Senin, 27 September 2010

Bundesliga: The Mainz 05 miracle

Have you heard about German Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05? If you aren't a regular follower of the German league then most likely you will not have heard about them. And then you would be surprised to see them top of the Bundesliga with 18 points from six matches, six wins out of six games. It's a rare achievement for any club, but a special one for the club from southwest Germany.

And being top of the Bundesliga was made even sweeter over the weekend with a 2-1 away victory against champions FC Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday. It just wasn't a rare win against the record league champions, but a demonstration of Mainz's current form. In the end even Bayern coach Louis van Gaal said at the post match press conference that Mainz deserved to win and if they continue like this they could be a contender for the title.

But small little Mainz 05, which calls itself a carnival club as Mainz happens to be one of the home towns of the German carnival, can judge their own high flight realistically. But slowly the series of wins is getting scary, a couple of more wins and then Mainz would create a new Bundesliga record. It seems all is now possible.

And who are the main architects behind this unbelievable success? Coach Thomas Tuchel and sports manager Christian Heidel besides long time president Harald Strutz. Heidel and Strutz have take Mainz from a small second division club, always on the bring of relegation, to being amongst the top 25 clubs in Germany. This is a phrase often used by clubs who tend to be amongst the clubs fighting relegation in the Bundesliga and are amongst the top clubs in 2.Bundesliga. But now the club is working to establish itself a little higher in the hierarchy of German football. A new 35,000 seater stadium is being build and the club has in recent years cleverly bought young, talented players cheaply and invested in the Academy before selling them on for a high price. The most recent example is that of André Schürrle, an own Mainz Academy product who has been sold on to Bayer 04 Leverkusen for 8,5 Million Euros for summer 2011.

The other factor is coach Thomas Tuchel, a 37 year old greenhorn, who coached Mainz's Under-19 to the Youth Bundesliga title before the club gambled in giving him the job of chief coach in August 2009, just days before the league started. The gamble has paid off as Tuchel has been sensational with the club and players. Though still young he is a tactical mastermind and has formed a young side which he can rotate to keep the physical burden low. Tuchel has already used 19 players in his starting eleven with Lewis Holtby, André Schürrle and Ádám Szalai the star performers.

It is a great football miracle happening in Mainz at the moment. Some are already comparing it to 1.FC Kaiserslautern in 1998 when they won the Bundesliga title as a promoted side. But one will have to wait and see for how long it will continue...

Minggu, 26 September 2010

Fed Cup: Semifinal line-up complete

The 32nd edition of the Federation Cup, India's version of the FA Cup, is currently being held with the semifinal line-up now complete. The quarterfinal group stage saw four groups of four teams each facing each other across three venues. While Cuttack has hosted two of the four groups, the two other groups were played in Ludhiana, Punjab and Goa's Vasco. This was a new format as in the last few years one venues used to host all 16 teams.

The first semifinal will see Group A winners East Bengal Club taking on Group B toppers Churchill Brothers SC on Wednesday, September 29. A day later Group C winners Dempo SC take on record champions Mohun Bagan AC, who won Group D. So it will be two Kolkata vs Goa semifinals with all equations of a Kolkata vs Goa or local Goa or Kolkata finals possible.

Cuttack's Barabati Stadium is set to host the semifinals and final, but the local organisers the Orissa Football Association has been criticised for the lack of necessary infrastructure, accommodation and medical facilities. Training facilities are said to be not up to the mark, while some teams are staying in the state capital Bhubaneswar, which is about an hours drive away, due to lack of quality hotels. And then there is the issue of medical readiness at the ground. In a group match Mumbai FC's Faizal Rehman M.A. went unconscious and it needed over 15 minutes for an ambulance to come to the spot to take the player for a proper medical check-up. It seems football organisers in India still haven't learned from the on ground death of Brazilian Cristiano in December 2004.

Group A

Defending champions East Bengal under new English coach Trevor Morgan are in terrific form. The Kolkata giants came into the tournament with an all win record in the Calcutta Premier Division and they kept their 100% record intact winning their three group matches to top Group A and qualify for the semifinals. The surprise of the group was that promoted I-League side HAL beat Pune FC in their opening match and finished second in the group ahead of Pune FC and Air India.

Group B

It was a close affair between Churchill Brothers SC and Chirag United SC in a generally tight group as the Goans pipped the Kolkata side on goal difference both having a win and two draws to their names, while the two other sides Sesa Football Academy and Viva Kerala finished with two draws and a loss.

Group C

As expected I-League champions Dempo SC came out on top of Group C in Ludhiana. It was an interesting group with local giants JCT, I-League newcomers ONGC and newly formed India Under-20 XI testing the might of Dempo's, but in the end the experienced side from Goa prevailed with two wins and a draw. ONGC finished a strong second, only losing their match against Dempo's; while India Junior XI finished third ahead of a disappointing JCT, who have lost numerous key players in the transfer period and need to regroup ahead of the I-League.

Group D

Record champions Mohun Bagan AC in the end made it from Group D with a thumping 6-1 win against closest contender Salgaocar SC after a shaky start with a 1-0 win against Shillong Lajong FC and a goalless draw against Mumbai FC. Salgaocar only needed a draw to move on, but the Goans were no match against the green-and-maroon on fire. Last year finalists Shillong Lajong FC finished third ahead of bottom rung Mumbai FC.

Football Players Association of India’s monthly newsletter

The Football Players Association of India (FPAI) bring out a printed newsletter for players and clubs. As I think many of you haven't had the chance to go through it, here is the August 2010 edition which was launched on the sidelines of the FPAI 2010 awards. Read and enjoy!

PRESIDENT’S NOTE - Baichung Bhutia

Right at the outset, before starting off, I would like to congratulate Deepak Mondal for receiving the Arjuna Award this year. It was necessary for a footballer to win the prestigious award this year. He has contributed a lot to Indian football and served the country for long. One can say he has become an integral part of the team and a pillar in its successes. Similarly he has been closely associated with our setup and is instrumental in its growth and development. He has been there ever since the inception of Football Players Association of India and has provided us with his valuable inputs.

I am sure most of my fellow footballers have come out of there well deserved break and have gotten down to the business of pre-season training. A big season lies ahead for us all. The national team footballers are of course busy with their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup in Portugal.

We are also nearing our annual award ceremony where we would recognize and duly acknowledge the efforts made by Indian footballers and coaches. Lucozade has come forward with great interest to partner us and become the title sponsor. This Award ceremony would be held on the 12th of September in New Delhi. Hopefully this year will be as successful as last year.

I would like to end by wishing all footballers the very best for the upcoming season!

Team Atmosphere, Happiness and Coaching Success - Armando Colaco

Q : What do you attribute to Dempo’s success in recent times?

A : There is a lot of unity, warmth and attachment. The seniors look to the juniors,
the juniors look up to the seniors. There is a lot of understanding amongst everybody. This is the reason why everything is going on smoothly, and I’ve kept the team together for so many years.

Q : Dempo was relegated many years ago. What role did you play to see that the club was safe?

A : I joined in the year 2000. I was a Dempo player. I coached them in 1989. And then I joined them in 2000 again when the team was relegated. I spoke to the boys, motivated them and told them that Dempo cannot afford to be in this place, and that we all must work together. Dempo’s success all started from there.

Q :What is the difference in recent years between Dempo now, and Dempo in the past?

A : Dempo were always great in the past, they had a good team, and we all came to Dempo, the best of footballers in Goa came to Dempo. The football which was there earlier is not there now. Now money is playing an important part into this, but nevertheless this team has won beautiful laurels for the club. The players have worked hard. They’ve won the Federation Cup, National Football League twice, I-League twice, Durand Cup, Goa Professional League, Police Cup, and Governor’s Cup. So everything is there for the taking.

Q ; It was a saying earlier that Goan clubs don’t perform outside Goa. Do you think that things have changed in the past 5 years or so?

A : Yes definitely. Earlier, and even now there is a lot of question about pride. There are so many teams from Goa, everybody wants to be on top. We have to spend a lot of money to come out and win something and that’s the reason why Dempo is going great guns winning so many tournaments. But this notion about Goan clubs not performing outside Goa is wrong because Dempo has won so many tournaments outside Goa, like Rover’s Cup, etc.

Q : Tell us about your personal ambitions. Would you consider to coach outside Goa or maybe the Indian team?

A : I’ve still got lots to learn. I’m working as coach cum secretary of Dempo Sports Club. I would love to, if opportunities come my way I would love to give a try, because I want to learn and I’m still a student for the game of football.

Q : Who’s your favourite Indian coach?

A : Some many coaches came, I cannot differentiate. I learnt from Peter Thangaraj, Mr. Basha, I learnt from our own coach Mr. Joseph Ratnam, Danny Mclainan. These are the coaches who thought me the finest points in life, and that’s where I’m going forward with their blessings.

Q : What’s your coaching philosophy?

A : I always make my players happy. If they are happy they give their best. If they are not happy then they won’t give their best. I always like to mix up with them, I don’t treat them like my players and they don’t treat me as a coach. I treat them like my friends. I speak with them, talk with them, dine with them, play with them, fool with them, joke with them, and sing with them. There is a lot of understanding between us and that is the reason why everybody takes me as a friendly coach.

Football Development - Vinay Murgod

Not every day do you come across Academies in football, let alone academies that focus on building character? United Poona Soccer Academy is extra ordinary in more than one ways. The first thing that hits you when you hear about this institution is that it works primarily with underprivileged children. Thus it is our responsibility to highlight such work and provide support to have more of such institutions to develop not only football but character in the country.

United Poona Soccer Academy was set up way back in 1995 and it works with urban and rural slum boys and girls between 5 to 18 yrs old to make them responsible citizens through the medium of football. The UPSA runs football development programs for urban slum, rural poor, destitute and for children with disability.

The UPSA’s football development programs have helped the youth from the urban slum and rural areas to keep away from criminal
activities and adopt healthy habits and peaceful life. The development programs have helped students to get selected and play at the inter school, inter district, inter University, interstate, open state and the district league levels and also earn creditable individual and team awards like receive best player ,best goal keeper and winning team awards at the different levels. UPSA conducts football camps thrice every year and gives away equipment at no cost to the trainees. The camp itself does not cost anything to the selected children. UPSA has started its own football training centre now at Sphurti study centre, 60 kms west of Pune in a rural area where children are trained on weekends in football, personal hygiene and spoken English.

The Football Players Association of India has contributed financially and also by giving moral support and guidance to UPSA. The money received from FPAI has been used to buy goal posts. FPAI also helps us financially to organize football tours to Kolkata and Hyderabad. They helped us has organize Futsal tournaments and friendly matches in Kolkata. The UPSA has also organized interactions between UPSA and professional players from East Bengal and Mohan Bagan.

With the help and support received from FPAI, UPSA has been able to develop the confidence levels, skills, techniques and a balance of these among children while practicing and participating in football competitions. The interaction with Bhaichung Bhutia and Deepak Mondal has helped the students of UPSA to develop strength in their character. The meeting with such high profile footballers has helped many students to take up football as a profession.

We have achieved a lot since our inception. The UPSA under 18 boys team placed in the top four in the PDFA league in the second division of the super league in 2010. The girls under 18 won in the 5-aside football tournament in the city. One of the girls got recruited in the Maharashtra government sports department as a sports officer. The UPSA under 18 team which recently visited Singapore for a Futsal and cultural exchange program where UPSA team beat teams consisting of Chinese, Malaysian and Singapore players in their age group. UPSA girl under 14 years old from UPSA rural girl’s development program was selected to participate in an international coaching clinic in Singapore.

Making India PROUD - Nirmal Chetri

Last season’s performance from East Bengal has earned him a call up for the National Team that will play at the Asian Games in November in China. He has come all the way from Sikkim.He speaks to FPAI with an open heart about his career –

Q : What is your reaction on being called up for the National Squad ?

Nirmal : It is always exciting as well as an honour to be called up to play for your country. Who would not want to don the national colours and fight it out for his country on the field?!

Q : How did you start playing football?

Nirmal : The Govt. of Sikkim had started a football academy in Gangtok’s Paljor Stadium. Sanju Pradhan and I grew up playing there. Air India had come down to Gangtok once to play in the Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup. It was there where we got noticed, while playing against a big team and from there to East Bengal.

Q : What are your hopes of earning Success in the upcoming Asian Games?

Nirmal : The team that is going for the Asiad XVI has played before in the AFC Challengers Cup and everyone is familiar with each other in the team. We are confident of doing well in the Asiad and definitely everyone will give their best. Everyone is charged up to perform for their country and make India proud!

Q : Last season was not that great with East Bengal ?

Nirmal : We were without much success and a lot of injuries last year. But, please do not forget that we had won the Federation Cup amongst other I-League teams. We had started off well in the I-league. We lost matches because of small mistakes and that cost us dear. Winning or losing a match always does not depend on individual performances. We have always given our 100 percent.

Q : What are your comments about FPAI and its work?

Nirmal : Under Bhaichung’s leadership the way the association has moved forward is definitely going to help the future of footballers in India. They can play with a sense of security as they know now they have someone trustworthy to go to with their problems. Personally, I feel that all the footballers should help and support the association as much as possible.


The FPAI Football Awards showed that there was some glamour in Indian Football. What we witnessed last year was too good to be believed. Starting from the awards to the players to the performances, everything was memorable.

It all started in November when Bhaichung Bhutia heading a press conference notified that India will be having its first Football Awards Night. No one could have anticipated that he was referring to the night which was a lifetime experience for all those who attended. The awards night was hosted a posh 5 star hotel in Kolkata – The Taj Bengal.. It was for the first time in the history of Indian Football that the past and present came together to glamorize the event. The list of guest attending the event included all major Football Stars in the country. Former stars like Mihir Bose, Biswajit Bhattacharya, Subhash Bhowmick were present along with the inspirational Indian Football legends like Badru Banerjee, P K Banerjee and Salien Manna.

The event started with President of FPAI, Bhaichung Bhutia delivering the welcome address and sharing information about FPAI and its motive behind organizing this event. Speaking about this event Bhaichung said, “An award function for Football in India is very essential. It gives all the players an added motivation and also a reason to celebrate.” Sunil Chhetri and Steven Dias kicked off the event in style when the duo put on their dancing shoes to perform in the song ‘Desi Girl.’

As the evening progressed the Awards ceremony began. The first award was for the “Best Young Player of the Year” the nominees for this category were Baljit Sahni (JCT), Subhash Singh (East Bengal) and Rakesh Masih (Mohun Bagan). Former Footballer Biswajit Bhattacharya and Subhash Bhowmick gave away the award to Baljit Sahni, whose award was collected by Bhaichung as the player is recovering from a bike accident.

Done with the first set of awards the evening now progressed to more surprises. It was yet another amazing dance performance this time it was Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Subhashish Roy Choudhury. They were certainly the twist for the evening dancing to the number ‘Pyaar mein Twist.’

The next set of award was for the “Best Coach”. The nominees for this section were Karim Bencharifa (Mohun Bagan), David Booth (Mumbai FC/Mahindra United) and Zoran Djodjevic (Churchill Brothers). The award was presented by India’s Sports medicine expert Dr. Vece Paes and Mr.Gautam Mohan Chakravarty (Police Commissioner, Kolkata). The award was won by David Booth, who came all the way from Mumbai to attend this starry affair and thanked his players and FPAI for honoring him with this award.

Thereafter the award for the “Best Player of the Year” (Fans Choice) was announced. The nominees were Jose Ramirez Barreto (Mohun Bagan), Rakesh Masih (Mohun Bagan), Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers), Sunil Chhetri (Dempo SC) and Anthony Pareira (Dempo SC). The award went to Sunil Chhetri who received it from Former Footballer Cheema Okorie.

To celebrate his award on public demand, Sunil stepped onto the Dancing floor once again with choreographer Sonia J. Sunil seemed to be the Shahrukh Khan of the evening dancing on the Number ‘Khudaya Khair.’

This amazing performance was followed by the award for the “Best Foreign Player” which was won by Odafa Okolie. The goal scoring machine thanked the Almighty for this honour. He went on to receive the award from Indian Football great and former Olympians P K Banerjee and Badru Banerjee, defeating the likes of Jose Ramirez Barreto and Ejjiah Junior.

Daniel from had come down all the way from Holland to perform at this event. Daniel is a freestyler who finished fifth in the World Free styling championship. Daniel’s performance was a real treat for the audience and he even got the Indian Footballers cheering for them.

The evening reached its penultimate stage when the award for “Best Footballer of the Year” was announced. It was a unanimous decision to honour the rising star of the Beautiful game in India. Sunil Chhetri won, defeating the competition from Anthony Pareria, Rakesh Masih and NS Manju. The event came to a close with an exceptional performance by Mehrajuddin, Subhashish Roy Choudhury, Steven Dias, Sunil Chhetri and Sonia J on the Tamil Folk song “Apudi Phode”.

It was an evening to remember and we hope that we have more such events to motivate the Indian Football players in the near future.

The 2010 awards are dawning upon us this September. We look forward to treating the audience with another fantastic show.

Portugal Diaries - Deepak Mondal

Whatever was lacking in our Portugal camp was filled up by the arrival of Sunil and Bhaichung. We played our first few matches with the strike partners. Their place was taken up by two upcoming stars, Md. Rafi and Sushil Singh, and they did not disappoint with their performance. But the difference the arrival of Bhaichung had on our spirits and confidence when we enter the field is something that cannot be comprehended.

This time our Portugal camp is in two phases. The first one at a place called Vieira and the second phase at Lisbon Sporting club’s academy. Such camps like the Portugal camp are always an exciting affair and something we footballer’s look forward. Before this, our first camp was here, prior to the Nehru Cup and the AFC Cup. To prepare a good ‘shape’ in the team we need to first have a good training system. This proper training is really not possible without the adequate infrastructure.

The place where we used to train in Vieira was exquisite and picturesque. It was the training ground of a local second division team, yet it was unbelievable the field was so good. The training ground is surrounded by Pine-like trees and forests. I have heard that Bayern Munich once trained here for their Champions League preparations. The area is so peaceful that nothing can be heard other than the sound of birds calling out. It is but natural that with such an environment and facilities we are bound to train well and develop the much required team spirit.

At Vieira, it took us half an hour to reach the training ground from the hotel. Our hotel was right on the beach overlooking the sea. Habitually we used to venture out onto the beach after dinner for some tea or coffee. Apart from this and training sessions, most of our time was spent inside our hotel rooms. We got Sunday’s off from training and that gave us time to explore the place. Since we have all come before, there is nothing new to see really. A famous church – Fatima church, shopping complexes and stadiums have all been visited by us. In our first time we also managed to go and visit the historic Benfica Club. Apart from some shopping, we are cooped up in our hotel rooms even on Sundays as we have seen it all. In a way it is good for us as we get the much needed rest.

This time around it is not only at Vieira but also at Lisbon. It takes almost 3 hours to reach Lisbon from Vieira. Right beside the Lisbon Airport is the famous Portuguese Stadium, Lisbon Sporting Stadium. Unlike how the Yubabharati Kirangan(Salt Lake Stadium) remains hidden behind darkness at night, the Lisbon Stadium looks spectacular at night.

We will be training at the Sporting Club’s academy in Lisbon. Almost 700 cadets train at this academy! It is here where Sporting’s future stars are tailor made. For a fact, Cristiano Ronaldo graduated from this academy! The Academy has 7 training fields, a World-class Gym and a Swimming Pool. At first we used to go the Gym in the mornings and come on to the field for ball training in the evenings. Later on we changed schedules and trained on field in the morning’s and were allowed to rest in the evenings. This was done because we were to play our training matches soon.

Many often ask us why we do not train in our own country and come all the way to Portugal for our camps. One can only say that you have to come here and see it yourself to find a justified answer to the question. After training in Spain’s Barcelona academy, Sporting’s facilities have been the best so far. The AFC Asian Cup is at Doha, Qatar. Thus, the management has also decided that we will be playing a tournament there, prior to the Asian AFC Cup so that we get accustomed to conditions there. This time the highlight of my tour has been the news I received that I am being recognized with the Arjuna Award. It was a Kolkata reporter who first gave me the news over phone.

I have been well supported by the team members over the years and all have congratulated me. The moment the squad at Portugal heard the news they were happier than I was as it was a glorious moment for Indian football than a personal achievement. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in this squad and members from my previous squad for making this possible. Our aim is now to do well in the upcoming AFC Asian Cup. We know that we have to face a very stern challenge being drawn in the toughest group possible with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain.

But with Bob Houghton’s coaching we are all confident that we will give our best and try to get some good performances out. That is why we have come to Portugal for our camp, to do well in our tournaments and with this I would like to sign off.

For more on the FPAI go to their website .

Togo plays in Bahrain, but not their national team

Some of you will have read about the story that one of India's opponents in the 2011 Asian Cup, Bahrain hosted African side Togo in an international friendly in Manama on September 7. The side from the Gulf won 3-0 against a poor Togolese side, so questions about Togo came-up and thereafter the news came out in the international media that Bahrain faced a team which was actually not the Togo national team nor any other official side sanctioned by the Togo Football Federation.

Bahrain is said to have paid the Togo FF and the involved match agent fees in the region of 500,000 US Dollar for the game. And it has become a major embarrassment for both Bahrain and Togo. Especially the Africans are now trying to put the puzzle together on who were the men behind the team, who were the players and who was paid the money.

Former Togo national coach Tchanile Bana, who is said to be one of the masterminds behind the scandal, is now 'on the run' according to Col. Damehane Yark, commander of the Togolese National Paramilitary Gendarmerie. Bana has openly stated he recruited the unknown Togolese players for the fraud team and he has already been banned for three years for to his involvement.

Football in Togo is already in turmoil as the Togolese Football Federation was last December dissolved by FIFA and an interim panel was installed until a new body could be elected. Those elections are set for October 16, in a few weeks' time. Also the real Togo national team had been attacked in January 2010 on their way to the African Cup of Nations in Angola.

The Togo Sports Minister Christopher Chao has ordered an investigation into the matter and first arrests have been made. Two men were arrested on Thursday for their involvement, the former sports minister and member of Togo FA interim committee Antoine Folly and the TFF's administration secretary Mamadou Doucoure. More arrests are likely to follow.

A really bizarre story, but it sadly isn't the first time that an African country is involved in something like this. I remember a story a few years ago about a match between Zimbabwe and El Salvador in Harare and the central American side wasn't the national team, some players weren't even footballers.

Sabtu, 25 September 2010

India shift base to Pune

Following their two month training camp in Portugal, a friendly game in Bangkok plus nearly three weeks of training and two practice matches in the capital New Delhi, Team India have now shifted their base to Pune for training ahead of their next three international friendlies. The team is preparing for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup to be played in Qatar next January.

The team flew from Delhi to Pune yesterday and today had their first training session at the Bharati Vidyapeeth Educational Complex football ground in Dhankawadi. Not all 30 players could train as chief coach Bob Houghton has a number of injuries, which is worrying our experienced coach. Amongst the absentees from the training session was captain Baichung Bhutia, who injured himself in the last friendly against Namibia. Baichung could be back in training in a couple of weeks and he aims to play the third and final friendly in Pune.

The international friendlies for October have now been confirmed by the AIFF. On October 4 India will face Hongkong, then on October 8 India take on Vietnam, while on October 13 India will clash with Yemen. All matches will be played at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune. And after the clash with Yemen the players will be getting off for two to three weeks after spending three and a half months together.

Kamis, 23 September 2010

Man Utd play Scunthorpe, Ferguson in Valencia

Alex Ferguson is one of the most respected coaches or managers, as they call it in England, in world football. Since 1986 Sir Alex has been behind the success of Manchester United, but this week he did something for which most other coaches would have been fired. While Manchester United were facing English Championship side Scunthorpe United away at Glanford Park in a Carling Cup match, the manager was down in Spain watching FC Valencia in action against Atletico Madrid in preparation for next weeks UEFA Champions League match.

Hearing about such an incidence people are bound to ask questions. Manchester United not only didn't have their chief coach at the ground but also played a totally different first eleven from the team which beat FC Liverpool over the weekend. So is the Carling Cup unimportant to the defending champions compared to the UEFA Champions League? One is bound to think so.

Over the years I have heard that assistant coaches and chief scouts have gone to watch upcoming opponents, even on match days, but never ever have I heard that a chief coach has left his team to himself scout and analyse one his clubs next opponents. The current match is always more important then upcoming games. I guess only someone with the standing of Sir Alex can do something like this. Or can you think that Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid) or Louis van Gaal (Bayern Munich) leave their teams to be coached by their assistants and they watch an upcoming opponent. Never ever would clubs as big as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich allow this to happen except in an emergency situation.

But it also shows the difference of a manager like they have in English football and a chief coach as we have here in Europe on the continent. Surely there are all powerful coaches like Jose Mourinho or Felix Magath who try to control everything, but in continental Europe you have a sports director or sports manager to assist the coach with the off field work and activities. I have even been told that Ferguson doesn't even attend all training sessions, some he follows from his office window.

Surely a different approach. And I was surprised that it didn't create bigger headline news that Manchester United were playing without their manager. They won 5-2 and maybe it would have made bigger news if Manchester United had lost. But we will never know...

Indian friendlies in October

Just a short one to keep you updated. Many have been asking me if I have heard anything about upcoming friendlies of the Indian national team. Yes I have, but a lot of things I have heard are rumours, so I won't be passing them on.

The plans at the moment are to play the international friendlies which will be held in the first half of October at the Stadium in the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune. The only confirmed game is the match against Vietnam on October 8. Another match is supposed to be played on October 12/13 against a West Asian side. Originally plans were to play Yemen, but then later on defending AFC Asian Cup champions Iraq have been named as a potential opponent. But the opponent for this game is still not confirmed.

Now today I checked the website which shows in its fixtures list that India would host Hongkong for an international friendly on October 4 in Pune. But be careful with those fixtures then the website had mentioned earlier that India would face North Korea and Turkmenistan twice but those matches never happened. So lets wait for an official confirmation from the AIFF about the upcoming matches.

What I can confirm is that after the match on October 12/13 the players will be getting off for two/three weeks before regrouping again in early-November for the final camp and preparations ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in January 2011.

2010 Commonwealth Games: India's nightmare

I had written a blog entry on August 5 with the headline "2010 Commonwealth Games: A disaster waiting to happen?" and now it sadly seems to becoming a reality. I remember a couple of month's back friends back in New Delhi who are involved with the Commonwealth Games told me, don't worry we have numerous problems which aren't public, but we will sort them out. It sounded to me typically Indian not to worry about problems which are weeks away, then we will take care of them in the final hour.

Now it seems this approach, large scale corruption, mismanagement, bureaucracy and the ambition to compete with China on the global sporting stage could haunt New Delhi and the first-ever Commonwealth Games on Indian soil. Things seem to be so bad that the CWG committee could consider calling off or postponing the games. And that would be a disaster and a national shame for India plus a major blow to the Commonwealth Games and its future.

Now the only issue is to salvage the situation. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has gotten involved, way too late, but he realises that the aftershocks will surely hit the brand India, his UPA government and the local Congress government in Delhi. The Commonwealth Games were envisaged to announce India's arrival on the global sporting stage, now it seems it could highlight India isn't ready for something so big. Hopefully the organisers of the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the Formula 1 India Grand Prix will learn their lessons. Luckily they are mainly privately organised and run, so will not face most of these problems.

But there is one thing will annoys me. Especially Australia, New Zealand and England seem to stress on the danger of terror. I was in Delhi a few days back and it was fully safe. Actually there are many more checks then we are used to in Europe. It seems to me that some nations have been looking for reasons to try and stay away, so terror fears seem to have been the best bet. Luckily for them they have found other legitimate reasons in accommodation, crumbling infrastructure, monsoons and dengue. What would they be doing otherwise...

But an Indian failure will not only have implications for our country, but for emerging nations in general. Especially Brazil will now come under the radar as the South Americans are set to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Stadia construction and redevelopment are already delayed, which will come under much higher scrutiny following the examples of New Delhi. And developing nations bidding for large scale international sporting events will have their problems as sporting bodies might now go with the safe bets to ensure successful tournaments and games.

Take e.g. the 2018 FIFA World Cup, England's bid to host could gain more international support as questions over Russia's capabilities will now rise. Especially after their handling of the catastrophic bush fires this summer. India is not only harming itself, but emerging nations in general.

My only hope is now that India can somehow pull it off and not embarrass itself completely and the people behind all this chaos are taken to task. I know that is a big ask, but lets see if anything happens...

Matthaeus to coach Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Football Union has named former German World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthaeus as their new national coach. The BFU was forced to hunt for a new coach after Stanimir Stoilov resigned from his post earlier this month following defeats against England and Montenegro in the 2012 European Championship qualifiers. And after an internal solution couldn't be made possible the search was expanded to across Europe. In the end Matthaeus was chosen, who has a lot of experience in coaching in eastern Europe.

"Matthaeus will be officially presented in a few days," BFU president Borislav Mihaylov told a news conference on Tuesday, saying that the playing legend had signed a one-year deal with an option for two more years at the helm.

Matthaeus returns to international football coaching with a talented Bulgaria, but they surely aren't as strong as the Bulgaria in the 1990s, the highlight being a semifinal appearance at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. And the most memorable win came in the quarterfinals, a 2-1 win against then defending champions Germany and Matthaeus not only played that match but scored his last World Cup goal for Germany in that game. Today Bulgarian football has numerous problems and their biggest star Dimitar Berbatov has at least for the moment retired from international football. And this will be something which Matthaeus will try to change.

Matthaeus has coached Hungary at international level besides coaching at various clubs like Rapid Vienna (Austria), Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), Partizan Belgrade (Serbia), Atletico Paranaense (Brazil), and his last stop had been Maccabi Netanya in Israel.

I hope as a friend that Lothar makes it in Bulgaria. He has the necessary football knowledge but his off-field activities and him often ending up in tabloids has not helped his coaching career in Germany, where he still hasn't been able to coach after ending his playing career about a decade back. Matthaeus often says he doesn't get the respect he deserves in Germany and now once more he has the chance to prove himself at international level. All the best Lothar!

Rabu, 22 September 2010

I.M. Vijayan leaves Southern Samity

Former star footballer I.M. Vijayan ended his first coaching stint by resigning yesterday as coach of Calcutta Premier Division side Southern Samity only a little over a month after taking up the assignment with the big league newcomers. What has been surprising is the fact that from day one Vijayan has been under sustained pressure to get positive results from his team for the club.

And very unusual for a small side from Kolkata, who just this season are making their debut in the Premier Division, is the fact that they have a good fan following plus a financially strong backer who has enabled the club to bring in big Maidan club rejects like Brazilians Marcos Pereira and Edmilson besides signing numerous Indian players from I-League Division 1 and 2 sides.

The club has aims to get into the I-League Division 2 this season and also signed Vijayan more for his big name then his coaching experience. Actually Southern Samity was the first coaching assignment for the former India captain and it sadly ended prematurely. Vijayan did cause some upsets, but the clubs results were rather mixed with three wins, one draw and four losses for their ambitions. And that just wasn't enough and over the last few matches Vijayan's job had been on the line, while fans had hit out at the former Maidan star and his players. It all ended after a 0-2 loss against Calcutta Port Trust on Monday as Vijayan himself retired before the club officials could fire him.

And what has Vijayan learned from this experience? Surely he has learned that in Kolkata you are not only under pressure to coach the big sides Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting plus a big name doesn't save one from pressure by club managements. After his first short coaching experience Vijayan is set to return to his home state Kerala and he would be on the lookout for a new coaching assignment. And Vijubhai has said that he isn't scared to return to Kolkata to try his luck again with another club.

Hopefully Southern Samity will give their new coach a little bit more time with the team to get the best out of the players. Only then will the club be successful and achieve their goals.

Selasa, 21 September 2010

ECA wants August FIFA date scrapped

The chairman of the European Club Association, Karl Heinz Rummenigge, in an interview this week with German sports weekly Kicker said that FIFA should consider of scrapping the August FIFA international match date especially after World Cup's and European Championships to help the clubs in their pre-season training.

Rummenigge said in the interview, "We must have two months without internationals after Euro tournaments and World Cups so that the clubs can work properly."

The ECA and FIFA have been working together to improve the calendar and general scheduling of matches in the common interest of clubs and international football. One of the first results is the switch of qualifier dates from a Saturday/Wednesday format to a Friday/Tuesday format to allow players from around the world to come back to their respective clubs a day earlier. In the past especially South American players often returned just a day before their next club matches on Fridays/Saturdays.

Now the ECA hopes that FIFA considers the issue of pre-season training of clubs and their problems especially after big tournaments to bring in their international players, who go late into their holidays which means that players also join late for pre-season training. The cancellation of the August match date would help the clubs and their coaches with the build-up to the seasons ahead.

The other issue which interests Rummenigge not only as the ECA chairman but also as the chairman of Bayern Munich is the insurance of players on international duty for their respective national teams. This could help resolve problems with injuries sustained by players on international duty. Bayern currently are unhappy about the long injury lay-off of Dutch international Arjen Robben, who came back injured to Bayern from the World Cup and the Dutch are not forced by FIFA regulations to compensate the club for such an instance.

Md Sporting fire Nayeem, are his coaching methods antic?

Kolkata's Mohammedan Sporting Club yesterday fired their coach Syed Nayeemuddin after a string of bad results and unrest amongst the players. The club took the decision after a board meeting which was also attended by Union Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed, who also happens to be the clubs president. The final nail in the coffin was Sporting's loss in the Federation Cup qualifiers against Northeastern minnows Oil India Limited.

An official said after the decision was taken, "It's best to part way with the coach, following our pathetic shows. Players were getting frustrated with his methods. He still lives in the past and swears by it. He has no idea about modern coaching methods. Worse, he is not ready to upgrade himself."

Somehow the same reasoning as was given in the past when Nayeemuddin was fired or released by clubs. And Indian clubs in recent years have become reluctant to bring in Nayeemuddin as their coach and this firing will not strengthen his case. And a question once more sadly comes up. Is one of Indian football's most decorated coaches in Syed Nayeemuddin, the only Dronacharya awardee in football, not willing to change his coaching and way of handling teams?

It isn't the first time that it has ended for Nayeemuddin in such a way. I remember being in Delhi in March 2006 when Nayeemuddin was the chief coach of the Indian national team. India faced Yemen in an 2007 Asian Cup qualifier at the Ambedkar Stadium. But the players were more then just unhappy in the way the coach was handling affairs, his army line drills and the long durations of his training. When I met the players before the game, they looked tired, even jaded and some just didn't seem match fit. The result was a 0-3 defeat and a few days later Nayeemuddin was fired by the AIFF.

Nayeemuddin should now go into himself and ask himself if he could change certain things before he takes up the next coaching assignment. Before the job at Mohammedan Sporting Nayeem had moaned publicly that no club was willing to take him. Maybe there is a reason for this. And I hope for him that he realises this and changes for good...

Senin, 20 September 2010

Real don't release Mourinho for Portugal

The Portuguese Football Federation is going through difficult times as their 2012 European Championship qualifying campaign has started off to the worst possible start. First a 4-4 home draw against lowly Cyprus and then a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Norway. The Iberians are under pressure after the first couple of games plus the doping test controversy which forced the team to play these matches with their coach Carlos Queiroz on the terraces. This forced the PFF to react and they fired coach Carlos Queiroz.

The search was on for a new permanent coach, but to buy time the PFF approached Real Madrid asking the Spanish giants to allow their star coach Jose Mourinho to sit on the bench for Portugal's qualifiers against Denmark and Iceland next month. But Real Madrid denied Portugal's wish which resulted in a reaction from their Portuguese coach.

"I don't understand why Real will not let me coach Portugal when I will have almost nothing to do in Madrid. I will have nine days holiday in Madrid while there are international matches," Mourinho said after the San Sebastian match on Saturday. Which did result in Real Madrid making it clear to Mourinho to them it is only about the club.

Today Portugal named Paolo Bento as the new national team coach. And Mourinho's reaction sounded a little different. Mourinho said that Bento had his support especially as three Portuguese internationals in Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and Cristiano Ronaldo play for him at Real Madrid.

Real Madrid showed their high profile coach his borders as he cannot decide whom he coaches when, the club comes first and he is highly paid to bring success to Madrid. Surely a model like Guus Hiddink at Russia and Chelsea FC a while ago isn't something which Real Madrid would allow. And Mourinho after his initial outburst over the weekend backtracked with his reaction today. Even a Mourinho is human after all..

Praful Patel: India in Top 100 in 3 years!

AIFF president Praful Patel on Saturday in Mumbai said, "Our aim is to break into the top 100 in three years. We have been sliding in the rankings consistently. We need to develop the infrastructure as well as concentrate on grass roots level development. That is possible only by making it totally professional."

So the AIFF president Praful Patel thinks that India can raise its rankings over the next three years to be amongst the top 100 in the FIFA world rankings. It is interesting to see that the president of our federation thinks we can achieve such an ambitious goal. But is it a realistic approach, if the AIFF currently is in no position to offer Bob Houghton the number of international friendlies wanted by him to prepare his side for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup?

The question has to be asked, but it isn't the first time the AIFF president is making such a statement in recent weeks. On September 12 at the "Football Players Association of India" awards 2010 night Praful Patel when I asked him about Indian football's future. The key as he termed it was infrastructure and youth development which needed to be developed over the next three to five years. So we need to judge Praful Patel and the AIFF as a whole on this in the month's and years to come.

And is it so easy to gain more then 60 spots in the rankings? It is a difficult proposition if we do not play in the continental qualifiers and ensure that our senior team plays and wins the SAFF Cup. Otherwise only playing international friendlies will not be enough for us to make this steep progress in the coming years.

Why? Simply put matches in the World Cup, continental championships ahead of the qualifiers get teams the most points, especially if sides can beat higher placed opponents. The least points are awarded for international friendlies. So the aim of Team India should be to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers group stage to play against higher ranked teams in Asia and cause some upsets and in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup ensure that we play the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. This would give our rankings a sure push in the coming month's and years.

PIO XI in the I-League?

If plans by some businessmen in the United Kingdom comes true then a team comprising of only Players of Indian Origin could come and play as a club side in the I-League in the next two to three years. Where the team could and would be based isn't known yet, but some of these rich and influential businessmen think that Indian football is not looking at the PIO angle seriously enough. And these players need a chance to showcase their talent to get picked for the Indian national team to take our football forward as per their thinking. These gentleman have come together and they are willing to push it from an idea to a project level where ground work would be done to see if such a plan would be at all feasible.

The players pool would come mainly from the British Asian football scene with a few players currently playing in lower level professional football (League One & Two) and a number of them on the fringe of the pro game at semi-professional level in the UK. PIO's from other parts of the world could also be considered for the team. These men think that a few of these boys could even play for the Indian national team and would be an asset to the Team India set-up as India tries to develop the game in the coming years.

The men behind the project have so far not communicated with the All India Football Federation nor with anyone else in India, but it surely sounds to be an interesting approach which needs to be explored. And it needs to be seen if the project sees the day of light and what authorities in India would think about such an approach. There is already a lot of scepticism on the India Under-19 team playing in the league and getting a so-called alien team involved might not be the right step for the I-League, but on the other side might be a good step for Indian football.

But first of all it needs to be seen if the project sees the light of day.
And to me the crucial question is where could such a club be based? Can such a team of PIO's create local support somewhere in India where pro football hasn't caught-up yet? Surely a difficult sell, but not impossible...

Minggu, 19 September 2010

The crazy German Bundesliga

The 2010/11 German Bundesliga season is only four rounds old, but the league has once more started with numerous surprises that the current standings towards the end of the season would be a major upset. The leagues only team without dropping points are Bundesliga minnows FSV Mainz 05, 12 points from four matches; while last seasons runners-up FC Schalke 04 are the leagues only team without any points with four defeats from four matches.

The Bundesliga is one of the most competitive amongst Europe's top football leagues where on their day small sides can beat top teams. On most occasions the league is won by the bigger sides, but at least at the start of the season especially after World Cup's and European Championships the smaller sides who have a strong start can surprise the established one's.

This year it is FSV Mainz 05's turn who have taken the league by storm. But behind Mainz's success there is a system which is continued growth over the last decade and a half from a small 2.Bundesliga which reached its climax for the moment by topping the Bundesliga for the first time in the history of the club. And under young coach Thomas Tuchel the club has transformed itself with a self belief in their potential.

On the other side of the table are FC Schalke 04 who have disappointed in a big way so far. Coach Felix Magath has changed most of his first eleven by sending away costly performers and has brought in other big names, but so far stars like Raul, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Christoph Metzelder haven't been able to convince in the Bundesliga. And the disastrous campaign reached a negative climax today when Schalke also lost the Ruhr derby 1-3 against Borussia Dortmund.

The most shocking result of Round 4 was the 7-0 win of VfB Stuttgart against Borussia Moenchengladbach. Only two rounds ago Gladbach were riding high after 6-3 away win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, but since then the team has conceded 11 goals in two games, a 0-4 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt in-between.

And to round it off a peculiar piece of statistic. Current champions FC Bayern Munich has the worst attack in the whole league having only scored two goals in their four matches, both scored on the opening match day against Wolfsburg; but on the other side Bayern also happens to have the best defence in the league along with 1899 Hoffenheim having conceded only three goals so far.

FIFA World Rankings: An Indian disaster

I was not aware of our latest rankings on Wednesday afternoon before our match against Namibia when I was told that we had crashed down 22 places to be now ranked 160th in the world. I was shocked and couldn't believe it at first, but when I mentally went through our records of the last few years and the fact that we had not played any official international friendly from August 31, 2009 to September 4, 2010 then it was clear to me that this was something which had been coming for sometime.

But the ranking sadly does not show the real strength of Team India and of many other nations in the FIFA world rankings. Just take the example of India beating Namibia on Wednesday night, who are ranked 116th as per the latest release. So we are able to beat a nation which is ranked 44 places above us, a surprise or does it show our real potential? I would go with the second idea as I personally feel that the current Team India could be in the 120s of the FIFA world rankings and not a lowly 160.

The reason for such a low ranking is simply not enough international matches over a calendar year. We lost 47 points over the last month, which meant the 22 place drop in global rankings and a drop of 10 places to 33rd in Asia. Our opponents in the 2011 Asian Cup are in a different league altogether. Australia remains number one, South Korea number three and Bahrain dropped a spot to no. 6 in Asia. But what worries me more is that we are now way down the pegging order and this could harm us in the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup which will start sometime next year. This means we would have to go through two rounds of qualifiers for qualifying for the group stage of Asian qualifiers and due to our low rankings we could face tougher opponents.

Post the Namibia match I had the chance to speak to our national coach Bob Houghton and Bobby said one thing to me. "Son, don't look at the rankings as such. We need more matches and only then can be rectify our rankings." Surely to the point and hopefully the AIFF will organise eight to 10 full 'A' internationals ahead of the Asian Cup in January. And with the right results we could at least get our rankings back into the 140s ahead of the Asian Cup.

To be honest it looks odd to see ourselves behind Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal in the rankings plus only two places ahead of Pakistan. And I remember only last December our Under-23 team beat some of these sides to win the "South Asian Football Federation" Championships in Dhaka, Bangladesh. But that win does not feature in the rankings as we decided to play the tournament with our juniors, which was great exposure for them but harmed our rankings.

The AIFF needs to stay aware of short term goals and long term development. Both need to go hand in hand, only then can we develop.

Sabtu, 18 September 2010

Sorry for no updates

Sorry for no updates over the last few days. I have been busy in New Delhi and then travelled back home to Remscheid, Germany yesterday, so I just haven't had the time to write on my blog though I read and heard some very interesting things in connection with Indian football. Though some might be a little late, but will still write about them over the next few days.

Just to recap my 10 day Delhi trip, it has been overall great! Be it moderating the "International Football Arena" organised Round Table discussions on September 9, co-hosting the "Football Players Association of India" Awards on September 12 and then watching Team India in action on September 15 against Namibia coached by my friend Tom Saintfiet.

In-between I had numerous meetings, talking with people about the future of Indian football. And things are really looking up but things won't happen overnight as we need to be patient.
And I will be back in less then two weeks. So look forward to being in Delhi again...

Selasa, 14 September 2010

Looking forward to India vs Namibia

India's preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup continue tonight with a friendly against African side Namibia at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium. And I look forward to an interesting encounter between sides which have never faced each other in international competitions or friendlies.

While our coach Bob Houghton openly said at the pre-match press conference that he had little knowledge of his opponents, my friend Tim Saintfiet said he had heard a lot about Indian football from me and had also read a lot about it on our former website. I hope that won't be a disadvantage for us.

Bob is set to experiment a little tonight. Upfront FPAI "Indian Player of the Year" Mohammed Rafi will be getting a break and he will be replaced by Abhishek Yadav. Baichung Bhutia is still not fully fit, so could come on for up to 30 minutes. Steven Dias is out with a rib injury and Anthony Pereira will take his place on the right, while Clifford Miranda will replace Anthony on the left. Mehrajuddin Wadoo is set to get a start in central midfield replacing either Climax Lawrence or N.P. Pradeep. Bob doesn't want to change his back-line, but small niggles on Anwar and Surkumar Singh could force him to make changes with Deepak Mondal and N.S. Manju candidates to replace them.

Belgian Tom Saintfiet meanwhile informed the present media that Namibia had only brought players playing in the local Namibian league to India as the match was on a non-FIFA match date. Eight of the first team players are missing as they play in Europe, South Africa or Angola with Colin Benjamin at Hamburger SV in Germany the most prominent of those. And the preparations have been terrible to say the least as the players haven't played in their local league for the last four month's and no international friendly was organised ahead of their 2012 African Cup of Nations match against Gambia a few days ago, which they lost 1-3. But Tom hopes his boys will put-up a fight against an Indian team which he respects and thinks has made progress in the last few years under Bob Houghton.

Sometimes not knowing what could happen in a match makes it even more interesting, so I look forward to being live at the game at the Ambedkar Stadium.

The match is set to kick-off at 18.30 IST and it will be shown LIVE on Zee Sports!

News Video from the FPAI Awards 2010

Hindi News channel Sahara Samay had a crew at the FPAI Awards 2010 on Sunday night.

Here the news video on the awards show:

My report on the FPAI Awards 2010:

Senin, 13 September 2010

FPAI Awards Nite 2010

The second annual "Lucozade Sports" Football Players Association of India awards were held at the Taj Palace, New Delhi last night. I had the pleasure of hosting it along with Ayesha Sindhu infront of a full house. And it was impressive to see the media covering the event in such a big way with some channels even showed the event live.

This year Indian film stars like John Abraham, Rahul Bose and Nandana Sen graced the event besides Minister of Sports M.S Gill; Aviation Minister/AIFF president Praful Patel; Dr. Mukul M. Sangma, the chief minister of Meghalaya; besides a delegation from the AFC/FIFA headed by AFC president Mohammed bin Hamman besides representatives from FIFpro, the international football players body.

The evening started with a special welcome to the dignitaries, then Ayesha and I had a chit-chat with the FPAI president Baichung Bhutia about the work FPAI has been doing over the last few years since its inception in 2006. It was about what FPAI does for youngsters, the current professionals and ex-players. Baichung also explained that about 90% of the players had taken part in this years voting, a considerable increase with last year only Team India and the Under-23 boys taking part in the exercise.

Then came the first highlights of the evening, the felicitation of special achievements in the past year. Striker Sunil Chhetri got one for making the move across to the US to sign for MLS side Kansas City Wizards, defender Deepak Kumar Mondal for being the first footballer in eight years to get an Arjuna Award, while the third and final felicitation went to Baichung Bhutia for playing more then 100 matches for Team India.

But the evening was not only about felicitations and awards but also performances. Sadly this year the players didn't prepare any show acts like last year in Kolkata, but still there were some enthralling performances. The first one came from the Street Kings of India, four boys who are India's first professional freestylers. Thereafter the first award of the evening, "Young Player of the Year", was presented to Dempo's Joaquim Abranches by national coach Bob Houghton and Udit Sheth (MD/CEO of TransStadia). The second award was the "Fan Player of the Year" award for which the fans could vote online on the FPAI website and choose amongst five candidates. The award went to our international goalkeeper Subrata Pal, who received the awards from Sports Minister M.S. Gill and Subhojit Sen (GSK India). The third award was the "Coach of the Year" and the winner Armando Colaco, Dempo's successful coach, received it from AFC president Mohammed bin Hamman and FIFpro Asia chairman Brendan Schwab.

Thereafter it was another break and the duo of Sandeep and Sanjeev Vyas pelted out of Desi and international numbers which really got the crowd going. We were three awards down and three more to go. The next award was handed over by the Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr. Mukul M. Sangma along with actor Rahul Bose. It was the "Foreign Player of the Year" award which once more went to Churchill Brothers' Nigerian sharp shooter Odafe Onyeka Okolie. Then came the newly constituted "Fittest Player of the Year" award which winger Anthony Pereira received from actress Nandana Sen and Subhojit Sen (GSK India). The last and final award of the night was the "Indian Player of the Year" which talented striker Mohammed Rafi received from AIFF president Praful Patel and Bollywood star John Abraham.

Thereafter Joy Bhattacharjya thanked everyone involved and the finale saw the winners and film stars return on stage with Sandeep and Sanjeev Vyas singing a couple of songs before the photographers had a chance to do a group photo with everyone still on stage. This marked the end of the official proceedings. Thereafter was the official dinner and the after party for invited guests, while some of us had to rush across next door for the official press conference. First I had to conduct one with Baichung Bhutia and the film stars John Abraham, Rahul Bose and Nandana Sen; while thereafter it was with all the winners.

I would like to congratulate Baichung, Jahan, Debanjan, Joy and all others involved with the FPAI Awards for a grand evening! You have set a high benchmark for next year. Thanks Bhai & Jahan for allowing me to be a part of it.
And it was great fun working with you Ayesha!

Pictures from the FPAI Awards evening .

Sabtu, 11 September 2010

IFA Round Table fosters dialogue

The first-ever "International Football Arena" Round Table was held at the Imperial in New Delhi on Thursday. It also happened to be the IFA's first event on India soil as India had been a topic at their Zurich Congress in November 2008. And I personally feel it was a successful day of discussions. It gave people the chance to understand the problems and opportunities within Indian football, also creating the chance of dialogue amongst the stakeholders. And this clearly looks to be missing currently in Indian football.

The Round Table was a closed door event with presence from the AIFF, national coach Bob Houghton, I-League clubs, Academies, corporates, sponsors, international sports brands along with international guests from Chelsea FC (England) and Portugal. This group of 20 people came together for the round table, which was actually square, but it did serve its purpose of allow people with different backgrounds and knowledge to talk about Indian football.

And we need more such forms of interaction as people showed their passion for Indian football, but also discussed critical issues linked to development. This also made my job easier as the moderator as I didn't have to push participants too much to take part as they were willing to interact.

Amongst the topics discussed were the I-League and its professional future, why the AIFF decided to field their own Under-19 team in the I-League, the streamlining and standardization of the calendar, Foreign Clubs and their entry into the market, Team India's future and should we have a Football IPL.

Selasa, 07 September 2010

Finally a home game tonight

India is finally to play a home international after more then a year. After Saturday's loss to Thailand the two sides meet again tonight at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium. Incidentally the last match was last years 'ONGC' Nehru Cup final against Syria on August 31 which India won on penalties at the same venue, Bob's preferred ground in India.

India is set to use the same starting eleven as on Saturday. Subrata Pal will once more start in goal with Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh and Mahesh Gawli as the back four; Climax Lawrence and N.P. Pradeep in central midfield with Steven Dias and Anthony Pereira on the wings; while Sunil Chhetri and Mohammed Rafi upfront. Climax will once more lead the team onto the pitch in the absence of Baichung Bhutia.

Bob had considered of bringing Renedy Singh in place of Climax, but the Manipuri is out injured and once more it is a hamstring problem. The only other player injured at the moment is wing back Samir Naik, otherwise the squad is fit and maybe we will get a glimpse of Baichung back in action, but one will have to see.

The match is set to kick-off at 18.30 IST and it will be shown LIVE on Zee Sports!

Delhi Airport's Terminal 3 - Incredible!

Those of you who know me better know that I am very interested in aviation, be it in the aircraft's, airlines and also airports. Actually when I was younger I had the ambition of becoming a pilot but my bad eyes didn't allow me to pursue a career in aviation. Still my work in football allows me to travel around the world and it is one of the things I really enjoy in my work. I know there are friends and colleagues who rather stay in one place then travel around the globe, but getting to know people and cultures is an added bonus on the job.

Yesterday when I arrived in New Delhi I for the first time had the pleasure of landing at the brand new Terminal 3 which has been in construction for a number of years. Last time around in May 2010 I still had to use the old and run down Terminal 2, which just wasn't up to the mark anyone.

You come out of the aircraft through one of the new aero-bridges and one of the first things you notice will be the multicoloured logo of the airport and the carpet which has been kept in that multicolour tone. I really liked its look and the arrivals area close to the aircraft is really spacious, but now it is a long walk to immigration and then baggage claim. That will always be a problem with bigger airports as you have to walk sometimes much much more, take e.g. Heathrow, Schiphol, Frankfurt Rhein-Main, or Dubai's Terminal 3.

You then come out and are greeted by the pick-up service of the hotel, but the driver directly warns you, "Sir, it will be a long walk up to the car." No issues for me, but I could see travellers around me moaning that they have to walk a kilometre or two to get the multi-level car park. This might be one of the weaknesses of the new Terminal that there seems to be no hotel pick-up car park close-by. I guess if too many high profile people complain then there will have to be something worked out.

Overall a great experience for me, but one could see that Terminal 3 and its surrounding areas are still very much under construction. And loads of work is still to be finished to say the Terminal is fully operational.

Senin, 06 September 2010

International Football Arena: Round Table in New Delhi

The first-ever IFA Round Table will take place in New Delhi on Thursday, September 9 at the The Imperial hotel in central Delhi. A few hand-picked experts will discuss in a close door event the current situation of the Indian football market plus look at ways in which Indian football can develop and move forward in the coming years. I have been given the task to moderate and guide the talks and discussions over the day. And I hope we will not just talk, but have fruitful discussions which will take Indian football forward.

The Zurich-based International Football Arena is organising the round table. It is their first such round table event plus their first-ever event into India. The IFA has been organising a yearly football congress in Zurich for over a decade and since 2006 a second event has been held each year in Asia. They have held events in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, now New Delhi is being added to that list while Qatar is set to host the next event in January 2011 during the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

The IFA conferences are designed to facilitate the global transfer of knowledge within the world of football. Over the years, IFA has become the leading marketplace for quality encounters within the football industry. It is the leading and foremost event for the business of football and football's global leaders.

And India is not new as a theme for IFA. In November 2008 India was one of the headline topics on their 10th anniversary. The event was held at the auditorium of FIFA House in Zurich and I had the honour and task of making a 40 minute introductory speech-cum-lecture on Indian football's past, present and possible future with two panel discussions to follow it up.

September 9, 2010
The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi

Timetable for Day

10.00 Welcome coffee

10.30 – 12.30 IFA Round Table Part I

12.30 – 14.00 Lunch, 1911 Restaurant

14.00 – 16.30 IFA Round Table Part II (with a break in-between)

16.30 – 17.00 Cocktail reception

17.00 – 18.00 Media Round Table

For more on the International Football Arena go to their website .

Minggu, 05 September 2010

Owen Hargreaves - End of the road?

Canadian born English international Owen Hargreaves was once a talented midfielder with a great international career ahead of him, but a recurring patellar tendinitis problem has restricted him to very few club appearances over the last couple of seasons. Actually his minutes for the first team could be counted, they have been so few. Now over the weekend United manager Alex Ferguson left Hargreaves out of the 25 players list registered with UEFA for the Champions League 2010/11, which is another major drawback for the midfielder as United have a small squad and there was place on the list for him to be registered.

And this raises a bigger question. Is this step by Sir Alex the start of the end of the road for Hargreaves at Manchester United? Hargreaves was signed in 2007 by Ferguson for around 25 Million Euros from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after impressing at the German club for years, also becoming one of the key players for the English national team. But since coming to England he has only played 26 matches over three seasons and most of those games were actually in season one.

Hargreaves has had numerous operations on his patellar tendinitis problem, but so far it could not be fixed in such a way which would allow Hargreaves to play regularly without pain. And at the age of only 29 the question comes up if Hargreaves will ever return to play top class football. Last season he had hopes of making a comeback in the later part of the season and also making a late push for an England spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, but that was not to be.

At least there is good news for Hargreaves as Ferguson has registered him for the English Premier League and if he gets a few matches for the reserves under his belt then he might become at least a candidate for the bench. But Hargreaves still has a way to go to make it back. And I hope he makes it back as it would be a sad premature end to a already successful career.

Indian Transfers 2010

Over the last few weeks I have been putting together the Indian Transfers 2010 and now with the transfer period over, here is the list of some very interesting transfers.
A lot of clubs have signed news players, while most players of disbanded Mahindra United have been able to find a new team.

I have created a separate page for the transfers 2010, so that you can easily access them. You find them under: .

I will continue to update the page with more and more transfer information coming in over the coming days and weeks!

Sabtu, 04 September 2010

The French nightmare continues

France and its football fans would have hoped that last night a new era for the Equipe Tricolore would start under new coach Laurant Blanc. But the nightmare continues as France lost 0-1 against Belarus at the Stade de France and are now once more under pressure after only the first game in their 2012 European Championship qualifying group.

Substitute Sergej Kisljak scored the winner in the 86th minute for Belarus in a match which the French should have never lost as Belarus didn't really have any chances in the entire match. And to add to it, the goal was scored after Alexandr Hleb was in an offside position to add further misery for the French. But France played badly still they could and should have won the match with their few chances. And now Blanc will have to worry as France travel to face Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday.

And the French Football Federation (FFF) will have to ask itself the question if the suspensions against their senior players Jeremy Toulalon (one match), Franck Ribery (three matches) and World Cup captain Patrice Evra (five matches) is now hurting rather its own team, then the player concerned. Then till date the FFF has not openly acknowledged that the real problem at the World Cup was coach Raymond Domenech and his handling of affairs. The players only reacted to events which took place in and around the French team over the last few years. Surely Nicolas Anelka's half time reaction cannot be pardoned, but Domenech had opened a pandora's box through his behaviour and treatment of players which is still haunting the French even after he has left.

And what can the FFF do now? Is it better to lose face and say, we take the players back in the interest of French football and let coach Laurant Blanc work with these so-called difficult characters or keep the suspensions in place and let French football suffer by not qualifying for the 2012 European Championships. If I had a choice then I would surely take option one and publicly say it was a mistake to suspend the players.

But will the French football administrators openly say that they were wrong. I have severe doubts...

Thailand beat India by a lone goal

Sarayoot Chikamdee's goal gave Thailand a 1-0 win against India in the first of the two friendlies between the two sides at the Yamaha Stadium in Nonthaburi, outside of Bangkok. The two sides will face each other again on upcoming Wednesday at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium.

India coach Bob Houghton brought the expected side with only one change as experienced Mahesh Gawli replaced N.S. Manju in the left back position. And in the absence of regular captain Baichung Bhutia, Climax Lawrence had the honour of leading the team in the friendly.

Thailand looked a little bit more polished in their approach and they did have the better chances in the game. The first chance of the match was Thailand's in the 4th minute when Teerasil Dangda's shot hit the Indian crossbar with Subrata Pal beaten. And the Thais initially kept up the pressure as India found the going tough in the hot and humid conditions. It meant a lot of work for Subrata and the men infront of him Surkumar, Anwar, Mangi and Mahesh as Thailand kept up the pressure with India not find a way to stop the constant attacks. But towards the end of the first session things got more even and India suddenly also had their chances to go ahead. First a couple of Steven Dias free kicks didn't cause any problems to the Thais and then on the stroke of half time the ball somehow travelled to an unmarked Sunil Chhetri, whose shot from inside the box hits the crossbar and goes out. It remained goalless at the break.

After resumption a much more open game developed with still the Thais being the better of the two sides as both teams looked for their first goal and after the hour mark the Thais again had more of the game with Anwar and Subrata having to come to their teams rescue a few times. Subrata's best save of the day came in the 65th minute when a cross from Teerasil Dangda is headed goalwards by striker Sarayoot Chikamdee, but India's No.1 somehow got his hands to the ball for a sensational save as he stirs the ball over the crossbar. On the other side India had a good chance to take the lead in the 68th minute when substitute Clifford Miranda played the ball into the middle for Mohammed Rafi, but the debutants shot is blocked by the Thai keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool. And then in the 73rd minute the Thais score the winner after a good build-up on the right, the ball comes to striker Sarayoot Chikamdee, who turns and places the ball into the far corner of the net with Subrata unable to get to it with his outstretched hands. It is the time for substitutions and this hampers the flow of the game with a lot of lost balls on both sides, but Thailand remain the more dangerous side as they have late chances to double their score. The match ends 1-0 for Thailand and India has a chance to reverse the result on Wednesday in Delhi when the two sides meet again for another friendly.

Match stats

Goals: 1-0 Sarayoot Chikamdee (73').

18-Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool; 20-Panupong Wongsa, 21-Surajit Jantakul (12-Ponlawat Wangkahad), 2-Theeratorn Boonmatan, 4-Chonlatit Jantakam; 19-Phichitphong Choeichiu, 7-Datsakorn Thonglao , 8-Suchao Nuntum, 11-Rangsan Viwatchaichok; 9-Sarayoot Chikamdee, 10-Teerasil Dangda (74' 25-Pipat Thonkanya)
Substitutes: 1-Kawin Thamsatchanan, 3-Keerati Keawsombat, 5-Suttinin Phukom, 13-Ronnachai Rangsiyo, 14-Terrathep Winthoi, 15-Kabfah Boonmatoon, 16-Peter Läng, 17-Wichaya Dechmitr, 22-Kraikitti Keawsombut, 23-Surachet Ngamtip, 24-Anawin Jujeen

1-Subrata Pal; 17-Irungbam Surkumar Singh, 5-Anwar, 19-Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, 14-Mahesh Gawli; 23-Steven Benedic Dias (66' 25-Clifford Miranda), 7-Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep (80' 27-Mehrajuddin Wadoo), 30-Climax Lawrence (80' 8-Potsangbam Renedy Singh), 28-Anthony Pereira; 11-Sunil Chhetri, 26-M. Mohammed Rafi
Substitutes: 24-Subhasish Roy Choudhury, 3-N.S.Manju, 9-Abhishek Yadav, 18-Sushil Kumar Singh, 22-Syed Rahim Nabi

Euro2012 Qualifiers: Germany start with a win

Germany started their 2012 European Championship Group A qualifiers with a 1-0 away win against a strong Belgium at Brussels' Koning Boudewijn Stadium. Seasoned striker Miroslav Klose's goal earned Germany a deserving win against their neighbours and the first three points in the qualifiers.

Germany was forced to make two chances to the starting eleven which lost against Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup semifinals as both Arne Friedrich and Jerome Boateng were out injured with the duo being replaced by Holger Badstuber and Marcell Jansen; while the then suspended Thomas Mueller was back in the side. On the other side the young Belgian "Red Devils" did cause some worry initially for the Germans, but the longer the match lasted the more control Germany had over the proceedings. As had been expected Germany couldn't reproduce their World Cup form so early in the season still they showed their winning spirit to take home the three points.

Belgium looked to be the more active side in the first session with Germany committing too many mistakes and playing a lot of wrong passes. 17 year old Anderlecht sensation Romelu Lukaku had the first chance of the night but his effort was blocked by Manuel Neuer in the German goal before collecting the ball. And thereafter both sides had their chances in an open game with a slight advantage for Belgium.

But things would change soon after the break as it was a team effort from Bayern Munich players on both sides. It was the 51st minute as Daniel van Buyten tried to clear the ball out of danger, but it is blocked by club team mate Bastian Schweinsteiger, the ball goes to an alert Thomas Mueller who finds Miroslav Klose in open space and the striker slots home coolly past an onrushing keeper Logan Bailly. Germany could have doubled their lead in the 70th minute when captain Philipp Lahm broke free on the right, centred the ball for Thomas Mueller but his shot just went wide of the goal. Belgium did try to get back into the match, but they just couldn't really bother the German goal in the second session. It ended 1-0 for Germany and they now face Azerbaijan on Tuesday at home in Cologne.

A small funny anecdote from the match in the end, something which I have never seen in such a high profile international match. Belgium's Steven Defour came on as a second half substitute. Defour had been named as no. 15 on the match sheet and should have worn the number on both sides of the jersey. On the front he had a small 15 correctly printed on his jersey, but at the back it showed No. 14. It could have caused some confusion if he had been carded by the referee, but that didn't happen...

3rd International Goalkeeper Congress video (in English)

The English version video of the 3rd International Goalkeeper Congress held Zurich, Switzerland is finally ready. Here it is for you to view!

Here is the German version:

Jumat, 03 September 2010

Thailand vs India: Finally an international friendly

The wait is over. India will later today play their first international friendly match in over a year when they face hosts Thailand at the Yamaha Stadium in Bangkok. And this match marks the next stage of India's preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after the two month long preparatory camp in Portugal.

India first face Thailand in Bangkok today, then we host the Thais next Wednesday at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium and coach Bob Houghton will thereafter know a little more where his team stands four month's before the tournament. We now enter the phase were Team India will play a number of international friendlies to prepare itself for the tougher assignments ahead.

Thailand is ranked 104th in the latest FIFA world rankings, 34 places ahead of our own India. The Thais are coached by former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson and he has called-up a mixed squad of experienced and young talents to face India over the two matches. Thailand just about missed to quality for the Asian Cup, so are focusing on the Asian Games in November. And that front it makes sense that Robson has called-up some of his younger player.

The 30 member Indian squad is not fully fit. Captain Baichung Bhutia is set to start on the bench as he isn't fully fit for a 90 minute match after his thyroid problems. Stand-in captain Renedy Singh isn't fit either after viral fever, while Samir Naik and Baljit Singh Sahni aren't fit as well. This means that Climax Lawrence is set to lead the team.

The likely first eleven is set to be the strongest available eleven. It would see Subrata Pal in goal; Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh and N.S. Manju in defence; Steven Dias on the right and Anthony on the left wing with Climax Lawrence and N.P. Pradeep in central midfield; while Sunil Chhetri will have Mohammed Rafi as his strike partner in the absence of Baichung. And for Rafi it would be his official international debut. A remarkable development the now former Mahindra United striker has gone through over the last year.

In good news for Indian football fans my friend Chris Punnakkattu Daniel is going to have LIVE UPDATES on his personal site . Go to .
The match is set to kick-off at 18.00 local time (16.30 IST / 13.00 CET) .

Goa FA Elections: A three way Presidential Contest?

The Goa Football Association will hold their elections for new office bearers on October 24. And the elections surrounding the post of president is becoming a really interesting contest with three candidates putting their names forward for the post. The three names are Srinivas Dempo, Savio Messias and Peter Vaz. If others will file their nominations is not known at the moment.

Srinivas Dempo, Dempo SC president and Dempo Group chairman, yesterday announced his intention to fill his nomination papers to become the new GFA president. He did that at a press conference with current GFA president Joaquim Alemao and Shivanand Salgaocar, the president of Salgaocar SC, also present on the occasion. It seems that the key club owners in Goa have decided to name a common candidate, who they think is fit enough to do the job and fulfil the task on hand.

The current GFA secretary Savio Messias is another candidate who will stand for election of president of the GFA. Savio as secretary has done an excellent job to structure the GFA plus organise leagues and tournament across Goa in a systematic matter. His work has led to Goa becoming a power house in Indian football.

The third candidate to throw his hat into the fray is Peter Vaz, the president of Sporting Clube de Goa. Mr. Vaz has taken Sporting Clube from nowhere to the top of Goan football and then also had his team in the NFL and I-League for a number of years. Only last season Sporting Clube got relegated, but Mr. Vaz is working with his officials and management to get the club back into the I-League.

The last date for filing applications is September 14, while the candidates have up to September 21 to pull their applications back. The applications will be scrutinized on September 14 and if need be on September 15.

Srivinas Dempo announcing his candidature:

Wales: Money or Home Advantage?

The Football Association of Wales will soon have to take a difficult call on where to play their 2012 European Championship Group G qualifier home tie against neighbours England in March 2011. Currently the plan is to organise the tie at the Millennium Stadium, while coach John Toshack wants it to be shifted to new, but much smaller Cardiff City Stadium.

Why is the coach asking for the shift? The 74,000 seater Millennium Stadium is the national stadium of Wales, but often in qualifying and other friendly matches the ground is not full, often not even half full. The new 26,828 seater Cardiff City Stadium had last year successful hosted a friendly against Scotland, which the players and coaching staff regard now as their new home. And as a result next weeks home qualifier against Bulgaria will be played at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Also Wales' track record at the Millennium Stadium isn't the best. Over the last decade they have played 26 qualifying matches and only won eight of them, mostly against minnows of European football. But the match against England would most likely be a sell-out game and such a shift to the smaller venue would cost the Welsh FA most likely more then a Million Pounds. And the FA in Wales isn't one of the richest in Europe, so they need all possible income especially from such big games.

The question is then, do you want the money or use the home advantage? For John Toshack it is clear, he as the coach wants the home advantage at a small venue with strong vocal home support which could intimidate the English players. Add in an early goal for Wales to the flavour then you have game on. But then on the other side the Welsh FA has to look at their finances and does a Welsh win really give them a chance to qualify for the 2012 European Championships? A difficult one to answer...