Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Football diary: 31 July 2008

After two weeks out owing to work related travel, got back to my bi-weekly football game this morning.

Played four v/s five a side with Bunty, Mirgi, Vohra and me on one side and some young kids on the other side. The pitch was wet with big patches of muddy slush, but it was great to be back playing anyways.

We were physically stronger and faster by miles (though I’m always surprised when that happens against a bunch of school or college kids) and were able to have a good workout rather than an intense game.

I reached late and had no time to warm up and keeping that in mind never made too much of an effort to stretch. Each of us tried pulling off some of the things we like – Vohra beating people, Mirgi dribbling till it was done to death, Bunty using pace and skill to carry the ball from goal to goal and me getting some juicy shots on goal in.

But that was all effort with little real success. I hit the post twice and shot wide once. Bunty was consistent as usual and Vohra had some good moments but Mirgi and I were quite below even our usually dismal standards. Anyway, there was no pressure for effort and I’m not worried too much about how it went. Saturday should be more intense though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hasan Doğan - A Tribute

This is a tribute to Hasan Doğan who passed away on the 6th of July 2008 (while on vacation having lunch with Fatih Terim, who is more a face for Turkish football to the world than Doğan was in his lifetime). I had not heard of Doğan before his unfortunate demise and had it not been for a chance reading of a tribute to his achievements, I may have never known of this man who comes from a very rare breed of individuals – a loved and respected football administrator.

Hasan Doğan was the 37th President of the Turkish Football Federation and though his tenure was tragically cut short on his 143rd day in office, the outpouring of love and affection that he has received seems to suggest an impact much more significant than the short time duration warrants.

Doğan won the hearts of millions of football crazy Turks by hugging his wife Aysel overcome with joy in celebration of a Turkish goal. The open childlike expression of joy may seem commonplace to many but is not so in a country where such public display of affection is still a rarity.

However, genuine passion and love for the game are not the only qualities which set Hasan Doğan apart from your run of the mill football administrators. This was a man with a vision and a mission. Here’s a look at some ideas that he was looking to implement, each of which illustrates a desire to make football realize its potential for the fans and footballers of the country:

  • Make Turkey a hotbed for exporting football players to the rest of the world in the mode of Brazil (which if you have seen the talent available seems like a very sensible project to improve the players’ income as well as exposure)
  • Bring the 2016 European Championships to Turkey
  • Ensure leading Turkish clubs had established academies by 2011
  • Provide insurance protection for national team players

The strength of those ideas lie just not in the vision set out, but also the fact that he seems to have made progress on each of these fronts in the very short time he held office.

It is unfortunate that about the only sports administrator for whom I’ve heard and read nothing but praise had such a brief tenure in his last office. If we could have more Hasan Doğans around the world, then maybe more football players across many more countries could actually end up making a living doing what they love doing.

The President of the football federation in my country has been around for maybe twenty odd years and look at what we have achieved – a FIFA ranking of somewhere around 150 and exactly one player who made it to the third division of English football. Can we please swap these twenty years for 143 days that add real value.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mind Games or Power Play - Cause I'm Mr. Alex the King

Sir Alex Ferguson has started the manager’s pre-season by reminding all who care of his position as the patriarch of English Premier League Managers. After Manchester United started their pre-season with a disappointing draw against Kaiser Chiefs in South Africa, he cleverly diverted the media hysteria away from the performance and the persistent questions on Ronaldo’s transfer by discussing his team’s primary rivals for the coming season and letting in a controversial comment or two slip by.

While identifying Arsenal and Liverpool as challengers he let it be known that he wasn’t worried about Chelsea and that he believed that the Blues were on the wrong side of youth to pose a serious threat. Now I am never sure with media reports and am fully aware that words and phrases are twisted around to give a different meaning to what was intended, the general message from various reports seem to be consistent enough to have pushed me to get into the ‘quote analysis’ mode (which is 90% of what the English writing football media seem to do).

Whether I agree with Sir or not is a matter for another post but for now I will focus on the wily old man and his wise ways with the media and the ‘football eco-system’. As expected the 30 seconds he must have spent saying those words have led to hours and hours of news print, analysis and comments by the world at large.

I have read comments all over the World Wide Web and the references are too scattered to provide links here so I will try and summarize some of the major reactions I have seen:

  • He’s right and Chelsea are a team that are past it
  • He’s so wrong and Ronaldo will not be the player he was last year and Chelsea under Scolari will walk away with the title
  • Old-Red-Nose is at it again and playing mind-games and trying to wrest the so called ‘mental initiative’
  • He is just diverting attention from more pressing issues
  • Dirty, filthy, b******
  • Etc.

Well I tend to agree and disagree with all of them which is not surprising since every opinion can be debated upon. However, there is one aspect which I have not seen anyone else talk about which I would like to highlight.

While the league consists of twenty teams and hence twenty managers, for the last fifteen years (if not more), Sir Alex has more or less been the king of the pack. True Arsene Wenger has been a long-term challenger and many would argue a more astute football manager, but Wenger has rarely tried to establish ‘personal power’ over every element of the game in the manner in which Sir Alex has. Its not as if Wenger does not play the media or manipulate the press, but when it comes to trying to dictate everything that goes on, he takes a far more sedate approach than SAF.

Open player courting, influencing choice of referees, influencing disciplinary committees, getting his players in line, teasing and testing the powers that be at UEFA and FIFA, rattling opposing managers, testing club chairmen and everything else under the sun seems to be on Sir Alex’s radar and he makes it a point to make the right noises to get the outcome he wants. The Professor Wenger on the other hand is more about considered opinions and an idealistic approach and about the only time he sounds deliberately ridiculous is after a defeat.

Then there have been other challengers – the veterans like Sir Bobby Robson, the charismatic like Jose Mourinho or the pretenders like Rafa Benitez and many more. But they have either lacked success in equal measure or longevity, both of which are in abundance with our man from Scotland.

Which brings me back again to my specific point. Enter Luis Felipe Scolari and in him a manager who suddenly is equal to if not greater in stature than the great Sir Alex himself. Multiple domestic league titles in Brazil, final, semi-final and quarter-final appearances in major international tournaments with Portugal and the crowning glory –the World Cup. Now that is big! Add to that Big Phil Scolari’s colourful and not always charming (which other manager has punched an opponent player?) personality and you have potentially someone who could steal the thunder from right under the big red nose.

So what does Alex do? He says that Chelsea are too old to compete thereby completely ignoring the fact that they have a new manager who could (and given his track record should) make a difference. In other words belittles the influence that Scolari can have and shows the world that he isn’t thinking that the manager will play a big part.

True, for Phil Scolari it hardly matters what Alex Ferguson says and he is veteran enough to not be affected by it, but for the media which is so important a part of the English premier league circus, it again establishes the fact that Sir feels that he is still the manager numero uno and the only one that matters.

How it spans out is for us to wait and watch. While football results will come and go and there will be a champion by this time next year, I think Alex Ferguson is interested in more than just that. I can’t think of another manager who makes the FA bend backwards to please him. Who makes Sepp Blatter react to his comments, who can influence whether or not the referee pulls out a yellow card in a given situation or not. He also is the only one I know of who survived in spite of publicly opposing the entry of his new bosses (anti-Glazer stand before the club was bought by them).

So there is my case. This comment and many more like these are not really about an opponent or a specific point. They are about a man who knows he has the power and who enjoys it and makes it clear that no one , not even a World Cup winner is going to challenge him in that sphere.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Footblogger's block

Since the end of Euro 2008, I have felt to some degree a writer's block...blogger's block if you will. Given that I started this blog bang in the middle of an international tournament, there was never a dearth of thoughts and words and opinions, since each game is a performance that can be told as a story, a play that can be critiqued or a topic that can be debated.

Not so sundry football news and gossip. Ronaldo has gone to Madrid and stayed at Manchester a million times this summer. Ditto Lampard, Inter and Chelsea. Ditto Adebayor, Milan and Arsenal. Ditto Drog...... you get the picture. Having observed the maddening ways of the transfer days for some years, I have come to a stage where I rarely read these stories. Unless a headline comes along which has the word "Official". Then maybe its time to catchup with the movement.

So transfer gossip does not excite me...but what about transfers themselves. Some very interesting ones have of course already happened - Flamini, Deco, Modric, Giovanni dos Santos, Dani Alves and many more. Some very intersting moves and many woth watching. Will especially look at Modric and Giovanni closely (partly becuase EPL is the most easily available on TV and partly becuase Ramos I predict has it in him to take Spurs up on level). Away from the mega star names one move I'll watch is Danny Guiza's to Fener to join his country boss Luis Aragones. If Guiza can have another bumper season (that too in Turkey) I expect he could be one of the biggest value players for next year. But that's a wait and watch.

Anyway, I think I will save my actual comments om transfers for much later (closer to the closing of the window or maybe around the start of the season). As of now there's too much confusion here.

What else then do I write about? Sticking with transfers, there are players I think will suit certain clubs (e.g. Podolski at Chelsea) and this gives me an idea for a post on players I would buy if I were at certain clubs (keeping in view their styles, budgets etc.). So expect that soon.

A few other stories have interested me in the last few days - the 6+5 rule, Wenger's admission that Arsenal are under pressure to sell as they need to generate cash of 24 Mil GBP payments for the stadium for the next 17 years, Laporta's survival of the confidence vote but his uncertain future at Barcelona, Milan's and Italian football's financial slip-down with ManCity outbidding them etc. In another continent, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito from became the first club from Ecuador to win the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, in the 49-year history of the competition.

So yet more ideas flow in. While I have read and re-read views and counter-views on 6+5, and shaken my head at the knee-jerk reaction to Wenger's admission by Gooners, I think on both these subjects I have views which still need expression. So maybe i'll get down to doing that. And how about spending more time on the Americas, Asias and Africa? That should broaden my horizons a bit. Maybe one day it could lead to some writing as well.

Managers is a subject I have to touch. I am one of those who can enjoy a manager's performance more than a player's and this one subject and its personalities I will surely explore. In terms of new assignments this year will see the spotlight on Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Luis Scolari, Mark Hughes, Jurgen Klinsman, Luis Aragoners, Marco van Basten and oh so many more. This will be a fun season and I look forward to writing a lot about all these guys and many many more. can I forget them. They need to come as well.

Oh and my own football diary...the story of my 5/6/7 a side games.

Then what about how I fell in love with the game...through its great writers...through Sports Star....through Brian Glanville....

Oh much to write so little time.

It's blogger's unblock again....Yipeeee!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Twice in a day...two articles on the homepage.

See they published my analysis of the final as well. Click here

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Self Promotion

I got published on

Actually it's just a copy of the last post. I saw it here first :-)

But to see it on click here