Senin, 28 Februari 2011

Frings looks to retire

Former German international footballer Thorsten Frings is set to retire at the end of this Bundesliga season from club football as per statements from the player in the German media, but there is some confusion at his club who say that he still could extend his contract for another season. Frings has been playing in his second spell for SV Werder Bremen since 2005 and the club is currently fighting relegation from the Bundesliga.

The 34 year old midfielder, who was born in Wuerselen close to Aachen, has played 79 times for Germany and scored 10 goals. He had started his professional career with Alemannia Aachen before moving on to Werder Bremen in 1997. After five years in Bremen he moved on to then champions Borussia Dortmund and only two seasons on he left for German giants FC Bayern Munich. But he could never settle in Bavaria and returned to Werder Bremen for whom he has been playing since 2005.

In his international career Frings played both the 2002 FIFA World Cup and 2008 European Championship finals, with Germany losing on both occasions. But he will also been known for having been suspended for a push and shove on Argentinian players after Germany's quarterfinal penalty shootout victory at the 2006 FIFA World Cup which resulted in Frings being suspended for the semifinal against Italy, which Germany went on to lose.

Frings' international career ended abruptly in October 2008 after coach Joachim Loew dropped him for his no longer strong performances at club level. Fring had been an influential midfielder, more of defensive duties with a great shot and a sure-bet penalty taker.

What Frings will do after his career is unknown, but Werder Bremen would be willing to offer him a role within the club, be it management or coaching. But until then Frings will be fighting to keep Bremen a premier Bundesliga club.

I-League - Round 16: Loads of draws

The sixteenth Round of matches of the I-League 2010/11 were played on February 25, 26 & 27 across India.

Round 16 Match by Match Short Review
26-Feb-2011: Indian Arrows 1-1 (1-1) East Bengal Club (in Gurgaon)
Indian Arrows held their famed rivals East Bengal Club to a one-all draw in Gurgaon with the red-and-gold only themselves to blame for not taking home the three points. The India Juniors took a surprise early lead through Ongnam Milan Singh, but it was egalised by Reisangmei Vashum soon. Thereafter the Kolkata side had their chances, but Indian Arrows stood their ground and earned a deserving point.

27-Feb-2011: Air India 1-1 (1-1) Chirag United SC (in Kolhapur)
Air India held Chirag United SC to a one-all draw in their I-League match in Kolhapur. The Kolkata side took an early seventh minute lead through a lovely Subhas Chakraborty strike, but in the 36th minute Nigerian Okorogor Nnabuike Praise headed in the equaliser for the Airmen. It remained this way until the end as Chirag United couldn't break down the Air India defence.

26-Feb-2011: Pune FC 4-4 (4-1) Viva Kerala (in Pune)
Pune FC were held to a four-all draw by Viva Kerala in a match which PFC seemed to have already won as they were leading 4-0 by the 37th minute, but the Kerala side made an incredible comeback to get one point from the match. Pune FC looked to be heading for a comprehensive victory after goals from Brazilian Edmar Figueira (3rd), Gurjinder Kumar Singh (19th), Mandjou Keita (25th) and Shanmugham Venkatesh (37th); but a goal from P.K. Anil Kumar gave a lifeline to Viva Kerala. Two quick goals after the restart through Bello Rasaq and Felix Chimaokwu suddenly opened up the game with chances on both sides, but it was Viva Kerala through P.K. Anil Kumar who got the equaliser.

26-Feb-2011: Mohun Bagan AC 0-0 Churchill Brothers SC (in Kolkata)
In a match of former champions Mohun Bagan AC have only themselves to blame for not winning against Churchill Brothers SC at the Saltlake Stadium. The green-and-maroon had numerous scoring oppurtunities but either their finishing wasn't up to the mark or a Churchill Brothers player was there to avert the danger.

25-Feb-2011: JCT 1-2 (1-1) Dempo SC (in Gurgaon)
I-League champions maintained the pressure on the league's top three with a 2-1 away win against JCT. But the Punjab side took an early 13th minute lead through a Gurtej Singh goal after a mistake from Subhashish Roy Chowdhury. But Dempo have the quality to come back and it was Ranty Martins Soleye who equalised just before the half hour. When it seemed the match is heading for a draw Roberto Mendes Silva scored the winner for the Goans to take home all points.

27-Feb-2011: HAL, Bangalore 1-0 (0-0) Mumbai FC (in Bangalore)
HAL kept the points in Bangalore with a lone goal victory against Mumbai FC. The Airmen were the better of the two sides on display and the winning goal came of striker Malemngamba Meetei in the 75th minute to keep all the points in Bangalore.

27-Feb-2011: Salgaocar SC 5-0 (2-0) ONGC (in Goa)
Salgaocar SC continued their impressive run in the I-League with a 5-0 trashing of now bottom of the league ONGC. The Oilmen just couldn't stop the barrage of attacks from the Goans. Yakubu Yusif opened the scoring before Gilbert Oliveira doubled the lead before the break. Gilbert made it 3-0 after the breather before Japanese Ryuji Sueoka added a fourth. Yakubu would end the scoring with his second and the teams fifth goal of the afternoon.

Click here for the 4th I-League 2010/11 - League Table & Fixtures .

Minggu, 27 Februari 2011

Abhijit Kadam Memorial Football Cup

The sixth edition of the Abhijit Kadam Memorial Football Cup will kick-off tonight in Pune with eight teams taking part in this years edition of the tournament with the final slated for March 8. The tournament will be played at the floodlit Bharati Vidyapeeth Education Complex Ground in Dhankawdi.

With the I-League currently going on the organisers couldn't invite any of India's top sides, so they had to fall back on four I-League Division 2 teams amongst a field of eight sides. The notable one's are Sporting Clube de Goa and Shillong Lajong FC, who last year played in the I-League. These eight teams have been split into two groups of four teams each.

In Group A defending champions Pata Kadil Talim Mandal (Kolhapur) will face Simla Youngs FC (New Delhi), Guwahati Town Club (Assam) and Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya). Group B meanwhile will see JCB Bhillai Brothers (Madhya Pradesh), Sporting Clube de Goa, last time runners-up Amanora Deccan XI (Pune) and Golden Threads FC (Kerala) in action.

The Abhijit Kadam Memorial Football Cup is being conducted by the Abhijit Kadam Memorial Foundation under the aegis of the Pune District Football Association and the Western India Football Association with the tournament recognized by the All India Football Federation.

The champions would take home Rs 151,000 (1,51 lakhs), while the runners-up would get Rs 100,000 (1 lakh). There would be awards and a cash incentive of Rs 10,000 for the Best Player of the Tournament as well as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

United Sikkim's ongoing preparations

I have been regularly going to the training sessions of new professional outfit United Sikkim FC at the SAI Eastern Centre in Kolkata over the last few weeks. And one can surely see the progress in the teams preparations under coach Stanley Rozario and his assistant Satyabrata Bhowmick.

But the question remains if a team put together from stratch and in training for six to eight weeks can challenge some much more experienced outfits in the 2.Division I-League. Surely United Sikkim will have international players like N.S. Manju and Renedy Singh in their line-up, maybe even India captain Baichung Bhutia; but a lot depends on how well the team is able to gel and coach Stanley getting the best out of the players.

The coach has been focusing on the basics - passing, combinations, set pieces and seeing which players fit which positions. The team is a mixture of experienced players who have come in through Baichung's network plus some new one's from Sikkim and other parts of the Northeast. And there is some raw talent in there, if they can shine in a few weeks or if it is too early will have to be seen.

The two foreigners I have seen in action - Brazilian holding midfielder Beto (another one, not Roberto Mendes Silva from Dempo SC) and attacking player Johnny from Liberia look solid and skillful, while the Japanese defender is also said to be good, just I haven't seen him in action. A striker is also set to be signed. Only how fast they will adopt to Indian conditions will have to be seen.

United Sikkim had hoped to be part of the upcoming 115th IFA Shield, but in the end there was no place for the Northeastern outfit. The aim was to use those IFA Shield matches as competitive preparation for the 2.Division I-League. Now the club will have to look for opponents for friendly matches. Ideally to start with, easy sides to get some wins.

Sabtu, 26 Februari 2011

Bob Houghton: I am no racist

Still Indian national football coach Bob Houghton has made a statement and hit back at the AIFF that he is anything but a racist and reiterated that he would coach Team India in the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June.

The AIFF has at its Executive Committee meeting earlier this week decided to try and terminate the contract of its English coach and as they would have to pay heavy compensation for a contract running until 2013 they are looking at legal ways to get rid of Bob. The allegation of racism against fourth official Dinesh Nair in the India vs Yemen friendly last October does come in handy.

Bob Houghton in a statement said, "Further to reports in the media that I made a racist remark to a fourth official last year, I wish to categorically deny that allegation."

"Furthermore, remarks made by former team manager Pradeep Chowdhury, are the exact opposite of his comments made at a dinner directly after the match, wherein front of my staff he called the official in question (Dinesh Nair) 'a bad man' and insisted I had said no such thing. My staff are prepared to confirm Chowdhury's comments when and if required."

"I would also like to point out that I have worked in international football at the highest level for 30 years before my arrival in India in 2006, having worked in Africa, China, the United States, Uzbekistan, the Middle East and in many European countries and staffed coaching courses for the AFC throughout Asia without any such nonsensical allegations being made."

"I have no doubt that all the players and staff that I have worked with in India would confirm that I do not have a racist bone in my body and have treated all of them with the utmost respect. The only exception would be Pradeep Chowdhury, who walked out of his position as National Team manager just prior to the Asian Cup 2011 after an argument with me. I refer those who would wish to see a reflection of this man's standing among the Indian Team members to the FPAI (Football Players Association of India) website directly after his walkout."

Bob had also heavily criticised the AIFF, its functioning and the lack of infrastructure in Indian football repeatedly during the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. This has also not gone down too well with the Indian football authorities.

About these statements Bob added, "Regarding the other allegation regarding my criticism of the AIFF during the Asian Cup, my comments were limited only to facilities for football in India. They reflect exactly the comments made by Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hamman on a visit to India during my time as head coach, when he described India as '100 years behind' other Asian countries."

Jumat, 25 Februari 2011

Bundesliga gain extra Champions League spot

The German Bundesliga is back amongst the top three leagues in Europe and that means that they get an additional fourth place in the UEFA Champions League from the 2012/13 season onwards. As per the latest UEFA coefficient ranking England continue to lead ahead of Spain, but Germany have captured the lucrative third spot from Italy.

"Italy are no longer able to take over third spot this season," the DFL said in a statement. "The new ranking gives Bundesliga teams three starting spots in the group stage and a fourth in the playoff games of the competition."

And Italy will not be able to regain that third spot with whatever happens over the remaining European 2010/11 season in the Champions League and Europa League. The loss for Italy means a massive gain to Germany as it ensures seven instead of six teams in European competitions.

And now the Bundesliga will first target to ensure it's third place amongst European leagues and then they will push to close in on Spain and England. But will take a few European seasons.

Dutch club Den Haag signs MoU with Haryana

Dutch Eredivisie club ADO Den Haag has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Haryana Football Association and FICCI to improve and popularize the game of football in the state of Haryana.

The clubs coach, Technical Advisor and administrator along with their Under-16 team will be arriving on February 27 for the singular purpose of:

1) To open/start football academies at grass-root level in Haryana.

2) To hold workshops/clinics for coaches, referees, administrators in Haryana in order to update them on the most modern methods of football coaching, etc.

3) To play Under-16 football matches for Boys in different parts of both Rural and Urban Haryana.

ADO Den Haag Under-16 team are scheduled to play four matches in Haryana. They will play matches in Faridabad on March 1; Badli, a village in Jhajjar District on March 3; Rohtak on March 5 and Gurgaon on March 8. Along with the matches, there is a provision of holding workshops and clinics for local referees, coaches and administrators to update them on most recent methods in the game of the football.

Football has a taken a giant step in Haryana under the able guidance of the Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Haryana FA Deepender Singh Hooda with contributions also from Haryana Olympic Association president P.V. Rathee.

Haryana has emerged as a new hub of Indian football and has been the centre of conducting football tournaments both internationally and nationally. Haryana has the privilege to host more the 23 National Championships as well as International events at Gurgaon's Tau Devi Lal Stadium. The women's national football teams also use this facility every now and then.

The recent development in Haryana and especially in Gurgaon has given them the opportunity to soon conduct the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying matches between Afghanistan and Bhutan in the month of March.

Other centres in football excellence in Haryana are: Rohtak, Jhajjar, Rewari, Mahindergarh, Faridabad, Hissar.

HOA president P.V. Rathee said, "It's very important to develop a culture of sports in Haryana. We have good Boxers and Weightlifters but we are lacking in football. Through SPAT (Sports and Physical Aptitude Test) we will be able to determine a player and his potential in a particular sport. Further we will give them the necessary infrastructure and facilities as well as exposure."

"We also want to secure the future of players and for that, we will be providing them Scholarship and encourage a system of education that could produce both educationist and sportsmen," added P.V. Rathee.

Haryana FA secretary Sunil Bhardwaj said, "For past five years, we have had excellence at the Senior National Levels in both Men and Women disciplines. It was the right time for us to do something fruitful at the youth level. This was one of the visions of our President, Mr. Deepender Singh Hooda."

"With this MoU signed between HFA, FICCI and ADO Den Haag football club, we are expecting our youth structure to get more developed as well structured. ADO Den Haag is one of the leading football clubs in Netherlands and their merger with us will definitely improve the game at the grass-root level. FICCI will play a significant role in providing financial assistance," added Sunil Bhardwaj.

VIDEO: Player hits out at himself

This is one of the curious situations in world football. What happened?

Chilean defender Bryan Carrasco is expecting a throw-in from the rival Ecuadorian side in a South American Under-20 World Cup qualifiers. Bryan is in a tussle with Ecuador's Edson Montano, suddenly he grabs Montano's arm and hits out at himself, but the referee waves play on. Watch and laugh...

Kamis, 24 Februari 2011

IFA Shield to be 10 team affair

The 115th IFA Shield is set to be a 10 team affair with the tournament to be played from March 11 to 30 across Kolkata. The tournament, which is being held in the I-league break, is set to see six sides from Kolkata, three I-League sides from the west of the country and current Chinese C-League champions Shandong Luneng in action.

The final is set to be played on March 30 with the champions getting a record Rs 1 Million (10 lakhs) and the runners-up Rs 700,000 (7 lakhs); while the semifinals would take place on March 27 with the losing semifinalists taking home Rs 200,000 (2 lakhs). It is a big increase from last year.

The sides in action will be Kolkata I-League sides East Bengal Club, Mohun Bagan AC and Chirag United SC besides second division teams Mohammedan Sporting Club, Southern Samity and Techno Aryan Club. The participating I-League sides are Churchill Brothers SC, Salgaocar SC and Pune FC plus Shandong Luneng from China.

Other teams from across India and even foreign sides had shown interest to play in the tournament this year, but the organising Indian Football Association (West Bengal) could not accomodate them due to time contraints.

The groups haven't been made, but the IFA hopes to create an interesting mix to draw crowds to the matches with Saltlake Stadium, Barasat Stadium and the Maidan grounds of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal the proposed venues.

Talk of dismissal, but Houghton for the moment India coach

There is confusion in Indian football circles about the future of Bob Houghton as India coach. While some sections of the media have already written that Houghton has been fired, some others say that the AIFF is looking at ways to get rid of him and others say that it is a way of telling the coach not to openly criticise the federation internationally.

The Technical Committee had in its report stated that it was not at all happy with the performance of the team in connection with the money spend on the squad for their 2011 AFC Asian Cup preparations. And that does surprise then what was then expected from the team at the Asian Cup? Getting points, moving on or maybe winning the title. One surely has to put into perspective where India currently is in Asian football and for that we did fine.

But the AIFF Executive Committee accepted the position of the Technical Committee and even went on to endorse them. An AIFF release said, "The Executive Committee expressed its concern over the performance of the National Team and also expressed its unhappiness regarding the conduct and derogatory remarks made by Mr Bob Houghton. The Executive committee has unanimously decided to seek legal opinion regarding its course of action."

So it isn't really clear what the federation can do as legal advice could tell them to keep Bob Houghton due to his contract until 2013 or compensate him, which could be in crores with over two years of the contract left.

What makes this decision tricky is that India play the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in less then four weeks in Kuala Lumpur against Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Chinese Taipei. And if Bob is fired the new coach, who he is, will get less then a week to prepare his team. A mission impossible.

It will be interesting to see how this all develops.

Mizoram are Under-16 National champions!

Mizoram beat defending champions Jharkhand 2-1 in the finals of the Under-16 Nationals for the 33rd Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy at the Mohun Bagan ground in Kolkata this afternoon. International soft drink maker Coca Cola are the sponsors of the tournament and they once more tried to create some hype around the final with the ground all in Coke red and white, there was a DJ around and kids brought in to have some atmosphere.

The Northeast boys from Mizoram took the lead through talented striker Ramengmawia in the 10th minute, but that didn't last long as Jharkhand striker Syed Shoaib Ahmed equalised only seven minutes later. It remained one-all going into the breather with both sides trying to get once more onto the scoresheet.

After the break Mizoram would score the winner in the 55th minute through David K. Hmingthanga's intelligent chip over Jharkhand keeper Ranajit Das and they could have enhanced their lead through chances on counter attacks, while Jharkhand had more of the ball but wasted their few chances.

We saw some interesting football, good organisation and often raw talent with Mizoram No. 10 Ramengmawia being the pick of the players, but sadly he is way too short in height.

For Mizoram it was their fifth Under-16 National title and they received the award from Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia and Coca Cola India head Atul Singh in the post-match function which was attended by AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, AIFF vice-Presidents Subrata Dutta and Ankur Datta, IFA Secretary Utpal Kumar Ganguli and former India captain P.K. Banerjee.

Rabu, 23 Februari 2011

Me lecturing at the IISWBM

I have visited the Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management in Kolkata a number of times over the years, but I have only lectured there at their Sports Management course a couple of times back in 2004 around the India vs Japan qualifier for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Some of their students had then worked under me in organising the game as exposure and experience.

Now I was back at the Institute after Prof. Subrato Datta had invited me a few months back to lecture there once more. So on Friday, February 18, I was back to give the students a lecture/presentation about professional football in Europe with a focus on the German Bundesliga as a potential role model for the I-League and Indian football in general. And towards the end I had a special guest turn up in my friend and former French international Vikash Dhorasoo, which really got the boys excited.

I followed it up with another session on Wednesday, February 23 which was more question&answer then a lecture, where I told the boys more about how European professional football is organised and run; but also pointed out the problems of Indian football and sports in India in general plus that they as sports management students need to bring in professionalism into the sports that they would get involved with, learning best practices from around the world and focus on the sports persons & their needs.

I do speak to audiences and make a number of presentations over a calendar year, but it is different with students and I try to make it as interactive as possible so they learn something from what I am trying to teach them. And I hope it works...

AIFF Executive decides

The AIFF Executive Committee met today at the AIFF Football House in Dwarka, New Delhi to discuss pending issues and the situation surrounding the future of national team coach Bob Houghton.

The future of Bob Houghton
The Executive Commitee went through the main points of the Technical Commitee report which heavily criticised Bob Houghton. Thereafter the Executive Committee expressed its concern over the performance of the National Team and also expressed its unhappiness regarding the conduct and the derogatory remarks made by Bob Houghton. The Executive committee has unanimously decided to seek legal opinion regarding its course of action.
This has been done as Bob Houghton's contract had been extended until 2013 only last year and if fired the AIFF would have to pay heavy compensation.

Santosh Trophy
The National Championship for Santosh Trophy 2010/11 will be held in April/May 2011 in the state of Assam. The boarding lodging allowance for players have been increased to from Rs 450 to Rs 700 per player. There will be a cash prize of Rs 500,000 (5 lakhs) and Rs 300,000 (3 lakhs) for the champions and Runners-up.
Holding it parallel to the I-League means that top players won't be playing the state tournament this time around.

Federation Cup
The prize money for the 2011 Federation Cup has been enhanced to Rs 1,5 Milion (15 lakhs) for the winners and Rs 1 Million (10 lakhs) for the Runners-up.

SAFF Championship
Defending champions India will be hosting the upcoming edition of the SAFF Cup, which will be held in December 2011 in Orissa. But the question here is if Orissa can and should play hosts to an international football tournament.

Nehru Cup
The bi-annual tournament will not be held this year and will be conducted as part of the AIFF Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

SAFF Women's Championship
India won the first-ever edition of the SAFF Women's Championship held in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh late last year. All members of the Senior Women's Football team and support staff will be given a cash incentive of Rs 50,000. If I am right, a positive first in Indian football!

New AIFF Referees Committee
The new Referees committee has been constituted and the following are its members: Amit Dev (Chairman), K. Shankar, J. Ravi Shankar, Col (Retd) Gautam Kar, Anthony D'Costa, Gulab Chauhan, Pradeep Nag, Inayutalla Khan.

Selasa, 22 Februari 2011

AIFF mistake, Robin Singh to miss Myanmar game

East Bengal Club striker Robin Singh will not be seen in action for the Indian Under-23 national team against Myanmar in Pune tonight. It isn't due to an injury or East Bengal not releasing him, it is simply due to the fact that his registration with the AFC for the Asian qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics was send too late.

But the AFC is said to have been leniant that they have allowed the AIFF to register him for the return-leg, but if Robin will be around will have to be seen as East Bengal have stated that will release Robin and Nirmal Chetri only for the home-leg as they do not have any I-League fixtures.

This news comes for coach Desmond Bulpin on top of injury worries over number one goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, who might have to miss tonight's match. Otherwise the team is raring to go and get a good result to take to Myanmar.

But the question remains why such mistakes seem to be happening quite often with the AIFF off lately. In a goof-up of a different kind India had gone into the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with Sushil Kumar Singh suspended for the first couple of matches for picking-up a red card in the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup. As Mohammed Rafi had been kept as a back-up for Baichung Bhutia, he took Sushil's place otherwise we would have gone into the tournament with only two strikers in Sunil Chhetri and Abhishek Yadav.

RB Leipzig name Linke as Director of Sports

The story of German fourth division club RB Leipzig is a continued story to follow in the years to come and yesterday they took another step in their development. The club has appointed former German international Thomas Linke as its Director of Sports.

RB Leipzig stands for Rasen-Ballsport Leipzig but RB also stands for the club backers Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull, who are trying to form a future Bundesliga club in the East German city of Leipzig with an investment of up to 100 Million Euros over a nine year period, but as in Germany no sponsor can attach its name to the club name they choose the RB abbreviation.

On his appointment Linke said, "I think that in the last few years in my position as assistant Director of Sports in Salzburg I have gained a lot of experience and now the right time has come for me to take on more responsibility. The project in Leipzig is a big challenge and a chance for me too."

Linke had originally joined RB Salzburg in 2005 after the club was taken over by Red Bull and in 2007 won the clubs first Austrian league title under Giovanni Trapattoni. After the title he returned to Bayern Munich to join their second team, but only a year later he retired and he was back in Salzburg but this time as part of their management as assistant Director of Sports.

The 41 year old had started his career with FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt before moving to FC Schalke 04, where he won the 1997 UEFA Cup. Thereafter he would join FC Bayern Munich with whom he won five Bundesliga titles, the 2001 UEFA Champions League and the 2001 World Club Cup. He would play 43 internationals for Germany and the highlight was the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he finished runners-up.

Currently RB Leipzig are fourth in the Regionalliga North (4th division) 15 points off league leaders Chemnitzer FC, so promotion this season looks unlikely after the club came up from the fifth division last season.

Senin, 21 Februari 2011

A personal Interview with Renedy Singh

I have known Indian international medio Potsangbam Renedy Singh for over a decade now since we first met while with the national team then and over the years we have become really good friends, but never over these years have I interviewed him though getting his statements. It is somewhat strange, but I always have kept private and work separate not to threaten our friendship. But yesterday I got a chance to speak to him about the Asian Cup, United Sikkim and our friend Vikash Dhorasoo.

So how was the 2011 AFC Asian Cup?

The Asian Cup was the best thing that happened to me in my international football career. It was a great experience, then we hardly get the chance to play against such strong teams like Australia, South Korea and Bahrain.

Unhappy that your great goal against Bahrain not credited to your name?

It would have been nice, but it goes in Sunil's (Chhetri) name so it isn't a problem for me. In the end it is a team game.

How was it to be away for so long from home for the Asian Cup preparations?

I have said again and again that the last eight months were best of my life, then everyday training under Bob Houghton is a challenge and I did not want to miss training on even one day. We, the players, enjoy his training so much.
And I wish we could enjoy the same kind of training and atmosphere at our clubs, then it would make things much easier for the players.
And I would have hoped we would have received such training about 10 to 12 years back when I was younger, so I could have developed more as a footballer.

You have joined United Sikkim FC. What does it mean for you to play for Baichung's club?

At this moment of my career, after having a great time and experience with Team India I am spending at least three months with United Sikkim to help them get into the I-League. It will be nice if I can help them, but if not then I would have to see what happens next season.
We need at least one team from the Northeast in the I-League! And I hope it is United Sikkim next year.

In terms of exposure the Northeastern teams have been sadly neglected. And football is so big in the Northeast, but the fans can rarely watch the best teams from across India. It would be great thing if we could qualify.

You have been named United Sikkim captain. Any added pressure?

(laughs) No added pressure. But I have to give my 100% best. My team mates who look up to me will hopefully try to do the same.

You know former France international Vikash Dhorasoo from before. How was it to be able to show him Kolkata?

It was great to meet him again!
Last time in Delhi (April 2009) we only had a day together - playing a charity game and then dinner in the evening.

So I was happy that he came down to Kolkata this time around.
And what I like about Vikash is that he is so down to earth and a chillout guy. He is always smiling, I feel with him like being with by India team mates.
I would expect players of his level to be arrogant, not to communicate and not really interested. But Vikash is totally different as he not only was nice to me, but also to my friends and fellow Indian footballers. So I hope to meet him again soon.

S.I. writer Wahl tries to take on Sepp Blatter

When I first read it I thought it was a publicity stunt or somewhat of a gimmick, but Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl seems serious on taking on all powerful FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the elections for the head of world football on May 31/June 1.

And the Net's social media especially Twitter is the medium which is spreading the message of Wahl's idea, but he just can't put his name onto the ballot as he needs one of the 208 FIFA federations to nominate him for the presidential elections.

"A lot of it is about sending a message to FIFA on behalf of world soccer fans - that people want to see change," the 37-year-old Wahl told Reuters on Sunday.

"The reaction has been extremely positive from world soccer fans. It has been very global, which doesn't totally surprise - I travel a lot and I know there is a lot of dissatisfaction with FIFA."

Wahl knows that it is very unlikely that even if nominated he would stand a chance, but Blatter could face opposition from the AFC president Mohamed bin Hamman.

Wahl's intention is to show FIFA that its running isn't really accepted in the world of football. And if nominated then Wahl could take on Blatter in a debate at the CONCACAF Congress on May 3 in Miami.

It will be interesting to see if something really comes out of this campaign by one football journalist...

Minggu, 20 Februari 2011

I-League - Round 15: Salgaocar move clear

The fifteenth Round of matches of the I-League 2010/11 were played on February 16 & 20 across India with the matches East Bengal vs Dempo and Pune FC vs Mumbai FC slated for May 15. Salgaocar took advantage of that fact to score a 4-1 win and move clear at the top.

Round 15 Match by Match Short Review
15-May-2011: East Bengal Club 3-2 (0-1) Dempo SC (in Kolkata)
Former NFL champions East Bengal Club came from behind to defeat reigning I-League champions Dempo SC 3-2 in an exciting match at the Saltlake Stadium, Kolkata. East Bengal now have 47 points from 22 matches, while Dempo stay on 44 from the same number of games.
Dempo took an early seventh minute lead through a Ranty Martins Soleye goal and it was an open game thereafter with more chances for East Bengal, but Dempo went into the break with a one goal lead. Things would change after the break as the red-and-gold were on fire. First Baljit Singh Sahni would equalise two minutes into the half. Then a double strike from Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey in the 50th and 57th minute gave the local side a 3-1 lead. The referee Dinesh Nair had his hands full with a lot at stake - tons of yellow cards and three red cards. First Dempo's Clifford Miranda and then East Bengal's Gurwinder Singh and Nirmal Chetri were all send off. The match was stopped for a while as Mahesh Gawli was taken off the field and to a hospital, which led to the match having more then 10 minutes of injury time. Just before the end Roberto Mendes Silva would reduce the margin through a penalty after Nirmal Chetri handled the ball in the box.

15-May-2011: Pune FC 1-1 (0-0) Mumbai FC (in Pune)
Pune FC and Mumbai FC played out a one-all draw in their mid-table clash at Pune's Balewadi Sports Complex. MFC stay in fifth place with 33 points while PFC remain seventh with 30 points as both sides have played 24 matches.
After a goalless first session substitute Singam Subash Singh gave Pune FC a 65th minute lead, but six minutes from time Mumbai FC's Ebi Theophilus Sukore would equalise for his team and the game ended in a stalemate.

16-Feb-2011: Churchill Brothers SC 3-1 (1-1) JCT (in Goa)
Former champions Churchill Brothers SC continued their good recent form with a 3-1 win against JCT in Goa. The Millmen from Punjab would take a first half lead through Omolaja Nurain Kareem, which was equalised by Mohammed Rafi. In the second session M.P. Sakeer and Boima Karpeh would score for the Goans to give them a comfortable 3-1 win.

20-Feb-2011: Chirag United SC 1-4 (1-1) Salgaocar SC (in Kolkata)
Salgaocar SC scored a crucial 4-1 away win against Chirag United SC in Kolkata to open up a three point gap against title rivals East Bengal Club at the top of the I-League. Chirag United were the better of the two sides early on in the match and took a deserving fourth minute lead through Elijah Obagbemiro Junior, but then Denson Devadas would get his marching order for two quick cards that changed the complexion of the game and tilted it in favour of Salgaocar, who got the equaliser from a beautiful shot from Yakubu Yusif. Salgaocar build pressure on the ten men of Chirag United, who did try and remain in the game, but the Goans second goal from Francis Fernandes off a James Singh corner sealed the game before substitute striker Eneke Ikenwa would add a brace.

20-Feb-2011: HAL, Bangalore 1-1 (1-1) Mohun Bagan AC (in Bangalore)
Promoted HAL held much more famed Mohun Bagan AC to a one-all draw in Bangalore. The green-and-maroon took the lead on the half hour mark through a goal from Indian international Surkumar Singh, but seasoned J. Muralidharan equalised within seven minutes and the result stayed that way until the end.

20-Feb-2011: Viva Kerala 7-1 (2-0) Air India (in Kannur)
The relegation battle between Viva Kerala and Air India in Kannur ended in an emphatic 7-1 victory for the hosts. Viva Kerala's seven goals scored today are as many as in their I-League campaign so far. At the breather Viva Kerala were only leading 2-0 through goals from P.K. Anil Kumar and Felix Chimaokwu with no signs what would come in the second session. After the break P.K. Anil Kumar would score another two, T. Karma would add a brace and Indian international N.P. Pradeep scored the first for his home state club. Okorogor Nnabuike Praise could only score a consolation goal for the Airmen.

16-Feb-2011: ONGC 1-1 (0-0) Indian Arrows (in Kolhapur)
ONGC held Indian Arrows to a late one-all draw in Kolhapur. The India Juniors seemed to have sealed victory with an 86th minute goal from striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, but the Oilmen would level terms in the 90th minute through Kamal Thapa.

Click here for the 4th I-League 2010/11 - League Table & Fixtures .

Chelsea's Arnesen to join Hamburger SV

German Bundesliga side Hamburger SV has finally found a new Director of Sports in Dane Frank Arnesen, who will join them from English Premier League giants FC Chelsea in the new season. This ends the never ending HSV story of finding a replacement to Dietmar Beiersdorfer who left the club to join Austria's Red Bulls Salzburg two summers ago.

Since then the search has been a major failure and somewhat of an embarrassment for one of the biggest clubs in Germany. First after playing a season without a Director of Sports it had been finalised that after the 2010 FIFA World Cup Germany's head scout and analyst Urs Siegenthaler would join, but then he remained with the German FA (DFB). So the club appointed former player Bastian Reinhardt as their new Director of Sports, but the rookie hasn't been able to convince the club management and fans that he is ready for the tough assignment. Then this winter it was somewhat final that Germany's Director of Sports Matthias Sammer would join the North German club, once more the deal fell through at the last moment.

Now the club has been able to make the big signing it was looking for in 54 year old Arnesen, who has signed a three year contract. And he will bring Chelsea's chief scout Lee Congerton with him to become Hamburg's new technical director. Bastian Reinhardt will remain at the club and work under Arnesen as part of a expanded management team.

"I am delighted that we have found this fantastic solution," commented Hamburg's chairman Ernst-Otto Rieckhoff. "Frank Arnesen has not only the aptitude that is very meaningful to us for our future thanks to his experience as a manager at top clubs in Europe, but in particular due to his focus on youth development."

Arnesen experience is something which Hamburg will want to build on. His off the field career started in 1991 as assistant coach to Bobby Robson at PSV Eindhoven before he went on to become PSV's sporting director in 1994. Arnesen remained at the club for 10 years before he left for England. In 2004 he joined as Tottenham Hotspurs as Director of Sports before he switched to London rivals FC Chelsea a year later. Now he leaves southwest London after he had not extended his contract beyond the summer.

"HSV is a special club with a great tradition and fantastic conditions to work in. I am convinced that we will develop something huge with the energy we have got and with the right decisions," Arnesen said after the contract was signed.

Sabtu, 19 Februari 2011

Sunil Chhetri to play today?

The big question ahead of today's I-League Round 15 match between Chirag United SC and Salgaocar SC at the Saltlake Stadium this afternoon is if Indian international striker Sunil Chhetri will make his debut for the Kolkata side or not.

After watching yesterday's morning training of Chirag United at the Saltlake Stadium I am sure of one thing, Sunil Chhetri will not be making a start in the first eleven. But he might come on as a substitute and that would be a sensable move by Subrata Bhattacharya as he hasn't played a competitive match since the final 2011 AFC Asian Cup match against South Korea on January 18.

It has been more off field talks about his future after the release from Sporting Kansas then concentrating on his training. So Sunil might take a while to get back into top form plus he will be playing for a new club with new team mates, so it might take a while to gel with them.

But for Chirag United it was a wise move to bring in India's currently best striker. Should rejuvinate the team and opponents will see them as a much bigger threat with an attack of Josimar, Junior and Chhetri.

FPAI Workshop on Anti Doping & Tax Consulting

The Football Players Association of India earlier today organised a workshop on Anti Doping and Tax Consulting at the Parsee Club on the Kolkata Maidan. I had the honour of hosting the proceedings of the day which was opened by the FPAI president Baichung Bhutia on paying importance to such issues as Doping and Tax payment.

The first presentation was from Dr. Nisith Ranjan Chowdhury on Doping Laws, player responsibilities and banned substances. It is a very difficult subject which players are not really aware of and the case of Nishant Mehra from Mumbai FC shows how easily a player can test positive without the proper background knowledge.

It was followed by a session with G. Agarwal from Ernst&Young about the issue of taxation and what players need to keep in mind not to get in conflict with the Income Tax department.

Thereafter special guest in former French international and Player of Indian Origin Vikash Dhorasoo, who happened to be in Kolkata today. Vikash spoke to the players about the issue of Doping but everyone was more interested to hear about his career, the way he trained at different club and special experiences over the years.

The workshop ended like it started with the media wanting photos & bytes of both the local star Baichung Bhutia and the foreign visitor in Vikash Dhorasoo. Its something one should have experienced as Vikash joked afterwards...

Jumat, 18 Februari 2011

Malaysia to host India's AFC Challenge Cup qualifier group

The hosts for the four qualifying groups of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup were confirmed by the AFC yesterday.

India is said to have been interested to host the Group B qualifying of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, but due to Pakistan being in the same group the continental body played it safe and is hosting it in the country that it is based in - Malaysia. So Kuala Lumpur will play hosts to Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan and Chinese Taipei over the match days March 21, 23 and 25.

Group A will be hosted in Yangon by Myanmar. The teams in this group are: Myanmar, Bangladesh, Palestine, and the winners of the pre-qualification match between Mongolia and the Philippines (second leg) on 15 March (The Philippines won the first leg 2-0). The match days are 21, 23 and 25 March.

Group C will be hosted by Maldives in Male. The teams are: Maldives, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Cambodia. The match days are March 21, 23 and 25.

Group D will be played in Kathmandu, Nepal. The teams are: Nepal, 2010 champions North Korea, Sri Lanka, and the winners of the pre-qualification match between Bhutan and Afghanistan (March 23 and 25). The match days are April 7, 9 and 11.

Two teams from each group qualify for the eight team finals. The hosts of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup will only be decided by the AFC once all the qualifiers are decided and one of these nations would host the tournament.

Renedy to captain United Sikkim, Manju also joins

Baichung Bhutia has been able to bring in international midfielder Renedy Singh and defender N.S. Manju to play for his club United Sikkim Football Club in the upcoming I-League second division. This was disclosed by the club at a press conference in the Sikkimese capital Gangtok on Thursday evening.

In total 30 players have been signed by the club for its maiden 2.Division I-League campaign. The 30 players are made up of four foreigners, 11 players from Sikkim including Baichung and the other 15 from across the country. The team will be coached by Stanley Rozario and is preparing itself for the 2.Division in Kolkata at the Sports Authority of India (Eastern Zone) training complex.

Baichung disclosed that the club would be kitted by Nike plus that long-time friend and India team-mate Renedy Singh would be captain of the team. Renedy has signed a contract until the end of the season and stated that the club has huge potential but needed the support from the local community to achieve its goals.

Baichung said that his aim was to see United Sikkim in the I-League in three years, but he is confident that the club could achieve it this season itself in an aim to revive interest in the beautiful game and get further government support to develop the game.

Kamis, 17 Februari 2011

AIFF name surprise AFC Challenge Cup probables

The AIFF have named 44 probables for the qualifiers for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup to be played in March 2011 in which India would face Turkmenistan, Pakistan and the qualifier Chinese Taipei.

What will come as a surprise is that after the 2011 AFC Asian Cup the federation has decided to get rid of most of the experienced players and rather rely on youngsters to get the team through the qualifiers. Missing from the probables list are seasoned internationals like captain Baichung Bhutia, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Climax Lawrence and Renedy Singh besides Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Surkumar Singh, James Lukram Singh, N.P. Pradeep, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Clifford Miranda, Baljit Singh Sahni, Abhishek Yadav and Mohammed Rafi.

This will put added pressure on players like Subrata Pal, Gouramangi Singh, Steven Dias and Sunil Chhetri to lead such a young squad. All boys from the Indian Arrows have found their names amongst the probables as have all prbables selected for the Under-23 team.

INDIA Probables

Subrata Pal (Pune FC), Arindam Bhattacharya (Churchill Brothers SC), Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Indian Arrows), Jagroop Singh (Indian Arrows), Ravi Kumar (Indian Arrows)

Denzil Franco (Churchill Brothers SC), Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh (Churchill Brothers SC), Anwar (Mohun Bagan AC), Nalappan Mohanraj (Mohun Bagan AC), Nirmal Chetri (East Bengal Club), Govin Moirangthem Singh (Salgaocar SC), Syed Rahim Nabi (East Bengal Club), Raju Eknath Gaekwad (Indian Arrows), R. Vishal Kumar (Indian Arrows), Abhishek Das (Indian Arrows), Deepak Devrani (Indian Arrows), Lalrozama Fenai (Indian Arrows), Souvik Ghosh (Indian Arrows), Inderpreet Singh (Indian Arrows), Prathamesh Maulingkar (Indian Arrows), N.S. Manju

Steven Benedic Dias (Churchill Brothers SC), Joaquim Abranches (Dempo SC), Baldeep Singh (JCT), Jagpreet Singh (JCT), Rakesh Masih (Mohun Bagan AC), Jewel Raja Sheikh (Indian Arrows), Shilton D'Silva (Indian Arrows), Akshay Kumar Mall (Indian Arrows), Subodh Kumar (Indian Arrows), Ongnam Milan Singh (Indian Arrows), Bikramjit Singh (Indian Arrows), Lalrindika Ralte (Indian Arrows), Trithankar Sarkar (Indian Arrows), Jibon Singh (Indian Arrows)

Sunil Chhetri (Chirag United SC), Sushil Kumar Singh (East Bengal Club), C.S. Sabeeth (Viva Kerala), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), Manandeep Singh (Indian Arrows), Robin Singh (East Bengal Club), Malsawmfela (Indian Arrows), Jagtar Singh (Indian Arrows), Holicharan Narzary

Gattuso faces tough UEFA punishment

Former Italian international and current AC Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso could face tough sanctions from European football governing body UEFA for his unprofessional behaviour in the Champions League match against Tottenham Hotspurs on Tuesday.

What had happened? There were two separate instances were Gattuso and Tottenham assistant coach Joe Jordan came close - in the first instance Gattuso shoved Jordan in the throat, before going on to head-butt him after the final whistle.

The Control and Disciplinary Body of UEFA will meet on Monday to review the Gattuso incidence. And as per rules there is a stipulation of a minimum three-match ban for assault, although UEFA have the power to issue lengthier suspensions depending on the individual case.

Meanwhile Gattuso has apologised for his actions and some jokingly said there were two guys who understood each others language well and had a dispute. Gattuso played a year in Scotland for Rangers in the 1990s, while Jordan can speak Italian as a former AC Milan player.

Gattuso said afterwards, "I lost control. There is no excuse for what I did. I take my responsibilities for that." And added, "I was nervous. We were both speaking Scottish, something that I learned when I played in his home city of Glasgow, but I can't tell you what we said."

And trying to defend his client Gattuso's agent Claudio Pasqualin told Italian radio that his client had been called a "fucking Italian bastard" by Jordan. Pasqualin said: "For someone like Rino, who has a strong sense of belonging to Italy, I think this is the most cowardly and unspeakable of insults."

Gattuso is a tough player, but someone who is a nice guy off the field. It will be interesting to see what action UEFA takes on such an incidence.

Rabu, 16 Februari 2011

AIFF Disciplinary Committee suspends Okpara & Ashim Biswas

The Disciplinary Committee of the All India Football Federation met yesterday at Football House in Dwarka, New Delhi to discuss events surrounding the Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal derby on February 6.

East Bengal Club's British coach Trevor Morgan has been let off with a warning not to repeat such an act as he did in derby when he ran onto the pitch charging at Ashim Biswas for stamping on Mehtab Hussain. Morgan in his reply had excused himself for what he had done and he had earlier been banned from the sidelines of the East Bengal match in Kolhapur against ONGC.

East Bengal's Nigerian defender Uga Okpara has been suspended for two more matches and will have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 for his post-match statements on television criticising the referee and speculating that his decisions were pro-Mohun Bagan due to a bribe.

Mohun Bagan midfielder Ashim Biswas has been let off with an additional one match suspension and a fine of Rs 10,000 for his stamping on Mehtab Hussain.

In addition both clubs have been fined for collecting too many cards in the game. Mohun Bagan will have to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for collecting eight cards, while East Bengal will have to pay Rs 25,000 for receiving four cards.

Grasshopper Club leave Zurich after 125 years

The Swiss financial capital Zurich also happens to be the home of world football governing body FIFA, but from next season one of the cities traditional football clubs in Grasshopper Club Zurich could shift its home matches outside of town due to high stadium rent.

Grasshopper Club currently share the Letzigrund Stadium with their traditional rivals FC Zurich, which had been rebuild and expanded for the 2008 European Championships. And the club has to shell out a yearly rent of 870,000 Swiss francs (US$ 900,000; € 660,000) and another 500,000 Swiss francs (US$ 515,000; € 380,000) for matchday policing.

For the 27 time former Swiss champions these fees are too high and they had been negotiating with the city council about a possible reduction, but that has not happened; so they now want to move on. They are looking at options of sharing the grounds with clubs in Aarau and Emmen.

Also there are plans in the cupboard about an own GCZ stadium at its former Hardturm home, but the project stalled over legal and planning disputes.

Domenech: A bunch of brats

Former France coach Raymond Domenech is a man whom not many seem to understand. And in the latest episode of things not needed from him he has given an interview with French paper L'Express to give his side of the story surrounding the strike by the players during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

It seems that he once more wants to make the point, I actually wasn't really at fault but the players caused all the problems.

Domenech said, "At the time I couldn't see it. Each time I looked back towards the team bus, I saw nothing, no one. At that time I thought they had gone mad, that they had no idea what they were doing. Now I know that I was wrong - they knew exactly what they were doing. They shut the curtains at the same time to keep out the cameras. With hindsight, I see them all as a group of spoilt, thoughtless brats."

In the interview Domenech did concede that he had made mistakes in selection and judgement, which he had denied in the past. Domenech coached the L'Equipe Tricolore for six years but he's rated as being the most hated French national team coach ever. Many say he should have resigned after the 2006 FIFA World Cup where an ageing Zinedine Zidane took the team to the final, which lead to Domenech continuing against the general public opinion.

Now Domenech is suing the French FF for unfair dismissal after the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is being linked with the national teams of numerous countries.

Selasa, 15 Februari 2011

Ballack's injury woes continue

Since that infamous tackle from Kevin-Prince Boateng in the FA Cup final at Wembley last May nothing seems to be going right for German international Michael Ballack. One of the many questions is if Ballack is still Germany's captain, just another player or if his international career is over.

Since joining his former club Bayer 04 Leverkusen on a free transfer from FC Chelsea after he missed the 2010 FIFA World Cup the 34 year old has been more out injured then on the pitch, so his challenge for a place in midfield at club and country have been stalled.

A statement on the Bayer 04 website on Sunday said
The day after the team beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0, Michael Ballack was unable to take part in team training. The midfielder had to sit out due to knee problems and underwent an MRI scan with team doctor Achim Muenster (at a clinic in Cologne). The results of this scan are not yet available.

So now another injury layoff for Ballack which makes him miss the clubs next Europa League encounter. People are beginning to question if Ballack will ever be able to return to full match fitness to play a 90 minute game.

And in the German national team his time looks over with the combination of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira having cemented their place over the last few months in central midfield as part of the younger generation in die Mannschaft.

Senin, 14 Februari 2011

Indicast Podcast: The Derby is in Town

Nani managed to get a hold of me on my vacation in Kolkata. In this podcast, among other things, we talk through my rather rough experience of watching Indian fans in the stadium! Nani and I also talk about my Doha experience and how prepared is Qatar for hosting the WC 2022. Nani plays the eternal optimist hoping that India can make it to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but if it does, I reckoned that it will be the most supported team considering the vast Indian contingent there.

Listen Online (64 kbps) : ~ 30 mins

Here the direct link to the Indicast Podcast page: Sportsbench Podcast

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Ronaldo: The end of an Attacking Career

The end came earlier then many would have expected and hoped, but 34 year old Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, better known as simply Ronaldo, yesterday announced in Brazil that he is ending his colourful playing career with immediate effect. The main reason is health problems which have troubled him for some time, while a factor will also be the issue of fan aggression against him and his family at Corinthians after the club was eliminated from the Copa Libertadores. If this had not had happened then he might have played on until the end of the season.

Ronaldo's track record as a striker is amongst the best to have ever played the beautiful game at club and international level plus 'O Fenomeno' had this bullish approach where defenders weren't simply able to stop him on his way to score.

Ronaldo is the highest goalscorer in FIFA World Cup history with 15 goals to his name and on two occasions he was part of World Cup winning Brazilian squads. In 1994 as a mere 17 year old prodige and spectator as he did not play a minute in the tournament, while in 2002 the architect of the Selecao's victory scoring eight goals. In-between the infamous 1998 World Cup final incidence which is still a mystery. Ronaldo ended his international career having scored 62 goals in 97 appearances. Many say he could have added a few more if coach Dunga had picked him for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Ronaldo would be crowned FIFA Player of the Year thrice winning the title in 1996, 1997 and 2002. He is the record title holder along with former club mate Zinedine Zidane of France. Further he was also top goalscorer in different leagues for his club sides.

Ronaldo played a total of 466 club games scoring an incredible 326 goals. He started his professional career at home in Brazil with Cruzeiro (1993/94), before moving to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven (1994-96) just like his idol Romario and then came the short, impressive stint at FC Barcelona (1996/97); before he made a record move to Internationale Milan (1997-2002). He then was part of the legendary Galacticos at Real Madrid (2002-07) and when no longer wanted he moved to AC Milan (2007-08); but with little success and injuries in his second Italian stint he returned home to join Corinthians (2009-11) where he ended his career yesterday.

The world losses one of its best-ever strikers, who was not adverse to controversy; but with health problems and he himself realising that he isn't at the level he needs to be able to compete at the top level, it is a wise move. It will be interesting to see in what capacity we see Ronaldo in the future - coach, pundit, mentor or just a spectator at grounds.

AFC Champions League: Dempo's tough challenge

I-League champions Dempo Sports Club will be facing Qatar Stars League side Al Sadd in the 2011 AFC Champions League playoff on Saturday, February 19 to qualify for the lucrative continental club tournament. Since the revamp and professionalisation of the Champions League by the AFC no Indian club has been able to qualify for the group stage.

And Dempo's task is quite a difficult one as the Goans will have to travel to Doha to face Al Sadd at their home venue, which only last month played host to India's matches against Australia and Bahrain in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. And hopefully like in those matches the Indian fans will come out to support the I-league champions.

Dempo SC had been given a first round qualifier bye and on Saturday would face Al Sadd, who had beaten Syria's Al Ittihad 5-1 on February 12. Only the winner would make it to the AFC Champions League group stage and the West Zone winners have been drawn in Group B along with Iran's Esteghlal, Al Nassr from Saudi Arabia and Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan; while the losers go to the AFC Cup and would face Al Qadsia (Kuwait), Al Saqr (Yemen) and Shurtan (Uzbekistan) there. Both interesting, but tough groups for Dempo.

Dempo coach Armando Colaco had emphasised over the last few months that his big ambition is to qualify as the first club from India for the Asian Champions League. Two year ago Dempo lost 0-3 against Sharjah FC, but this year they would hope for a better result.

Dempo go into the qualifier on the back of a 2-0 Goan derby win against Churchill Brothers SC in the I-League on Saturday. So hopefully they can carry that momentum into this game against an Al Sadd side which comes into the game on a high.

Minggu, 13 Februari 2011

India's lessons from the Asian Cup

The 2011 AFC Asian Cup is history, but for India the tournament marked the return to the continental stage after 27 long years. And there are important lessons for Indian football to take from it, work on them and try to qualify again for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia to show Asia that our football is developing and progressing.

Tournament matches isn't preparatory games

Many had worried that after the bad results in the run-up to the Asian Cup that India could get trashed by continental heavyweights such as Australia, Bahrain and South Korea. Surely we did get beaten by clear margins, but in none of the matches were we totally outplayed as in some of the preparatory matches. Plus the boys always gave their opponents a real fight and the sign of this are the three goals which we scored.

Continue to play international friendlies

Finally India played a number of international friendlies. From September to November 2010 we played more international friendly matches then in the last decade. Surely the results weren't the best, but what can you expect from a team which normally faces south Asian rivals, some better sides in the Nehru Cup every two years or local club sides wherever they train. We need to play five/six friendlies over the year 2011 to maintain that momentum and the level of exposure. And maybe even think about having a marquee match once a year against tougher opposition from Asia or even from Europe and South America.

International experience

The Asian Cup was international exposure for Team India at a new, much higher then their usual level. It showed that we lacked that international experience, e.g. in the game against Bahrain where we got the equaliser and went all out to get the second goal, but somewhat forgot to defend. This is all part of the learning process, which will help the team progress in the future.

Importance of AFC Challenge Cup

Only due to the fact that India won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup we were able to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. If we had to qualify through the qualifiers we would have never made it to these continental championships. So the focus of the AIFF and Team India needs to be on the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, if we don't win it next year then we have another chance in 2014 to get to Australia.

Great fan support

India had great fan support in Doha! I would go on to say that we had the best fans in the Asian Cup with over 10,000 Indian fans coming to the three games on average. Especially delightful was to see our fans turn up in numbers for the last game against South Korea after the team was out and it was also raining heavily. This fan base which is there to support and watch Team India needs to be nurtured around the world.

International media exposure

Whatever Indian football does over the year it gets little to no international media coverage. At the Asian Cup we were one of the most covered national sides simply for the exotic factor and India developing so rapidly as an economic power. The global media genuinely wanted to know more about our football, which is a good sign even though the problems were touched on by Bob Houghton and the players. If it had been different then surely we would have been regularly playing Asian Cup.

I-League - Round 14: ONGC shock East Bengal, Salgaocar now top

The fourteenth Round of matches of the I-League 2010/11 were played on February 11, 12 & 13 across India. It is the upset of the I-League so far when bottom placed side ONGC defeated unbeaten league leaders East Bengal 1-0 and then Salgaocar SC moved into the top spot due to a better goal difference.

Round 14 Match by Match Short Review
12-Feb-2011: Dempo SC 2-0 (1-0) Churchill Brothers SC (in Goa)
I-League champions Dempo SC scored a crucial 2-0 win against Goan rivals Churchill Brothers SC to close the gap on the leagues top three. Winger Joaquim Abranches gave Dempo's the lead in the 12th minute through a lob over an advancing Arindam Bhattacharya. It was an up and down match with chances on both sides before Nigerian Ranty Martins Soleye settled the match in his teams favour in the 82th minute.

12-Feb-2011: ONGC 1-0 (0-0) East Bengal Club (in Kolhapur)
ONGC shocked league leaders East Bengal Club with a lone goal victory in Kolhapur. The red-and-gold missed a number of regulars due to suspensions and injuries while coach Trevor Morgan had to sit in the stands due to his running onto the pitch in the derby against Mohun Bagan. All this put together seemed to upset the rhythm of the side who didn't play their usual free flowing football. ONGC's tactics seemed to work and then Badmus Babatunde scored a gem of a goal in the 53rd minute to give the Oilmen an unexpected win.

11-Feb-2011: Indian Arrows 0-0 Chirag United SC (in Gurgaon)
The Indian Arrows were held to a goalless draw in Gurgaon by Chirag United SC. The Indian Juniors were the better of the two sides on display, but lack of finishing did them in against a Chirag United who were happy to take a point home.

12-Feb-2011: HAL, Bangalore 0-0 JCT (in Bangalore)
Promoted HAL and JCT played out a rather lacklustre draw at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore. It was a game of few chances with only one outcome really possible, a goalless draw with which the hosts weren't at all happy while JCT were happy to take a point home.

13-Feb-2011: Mohun Bagan AC 0-0 Pune FC (in Kolkata)
Mohun Bagan AC and Pune FC played out a goalless draw to continue both the clubs recent good runs in the I-League. But there wasn't much action as the home team couldn't really build the pressure while PFC would most rely on counter attacks.

13-Feb-2011: Salgaocar SC 4-0 (2-0) Viva Kerala (in Goa)
With a 4-0 trashing of bottom placed Viva Kerala at home, Salgaocar SC moved to the top of the I-League standings with a two goal better goal difference then rivals East Bengal.
It was often one way traffic in this game which the Goans controlled, but it needed a goal from seasoned Yakubu Yusif in the 34th minute to open the floodgates. Salgaocar's lead was doubled in the 39th minute through Japanese recruit Ryuji Sueoka. After the break former Salgaocar striker Felix Chumaokwu could have reduced the deficit, but as he didn't Yakubu would add a third before substitute striker Eneke Ikenwa would add a fourth in injury time.

13-Feb-2011: Air India 0-1 (0-1) Mumbai FC (in Kolhapur)
An early sixth minute goal from Ezeh Nna Henry was enough for Mumbai FC take home the three points in their Mumbai derby against Air India in Kolhapur. Thereafter it often was midfield action which did not yield the desired results as Mumbai FC strengthen their position in the top half, while Air India continue to fight relegation.

Click here for the 4th I-League 2010/11 - League Table & Fixtures .

India Players: In Bob we trust!

Widely travelled English football coach Bob Houghton has been the chief coach of the Indian national football team since summer 2006 and India having played at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup is a huge success for a football nation which currently is in a developmental stage.

If you talk to the Indian players you will often get similar answers that Bob has been fundamental in the development of the team and it has improved considerably over the last three/four years. If Bob really wanted then most of his players would walk through fire for him, then the level of trust goes that far.

India captain Baichung Bhutia said, "We were at the Asian Cup after 27 years. That is prove enough what Bob Houghton has done for Indian football. He has instilled confidence in us to face tougher opposition with a positive frame of mind."

As a coach Bob Houghton isn’t someone who likes to experiment with his playing system nor with the squad. Since Bob's arrival India have been playing a simple 4-4-2 system. And the squad hasn't seen major fluctuation, rather small changes here and there or forced changes due to injuries.

The Asian Cup started for India with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Asia's number one ranked side Australia. There had been fears that India could be walloped by the Socceroos, but Bob's boys would hold their ground and avoid a heavy defeat. As Bob said afterwards, "we had prepared for this as good as we could."

In their second group match against Bahrain India gave it all against Bahrain, but in the end lost 2-5. The result sadly does not reflect the game as it was at times much closer and a draw could have been possible if the defence had not made so many easy mistakes, while in attack India played one of their best matches against such tough opposition.

In their final group game India were often outplayed by the skillful South Koreans, but only lost 4-1 in a match which for many India players was a dream come true when they faced Manchester United star Ji-Sung Park.

These overall heartening results show that Bon Houghton's persistence with certain players plus his system and tactics paid off. It was clear from the onset that India playing in this group wouldn't be fighting for top position, but to show to Asia that Indian football is there and we are hopefully here to stay.

In a chat before the tournament started Bob had told me that the reason of numerous injuries to players was simply the workload. The players and their bodies had to prepare for the Asian Cup physically likely never before in their career and this lead to numerous muscle injuries.

But the trust goes the other way too. Bob just loves his boys, whom he regards as a great set of lads! Especially with Baichung Bhutia he has a special relationship as Baichung resurrected his India career after Bob became India coach as earlier Baichung had planned to end his international career.

Bob Houghton last year renewed his contract until 2013 with the All India Football Federation until the end of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Bob himself wants to stay and rebuild the team as senior players like Baichung Bhutia, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Climax Lawrence and Renedy Singh all are getting older and new blood will have to come in.

Indian midfielder Renedy Singh said, "I hope Bob stays many more years India coach. Only then can we improve further."

Manipulation in Bulgaria vs Estonia friendly?

It could be the weirdest case of trying to manipulate an international football match so far. Both world football governing body FIFA and their European body UEFA agreed on friday to investigate the international friendly between Bulgaria and Estonia, which was played on Wednesday at the Turkish resort of Antalya amid allegations of possible manipulations.

The international friendly had ended in a two-all draw, but what raised speculations was the fact that all four goals came off penalties. A fact which I haven't heard about. Interestingly an earlier match that day at the same venue had Latvia winning 2-1 against Bolivia and there too all goals came off penalties.

The two matches are said to have been organised by a sports management agency from Thailand and now there could be a link to Asian betting snydicates.

Interestingly there was also confusion about the referee from Hungary. While the Bulgarian Football Union and the Estonian Football Association are saying that the match referee was a certain Krisztian Selmeczi, the Hungarian referees' chief Laszlo Wagner and Hungarian media have indicated the referee was Selmeczi's fellow countryman Kolos Lengyel. Until clearance the referee plus his assistants Lengyel and Janos Csak have been suspended.

"FIFA contacted us and requested a full report from the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) and also said they would receive a report from the Estonian FA," a BFU official who declined to be identified told Reuters.

"We received information of possible manipulation even before the game as the same agency also organised the match between Latvia and Bolivia and there was the same scenario there," Estonia FA spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht told Reuters.

Sabtu, 12 Februari 2011

Roberto Carlos quits Corinthians, likely for Russia

Former legendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos had decided to end his career at home in South America, but danger to his own life and that of his family plus a great financial offer has tempted him to leave Corinthians after only a season. He is set to make a potential switch to Russian minnows Anzhi Makhachkala.

The club from Dagestan had finished 11th last season and want to build a stronger side with Roberto Carlos being offered a 12 month contract worth 5 million Euros. The Roberto Carlos signing would come after Dutch coach Ruud Gullit had signed for Terek Grozny from Chechnya, both clubs happen to be in troubled regions of Russia which are facing insurgencies.

But the offer from Dagestan isn't the only one that Roberto Carlos has on the table. He also has an offer from the L.A. Galaxy from the MLS, but it is said not to be as financially lucrative as the one from Russia, so he is set to go to Russia.

Roberto Carlos is ending his one year stint with Sao Paolo side Corinthians after the club made a shock exit from the Copa Libertadores, which resulted in massive fan protests which also hit out at the players especially at seasoned players like Roberto Carlos and former Brazil team mate Ronaldo.

Roberto Carlos had a great season with Corinthians last year in which he played an astonishing 64 matches, scoring five goals and being named as the best left back for the 2010 season.

Indian football has its first dope case

Dope testing in the I-League has only been started in January 2011 with only nine of the 14 participating teams having been tested so far and a few weeks on we have the first confirmed official doping case in Indian football in Mumbai FC midfielder Nishant Mehra.

An AIFF release said:
Nishant Mehra tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, a WADA in-competition prohibited substance, Mehra's 'B' sample, which was tested on Thursday in his presence at the National Anti-Doping Agency headquarters in New Delhi, has tested positive for the same banned substance and he will have to appear before the NADA Anti-Doping panel at a date to be decided by NADA.

Mehra has been provisionally suspended by the All India Football Federation and if things take its usual way in such a positive doping case, then Nishant Mehra could be banned for two years from playing competitive football.

The substance Tetrahydrocannabinol found in his blood is a synthetic drug found in cannabis and often used in parties, but it is not a performance enhancing drug. Still it is on the global anti doping list and could end the career of Nishant.

Jumat, 11 Februari 2011

Sunil Chhetri joins Chirag United

I-League side Chirag United SC have pulled off the transfer coup of the winter by signing Indian international striker Sunil Chhetri until the end of the 2010/11 season. That was confirmed by the clubs chairman Kaustav Roy and player last night. Thereby the hopes of United Sikkim and Baichung Bhutia to make a marquee signing by getting Chhetri on board for the 2.Division I-League will not happen.

Chhetri only a few days ago was released by Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas for whom he had signed a three year contract in March 2010, but he would never play for them in the North American MLS, only making a cup appearance and the high profile friendly against Manchester United.

Since his strong performance in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup Chhetri is being linked with moves to other foreign leagues, but nothing concrete seems to have come through forcing him to come back to India. There was real interest from A-League side Perth Glory, but they could only bring him into Australia later in the year.

Chhetri is not new to the Kolkata Maidans as he had his first break with Mohun Bagan AC and later on also played for their archrivals East Bengal Club. So he is familiar with Kolkata football and if he can carry his Asian Cup form into the I-League then Chirag United are getting a very potent weapon in their attacking arsenal.

For Chhetri meanwhile his dream to play abroad isn't over. His first stint has ended and hopefully a new one will soon come his way...

Kamis, 10 Februari 2011

Deloitte Football Money League: Real Madrid top again!

The Deloitte Football Money League 2009/10 has been released with Spanish giants Real Madrid topping the league table of the world's 20 richest football clubs for the sixth straight year, according to auditing firm Deloitte.

For the first time the combined revenues of the 20 biggest football clubs in the world has crossed the 4 billion Euros mark and now stands at 4,3 billion Euros an increase of 8,3 percent with all these clubs coming out of Europe. England remains the most represented with seven out of the top 20 clubs from the Premier League, four each from Germany and Italy, three from Spain plus two from France.

But once more Spain's big two are the highest revenue earners in world football. Though playing second fiddle to FC Barcelona in the Spanish league Real Madrid have been able to increase their revenues by 37.2 million Euros from the previous season to now an impressive 438,6 million Euros with Barca 40,5 million Euros behind. But the Catalans could close the gap considerably through their 30 million Euros per annum sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation.

Meanwhile the biggest jump came from big spending Manchester City who have come from 19th to 11th in the table and the Deloitte researchers think in coming seasons they along with Tottenham Hotspurs would make it into the top ten. Who they could replace was not said, but most likely the Italian clubs who are falling behind and maybe even Liverpool without European football.

Deloitte Football Money League - 2009/2010 Top 20

01. (01) Real Madrid 438,6 million Euros
02. (02) FC Barcelona 398,1 million Euros
03. (03) Manchester United 349,8 million Euros
04. (04) FC Bayern Munich 323,0 million Euros
05. (05) FC Arsenal London 274,1 million Euros
06. (06) FC Chelsea London 255,9 million Euros
07. (10) AC Milan 235,8 million Euros
08. (07) FC Liverpool 225,3 million Euros
09. (09) Inter Milan 224,8 million Euros
10. (08) Juventus Torino 205,0 million Euros
11. (19) Manchester City 152,8 million Euros
12. (15) Tottenham Hotspurs 146,3 million Euros
13. (11) Hamburger SV 146,2 million Euros
14. (13) Olympique Lyonnais 146,1 million Euros
15. (14) Olympique Marseille 141,1 million Euros
16. (16) FC Schalke 04 139,8 million Euros
17. (--) Atl├ętico de Madrid 124,5 million Euros
18. (12) AS Roma 122,7 million Euros
19. (--) VfB Stuttgart 114,8 million Euros
20. (--) Aston Villa 109,4 million Euros

India Pre-Olympic Qualifier probables named

The Indian national Under-23 team will be taking part in the Asian qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics. And due to our ranking we will have to play in the pre-Olympic qualifiers in which we face Myanmar home-and-away in Round 1.

India will host their Eastern neighbours on February 23 at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, while the return-leg will be played on March 9 in their capital Yangoon.

In total 24 players have been called to the camp, 19 of them from the AIFF developmental I-League side with the five others playing for I-League sides. A final squad of 18 will be announced after a short one week camp which will be held from February 17. But with most of the boys playing together for the Indian Arrows less time for adjustment would be needed with players like Arindam, Nirmal and Robin bringing in some added experience.

It wasn't announced who will coach the India U-23 side, but with most of the boys from the Indian Arrows it is likely that their club coach Desmond Bulpin will take charge of the team with former under-23 coach Sukhvinder Singh no longer with the federation.

INDIA U-23 Probables

Arindam Bhattacharya (Churchill Brothers SC), Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Indian Arrows), Jagroop Singh (Indian Arrows)

Abhishek Das (Indian Arrows), R. Vishal Kumar (Indian Arrows), Raju Eknath Gaekwad (Indian Arrows), Nirmal Chetri (East Bengal Club), Deepak Devrani (Indian Arrows), Lalrozama Fenai (Indian Arrows), Nalappan Mohanraj (Mohun Bagan AC)

Jibon Singh (Indian Arrows), Shilton D'Silva (Indian Arrows), Jewel Raja Sheikh (Indian Arrows), Ongnam Milan Singh (Indian Arrows), Subodh Kumar (Indian Arrows), Lalrindika Ralte (Indian Arrows), Bikramjit Singh (Indian Arrows)

Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), Malsawmfela (Indian Arrows), Robin Singh (East Bengal Club), C.S. Sabeeth (Viva Kerala), Inderpreet Singh (Indian Arrows), Jagtar Singh (Indian Arrows), Manandeep Singh (Indian Arrows)

Rabu, 09 Februari 2011

FC Barcelona to sport Qatar Foundation logo

FC Barcelona will be wearing the logo of new sponsors Qatar Foundation from July 2011 onwards and replace the UNICEF on the front. A joint Qatar Foundation/UNICEF logo for the front couldn't be worked out.

"It has been decided that the Qatar Foundation logo will go on the front of the shirt, on the breast," Barca vice president Javier Faus said at a news conference and added, "In the end, there will be only two words 'Qatar Foundation' in yellow. UNICEF will go on the back underneath the player's name."

FC Barcelona had tried to work out a design in which both the logos could be retained on the front of the teams shirt, but that was not possible so the high paying Qatar Foundation, who are paying 30 Millions Euros for per season, will have their logo on the front.

But if the UNICEF logo would be allowed on the back of the jersey's in international competition will have to be seen. In the Spanish Primera Division it is allowed so no issues and Barca plan to sell all their replicas with UNICEF on then, but if UEFA would allow it in the Champions League would have to be seen.

I-League 2: 21 teams to take part

In total 21 teams will this year take part in the 2.Division of the I-League which is set to kick-off across the country in the middle of next month. The 21 teams will be split into three groups of seven in the preliminary stage with the venues still to be decided. The final round of the 2.Division I-League would be held in the Meghalaya capital Shillong with the hope that some local teams besides Lajong FC make it.

There are five clubs from Kerala, four clubs from Meghalaya, three each from Kolkata and Goa, two each from Mumbai and Sikkim plus one each from Manipur and Assam. But it is surprising that clubs who have been regulars in the 2.Division over the last few years like Amity United FC, New Delhi Heroes, Oil India Limited and others are not part of the league.

The North goes totally unrepresented and one has to question if all these small Northeastern clubs can all match Lajong FC and Baichung Bhutia's United Sikkim in fulfilling the AFC Club Licencing criteria. It would be great to have Northeastern representation in the I-League, but like with the rest of the country the clubs need to be professional on all aspects.

How many clubs will go up is unknown at the moment as it depends on how many clubs get through the AFC Club Licencing and what size league the AIFF and IMG-Reliance will want next season as the I-League is supposed to go fully professional

The participating clubs

Royal Wahingdoh SC, Shillong (Meghalaya); Langsning Sports Club, Shillong (Meghalaya); Ar-Hima Football Club, Shillong (Meghalaya); Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya); PIFA, Mumbai (Maharashtra); Kenkre Football Academy, Mumbai (Maharashtra); Southern Samity, Kolkata (West Bengal); Techno Aryan Club, Kolkata (West Bengal); Mohammedan Sporting Club, Kolkata (West Bengal); Guwahati Town Club (Assam); Vasco Sports Club (Goa); Sporting Clube de Goa (Goa); Sesa Football Academy (Goa); Josco FC, Cochin (Kerala); Chandni FC, Kozhikode (Kerala); Eagles FC, Cochin (Kerala); Golden Threads, Cochin (Kerala); Malabar United FC, Kozhikode (Kerala); United Sikkim FC, Gangtok (Sikkim); Denzong Boys, Gangtok (Sikkim); NISA, Imphal (Manipur)

Selasa, 08 Februari 2011

Baichung does another first!

Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia did another first for a footballer from our country when he was invited and participated in the IWC Laureus Football Challenge match on Monday in Abu Dhabi as part of the Laureus World Sports Awards.

The 7-A-Side charity match was played between the Emirates Foundation Team coached by Sir Bobby Charlton against the Laureus Team coached by Bora Milutinovic, which the the Emirates Foundation Team won 12-11 in extra time and the match raised more then 500.000 Euros.

Baichung Bhutia played alongside greats such as Vitor Baia, Edgar Davids, Ronald De Boer and Steve McManaman for Sir Bobby Charlton and he would go on to score one of his teams goals to make it even more memorable.

"It feels great to be a part of such an event although I have done such charity appearances even earlier but it is always special. It is great that I scored but in such an event where the aim is to raise funds for a good cause, it does not really matter whether you score or not... just being a part of it is a big thing," Baichung told PTI after the game.

Meanwhile the Laureus World Sports Awards 2011 were held at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening with sporting stars from around the world coming to the 'Oscars of Sports' as the event is also often referred to.

The Laureus World Sports Awards are awarded annually to sportspeople who have been outstanding during the previous year. The Laureus World Sports Awards were established in 1999 by Founding Patrons Daimler and Richemont and is supported by its Global Partners Mercedes-Benz, IWC Schaffhausen and Vodafone. The Laureus Academy is a 46 member body made up of former sporting greats who have won 59 Olympic gold medals in total. And the Laureus Foundation supports 83 sports related social projects around the world. Since 2000 more then 40 Million Euros have come together in support of these and other projects.

This years winners were

Sportsman of the Year: Rafael Nadal (Tennis, Spain)

Sportswoman of the Year: Lindsey Vonn (Alpine Skiing, USA)

Team of the Year: Spain (Football)

Breakthrough of the Year: Martin Kaymer (Golf, Germany)

Comeback of the Year: Valentino Rossi (MotoGP, Italy)

Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year: Verena Bentele (Paralympic biathlete and cross-country skier, Germany)

Action Sportsperson of the Year: Kelly Slater (Surfing, USA)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Zinedine Zidane (Football, France)

Spirit of Sport Award: Europe Ryder Cup Team (Golf)

Sport for Good Award: May El-Khalil (Founder of Beirut Marathon, Lebanon)