Selasa, 31 Agustus 2010

Robinho makes late AC Milan switch

It was the move of the last transfer day, Brazilian Robinho has signed a four year contract with Italian giants AC Milan ending his two year misunderstanding with English Premier League side Manchester City. And this transfer marks the second anniversary of Robinho joining Manchester City in 2008 as the first signing under new owners Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan from the Abu Dhabi royal family on the last date of the summer transfers. The transfer was a British record at 32,5 Million Pounds which the club spend on the player and one remembers interviews where Robinho wasn't sure which English club he had signed for as before the deal had come about he had been in long negotiations with FC Chelsea.

Robinho never really felt at home in northern England. He did score 14 goals in 41 appearances, but Robinho had spend the first six months of this year on loan with his former club Santos FC as manager Roberto Mancini had no use for him. Robinho wanted to stay back with Santos, but the Brazilians were not in the financial situation to secure a long term deal. Manchester City meanwhile did not want to take the Brazilian back though he still had a valid multi-year contract and that due to the fact that coach Mancini still didn't want him while he was bringing in other players.

The transfer market has been sluggish this summer, but there had been numerous rumours surrounding were Robinho could play the new season. He wanted to return to Santos, while Manchester City were looking to recoup at least some of the transfer fee they paid for him to Real Madrid. Their Spanish rivals FC Barcelona had shown interest in the player but the clubs couldn't agree on a fee, then Robinho had lucrative offers from Turkish clubs Fenerbahce and Besiktas but he wasn't interested in moving to the Bosporus. So it needed a late offer from Milan to end his misery and take him back to southern Europe.

For Milan it is the second prize catch in days after signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic on loan from Barcelona in their push to challenge city rivals Inter Milan, who have won five Serie A titles in a row and last season won a historic treble. Robinho underwent a successful medical yesterday in Milano and joins fellow Brazilians Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato at the club for an estimated 18 Million Euros transfer fee.

Tottenham Hotspur to fund Team India in Homeless World Cup

In something very encouraging English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur renewed their sponsorship agreement with Team India for the 8th Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup.

Team India is organized and run by Krida Vikas Sanstha (KVSN) working with over 10,000 people through their slum soccer programme. The partnership will see the English Premier League Club fund Team India during the forthcoming competition in Rio, Brazil, which takes place from September 19-26.

Daniel Levy, Chairman, Tottenham Hotspur said, "Our involvement in last year's Homeless World Cup was extremely successful and we are delighted to be involved again this year. The Premier League is vastly growing in popularity in India, as is the support for Spurs, and so it's very satisfying that through football we can help make a positive impact as part of our global community strategy. Our involvement with the Homeless World Cup is one aspect of what we hope will be a bigger role for Tottenham Hotspur in our long-term support of football development in India."

Vijay Barse, Founder KVSN, Manager Team India Homeless World Cup is delighted by the news: "KVSN organises the development of grass roots football in India and it is very important to our success that our participants get a chance to participate at the Homeless World Cup, this opportunity has been realized by the timely support of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Players from slums of Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai are representing India this year and they are delighted to be participating with the support of a professional English Premier League Team."

Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young said: "Homelessness is a global issue and creative partnerships are needed to address it. Spurs is a fantastic example of what a premier football brand can do to make a difference and we applaud them for it."

In addition to providing financial support to Team India, Tottenham Hotspur will also provide kit, coaching advice and signed memorabilia for auction. The Club will also seek to engage further with KVSN through their own partnerships.

For more information visit:

About KVSN, the Slum Soccer programme

Krida Vikas Sanstha Nagpur (KVSN) or in English 'Sport for the Homeless', is based in Nagpur, and runs football programmes to inspire and educate the most disadvantaged members of society. KVSN began by providing organized leagues for the homeless and slum dwellers, many of whom were addicted to drugs or alcohol, and involved in petty crimes or violence. The dramatic decrease in these harmful activities and the improvement in the participants' lifestyles inspired KVSN to expand such that it is now running slum soccer programmes in over 15 cities and is addressing issues such as HIV/AIDS infection, personal hygiene and environmental protection. KVSN has organized marches to raise awareness of these issues and an India-Pakistan friendship bicycle rally along the disputed border to promote peace in the region. Currently, KVSN is in the process of developing a community development centre to offer participants housing, school education and vocational training.

About the Homeless World Cup

Beating homelessness through football, the Homeless World Cup is an annual world class, international football tournament inspiring 64 national grass roots football projects and over 30,000 homeless players a year to change their lives: over 70% change for the better. The 8th Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup takes place from September 19–26 at Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil before the baton is handed to the Paris 2011 Homeless World Cup from August 19-29, 2011. Homeless World Cup is supported by UEFA, Vodafone Foundation, Nike, global ambassador Eric Cantona, international footballers Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand.

About Tottenham Hotspur Football Club

Founded in 1882, Tottenham Hotspur is the 15th largest football club in the world in terms of turnover. In 1961 Tottenham Hotspur became the first club in the modern era to win the League Championship and FA Cup 'double'. In winning the European Cup-Winners Cup two years later they became the first British club to win a major European trophy. In all, Spurs have achieved two League Championships, won the FA Cup eight times, the League Cup four times, and a major European trophy on three occasions. The most recent success was the 2-1 Carling Cup Final victory against Chelsea in 2008.
Their Barclays Premier League matches are broadcast in to 211 territories worldwide, and more than 166 million people world-wide support Tottenham Hotspur or like to see them do well, including 4 million in India. In the 2010/2011 season Tottenham Hotspur will play Champions League football for the first time in the clubs history.

Team India complete Portuguese sojourn

The Indian national team left Portugal yesterday for Bangkok for their international friendly against Thailand on Saturday after a two month long sojourn in Leiria and Lisbon. Once more the camp on the Iberian peninsula was organised by Nuno Mousinho-Esteves' company Spunp, the fourth such summer camp since 2007.

Like in the years earlier the camp had been planned by coach Bob Houghton in such a way to prepare the team for tougher assignments ahead. But unlike the last three years when the camp was about a month's duration, this years camp was for two months keeping the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January 2011 in mind. The focus was to lay the physical and tactical basis for the team to play tougher opponents in the continental competition.

While in Portugal India also played 10 friendly matches and they have a solid track record. They won six of those matches, drew two and only lost two. The matches where against Portuguese second and third division sides, who some AIFF officials back home in India thought weren't strong enough opposition keeping in mind that we face Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in the Asian Cup. And this surely is a point of debate. If I was in-charge I would played one marque match either against a low level European national team to get points for the FIFA world rankings or against a Portuguese first division side, not Benfica or Sporting Lisbon but a side which is lower first division level. This might have given Bob an indication were his team stands against bigger opposition at this time of the preparations.

INDIA's results in the friendly matches

28-Jul-10: INDIA 4-1 Caldas SC
29-Jul-10: INDIA 6-2 GDR Monsanto
05-Aug-10: INDIA 1-0 Atletico CP
06-Aug-10: INDIA 0-1 SU Sintrense
11-Aug-10: INDIA 0-0 Casa Pia AC
12-Aug-10: INDIA 1-0 Real Massama
19-Aug-10: INDIA 3-1 Uniao Desportiva da Serra
18-Aug-10: INDIA 0-1 Clube Desportivo de Mafra
24-Aug-10: INDIA 3-2 Sertanense FC
28-Aug-10: INDIA 1-1 Odivelas FC

But not all was well during the trip. Captain Baichung Bhutia had to travel home for a few weeks due to a thyroid problem and other players like Climax Lawrence, Samir Naik and Steven Dias to name a few had injuries, so they couldn't train over the complete camp. But there was also good news as Sunil Chhetri joined the camp after getting a release from his MLS club Kansas City Wizards.

Now the focus shifts from training to match practice. First-up a double header against Thailand coached by former Manchester United star Bryan Robson. India first travel to Bangkok to face the Thais on Saturday, September 4 and then we host the Thais at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium on Wednesday, September 8. The matches and their venues thereafter will be finalised in the coming week once India is back from their long trip away.

Senin, 30 Agustus 2010

August 31, an important day in football

Some of you might be thinking now, why is Arunava writing that August 31 is an important day in football. What is today? Is there an important football match? A crucial FIFA meeting? Or something else which I don't remember.

No. It is the last day of the international summer transfer period and the day evolves with a number of surprising last minute transfers. It happens to be one of the most active days in football, but with the action being rather off the field. The club managements try to make last minute signings, get rid of unwanted players and look at bringing in players on loan which they can't afford or loan out players they wants to offload. Phone lines and mobile phones across Europe will be active plus in peripheral leagues around the globe where players of interest play.

At the last moment clubs often hope to make a bargain or are willing to pay higher fees for a player they have wanted all summer long. But sometimes deals just don't happen even if a players wants to leave or join a club.

For the first time India is also part of the global transfer calendar. Still the transfer system is divided in India into local transfers of players only switching clubs within a local or state FA and the 'bigger' transfers called the Inter-State Transfers which need to be cleared by the All India Football Federation just like international transfers of player coming into India or leaving the country. And for the first time the transfer period extended to two and a half months, which so far in India has been a 20 to 30 day period in May or June. This also gave the clubs and players the chance to choose better amongst their options or should have done so as we look forward to the new season.

Kerala FA amends statutes

The Kerala Football Association held a special Annual General Meeting yesterday at the Mas Hotel Auditorium in Kochi to discuss and decide on the recommendations of the AFC's Vision Asia team to change their statutes to professionalise the state FA.

The Kerala FA adopted the new statutes which is a key step towards professionalising the administration of football in the south Indian state. One of the elements is to appoint a paid General Secretary to organise and run football in the state. Kerala is now the second state after Goa to adopt the new statutes.

But not all issues are sorted regarding the amendments. Therefore the Kerala FA general body has authorised the KFA president K.M.I. Mathur to hold talks with the All India Football Federation about the voting rights and size of the general body plus the time frame of implementation.

Currently the KFA general body has seven members from each of the 14 districts plus the president, secretary and treasurer. This bring the number to 101 members in total. This number will come down as under the new system each district will only send in three member to the general body, a total of only 42 members. The new executive committee will be made-up of 21 member instead of a number of close to 40 currently.

By accepting the amendments the Kerala FA is close to completing Phase 1 of the Vision Asia programme. The first phase covers governance of the football association, including its statutes, governing bodies, general secretariat, membership, standing committees, judicial bodies and administration.

Injured Robben only to return in 2011?

Bayern Munich's weekend wasn't the best. First they lost on Friday evening against promoted 1.FC Kaiserslautern and then on Sunday it was made public that their Dutch winger Arjen Robben could be out for the rest of the year 2010. It would be a big blow to Bayern Munich and their coach Louis van Gaal for whom Robben was one of the key players in a very successful 2009/10 season. This would mean that Robben would most likely only return after the winter break in January 2011.

"It is more than questionable whether Arjen will be able to play for us in the Bundesliga's round of matches before Christmas," Bayern's Sports Director Christian Nerlinger told German tabloid Bild on Sunday.

The 26 year old Robben was a key element in the later part of the Netherlands 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign, but a thigh injury picked-up prior to the tournament had forced him to initially sit out of the Oranje matches hasn't healed. Now this injury is back to haunt Robben as according to Bayern Munich team doctor Dr. Mueller Wohlfarth he had not been treated properly by the Dutch team doctors. He claims the Dutch doctors just ensured Robben would be fit for the World Cup, but actually the injury was so severe that he shouldn't have been played in South Africa.

Bayern have taken the matter to FIFA and have asked for compensation from the Dutch Football Association. There is no provision for such a case, but the German giants do think that the Dutch are to blame for their loss of their star player, which could hamper their season. And sometime next month a meeting is set to be held between Bayern and the Dutch FA.

Rumours out of Munich say that Bayern are now looking at last minute options to fill the gap left by Robben's long injury lay-off. And it is being said that they have once more turned to Real Madrid and are looking at another Dutch midfielder. This time around it is Rafael van der Vaart, who was not in the Real Madrid's squad against RCD Mallorca yesterday, and he has been told my coach Jose Mourinho to look for another club.

Minggu, 29 Agustus 2010

My Indian Football XI of the last decade

I was asked a few days ago to compile my Indian Football XI of all times, but I honestly said that I don't have the necessary knowledge to do so. And why so? For me to be able to compile such an eleven I should have seen Indian national teams in action since the 1948 London Olympics. Otherwise the compilation of the eleven players would be according to knowledge that I have read up, information I have gathered and/or stories I have heard from others. Therefore I said, let me compile an Indian Football XI from the last decade (2000 to 2010) as I have seen numerous matches live at grounds, on television and on tape plus I have been following Indian football closely for over a decade now and can allow myself to put such a team of the decade together.

And here is my Indian Football XI of the last decade. I didn't go for a classical 4-4-2 formation as used by our national coaches as otherwise some players would have missed my team, so I choose a rather attacking 4-3-3 formation. Still some players like Khalid Jamil, Climax Lawrence, Renedy Singh, Steven Dias or Gouramangi Singh didn't make my first eleven. But on one position there was no doubt and that was the name of the coach as it could only be our very own Bobby Houghton!


Subrata PAL

Surkumar SINGH - Deepak MONDAL - Mahesh GAWLI - Samir NAIK



Here my reasons for picking the players

1. SUBRATA PAL - Even at a young age Subrata has established himself has one of India's all-time best goalkeepers. He has won not only matches, but tournaments for India with his keeping and still has quite a few years left in him.

2. IRUNGBAM SURKUMAR SINGH - On his day surely a great right back with attacking instincts, but Surkumar's inconsistency is his biggest problem. On a bad day he runs aimlessly forward, can lose the ball to often or is too often out of position. Still over the last decade we have not had a better right back.

3. DEEPAK KUMAR MONDAL - A stylish defender who is best known for his sliding tackles and cool game at the back, can slot in as right or left back if needed. Has been the outstanding defensive combo with Mahesh. Deserving was awarded the Arjuna Award yesterday!

4. MAHESH GAWLI - Most probably the best defender of his generation. Will try and run down an attacker rather then bring him down. Mahesh had a blind understanding with Deepak with whom he has played since their TFA days.

5. SAMIR NAIK - the left back position has been a problem for Team India over the last decade, but Samir when fit has been the best in this position though Daljit Singh and K.V. Dhanesh came close to be picked.

6. N.P. PRADEEP - when fit and in top gear India's Steven Gerrard, a box to box player, who can cover a lot of ground on the field and has a great shot. Who will not remember the 2007 Nehru Cup final. Can also be used in a number of other positions, but best is used in central midfield.

7. JO PAUL ANCHERY - was India's utility man, wherever the coach needed him, Jo Paul could play there except in goal. But he was best in central midfield, where he could control the ball and the game. Sadly too often injured otherwise could have had an even bigger career.

8. SHANMUGAM VENKATESH - The man with the deft touch in his left foot. For a while also India captain and was always someone dependable in midfield, who with his creativity could create chances for the strikers.

9. I.M. VIJAYAN - technically most probably the best ever Indian footballer! If he was born only 10 to 15 years later, he would have surely made it to Europe. A striker of class who had a great partnership upfront with Baichung. I remember the England Tours where the rest of the team was running around the ground in warm-up and Vijubhai had a ball on his feet. Running with the ball, juggling and not focusing on the running but rather the ball which he loved as he used to hate running.

10. BAICHUNG BHUTIA - The captain and leader on and off the field. Baichung is one of India's all-time football greats. But he has not only been a captain, but also a prolific goal scorer for India though sadly not in the recent past.

11. SUNIL CHHETRI - Baichung's heir. If this isn't a little pressure. Chhetri will have to take over from Baichung when he retires and for Team India he has been a key player over the last three years winning matches and tournaments for India. The Delhi boy will have to shoulder more responsibility in the future.

COACH: BOB HOUGHTON - When he came to India in the summer of 2006 the national team was falling apart. Even Baichung Bhutia was thinking of calling it quits. Since then Bob has rebuild the side, has formed his own team against all odds. And the team has paid back with success by winning the Nehru Cup twice in 2007 & 2009 plus the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup which took India to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after 27 long years. The biggest challenge is now upon Bob and his boys.

Do you agree with my choices or would you have picked other players? A totally different squad? Do let me know your selection...

Ibrahimovic returns to Italy, on loan to AC Milan

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left FC Barcelona after only one season and has returned to Italy to join AC Milan on loan, city rivals of his former club Internationale Milan. As per the deal Ibrahimovic has been signed by Milan on a one year loan deal, while the Rossoneri and the player have agreed a four year contract.

The 28 year old Ibrahimovic will undergo a medical tomorrow in Milan and then sign the contract. After the initial one year loan deal Milan have the right to sign the player permanently for a fee of only 24 Million Euros. It is a cut price deal for a top class striker like Ibrahimovic who only a season ago left Inter Milan to join Barca in exchange for Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o plus 69 Million Euros.

The tall, lanky striker never seemed to fit into Pep Guardiola's system still Ibrahimovic scored 21 goals in 41 matches in all competitions, not a bad scoring rate for a top striker. Still Ibrahimovic was seen alien in Barcelona and to their system of tiki-taka football though the Swedish international is technically a sound player. Many said he could not recreate the form and magic that made him a star in the Italian Serie A with Juventus and Inter Milan. In Barcelona his signing a year ago is now seen as a big mistake.

The arrival of Ibrahimovic at AC Milan could also mean that Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could finally be leaving the Stadio Guiseppe Meazza. Huntelaar has been linked with a number of clubs in the English Premier League as well as some German Bundesliga clubs. Huntelaar now falls down the pecking order and departure might be the only way for him to guarantee playing time.

Sabtu, 28 Agustus 2010

Crazy Bundesliga: The table looks upside down

The German Bundesliga is only into its second round, but it was once more a crazy match day this Saturday, August 28. With matches to be played later today, the league is currently being jointly led by promoted 1.FC Kaiserslautern and 1899 Hoffenheim on a better goal difference ahead of Mainz 05, Hamburger SV and Hannover 96 all on six points; while on the other side of the table you will find 1.FC Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke 04 and VfL Wolfsburg with no points so far.

The pick of the day surely was the 4-3 win of Mainz 05 against VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena. The North Germans were already leading 3-0 after a double strike from Edin Dzeko and a goal on his debut from Brazilian Diego at the half hour mark, but Mainz went on to score four goals in a rare turnaround for an in the end deserving away win. For Steve McClaren and his team it was the second loss in as many games and the Englishmen will think what he did wrong as his defence once more let him down. Mainz continue were they left off last season as the surprise team of the league as they now have two wins out of two matches.

The upset of Round 2 came on Friday evening as newly promoted 1.FC Kaiserslautern beat defending champions FC Bayern Munich 2-0 infront of a sell-out 50.000 at the legendary Betzenberg. Bayern had over 70% ball possession, chances galore but somehow the Bavarian giants could not score on the night. World Cup hero Thomas Mueller had their best chance in the 24th minute as his shot beat keeper Tobias Sippel, but also missed the goal by a whisker. Lautern won the match with a double strike with a minute. First in the 36th minute Ivo Ilecivic scored a beauty of a goal which beat Butt in the Bayern goal and then only a few seconds later Ilecivic played a square pass to Srdjan Lakic, who just had to tap in.

In other games Schalke 04 lost 1-2 against Hannover 96, Werder Bremen won 4-2 against 1.FC Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt suffered a 1-3 home defeat against Hamburger SV, 1.FC Nuremberg lost 1-2 against SC Freiburg, while FC St. Pauli lost due to a late goal against 1899 Hoffenheim.

In the final matches of Round 2 later today Bayer 04 Leverkusen face Borussia Moenchengladbach in a Rhine derby, while VfB Stuttgart host Borussia Dortmund in a match-up of Europa League qualifiers.

End of the road for Lalam Puia?

The 21 year old Pachau Lalam Puia from Mizoram was fired yesterday by his Kolkata club Chirag United SC on disciplinary grounds. And it could be the sad end of a career which never really took off due to Puia's off field antics. Puia was a few years ago seen as one of the biggest young Indian talents, especially when he was at the Tata Football Academy, but he only showed glimpses of his talent once at the senior level and never could he made the breakthrough that was expected from him. He first joined Mohun Bagan where he never got past Jose Ramirez Barreto and Baichung Bhutia, and then last season at Chirag United were he was also down the pecking order.

And why? Simply put Puia has been having a drinking problem for years. Due to that he has been arrested, has picked up fights, has been send to a rehab centre; but it all seems to have failed on him. Puia has not realised that he couldn't go on like this and also that he is wasting his talent. I remember we had spoken a few times over the last few years about this and he would always say to me, "Dada I will change," but that hasn't happened so far. I hope this is a final wake-up call to Puia and he gets his career back on track.

Going down memory lane I remember the first time I met Puia and saw him in action. That was in the summer of 2004 here in Germany when the Tata Football Academy came to Schoenau (southwest Germany, close to Heidelberg) for a month long training camp. I saw him in action as a 15 year old against a local under-16 side and though Puia was a head shorter then the German defenders with his sheer speed and toughness, not often seen in Indian players, he was able to beat his opponents, which caught not only my eye but also those of Germans present that day.

Over that weekend I would not only would talk to coach Ranjan Chowdhury and the TFA staff present, but also the players amongst them Puia. Puia told me about his ambition was to play abroad, ideally in Europe and become a great striker. Puia still talks to me when we meet about that dream, but he sadly isn't putting in the effort needed to get there. As said, I hope it is a wake-up call for him and he realises that he needs to change.

Maracanã-Stadium: Rebuilding a Myth

Brazil will be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the construction and refurbishing of the old stadiums is taking a little too long according to FIFA and even the local organising committee. And with guarantees from the city missing Brazil's financial capital and home of legend Pele, Sao Paolo is currently off the venues list for the upcoming World Cup. But I hope that funds are made available for reconstruction to take place as what would a Brazilian World Cup be without Sao Paolo?

In Rio de Janeiro things are looking better as the world famous Maracanã-Stadium is undergoing refurbishment since Wednesday, August 25; but even this project is behind schedule as originally work was planned to start in March 2010. Until late 2012 around 300 Million Euros will be spend on the arena to bring it up to World Cup standard as in its current form it is outdated and wouldn't qualify as a World Cup venue. And besides the World Cup, Rio is also set to host the 2016 Olympics for which the stadium would also be needed.

The Maracanã in its full name is called the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho and it is one of the iconic venues of world football. Legendary stories are told about the 1950 World Cup final in the stadium between hosts Brazil and then giants Uruguay. It is said that over 200,000 people where live at the ground to watch the final. It used to be the biggest stadium in the world, but development work over the years have reduced the capacity to now 88,000. The last time the stadium was redeveloped was in 2007 ahead of the Pan American Games.

Now for the 2014 FIFA World Cup the capacity will come down further to around 83,000 as tough FIFA guidelines are enforcing less capacity at the ground plus better facilities for players, media, VIPs and the general public. Still the outside of the stadium will remain the same as it is a Brazilian national monument, but besides improvement inside the ground it will also get a new modern roof. Currently the Maracanã is the home venue of local Rio giants Flamengo and Fluminense plus also hosting to matches of the Brazilian Selecao.

Jumat, 27 Agustus 2010

UEFA Super Cup: Atletico shock Inter

Club Atlético de Madrid scored a shock 2-0 victory against FC Internazionale Milano in the European season opening UEFA Super Cup in Monaco last night. If one had hoped for an entertaining match of football as the usual pressure isn't there, then one would have been heavily disappointed as both sides focused on their defence like in their successful European campaigns last season.

In the end the Europa League champions got the better of the Champions League winners due to two goals from Spaniard José Antonio Reyes and Argentinian Sergio Agüero. It also ended Inter's chances to emulate FC Barcelona by winning six titles in a calendar year. Inter over the weekend had won the Italian Super Cup to win their fourth title, but the fifth would elude them against an Atletico who deservingly took home the Super Cup.

It was interesting to see that both sides only made one change each to the first eleven which won them the trophies in May. Inter's new coach Rafael Benitez brought on Dejan Stanković for Goran Pandev; while his counterpart Quique Sánchez Flores gave new signing Uruguayan Diego Godín a start in defence.

Both sides focused on their defences early on and no chance in the first session would actually force the two keepers to make any saves. But things changed after the break as Atletico would take control and Inter didn't really have an answer. José Antonio Reyes would threaten Júlio César's goal for the first time in the 59th minute with a good shot, but the Brazilian keeper could clear for a corner. But three minutes later Reyes would give his side the lead as he would beat Maicon and César's outstretched hand. Atletico were high and dry in the 83rd minute when Simão beat Lucio on the left to play the ball into the middle with Sergio Agüero only having to push the ball into an empty net. Inter could have come back late in the game, but Diego Milito's penalty was cleared by teenage keeper David de Gea just a minute from time. Thereafter it was celebration time for Atletico and their fans, while there is some home work still to be done by Benitez and his boys.

Germany name Euro2012 qualifier squad

Germany national coach Joachim Loew has named his 21 member squad for the first two qualification matches for the 2012 European Championships to be played in the Ukraine and Poland. And not surprisingly missing from the squad is former captain Michael Ballack, who has so far played only one and a half matches after coming back from injury. This means that Philipp Lahm will remain captain for at another two matches and the decision about Ballack's future has been pushed back by a month.

The squad contains 17 players who played the World Cup in South Africa plus three player who missed the tournament due to injury in Rene Adler, Heiko Westermann and Christian Traesch; and Sascha Riether as back-up right back. Missing due to injuries are Arne Friedrich, Jerome Boateng, Piotr Trochowski und Dennis Aogo, while defender Serdar Tasci has been left out due to lack of match practice and keeper Hans-Joerg Butt retired after the World Cup. Also missing will be the captain for the Denmark game last month in Thomas Hitzlsperger, who is also out injured.

The summer fairytale of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is over and now the focus shifts back again to the 2012 European Championship qualifiers. Germany first travel to Brussels to face Belgium on September 3 in a tricky opening game, while they then host Azerbaijan in Cologne on September 7.


1-Manuel Neuer (FC Schalke 04), 12-Tim Wiese (SV Werder Bremen), 22-Rene Adler (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)

2-Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), 4-Sascha Riether (VfL Wolfsburg), 5-Heiko Westermann (Hamburger SV) , 14-Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern Munich), 16-Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern Munich), 17-Per Mertesacker (SV Werder Bremen)

6-Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern Munich), 8-Mesut Oezil (Real Madrid), 10-Lukas Podolski (1. FC Cologne), 13-Thomas Mueller (FC Bayern Munich), 18-Toni Kroos (FC Bayern Munich), 21-Marko Marin (SV Werder Bremen), 24-Christian Traesch (VfB Stuttgart)

9-Stefan Kiessling (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), 11-Miroslav Klose (FC Bayern Munich), 19-Cacau (VfB Stuttgart), 23-Mario Gomez (FC Bayern Munich)

Europa League: The Groups are out, tough one's for favourites

The draw for the 2010/11 Europa League group stage was held earlier today at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, Monaco. And the 48 teams who qualified for the group stages have been divided into 12 groups of four teams each.

Defending champions Atletico Madrid from Spain have been drawn in an interesting Group B along with German side Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Norway's Rosenborg Trondheim and Aris Thessaloniki from Greece.

But the toughest groups of all is Group A where multiple European champions Juventus Turino from Italy take on big spending English Premier League side Manchester City, Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg and the Polish champions Lech Posnan.

Also getting a tough draw are troubled FC Liverpool who are in Group K along with Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest, Italy's SSC Napoli and FC Utrecht of the Netherlands. While in another interesting Group J Spaniards FC Sevilla take on FC Paris St Germain from France, Germany's Borussia Dortmund and newcomers Karpaty Lviv from the Ukraine.

The Groups

Group A: Juventus Turino (Italy), Manchester City (England), Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), Lech Posnan (Poland)

Group B: Atletico Madrid (Spain), Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Germany), Rosenborg Trondheim (Norway), Aris Thessaloniki (Greece)

Group C: Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), OSC Lille (France), Levski Sofia (Bulgaria), KAA Gent (Belgium)

Group D: FC Villarreal (Spain), Club Brugge (Belgium), FC Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), PAOK Saloniki (Greece)

Group E: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), BATE Borisov (Belarus), FC Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova)

Group F: CSKA Moscow (Russia), US Palermo (Italy), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic), FC Lausanne-Sport (Switzerland)

Group G: Zenit St Peterburg (Russia), RSC Anderlecht (Belgium), AEK Athens (Greece), Hadjuk Split (Croatia)

Group H: VfB Stuttgart (Germany), FC Getafe (Spain), Odense BK (Denmark), FC Young Boys Bern (Switzerland)

Group I: PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Sampdoria Genoa (Italy), FC Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine), VSC Debreceni (Hungary)

Group J: FC Sevilla (Spain), FC Paris St Germain (France), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Karpaty Lviv (Ukraine)

Group K: FC Liverpool (England), FC Steaua Bucharest (Romania), SSC Napoli (Italy), FC Utrecht (Netherlands)

Group L: FC Porto (Portugal), Besiktas Istanbul (Turkey), CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria), FC Rapid Vienna (Austria)

Kamis, 26 Agustus 2010

Kaun Banega Secretary - Reloaded?

Some of you might remember that on my old website I had written a series of articles under the headline titled "Kaun Banega Secretary", named after a popular tv show, the search for a new AIFF General Secretary to replace Alberto Colaco. That was about 14 months ago, nothing really happened with Mr. Colaco extending his tenure for a year until the end of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in January 2011. Now the whole search process has been restarted with all the old candidates off the list and new one's being brought in by a head hunter company.

The task on hand for the new General Secretary is multiple as he would have to work to develop Indian football on different fronts - professional & amateur, seniors & juniors, men's & women's. A task to take our football forward and continue to professionalize the running of the federation, which will also have to grow further. Surely not an easy task for whoever takes the job and you would need someone with football knowledge and insights, contacts in the football world, an understanding on how Indian bureaucracy works, lobby on international bodies in India's interest, handle administration of a national body plus work with government agencies and private sponsors.

Surely not an easy task as with the right new man the AIFF can ensure that they get even more grants from FIFA and the AFC to fast track our development, be it the professionalisation of the I-League, the infrastructure and administration. These would just be the key areas for development.

On Wednesday the Emergency Committee met in New Delhi to discuss pressing issues and also interview two candidates. The Emergency Committee comprises of AIFF president Praful Patel; its five vice-presidents - Subrata Dutta, Ankur Dutta, Joaquim Alemao, Vinod Sharma and A.R. Khaleel; treasurer Hardev Jadeja and general secretary Alberto Colaco. The candidates who appeared for the interview where Kushal Das and Biswajit Mitra.

Here we take a closer look at the backgrounds of the two candidates, who some within the federation say are currently the only candidates in the fray for the post of AIFF General Secretary, while others say more candidates could be interviewed in the coming weeks.

Kushal Das until recently was the Chief Financial Officer of the International Cricket Council (cricket's global body). Before that he was for 12 years with IMG in India and South Korea. Prior to that he was with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vegepro Foods (GlaxoSmithKline) and Bharat Shell. And Biswajit Mitra meanwhile is the head of the International Business section at Tata Steel in Kolkata.

Surely interesting profiles. But one will have to wait and see if one these two gentlemen will become the new General Secretary of the All India Football Federation or if other candidates will be interview by the federation in the weeks to come.

UEFA Champions League: the draw is out

The draw for the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage was held today at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, Monaco. And all the participating clubs aim to reach the final to be played on May 28, 2011 at London's Wembley Stadium. In the draw were 32 clubs from across the continent, who were then divided into eight groups of four teams each, for Europe's premier club competition. And once more we have some very interesting groups to look forward to. And lets see if the favourites can make it to London to the finals.

In Group A we have the defending champions Inter Milan taking on Germany's Werder Bremen, new boys Tottenham Hotspurs from the English Premier League and the Dutch champions Twente Enschede. Inter surely are the favourites in this group, but otherwise it looks very even with chances for the three other sides.

And once more we have a potential Group of Death. This time around it will be Group G where Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid will have to face Italian giants AC Milan, Dutch heavyweights Ajax Amsterdam and talented French side AJ Auxerre.

Meanwhile finalists FC Bayern Munich from Germany have been drawn into Group D and will face Italy's AS Roma, Swiss giants FC Basel and CFR Cluj from Romania. A doable group for the German champions or as they would say in German "Bayern dusel" meaning Bayern's luck with draws.

The Groups

Group A: FC Internationale Milan (Italy), SV Werder Bremen (Germany), Tottenham Hotspurs FC (England), FC Twente Enschede (Netherlands)

Group B: Olympique Lyonnais (France), Benfica Lisboa (Portugal), FC Schalke 04 (Germany), FC Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)

Group C: Manchester United (England), FC Valencia (Spain), Glasgow Rangers FC (Scotland), Bursaspor (Turkey)

Group D: FC Barcelona (Spain), Panathinaikos Athens (Greece), FC Copenhagen (Denmark), FC Rubin Kazan (Russia)

Group E: FC Bayern Munich (Germany), AS Roma (Italy), FC Basel (Switzerland), CFR Cluj (Romania)

Group F: FC Chelsea London (England), Olympique Marseille (France), Spartak Moscow (Russia), MSK Zilina (Slovakia)

Group G: AC Milan (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands), AJ Auxerre (France)

Group H: FC Arsenal London (England), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), SC Braga (Portugal), FK Partisan Belgrade (Serbia)

Al-Ahli Dubai: An aspiring Asian Club

Have you heard about Al-Ahli Club Dubai? You might have heard about them a few weeks back when the club signed former Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro from Juventus and also brought Irishman David O'Leary out of retirement to become the clubs new coach. They are the UAE's most successful club side, now aspire to be amongst the best in Asia and have a long journey ahead of them.

Al-Ahli Club is a Dubai-based United Arab Emirates professional league side. Al Ahli, which means 'national' in Arabic, was only formed in 1970 as three local teams merged and since then they have won five UAE League titles, seven UAE President Cups and the UAE Super Cup in 2009.

Now they not only brought in Cannavaro and O'Leary, but also Brazilian André Luciano da Silva, better known as Pinga, from Abu Dhabi's Al-Wahda Club and Aristide Bancé from Burkina Faso for a record 5 Million Euros from German Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05. This shows that the clubs intentions are clear to build a quality side to challenge for the domestic title.

Not only on the pitch the club has gone through a transition, but more importantly there have been changes in the clubs administration. The club is owned by Dubai's crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and he has brought in people to transform the club. The administration is headed by Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah, heir of a local merchant family; while Ahmad Khalifa Hammad has been made the clubs Executive CEO.

The club has an own 18,000 seater stadium in Dubai's Deira district, but like most clubs in the region they are unable to fill their stadium with spectators. And even with signing such stars as Batistuta and Effenberg in Qatar a few years ago, none have been able to fill their stadiums. Now they want to try and change that fact by signing commercial partnerships with banks and consumer companies, but if they can tap into the mainly south Asian immigrant communities will have to be seen. My advice would have always been to sign an Indian player under the Asian quota rule and get him to play. That would surely bring a few thousand Indians to the ground, who are more football interested then popular Arab believe. But the club in its first step will focus on expatriate Arabs and western families to come and support the club. For this to work they have looked far west to the US and the MLS concepts of events around matches. One will have to see if it works in Dubai.

But for the moment the club is dependent on the crown prince and his deep pockets besides getting governments like all their rivals in the UAE league. The money which comes in through sponsorship and gate receipt are minimal, but all the clubs will want to grow them in the near future.

Disha Malhotra: Delhi Girl set for US trials

India's Disha Malhotra has been invited for trials to US 3rd Division women soccer club Mississippi College Women Soccer Club, who play in the NCAA Division III All-West Region.

The 18 year old from Delhi could make history if signed by the women's team based in the US. Only last month Disha was denied the chance to create history by playing in a Delhi Soccer Association organised 'A' Division league match for men for the United Young Boys team against Veterans Club at the Ambedkar Stadium. Though there are no official rules which could have denied her taking part the present officials ensured she didn't play the game.

"I will put my best efforts to create the space in first team. This is my short term goal," said Disha, a student of Sanskriti School at Chanakyapuri, before leaving for the United States.

The 5 foot 4 inch only girl has received professional training for over a year at the Insegnare Calcio Academy in Italy, where she upgraded her techniques and footballing skills. She has played for the India Under-19 girls side and also has represented the junior sides of Delhi state in national championships.

If Disha makes it in Mississippi then she follows in the footsteps of fellow Delhiite Sunil Chhetri, who signed a professional contract in the US earlier in the year. And it is great to see Disha trying to fulfil her professional dream.

All the best for her endeavours! And I hope she succeeds.

Rabu, 25 Agustus 2010

Federation Cup: Qualifiers next month

The 32nd Federation Cup, India's version of the FA Cup, will begin next month with eight teams taking part in the qualifiers for the Federation Cup proper. The eight teams will be the two I-League relegated sides Sporting Clube de Goa and Shillong Lajong FC plus six teams from the 2nd Division I-League. The eight teams will be divided into two groups of four teams each and only the winners will move on into the final round. While the venue for Group A hasn't been finalised yet, the Group B matches will be played in Goa with three of the four teams from the coastal state.

The final round will be held with the two qualifiers and the 14 I-League team. If the format of the last few years is kept, then the 16 teams will be split into four groups of four teams each with only the group winners moving on into the semifinals. The likely venue and dates of the tournament proper will be announced later.

The qualifiers of the Federation Cup have been simplified this season for reasons only known to the AIFF. Last year over 30 clubs played in the zonal and inter-zone qualifiers, which made good zonal competitions.

The Qualifier Groups

Group A
Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya), Oil India Limited (Assam), Mohammedan Sporting Club (Kolkata), NISA (Manipur),

Group B
Sporting Clube de Goa (Goa), Vasco SC (Goa), Malabar United FC (Kerala), Sesa Football Academy (Goa)

Bremen just about make the Champions League

Germany's Werder Bremen can be a mystery side at best. On their day they can beat most sides across Europe, but on a bad day they can be beaten by many sides even from lower divisions. Last night against UC Sampdoria Genoa they once more showed a pathetic display, but like often before in their history in continental competition Bremen somehow got through. Bremen needed a late injury time goal to get into extra time and there they showed glimpses of what the team is capable of. And in the end they ensured that they will once more play in the UEFA Champions League, their sixth appearance in Europe's premier club competition in the last seven years.

Just to recap the match stats over the two legs. Bremen won 3-1 at home six days ago and lost 1-3 after regulation time in Genoa, which meant 30 minutes of extra time and there Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro scored Bremen's second in the 100th minute, which ended Sampdoria's dream of playing in the Champions League for the first time ever, then with the away goal rule Sampdoria would have had to score two more to get past the Germans.

Bremen had a week of football which is typical for them. They play an attractive attacking game, so their matches are a treat to watch and often before their games you don't know the potential outcome. Like the stock exchange Bremen's stocks can go up and down, often even within a match it is a roller coaster ride like it was against Sampdoria.

In the game last week Bremen and Sampdoria had a mixed first session, but after the break Bremen took control and scored three goals only to concede a late one which kept Sampdoria in the tie. And Bremen should have sealed the tie in the Weserstadion itself with a four, maybe even a five-nil drubbing. And that could have haunted the North Germans as Sampdoria were two-nil up at home after 13 minutes through two Giampaolo Pazzini headers. Sampdoria at this stage were through and Bremen looked awful for more then an hour, but towards the end Sampdoria looked to be tiring still they scored their third through Antanio Cassano. And the Italians thought they had ensured their passage to the Champions League group stages before substitute Markus Rosenberg gave Bremen a third minute injury time lifeline, which Pizarro would follow-up in extra time as he won it for Bremen and ensured their unlikely passage into the Champions League group stage.

Selasa, 24 Agustus 2010

Viswanathan Anand an Indian?

I had earlier in the day written a blog entry about allowing PIO's (Persons of Indian Origin) and OCI's (Overseas Citizen of India) to represent India again on the international sports stage. And then in the evening I read the shocking reports about the Government of India questioning Viswanathan Anand's nationality. Are those bureaucrats really serious???

This is an insult to someone like Viswanathan Anand, who has put India on the world map in chess, happens to be one of India's few real sporting heroes and now this treatment. This is unacceptable and even a personal 'sorry' over the phone by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is just not enough. In my opinion a sorry and clarification how this embarrassment due to 'procedural delays' could happen just won't do. Lets see how our politicians now correct this gross injustice.

But I have a more general question. This whole situation came about due to the fact that the University of Hyderabad wanted to confer an honorary doctorate degree to Anand during the ongoing International Congress of Mathematicians. Something positive and deserving for Anand, but as standard procedure the University has to ask the HRD Ministry if a person is eligible and what nationality that person holds, which led to this embarrassing situation. And in the end it means that the HRD Ministry controls who is handed such honorary degrees. Shouldn't the educational system be independent from ministries and politicians?

Anand was graceful in his reaction. He is said to be disappointed with what happened, but wanted to move on and has also accepted minister Kapil Sibal's apology. Anand is a quite man, who doesn't need the limelight, so he will not create a media stir about what happened, but maybe the media should stand-up for someone like Anand, who has done great service to the country.

In the end I have a last question? If this can happen to someone like Viswanathan Anand, what can then happen to a normal citizen...

VIDEO: 3rd International Goalkeeper Congress

The video of the 3rd International Goalkeeper Congress held in Zurich is now ready and can be viewed below, only it is in German.

More infos on the 3rd International Goalkeeper Congress under .

Do you need to be a Citizen to represent India?

Well that is what the Government of India and the Sports Minister M.S. Gill think and had passed as a law a while back which is harming Indian sports terribly on all fronts. If you want to represent India you have to hold an Indian passport otherwise you aren't Indian and we don't want you to represent us. It sounds very rude, but this is what this law implies. And then India is no USA or Australia where we have tons of talent and can do without some of these Indian origin talents representing us.

If one is honest enough then one would classify India as a developing sporting nation. One gold and two bronze medals at the last 2008 Beijing Olympics surely highlight that fact. We have a long way to go before we should call ourselves a sporting nation, but we surely are a nation of couch potatoes who love to watch top class international sports on television.

Why am I raising this point. A number of athletes of Indian origin are performing credibly in a number of sports. They are born in the US, Europe or Australia and could help us speed up the process of developing India as a sporting nation. Take e.g. Tennis, the sports worst hit by this law. Players like Prakash Amritraj, Shikha Uberoi and Sunitha Rao have all represented India in the past, but once this law was in place these American passport holders could no longer play Davis Cup or Fed Cup for India. Who did this harm? The national teams in tennis and our chances to win medals at events like the upcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And why do these athletes want to keep their American passports? It is quite simple. Tennis players travel up to 35 weeks a year around the world and as an American citizen you don't need visas for too many countries, but as an Indian you need visas for most countries, so it is a logistical nightmare that these players just want to avoid. And these players play more on the tour then for their respective countries.

Then we have the issue of Players of Indian Origin in football. After I saw a feature on Vikash Dhorasoo on TV show Futbol Mundial 11 years ago I started the search about PIO's on my old website. Then I had the notion that there are many PIO talents playing across the world who have not been scouted. I didn't know then that I would be that wrong as the talents that could represent India are far and few, but they are there. I had held discussions with the AIFF a few years back and the idea to allow PIO's to play in the Indian league evolved out of it, but now even that slot has been taken away again as PIO's cannot represent India without a passport, so what value does such a slot have to Team India?

Lets take an easy example. If a player with a British passport wants to represent India in football he needs an Indian passport, but dual citizenship isn't allowed so taking up an Indian passport and handing back the British would most likely lead him to no longer be eligible for a work permit in the United Kingdom as India do not fall in the top 75 of the FIFA world rankings, so he could lose his club contract. Would a player take such a step to play for a country? I honestly doubt it then the club career in football is what earns the players their bread and butter.

So such a law as we have it in India isn't needed. Once more lets take the example of football. FIFA allows players to represent national teams in their competitions if they can prove that they are off origin of that nation/territory. This means holding a "Person of Indian Origin" or "Overseas Citizen of Indian" card would entitle a player to represent India as that is a certain prove of origin.

My question once more simple, why restrict us from allowing PIO's or OCI's to represent our nation? We should embrace anyone willing to represent India. Maybe someone is listening...

Senin, 23 Agustus 2010

North Korean Tae-Se impresses in Germany

Do you remember the North Korean player who was weeping when the countries national anthem was being played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa? That was Jong Tae-Se and after the World Cup he signed a two year contract with German second division Bundesliga club VfL Bochum.

Now striker Jong Tae-Se (written Chong Tese here in Germany) impressed last night in the first 2.Bundesliga league match for his new club against 1860 Munich. Tae-Se, nicknamed the Asian Rooney, scored two goals for his club in their 3-2 victory.

And both goals were great to watch. First Tae-Se gave Bochum the 2-1 lead in the 38th minute of a flying header from a Bjoern Kopplin cross. It came as a surprise to many as he beat Munich keeper Gabor Kiraly to the ball. And only seconds into the second half a Milos Maric corner came into the box and Tae-Se headed in to give Bochum a 3-1 lead. And the Bochum fans now have a new crowd favourite in Tae-Se, but he will have to follow-up his strong performance from last night.

Tae-Se has impressed one and all in Bochum so far! The North Korean born and raised in Japan, who has never lived in North Korea, is trying to integrate as quickly as possible and that not only into the team but in general. He has been eager to learn German, has picked-up the language quite fast and even gave a small TV interview post match yesterday in German.

Goal Celebrations as an Art!

Have you heard about Icelandic football club UMF Stjarnan Garðabær? Most likely not, but you might have seen them in the last few days on the Internet or on a football show.

The team from Iceland has gained worldwide fame for their brilliantly choreographed goal celebrations - be it catching a fish, a human bicycle and a scene from Rambo which included punching and shooting. Just brilliant!

If you haven't seen them, here are the videos of these celebrations from YouTube. Enjoy!

Catching a Fish

Human Bicycle

Rambo celebrations

The latest celebrations

Tata Football Academy to play I-League Division 2?

The latest rumours out of Jamshedpur suggest that the Tata Football Academy, India's top football academy, is planning to return to play the 2nd Division of the I-League. And this would be good news for Indian football, but the question remains if the Tata Steel management will push for a place in the I-League or just want to use the 2nd Division as competition for their young cadets.

One only has to remember April/May 2006 when the Tata Football Academy won the 2nd Division National Football League ahead of Churchill Brothers SC and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC. But the then TFA management thought it wouldn't be wise to play the Academy side in the premier division, so declined promotion and the AIFF then decided not to allow TFA to play the second division if there was no intention by the Academy to play in the top tier.

But now that thinking within TFA seems to have changed. The management is looking at the necessary AFC Club Licensing Criteria and is considering of fielding a team in the I-League if the cadets qualify through the 2nd Division. But a final decision on this regard has not been taken. Last season itself TFA wanted to take part in the 2nd Division, but the papers had been send in too late and one will have to see if the AIFF accept TFA back into the 2nd Division this year with the old story from 2006 still in the mind of the national federation.

For TFA the exposure and tougher competition in the league is the key for development of their cadets and they see the positive example of Sesa Football Academy from Goa, which has evolved from being only an Academy into now having a senior team. And Sesa's senior team play in the 2nd Division I-League with ambitions to play in the premier division. It could be a path which TFA would want to follow. And for Indian club football it would be a big step forward if a Tata's backed team plays in the premier division.

Also recruiting senior players wouldn't be an issue for TFA as a number of cadets surely would like to come back to TFA and play for the Academy which made them big. The only issue could be induction of the India Under-19 national team into the I-League this year as a number of TFA cadets will be part of this squad.

Minggu, 22 Agustus 2010

Bob Bradley: An American to coach Aston Villa?

Would you have even considered about a decade back that an American could be in the running to coach an English Premier League side? I guess many would have said simply no. But now this could soon happen as US national coach Bob Bradley is a potential candidate to be the new Aston Villa coach, replacing Martin O'Neill who left the club in haste days before the start of the new Premier League season.

A decade back you would have a few American players in the Premier League and across European leagues, but no American owners or business executives who learned their trade in Major League Soccer. Things have changed as you have American owners at Manchester United, FC Liverpool and Aston Villa plus someone like Ivan Gazidis as Chief Executive at FC Arsenal, who learned the business at the MLS and was its deputy commissioner before he left. And now even a coach from the new world could be coming to the old world. Surely some will believe signing Bob Bradley as Aston Villa coach would be a cultural shock.

But I don't think so then in today's globalized world especially with football spreading its wings new ideas and approached might be just the right ingredient. Bradley has shown what he can do with the limited resources in the US team. The side has some quality players in Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, but also others who play lower level football or are bench players at their clubs. Years of experience as MLS coach added with his ability to get the best out of his players could be something Aston Villa is looking for in their new coach.

Talks have been held between Aston Villa's American owner Randy Lerner and representatives from Bob Bradley. Interestingly the initial approach came from Bradley, who had heard about the rumours linking him with the Villa job and he wanted to get it clarified if he was actually in the running. The communication was positive, whatever that means, and Villa cleverly haven't pushed things too quickly and are taking their time to find the right man for the job. But their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United yesterday might speed-up things now.

Bradley has shown his interest and is likely to be amongst the candidates now. But one will have to wait and see if an English Premiership club owned by an American will also soon have an American manager.

Looking for a Goalie? Come to Germany

The transfer period is still open until August 31. And are you as a club still looking to sign a quality goalkeeper? Then look no further then Germany as numerous quality goalkeepers are still without a contract. And after not finding a club in Germany, they are now open to offers from abroad.

Germany have a tradition in producing quality goalkeepers since the days of Sepp Meier, Tony Schumacher and Bodo Ilgner, and the list goes on to the now retired Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann to the current generation of Manuel Neuer and Rene Adler plus even younger ones like Tobias Sippel.

All 18 Bundesliga clubs have sealed their number one goalkeeper slots, some even have adequate quality sitting on the bench; but there are quality keepers like Timo Hildebrand, Michael Rensing, Stefan Wessels or Markus Proell, who are still looking for a club and even in the 2.Bundesliga there is no space for them.

The biggest name without a contract is former German national goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand. The 31 year old last played for 1899 Hoffenheim, but the club from the southwest did not renew his contract and brought in Tom Starke from Duisburg. Since then Hildebrand has been on the lookout for a contract within Germany, now also from abroad. Hildebrand had come through the system at VfB Stuttgart and had signed for FC Valencia in 2007, a big mistake as from thereon his career dipped. He returned 18 months later back to Germany to sign for Hoffenheim, but now another 18 months later he is without a contract. Currently he is keeping himself fit at fourth division Stuttgarter Kickers and hopes to sign a contract somewhere in the coming weeks. He has been linked with Celtic Glasgow, Fulham and Wigan Athletic; but so far nothing has come through. Hildebrand also has hopes he could return to VfB Stuttgart as the club go into the season without the retired Lehmann and young Jens Ulreich as the number one, which isn't to the liking of coach Christian Gross.

Another big casualty has been Michael Rensing. Two years ago the now 26 year old was the heir of legendary Oliver Kahn at Bayern Munich, but the young keeper could never get out of the shadows of his former team mate, too many blunders and a turbulent season with Juergen Klinsmann in-charge. Bayern had brought in Hans-Joerg Butt as back-up who suddenly became the clubs number one and this summer even went on to be part of the German national team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. For Rensing it was the end of the road at Bayern and the keeper now is looking at options, but until now those options aren't there in Germany. Now Rensing is also being linked with a move to the Premier League. The latest rumour links him with West Ham United as understudy of England's Robert Green. That would surely make interesting competition.

Sabtu, 21 Agustus 2010

Goa Charity Match: Dempo win on penalties

Dempo Sports Club started the season the way the last season ended with a title. But Dempo needed a penalty shootout win to get past Vasco SC in the season opening Goa FA Charity Match held at Tilak Maidan, Vasco. The match had ended in a one-all draw in regulation time and Dempo won the penalty shootout 5-4 as Donald Rocha was the culprit for Vasco missing from the spot.

Dempo are set to miss a number of regulars for the next few months as they are with the Indian national team and coach Armando Colaco has put together a new, younger outfit to defend the I-League title and also play for the Goa Professional League title. But the team still has the quality to win matches as Armando has been active in the transfer season to bring in players who will have to replace seasoned campaigners like Mahesh Gawli, Samir Naik, Anthony Pereira, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda and newly signed keeper Subhashish Roy Chowdhury.

Dempo took an early fifth minute lead when Nicolau Borges scored of a misunderstanding between keeper Milagrio Medeira and Queterio Pango. It was mostly Vasco thereafter but they could only equalise late in the match through substitute Christopher Borges. It ended one-all.

After the 90 minutes ended in a stalemate a penalty shootout had to decide who would win the first title of the season in Goa. For Dempo all five shoot takers converted - Valeriano Rebello, Joe Rodrigues, Godwin Diego Franco, Roy Colaco and Debabrata Roy. For Vasco keeper Milagrio Medeira, Prajot Naik, Jose Colaco and Bazileo Rego converted, but Donald Rocha's shot went wide and gave the GFA Charity title to Dempo.

VfL Wolfsburg = Volkswagen

Have you heard about German Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg? Some of you might remember that they surprisingly won the 2009 Bundesliga title under then manager Felix Magath. But otherwise they are a rather unknown club even here in Germany. Last night they lost their opening match against champions Bayern Munich, but the club has ambitions to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League next season.

The city of Wolfsburg with a population of just over 120,000 happens to be the home town of Germany's biggest auto mobile maker Volkswagen. And the bosses at VW have big ambitions with their VfL Wolfsburg. VW has invested Millions of Euros over the last few years to use VfL Wolfsburg as a promotion tool for their brand and car business. They build a brand new 30,000 all seater stadium, a new training complex and money for coaches to spend on player transfers.

The bosses at VW now want to ensure that VfL Wolfsburg establish themselves amongst the big boys of German football and had brought earlier in the year Dieter Hoeness as sports manager, while for the new season signed Englishman Steve McClaren as the clubs coach.

This summer VfL Wolfsburg has been the highest spending club in the Bundesliga investing 23,4 Million Euros. The club signed Danish defender Simon Kjær (US Palermo) for 12 Million Euros, Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic (Dynamo Zagreb) for 7 Million Euros, German international Arne Friedrich (Hertha BSC Berlin) for 2 Million Euros, Swiss youngster Nassim Ben Khalifa (Grasshoppers Zurich) for 1,6 Million Euros and on loan Brazilian Cícero (Tombense) for 800.000 €. A considerable investment for which the VW management will want to see positive results.

But VfL Wolfsburg and Volkswagen aren't the only example of corporate involvement in football. The other known examples are PSV Eindhoven = Philips in the Netherlands, Bayer 04 Leverkusen = Bayer AG in Germany or Red Bull Salzburg = Red Bull in Austria, the energy drink company which also has clubs in New York (USA) and Leipzig (Germany) and academies in Ghana and Brazil. Even we in India have such clubs like Dempo, Salgaocar and JCT.

In the end I'd like to tell you a small little anecdote about VfL Wolfsburg, which shows you how the club has grown in the last couple of decades. In the summer of 1991 VfL Wolfsburg were fighting for promotion to the 2.Bundesliga. And they lost in the playoffs against my home town club FC Remscheid due to a Carsten Proepper goal. But FC Remscheid only stayed a couple of years in the 2.Bundesliga while VfL Wolfsburg gained promotion the next season and stayed in the league for five years before gaining promotion to the 1.Bundesliga. Since then they have been in the top tier, while my beloved FCR now plays 7th division football after being relegated last season. This shows how important it is to have a potent financial backer to achieve something in football.

Edgar Davids returns

Former Dutch international Edgar Davids is returning to active football for English Championship club Crystal Palace FC. The 37 year old has signed a one year pay-as-you-play contract, which means he will only earn if he plays for the London-based side. Davids had not played active club football since summer 2008 when he left his home club Ajax Amsterdam.

For Palace the signing of Davids and three other players on loan marks the end of their transfer embargo which was lifted only yesterday as the club has finally come out of administration. And Palace manager George Burley is a happy man in bringing in such an experienced ex-international to Selhurst Park, but Davids will have to prove if he can cope with the pressures of Championship football at the age of 37.

David said after signing his contract earlier today, "It is an exciting time for the football club, and it is an exciting time for me. I just want to enjoy football and show the best I can do."

And manager George Burley told the club website on how the move came about, "We spoke to Edgar and had a meeting with him earlier in the week. The boy felt enthusiasm and he has been training with Ajax, but now its good to see us agree terms with him."

Davids has been around in professional football since 1991 when now Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal gave him his first start for the Ajax Amsterdam senior team and he would play his club football around Europe the next 17 years in a career that took him to AC Milan, Juventus Torino, FC Barcelona, Internationale Milan, Tottenham Hotspurs and back to Ajax.

Davids has been one of the toughest defensive midfielders to play against and while at Ajax, he was nicknamed "The Pitbull" by the then coach Louis van Gaal due to his fierce style of play and bite in the midfield. He has 74 international games for the Netherlands to his name and even captained the Oranjes for a while. Davids due to his glaucoma would also wear protective glasses, which became a trademark for him.

Jumat, 20 Agustus 2010

The tragic death of Ashesh Das

Yesterday I heard about the tragic death of promising 25 year old footballer Ashesh Das from dengue fever. And if the information I have received are correct then Ashesh died because of his own sheer negligence and the lack of knowledge about the danger of high fever which could be due to malaria or dengue.

Ashesh had been playing for three years for Calcutta Football League side Tollygunge Agragami, who currently play in the top tier Premier Division. And he had been regularly to pre-season practice until he couldn't come to training any more due to fever. He missed training for a few days before returning to training on Monday, but was send home by his coach. His coach Ranjan Chowdhury asked him to get himself checked properly by a doctor due to the fever, but the player took it lightly and his coach also suspects that Ashesh feared the medical costs for treatment could be too high though his coach promised him that the club would bear the costs involved.

Ashesh went too late to a doctor, was then first hospitalized at the Habra State General Hospital and then due to the acuteness shifted to a private nursing home in Barasat; but he simply came too late to seek medical help and died aged only 25.

But Ashesh is not the only footballer to suffer from dengue. Another player who is said to have been infected with dengue is seasoned East Bengal Club midfielder Alvito D'Cunha, who is getting the necessary treatment and medication. And other players who also have high fever are being checked if they have dengue, so they can be treated with the right medication so they do not meet with Ashesh's faith.

Here is what Wikipedia says about dengue fever and its symptoms

Dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) are acute febrile diseases which occur in the tropics, can be life-threatening, and are caused by four closely related virus serotypes of the genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae. It is also known as breakbone fever, since it can be extremely painful. Unlike malaria, dengue is just as prevalent in the urban districts of its range as in rural areas. Each serotype is sufficiently different that there is no cross-protection and epidemics caused by multiple serotypes (hyperendemicity) can occur. Dengue is transmitted to humans by the Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti or more rarely the Aedes albopictus mosquito, both of which feed exclusively during daylight hours.

The disease manifests as fever of sudden onset associated with headache, muscle and joint pains (myalgias and arthralgias—severe pain that gives it the nickname break-bone fever or bonecrusher disease), distinctive retro-orbital pain, and rash. The classic dengue rash is a generalised maculopapular rash with islands of sparing. A hemorrhagic rash of characteristically bright red pinpoint spots, known as petechiae can occur later during the illness and is associated with thrombocytopenia. It usually appears first on the lower limbs and the chest; in some patients, it spreads to cover most of the body. There may also be severe retro-orbital pain, (a pain from behind the eyes that is distinctive to Dengue infections), and gastritis with some combination of associated abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting coffee-grounds-like congealed blood, or diarrhea. Some cases develop much milder symptoms which can be misdiagnosed as influenza or other viral infection when no rash or retro-orbital pain is present. Febrile travelers from tropical areas may transmit dengue inadvertently to previously Dengue free populations of Aedes (Stegomyia) Aegypti mosquitoes, having not been properly diagnosed for Dengue. Patients only transmit Dengue when they are febrile and bitten by Aedes (Stegomyia) Aegypti mosquitoes, or (much more unusually) via blood products. The classic dengue fever lasts about two to seven days, with a smaller peak of fever at the trailing end of the disease (the so-called "biphasic pattern"). Clinically, the platelet count will drop until after the patient's temperature is normal. Cases of DHF also show higher fever, variable hemorrhagic phenomena including bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth and ear into the gut, and oozing blood from skin pores, thrombocytopenia, and hemoconcentration. When Dengue infections proceed to DHF symptoms, DHF causes vascular leak syndrome which includes fluid in the blood vessels leaking through the skin and into spaces around the lungs and belly. This fluid loss and severe bleeding can cause blood pressure to fall, then Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) sets in, which has a high mortality rate.

Kamis, 19 Agustus 2010

FPAI Announces nominations for "Fans' Player of the Year 2010"

The Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI) yesterday announced the nominations for the "Fans' Player of the Year 2010" for the second Lucozade FPAI Indian Football Awards. The Awards night will be held on Sunday, September 12 in New Delhi and AFC president Mohammed bin Hamman has been invited as chief guest.

The players have been nominated by the Indian football team currently training in Portugal. "All the players got together and nominated the names unanimously. We want lots and lots of people to come to our website and vote for their favourable player," FPAI president Baichung Bhutia said.

The players nominated are Anthony Pereira (Dempo), Subrata Paul (Pune FC), Mohammed Rafi (Mahindra United), Edmar Figueria (Pune FC) and Ogba Kalu Nnanna (Churchill Brothers). The voting lines are opened from August 18 and will continue to be open till September 10.

"The footballer who garners the highest number of votes will be elected as the Fans' Player of the Year 2010. Last time Sunil Chhetri was elected in the same category. He beat Jose Ramirez Barreto who had to settle for the second position," Jahan Mehta FPAI secretary said.

"I am very happy to be elected for the fans' player award. It is a great honour to be the most popular footballer in the country," Pereira said on being nominated.

Mohammed Rafi, also echoed the same sentiments. "I am very excited. This is my first nomination. I feel good," Rafi said.

You can all cast your vote at . I have done so and I wish all five players all the best!

About the Candidates

Anthony Pereira: Born in 1982, he is a player in Team India and is currently playing for Dempo SC in the I-League. Anthony is an integral part of the Dempo SC squad and his lightning pace and accurate crosses makes him a dangerous winger. He was part of the successful Dempo SC team which won back to back league titles.

Subrata Paul: Born in 1986, Paul is currently the goalkeeper of Team India and plays I-league for Pune FC. He has previously played for TFA before rising to prominence with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. In August 2007 he was part of the Indian team that won the Nehru Cup for the first time.

Mohammed Rafi: Born in 1982 Mohammed Rafi hailing from the north most district of Kerala – Kasargod – is the new face in Team India. Currently playing for Churchill Brothers, Rafi shot to fame last season when he scored 14 goals for Mahindra United becoming the club's player of the year.

Edmar Figueria: Born in 1984, the Brazilian striker after playing in Brazil, Switzerland, Germany and Costa Rica arrived in India in 2009 and played I-league for Pune FC. He immediately made his mark as the most successful striker for this new I-League entrant.

Ogba Kalu Nnanna: is an Nigerian football player who's a midfielder for I-League side Dempo SC. Ogba Kalu played a key role for Churchill Brothers SC in their maiden I-League triumph. He has been adjudged the best midfielder of I-League for two consecutive times. He has signed for champions Dempo SC for the new season.

About FPAI & the Sponsors

The FPAI (Football Players Association of India), India's apex football players' body, was set up with Baichung Bhutia as its president in 2006 and represents the interests of all I-League and first division footballers. FPAI is formally affiliated to the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPro), the worldwide representative organization for professional football players.

Lucozade is one of the world’s leading sports and energy drink brands with sales of £300 Million in its lead market, UK. Lucozade Sport is the Official Sports Drink of the Barclays Premier League. Lucozade Sport Football also has partnerships with Manchester United, Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC. Tried, tested and used by athletes worldwide, Lucozade Sport is one of the few drinks that have the approval of the World Anti Doping Agency.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

Bundesliga 2010/11 - A preview

The new Bundesliga 2010/11 season is set to kick-off tomorrow with the opening Friday evening game between defending champions FC Bayern Munich vs VfL Wolfsburg, their predecessors, at the Allianz Arena in Munich. And the fans look forward to an interesting season ahead with heightened expectations after Germany's strong performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Title favourites

Once more Bayern Munich go into a new Bundesliga season as the big favourites. And the question is really who can stop Bayern win their 23rd German title? Can it be the surprise package of last season Schalke 04 under all powerful coach Magath, the talented Werder Bremen, will Michael Ballack's return give Bayer 04 Leverkusen their first ever title or the high spending Wolfsburg under Steve McClaren, the first ever English coach to train in the German top flight. Questions over questions, but we will only have a definite answer in May 2011.

New Stars

The Bundesliga has grown as a league over the last few years and financial stability is one of the reasons why the league is attracting more and more big talent.

The first to mention is the return of Michael Ballack from FC Chelsea to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. A number of Bundesliga clubs wanted to sign the German star, but Ballack in the end decided that returning to his old club Leverkusen was the best decision for himself and his family. For the club a big investment, but maybe the push which the young team under seasoned coach Jupp Heynckes needs to finally win the league title.

The most surprise signing of the summer was that of Spanish legend Raul by FC Schalke 04. Raul left Real Madrid for the royal blues, a typical Ruhr valley working class club, so the differences couldn't be bigger. But making the switch with Raul from Real Madrid to Schalke is former German international Christoph Metzelder, who after three rather unsuccessful years in Madrid has come back to Germany to try and resurrect his international career. And that was the real reason for Raul joining Schalke as Metzelder played the connection which enabled Schalke to sign him.

Another big signing was that of young Danish defender Simon Kjaer by VfL Wolfsburg from US Palermo for 12 Million Euros. A lot of European top clubs were after Kjaer, but in the end decided to join the Wolves.

Players that have left

But some stars have also left the Bundesliga.

World Cup stars Sami Khedira (VfB Stuttgart) and Mesut Oezil (SV Werder Bremen) have both left the other way and joined Real Madrid. The clubs new coach Jose Mourinho was impressed in what he saw from the duo at the 2010 World Cup and now Khedira and Oezil will have to prove their worth for the Spanish giants.
Another German international who left the Bundesliga was defender Jerome Boateng, who left Hamburger SV for Premier League side Manchester City, but his transfer had been sealed before the World Cup.

The big inter-Bundesliga transfers were those of German internationals. Heiko Westermann left Schalke for Hamburger SV for 7,5 Million Euros and defender Arne Friedrich joined VfL Wolfsburg from relegated Hertha BSC Berlin for around 2 Million Euros.

Leaving the Bundesliga after many years is Brazilian right back Rafinha. It had been expected last year that he would leave Schalke, but he stayed on for another season only to be sold this summer for 9 Million Euros to Italian side FC Genua 93.

New Ball

The Bundesliga will also from this season onwards play with a standard league ball. Adidas is the partner and the new league ball has been named "Torfabrik". Translated into English it means "Goal Factory" as one would hope many goals are scored with the ball.
The new one ball policy which earns league and clubs good money means that all clubs, whoever their kit partner, will have to play with this Adidas ball in Bundesliga matches.

Capacity Stadiums

Germany is the league with the highest attendances in any football league around the world. Last season the figure was over 42.000 per match on average over the whole season. And with stadiums expanding their capacity further it could be even higher this time around. Already more then 460.000 season tickets have been sold which is a new record.

The summer break has been long enough. Let the new season finally kick-off...

Can Oezil make it at Real Madrid?

As I had speculated earlier this week, in the end it was a matter of the transfer fee. The exact fee hasn't been made public, but it is estimated to be in the region of 15 Million Euros. While in Bremen they say they made a good piece of business as Oezil would have been a free agent at the end of the season, Real Madrid say they signed a top talent for a low fee. Now Germany's Mesut Oezil has signed a six year contract with Real Madrid and has fulfilled his wish to join the Spanish giants.

In Spain the media is already going gaga over the Oezil signing. Headlines read in the big sports papers say "sheer raw talent", "the find of the 2010 World Cup" or "the German Zidane". About the last one, is someone is Spain reading my blog??? I had actually written a blog entry about this during the World Cup. Just kidding...

Here the link for those of you interested to read the story: Mesut Oezil - the new Zidane?

But for Oezil all these compliments and high expectations mean a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the 21 year old youngster, who has a lot of talent but who hasn't played through a full Bundesliga season without any ups and downs. Last season at Werder Bremen he started off with a bang, but in the second half of the season never could play on that level again. The same happened at the World Cup, surely he had exceptional games for Germany but also others were he was part of the team but no stand-out. At Real Madrid such ups and downs could mean the bench or sitting in the stands, something which Oezil at this early stage of his career will try to avoid.

And Oezil is rather an introvert. He isn't outgoing like other footballers, rather a calm and quiet person and at Werder Bremen it wasn't the hustle and bustle of a Real Madrid where every step of his can be watched. That he engaged to German pop singer Sarah Connor's sister will surely add to the glamour factor, but nothing that Oezil normally worries about. But he will have Germany team mate Sami Khedira there for companionship which should help both players settle in the Spanish capital. They are the second German pair after 1974 World Cup winners Guenter Netzer and Paul Breitner who play at the same time at the Bernabeu.

I hope that Oezil makes it at Real Madrid and that he has a great career ahead of him. But as written, it will not be easy...