Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Today we bloggers are to support the fight against world hunger. April 29th is when bloggers worldwide unite to shout for the end of world hunger and the start of hope.
I am also surprised by how socially-aware footballers are. I guess they have to be since they are public personalities as I had written in my previous article. And so as it turns out, Raul Gonzalez is an FAO ambassador and the Real Madrid official website reported this article on the 22nd March 2009.
Real Madrid and Almeria did their part in the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Footballers Against Hunger campaign. Players from both sides wore shirts with the number 963 printed on them, alluding to the 963 million people that suffer from hunger throughout the world. Each team posed in front of a banner promoting the campaign.
Raul presented the campaign on Wednesday as Goodwill Ambassador for FAO. Fourteen European leagues will participate, hoping to raise money for huge projects -starting at 6,000 euros- whose aim is to fight hunger in the developing world. Every stadium of the Spanish First and Second Diviisions will participate. Every player will wear shirts like those worn today by Real Madrid and Almeria.
For me, the fight against world hunger all started in 1985 when Live Aid brought the plight of starvation to the general public. This video says it all really.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
What you may not know is that there are even weirder hobbies for the superstar footballer. Duncan Ferguson, the ex-Everton battering ram, is a keen pigeon fancier. No, it doesn't mean he's a queer or a weirdo. Pigeon fanciers are name given to a hobbyist who rears and races pigeons. Former Argentina hot-shot Gabriel Batistuta likes to go hunting in the wild with a rifle. And if you are wondering why Italy playmaker Alessandro Del Piero always manages to skip past defenders with ease, that's because his favourite past-time is dancing to the soundtrack of The Full Monty. When Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro has free time, he spends it cooking pizzas at home. Legendary Manchester United crash victim, Duncan Edwards loves to do a spot of Scottish sword dancing. This involved placing two sabre swords in a cross shape on the floor and dancing between them. Duncan would visit schools in his kilt and perform something similar to a Highland fling.
Former striker Andy Cole and his former Manchester United team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, fancy themselves as top deejays, producing their own rap tracks. West Ham defender Christian Dailly prefers rock n'roll. The Scotland international is the lead singer and guitarist of a band named Hooligan. Defender Jody Craddock seeks serenity in art, painting potraits of footballers like Wayne Rooney and Henry on canvas. Liverpool's Daniel Agger is a qualified tattooist and he has pledged to give all Liverpool players a tattoo if they win the Premiership...looks like it will have to wait for another season.
Some other players prefer keeping pets. Newly appointed Ipswich manager, Roy Keane is known for his love for dogs. Inspirational Matthew Oakley had nine red-bellied piranhas delivered to him for his enjoyment. Dimi Berbatov feeds squirrels on his balcony when he is not lazing about on the Old Trafford pitch on match days. Some footballers are avid collectors. The extremely smart and wealthy Robbie Fowler spends his spare time and spare cash investing in a huge portfolio of landed property. There is even a terrace chant to "We all live in a Robbie Fowler house" sung to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" to highlight just how incredibly astute "God" had been in his business investments. His success has led to other footballers such as John Terry and Gary Neville also investing in luxury properties both local and abroad. France and Marseille striker Djibril Cisse is a keen collector of vintage American cars. England and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, though, collects Matchbox toy cars. Moritz Volz, the German fullback, is a Hoff-obsessed i.e. he is a collector of all things related to David Hasselhoff. Not a surprise as the Hoff is an icon back in Germany. Still, a grown man collecting David Hasselhoff memorablia? Stranger things have happened.
Going into more hard core hobbies, Reading's American goalkeeper, Marcus Hahnemann loves to get grease all over his hands as he works on his race cars and dragsters. Wigan's versatile Paul Scharner gets his inspiration from extreme sports such as bungee jumping and parachuting. Not something that Steve Bruce will be too keen to know about.
Cant quite decide who's got the most unusual hobby. Some are quirky and some hobbies are rather more straightforward. Maybe you can help me by voting as to who has the most unusual hobby. Help me decide please.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Nevertheless, there are exceptions to the rule and these are the active players who are part of the elite "One Club Men" group, seemingly oblivious to all these silly money.
1. Paolo Maldini - 25 years with AC Milan (Italy)
2. Noel Bailie - 20 years with Linfield (Northern Ireland)
3. Ralf Bucher - 19 years with Spvgg Unterhaching (Germany)
4. Ryan Giggs - 19 years with Manchester United (England)
5. Masashi Nakayama - 19 years with Jubilo Iwata (Japan)
6. Noel Turner - 18 years with Sliema Wanderers (Malta)
7. Gary Neville - 17 years with Manchester United (England)
8. Joao Alexandre Santos - 17 years with Varzim (Portugal)
9. Marcos - 17 years with Palmeiras (Brazil)
10. Joseph Saliba - 17 years with Qormi (Malta)
11. Francesco Totti - 17 years with Roma (Italy)
12. Christian Fiedler - 16 years with Hertha Berlin (Germany)
13. Mario Muscat - 16 years with Hibernians (Malta)
14. Raul Gonzalez - 15 years with Real Madrid (Spain)
15. Paul Scholes - 15 years with Manchester United (England)
These are quite an illustrious group of people. From this group, they have virtually won every honour in football....and they are still hungry for more! For example, Ryan Giggs is chasing his 3rd Champions League medal and a record 11th Premiership winner's medal. Paul Scholes recently made his 600th appearance in a Man Utd shirt and had a killer game against Portsmouth...he too is on his way to his 9th Premiership winner's medal. Marcos, the goalkeeping stalwart of Palmeiras is gunning for a Copa Libertadores winner's medal. This group has made over 400 appearances for their clubs and have scored over 200 goals. Some of the most decorated players in the modern game are here, Masashi Nakayama is a 3-time J-League winner and has made 518 club appearances. He is currently the all-time J-League highest scorer with 156 goals.
Loyalty have paid off for this select group of players. They have achieved great things in the game which is intangible and yet earn the respect and adulation of fans and peers alike. These players also become defining beacons for the club that they play for. This should serve as a reminder to the Steven Gerrards, Gareth Barrys and even David Villas of this world. Loyalty has its way of rewarding a footballer as long as he has the patience to be a part of the club's vision and plans.
I dont think either of us can think of club-hopping players who have been as successful in stocking up their trophy cabinets as the one club men. Even the most famous club-hopper, Monsieur Nicolas Anelka's achievements do not begin to match up to these one-clubbers. Just to pay our homage to these players, here they are again in living colour.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The full Sunday Mirror article can be read from here.
At first glance, this is clearly an attempt to preserve Premiership status and the associated financial benefits of clubs outside of the Big 4. Let's face it, any club other than the Big 4, run the risk of being relegated. This revamp of the Premier League system will definitely cushion the blow of relegation, both financially and football-wise.
I can think of 3 reasons why this proposal should be accepted
1. Increased revenue
According to the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, the Premier League reported £1.5b in revenues for the 2006/2007 season and is estimated to reach £1.9b for 2007/2008 season. In contrast, the Championship (conceivably the clubs eligible for "Premier League 2") clubs reported only 3% growth in revenue to £329m for 2006/2007.
More worrying is that wage increase within the Championship clubs is at 14% which would indicate a net loss for most clubs which are playing in the Championship. This disparity must be addressed otherwise more clubs will go bankrupt, much the same way as Southampton, Leeds and Luton. It must be remembered that football clubs existed initially as a social club and have deep roots in British society. The amount of clubs going into administration (about 17 so far) is alarming and should be addressed.
With a two-tier Premier League, more clubs can be a part of the gravy train, thereby reaping the financial rewards to build a sustainable future for themselves. Clubs will also benefit from the increased revenue from TV viewership with the expansion of the current 20 clubs to 36 clubs. This bootstrap effect will also pull up the revenue earning power of the so-called Championship clubs putting them in a much stronger financial position, eliminating the chasm in financial muscle over time.
2. Increased competition - breaking the Big 4 monopoly
This is a no brainer. With the increased riches (okay, the Big 4 will get richer) clubs will be able to build a good capable squad. The intent hopefully, over some years, is for clubs like Cardiff and Birmingham City to compete with the bigger clubs. Yo-yo teams like WBA and Sunderland will have the time and finances to develop and build talent while supplementing the team with the right experienced quality signings to enable these teams to compete effectively with the bigger clubs. The arrivals, albeit controversial, of Rangers and Celtic will no doubt provide added star quality and intensify the competition within this new proposed blueprint. Not only will this help to improve Scottish club football, it will allow the SPL to flourish. The gap in quality between the Big 4 and the other clubs will be reduced over time resulting in a more vibrant and exciting Premier League.
3. No more fixture congestion
With proposed 18 teams rather than 20, there will be a reduction of 4 matches a season, about a months rest. Whinging managers who blame their team's poor form on fixture congestion will not be able to do so anymore. Perhaps also this ease up in fixture will persuade other managers to shift their thoughts and efforts in forging an extended run in domestic cup and/or UEFA Cup competition. Indirect effect of this two-tiered Premier League will be the same dominance in the UEFA Cup as is currently prevalent in the Champions League.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that this blueprint will benefit English and Scottish football. Question is, would at least 14 Premier League clubs see things the same way as I did?
One thing's for sure, I will miss the always exciting, always busy Christmas fixtures which typically separates the title challengers from the mid-table dwellers. Still, British football will gain from this move and we in Asia will continue to enjoy possibly the best League in the world.
Seema Gupta wrote this poem to share with us,
If I was earth,
I would have taken care
To clean every bit of mine,
Have planted myself with
Grass and tree every where,
I wanted to be touched,
With cool breeze of air,
With the soothing smell of
Wet soil with long trees and bushes,
I am not earth.....but still i take pledge,
That i will save the planet,
To make every as Earth Day.
There are numerous ways to contribute on Earth Day. Here are 5 ways that you and I can make a difference to the environment.
1. Recycle your used mobile phone batteries
2. Car pool to work
3. Take the public transport to work
4. Turn off lights when not in use
5. Take shorter showers
Let's do our bit to conserve our Earth's natural resources.
Monday, April 20, 2009
What does this mean? Let's try to put this into perspective.
A healthy adult heart (depending on his/her age) beats at around 60-100 beats per minute. As one ages, the heart beat per minute is more. Strong emotions, physical activity and infections can cause a heart to beat faster. In the case above, it's emotions which is making Hiddink's heart palpitate at an elevated level. Now, is this safe, you may want to ask?
Mathematically, the permissible heart rate of a person can go up to is
(220 - AGE OF THAT PERSON) beats per minute
hence in Guus Hiddink's case (he is 63 years old), the highest heart rate he could reach before cardiac arrest is (220-63)=167 beats per minute (bpm). So if he said his heart beat during the match was 160 bpm then I shudder to think how dangerously close he was to a heart attack if that match continued for another 15-20 minutes! Aaah, that's why the pundits call him Lucky Guus.
What about the fans? How does a football match affect the physiological side of being a fan? Canon commissioned a research performed by SIRC (The Social Issues Research Centre) which was aimed to capture the feelings and emotions of football fans in support of their football teams. This report was released in 2008. Incidentally SIRC also measured heartbeats of particular fans as they experienced the ebb and flow of the match they attended.
In the report, a Paris Saint Germain vs. Monaco match was cited to highlight fluctuations in the heart rate of a PSG fan during the first half of PSG's clash with Monaco at the Parc des Princes. That fan's heart rate can be shown as below,We could see the arrival of the players onto the pitch and their introduction to the crowd as an emotional high point of the match experience. The heart rate of this subject reaches an extraordinary peak of 187 bpm at this point, a rate from which it gradually – and perhaps thankfully – decreases until the 40th minute of the game. Anticipation and the 'fan-fare' of the build up to the game play a crucial role here. The context of the match also adds to the intensity of the experience. Fans get immersed in team talk often days before the actual event. By the time match day comes around countless discussions, whether online or face-to-face, would have taken place regarding team selection, tactics, team formation, the current form of players and managers as well as the importance of the next encounter to team's standing in the league. Prior to this match on February 23rd, PSG were perilously close to the relegation zone and Monaco, while lying towards the top of Ligue 1, were smarting from a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Bordeaux. The game, ending in a hard-fought draw (1-1), saw few real chances in the first half. A total of 34 fouls occurred during the match, over 2/3 of these were in the first half. A number of attacking moves, particularly from PSG, were viewed by the referee to be offside, which also interrupted the flow of play. The heart rate of the subject reflects the rather fragmented nature of the opening period – and perhaps his frustration – and it is not until the 40th minute that the deadlock is broken with Rothen's (a former Monaco player) shot from the left side of the box forcing a save. The subject's heart rate increases rapidly – by 70 bpm in less than 40 seconds – with the attacking move culminating in the attempt on goal. The PSG fan's heart rate falls to just below 140 bpm, only to rise again to 172 bpm with Diané's goal in the 41st minute, putting PSG 1-0 in front. Despite the dramatic increases in heart rate towards the end of the first half, the level of arousal in the subject when his team scores is not as high as the rate recorded before kick-off. The sense of anticipation prior to the match elevates heart rate to levels equivalent to those accompanying goals. I bet this young fan was as physically tired as he would be psychologically after the match!
It's not just about attending matches in stadiums, even watching major soccer events on telly can be just as hazardous. Researchers found that the soccer fans more than doubled their risk of having a heart attack, experiencing serious chest pains, or developing an irregular heartbeat known as an arrythmia while watching their national team play during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which was played in Germany that year. The Italian national team won the tournament. Germany finished third. The study, which included more than 4,000 people admitted to the hospital for heart problems during the monthlong soccer tournament, showed that the rate of cardiac emergencies was 2.66 times greater on the days the German team played than when the team wasn't playing. Male fans had a higher risk of going to the hospital for heart problems than female fans. Those previously diagnosed with heart disease had the highest risk. This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in conjunction with Super Bowl weekend in January last year. Talk about bad timing, sheesh.
Nevertheless, the emotional highs and lows in a football or soccer are what draws sports fans to the game. The agony of defeat and the thrill of victory are the exact emotions that bond us fans to the teams that we support, a sense of connection so to speak. So what if our hearts skip a beat or we suffer fainting spells, the main thing is that we have supported our team in the best possible way that we can.
But clearly for some fans and managers, football truly is a matter of life and death.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal, Villa Park, 1999
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Arsenal, Wembley, 1991
Manchester United 3-3 Oldham, Maine Road, 1990
Brighton 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Highbury, 1983
Thursday, April 16, 2009
After a very eventful two days of UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal go into battle to feature in the May 27 final in Rome. Of course, I could wax on and on lyrically about the greatest match ever in Champions League history i.e. the 4-4 Battle of the Bridge where it was literally a thrill a minute. I could predict that Barcelona will face Arsenal in a repeat of the 2006 final. Or even say on hindsight that I expected Ronaldo to rise to the occasion which he did with that 40-yarder in Porto.....but I will choose to discuss something more serious and that is the choice of venue for the Champions League final.
Rome is notorious for football hooligans known as the Ultras. "Stab City" is what Rome is known as in the football circles. Several newspapers and sports blog have expressed their concern about the safety for fans and have urged UEFA to consider moving the final away from Rome. Considering the dislike of the Ultras for English supporters and the very real prospect of an all-English final yet again, it is logical to feel threatened and disturbed by this sense of danger looming on May 27. Watching a football match as mentioned in my previous blog on Hillsborough is meant to be a day out of enjoyment. Stabbing and hooliganism were supposed to be a thing of the past and yet, till today, the violence is not ceasing. Even in Malaysia, during an FA Cup semifinal match between Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan, where rioting took place, firecrackers were set off and stones were pelted on the police.
Authorities should really take this seriously and impose bans and fines towards clubs and FAs whose fans step out of line. Take a tough stand such as exiling countries from European competitions much like what England had to go through. Sometimes, the view is that the English are a bunch of moaners and whingers and complainants, but truth be told, they have been dealt the short end of the stick by UEFA in most cases. Only the English seem to be admonished by UEFA over football violence in recent years, no other country has been warned. Spain's horribly racist supporters get away with monkey chants and banana skins all the time. I have not heard of any Italian team fined when fans turned unruly and torched stadiums. Its time for the itinerants to pay and UEFA together with FIFA must take stern measures to combat hooliganism in football terraces.
UEFA says that security will be stepped up in Rome for this final and that's their safety net. I don't think it will be enough and I hope it will be the football that will be most talked about on May 28 and not anything else.
Way too depressing....must cheer everyone up with this Ronaldo video special. I guess he must have read my entry about buck-toothed, fatty Ronaldo being greater than him, otherwise how do you explain this sick strike.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
1. Kenny Dalglish, arguably Liverpool's most decorated player and manager, subsequently no longer had the state of mind and desire to continue in football. That incident greatly affected him though he handled the whole situation with a dedication and humility which clearly endeared him forever more into the Liverpool fan's psyche.
2. Liverpool FC never regained the same dominance in English football as it had prior to Hillsborough as the club's focus turned to community support and helping the affected families in their healing process. This meant a changing of guards with Manchester United assuming the role as the premier football club in England.
3. It was also a time where the whole city of Liverpool pulled together. Evertonians and Liverpudlians (who at the time, had the fiercest football rivalry) came together as brothers rather than sporting rivals. In an unprecedented act of solidarity, "The Mile of Scarves" linked the mile long distance between Goodison Park and Anfield, paying tribute to the 96 who had lost their lives supporting the club they loved.
This account came from a survivor, taken off the Official Liverpool Website,
Being afraid happens to us all. That day, for a few minutes in those enclosures, everybody shared the same fear. I survived because somebody went under a barrier. I was pushed up against it with no way of lifting myself over. My ribs felt like they were about to snap at any second and my lungs were on fire. I reached out and pushed up on the nearest thing. As I was pushing myself up, I looked round and realised that I was pushing someone else down. I wanted to stop, but I knew if I did, I would go down with him. So I didn't stop, and he went down, and I still don't know if I killed him.
Wow, what a chilling experience.
The 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was just upon us - yet the fight for justice continues and the memories are still fresh in the minds. Why is that, you say?
Right after the disaster, The Sun tabloid ran a story claiming to have the accurate perspective of the incident. The headline published was "The Truth" and in it, that tabloid laid all the blame solely on drunken, insensitive Liverpool fans which outraged the whole city. This was what the irresponsible tabloid wrote,
Under the headline "The Truth" there were three subheadings:
Some fans picked pockets of victims
Some fans urinated on the brave cops
Some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life
The story read as follows: "Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night.
"Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd..."
The Sun eventually apologized but it took them until 2005 to do so, 17 years on. I guess sensationalism and not realism has always been the bedrock of this tabloid. Not surprisingly, The Sun lost massive readership in Liverpool and long may it stay that way. The Sun is named The SCUM in Liverpool and rightly so for its callous and unrepentant behaviour.
The idea that a disaster of this scale ended up with a verdict of "Accidental Death" is definitely an annual talking point. Liverpool families have been disputing this very hard but the obstacles are proving to be difficult. Yet the thought that no one i.e. the police and stadium authorities were held accountable, begs some more investigation. The truth is that the South Yorkshire police were heavily protected throughout this affair and the real facts were suspected to be covered up and amended. The inquests and investigations made from the Justice Department were, in some eyes, an act just for show. Worse still, a 2nd inquest turned out to be nothing more than a vote garnering tool for the power hungry Labour Party. Real evidence have been sidestepped and police testimonies have been changed. The victim's families are all active seekers of justice in this case.
One do learn from disasters. Hence, there were positives that came out of this sad day. The Taylor Report immediately suggested the abolishing of standing terraces, thereby introducing the requirement of all-seater stadiums and enforcing overall safety measures in stadiums.
Although there are some groups of people advocating the return of standing area in stadiums, I for one, would not like that. The sheer danger of it would repel any decent family man who want to enjoy a great footie day out with his son or daughter. For now, we should honor and respect the 96 football fans whose deaths introduced a new era of improved stadium safety and crowd organisation during big matches.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Jesus Gil (x-President of Atletico Madrid) is the honorary President of Team Jesus.
Team Jesus will be coached by Jesus Ramirez (coach of Club America in Mexico)
GK - Jesus Corona (Tecos UAG, Mexico)
GK - Jesus Alejandro Gallardo (Atlas, Mexico)
GK - Alvaro Jesus Garcia (Almeria, Spain)
DF - Jesus Eduardo Zavala (Monterrey, Mexico)
DF - Jesus Ugarte Castillo (Morelia, Mexico)
DF - Carlos Jesus Infante Figueroa (Necaxa, Mexico)
DF - Jesus Maria LaCruz (Espanyol, Spain)
DF - Jesus Chavez (Chiapas, Mexico)
DF - Jesus Antonio Molina (UANL, Mexico)
MF - Antonio Jesus Vasquez (Recreativo, Spain)
MF - Jesus Armando Sanchez (America, Mexico)
MF - Jesus Arellano (Monterrey, Mexico)
MF - Jesus Alejandro Palacios (San Luis, Mexico)
MF - Matias Jesus Cordoba (Argentinos Juniors, Argentina)
MF - Jesus Navas Gonzalez (Sevilla, Spain)
MF - Jesus Vera (Godoy Cruz, Argentina)
MF - Jesus Mendez (Rosario Central, Argentina)
FW - Jesus Berocca (Racing Santander, Spain)
FW - Jesus Andres Padilla Cisneros (Guadalajara, Mexico)
ST - Jesus de Nigris (Monterrey, Mexico)
ST - Jesus Alberto Velez (Macara, Ecuador)
Key standouts are Jesus Arellano, a Mexican international and Jesus Navas, a coveted Spaniard who almost moved to Chelsea.
Google them and view videos showcasing their skills.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Okay here goes,
CR7's amazing career statistics over the last three seasons (2005-2008)
Games played (143) Goals scored (80) Assists (35) Shots on Goal (328)
this results in
Games to Goals Ratio is 1.8:1
Shots to Goals Ratio is 4:1
He also have Fouls Suffered (366) meaning that he is either a diver (which we already know) or he gets real rough treatment from the hatchet boys. I believe that CR7 goes down much too cheaply at the slightest contact.
Ronaldo's career statistics at Real Madrid (2002-2005)
Games played (135) Goals scored (92) Assists (0) Shots on Goal (246)
this results in
Games to Goals Ratio is 1.5:1
Shots to Goals Ratio is 2.7:1
Ronaldo edges out CR7 in the categories of Shots to Goals Ratio and Games to Goals Ratio.
He is far more efficient and economical in putting the ball in the back of the net when a chance comes along. Ronaldo is also the more effective player and a goal is virtually guaranteed when he steps onto the field. Hence, there should be no further doubt that clearly there is only one Ronaldo and that is Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima. If you are still unconvinced, maybe this video will make it easier for you to accept this fact....
Sunday, April 12, 2009
image from Yahoo! news
17 years old? Yup, he sure doesn't look like 17...his physique looks more like 25 and heck he has more muscles than the scrawny Dimi Berbatov! Yet, we need not be surprised at the impact he has made....as I recall, really great players break into soccer stardom very early on.
For example, Wayne Rooney was 16 years and 360 days when he scored his first Premiership goal against Arsenal, ending the Gunners' unbeaten run. That was the game that truly announced Rooney's arrival onto the English football scene. Wazza made his international debut for England also at 17, and by scoring against Macedonia, he also became the youngest goalscorer for Engand at 17 years old.
Michael Owen scored as a substitute for Liverpool in May 1997 aged 17. Who could forget his slaloming run and goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup....that goal must have put a few more zeroes onto Owen's value.
Paolo Maldini, AC Milan's evergreen defender, made his debut at 17 against Udinese. Two years later, he was a Scudetto winner. The great Johann Cruyff made his first team debut at 17 years old where he scored for Ajax against Groningen. In subsequent years, Cruyff became the catalyst of a sustained period of Ajax dominance of the Dutch Eredivisie.
Cesc Fabregas staked his claim as the Arsenal midfield general at the tender age of 16 years and 117 days. He has gone on from strength to strength since then, emerging as one of the best midfielders in the world.
Ronaldo, O Fenomeno, was a non-playing member of the 1994 Brazilian World Cup winning team. He was 17 years old then. Even at 17, he had already scored 12 goals in 14 appearances for Cruzeiro and have won the Brazilian Cup. That prompted PSV Eindhoven to bring him to Europe and the rest is history. The closest thing so far to O Fenomeno is Cristiano Ronaldo, but even CR7 would struggle to be as effective as the buck toothed one.
Age therefore is clearly just a number, if you are good enough, then you are old enough. Perhaps the greatest impact that an unknown 17 year old have had on global soccer is to win the World Cup. That was what Pele did in the 1958 World Cup, scoring two goals in the Final as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2. The greatest player of all time burst onto the international soccer scene at 17 years old, winning the World Cup in the process! Who says you can't win anything with kids? If the kids are good enough, anything is possible.
17 years old Kiko Macheda may well have won the Premiership for Manchester United with those two crucial strikes.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Hull City WAGs have been busy, they took part in a charity fashion show last year, showing that though lesser known, these ladies can turn heads as much as the celebrity WAGs. The charity raised money for Cancer Research and Dove Hospice in the Hull area. Who says that WAGs are only interested in shopping and partying?
Putting their bodies on the line in the name of charity at the annual Hull fashion show!
Dean Windass, the legendary Hull City talismanic player, pictured here at home, looking very comfortable. Well, he should be as he need not wory about house robberies (unlike the other footballers). Why? Because his wife is a policewoman with the Hull police force! Anyway, I wouldnt mess with Deano as he looks well 'ard. A real cult figure with the Hull fans.
West Bromwich Albion's goalkeeper, Scott Carson with his family after an interview. He married his partner last year and they have a two-year old son. He may have let in the most goals in the Premiership but he has also made the most saves (129). Don Fabio should take notice of him, after all, he is better than Chris "Injury Table" Kirkland.
Stoke City took a major gamble when they snared James Beattie from Sheffield United. That gamble has since paid off, as he has scored 6 goals in 10 games. The Potters are now 5 points short of the traditional 40 points safety net and Premiership for next season looks a real possibility now. A prime candidate for transfer of the season. Here he is on a night out with wife, Sarah.
Wife of Stoke City's keeper, Steve Simonsen. Had a garage sale to raise funds for charity according to the Liverpool Echo. On the subject of charity, she also organised a ladies lunch event to promote awareness and help the Roy Castle Lung Foundation. See...the years shopping and looking good sure did come in handy.
This hottie is Imogen Thomas, a former Miss Wales, and was dating Ibrahim Sonko while he was at Reading. Must have something to do with Sonko's "Sonko is Superman" merchandise. The now Stoke defender dumped her after a few months. What was he thinking?
More WAGs to come in the future. I am actually enjoying this....ha!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Almost every footballer have a charity of choice. As the world suffers from natural disasters, football lends a hand to support society.
When Asia was hit by Tsunami, FIFA and the AFC created a joint bank account to allow the football family to pool the donations collected by all, from associations and confederations to clubs and partners, in order to help those associations affected by the tsunami. The FIFA/AFC Tsunami Solidarity Fund was launched on the basis of immediate donations of US$2million and US$1million from FIFA and the AFC respectively. UEFA pledged US$1million soon afterwards and thanks to various other donations from across the world as well as the 'Football for Hope' solidarity match in Barcelona, the total raised ultimately reached US $10.55 million.
To help raise money for the British Red Cross China Earthquake Appeal, an England v Germany football legends charity match was organized in Bramall Lane (Sheffield Utd's stadium). Lee Sharpe and Bryan Robson lent their support for this cause.
When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008, a number of Brazilian internationals took part in a Tour of Hope which was aimed to raise funds to rebuild the lives of the affected Myanmarese. The team played exhibition matches in Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand as well as conduct various football clinics.
All Stars for Hope is the inaugural soccer fundraising event to benefit Schools for Hope, Mikael Silvestre's charity. All Stars for Hope is a weekend of celebrity filled events, culminating with a soccer game featuring one of the most unique team ever assembled, in New York in June 2009. The All Stars for Hope team is composed of the very best players in the world, lead by Mikael Silvestre, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, and Didier Drogba. The team is gathering in NY to help build awareness and promote fundraising efforts to support building schools around the world. The goal is to raise over $1,000,000 to benefit Schools for Hope to help build schools and places for education all around the world.
In January 2008, the England football team spearheaded a nationwide initiative to improve opportunities for young people in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves launched the first of a series of 11 projects that will engage with some of the hardest hit communities worst effected by deprivation including poor housing, health, education, disability, high incidences of crime, racial and drug abuse. This initiative forms part of the Team England Footballers Charity (TEFC) established by the players early 2007 following their decision to forego their England match fees to donate at least £1million to chosen charity partners ahead of the next World Cup. The TEFC will be using the players’ investment and time to support chosen charity partners including the Association of Children’s Hospices; WellChild; the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and the Professional Footballers Association Charity Initiatives.
It's really good to know that majority of footballers are a social-concious lot, they must remember that they need to be positive role models to the younger generation.
Monday, April 6, 2009
John 'Digger' Barnes was best remembered for this goal while playing for England. He was the classic case of awesome at club but anonymous at international level. Still, he was one of the few truly world-class wingers that England possessed alongside Chris Waddle. Also one of the most capped players for England.
Brilliant though he was as a player, he did not have the same success as a coach. Disliked at Celtic and was hardly given a chance to excel as a coach, although he had a respectable win percentage of 65.5%.
Barnesy now coaches the Jamaican national team. Going back to his roots if you like, where he enjoys hero status during his player exploits. He guided Jamaica to the 2008 Caribbean Cup win - his first achievement as a manager.
At his pomp, he was described as good enough to play in the Brazilian national team and from the video, he clearly walked right through the Brazil defence.
My interest in stadium capacity will have to wait a while longer....
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
1. Arsenal Pld 38 Pts 76
2. Liverpool Pld 38 Pts 76
Only once has the title been decided by the final kick of the season, when Michael Thomas added to Alan Smith's opener to give Arsenal an incredible 2-0 win at Anfield and deny Liverpool an historic second double. Liverpool simply had to avoid defeat by two goals to win their seventh title of the 80s, but they played with a tension far removed from their habitual ruthlessness. Level on points and goal difference, George Graham's Gunners took the top spot on goals scored and Brian Moore entered the words 'It's up for grabs now!' into football folklore.
2. 1971-72: Champions - DERBY COUNTY
1. Derby County Pld 42 Pts 58
2. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 57
3. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 57
4. Manchester City Pld 42 Pts 57
3. 1967-68: Champions - MANCHESTER CITY
1. Manchester City Pld 42 Pts 58
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 56
4. 1970/71: Champions - ARSENAL
1. Arsenal Pld 42 Pts 65
2. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 64
5. 1998/99: Champions - MANCHESTER UNITED
1. Manchester United Pld 38 Pts 79
2. Arsenal Pld 38 Pts 78
With three games to go, United and Arsenal were neck-and-neck, but the Gunners had the tougher fixtures and that was to prove their downfall. As United won 1-0 at Middlesbrough, Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 at White Hart Lane. However, their hardest assignment was always going to be at Leeds and so it proved, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's late winner put United pack in the driving seat. United drew 0-0 at Blackburn the next night, meaning a win over Tottenham at Old Trafford would be enough. Tottenham did go in front through Les Ferdinand, but goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole gave United a 2-1 victory. Kanu's later winner for Arsenal against Villa was academic.
6. 1975/76: Champions - LIVERPOOL
1. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 60
2. QPR Pld 42 Pts 59
7. 1985/86: Champions - LIVERPOOL
1. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 88
2. Everton Pld 42 Pts 86
In the mid 80s, Merseyside ruled. Howard Kendall's superb Everton team won the league by a massive 13 points in 1985 and then by nine points in 1987. In between, Liverpool did the double, beating the Toffees to the title by just two points and then seeing them off 3-1 in the FA Cup final. The title race went down to the last day and Everton's 6-1 win over Southampton meant Liverpool needed at least a draw at Chelsea. Player-manager Kenny Dalglish was the Liverpool hero, volleying the only goal in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
8. 1991/92: Champions - LEEDS UNITED
1. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 82
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 78
The last season before the Premiership, and the last time the league was won by an English manager. Having led Leeds to the Division Two title and then a fourth placed finish in the top flight, Howard Wilkinson fought a tense head-to-head battle with Alex Ferguson and Manchester United throughout the campaign. It was supposed to be the year Ferguson ended United's 25-year wait for a league title, but Leeds, despite heavy defeats at QPR and Manchester City as nerves threatened to get the better of them, edged it. After winning a frantic Yorkshire derby 3-2 at Sheffield United, Leeds sat back and watched United go down 2-0 at Liverpool later that afternoon and the title was theirs with one game to spare.
9. 1994/95: Champions - BLACKBURN ROVERS
1. Blackburn Rovers Pld 42 Pts 89
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 88
Blackburn went into the final day with a two-point advantage after a gritty 1-0 win over Newcastle but by no means in total control of their destiny. As Kenny Dalglish made an emotional return to Anfield, Manchester United went to mid-table West Ham knowing a win may well have been enough, given their superior goal difference. United fell behind to a Michael Hughes goal only to hit back through Brian McClair. However, despite a host of chances, most of them for Andy Cole, United couldn't find a winner, rendering Blackburn's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool irrelevant. Almost as soon as Jamie Redknapp's winner hit the net, news filtered through that United had only drawn.
10. 1995/96: Champions - MANCHESTER UNITED
1. Manchester United Pld 38 Pts 82
2. Newcastle United Pld 38 Pts 78
Arsenal's 13-match winning run to land the 2001/02 title was an amazing achievement, but almost as impressive was Manchester United's ruthless pursuit of Newcastle in 1995/96. Kevin Keegan's men led the table by 12 points in January after a United team featuring the hapless William Prunier had crashed 4-1 at Spurs. The title looked to be destined for St James' Park. However, inspired by Eric Cantona, United won 13 of their last 15 matches to overhaul the Geordies. United's 1-0 win at St James' was the only time Newcastle lost on their own patch - successive away defeats at Arsenal, Liverpool (4-3) and Blackburn proved to be their undoing. United went into the last day needing a draw at Middlesbrough, emerging with a resounding 3-0 win, with Andy Cole among the scorers.
Friday, April 3, 2009
A smarting Red Devils host a shell-shocked Villans in Old Trafford in a game that Fergie will not want to lose. But he will have to avoid defeat without the Terrible Trio of Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes and Wazza "I'm gonna be a father!" Rooney. United will surely miss all three for this game. They do have able replacements in Anderson, Evans and Berbatov.
Liverpool go to Craven Cottage full of confidence. They even have the added boost of knowing that Steven Gerrard, the world's most complete midfielder, has signed a two-year extension to his contract. Dirk Kuyt also has signed. This indicates a formidable sense of belief within the Liverpool ranks that this could be their breakthrough season. Fulham are no pushovers and they have done well against the Big 4, having only lost to Arsenal. When both Gerrard and Torres play this season, Liverpool have won 7 out of 9 matches. There is no more excuse for Rafa but to field a settled side, after all his demands had been met by the Liverpool board. The expectation is an away win for the Reds and the supporters have deserved that.
Getting ready for an action-packed weekend....
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Playing at high altitude clearly has advantages.
Eurosport has this report...
Oxford University researcher Patrick McSharry trawled through the scores of 1,460 international matches played at different altitudes in 10 countries in South America spanning more than a century. Altitude difference had a major impact on performance, McSharry found. Teams that were used to playing at altitude scored more and conceded fewer goals as the height progressively increased.
Each additional 1,000 metres (3,250 feet) increased the goal difference by half a goal. McSharry found that in the case of two teams from the same altitude, the probability of the home side winning averages 53 percent. But this rose to an astonishing 82 percent for an altitude difference of 3,695 metres (12,008 feet). But it fell to just 21 percent when the altitude difference was minus 3,695 metres (minus 12,000 feet). Coaches can help their side by factoring in a player's individual susceptibility to altitude sickness when making their selection, says McSharry.
Without a doubt, coach Maradona did not think about altitude sickness and acclimatisation before the game. How else do you explain the fact that the Argentines arrive two hours before kick-off???
I searched further for more proof that Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (all minnows!) fared better when playing at home.
Bolivia won 3 out of 6 at home but none away. Both Peru and Ecuador have only lost once at high altitude. All three teams have scored about four times more goals at home than away. Bolivia has beaten Paraguay and Argentina, two powerhouses of South American football. Ecuador has drawn with Paraguay and Brazil. Similarly Peru has drawn with Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Clearly this altitude factor is a formidable advantage.
And to think FIFA wants to take this advantage away. I think that this natural Earthly advantage only serves to make South American qualifiers extra interesting. Besides, what's stopping the visiting team from acclimatising 3 days before a match?
Elsewhere, David Beckham came on as a sub to collect his 110th cap as England overcame the Ukraine 2-1. The family was there to watch him contribute to goal no. 2.
image from eurosport
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I came across the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) website and found All-Time World Coach Ranking.
From the period of 1996-2008, the accumulated rankings compiled by IFFHS are as follows,
1. Sir Alexander Ferguson (Manchester United)
2. Marcello Lippi (Italy)
3. Arsène Wenger (Arsenal)
4. Guus Hiddink (Russia/Chelsea)
5. Sven-Göran Eriksson (Mexico)
Sir Alex had a winning percentage of 58.3% out of 1261 matches and is the only manager from this list to have won the Champions League twice.
Guus Hiddink however had a slightly better win percentage (59.2%) with a lower number of games.
6. José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Felix (Inter Milan)
Jose Mourinho was 6th overall. Jose has a superior win percentage of 68% but lost out on the elusive Champions League Cup while at Chelsea. Still solely on win percentage, Jose is the world's best football manager.
In 14th place, is
14. Rafael Benítez Maudes (Liverpool)
- a winning percentage of 55.5% and boosted by the consecutive semifinal appearances in recent years in the Champions League.
16. Vicente del Bosque (Spain)
The current Spain boss is in 16th place, cruelly let go by Real Madrid but now proving that he has the managerial nous for international football. Del Bosque's Spain is still unbeaten in the World Cup 2010 Qualifiers.
20. Fabio Capello (England)
Have won 9 out of 12 England games with a win percentage of 70%. Let's hope he wins the World Cup for England. It's been too long for the oft-suffering England fans.
Becks with Fergie before Inter CL game (image from Getty images)
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