got Real Madrid in the Champions League and we're not going to weaken the team. We're not a bank, but rather a football club."
Right. Let's see how much Sir Alex is willing to put up, then we'll talk.
If Sir Alex gets 15 good minutes from Larsson a game, the loan will be worth it!
Outside of Italy few soccer fans have ever paid much attention to the serie B tournament, populated as it normally is by small town teams. But in a year when Serie B features heavy-weight champs like Juventus, Napoli, Bologna and Genoa that may well change. As of today, these four teams all share the number one spot in the tournament with 31 points, thanks in part to a couple of highly controversial decisions by the ref in the Bologna-Juve match (0-1), validating a dubious Zalayeta goal (wasn't that an arm he used to stop the ball? and did the ball even cross the line?) while overlooking Buffon's flattening of a Bologna forward on his way to goal. Bologna and its fans are seething...
Everton (taking the view that people who live in glass houses should not go around chucking stones) are ready to sue Mourinho for calling this interaction between Andrew Johnson and Hilario a dive.
Everton want Mourinho to apologise for saying things about Andrew Johnson like "(He) is a dangerous opponent because you cannot trust him" and "in my country he would be called an intelligent player"
Everton are likely to be disappointed, however, because Mourinho is not the sort to apologise, even in the rare event when he believes he is in the wrong.
No country venerates its defenders as much as the Azzurris do. This year FIFA awarded the President's award posthumously to Giacinto Facchetti, the founding father of the catenaccio, thereby acknowledging a seminal part of the Azzurri success as a footballing nation. We can criticize the Azzurris for their lock and chain defense as being unattractive to watch but no one can dispute that it has been most effective. Perhaps, in other parts of the world we have not developed an appreciation for watching skillful defense, the type that a Cannavaro or a Maldini brings to the game.
Facchetti was not just one of the most gifted defenders, he was also an exemplary human being having played for only Inter and in 654 appearances he only got sent off once. He became the Nerazzuri president in 2004.
FIFA's best player went to Cannavarro, the Lev Yashin award for the best goalkeeper to Gigi Buffon and the president's award to Gaicinto Facchetti. This year's award celebrated catenaccio and its most noted practitioners.
While away in Japan Barcelona were dethroned from their top spot in the Spanish League.Sevilla now currently reign in Spain after their 3-1 defeat of local rivals Recreativo Huelva.(goal video here)
Real Madrid too are just a point behind and breathing down their necks after their 1- 0 victory over Espanyol.(Nice goal by Nistelrooy)
Chelsea looked like it was going down against Everton till Drogba came up with a bit of magic.Final score 3 -2 ....goals below.
The Bundesliga is heading into the four week winter recess but many are concerned that a spate of goalkeeping blunders that are making Paul Robinson or a Pepe Reina look good is assuming epidemic proportions.
Five clubs have already replaced their goalkeepers but the blunders keep piling up, the latest by Energie Cottbus goalie, Tomas Piplica who headed in Bastian Schweinsteiger's free kick into his own goal.
Schalke's rise to the top of the table might have to do with regular goalkeeper Frank Rost being dropped in favour of Manuel Neuer who has only let in 6 goals in 9 matches. Other clubs have changed goalies but have been less successful.
"Goalkeepers in crisis," Kicker magazine exclaimed Monday in an article that detailed the chopping and changing going on at a number of Bundesliga sides.
So is there a goalkeeper crisis going on. Andreas Köpke does not think so. "I see no reason to believe that the quality of goalkeepers is declining," said Köpke.
1967 was a magical year for Celtic as they beat Inter Milan in the European Cup final, 2-1 to become the first British club to win the title. The players are now immortalized as the Lisbon Lions in club history.
Thanks Celtic fans for pointing out it was Inter and not AC. Apologies for getting the team all wrong. My bad! However, it did cap a fanstastic year as Celtic won every title that they entered in 1967
Great news for all those fans of European soccer!
European soccer governing body UEFA has announced that ESPN International has acquired exclusive media rights in the U.S. and Canada to UEFA Euro 2008, the European soccer championship.
All 31 matches of UEFA Euro 2008 will air LIVE in the U.S. in English, with 2 matches to be broadcast over-the air on ABC and the other 29 matches to air on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPN Classic. A comprehensive highlights show will air on each match day during the competition.
ESPN Deportes will air all 31 matches in the U.S. in Spanish.
ESPN has also acquired radio and new media rights to UEFA Euro 2008.
The Hammers responded magnificently under new coach Alan Curbishley and notched up a win for the ages at Upton Park against Manchester United, a team that had not lost an away game this season in 8 matches. West Ham had not won against Man Utd, well since the Berlin Wall fell!
In a bit of magic, again initiated by that 40+ wizard Teddy Sheringham, whose pass from the right flank found a hustling Harewood muscling in a ball for the steaming Reo-Coker to slot past Van der Saar. The goal saw Upton Park erupt. A decidedly nervous Eggert Magnusson looked ecstatic.
The next 14 minutes saw Man Utd throw everything and the kitchen sink at the Hammers. Even Van Der Saar ventured into the penalty box to have a go with his noggin at some of the Ronaldo corners and free kicks. Some great goalkeeping by Robert Green and stout defending by McCartney, Konchesky, and Anton Ferdinand kept Man Utd from scoring.
This game saw a previously somnolent Nigel Reo-Coker who under Alan Pardew seemed to be going through the motions, come alive. He made the difference because so much of the Hammers attack goes through Reo-Coker. It was fitting that he got the match winner.
With Everton's loss to Chelsea, 2-3 earlier in the day, Drogba scoring the winner yet again, Man Utd's lead over second place Chelsea has now shrunk to two. More importantly, the West Ham win has breathed new life into the more distantly placed teams like Arsenal and Liverpool to climb up further.
Some questions remain for Curbishley as he steers West Ham out of the woods. He used experience in this match to counter Man Utd bringing in Sheringham, Benayoun, and McCartney. Absent were the two Argentinian imports, Tevez and Mascherano. With this win, Curbs might not feel like tinkering around too much with the lineup. Dean Ashton is due to return to squad duty by the end of the month and that will further complicate Tevez's minutes.
It is official. The South American clubs are better than the European ones. Either that or winning the FIFA Club World Cup means more to the South Americans.
Internacional won against Barca, 1-0 through a goal scored by substitute Adriano Vieira with 8 minutes left. Ronaldinho came very close to scoring the equalizer through a free kick but to no avail. Barca dominated the match but it is goals that win matches. A fact that Sam Allardyce can fully appreciate. Congratulations to Internacional.
Guus Hiddink says it like it is in his new book "Dit is Mijn Wereld" (This is my world) about the Socceroos. He loved coaching them during the World Cup. However, he has some choice words for Mark Schwarzer, Aussie goalie who has been openly feuding with him.
Hiddink's assessment of Schwarzer. "Mark Schwarzer must realise that no player can be guaranteed a starting place all the time. Even big, big players have to accept that because nobody is totally secure. Overall Mark did a good job, but of course he could have done better."
Dit is Mijn Wereld is available online >>
Action from the spanish season.This spectacular goal from Miguel Angel Angulo helped Valencia to a crucial 1-0 away win at Real Zaragoza.
Ronaldinho has every reason to be cautious when he insisted "I've said it before and I'll say it again - we're not the favorites," Ronaldinho said ahead of Sunday's final against Internacional of Porto Alegre. "Inter is in great physical shape."
The record is mixed when it comes to South American clubs against their European counterparts. Last year, Sao Paulo beat heavily favoured Liverpool, 1-0. South American clubs have an edge over European clubs 24-21. La Liga clubs are tied with the Brazilian clubs, 1-1. In 1992, Sao Paulo won against Barcelona 2-1 but Vasco Da Gama lost to Real Madrid in 1998, 1-3.
It should be a great match as it potentially pits Barca's five Brazilian players against Internacional of Porto Alegre. Ronaldinho started his playing career for Internacional's bitter city rivals, Gremio in 1998.
Boca Juniors could have won its 22nd Argentine title when they played Belgrano but they lost 1-0. They then lost to Lanus, 2-1. The third time around Ricardo LaVolpe, Boca's coach vowed that he would quit if they lost to Estudiantes and lo and behold, Estudiantes beat them, 2-1 through goals by Jose Sosa and Mariano Pavano. Estudiantes claimed its fourth title and
LaVolpe resigned after 88 days of coaching, as he was specially brought in with the purpose of winning Boca's third consecutive title.
Miguel Angel Russo, Velez Sarsfield's coach was appointed by Mauricio Macri as the new Boca coach. Russo was a former star wing and coach of Estudiantes, the team which prevented Boca's attempt at winning the Apertura on Wednesday.
Newcastle United is now the latest club ripe for a takeover. Reports are that the Belgravia Group have tabled a £235 m takeover of the Magpies. Newcastle's chairman Freddy Shepherd has denied any takeover talk. A spokesman for Belgravia said: 'We are still in negotiations, but no formal offer has been made and we do not comment on press speculation.'
Alan Curbishley, West Ham's new manager faces a giant hurdle tomorrow when they face Premiership leaders Manchester United. Curbishley is hoping he can more consistency from Nigel Reo Coker who disappeared this season under Pardew's watch.
The way Man Utd has been demolishing the opposition, a draw against them would mean a victory for Curbishley and the beleaguered Hammers. Curbishley's priority is to put space between them and the laggards in the Premiership escaping relegation woes.
A new coach, a new owner, new players, and in the near future a new stadium. Never has the future held more promise for the Hammers.
When the referee blows the opening whistle, Iraqis divided by sectarian violence put their differences aside to cheer on their team for 90 minutes.
Soccer-mad Iraqis, Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds alike, are enjoying rare moments of joy as their team charges through to the final of the Asian Games.Rest of this pre final write up by Mussab Al-Khairalla here.
The joy was over soon enough though.They lost in the finals to Qatar.
Barcelona eliminated Mexico's Club America from the competition in quite a convincing manner.....
Drogba's goal in the 74th minute against Newcastle brings Chelsea within five points of Manchester United.....
A German soccer fan expressed his delight when Klinsmann turned down the USA job. I think he along with thousands of Klinsmann fans are celebrating that decision. Klinsmann it is conjectured turned down the decision because he was unhappy with how little autonomy US Soccer gave their players. This was inimical to his personal philosophy. In his biography he declares ''No one can tell me, 'do this or do that.' I am free. I'm my own man." In the end it may have influenced his decision to call off coaching the US team. We will never know the real truth as Sunil Gulati refuses to get into the details.
There maybe another equally plausible reason. In Western Europe, the Germans have the most unfavorable opinion of the USA. What we saw in the World Cup was Klinsmann lead a German team that about 10% of the population had given a chance winning the World Cup. He was hated and derided by the Bayern Munich cabal of Beckenbauer, Hoeness, and Magath. By the end of the World Cup, Klinsmann was a hero. It was cool to be emotional, wave the German flag, and sing patriotic songs; all overt celebrations of German pride because of what he had done with the German team.
Now why would he undo that once in a lifetime feeling by coaching the national team of a country towards which Germans harbour a strong antipathy? This is different from welcoming the US team to Germany during the World Cup or even having American players playing in the Bundesliga.
By turning down the USA job, Klinsmann has enhanced his stature in Germany which has led to even more clamors for him to coach again. There are reports that he maybe interested. This time around when he commands "Jump." Beckenbauer will say, "How high?"
Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum faces a lawsuit from families that have accused him of enslaving about 30,000 children and forcing them to be camel jockeys in races in the UAE. The US State Department reports that “thousands of children, some as young as three or four years of age, are trafficked from Bangladesh, Pakistan and countries in East Africa, and sold into slavery to serve as camel jockeys. These children live in an oppressive environment and endure harsh living conditions.”
Other than that he is a nice guy and will help Liverpool win many Premiership titles.
Not a very convincing victory but victory nonetheless.Emmanuel Adebayor scores 2 minutes from the end.
At the end of the two week training camp at Man Utd, Sir Alex Ferguson had decidedly cooled on the lad's chances.
Fergie reportedly had concerns regarding Adu's temperament. Read between the lines. When you have Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, the last thing you should bring up is temperament. One of them can't distinguish between a football and testicles and the other is instrumental in getting the other one sent off because he can't distinguish between a football and testicles. He then proceeds to wink, a gesture captured by cameras all around the world. Worse, both of them are team mates in the same club and play together in the forthcoming Premiership season. Both players provided the second most downloaded highlight of the World Cup, next to Zidane's immortal headbutt of Materazzi. The inescapable fact: Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo's talent as football players far outweigh their shortcomings in temperament.
Sir Alex was in fact expressing his doubts about Adu's talent.
Freddy Adu's touchy relationship with Peter Nowak, the DC United coach ended with his trade to Real Salt Lake where he will be under the more laissez faire John Ellinger. Nowak's desire to discipline Adu made it difficult to get playing minutes in DC United. Adu was not indispensable to DC United's chances this season. And given the way they played it still seem somewhat incomprehensible that they did not win their third MLS title. On the other hand, Adu has a chance to be a big fish in a small pond at Real Salt Lake. Why? Because Adu's recent training camp at Man Utd amounted to a slap on his face and a move to Europe extremely difficult. The only way he can now do this is to turn around almost single handedly RSL's fortunes and to make it a MLS contender.
When Sir Alex speaks, people listen. This is bad news for Adu and his chances of getting to play in Europe. He will succeed but it might not be the European top flight clubs anymore. I also have a feeling that his desire to play for the Ghana squad might be rekindled along the way.
Meanwhile RSL is gambling that Adu will not get enough firm offers from European clubs and in the end decide to spend 2-3 years in the club enough to change their fortunes and get the necessary return on their investment. For this they have to thank Sir Alex who has effectively kept Adu's plans for a European sojourn in a limbo.
Fallout from the Mastercard vs FIFA case.
Blatter - apparently determined to teach all FIFA executives never to tell lies again - has therefore accordingly fired four of them....!
A kind of similar looking bicycle kick from Atalanta's Cristiano Doni in a Serie A match against Messina on sunday.
Iraq, who endured a chaotic build-up to the Games which saw one member of their football federation murdered and their coach receive death threats, reached their first final in 24 years with this goal from Samer Mujbel against South Korea.Good for them.
Qatar knocked out the defending champs Iran to become the other finalist.
Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva or Alexandre Pato nicknamed "the duck" is going to be the secret weapon for South American champions Internacional in their game against Egypt's Al Ahly in the Club World Cup on wednesday.Alexandre is being called things like " a great new brazilian discovery" since his extraordinary debut for Inter last month where he scored with his first touch after 94 seconds and set up two more goals in a 4-1 win at Palmeiras. (video here).
Victory on Wednesday could possible bring 'The Duck' and his team into the finals against the favourites Barcelona .For now ...the media is being requested not to put the pressure of too much expectation on Alexandre...so the word going around is "don't muck with the duck"...!
The 4-0 pasting by Bolton was the straw that broke Eggert Magnusson's back. He looked like he had swallowed distemper on the sidelines. When we woke up Pardew was gone. He had struggled to keep the team cohesive with major player distractions like Niger Reo Coker's sulk regarding a possible Arsenal transfer which Coker was unaware of, the whole West Ham takeover which saw quite a bit of unsavoury haggling with ex- MSI partner Kia Joorabchian and Eli Papoushado, and of course, trying to fit Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, into the attack.
For all his efforts West Ham are fighting relegation and in 18th place in the table. Alan Curbishley, the ex-Charlton Athletic manager and sometime candidate as England manager is being mentioned as a possible successor.
The Doha Asian games, saw an Indian football drawing Hong Kong, barely beating the Maldives, and then crashing out to Iran.
Iraq, with its violence and kidnapping and murder of many of its key football officials, finds a place in the quarterfinals. Sending the Indian team to Doha was done at AIFF (All India Football Federation) expense as the Sports Ministry of India had not cleared them to go. Football was identified as a sport that India did not stand a chance to medal in. Bizarrely, for Priya Ranjan Das Munshi these are all portents that India is going to qualify for the World Cup in 2010. The one thing that Das Munshi has learned as AIFF president all these years is that as a politician, always promise but never deliver them.
In this world of globalization, with respect to technology, the Indian government and the private sector have done a smart thing and have tapped into the vast amounts of skilled manpower that India has sent abroad. The gradual dismantling of the license raj has created the conditions for diasporic Indians to invest and many instances even comeback to India. In turn, this has encouraged foreign companies to set up shop in India. A more recent trend shows a number of foreign students spending their internships in companies like Infosys.
Similar opportunities exist with regards to football with the diasporic Indians. This has not been explored in any organized fashion. Raj Prohit's Sapphire Enterprises, the company that was responsible for bringing Baichung Bhutia to Bury in 1999, organized the first tour of the Indian national team in 2000 to England, where they played Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, and Bangladesh. This was ostensibly to highlight the popularity of football in India and to give the national team experience and exposure. Subsequent tours also saw the Indian team play other first and second division clubs as well as Jamaica. The subtext in these tours was to promote racial equality in the UK based diasporic communities but in effect it was also to sell India. As Paul Dimeo writes, " A later development of these tours was to promote the idea of India as a home." In doing so, the idea was to establish links between the NRI (Non Resident Indian) community and India that would see exchanges of coaches and and players, and the future possibility of including NRI's in the Indian team.
In theory, a very feasible idea and one that should be given serious consideration. Imagine at some point of time having players of the calibre of Vikash Dhorasoo, Michael Chopra, Aman Dosanjh, Aaron Winter, Harpal Singh, Rajinder Singh Virjee, and Prince Rajcomar representing India. As in the case of Jamaica and more recently Trinidad and Tobago that have built successful squads around diasporic players. With India, a player like Vikash Dhorasoo would be assured of playing all 90 minutes, instead of fighting for minutes in Les Bleus with its surfeit of talent in the midfield positions with Zidane, Govou, Wiltord, Vieira, Makelele, and Ribery. A perceived lack of opportunity playing for England led to Zesh Rehman, the ex-Fulham midfielder's decision to switch allegiance to Pakistan in 2005.
However, Dimeo brings up an excellent point suggesting that Sapphire Enterprises noble and lofty ideals were nullified by Raj Prohit's overtly commercial enterprise, which is not surprising, as they are a for profit company. The matches were fairly expensive to watch and were marketed to British Asians, excluding the "whites' who the organizers felt would not be interested. The Indian players movements off the field were tightly regulated, they were refused access to schools and community clubs, that would have lent credence to Sapphire's message of 'community building.' The result is that the effect of these tours in promoting Indian football and racial diversity have been miniscule. On the other hand, the AIFF imprimatur of these tours and its publicity have led Prohit and now Arunava Chaudhuri, a German based NRI, and the owner of the web portal indiafootball.com who has entered the football tour business, to assume that only NRI's can save the state of Indian football. Jas Bains, author of a very influential 1996 report Asians Can't Play Football says, "I helped put British Asian football on the map, now I hope to put Indian football on the map."
The problem lies not so much in these NRI entrepreneurs as they are only exploiting opportunities. It is the AIFF, an enervated institution led by an enervated individual, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi. The AIFF has no vision and so these individuals are providing AIFF their version that essentially dismisses the notion that Indians are incapable of developing talent on their own. The panacea to Indian football lies in the wholesale import of PIO (People of Indian Origin) players. This cavalier view has irritated Indian players and sports journalists alike. The failure of the AIFF to provide its own vision has led many others to offer their own. Mohammed Bin Hamman, the AFC president has targeted India as a potentially important Asian contributor to the world's game. One of his more realistic goals targets the development of local talent. This vision is at odds with the NRI one. However, the AIFF only pays lip service to the development of youth teams which is under the control of the Sports Authority of India (SAI). It does not even provide the SAI with funds, despite having the capital. So the AIFF's only meaningful interaction lies with these NRI investors. And in fact, Arunava Chaudhuri and Sapphire Enterprises enjoy a cosy and comfortable relationship with the AIFF.
To enter Chaudhuri's world is to enter a world full of absurdist claims which bolster his argument of PIO participation. Recently, a friendly against Brazil was cancelled. This led Chaudhuri to claim by refusing to play Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka & Co, India have lost out on a wonderful opportunity to entice players of Indian origin. In a November article, explaining why Indian football is in the doldrums, he writes," In India often instant results are expected, not only in football, but in sports in general." After 18 years of steady decline in the standards of Indian football under Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, no fan of Indian football expects a miracle turnaround.
I have no problems with PIO players in the Indian team. They should be welcomed. However, having PIO players participate should be done to enhance the Indian team and not to make up its composition. The emphasis should lie in developing local talent whose roots lie in the game in India. This is the only long term sustainable solution. Jamaica is mentioned as a team of diasporic players.
There is a big difference. Jamaica has a sizeable diaspora concentrated mainly in England with which they have had a longer historical association much before independence. The Jamaican diaspora's emphasis on assimilation through sports is better developed. Players like Robbie Earle representing Jamaica have played in English clubs since the early 80's. Many maintain a very close relationship with Jamaica. In contrast, the Indian diaspora's assimilative experience through sports is minimal. They are about 20 years behind their Jamaican counterparts in a sport like football. Furthermore, the Indian diaspora is far more complex, with more tenuous ties to India than the Jamaicans. The PIO idea might develop but it will take a while before we can even expect a few players to come back. Meanwhile, Zesh Rehman's decision to play for Pakistan reveals that this issue is far more complicated than the rose tinted spectacles with which Chaudhuri seems to view PIO participation.
Update: Priya Ranjan Das Munshi is also the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting. One of his functions is to defend freedom of the press. So does he do better at his full time job than his part time hobby of being the AIFF president? Not according to Reporters Without Borders, a watchdog organization. India has slipped to 120th position behind the Central African Republic, Qatar, Jordan, and even Iraq. Looks like under Das Munshi, India's press freedom is eroding just like India's standing in the football world. But then he can claim that he is too busy at both his jobs to do justice to either. Meanwhile we have to watch this incompetent muddle his way through.
Inter Milan's eighth league win in a row equalled a club record that dates back to the 1939-40 season.Goals by Hernan Crespo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Walter Samuel below...
Action from Chelsea vs Arsenal ....and somewhere towards the end of the 3.26 minutes you will be able to see Michael Essien score the mother of all equalisers.....!
There were about three sure goals that the woodwork kept away from Chelsea. Lampard and Essien were the victims. Arsenal went ahead with a Flamini goal in the 78th minute that probably would have been kept away by a better goalkeeper than Hilario. Arsenal was under strength without the services of Henry, Toure, Gallas, and Rosicky. In Chelsea terms that would be minus Drogba, Terry, Cole, and Lampard. This is immaterial, when you have a third string goalkeeper like Hilario, the first thing that Arsenal should have done was to test him more with long range shots. This is something that should come up in the post mortem.
Just when it looked like Arsenal would pull off a improbable win, Wenger substitutes Van Persie for Ljungberg. I have no idea why. A more defensive player would have been a better choice for the often injured Ljungberg who has half his speed nowadays. Some of Wenger's choices are becoming very debatable this season but to be fair he really does not have the players. Arsenal had Kolo Toure serving a suspension and William Gallas injured. Anyways, the result is that Arsenal in the last 12 minutes or so ceded the ball to Chelsea and a neat little pass found an open Essien whose 35 yard screamer bent in and found the back of the net. That cannon shot would have found the back of the net if you had lined up the whole Arsenal defense across the goal line. It was all Chelsea after that.
The young Arsenal defense looked shaky and although Clichy and Senderos did their best, they gave away the ball far too many times. Chelsea's superior bench strength paid off with Robben bringing some much needed speed down the left opening Chelsea's game.
Emmanuel Adebayor continues to be the most over rated player. Wenger should bench this dud with the smirk till he comes to the realization that he is not the only one on the field with ball skills. The problem with Adebayor is that he does not have the power of Drogba, a free kick like Persie, the speed of Walcott, and he does not use his height to head the ball. Without his ball skills, Adebayor is a one trick pony and a lazy one at that. Pundits sometimes mistake that for langour.
Jose Mourinho kept his record of not losing at Stamford Bridge intact. He has won 38 games and drawn 8. Chelsea are now 10 points off the pace with Man Utd in first place. They have an opportunity to reduce it to 7, with the game against Newcastle on Wednesday.
Matthew Taylor scored yesterday against Everton with this incredibe volley from 45 yards out.Jonathan Wilson writing in the Independent describes it like this.
"This was a game in which one kick outshone every other like a lighthouse amid a swarm of fireflies, as Everton rode into the volley of death. "...............!
Manchester United go 9 points ahead of the rest of the pack with a 3 - 1 victory over Manchester city yesterday.
Great free kick from Beckham for Real Madrid against Sevilla yesterday
....and more on Beckham - he has been named as the first player on Marcello Lippi's list as the Italian coach builds his European XI team to take on Manchester United in a charity game.The game is being organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which gave birth to the European Union, and mark half a century of United competing in Europe.
Irate Arsenal Fans were supposedly going to greet Chelsea's Ashley (Cashley) Cole with a shower of such fake £20 notes when he faces his former club Arsenal on Sunday.The notes are marked Bank of Russia and are ‘signed’ by Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon .
Wenger is doing his bit to pour oil over the troubled waters by speaking in defence of Cole. "He has gone to Chelsea in special circumstances that have been talked about a lot. But don't forget he did well at this club and you must respect that. We already appreciate what he has done for the club and what the club has done for him, but sometimes you have disagreements with people."
And the cops are going to have to be on their toes to ensure that things don't get out of hand.
Lawyers for Juventus will appeal a five game ban slapped on Pavel Nedved following last week's match versus Genoa in Italy's highly-competitive second division Serie B tournament. Nedved was punished for a purposely stepping on the ankle of an opponent, and later hurling derogatory remarks at the referee. It probably didn't help matters that the Czech midfielder inadvertently stepped on the ref's foot while protesting his punishment...
Nedved, on his third disciplinary suspension this season, had this to say: "Zidane got a three game suspension for a headbutt and I get five for stepping on someone's foot. You tell me if that's fair."
It is the time of the season to be jolly. Too bad US soccer lovers were not given their holiday cheer when Juergen Klinsmann turned down the US job. He would have been a fantastic stocking stuffer. "Ello, my name is Juergen. And I am going to win the World Cup for the USA."
Nope. Not about to happen. But there are some goodies that you can give to your long suffering soccer compatriots. In the US, the choices are somewhat limited unless you are a Mia Hamm fan.
I highly recommend "Once in a Lifetime" by Gavin Newsham. Great story about the only US soccer club that mattered, the NY Cosmos. Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia, Jomo Sono, Shep Messing, Werner Roth, Keith Eddy, Julio Cesar Romero, Johann Neeskens. A fascinating bit is how Henry Kissinger was involved in bringing Pele over. The Cosmos attracted crowds of over 70,000 at the height of its popularity. When Pele played his last game against Santos at Giants Stadium, on October 1, 1977, an over capacity Giants Stadium of 100,000 fans bade him goodbye. He was joined on the pitch by Muhammad Ali, who said, " Now there are two of the greatest."
In a legendary story, Newsham recounts the way the Cosmos made money. They were supposed to play the Haitian team who was jetlagged and disappeared before the match. So, the Cosmos found a bunch of guys who looked like them and had them play against the team.
The NY Cosmos was not just football, it was a slice of Americana in the 70's with Warner Brothers, Ahmet Ertegun, Steve Ross, Atari, Studio 54, the Cosmos Girls. The players were rock stars meeting Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger and fans included Robert Redford, Barbara Streisand, and Mick Jagger. The NY Cosmos was the hottest ticket in town.
Once in a Lifetime is also a great documentary with interviews with everyone except strangely enough Pele, who reportedly demanded a fee of $100,000 for the interview at which the producers balked. Has a fantastic soundtrack with James Brown, Diana Ross, and Paul Weller and The Jam.
Carlos Tevez's well documented grouse with his playing minutes at West Ham, Thierry Henry becoming ornery at Arsenal, Sheva feeling that he is not part of the Mourinho system at Chelsea, Giuseppe Rossi being overlooked in Newcastle, and Javier Mascherano has all but disappeared. All a coincidence or do they underline a structural flaw in the Premiership? Is it a sink or swim system with far too many matches in the season producing early player burnout? With investors sinking in millions of pounds buying out clubs, the feeling is that they are entitled to instant success. With this comes distorted expectations of their foreign players.
For Sheva who had already tasted success in AC Milan with his scoring, coming to Chelsea rested upon his wife's decision to like London. He actually was quite lukewarm to the idea of playing in the Premiership. So far his Chelsea debut is proving to be a nightmare and for a pure striker, he has scored very few goals. He was adored by thousands of AC Milan fans, most of them who long to have him back and Sheva is a player who thrives on that sort of emotion. His reception at Chelsea has been quite lukewarm and it has taken him some months to find out that he is a cog in the Jose Mourinho machinery, a 30 million pound one, but quite easily discarded.
Carlos Tevez is an exciting player and one of the many Argentine players touted as the future of the Albiceleste. But Tevez knows that playing minutes are crucial to him, as players in other leagues, are getting far more extended time in their clubs staking their claim to national team representation. At the least, there are a half dozen strikers waiting in the wings for a call. Rodrigo Palacio, Diego Milito, Sergio Aguera, Fernando Cavenaghi, Gonzalo Higuain, Mariano Pavone. Alan Pardew probably does not understand the depth the Argentinians have in this department. After all it is a wealth of riches rarely seen in English football.
Part of the seduction playing in the English league is that it is the most watched league in the world. It is the most successful league in that regard, a fact that football pundits frequently mistake for a more sweeping generalization of the supremacy of English football. With that hype comes the feeling that foreign players should feel entitled playing in the league. The FA before the World Cup issued a statement that bragged about the number of players representing their national squads. 107 players out of a total of 736 players.The Bundesliga was a distant second with 70. However, as the World Cup went on and teams were eliminated, the representation of the English league fell. The Bundesliga, Serie and La Liga were better represented in the more successful teams. Their players actually contributed more with better defense and attack whereas the English League made up the numbers.
Most Brazilians and Argentinians bypass this hype and head for the Serie and La Liga because these leagues develop their players better with far better skill. There is a longer and deeper understanding in these leagues of the importance of foreign players. Their talent scouting is far more extensive. The passage to their national teams become more assured when playing in these leagues. It is safe to say that Tevez would not have had his hissy fits playing in the La Liga. Hernan Crespo and RVN are having their times of their life at Inter and Real. Interestingly, Real's most miserable player is David Beckham, part of the Premiership hype and a media product while playing in England.
The Thierry Henry doldrums is a bit strange. After all if there is a coach sensitive to the needs of so many foreign players, it is Arsene Wenger, since finding a true blue English player in Arsenal is akin to trying to find a pin in a haystack. This is a case of player burnout. Too many matches and saddled with the Arsenal captaincy. Henry is not one to lead and rally his troops. He is a bit moody and distant for all of that. This Arsenal team requires more captaincy than most with its up and down performances. Wenger should relieve Henry of captaincy duty and give him time off. At this stage, it looks difficult for Arsenal to make up the difference and win the Premiership. So Henry's hiatus will not be missed. So far, Theo Walcott has not been doing too badly in his cameo role.
The unlimited money and the gigantic TV viewership of the Premiership, distorts expectations, masking the reality, that in the end; it understands foreign players far less well than its league counterparts.
This may be the first time in history that a goalkeeping blunder has led to improved diplomatic relations between two countries.
Sir John Ramsden (British Ambassador to Croatia) has presented the Croatian Government with two framed photographs of the now infamous Robinson goal incident. “We have decided to remind you of the early Christmas gift from Paul Robinson to Croatia,” he wrote in the card. “The key moment in relations between the two countries in 2006.”
A thought provoking analysis by Mike Collett that 2006 has been the year of problems for World Soccer - here.
FIFA officials have ended up with the eggs in their faces as MasterCard were awarded an injunction against the global football governing body's plan for a new sponsorship deal with rival VISA.
US District Court judge Loretta Preska ruled that MasterCard has the right to sponsor the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, saying FIFA cannot breach a deal that gave MasterCard first right to buy sponsorship rights.
Preska found that FIFA "lied repeatedly to MasterCard" and played both credit card firms for fools, falsely telling Visa that MasterCard had no right of first refusal yet giving Visa details of talks with MasterCard.
"FIFA witnesses at trial boldly characterized their breaches as 'white lies,' 'commercial lies,' 'bluffs,' and ironically 'the game,'" the ruling stated.
FIFA's comeback - "We will appeal....."
I think Marcelo Balboa and Dave O'Brien had a lot to do with Klinsmann not coming on board as coach for the US MNT. Hearing their commentary during the World Cup must have scared the bejesus out of him. He must have thought that the US soccer world is peopled with ignoramuses like them.
This hurts. It means the one great coach who had all the credentials of achieving success has turned us down. Klinsmann was a California resident married to an American, so there would be no problems with his living here for extended periods of time. A fitness fanatic with a penchant for hiring US fitness gurus and techniques that are readily available here. A fantastic striker for Germany with a killer instinct for goals and a knack for diving when things weren't going his way. Imagine teaching all those tricks to the likes of Clint Dempsey and Brian Ching. And of course, his phenomenal success as Germany's coach in which he made it downright cool to watch German soccer, unbridled and creative, after years of boring precision and possession. Klinsmann was a highly personable coach who was not afraid to show his emotion on the sidelines. A refreshing change from Bruce Arena's usual dyspeptic look and aversion for the media.
I can't even imagine how this plays out in the real world. Here we are beckoning frantically at David Beckham to come and spend his last few years left as a player, in the MLS, as we relax our salary cap for that one exceptional player. This we hope will be the precursor to many other big name players signing on who are slightly past their peak. The Glazers want to build Manchester United West around Beckham. Toronto is the latest MLS addition with its own stadium. Things are moving along, assuming a life of its own on the domestic front.
Meanwhile, we can't attract a single big name coach to coach the national soccer team. Ultimately, the answer distills down to what these changes mean in the context of national success. The turning down of the US job by Klinsmann means one thing. For all the good things happening in the MLS; in the rest of the world US soccer still means squat. It won't be long before foreign players look at us and say, " Enough with the wooing, but tell me why you can't beat Jamaica? "
Bob Bradley, I am sure you will be a fine coach for the US national team. No offense meant.
It is official. Jurgen Klinsmann is no longer in the running for the US MNT coaching job. He reportedly turned it down according to a US Soccer official. A formal announcement will be made on Thursday by US Soccer. Klinsmann had been courted for months by US Soccer following Bruce Arena's resignation.
This means that US soccer can now chase Sven Goran Erickson, Eric Gerets, or better still Guus Hiddink.
For every Juan Roman Riquelme that announces his retirement from soccer, there is some one to take over his shoes immediately. Carlos Tevez is having his problems at West Ham but Alfio Basile does not have to rely on him to do duty for the Argentine team. No knock on Tevez but there are at least a half dozen strikers to take his place.
It is little wonder that Jose Pekerman loved coaching the youth squads of Argentina. They are the best. A huge number are already playing for their senior club squads. The remarkable thing about Argentinian soccer is how it is built around young strikers like Leo Messi, Carlos Tevez, Jorge Saviola and older defenders like Juan Pablo Sorin, Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Heinze, and Nicholas Burdisso.
More established Argentinian players are having a fantastic season with Hernan Crespo leading the way at Inter, Zanetti is the face of Inter soccer with 500 games, Diego Milito, Andres D' Alessandro, and Pablo Aimar's skills have helped Zaragoza to the top 5 of the La Liga, Gaby Heinze has come back strong for Man Utd, Messi continues to impress at Barca even with his reduced minutes, and even Inter defender Nicholas Burdisso chipped in with a hat trick against Messina.
Sergio 'Kun' Aguero: The youngest player to debut for an Argentinian first division club at 15 years and 35 days, for Independiente against San Lorenzo. He was reportedly transferred to Atletico Madrid for 23 million euros in 2005, the most expensive signing in club history. He is 18 years old and has played a couple of games for the Argentine squad.
Rodrigo Palacio: The 24 year old striker is having a fantastic year at Boca. Ricardo La Volpe's team will win this year's Apertura on the strength of his league leading 12 goals. He has already done duty for Basile's side, playing 3 matches.
Mauro Zairate: This 19 year old striker has propelled Velez Sarsfield to 5th place and shares the top spot with Palacio with 12 goals.
Federico Higuain: The 22 year old Nueva Chicago striker, has scored half his side's goals with 9. He is like Darren Bent, a top scoring striker of Charlton, playing in a club facing perennial relegation. Will be transferred soon to a contender like Boca or River Plate.
Gonzalo Higuain: The 19 year old River Plate striker, and younger brother of Federico, has scored 7 goals in River Plate's third place finish. He is French of Argentinian origin, just like David Trezeguet and can play for both Argentina or France. His skills have already attracted interest from Real Madrid, Man Utd, AC Milan, PSG, and OM. A transfer to Real seems possible in the near future but presently River has him signed on till June 2007 after turning down a 10 million euro fee from Real.
Fernando Cavenaghi: The River Plate striker who scored 55 goals in 88 matches moved to Spartak Moscow in 2004. It has been a bit of a struggle in the new system but Cavenaghi seems to be picking up. There are rumours that he will be heading out to the Serie, possibly to AS Roma.
Fernando Gago: The 22 year old Boca Junior midfielder is being compared to Fernando Redondo and Juan Roman Riquelme for his ability to dictate the pace of the game with his touch. High praise indeed. He is being courted by Real Madrid along with Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Belluschi.
Neri Cardozo: He is a 20 year old attacking midfielder for Boca Juniors. Cardozo was part of the Lionel Messi squad that won the 2005 Youth squad. He is fast, dynamic, and packs some awesome power in his shots. Both Gago and Cardozo are the two big reasons that this year's Boca team is fun to watch.
Fernando Belluschi: The 23 year in his first season at River Plate is the best of the lot of young talents in midfield and is being touted for a transfer to Real or to Atletico Madrid by June 2007. If he does this he will follow the player he lionizes, Maxi Rodriguez aka The Fierce One who also came through Newell's Old Boys and is presently playing for Atletico Madrid. Rodriguez tore his ACL and is out for 6 months.
It's been a tough year for Adriano. He hasn't scored for Inter Milan for over 200 days. He's been dropped from Brazil's national team after a disappointing World Cup. And this week a radio station in Italy awarded him the Golden Trash Can (Bidone d'Oro), after listeners overwhelmingly selected him as the most disappointing player of 2006.
Inter managers and coach Mancini thought the 24-year old striker might find his way back to goal if he could just relax a little: they sent him on vacation to Brazil for most of November, in the middle of the Serie A season. Even that didn't work out: soccer sleuths in Rio reported he spent much of his time drinking beer and riding motorcycles. Back from Brazil, he had a half-decent game against Palermo (2-1) but was kept out of the 1-1 match vs. Bayern Munich, apparently because of back problems. Meanwhile, the Italian press is reporting a paparazzi blackmail scheme (photos of football stars caught in intimate moments involving women other than their wives and girlfriends) that apparently targeted Totti, Vieri and...Adriano.
Inter's strong performance as a team this year has been the positive note in all this, but it’s also raising a question as to whether they really need Adriano: they did just fine when he was away.
Can the Emperor can ever be restored to his former glory?
Some think that if it weren't for the awful relations between Fiorentina's owner della Valle and Inter's boss Moratti (relations between the two soured over the Calciopoli scandals that left Inter unscathed), Adriano – and the viola -- could've benefited enormously from a transfer of few months to Florence playing in an offensive trident with Adrian Mutu and Luca Toni. Why? For one thing, because of coach Cesare Prandelli, who nurtured Adriano at Parma for two seasons.
That may be just speculation on the part of Fiorentina fans. Meanwhile, Adriano’s teammate Hernan Crespo is doing everyone a favor by reminding critics that it may be much to early to speak so dismissively a player who’s only 24 years old.
Man U in their do or die Group F game against Benfica were almost laid low by this stunning 25-yard opening strike by Benfica fullback Nelson.They survived however...and eventually took the game 3 -1.(video highlights here)
And while we're with Man U here is Alex Ferguson taking a break from patting himself on the back and coming to the defence of one Cristiano Ronaldo.
"I've looked at Saturday's penalty incident a million times," Ferguson said on Tuesday.
"Cristiano lost his balance completely and I think it was a penalty kick. The keeper tried to prevent him from scoring and in doing so Ronaldo lost his balance because of that.
"Gareth Southgate is very naive. He's just a young manager. We'll have to give him a chance to settle in."
Such statements and more here..
Those who enjoyed Andrew Jennings expose the corruption in FIFA starting with Sepp Blatter's secret payout of £1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials, the ISL company's bribery of FIFA officials over two decades, and the World Cup ticket scams by the FIFA Vice President Jack Warner in his program The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup aired on BBC Panorama, June 11, 2006, are in for a treat because Andrew is at it again, exposing corruption on What Happened Next on Panorama, 10 December 2006.
In this Panorama story, Andrew Jennings finds Jack Warner to ask him about the FIFA investigation. FIFA has closed the investigation and has issued a mild rebuke to Warner.
Transcript of The Beautiful Bung:
JENNINGS: I just wanted to put a question to you now because some of your press people don't let me get in, they bar me. What I would like to ask.. let me just ask you this. Do you know which football officials took bribes from the ISL marketing company? BLATTER: No, sorry, I don't speak about that.
Andrew says that the video and the transcript should be available a few days later on the BBC Panorama website. Feedback is welcome from all those concerned about the well being of the beautiful game.
For those holiday shoppers, please consider buying Andrew's book: Foul! The Secret World of
FIFA:Bribes, Vote-rigging and Ticket Scandals. (Harper Sport £12.99)
Dubai International Capital's (DIC) takeover does not mean much in terms of Liverpool's success, although there are undoubtedly infrastructural benefits, such as the new 60,000 stadium that Liverpool supporters can look forward to.
The club is already the most successful club in English football history having won 18 FA titles, five European championships, and 3 UEFA cups. No other English club comes close to that distinction in the international arena. Only Real Madrid and AC Milan have better records. In the world of sports, Liverpool FC is as hallowed a name, as it gets.
Liverpool is not a Chelsea, Portsmouth, or Aston Villa, that have seen extended periods of drought with league success. Roman Abramovich's blank cheques led to Chelsea's accelerated success after year's of middling along. Even in the most dire periods of Liverpool's history, in the early 90's under Souness, when it lost ground to Man Utd; the Reds still managed to stick it out.
The reason that Liverpool never lost ground has much to do with investing in a strong youth development program. The careful nurturing of its young local talent has provided quality players for the Reds. Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Carragher are all part of the youth program. The investment in their youth players continues with the construction of the Liverpool Football Academy, a multimillion pound centre for training the youth teams, that is truly world class.
Liverpool's mix of homegrown talent with careful investment in selected foreign players have proven a successful method to the madness that Chelsea has inflicted on the Premiership of buying players developed elsewhere with vast amounts of money. With the deep pockets of the DIC, the temptation is to be drawn into the feeding frenzy that occurs every transfer window. Liverpool already has a fine team that still has some way to go before unveiling its full potential. Adding a £30 m Adriano will not lead to more success.
Matt Le Tissier with his cannon shot goals. No dinky taps for him. The pity was that Le Tissier was always overlooked by the coaches when it came to playing for England. This is a look at his best goals, all supremely effortless. Le Tissier only played for the Saints, spurning offers from AC, Chelsea, and the Spurs.
Andrei Shevchenko scored his 57th goal in European competition in the Chelsea vs Levski Sofia game yesterday.He is now the second-highest goalscorer in its history, placing him ahead of Raul and Eusebio and just five behind Gerd Müller's record of 62 goals.
Shaun Wright-Phillips scored the second goal.Final score 2 - 0 .Highlights below....
Well...Barcelona will live to fight another day..or maybe they fought to live another day -whatever.Anyway they beat Werder Bremen 2 - 0 in the do or die game yesterday . More Ronaldinho magic .Barca's first goal came off a freekick from him.Showing fiendish cunning he sent the ball below the wall instead of above it !.Take a look.
Eidur Gudjohnsen scored the other goal (video here)....and Werder Bremen..despite Klose's best efforts..were not able to score at all.
Paulino Alcantara, of Phillipino heritage, born in Iloilo City, Phillipines debuted for Barcelona FC in 1912 going onto score 356 goals in 357 games making him Barca's all time goal scoring leader. He also played for Spain, Phillipines, as well as the Catalan XI.
Paul Wilson has a post on the decrease in goals seen this season in the Premiership. Of course, the usual suspects are the foreign coaches led by Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, and Arsene Wenger, who have brought a tactical level to the game hitherto unseen in English football. Their method is to emphasize stingy defense and an attack that relies on scoring first, then shutting down shop. If all else fails, then play not to lose. The result is that the Premiership is averaging 2.14 goals per game and at this rate a total of a bit more than 800 goals would have been scored by the end of the season.
Contrast this with the Dutch league which averages over 3 per game, the Bundesliga with 2.75, and even the Serie A has 2.5. The last is a eyebrow raiser. The Serie A is scoring more than the Premiership? What happened to all those Italian defenders? The ones that can stifle any attack and induce benumbing boredom in every match.
What really comes through is that coaches are less willing to take risks. Their jobs are not only on the line but there is also an economic penalty to pay when the club gets relegated and loses out on the 20 million payout as part of the revenue sharing that comes with Premiership TV rights.
However this year's drought of goals can't be blamed entirely on coaches tactics and stingy defenses. That is where I differ. I think a lot of what we see is due to under-performing strikers and injury depleted attacks. A number of these strikers are also struggling with a new league altogether. Andriy Shevchenko has scored 3 goals in 13 appearances. With AC Milan he had 19 goals in 28 appearances the previous season. Similarly, Carlos Tevez has yet to score in his West Ham debut. In the 30 matches he played for Corinthians he scored 24 goals.
Under-performing strikers include Thierry Henry who has scored 6 goals in 12 appearances. This is well off his 2005-2006 pace when he scored 27 goals in 32 appearances. Robbie Keane has disappeared, 13 appearances have yielded just a goal for the Spurs. Liverpool has scored just 19 goals in 16 appearances. 4 of them came against Wigan this weekend in a veritable explosion. Gerrard and Luis Garcia, normally reliable scorers have combined for a paltry pair of goals compared to 17 last season.
Newcastle's attack has disappeared with injuries to Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi who are lost to the season. Damien Duff and now Scott Parker are not expected back for another month. At this rate Roeder cannot expect the fantastic climb back in the second half of the season that helped them to 7th position this year. Having these players around would have definitely helped them to score more than the anemic 9 goals in 14 matches.
The Premiership is also suffering from inertia. Man U and Chelsea have widened the gap at the top with 41 and 35 points respectively, to virtually ensure that other clubs have very little chance winning the title. Arsenal and Liverpool have had no traction, and are 16 points behind Man U. 7 clubs are within a point of each other. There is very little incentive to score goals because clearly some clubs have given up and are looking for other measures of success.
Contrast this with the Italian Serie A which finds itself in an interesting position. And I wager that this year's scoring is up because of the scandal that relegated Juventus to Serie B and led to point handicaps for Lazio, AC Milan, and Fiorentina. The flux that this has created has given a great opportunity to clubs with hitherto little chance to make their mark in Serie A, especially against the northern clubs, and in international football. AS Roma is in a dogfight with Inter for a great chance to take their fourth Scudetto and play the European Cup next year. Totti has been on fire with 9 goals in 14 appearances. Meanwhile, Fiorentina is trying to shoot its way out of relegation with Toni and Mutu combining for 12 goals. Another factor in the increased scoring is that the Serie A teams do not have to play the stingy Juventus defense. The trio of Cannavaro, Zambrotta, and Thuram have departed for the more salubrious climes of the Liga.
It would be interesting to study the influence that TV viewership has on the Premiership. The league is the most watched in the world with TV, merchandising, and advertising revenues generating 1.3 billion pounds. This is 43% more than the second placed Serie. The market is only going to grow with more money available for the 20 elite clubs. This rather than coaching tactics, stingy defense, or sub-standard attack will dictate the nature of the Premiership. I predict that the Premiership will continue to grow more and more conservative as coaches will become increasingly loath to come on camera to explain why their team lost. It can make that much of a difference in T shirt sales. Of course, such a trend will result in a course correction but I don't expect that to happen in the next five years. By then, the only goals will come through the ultimate set piece, the PK.
All three US goalkeepers playing this weekend came away as winners with Tim Howard being the pick in Everton's win over West Ham, 2-0. Marcus Hahnemann, Reading's sentinel played a key role in their win against Bolton, 1-0. Brad Freidel was his usual implacable self in the Blackburn goal against Fulham, that they won 2-0.
Reading is 6th, Everton 7th, and Blackburn is making a concerted effort to get clear of relegation and is presently 14th.
Howard's brilliant keeping kept out a sure goal from Lee Bowyer in the 18th minute.
Liverpool FC has been the interest of foreign government buyouts before, the most picaresque one being Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai Prime Minister's offer in 2004.
The latest offer by the Dubai International Capital LLC (DIC), the investment arm of the Dubai government is very close to the due diligence process, with Liverpool account books being opened up for perusal in the next few weeks. Sameer Ansari, the head of the DIC has been talking to the Reds management, led by chairman David Moores, with an offer of 450 million pound ($890.9 million), that is very close to being accepted.
Under the deal, the DIC assumes 80 million pounds of Liverpool debt and the construction of a new 60,000 capacity stadium that will cost 200 million pounds. David Moores, the majority shareholder with 51.5% of Liverpool's equity valued the club at 170 million pounds.
With this deal going through, 7 Premiership clubs will pass into the hands of foreign owners. This year has been especially busy, with Aston Villa, Portsmouth, and West Ham already being bought out.
Since its formation in 2004, DIC has spent $5 billion on companies including U.K.-based Travelodge Hotels Ltd. and London waxwork museum owner Tussauds Group as the Dubai government seeks to lessen its reliance on oil-based industries.
The firm last year bought 2 percent of DaimlerChrysler AG for $1 billion and is raising $2 billion to buy stakes in the world's 500 biggest publicly traded companies.
DIC has a successful investment track record that reassured Liverpool CEO, Rick Parry of regular cash inflow to keep the club solvent and going through with its long term plans.
George Gillett, the Montreal Canadiens owner was the other serious contender for the Liverpool takeover but appears to have dropped out. From the looks of it all, this is a very clean deal with none of the wranglings of the West Ham or even the Aston Villa takeover, expected. The present Reds management is expected to keep their jobs which is reassuring to the club supporters. Indeed, most Liverpool fans seem delighted by the prospective buyout.
The top spot on the Premiership goalscorers chart is a bit crowded these days.
Didier Drogba and Nwankwo Kanu and Kevin Doyle are all standing on each others toes.All have scored eight goals each - Kevin Doyle being the latest to join the gang with his goal against Bolton in this game.
Meanwhile things are crowding up at the top of the Spanish League as well.Real Madrid are just one point behind Barcelona.This is after they came from behind to beat Atletic Bilbao by 2 goals to one.Ronaldo - who had been grumbling that coach Capello had being giving him a hard time - came up with this equaliser and Roberto Carlos scored the other goal.
Read The Italian Job and Gianluca Vialli's take on cheating in football. As he says, Machiavelli is an inspiration, and in The Prince, Machiavelli famously argued that “the end justifies the means”, which marked him out as the epitome of cynicism and amorality.
Vialli says that football in Italy revolves around tricking the referee and getting away with it. Diving is not considered cheating, it is part of being clever or in Italian “furbo”. Players are encouraged to indulge in trickery if the benefits outweigh the risk. The street smarts that an Italian player brings gives him a leg up on playing football anywhere in the world. Italy has been one of the most successful teams in the world because the national obsession is with winning, not in how the game is played. This differentiates Italian football from the English. Vialli is in a unique position to comment because he was a successful player-manager of Chelsea from 1996 to 2000 and also played for Sampdoria and Juventus in Serie A
The Italian Job also gives an insight into Jose Mourinho's way of dealing with referees. The recent pillorying of Graham Poll by Jose Mourinho is an old ploy that he picked up coaching in the Portugese League.
“I’ll give you an example,” says José Mourinho. “We had the same referee twice last season and in two games, with two controversial decisions, he cost us five points. If I were in Portugal I would come out and say, ‘The referee has something against us’, so that the next time he referees us, he is already under pressure. He will want to be careful not to appear anti our team.
“Here in England, I can’t do that, because nobody remembers who he is. Nobody wants to talk about him. In Portugal I can create big problems for a referee. Here I can’t do a thing. There is much more respect for the institutions and, because of that, everybody behaves differently.” It’s refreshing to hear Mourinho candidly admit that he would “create problems” for a referee who had made two mistakes against him.
Mourinho's bare knuckled approach to playing the game is working. Graham Poll was supposed to officiate the Man Utd vs Chelsea game but in his place, Howard Webb was given the job.
However, Vialli's description of characterizing English football as 'fair and square' is a bit outdated because we now have a virtual epidemic of diving going on in the Premiership. It is becoming increasingly easy to fool referees and fans have longer memories of some of them. On the other hand, not all Italian referees are prone to snow jobs. Certainly, Pierluigi Collina comes to mind. His consistent and uncompromising officiating made sure that very little trickery and gamesmanship occurred in his matches. Vialli's book is somewhat of an exercise in national stereotypes but it is a fascinating read.
Tuesday's Champions League clash with Germany's Werder Bremen will determine whether Barcelona become the first reigning champions to be eliminated at the first league stage since the Champions League was formed in 1992. They were held to a 1-1 draw against Levante yesterday.Deco's goal for Barcelona was brilliant (video) but Levante equalised through this goal by Luis Alvaro .
Bitter words from Middlesbrough's manager Gareth Southgate after Ronaldo's 19th minute theatrics won Man U a penalty against them.
"Ronaldo is a cheat, simple as that," he said."How many times are we going to see it? The lad’s got a history of doing this.Our goalkeeper has done everything to get out of the way and yet the lad’s gone down. Once more. For me, it’s never a penalty. I don’t know what you can do about it, that’s for people better qualified than me."
When asked if video tech was the solution to the diving problem he said
"The answer is that you hope some players are going to start performing in the manner they should," he said. "And if they have the opportunity to stay on their feet, and not play for a penalty, that’s what they should do.""Ronaldo plays the way he obviously thinks is the right way. I don’t blame the referee, it’s very difficult for him as it happens very quickly. But how many times are we going to see it?"
The actual video footage of the incident could not be located at the moment...but take a look at this video and you will know why Southgate is so angry .
Manchester United won the game 2 -1
Perry Groves is a lot more fun than Ashley Cole and he did it all for the love of the game and Arsenal, his club. Unlike Mr Tweedy.
So buy his book. Groves gives 110% in his book like he did when playing for Arsenal.
Arseblog puts out a Xmas wish: Tell your friends and family that this is what you want for Christmas. Order now. Let’s make Perry Groves officially much, much better than Ashley Cole.
Here is a bit of from a recent Perry Grove interview:
Small Talk: Snatching the title off Liverpool at Anfield in the dying seconds of the 1989 season must have been a pretty good moment too ...
PG: Of course, and a lot of people overlook the part I played in Michael Thomas's winner. No one's ever thanked me for changing Arsenal's whole history with a decoy run that took out the Liverpool defence! [Guffaws uproariously] What's more, that's basically what George Graham had told me to do.
A merry prankster that Perry Groves. And a cult hero.
Sepp Blatter should step up and show his credentials as FIFA president. It is becoming increasingly distasteful to see countries circling around South Africa, like sharks having tasted blood. Australia is leading the way in trying to bite a huge chunk out of South Africa's credibility in hosting the World Cup. This is becoming ugly real fast.
The premier of New South Wales, Morris Iemma, infuriated South African officials after stating that Australia has "the capacity to step into the breach at a moment's notice." He also quipped that he was "salivating at the prospect" of being an emergency host for the 2010 event. This follows the Daily Telegraph's David Blair writing South Africa was in danger of hosting "the biggest cock-up in history"
Blatter should issue a statement immediately making clear that these statements are unwelcome and unwarranted. He should also make clear that he has full confidence in South Africa as a World Cup host.
The strong reaction of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to these baseless allegations underscores how important the unions are to the success of the World Cup. This seems to have escaped the Thabo Mbeki government whose policy so far seems to be to keep COSATU at arm's length when it comes to planning for the World Cup. The government seems far more interested in prosecuting Jacob Zuma, the pro labour leader, and a potential successor to Mbeki. The recent charges against Zuma has led to a split between the COSATU and the pro-business faction of the ANC. The neo-liberal faction of the ANC fear that a Zuma presidency would be a death knell for the small group of favoured businessman who presently control SA's economy. The World Cup should generate thousands of jobs for ordinary South Africans as long as transparency in the vending process is maintained. COSATU is concerned that this may not be the case and only the neo-liberal faction and its cronies will benefit.
A South Africa that believes the World Cup benefits each of its citizens will make it easier to disprove its detractors.
Leaving aside ethical questions raised by the video of his (supposedly then legal) performance-enhancing drug use, does Fabio Cannavaro’s performance actually merit the Golden Ball award? And how do you measure the performance of a defensive back against that of goal-scoring forwards and goal-blocking goalies?
Defenders will always have a hard time defending their awards: their performance simply isn’t as exciting, or “measurable” as that of forwards (goals made, assists), midfielders (possessions, plays initiated, assists), and goalies (shots blocked, goals denied).
Even Michel Platini, though, will admit that by tradition, in a World Cup year, the Golden Ball award will go to a player from the winning team, and if you talk about the azzurri you’ve simply got to give credit to the their defense. And with Nesta injured for much of the Cup, the only choice was really between the cup-hoisting Italy skipper Cannavaro and the amazing Spiderman between the posts, Buffon.
Like any goalie worth his salt, Buffon can claim thousands of spectacular saves. But if you look closely at Cannavaro’s style of play, there’s nothing fancy about it. The only exciting part is that he’s all about anticipation: getting a foot on the ball before the attacker. Watching how he does that, over and over, against players who are bigger, taller and faster is the only way to truly appreciate Cannavaro’s game. Timing is everything.
Cruyff’s beef with Cannavaro is that he’s a pure “stopper” not a sweeping play-initiator a la Franz Beckenbauer. He may be right. And Gianni Rivera may be right in saying Buffon was more deserving. But I for one take heart in the fact that it’s still possible for the hardscrabble underdog to win awards: a small stopper (176 cm) in a world of towering superstar strikers, giraffe-like goalies, and gigantic defenders.
This post in may from Christian outlined the efforts made in Germany to make World Cup 2006 more environment friendly.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and German organisers said on Friday that the battery of energy-saving measures and other steps more than compensated for the greenhouse gases generated by the World Cup, even down to the teams' flights to and from Germany.That's a bit of good news for a change isn't it ?
The "Green Goal" project wiped off 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from transport during the event, cut electricity emissions by one-third to 2.490 tonnes, and about 2,000 tonnes through other steps.
However the UNEP is also saying that more still needs to be done if International Football is to catch up with the Olympics in terms of environment protection etc.Newsreport here.
Toyi toyi is a Southern African dance that became famous for its use in political protests in the apartheid-era South Africa.
Toyi-toyi could begin as stomping of feet and spontaneous chanting ....and South Africa's national union movement was threatening a warrior-like toyi-toyi march on the Australian high commission in Pretoria this week for ongoing negative comments towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup preparations....
"Those racist Australians don't want to accept that black people are capable of organising an event like the World Cup," Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, told the City Press newspaper. "We should tell them loud and clear that we are ready to host the World Cup and we are even ahead of schedule and no one is going to stop us."
Rest of the article.....
The controversy ignited by France Football’s award of this year’s Golden Ball to Italy captain and Real Madrid defensive back Fabio Cannavaro just won’t die down (see Shourin Roy’s post below).
In addition to Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini -- both partial to Henry, E’to or Ronaldinho -- Italy’s Mexico 1970 “golden boy” Gianni Rivera has also weighed in, saying the award should’ve gone to Italy goalie Gigi Buffon (proving it’s not only World Cup-envy that is making people question Cannavaro’s title). But that’s just the celebrity experts –just imagine the feelings of millions of resentful French fans, especially after Cannavaro’s embarrassing performance against the revenge-seeking Blues in Italy’s 3-1 Euro qualifier loss at Stade de France…
Nobody can dispute that the France-Italy rivalry is a major element in the hard feelings toward Cannavaro. Rivera even says the France Football award was given to Cannavaro, not Buffon, because the French didn’t want to give the award to a player in the Italian leagues…
The Neapolitan mastiff first came to international attention in 1998, when he helped the Italy defense keep a superior French side to a 0-0 draw in the France ‘98 World Cup quarterfinals, despite a broken cheekbone courtesy of an elbow-to-the-face from a frustrated Stephane Guivarc’h (the home side ended up winning 4-3 on penalties and going on to defeat Brazil in the finals). But Canna got a chance to return the favor this in this year’s World Cup final when he wacked Thierry Henry in the back of the head in a tough obstructive tackle after barely a minute of play. Perhaps that’s what he meant when he said Italy needed to be a more “cynical” side to win the Cup?
And more fuel has been added to the fire by the recent appearance of a 1999 video – shot by Cannavaro himself in a Moscow hotel room – of the Parma medical team injecting performance-boosting drugs into the arm of the then 25-year old defender on the eve of Parma’s 3-0 UEFA cup finals win against…Olympique Marseilles.
Dutch fans went on the rampage as French side Nancy inflicted a 3 - 0 defeat on Feyenoord in a UEFA Cup Group E tie.The match had to be stopped for 20 minutes.