Sorry for the brief hiatus. We are back online after having bandwidth nightmares, ready to entertain and be entertained by anything to do with soccer and the world it inhabits.
January 2007 Archives
LA Galaxy wants to put Beckham to good use as the ambassador of the club. The LA Galaxy is positioning itself to become the MLS jewel in the crown. This involves a tour in 2008 that will take it to Australia and Asia. The hope is that the tour will open up possibilities of promising Asian and Oz players to join up the LA Galaxy or veterans who are in their twilight of their careers in the European leagues. Players like Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Marco Bresciano, and Brett Emerton.
Manager Alexi Lalas had this to say:
"We also have a vision to become not just a premier sports team in the US, but a premier team in the world - a superclub of the standard of Real Madrid and Manchester United. Will that happen overnight? Absolutely not, but it is a long-term process."
The Glazers, owners of Man Utd have been contemplating just that and there are negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group who own the LA Galaxy to form a West coast franchise of Manchester United with Beckham as player manager. The LA Galaxy would be renamed and it would reap the benefits of having a world class brand name. The formation of Man Utd, the Hollywood version will ensure a pipeline of veteran Man Utd players like Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes who still have a bit of gas in their tank left and want to end their career on a high and lucrative note. Even better Man Utd, Hollywood could become a springboard for the Man Utd youth academy cutting their teeth in a suddenly competitive MLS, who would otherwise have very few opportunities playing for the Man Utd senior squad in the Premiership.
Udinese??? A club that has been in existence for 110 years and has never won a single Scudetto and a few Serie B and C titles. Moreover, Udinese has the reputation for being an international way station for the bigger European clubs. It was most famous for having Zico for a few short years in the mid 80's before he left for his second stint with Flamengo.
Udineses' best showing was in 2004-2005 when it came in fourth in the Serie A. That was the year that Juventus won controversially against Udinese in a match that has now been investigated as fixed. The Udinese match gave Juventus the championship.
What makes Udinese an exciting club to watch out for is a group of extremely young talent that has been assembled from all parts of the world that give Udinese an extremely cosmopolitan look. They are led by Ghanian midfielder Sulley Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan. Names that should be familiar to US soccer fans who saw their team inflicted punishment at the hands of the Ghanians in the World Cup. Muntari, Nigerian Chris Abodo along with Gaetano D'Agostino combine together to form a potent midfield. Veteran striker Vincenzo Iaquinta and goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis are the other standouts in this squad. Udinese young talents Tomas Sivok, Jose Montiel, and Jose Pina are touted as outstanding future prospects.
New coach Albeto Malesani replacing Giovanni Galeano has gotten off to good start by winning both his games against Messina, 1-0 and Torino 3-2. Udinese is now in contention with Lazio for a European championship spot. Inconsistency and injuries to key players De Sanctis, Montiel, Asamoah and Felipe, apart from the suspended Muntari have kept Udinese from doing better. Other distractions include the proposed transfer of Muntari to Portsmouth or to Middlesborough and Iaquinta to Milan.
The Italian U-21, the most successful European U-21 squad that has won 5 titles has three Udinese players, Andrea Coda, Raffaele Di Martino, and Marco Motta representing it. The future shines bright for the Bianconeri and their youth squad that has proven talent. Udineses' day in the woods is over and they maybe regular contenders for the national title, challenging their better known rivals.
This January transfer is all about one player. Gareth Bale, the 17 year old Southampton left back who has most coaches licking their lips and rubbing their hands in anticipation. Arsene Wenger, that keen connoisseur of young talent cannot stop talking about Bale, except that he does not have the money. Wenger has his defensive problems with the left back position presently being rotated by Clichy and Justin Hoyte. Sir Alex sees a future in Man Utd for Bale and has offered £8million which the Saints have refused. His selling point has been the excellent Man Utd record of developing players. Say what, Sir Alex?? This has been upped by Martin Jol and the Spurs who are ready to shell out £10million for Bale's services.
At this point the Spurs are favourites but the latest is that Bale is being given a reality check by Saints manager George Burley that young Bale should continue his education a little longer at Southampton. Prickly Saints fans are also none too pleased by the arrogant poaching of another talented player by the bigger clubs and have not held back in their disapproval. Bale seems to be morphing into a fantastic freekick specialist and with his speed and forays up front is inviting comparisons to the pre-eminent Welsh player of the modern era, Ryan Giggs. However, the focus on improving his attacking abilities seems to have come at the expense of his defensive skills. Scouts recognize his great talent but seem to have reservations as to his future role in clubs.
Southampton is in strong contention to capture one of the promotion spots into the Premiership. Bale's superb form this season has been instrumental to getting them thus far.
Soccerbase stats on Gareth Bale >>
This diving header from Kolo Toure helped Arsenal to a 1 -1 draw after Kevin Nolan had put Bolton in the lead.Earlier in the game a great back heel from Henry (Video)almost saw Arsenal going one goal ahead in the first half but it was not to be.
The Mexican League has become predictable with a top tier of four clubs. Meanwhile, Hugo Sanchez, the national team coach shows why old habits die hard. Luis Bueno explains >>
Thanks to Carlos for bringing attention to this wondrous talent. He would be a fantastic counterpart to Aaron Lennon if he ever joins the Spurs. Together they would molest all opposition in sight. There is also the inevitable comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo. Quaresma has become famous for his amazing technique in which he crosses the ball with the outer part of his right foot, in order to achieve a curve in which the ball is "pulled" away from the keeper right to the feet of the striker. His lack of defensive skills is cited as a reason for his exclusion from the Portugal World Cup squad but there is indication that he has vastly improved this aspect making him a more complete team player. A toast to the genius of Ricardo Quaresma!
The matters of racial politics and the global game has always seen a very fluid and uneasy interface, a relationship that is almost unheard of nowadays in the USA in most team sports.
Since Jim Brown, the great Cleveland Browns running back broke through racial barriers in the 1950's, the all black Texas Western basketballers winning the NCAA title in 1966 shocking an all white powerhouse Kentucky team, and the black power salute of Tommy Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Mexico Olympics upsetting the nationalistic sentiments of Washington DC and its predominantly white power brokers, the dominance of black athletes in most team sports in the USA is by and large unquestioned. Next weekend the NFL makes history with two black coaches going to the Superbowl for the first time as Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith meet each other as the Colts get ready to take on the Patriots for the national title. Occasionally, there are hiccups of the Rush Dumbaugh variety where as an NFL commentator he ridiculed Donovan McNabb indicating he was getting a pass from the media because he was black.
However in other parts of the world the composition of a soccer team is still a contentious issue as to one of what defines nationhood and nationality. England has seen an ongoing debate whether Arsene Wenger's success at Arsenal has come at the expense of consciously excluding English players. Mexico's coach Ricardo La Volpe chose Zinha and Guillermo Franco for the World Cup setting off a fierce resistance to their inclusion on the grounds that they were not Mexican. Nowhere has this issue been as polarizing as in France which regularly sees Jean Marie Le Pen of the Nationalist Party questioning the 'Frenchness' of the Les Bleus. Usually, this is dismissed as the rantings of a far right bigot and not reflective of the more moderate views of the fans who celebrate the national team's success irrespective of colour. The Socialist Party and its charismatic leader Segolene Royal are hoping to sweep into power on a platform of inclusion and pluralism in this year's elections. The Les Bleus are a powerful part of this message. However, there are indications that there are divisions within the PS that oppose this message. Today, George Frêche, the ex-mayor of Montpelier and a founder of the PS and a Royal supporter was sacked for racist statements made in November about Les Bleus. " In this team, there are nine “blacks” out of eleven. Normally, there would be three or four of them. It would be a reflection of the country. But there, if there is as much of them, it is as if there are no whites. I am ashamed for this country. Soon there will be 11 blacks."
If this is indeed a liberal politician questioning the 'Frenchness' of the Les Bleus, look for this issue not to go away quietly into the good night anytime soon. It will only get worse if a nationalist and a proponent of the uniform civil code like Nicolas Sarkozy gets voted in.
Ginola was one of the most supremely talented left wingers in the Premiership bursting on the scene in 1995 when Kevin Keegan brought him to the Magpies from PSG. The Magpies and Spurs fans have the fondest memories of Ginola. He won the player of the year for his role in leading the Spurs to League Cup victory in 1999.
There are reports that Man Utd is now close to giving up on Owen Hargreaves transferring this January.
Owen Hargreaves shares a reciprocal and single minded obsession with Sir Alex which sees him playing at Old Trafford. Sir Alex is willing to shell out £23 million pounds, an astronomical amount of money to get Hargreaves into a Red Devils uniform. An amount that Bayern Munich has turned down. This sort of money begs the question, is Owen Hargreaves worth it? Is he all that good a player?
He is to all purports an average midfielder who made good in this World Cup as part of a somnambulistic England squad for which only a couple of players showed up to play.An English team so smitten with asthenia and devoid of animation that Owen Hargreaves was a standout with his friskiness. Nicky Butt would have been a livewire in this bunch of Kevin Costner deadpan lookalikes. Friskiness is good but 23 million pounds should buy you a lot more than that. How about some talent and skill? Hargreaves is a penny stock grossly overvalued in a desperate market. Plus, Hargreaves is Canadian. When did you last see a Canadian make good in soccer?
Man Utd is better off spending far less money on a younger talent. And if they really want to waste money then they can donate to savedarfur.org for a far, far more worthy cause.
This is sure to warm the hearts of all the folks back in India where they entertain fond hopes that Michael Chopra might one day play for the Indian national team. Chopra is having a breakout year at Cardiff City pushing the Bluebirds to the top six of the Championship. Yesterday, he scored a hat trick in the Bluebirds win against Leicester. Michael Chopra, Newcastle- Watford- Barnsley- Cardiff City.
Rooney was forced to sit and cool his heels on the bench for an hour before being introduced into the game against Portsmouth at Old Trafford yesterday.He made up for all that by scoring twice.The second this classy looking goal .The first one can be seen here..Man U go into the fifth round of the FA cup after the 2 -1 victory.
The interesting choice of Ruud Van Nistelrooy jumping into transfer speculations involving Cristiano Ronaldo to Real represents another dynamic in how the media interprets Ronaldo's choice of club this summer. Ruud's statement to the media that he would be happy to have Ronaldo aboard at Real signals that he is over the sometime contentious relationship with Ronaldo as they jockeyed for Sir Alex's affections, with Ruud being supplanted as a Fergie favourite. It culminated in a nasty spat at a training session and involved Ruud mocking Ronaldo and the memory of his father. Sir Alex had seen enough and Ruud was gone having worn out his welcome.
But Ruud has always been a complex and divisive player who elicits strong reactions in team mates as well as opponents. His statements fueling the Ronaldo rumour is also calculated to inflict the maximum tension in Sir Alex as to the future of his best player as a form of vindictive payback. Make no mistake. Man Utd has made it this far on one man. Take away Ronaldo's contribution and Man Utd would be struggling to make the top ten of the Premiership.
Michel Platini won election as UEFA president on Friday, beating Swede Lennart Johansson in a closely fought ballot that that was not decided until the final few votes were counted.His slogan on the campaign trail was "giving football back to the footballers" More..
Ramon Calderon's Real has sprung a leak and after his off guard remarks, his unwanted players are jumping ship. First, Beckham announced that he was moving to the US to try his hand at Scientology and today Ronaldo moved closer to becoming a Rossoneri. He has to undergo a medical which states that he has to lay off the Cheetos for a bit. But it seems everything else is in the bag.
Barcelona could have gone three points clear at the top of the Primera Liga if they had managed to beat Real Betis on wednesday - but they didn't . Robert scored first for Betis and Marquez equalised for Barcelona.The video clip - for reasons best known to itself -will show you the goals in reverse order .
Sheva scored two goals in Chelsea's win against Wycombe Wanderers and Mourinho went out of his way to praise him. So is Sheva back in his good books. Not so fast.
A body language expert deconstructs the Mourinho - Sheva handshake >>
The national treasury is being called on to make more money available for the building of 2010 stadiums for the Fifa World Cup as almost all nine of the cities that will host games are experiencing “funding shortfalls”, which collectively run into billions of rands.
The Greenpoint Stadium in Capetown was alloted 2.5 bn Rand (~ 36 million USD) for its construction by the SA finance ministry. The problem is that the preferred bidder placed the costs at 3.7 bn Rand. This is the case with other stadiums that also face significant cost escalations. Teams from Durban, or eThekwini, and Nelson Mandela metros both said that they also faced sizable funding gaps. Durban’s was put at about R600m, Nelson Mandela’s at R262m, while Polokwane’s was at R300m.
The SA Business day has more >>
Julio Baptista scored a kind of hat trick.Once into his own goal and twice into the Tottenham goal. Arsenal staged a superb fightback to earn a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at Tottenham.More details...
202 countries.Yes, that is right, 202 countries see Premiership matches. That is ten more than the total member nations of the UN. So how many people watched Saturday's game between Arsenal and Man Utd? The Independent estimates 160 million people.
Up to six million people watched the match live in the UK, with an in-home peak on Sky of 3.4 million - high for pay TV - and an estimated two million more in 40,000 pubs and clubs. But it was also possible to watch live in 201 other countries. The Premier League has a global "reach" into 613 million homes, and estimates a typical live audience for a single match of around 79.5 million. With Sunday's fixture such a pivotal occasion, featuring big clubs, it is estimated it could have drawn double that.
Just phenomenal.The Premiership is now the sports brand of the global game.
Ryan Babel an outstanding Dutch left winger but who can also play central striker presently playing for Ajax in the Eredivisie is set to join Arsenal this summer. Babel is a friend of Robin Van Persie and has been compared to Thierry Henry. He already has 8 caps for the Oranje. Wenger will replace the frequently injured Freddie Ljungberg with Babel. Ljungberg is reported to be in negotiations with West Ham for a transfer.
The Premiership is the richest league in the world and the earnings from TV rights during the 2007-2010 seasons will top £2.7bn. This should bring to each club £40m next season. A few years ago it was £22m.
This money making machine is showing no signs of slowing down as the Premiership continues to attract a burgeoning global viewership each year. Unfortunately for English fans, this huge jump in TV revenues has also seen an unrelenting rise in ticket prices resulting in empty stadiums in middle tier clubs like Blackburn, Bolton, and Middlesborough where fans are finding it hard to cough up the money to see matches. Whereas, in top clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd stadiums filled with fans who think nothing to pay a hundred quid. The bottom line is that four clubs right now are underwriting the existence of the Premiership.
In a sense the breakup of the Premiership has already begun with the perennial four top contenders duking it out to win the title. The last club to win any silver was Blackburn in the 1994 season. The Premiership essentially has been hijacked by Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. This has much to do with the global viewership and how it has embraced these four with very little knowledge of the other clubs. Thaksin Shinawatra's single minded obsession to buy out Liverpool, Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich's alliance with Vladimir Putin, Beckham's association with Man Utd, and the international mix of players found at Arsenal has branded the Premiership into modern folklore giving it mythical status and capturing the global imagination. In the USA, Nick and Steve on FSC, adopt an egalitarian way discussing the highlights of each club match but don Chelsea and Liverpool jerseys, leaving no doubt as to which club matches matter the most. Pedro and Jose for the Nike ad play with Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their club colours.
How this squares off with the English fans whose loyalties lie with the other sixteen clubs but have little else to say in the economics of the Premiership because of long saturated TV and match audiences at home, has led to the conundrum whereby, the Premiership, in order to fill their bottomless coffers, relies primarily on the selling power of these four clubs to attract new TV audiences worldwide but has to deal with the growing restiveness of the less privileged clubs as they are priced out. Blackburn's owner has seen empty stadiums with fans staying away because matches have different start times to suit Sky Sports as well as a host of meaningless matches that they now have to pay £30 for. They choose not to come. Meanwhile the top four Premiership clubs have further distanced themselves away as they find commonalities with other top European clubs to form an economic bloc that ironically calls itself as the voice of the clubs. A tour of the Arsenal ticketing site is very instructive as club matches are now differentiated into Category A fixtures with Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, and the North London rivals Spurs commanding higher prices with tickets sold only to Platinum and Gold members. The rest of the clubs come under Category B.
The Premiership will break up but when and in what form or shape is unclear but as the Arsenal website shows it just might be as simple as a letter grade. Entry will be strictly determined by how much money you bring to the pot.
Andriy Shevchenko made Mourinho smile at him again with a double strike against Wycombe Wanderers . Chelsea won 4-0 at Stamford Bridge and are through to the Carling Cup final.
Afterwards Mourinho paid tribute to Shevchenko, telling Sky Sports: "I demand commitment, effort, being aggressive, working and playing for the team, working with the ball, working without the ball - that's what I demand.
"He did that, scored two goals, created some more. He was alive all the time while on the pitch. I think it's a step forward in the direction of how we want him to play and perform on the pitch.
"The team is happy with him. It's not just about me being happy with him."
Earlier on the 20th of this month he had put Shevchenko on for last 17 minutes of the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool. Afterwards he shook hands with all his team except the Ukrainian.
Man Utd seems to rely on its defence to close the deal after the attack has seemingly done its job. It has worked well against every other team but this Saturday they picked the wrong team to play that script. So did Man U lose this match as much as Arsenal won it?
The answer is a bit of both. Man U performed a chokehold on Arsenal in the first half and immediately after resumption went up with the Evra cross and the Rooney header. Man U noticeably slackened off. Wenger had enough of the ineffective short passing game and Arsenal launched an unusual number of long balls from the foot of Senderos.
One of which led to a Fabregas and Rosicky tango with Vidic and Evra in a protracted hustle to possess the ball before Rosicky heroically came up with it and launched a pass that skidded across goal headed for the backline before Van Persie snuck up behind an unsuspecting Gary Neville and his pumping legs angled it in. Van Der Saar could do nothing about it. It was the nature of this goal I think that demoralized Man Utd. This was a wilful goal and the will to win the ball clearly lay with Arsenal.
But Van Der Saar could have done something about the second goal which a top flight goalie with sharp reflexes should have managed to keep away from goal. As it is he was nowhere near as sharp as Lehmann. And Van Der Saar did not endear himself to the Emirate fans with his time wasting.
Arsenal has made a name this season by being a second half team. They were clearly let in by Man U who kept the door ajar. Sir Alex's conservative and scripted 4-5-1 did not serve him well. As it was, it was Patrice Evra, easily Man U's best player, whose unscripted moment led to Man U's only goal.
West Ham has not won an away game this season. How bad are the Hammers on the road? They have played 12 away games and nine of them have been losses. They have scored only 4 goals and conceded 24 for a league low -20 goal differential in away games. They came close to beating Newcastle only to be dealt a blow with a dubious decision to give James Milner his goal even though he was clearly offside.
Meanwhile, Socceroo Lucas Neill who has been Oz and Blackburn's backbone in defence returns to London on transfer to the Hammers. His versatility and experience should help stop the Hammers hemmorhage of goals. The Hammers have also drafted Kepa Blanco, the Sevilla starlet to put some heft in their attack.
The Milan Baros saga at Aston Villa is over. He is part of a swap deal that will reunite him with his ex-coach Ged Houllier at Lyons and in exchange Villa gets John Carew who with his 6' 4" powerful frame takes up a lot of space and is an aerial threat.Think of a more pacy Emile Heskey. The Norwegian striker should bolster the attack which has seen very little Baros and is over reliant on Villa stalwart Gareth Barry. Carew has also played at Roma, Valencia, and Besiktas
Neat bit of skill and hustle by Deuce that led to the Fulham goal (of which Brian McBride was a part)
Clint Dempsey landed at Craven Cottage at full clip to a rousing reception from the Fulham faithful. He was a 82nd minute substitute against the Spurs and immediately got into the action with his deft passing, one of which found Michael Brown whose long ball was headed down by Anthony Gardner at the feet of Brian McBride. The American striker wheeled around and struck a rasping shot from 20 yards away. It found Michael Dawson's hand as the Spurs defender tried to parry away the shot. The resulting PK was converted by Montella and the Cottagers were up one. However, the Spurs struck back with a disputed goal by Chimbonda in the 88th minute and the match was drawn.
American goalkeepers went 3-0 against their opponents as Brad Friedel and Blackburn polished off Manchester City, 3-0, Everton and Tim Howard overcame the Latics, 2-0 and Reading with Marcus Hahnemann outplayed Sheffield United, 3-1 in an incident filled match that saw Utd defender Kevin Gillespie thrown out and the resultant rumpus spilled into the coaches corner with Neil Warnock and Wally Downes having a go at each other. Both were ejected too.
More news on Yanks abroad >>
The battle for soccer supremacy is not played out in the MLS stadiums or in introducing the designated player rule. It is played out in small hamlets like Clarkstown, GA.
The NYT has the story of the Fugees, (subscription needed) a soccer program comprising of teams of youngsters from the ages of 9 to 17 years of age, whose parents are recent immigrants from the war torn countries of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and Iraq, and have been resettled in Clarkston, GA. As seen in the case of Lewiston, ME the resettlement process has been fraught with the tensions of an insulated older community steeped in certain ways of American tradition having to cede ground to a newer international immigrant community with different linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds. Soccer is a flash point in this debate. A foreign sport played by foreigners.
The Fugees are forced to play in hardscrabble, dust laden grounds although there are parks with grass available in Clarkston. The town's mayor, Lee Swaney has banned soccer from the parks because it threatens a familiar way of life. “There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor.”
But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.
The Fugees coach, Luma Mufleh, herself a Jordanian immigrant started the soccer program with $2000 from their sponsors, the YMCA for uniforms and equipment. The Fugees just received their first set of soccer goals after playing two seasons without them. Despite the lack of equipment and a permanent training ground the Fugees have impressed everyone with their talent and enthusiasm, becoming a force in youth soccer in the Atlanta area often beating their affluent and better trained rivals. Recently, on Mufleh pleading her case, the Clarkston City Council decided to grant the Fugees space to play in a city park for six months.
The Fugees have had to raise their own cash to make it to tournaments. A tall order for a team whose parents work in minimum wage jobs. Even more dire, they will not have the city park to play come March when the city decree runs out. Luma Mufleh is now looking for a permanent home for the Fugees.
For those who believe that David Beckham will provide soccer with the life and impetus it needs, the story of the Fugees serves as a reminder that there are far more complex forces at play that impede the development of soccer in the US. Sports is a powerful cultural index to many in this country as it is in other parts of the world. Much of it has to do with the patriarchal attitude of many Americans towards their own sports that fosters the rejection of soccer as a foreign impostor, and by extension, anything that is unfamiliar or threatens their way.
Ah! Yes but wait. The Man Utd stalwarts will remind us is the small question of the 12 point lead that the Red Devils enjoy over Arsenal. Short of a secession from the FA or an outright implosion of the team, this lead looks insurmountable. And likely to remain as Man Utd faces teams down the home stretch that it has beaten quite comfortably in the past.
However, when it comes down to playing the highlight reels of the season's games and the video clips courtesy the good folks at You Tube, there will be only one result that will matter. The dismantling of the Red Devils at the hands of the Gunners. Utterly and comprehensively beaten in the last 10 minutes of Saturday's game. Man U might still walk away with this year's Premiership but it will walk away knowing fully well that it was not the best team. The defeats at Old Trafford and at the Emirates are reminders of that pyrrhic victory.
The Gunners actually played a subpar game on Saturday and their final touch was awful with Rosicky the perpetrator on numerous occasion either being too forceful or too tentative. As seems to be the wont, in this game too, Arsenal was missing key personnel without the steadying influence of Gilberto and the less experienced Flamini filling in. However, along the way, the young Guns have found what the English call, character. Oddly enough in the one team that lacks an English starter. At various points Arsenal have been without Henry, Rosicky, Fabregas, Toure, Eboue, and Gilberto but have managed to fight back admirably. Man Utd on the other hand have been blessed with very few injuries. In Saturday's game a new myth was created and an old one buried: Arsenal as the comeback kings and not writing off Man Utd till the final whistle blew.
This brilliant freekick from Jose Antonio Reyes pushed all talk of crisis into the background as Real Madrid joined Barcelona and Sevilla at the Spanish league summit following a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca
Barcelona meanwhile are back on top with a 3-0 victory over Gimnastic Tarragona at the Nou Camp.(Video)
The win takes them clear of previous leaders Sevilla on goal difference with a game in hand.
Alex Ferguson was outmarshalled by Wenger and the Gunners outgunned,outplayed,outclassed and out everything elsed Manchester United yesteday.
Rooney scored the first goal - using his head for a change - Robin van Persie levelled and Henry scored the winner in the last 15 or so seconds of added time.
Final score 2 -1.
A side-effect of the proceedings is that the pall of gloom hanging over the Chelsea camp would have lifted a bit.
Mark Viduka scored one in each half as Middlesbrough sweep Premiership rivals Bolton Wanderers aside by five goals to one.
In the Scottish League Celtic took St Mirren out with a similar scoreline. The last time St Mirren met Celtic - Thomas Gravesen scored a a hat-trick against them .This time it was Jan Vennegoor's turn.(video)
Petr Cech's return as goalkeeper wasn't the greatest of comebacks.A fourth-minute goal from Dirk Kuyt and a stunning 25-yard strike from Jermaine Pennant left Chelsea with no answers...
An interesting commentary on Chelsea's quandary - " Roman Fiddles ,while Jose burns" can be read here.....
Former U.S. goalkeeper David Vanole, (seen here on the right), who made a vital penalty-kick save during 1990 World Cup qualifying to preserve a key win, died during a ski vacation in Utah Tuesday .He was only 43.
Vanole, the U.S. keeper at the 1988 Olympics, earned 13 caps with the National Team between 1986-89.
The word is out that Chelsea keeper Petr Cech has successfully passed his final medical check-up and could now make his comeback against Liverpool. He will be wearing a special protective helmet .
And in the meantime check out antics of these other helmetless goalkeepers who are doing a pretty shoddy job of keeping the ball out of the net........!
Jose Mourinho is proving the Bear Bryant adage " Winning isn't everything but it beats anything that comes in second" applies directly in his case. Chelsea trails Man Utd at this point by 6 points. A lead that is not insurmountable. A substantial part of the season is still left and Man Utd could stumble and let Chelsea's sliver of hope change substantially from silver to gold.
Mourinho is now fodder for gossip like Carlo Ancelotti's move from Milan to Chelsea. He is at odds with the Chelsea board because they refused his demands for January transfers. He is reported to have a falling out with Roman Abramovich fueling departure rumours. So why is Mourinho being targeted for the axe to fall? Is this a correction in attitude in which the board is trying to reign in Mourinho after two years of carte blanche or a deteriorating relationship. I think it is the latter because Mourinho is a strong personality who has complained that if he is forced to pick players who are not his first choices then he will leave. Abramovich has signaled that he is now more interested in developing players from the Chelsea academy and not in the transfer market. Why this change in attitude?
One player. Andrei Shevchenko. The former AC Milan has not turned out to be the goalscoring machine that he was supposed to be and in the process has cost Abramovich £30m. Sheva's transfer has been the subject for much conjecture but it is believed that he was Roman Abramovich's signing and had been 'tapped up' for over two years developing a close friendship with Sheva in this interim. Abramovich invited Shevchenko and his wife Karin Pazik to London, put them up in his Belgravia mansion, with his wife and Pazik going out together on shopping sprees. Pazik was the one to give the green signal for the move to Chelsea. Sheva himself was lukewarm to the move. Mourinho gives the impression of being a passive observer in this wooing process.
The feeling that one gets from Abramovich who sees his role as significantly lower than that of the manager is one of unhappiness with the way Mourinho has played Sheva. Mourinho sees Sheva as mostly a midfield player whose responsibility lies in feeding the ball to Drogba. "That player cannot be Drogba, it has to be Sheva because he is confident with the ball at his feet. He can receive and turn and pass." This is not what Sheva did at Milan. He was used to getting passes at his feet and then doing the rest with his impeccable goalscoring instincts which is why Abramovich was so keen to get him in the first place. It must really rankle Abramovich to see Mourinho distort Sheva's role at Chelsea, knowing fully well that he was primarily responsible for bringing in his good friend from Milan, promising in good faith that it would be worth it. But being a low key person, he can't make this into a publicly personal feud and is using the board to tie Mourinho's hands. The Sheva affair has also made him wary of trusting the transfer market. To be sure, it is not just Sheva but Ballack, Bouhlarouz, Mikel, and Cole who have proved to be disappointing this season but the personal investment in Sheva is prima facie in the tenuous relationship between Abramovich and Mourinho. It is also a cautionary tale in why a owner and player should not be personal friends.
Bulgarian linesman Bogdan Dotchev has broken his 20-year silence about Maradona's famous hand of god goal.Referee Ali Bin Nasser apparently blamed him last week for not signalling the handball - all those years ago. His reply was to call the ref “an idiot more fit to herd camels in the desert than take charge of a World Cup game”.More on that story here.
And since we are on matters godly you might also want to check out this plan by the Vatican to field a football team (The God Squad) to compete with Inter Milan and Roma in Serie A......!
Sylvester (Rocky/Rambo ) Stallone was at Goodison Park to watch Everton play Reading.
Everton's performance however was more Rocky than Rambo and they ended up with a 1-1 draw (goals) inspite of all the support they got from Stallone .
He said later that the Reading goal was offside...or whatever...!
An interview with him at Goodison Park below...
Arsenal has been good to Birmingham in the past. Matthew Upson, Jermaine Pennant, and Julian Gray. Upson and Pennant are part of the impressive talent pool that Arsenal seems to constantly have at its disposal. Upson is now linked to a move to Chelsea and Pennant has settled down at Liverpool after a string of disciplinary problems that saw Wenger and Steve Bruce lose their patience. This season, a trio of young Gunners on loan are leading Birmingham back to the Premiership.
Nicklas Bendtner with his 8 goals has combined impressively with striker, Gary McSheffrey for 20 goals. Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba have contributed plenty of good minutes in midfield. The recent FA Cup match between Newcastle and Birmingham saw Larsson curling in a corner leading to Birmingham's first goal and then scored a late game equalizer, earning the Blues a third round replay. Larsson is 21 years, Bendtner and Muamba are both 18, and they mix it up with some extremely experienced players like Bruno N'Gotty and Radhi Jaidi in the Birmingham squad.
Steve Bruce is now keen on signing on the trio permanently and is working out a deal that will keep them at St Andrews next season when they move onto the Premiership. Personally, I think it is great that a coach like Wenger does not restrict his players movement to other clubs when their chances of playing in the first team is limited. Youngsters like Bendtner, Larsson, and Muamba have gained tremendously playing on a regular basis for a team like Birmingham. Anthony Stokes is another player with limited first team opportunities and Wenger saw no reason to hold him back when he joined Sunderland for £ 2m. Arturo Lupoli, Kerrea Gilbert, Jose Reyes, and Vito Mannone are all beneficiaries of Wengers philosophy.
Of course, this opens up the question as to whether giving away all this talent hurts Arsenal's cause. Gunner fans will probably point to David Bentley, one of the few players who splits defenses playing wide which did not seem to fit too well with the Wenger approach of playing through the middle. Blackburn bought Bentley to their squad where he has impressed with his performance. Bentley's lack of first team opportunity also furthered the perception against Wenger that he does not encourage English talent in his squad which is a load of rubbish.
Nicky Butt scores the winner against Tottenham. How significant is this? A Butt goal is as rare the return of Haley's comet. This was just his second goal for the Toons in 39 appearances. His first one came in October 2004. Butt scored last in August 2005 for Birmingham (on loan from Newcastle). Tottenham lost 2-3.
Real Madrid got their first win in four outings with Beckham watching from the VIP stands. Ruud Van Nistelrooy got the only goal against Real Zaragoza.Real Madrid stay third place but move to just two points behind the league leaders Sevilla.(They lost 2-1 (video) to Mallorca - but still stay on top)
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard needs to figure out how his reigning Spanish and European champions' suffered their worst defeat of the season after their 3-1 loss to Espanyol .(video)
How good is Man Utd's midfield? Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, and Michael Carrick have combined for 20 goals. This is more than Manchester City, Sheffield Utd, West Ham, Charlton, and Watford. Ronaldo alone has scored 12 goals which is the entire scoring output of Watford.
The rest of the big four, Chelsea midfielders led by Frank Lampard have 14 goals, Liverpool have 12 with a strangely subdued Steven Gerrard contributing four, and Arsenal's midfield also has 12 with Gilberto's 7 goals.
There are a number of reports that portray the ambiguous feelings of the Hispanic population to the Beckham move. The LA Galaxy has a sizable Hispanic fan base but the roster shows only two players of Latino ethnicity and both are Americans. There are no players from any of the Mexican clubs like Cruz Azul, Pachuca, Club America, or Gualdajara although So Cal has many passionate fans of the Mexican league who attend the matches that these clubs play. So the Beckham transfer has the populace split between those who believe that it does not make a difference where he comes from as long as he plays good exciting soccer and those that wonder when the next great Hispanic player to capture the imagination will come along.
But there is. And he is Jared Borghetti, the best Mexican striker still playing for club and country. The most prolific goalscorer in national team history and known as the Desert Fox (El Zorro del Desierto) for his phenomenal poaching abilities. Borghetti became the first Mexican to sign up for a Premiership club when he joined Bolton in 2005. In 2006 he left Bolton and joined Al Ittihad.
When Borghetti announced that he was breaking his contract with Ittihad in December 2006, teams from Spain, France, and England showed interest. He finally returned home and joined Cruz Azul for their 2007 season. Borghetti has kept up his prolific scoring and at Bolton showed that he did not have a long learning curve scoring 7 goals in 19 appearances in the tough Premiership. At Ittihad he scored 10 goals in 15 matches. Unlike Beckham, there were no questions regarding Borghetti's ability to deliver.
The LA Galaxy, oddly enough did not think to woo a player like Borghetti after he announced his availability. You really have to question the criminal amount of money that they have thrown Beckham's way when they could have spent infinitely less for someone who is a proven sporting icon to many in the LA Galaxy fan base and has a better track record. Borgetti would have advanced the cause of soccer in the MLS with far less ambiguity.
It is always interesting to hear what your former manager has to say, especially an opinionated one, such as Sir Alex. In Beckham's case, his relationship with Sir Alex rapidly went downhill during the 1999-2000 season as the Man Utd manager began questioning Becks work ethic with his increasing fame and off field distractions. Although Man Utd won the Premiership that season, the damage to their relationship was already done. Things came to a head in the 2003 season when a furious Sir Alex kicked a football shoe following a loss against Arsenal that struck Beckham over the eye and required stitches. The Beckham era at Man Utd was over and he was transfered to Real in 2003.
So what does Sir Alex say about the jaw dropping multimillion dollar Beckham deal with the LA Galaxy. Or in this case what he did not say.
Ferguson said: "I anticipated that. It was to be expected he would go to America.
I told you the guy was more interested in Hollywood and not soccer.
"He had the opportunity to go to America and with the kind of money being talked about he had to consider that.
Having a wife like Posh, you gotta have deep pockets.
"Having played for us and deep down being a United fan he would not have come back to another English club.
At this point he would be lucky if he got an offer from Walsall.
"We wish him well - there are simple reasons I think! He was a terrific player for United.
He was terrific insofar as I made him terrific. Otherwise he was just another project.
"It is a big career change, playing for Real Madrid and going to America.
Real is a real club where they play real soccer.
"His position at Madrid has probably accelerated the move.
Am I glad that we transferred him when we had the chance. Imagine having to see his mug on the bench at every game.
"He has only played a few games this season and he cannot be happy with that. Every top player wants to play."
Who is he kidding? With a bum knee and a questionable work ethic, every minute he got to play was one too many. He should be ecstatic.
This is real good news for Beckham acolytes. He may actually see the start of the MLS season on April 7th. Fans will not have to wait till August for him to join the LA Galaxy as today Real bade Becks goodbye. Money had a lot to do with it as the Galaxy will buy out the remaining five months of his contract which expires July 1st. Real saves $5 million of his $11.3-million salary.
Ronaldo is also slated to bid adieu to the Bernabeu as Al-Ittihad, Juventus, and even Red Bull New York are keen that he join them.
One of the most unsavoury fallouts of the Beckham transfer will be the hard nosed, trashy, and invasive journalism that So Cal will be subjected to, now that the Becks and Posh show moves to Hollywood. Brit tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mirror put the National Enquirer in the shade. The LA Times reports that these tabloids are seriously considering opening west coast operations.
Meanwhile, the British tabloids are gearing up to spend a fortune with agencies such as X17, and some are even considering sending correspondents to Los Angeles.
The Sun is already reporting that Hefner has approached Posh for a Playboy spread. Not that is news. If Mother Teresa were curvy, Hefner would have gone after her too.
Gear up people, this is everything except the fallacious anointing of the saviour of soccer in the US.
Amidst the hue and cry of David Beckham coming to the USA with the mindboggling potential to earn $50 million a year, is the sobering thought that there are living geniuses like Pele and Diego Maradona who have never see money like that even though they have done infinitely more for the world of soccer. However no other soccer player arouses emotions like Pele or defines a sport as definitively as Pele.
So if you are a soccer fan who has made a big fat bonus at Goldman Sachs or any of the other Wall Street firms and want the ultimate Pele collectible, you finally have the opportunity. The book published by Gloria UK limited to 2,500 copies personally handsigned by Pele. There are three different editions.
The ‘Samba’ edition comes signed by Pelé and is covered in electric green silk. It comes in an overall print run limited to 2,100 units globally and is presented in its own specially-created, silk-covered case.
The 'Super Samba' edition is a special edition that comes packaged with a 16”x20” black & white print, entitled ‘Central Park’ created specially for Gloria by renowned American photographer, Marvin Newman, a key contributor to Sports Illustrated, LIFE and Esquire since 1953, and who has been honoured internationally with a number of one man shows. A version of the photograph first appeared in People magazine in August 1975 in a photo essay documenting Pelé's arrival in New York to play for The Cosmos. Each print is personally autographed by Newman, hologrammed and specially barcoded. It is part of an edition of only 250 units worldwide.
The 'Carnival' edition limited to 150 copies has a colour photograph signed by all the surviving members of the 1970 World Cup winning squad. Gloria located each player during their research in Brazil and secured their signatures one-to-one. ‘Carnival’ comes bound in rich brown silk and is limited to only 150 units globally.
The £4,000 Carnival edition was sold out within weeks and now go for a minimum of £10,000.
There seems to be two Liverpool sides that show up at Premiership games. The home team that has scored 23 goals and won 9 games and more impressively just given away a league low 3 goals. Then there is the away team that has scored just 9 goals, given away 13, and won a dismal 3 games. Liverpool has the worst away performance in relation to the big four and its road record is the same as relegation zone Wigan with one more loss.
What accounts for this split personality performance? Teams always do better at home but the contrast in Liverpool's performance is stark. With the second half of the season underway, it is only going to get tougher as clubs start fighting to get out of relegation. Liverpool have started playing better as in the last six away games they have scored their three wins. But Luis Garcia is out and his attacking midfield capability with proven scoring will be missed.
Koi manager Mark Basile was happy to hear the couple are coming to town. "As far as the buzz around town, everyone knows who she is, but I don't think a lot of people know who he is," Basile said. "He's a B-plus celebrity. But he can be A-plus-plus if he does well for the Galaxy."
Here is some fan reaction:
"Becks will never overtake the popularity crown in Los Angeles as long as Kobe and Nomar play here. It's actually kinda sad. . .with Mrs. Nomar Garciaparra (Mia Hamm) living in Los Angeles, Becks is not even going to be the best soccer player in town!!!"
Stupid yanks "David the Beckham is the most S-E-N-S-A-T-I-O-N-A-L soccerball player in the world! " Beckham is useless, cannot get into the England squad because of 4 words STEVEN GERRARD & AARON LENNON , you have a rubbish league, you will always be rubbish."
"It's a smart marketing ploy by MLS. He'll bring in lots of corporate dollars. Remember, MLS jerseys will be sponsored.So the Beckham Bimbo jersey will be a hot item. His visits to cities around the MLS will be promoted as big events. As for his ability to play...he'll sell a lot of jerseys!"
Someone called Vivekananda wrote a neat one liner
"The average american says, what is the MLS and what is this Beckham person?"
But not all of it was negative. Most of the comments were variations of this one
"I think Beckham coming to LA will be a great benefit to US Soccer. Soccer in the US is underrated. Having an international soccer star play on a US team, I believe will take soccer to a level we've never seen before."
You normally turn to the NYT for the inside scoop on the world and the US. Front page articles usually report the state of affairs in Iraq, or that of public opinion solidly against escalation of troops which clueless Dubya does not seem to acknowledge. Rarely, are such headlines interspersed with articles on sports and mostly these deal with baseball. Barry Bonds and the lack of a Yankees championship are favourite obsessions.
Imagine my shock at reading the front page NYT headline A Soccer Star heads to the US, Heeding Lure of Hollywood sharing space with the more prosaic Bush's Plans for Iraq Runs Into Opposition In Congress. The NYT continues its lovefest with Beckham in the sports page as Harvey Araton, the doyen of sports writers waxes eloquent in the Sports of the The Times with his article American Soccer Takes a Bold Gamble On a Boldface Name.
Lets put this in perspective. The NYT could not be bothered to send a reporter to the recent MLS final that the Houston Dynamos won and relied on a 15 line AP post. Their World Cup reporting was cursory with Jere Longman providing the lede and Araton with the analysis. They did have a fairly active World Cup blog led by Roger Cohen. But for the most, their coverage compared to other newspapers, even in the US, was desultory. When it comes to international news, the NYT is second to none with bureau offices in many countries and reporters contributing original articles. But their sports coverage is decidedly parochial. There is very little on international sports and even less so on soccer, the global game. Oddly enough, this in a city that prides itself as the melting pot of the world with so many thousands of expats that are devotees of the game.
However, lets not get carried away. An article does not make for change in course, or a rethinking. Araton's article could easily have been carried in the business section. For this is all about Brand Beckham and the millions of dollars that he will generate through merchandising. I would love to be proven to be wrong but this is essentially a business deal between a world class player with waning skills and a club that has hired him and as such should not be read as an extrapolation into the development of soccer in the US. The novelty factor of Becks will find a temporary uptick in MLS games attendance but the hardwork of attracting audiences to games with no name players needs to continue, well after Beckham hangs up his boots for good.
Pierre van Hooijdonk scores from near the half line against Galatasaray Lions.The Lions lost 2-1 to Feyenoord in the semifinal of the Efes Cup 6.
Shourin got it right earlier, Beckham is coming to America.
But it's not about soccer in the end. It's about branding.
Let's see if brand Beckham can spark product extensions in:
a) Hollywood movies
b) TV advertising
c) a sitcome
d) a talkshow
e) a candy bar
f) America's MLS
The Guardian tells us:
"British media went cash crazy on Friday as they toyed with the figures David Beckham will earn after he moves to LA Galaxy and a new life.
The Daily Express said the 31-year-old former England captain had signed "the most mind-boggling contract in global sport".
The Sun quoted Jonathan Woodgate, a former England and Real Madrid team mate of Beckham's, as forecasting the midfielder's move would open up the floodgates for other top players. The paper said Beckham aimed to tempt former Real team-mates Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo to join him in the U.S.
It devoted eight pages to the player's move, including the front which calculated that his estimated 128 million pounds ($247.6 million) five-year deal would work out at 50 pounds ($96) a minute.
The Daily Telegragh said the deal would help put Beckham's earning power on a par with the biggest names in American sport.
The Star forecast the former Manchester United man would become bigger than Pele who also played in the U.S. after coming out of retirement in 1975.
The rags don't get it. This is not about football.
It's about milking a brand. Image rights. Movies. Advertising.
Fourth division Wycombe Wanderers pile on the misery for Chelsea as they hold them to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday.This was Chelsea's fourth draw in five games.
Mourinho was quick to point to the fact that Chelsea are down to the bare bones of their squad.
"We had kids on the bench, Paulo [Ferreira] in central defence, [Michael] Essien in central defence and [Wayne] Bridge at outside left," he commented.
David Beckham is officially acknowledging what players do in their waning years, come to the USA to end their career. And LA is the best destination as he has his soccer academy, Hollywood friends like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and a fashion conscious city that takes their fashionistas seriously. And wife, Posh was spotted looking for a house to buy.
But just like his career, where Becks would disappear for 89 minutes and then in a minute produce magic, his departure from Real still has this ' will he won't he' quality. There is this confusion as to what Madrid sports director Predrag Mijatovic said to an Italian TV channel. However, it is clear that under Fabio Capello, he would have very limited opportunities to start. Capello prefers Raul Gonzlaez or Jose Antonio Reyes to start on the right flank.
None of the big English clubs would want him as he just does not fit in with the teams. Leading the skepticism, were Man Utd fans who stated that Beckham would struggle to find a place in the first team. The only club that might even dream of taking him would be Liverpool with an injured Luis Garcia out for the next six months. Liverpool's midfield line is a bit banged up with Mark Gonzalez, Harry Kewell, and Mohammed Sissoko out with injuries. Inter is not interested in him as he currently does not fit their plans and a transfer rumour to OM was primarily floated because Sven Goran Erickson is soon to be their manager.
So Becks, welcome to the US! Your new team will have players who are not household names but then that is still the state of soccer out here.
Fox Sports asks a question: If Beckham comes to the US, can the former England captain be to MLS what Pele was to NASL.? The answer Fox Sports is a resounding No! Becks has not the iota of genius that Pele had. And more importantly, he lacks the image of Pele, as the people's player. A combination that had Muhammad Ali acknowledging that there were two superstars in the world.
William Hill has cut the odds from 9-4 to 5-4 for Beckham to join the MLS.
You'll never walk alone
when you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
and don't be afraid of the dark
at the end of a storm is a golden sky
and the sweet silver song of a lark
walk on through the wind
walk on through the rain
tho' your dreams be tossed and blown
walk on, walk on
with hope in your heart
and you'll never walk alone
you'll never, walk alone
Stirring words that might taste like mush in the mouth for a number of Liverpool fans after Arsenal's shellacking. Hats off to the Liverpudlians who have sat through their team's miserable season so far. After being humiliated by Arsenal, 3-1 in the FA Cup 3rd round, Rafa Benitez decided that the Carling Cup was a bit of bling worth fighting for with his second stringers against the Gunners second stringers, only to find out that their second stringers were far better, resulting in another humiliation, 6-3. Their last three encounters against the Gunners have resulted in a 12-4 pasting.
Now they have lost Luis Garcia, their medio for the season to a torn ACL and Mark Gonzalez for three weeks to a shin bruise. What a difference a year makes.
Here is the video of the Liverpool team that won the Champions League against AC Milan in 2005 what is considered the greatest final in cup history. Their match against Barca is coming up next month and with it their last hope of putting silverware on the trophy table this season.
Arsenal has been giving Liverpool a hard time of late.Having dumped them out of the FA cup a couple of days back they have now proceeded to dump them out of the Carling Cup as well.Very convincingly too .The final score was 6 -3
Julio Baptista missed a penalty but scored four goals anyway.Jeremie Aliadiere and Alexandre Song scored the other two...Read more...
The last time Liverpool lost at Anfield by a margin of 6 goals was in 1914 ( This- some Liverpool fans will say - is what actually led to the starting of the First World War.....!)
Liverpool fans however may be able to take some consolation in the fact that this was not their darkest hour.Worse defeats are chronicled here.
Every now and then Blatter seems to get these conscience attacks which then compel him to make an apology ...!
He has made his first apology for 2007.He apologised to Italy yesterday for not personally awarding the team with the World Cup trophy.
"History will say it was an error that the Fifa president did not award the Azzurri as world champions, and in effect it was an error," Blatter said. More such Blattertalk here.....
Meanwhile Plymouth manager Ian Holloway is facing possible disciplinary action from the Football Association after allegedly saying the following
''Sepp Blatter: you are an idiot. Put the rules back to what they should be. He is a complete lunatic".
This because he was upset over changes in the offside rule.
And for those among us who are never really absolutely sure what's offside and what's not[this includes refs and linesmen] - here's some help from FIFA...!
Someone please wake up Carlo Ancelotti. AC Milan obviously believes that the elixir of youth is round the corner. Otherwise who would believe that their defense is anchored by veterans Paolo Maldini, turning 38 years, Cafu 36 years, and Alessandro Costacurta soon to be in his fourth decade. Lets not take away how great these players are, they are true legends. But has Ancelotti considered that these players may not have much cartilage in their knees left to do the job. Where are the youth players at Milan? Dario Simic is 31 years, Giuseppe Favalli 31 years, and Alessandro Nesta 30 years.
Looking at Milan's roster, it is striking to see how many players there are approaching their mid 30's. Goalkeepers Dida is 34 years and Zeljko Kalac almost 35 years. Striker Filippo Inzaghi is 34 years. Their midfield with Gattuso, Seedorf, and Pirlo is middle aged in terms of soccer years with only Kaka considered relatively young. Alberto Gilardino is the only young striker at the age of 24 years. The average age of the Rossoneri senior squad is 31 years of age. They are an old team. This is not a knock on AC Milan. They beat Juventus today 3-2 in the 16th Luigi Berlusconi championship but they had to insert one of their youth players, Willy Aubameyang to score their winning goal. The Rossoneri have a youth program but there seems to be no great desire on Ancelotti's part to call up more of their youth squad to take part in the Club team.
The same tired rumours are trotted out time and time again. Jose Mourinho's fate lies in the hands of Roman Abramovich and his desire to see Chelsea win the Champions cup or at the least a third consecutive Premiership. If this does not happen, Mourinho will be replaced by Guus Hiddink at the end of the season.
As desirable as this is to Abramovich, his world does not revolve around these championships only. More importantly to Abramovich is his reputation as the only prominent oligarch who can travel with impunity between Russia and England and one who actually enjoys a good relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. His sale of a majority of Sibneft, his energy trading company to the state owned Gazprom is cited as an example of his good faith gestures to Putin and a reason that he has escaped a similar fate of imprisonment that befell fellow oligarch Mikhail Khodorovsky. In fact, Abramovich's time in Russia is spent in a careful orchestration of building up his image as someone who has the ear and goodwill of the Russians. His tenure as governor of Chukotka province was utilized in a massive building of infrastructure including preschools, a hospital, and an airport. Putin got him reappointed as governor of Chukotka because of this good work.
Guus Hiddink's signing on as coach of the Russian team was the result of Abramovich wooing him to Moscow and it is reported that Hiddink's fees are being underwritten by Abramovich. Under Hiddink the Russians are solidly in position to qualify for Euro 2008. The Russians have been in the wilderness in world soccer for more than a decade now and Hiddink represents one of their best chances to reclaim their prestige. Hiddink still has more than two years on his contract. To cut short Hiddink's contract and bring him to Chelsea is a shortsighted tactic and Abramovich is too canny an operator not to recognize that. A Russian victory at Euro 2008 might seem like a pipedream but if there is anyone who can take them there it is Guus Hiddink. The love of a whole nation or that of the spoiled fans at Stamford Bridge? You would have to be seriously touched in the head to pass up that opportunity.
A goalkeeper is the most specialized position in soccer. And as with any other speciality with more experience one gets better at it. It is little wonder that most goalkeepers who start are usually over the age of 30. This is true for all the three big leagues.
La Liga has the youngest set of goalkeepers with an average age of 31 years, the Premiership in the middle with 33 years, and the Serie in keeping with their philosophy of prizing experience over youth have the oldest goalkeepers with an average age of just below 35.
The Italians of course have their role model Dino Zoff, a goalie of outstanding ability who at the age of 40 helped them win the World Cup in 1982. In keeping with that tradition no fewer than nine goalkeepers over the age of 35 years who are in their club squads and seen substantial playing minutes. Leading them is Gianluca Pagliuca of Ascoli, who turned 40 years on the 18 December 2006. Following him are Daniele Balli (Empoli), Alberto Fontana (Palermo), Luca Bucci (Parma), Gianluca Berti (Sampdoria) all 39 years of age.
The youngest starter is Livorno's Marco Amelia, at age 24 years mentioned as a potential successor to Buffon. Inter's Cesar is also relatively young at the age of 28 years. Moreover, there are only six goalies in their 20's in the Serie as compared to the ten in the Premiership. The La Liga also has six goalkeepers in their 20's but the average age of the other goalkeepers is tightly clustered around the early 30's. In the Premiership Ben Foster (Watford) at 23 years and Scott Carson (Charlton Athletic) at 21 years are the starting goalkeepers with Carson mentioned as a potential England squaddie. The Liga has Iker Casillas (Real) at 26 years and Victor Valdes (Barca) at 25 years of age doing duty.
Arsene Wenger believes in youth and nowhere does he buck the conventional wisdom so much as in his defense. Whereas most other clubs believe in older defenders providing more stability, Wenger's defensive line's average age is 23 years. The youngest Johann Djorou is 19 years and the oldest William Gallas is 29 years. Contrast this with Man Utd's average age of 28+ years led by veteran Gary Neville, Chelsea's 27 years, and Liverpool's 27+ years. The club with the most porous defensive line is Charlton having given away 40 goals with an average age of 27 years. So far Wenger's boys have let in 19 goals which compares very favorably with Man Utd's 15, Chelsea's 17, and Liverpool's 16.
Wenger's derring do extends to the fact that these clubs have defenders in their squads who are barely 20 years or younger like Ryan Shawcross, Kieran Lee, Gabriel Paletta, and Miki but because Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Rafa Benitez are not exactly known for their risk taking, rarely get to see any playing minutes. Wenger's approach proves that young players can play good defense.
Wenger's penchant of encouraging young players to see first squad duty and to throw them in to meet head on with the big boys of the other clubs makes Arsenal the best club in the world for encouraging young talent.
Fabio Cannavaro, FIFA player of the year seems to have forgotten the basics of defending in the last three games. He was taken to the cleaners by Deportivo's Arizmendi on a number of occasions. Real's poor defending is causing Fabio Capello heartburn. This was also Fernando Gago's debut and it was not a very auspicious start. He played almost one hour but was unable to do much and was replaced by Marcelo. Real could not take advantage of Barca's draw against Getafe and Sevilla's loss against Real Zaragoza to climb up the table. Deportivo kept their supremacy against Real intact and have not lost since the 1991-1992 season at La Coruna.
However Real's problem is not just the non-existent defending but the anemic attack that apart from Van Nistelrooy, seems to be producing very few goals. Ronaldo and Robinho have combined for 2 goals in 14 appearances. In 17 matches, Real has scored 26 goals. Ronaldo is probably looking back at his Inter Milan days and truth be told he might actually be looking for a transfer back to his old club.
This glorious free kick from Xavi spared a Ronaldinho depleted Barcelona the blushes as they held Getafe to a 1 -1 draw.
Getafe's goal came when defender Rafael Marquez's back pass to his goalkeeper Valdes went a big cockeyed.David Guiza pounced on it and put it past Victor Valdes.(Video)
Earlier leaders Sevilla had opened the door for Barcelona to regain the top position when they went down 2-1 at Real Zaragoza on Saturday.A highlight of the game was a comical kind of a punchup between Diogo and Sevilla forward Luis Fabiano (video ) at the end of the game.
Barcelona remain two points behind Sevilla with a game in hand.
Third-placed Real Madrid also failed to close in on anyone after losing 2-0 at Deportivo La Coruna where they have not won for 14 years.(video).....(of the goals - not 14 years.....!)
Henrik Larsson scored the first goal in his Manchester United debut ,Milan Baros got the equaliser in the 75th minute but substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted a stoppage time winner....poor goalkeeping there from Villa goalkeeper Gabour Kiraly.
And Wayne Rooney has gone six games now without a goal.
It has been 8 years since Justin Fashanu's tragic death. Fashanu was a talented striker for Norwich City. He also became England's first £1m soccer player when Brian Clough brought him to Nottingham Forest from Norwich. Fashanu was also England's first openly gay soccer player and announced his coming out in a Sun cover feature on 22nd October 1990. But by that time his promising soccer career had been cut short. Clough who brought him to Forest suspected him of being gay, constantly called him a 'bloody poof' and undermined his playing abilities with his homophobic attitude. Clough created a hostile and stressful environment that unsettled Fashanu who failed to score goals and thereon his career never recovered. He then had unsatisfying stints at many clubs never staying too long.
In 1998 a warrant for his arrest was issued by the police for the sexual assault of a 17 year old youth. At the time Fashanu was in the US coaching the Maryland Mania, a soccer club. The charges proved to be bogus but by that time it was too late. Fashanu took his life on May 2, 1998.
Did Fashanu's death foster a more inclusionary attitude in the soccer world? Was Fashanu's death an eye opener to the authorities that one can be a skillful athlete and yet have a different sexual orientation. That both can be mutually exclusive? The answer is, sadly no. An article by the Independent states that despite the advancement of gay rights in other fields, soccer still practices an exclusionary attitude towards gay players. There are still no openly gay soccer players in English professional leagues.
This is despite like Stonewall FC, a number of clubs purely for gay soccer players. Even more remarkable is that equally macho sports like rugby and American football have athletes who have come out and suffered no permanent harm. Admittedly, the numbers are still miniscule with a pervasive "Don't ask, Don't tell" siege mentality. Ian Roberts, the Australian rugby star came out in 1995 when he was at the top of his game. It only enhanced his reputation and won him more endorsements. Der Speigel in a recent article follows the fate of gay soccer players in the Bundesliga, in which a very well known player acknowledges that coming out will end his career. Another player refers to the double life that he leads, officially married with a wife to cover up a long term relationship he has had with a schoolmate. Yet another gave up a promising career because he feared he would bring dishonour to his club if discovered. In fact, soccer fans and teams would be more open to men and women playing together than admitting a gay man into professional soccer. The parody of the predator gay soccer player preying on heterosexual players as bait or worse still, converting them, is still a constant in locker room talk.
There are two big phenomena that have occurred since Fashanu's death that have influenced the world of soccer and both do not augur well for the gay soccer player, one being metrosexuality and the other, the rise of evangelism in the developing world. Oddly enough, the advent of metrosexuality that has injected gays into the social and cultural mainstream has conversely made it potentially even more unsafe for soccer players to come out. The phenomenon of metrosexuality found its most famous practitioner, David Beckham in the late '90s with a ready market in attractive soccer players primping up and turning the image of the sweaty fashion challenged soccer slob on its head. Giorgio Armani was the first fashion entrepreneur to recognize how lucrative this phenomenon could be and used a number of soccer icons from David James to Kaka to promote his clothes and accessories.
At its core, metrosexuality is purely a commercial enterprise, a multibillion dollar industry which everyone at the intersection of soccer and fashion are cashing on. Even players like Andriy Shevchenko and Francesco Totti have opened up stores selling men's haute couture. And like any hugely successful commercial venture that rakes in billions in sales and merchandising, image is everything. The soccer players who indulge in metrosexuality or promote it, also carefully tend to their images of being strongly heterosexual surrounded by attractive women. Victoria Beckham is a perfect counterfoil to her metrosexual husband and with their two children, a tabloid staple. Francesco Totti and Ilary Blasi. Andriy Shevchenko and Karin Pazik. The aggressive heterosexual imagery is ramped up due to the perception that metrosexuality is in part driven by the stereotypical arbiters of style, the gays as in the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. To make sure that there is less to it than meets the eye, this denial sometime takes on a weird form and shape as metrosexual icon Djibril Cisse's refusal to kiss his fellow players after scoring a goal in the fear of being labeled a gay.
This then is the state of affairs in Europe, where the aversion to gay soccer players is rooted in locker room tradition and commercial interests but in a continent where the church is slowly losing its influence and as it declines; elsewhere in the rest of the world, in Asia, South America, and Africa, the rise of evangelism is nascent. The strain of evangelism in these regions is far more conservative than its European and American counterparts. The recent rift in the American Episcopalian association of churches with its admission of homosexual clergy has led to some churches in the US to seek affiliation with Nigeria's ultra conservative Archbishop Peter Akinola's Anglican church, who considers the practice of homosexuality as abhorrent. In fact, the Anglican church seeks to codify the conduct of all its members. Since many of the African countries have ineffectual legislatures, the church now finds itself increasingly in a position to influence government. The African Anglicans are now pressing the Nigerian government to seek punitive action against gays and acts deemed as gay behaviour. Archbishop Akinola supports a bill in Nigeria’s legislature that would make homosexual sex and any public expression of homosexual identity a crime punishable by five years in prison.
Most of these churches are doing yeoman work in poverty alleviation in these countries but also extracting their price as they demand correct behavior with regards to sexual orientation and womens reproductive rights on narrow theocratic grounds. As in Nigeria, a similar phenomena is sweeping Ghana, Cameroun, Mali, South Africa, and other parts of Africa. The regressive attitude seen generally towards gays in these countries does not bode well for the secretly gay African soccer star who also deals with the fact that he is considered a role model in his community and his talent discovered by a church youth program. His secret disclosed would not just mean career suicide but a life fraught with danger as he would run afoul of some arbitrary law that defines acceptable human behaviour.
Real Madrid has been under a cloud this season. It has been Valencia, Barca, and now Sevilla that have challenged for the La Liga title. But there is optimism at the Bernabeu now as a group of South American youngsters who have been creating waves have signed on. The new signings include Fernando Gago, Gonzalo Higuain, and Marcelo.
Gago is already being compared to Fernando Redondo, the legendary Real player who played defensive midfielder and beloved at the Bernabeu for his outstanding playmaking abilities. Gago previously played for last season's ill fated Boca Juniors who lost the Apertura title in a stunning upset to Estudiantes. It will be interesting to see how Gago shares his time on the field with that of Guti, Real's playmaker, whose place on the team has been tenuous at times. Higuain, a former River Plate player who claims both Argentinian and French nationality will challenge Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo for a place in the attack. Marcelo is a left back who was transfered from Brazilian club Flamengo and should bolster the defence led by Fabio Cannavaro, who at times has looked extremely flatfooted.
Creaky jointed and George Best's favourite whipping boy David Beckham is also working out a new contract that will enable him to stay on at Real. Fabio Capello has a real juggling act to follow this second half of the season.
No, not Robbie Savage, Craig Bellamy, or Paul Dickov. These players have taken a chill pill and are actually making some headlines playing soccer. But Reo-Coker has earned the wrath of many a West Ham fan because of his insipid and ineffectual play. What is more galling is his lack of trying. Reo-Coker's anger at finding out that Alan Pardew had been hiding Arsenal's and Tottenham's interest in him seems to indicate a player with a slow fuse.
Paul Wilson says he is not going to inherit the mantle of Robbie Savage soon. He maybe a mercenary in the Ashley Cole mould and is already wiggling his hips at Tottenham but this does not make him prone to bone headed behaviour.
Two goals from Tomas Rosicky and one from Thierry Henry sent Liverpool crashing to a 3-1 defeat yesterday.Match Report.
Elsewhere Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United were dispatched by third division sides as Nottingham Forest beat the Londoners 2-0 and Swansea City won 3-0 in Sheffield.
Chelsea aided by a Frank Lampard hat-trick helped themselves to a thumping 6 - 1 win against Macclesfield .(video) Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United and Watford also progressed against lower league opposition while a last-minute Nwankwo Kanu header enabled Portsmouth to beat Wigan Athletic 2-1.
Today Liverpool meets Arsenal in what promises to be a pulsating encounter. Arsenal swallowed 'Pool the last time they met in the Premiership. Both are now fighting for a third and fourth spot. The FA Cup is their best chance at getting some domestic silverware.
Arsenal will be minus the services of little maestro Cesc Fabregas through suspension. Strongman William Gallas and striker Adebayor are out with injuries. Liverpool are without Sissoko and Kewell.
The absence of Fabregas is a huge blow. As shown in the Reading match, when Fabregas came in Arsenal became a cohesive force. Rosicky is a more up and down player and vision is not a big part of his game. Arsenal had a hard time holding onto the ball with Rosicky in the lineup. Fabregas with his possession turns everyone into a potential striker.
Henry is back and with Van Persie played some great strikes against Charlton. But Liverpool is not Charlton. Baptista has been struggling to fit into the Arsenal attack and the big man looks almost too delicate in his handling of the ball. He really should provide more muscle to the attack. Toure is prone to the occasional lapse as seen against Reading. He cannot afford to do it this time with the speedy Kuyt and Bellamy on the prowl who love beating the offside trap. Gilberto will hold on letting Rosicky loose.
On paper Liverpool has a much more settled midfield with Luis Garcia, Alonso, and Gerrard. This encounter is going to be tight. Not having Fabregas might be the difference.
The BBC African Footballer of the Year award is decided by listeners of BBC Fast Track on the BBC World Service and visitors to bbc.co.uk/africanfootball.
Ghana's midfield icon, Michael (Bull)Essien was voted the 2006 British Broadcasting Corporation African Footballer of the Year.
Essien, who is also vying for the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Africa Footballer of the Year goes into the contest with a slight advantage over his opponents, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona and Cameroon, due to the BBC award.
The BBC award has been running since 1992 and previous winners include Abedi Pele and Samuel Osei Kuffour of Ghana, Patrick Mboma of Cameroon, Senegal's El-Hadji Diouf, Nigeria's Emmanuel Amuneke and the entire Zambian side of 1993.
In 2001, Paolo Di Canio won the FIFA Fair Play award for this noteworthy display of sportsmanship in a game against Everton. Di Canio shunned a goal scoring opportunity and caught the ball while the Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying injured on the ground. FIFA had described the act as "a special act of good sportsmanship."
Some other FIFA fair player winners can be seen here- among them Gary Lineker .Gary won the award in 1990 for being a rarity in football - he had never been sent off in his entire career .
West Ham's season has been one of swelling the ranks of players. But the players lack quality, alluded to by Curbishley when he took a veiled swipe at former coach Alan Pardew and his summer signings. But Curbs is being disingenuous by signing on Luis Boa Morte. It would be a stretch to call Luis Boa Morte quality. And a real stretch when Curbs mentions his interest in chunky Mark Viduka and unsettled Shaun Wright Phillips.
But all these calculations fly out the window with the kind of drubbing the Irons received at the hands of Reading. You know there is going to be a letdown in the next game from such an emotional win over Man U, especially with a green team like West Ham. Curbs should have prepared the team better.
So adding new players is not going to solve problems. The Irons have seen enough of that. None of these new players have managed to inspire the present lot. Nigel Reo-Coker has been pathetic. It is a bit of a joke to make a U-21 a team captain. Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora started strong but have faded. The present squad was good enough to take them to the 9th position last season but these guys have not shown up. The Man Utd win was entirely provided for by the old squad. Getting Ashton back will help, more than anyone else.
Curbs has to get the old squad to respond and get them out of relegation zone. A few videos of the Man U game should help. The Magpies showed that they could do it after firing Souness and then ending their second half of last season on a brilliant run. There is no reason that West Ham cannot do it with their future England squaddies. Green and Ashton are quality. Magnusson and Curbs should stop shopping around and concentrate on the players they have.
Members of Israel's national squad partnered Palestinian players against a team representing the southern Spanish region of Andalusia in the last week of 2006.The annual game for peace was organized by the Peres Center for Peace .Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres .Andalusia won the game 3-1
Gianluigi Buffon is feeling left out of the top flight action of the Serie as Juventus battle to get back into it from Serie B. They should be able to do it as they are third place with a match in hand. But the world's greatest goalkeeper has serious concerns about the quality of the squad. He has threatened to leave if Didier Deschamps, Juve's manager does not rebuild the team to challenge for the Scudetto next season. The present squad has some aging and frequently injured stars like Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero who might be contemplating retirement soon. Juventus will be reliant on some very young and untested talent like Rafaele Palladino for goals in the Serie A. It will
All he has to do is lift his little finger and the Premiership will break his door down to replace some of their more error prone and aging goalkeepers. Van Der Saar, Pepe Reina, Jens Lehmann to name a few. With the number of takeovers and vast amounts of cash flowing into the clubs for transfers, the Premiership is surely the place to be for an instant shot at the title. Buffon looks like he is ready for that. Significant words.
"At a certain point, however, one has to stop and look at things from a purely footballing point of view and weigh up whether one's personal interests and the interests of the club coincide."
Sheffield United captain Chris Morgan was suspended for three games for sneaking a punch at Van Persie in a game that the Blades won. There was a bit of a back and forth taking place between the two players that seemed to have rattled Van Persie. In the next match against Charlton, Osei Sankofa was sent off for denying Van Persie a cleat goalscoring opportunity. Clearly Charlton had seen TV coverage of Morgan taking Van Persie out of his game.
It maybe that Van Persie has taken on the load of the Gunners striking capabilities with Henry injured and underperforming and is thus being targeted. However Van Persie is a bit of a tetchy character and tightly wound. It is easy to get under Persie's skin. And players with a reputation of being enforcers love to have a go at players with that personality. David Sommeil at Manchester City accused Persie of racist abuse when the two tangled in a match last season. Sommeil is no angel and he has had his share of controversial incidents.
Paul Le Guen's stripping Barry Ferguson of the captaincy and then dropping him altogether from the Rangers squad against Motherwell was the last straw and he was fired by the Rangers. Le Guen's 7 month tenure was the shortest in club history. Le Guen was signed on by Sir David Murray, Rangers CEO with high hopes because of his track record at Lyons, where he helped them to three successive league titles.
Rangers are 17 points behind Scottish league leaders Celtic.
Just like two old ladies swinging their handbags at each other. Very Monty Pythonesque!
Jose Mourinho was chortling to himself after Man Utd failed to put away Newcastle. The lead that the Red Devils enjoy over the Blues is just a half dozen. Mourinho was making light of the lack of Man U's killer instinct. Sir Alex, never one to mince words hit back by saying that Chelsea was running out of luck.
Each is now trying to get into the other's head. Perfect. Now Arsenal can sneak past them as they food fight.
The latest buzz is that Fulham is close to signing a deal worth £1 million for US defender Oguchi Onyewu. Gooch was a standout in the US World Cup squad and won the 2006 US soccer POY. If this works out then Fulham will have a distinct Yankee flavour with Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra already there.
Clint Dempsey's work permit is being worked out and now Gooch is set to join the Cottagers. Chris Coleman sure has a thing for the US soccer players! All a fantastic exposure to what it will take the US to get back to the World Cup.
So now Thierry Henry is at 20/1 odds to join Liverpool. The reason: Henry and Wenger don' t see eye to eye this season and the striker's disenchantment is complete as he has been stripped of the Gunners captaincy.
Gennaro Gattuso will be found in Old Trafford chewing out his opponents with his pitbull diplomacy the second half of the season.
Frederic Kanoute is ready to pack his bags for his second stint in the Premiership. This time with Chelsea. Never mind he is having a banner year at Sevilla.
David Villa: Will it be Chelsea or Liverpool? Since Rafa understands good old home cooking, the Valencia man will head for the Kop.
Arsenal is salivating at the prospect of landing Deco. But first they will have to beat off the Blues and Manchester United. Having Cesc Fabregas and Deco together will reduce the opposition to tennis spectators as they pass the ball to each other a million times and then Bam! A simple pass to Senderos will get Arsenal the goal. They will do this ad nauseum all the way to the Premiership title.
Tore Andre Flo in the Chelsea Barca quarterfinal in 1999 scoring a double. He signed with Leeds today joining Dennis Wise, Leeds manager and ex-Blues team mate. Flo has a reputation of scoring immediately but he tends to fade. He is also not a spring chicken having turned 33. So it is doubtful what his impact will be on a struggling Leeds squad that is sinking towards relegation.
Heading a ball can be additionally dangerous if a defender from the opposite team tries to kick your head off at the same time .Tottenham midfielder Hossam Ghaly lost four teeth in a reckless challenge by Portsmouth defender Noe Pamarot .Ghaly suffered the injury in the second minute of the game and had to leave the game eventually.
US players were in the upswing a lot this weekend with a reported Clint Dempsey transfer to Fulham and Carlos Bocanegra's late equalizer for Fulham against Chelsea. In a reality check, Magpies midfielder Emre allegedly targeted Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender Jollean Lescott for racist abuse after an on field altercation following a penalty award to the Magpies. The FA is investigating. This might be the first incident of its kind in the Premiership this season.
Elsewhere there have been several signs that racist chants and taunts seem to be on the upswing especially in Germany and other parts of Europe. The recent violence involving anti- Semitic PSG fans left one of them dead. In Germany, racist chants follow Asamoah Gyan of Schakle and Ellery Cairo of Hertha Berlin. The lower professional leagues are rife with anti-Semitism and fan violence leading to frequent clashes with the police. Referees are being targeted for physical assaults by fans in the second and third tiers of the Bundesliga.
More commonly Premiership players have seen unsavoury incidents involving racial abuse directed towards them in other countries this season. South African and Blackburn player Benni McCarthy was taunted by Wisla Krakow defender Nikola Mijailovic, with UEFA banning him for five matches. German U-21 striker Aaron Hunt was accused of racist abuse against England U-21 internationals, Manchester City's Micah Richards and West Ham's Anton Ferdinand. Hunt was subsequently cleared.
Lord Stevens and his Quest team just finished his exhaustive scrutiny of 362 transfers in the English league from January 2004 to the present year and has cleared all but 17 of them of wrongdoing. However, he refuses to reveal which agents, players, or clubs are involved in the spotlight. Eight agents have refused to co-operate with the investigation.
In September 2006, BBC's Panorama investigated tapping up, bung taking, and rule breaking in soccer transfers. In the programme, three agents alleged that Sam Allardyce had profited from bungs involving player transfers. Panorama also alleged that Chelsea had tapped up Middlesborough youth player, Nathan Porritt. Allardyce has threatened legal action against the BBC.
The FA and not Quest has insisted on the hush hush nature of the investigation. There is a feeling that some pretty big names will be revealed by the end of the investigation. The FA chairman, Richard Scudamore has promised that if there is any malpractice, that the clubs will be named by the FA and charges brought on them.
Another disturbing finding is that there is a cabal of 20 agents that seem to share the profits from agents fees without the clubs or players knowledge of their association.
Reading pulverize the Hammers as Curbs' team falls apart causing Benayoun to brand them as a 'bunch of drunks.' An apt description as the Hammers looked hungover.
A very tongue in cheek art piece on Zidane and Materazzi, compliments of the Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar. This high end piece of Photoshopping is part of the best of the galleries 2006 at the Guardian. It is worth a look as there are some beauties!
Thierry Henry is back with a vengeance.Hoyte and Van Persie scored the other goals.Charlton playing with 10 men for most of the game really couldn't do much.
A lot of studies have researched the consequences of heading a ball in soccer. Does frequent soccer heading lead to cognitive impairment? How does heading affect kids?
An international symposium that involved experts in neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics, and neurospsychology organized by the Institute of Medicine concluded that soccer heading does not lead to any permanent neuropsychological or visual impairment other than causing transient headaches. However, concussions which occur frequently in the more elite echelons of soccer do cause impairments especially when the athlete has not completely recovered from a previous injury. Most concussions occur when two players challenge for the ball but make physical contact with their heads instead. A lot of goalkeepers for this reason suffer concussions. The Premiership has already seen Petr Cech, Chris Kirkland, and Carlo Cudicini being hospitalized for this injury.
It is recommended that kids should not head the ball till age 10. The use of soccer helmets have not shown to be useful in preventing concussions as these typed of injuries are caused by rotational (angular) shearing torques whereas helmets can only prevent linear translatory forces.
What was interesting to read was that studies by American researchers allayed concerns that soccer heading led to impairment but European studies highlighted otherwise. Given the litigious nature of American society, this emphasis was quite surprising. However, the population of the American and European studies were quite different, with the Americans focusing more on children and college level soccer players while the Europeans studies involved professional soccer players. The Europeans found that soccer players who headed the ball more often and who had concussions scored less well in neuropsychological tests as compared to athletes in non-contact sports. Moreover the nature of these deficits were different for the two groups. Headers were likely to have decrements in visual and verbal memory as well as eye tracking speed, whereas the cognitive deficits in concussion had to do with attention, planning and fine visual discrimination.
However it is not clear whether these deficits are all that different as impaired memory, disorientation, and delayed responses are also part of the symptomatology of concussion. The caveat is that those players who head frequently also increase their chances of a concussion occurring. The drop off in the neuropsychological tests in the headers may reflect prior concussions.
What should allay the concerns of parents with kids who want to play soccer is that none of the children examined exhibited problems. For a youth player to get seriously injured the ball has to travel at speeds of about a 100 km/hour (52.5 mph). Usually at that age a well struck ball generates a maximum of 40 km/hour (25 mph), well below the danger level.
An interesting study by Dr Donald Kirkendall, a sports medicine specialist at the UNC School of Medicine that is due out this year is a longitudinal study that follows players between the ages of 16-21 years in the US National Youth teams over a period of five years which should conclusively settle the question as to whether heading the ball leads to brain injury. This is the first study that follows a group of elite soccer players over such a lengthy period of time.
Jose Mourinho is a bit vexed nowadays. His club Chelsea failed again to put away their opponents, this time Fulham. Meanwhile Chelsea is now 7 points adrift with Man Utd waltzing away against other teams. Is Chelsea operating a couple of paces below form or has the rest of the league caught onto them? What is interesting is that Mourinho's acumen as coach is seriously being challenged for the first time. Or has having Abramovich as his cash cow window dressed his abilities?
Mourinho does not have the services of John Terry and his first line goalkeeper Petr Cech, but despite these losses, it is clear that his system is not working. And it is not working for big names like Andrei Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Mourinho's crowding off the midfield has led to the lack of creation of the wide spaces down the flanks to supply the ball to the inside men. Instead of stretching out opposing defenses it is becoming easy for them to collapse around the Chelsea attack very quickly and effectively.
Mourinho's confidence in Shaun Wright Phillips is non-existent and it shows in Wright Phillips tentative play when he gives the ball away cheaply. But he can potentially create problems for teams stretching out the right flank just like Robben does the left when he finally gets to play. It is a damned better sight than Sheva assigned to the duties of ball retrieval down the right flank. He seems to drifting deeper into Chelsea territory with every game and soon will be challenging Makelele for the holding midfielder position.
Ballack or Lampard? This is a question of redundancy. Both are roaming midfielders who love to have a go at goal and are invariably part of set pieces. Ballack scores out in the aerial department but also suffers from an ephemeral quality to his game where he disappears for stretches. In Mourinho's conservative approach having two attacking midfielders is a liability. Ballack is sacrificial to Mourinho's system.
At this point Roman Abramovich is scratching his stubble wondering what possessed him to cough up the cash for Sheva while Mourinho is contemplating what would induce Cristiano Ronaldo to come to Chelsea to open up those spaces that he is so effectively doing for Man Utd. But Abramovich is well past the days of blank checks and spending profligacy. If Chelsea sinks deeper into the hole, Mourinho might be diagramming his exit. With Bolton very much in the running for the top four the discrepancies between their bank balances is a painful reminder to Abramovich.
Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo has been named as Portugal's sportsman of the year.( Benfica striker Nuno Gomes and Jose Mourinho came in as also rans)
A leading Portuguese sports daily A Bola chose the player for his "important contribution to the expansion of Portuguese football across the world"....and here he is below ending 2006 scoring two out of the three goals that Manchester United scored against Reading.