Soccer

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Will Lionel Messi ever be considered great like Maradona or Pele?


Is Lionel Messi ever going to win a major title as an Argentine?

Two Copa America finals, one World Cup final and yet the cupboard is bare.

He may be the finest player of his generation but his national team is not. At least, not yet.

Accompanied by the Galacticos of Barcelona, the magician with the ball is almost invincible.

He does not enjoy the same support alongside his fellow countrymen.

What are the reasons for this relatively poor show?

It is relative because for his showings at the above named tournaments, the young man captured two player and one young player of the tournament awards.

Hardly, what you’d term a no show.

Comparisons to Pele and Maradona will always fall short if the 28-year-old genius fails to capture a major international title.

It was, perhaps, easier for Pele. Club football did not take up most of the players’ time in those days.

Maradona , though , is another kettle of fish. He catapulted a small club side, Napoli, to two Serie A titles and another couple of runner-up finishes.

Argentina, of course, won the 1986 World Cup under him and made another stalwart run for the title in 1990 losing to Germany in the final.

Is Lionel Messi finished as a Argentine midfielder?

It would be a pity if it were so as media reports suggest.

Messi has his best chance to fill his trophy case at the 2018 World Cup in Russia—provided he keeps himself healthy and fit. He will be even more experienced and hopefully at the peak of his career.

The mind boggles—you mean to say Messi can get even better?

It helps even more if his teammates do.

A freely roaming Messi can do more damage than a Messi who is man-marked by not one, not two but three defenders.

What would Argentina not give to have strikers of the caliber of Neymar and Suarez alongside their talisman?

Unfortunately, national soccer is not club soccer and throwing money at a problem does not make it go away. The ethos of teamwork assumes salient importance.

Messi himself once said:

I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I’m more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what John Wooden has to say about teams:

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

Messi will not be great until his bench-mates make him great.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Neymar are rapped for being ‘bad boys’


Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two captains hit the headlines for being participants in fractious misdemeanors on the field.

Both have been punished for their transgressions.

The Indian ODI and T20 skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni collided with Bangladeshi fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman  during the first one-day in Mirpur. Dhoni was docked 75% of his match fee and Mustafizur 50% of his.

At the Copa America in a crucial group encounter against Colombia, Brazilian star forward Neymar laid into his nemesis Camilo Zuniga for being physical with him.

Neymar shouted:

“Camilo! Camilo! Thanks a lot! Bet you’ll call me after to say sorry. Son of a b****.”

Zuniga was the man who knocked the Selecao skipper out of the 2014 World Cup with an ill-advised tackle that could have crippled Neymar prematurely ending his soccer career.

Brazil succumbed 0-1 in an ill-tempered game and Neymar vented his frustration by aiming a headbutt at at goal-scorer Jeison Murillo when the match ended.

Neymar has been provisionally suspended and received a red card for his trouble.

Violence and bad behavior have always been a part of sport. More so, professional sport.

No one likes losing. And particularly so no one likes losing after giving what they believe to be their best. Let none   tell you otherwise.

More so when it is what they do for a living.

And the perceived injustice is worse when the gladiators feel that they are not in control.

That certainly seems to be case with Neymar with the star forward lashing out at the standard of refereeing in the ballgame.

Neymar said:

“They have to use the rules against me. The ball hit me on the hand without any intention and I got a yellow. That’s what happens when you have a weak referee. I only lose my rag when officials don’t do their jobs. There was a melee, but he didn’t need to send everyone off.”

MS Dhoni, on the other hand, is the epitome of cool. He is said to have nerves of steel.

That the Indian skipper was party to an unsavory incident where he appears to be the aggressor is strange indeed.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mustafizur Rahman were found guilty under Article 2.2.4 of the ICC Code of Conduct, which penalizes “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play during an international match“.

Match referee Andy Pycroft said:

“In the hearing, Dhoni defended the charge on the basis that the bowler was on the wrong line and realising that he couldn’t avoid the collision, he used his hand and arm to push him away as he went through to ‘minimise the impact. However, my assessment was that Dhoni deliberately pushed and shouldered Mustafizur, which was inappropriate.

Even if there was a narrow gap between the runner [Raina] and the bowler, an experienced Dhoni should have tried to avoid the collision as cricket is a non-contact sport and the players are expected to avoid physical contact at all times. On this basis, I fined Dhoni 75% of his match fee”.

Dhoni’s experience was a crucial factor in the adverse decision. His adversary, on the other hand, was making his debut.

Dhoni said:

“The bowler (Mustafizur) thought I would move away while I thought he would. But as none of us did, we collided. This can happen in any match. It’s nothing big. I spoke to him later.”

The Indian skipper’s explanation is specious.

Some sections of the media believe that Virat Kohli should be handed over the reins in all formats of the game. Mohinder Amarnath, in particular, believes that Kohli brings a refreshing approach to the game and it is time a young Indian side are led by one of their own.

Is the pressure telling on the man from Jharkhand?

Or is this a mere aberration?

Time, and results, will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lionel Messi: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Lionel Messi is going, not going, going again.

What he said:

“I have never demanded anything to stay because I don’t have any intention of going. I heard people say that my dad had spoken to Chelsea, to City … it’s all lies.

I heard all sorts of things said. I never come out and deny [stories] but this time I am. It has been said that I have pushed out lots of people … Eto’o, Ibrahimovic, Bojan, Guardiola … [and] I didn’t ask them to sack our manager.

It hurts because it comes from people who [supposedly] love Barcelona. It’s people who want to hurt the club – and this time it did not come from Madrid, like other times, it has come from here. I have heard lots of things being said about me before and now. They make it look like I am the one who is in charge here when I am just another player.

Don’t throw shit at us from outside because that will only do us harm.”

Lionel Messi threw all speculation about his future with Barcelona out the window following his team’s 3-1 drubbing of Atletico Madrid, their first in over a year.

The statement allayed fans’ fears for the time being given the recent happenings at the club in the past week.

Barca have sacked their sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta and Carles Puyol has quit the club.

While president, Josep María Bartomeu, has reassured Catalonians that Luis Enrique will continue as coach, he also announced that presidential elections will be brought forward a year making his own future at the club uncertain.

Messi’s relationship with Enrique has been on the rocks with the manager keen on resting his star player to prevent possible breakdown and burn out.

Messi would rather play most if not all games.

However, at the 2014 Ballon d’Or awards, the Argentine revealed fresh doubts.

Messi said:

“I don’t know where I will be next season. I would like to finish with Newell’s [the club from his hometown of Rosario]. As Cristiano Ronaldo says, only God knows the future. Things in football can change overnight.”

What he really meant:

 “Now, now,now. If Chelsea or Manchester City are willing to bite the bait, I could still move. Besides, I can now bargain with Barca about the extension of my contract. More power to me. It’s all about negotiations, baby, and I like to be the one in the dribbler’s seat. Perhaps, I’ll get Luis (Enrique) to start me more often.”

What he definitely didn’t:

 “It’s all about continuity and what’s best for the club and its fans.”

Lukas Podolski: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Lukas Podolski did not even get a kiss goodbye.

What he said:

“He [Wenger] said nothing to me. He did not call me or say goodbye. I don’t need flowers or a kiss from him. But it is about respect, about saying goodbye. For me respect is important. Maybe he had other problems with me.”

Arsenal forward and German international Lukas Podolski leaves for Inter Milan—on loan from Arsenal—on a sour note accusing manager Arsene Wenger of disrespecting him during his stay at the club.

Podolski has never had a regular place in the starting line-up since arriving there in 2012. His 60 appearances for the North London side bagged him 19 goals.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and in the backg...

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and in the background, Arsenal first team coach Boro Primorac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wenger responded:

“I had many conversations with him, he had my agreement to go on loan. I deny that completely but I knew he did not get enough opportunities. We have many players, when a player of his quality doesn’t get enough games you can understand he is frustrated.

At some stage too many players is detrimental to the confidence. You need the right numbers. It had nothing to do with his quality. It is just a loan without an option to buy – that means he is back at the end of the season.”

Podolski told the Sun:

“If I had been given a run of five or 10 games and played really s—, then I could say: ‘Fair enough, I am not good enough.'”

What he really meant:

“Ouch! What a nasty break-up! And my manager cannot even see me to the airport with flowers, kisses and chocolates. Woo hoo!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Now you know what it means to be Podolskied.”

Asamoah Gyan: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Asamoah Gyan and his team will die for their nation—at the right price.

What he said:

“We want to prove to people it is not about the money. We are just here to die for the nation as we’re Ghanaians.
We are just playing with our hearts and make sure we die for the nation. So far, the players are happy with the money and everything has been resolved. What we’re thinking now, is to going to Equatorial Guinea and to die for the nation.”

Ghana Black Stars skipper Asamoah Gyan insists that he and his team will put their best feet forward—literally—when they take part in the African Cup of Nations. The Ghanaian team have been promised a flat fee of USD 5000 for every match they play, irrespective of the result. This is the new bonus structure instituted by the country’s sports ministry.

After initial team rumblings, both parties have arrived at an understanding with Gyan assuring his fellow countrymen that there would be no repeat of the World Cup imbroglio wherein the players refused to play their final group game against Portugal in Brazil because they had not been paid their appearance fee. The players had then demanded payment in cash.

Gyan said:

“Before we didn’t know before we heard it in the press. During these holidays, we had to sit down with the board members and then trash out some issues and talking about the bonuses because we don’t want the Brazil issue to get in our heads right now. I think everything went on successfully. We are happy everything has been resolved. We are not thinking about any money issues now. What we are thinking about is the Africa Cup of Nations.”

What he really meant:

“We’re willing to lay down or get up for the country at the African Cup of nations. It all depends on whether we get paid to lie or die.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Money is the root of all evil. Also, all goals.”

Alex Ferguson: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Alex Ferguson waxes effusive on  Jose Mourinho.

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C.

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What he said:

“He’s good looking, he’s got that sort of George Clooney bit in his hair now. But I think he is a great example, he can speak five languages or whatever he can.”

Former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson showers praise on current Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in an interview to Clare Balding for a BT Sport documentary to be broadcast on Boxing Day.

Ferguson added:

“He goes and becomes an interpreter for Bobby Robson, follows him to Barcelona, works under Louis Van Gaal; he is learning all the time.He [Mourinho] has got a determination, he wants to be a coach.He never played the game, by the way – you tell me how many presidents would give a manager a job who has never played the game? None. But he has done it.
Then he goes and manages a small team in Portugal, then goes to Porto and wins the league, wins the Uefa Cup, wins the European Cup, goes to Chelsea and wins the league. Goes to Inter Milan. That is an example to anyone who wants to do well, you shouldn’t let the barriers get in your way if you want to.”

Português: O treinador de futebol português Jo...

Português: O treinador de futebol português José Mourinho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blues coach Mourinho reciprocated the Scot’s approval with similar acclaim (on the same show).

The Portuguese said that he always ordered the same bottle of wine whenever United played them at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho said:

“It was Chelsea Football Club catering that bought the wine, and obviously the wine was not the top quality that the boss deserves. It was quite funny but disappointing. 

So the next time we play against each other, I called a friend and I told him, the best I want the best. 

And from that moment always the same bottle when I play against the boss.”

He added:

“Everything, his talent, the time he put his talent at the service of Manchester United and football in general. The passion that he has put in to everything, and after that in private moments, obviously, a good friend, a good person, a fantastic sense of humour. I like him very, very much. Now and again I’ve had questions to put to him and the way he has answered to me was always magnificent and a great support.”

What Ferguson really meant:

“He’s better looking than me plus he can travel all over Europe with his facility for picking up new languages. Imagine he can coach in five different tongues and claim he’s the ‘Chosen One’ in each of them too.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“He (Mourinho) would make a great travelling salesman, wouldn’t he?”

Gary Neville: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Gary Neville pub-crawls back and froth from The Dog and Duck to The Red Lion.

What he said:

“It’s the Dog and Duck versus The Red Lion.”

Former Manchester United player and skipper Gary Neville likens the upcoming match-up between Liverpool and Manchester United to a game between two pub sides.

Neville was commenting on United’s poor show against Southampton where they won 2-1 and had them sitting pretty at third spot in the English Premier League standings on the back of five consecutive wins.

Neville said:

“United got away with murder tonight. They look shot of confidence. United will be delighted to sit third and think they will get better.”

Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

United manager Louis Van Gaal warned Neville to “pay attention to his words”.

The Dutchman said:

“He can say everything because he is an ex-legend. But as an ex-legend … or as a legend, you have to know what you are saying. You can interpret that [as you like]. It’s not difficult. He has to pay attention to his words.”

Van Gaal singled out fellow countryman Robin Van Persie for praise following his brace against Southampton but conceded that United were not up to par.

Van Gaal said:

“He was one of the three players on the pitch of Manchester United who were good or maybe very good. He had a great influence on the result. Very positive.

Until now it was his best performance. I hope but I have to say I was very pleased with his performance and also his goals. His second was not so easy because the ball was coming towards his right foot and he connected with his left. A nice touch. Normally you have six, seven, eight players who are good. But today there were too many not good, I believe.”

Robin van Persie

Robin van Persie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What Neville really meant:

 “If that’s the level of play Liverpool and United are going to bring to the table, I’d be better off catching up with some Sunday League game instead or playing in one myself.”

What he definitely didn’t:

 “You do know that the Dog and Duck and The Red Lion are two of my favourite sports bars, right? That’s where we should watch Sunday soccer, not in some bloody sanitised studio. Soak up the atmosphere, eh?”

 

Dave Whelan: What he said


Dave Whelan shouts Chinese whispers.

What he said:

“When I was growing up we used to call the Chinese ‘chingalings’. We weren’t being disrespected [sic]. We used to say: ‘We’re going to eat in chingalings.’ The Chinese weren’t offended by that. That was the name everyone in Wigan called it [the first Chinese cafe in Wigan].”

Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan puts his other foot in his mouth with his comments regarding the Chinese community in England.

It was only last month that Whelan told the Guardian that “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else”.

The resulting storm saw the club lose two of its sponsors, Premier Range and Ipro.

Whelan defended his remarks thus:

“It’s telling the truth. Jewish people love money, English people love money; we all love money.”

Whelan was then defending his hiring of Malky Mackay as Wigan’s manager.

Mackay was under investigation by the Football Association for alleged racism and anti-Semitism over his email and text exchanges while in charge of Cardiff City.

One of Mackay’s texts or emails described Cardiff City owner, the Malaysian Vincent Tan, as a chink.

Another referred to the Jewish football agent, Phil Smith, as “a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.”

Whelan also said:

“If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman a chink he is lying. There is nothing bad about doing that. It is like calling the British Brits, or the Irish paddies.”

Simon Johnson, chief executive at the Jewish Leadership Council, said:

“Unfortunately Mr Mackay and now Mr Whelan have referred to some of the worst old-fashioned tropes which have been used in the past as the basis of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of Jewish people. Mackay used offensive language to insult a fellow participant in football using a tawdry racial stereotype.”

Wong, director of the Manchester Chinese Centre, said:

“I remember at school in the 70s a skinhead kicking me, calling me ‘chinky, chinky,’. It has stopped now; things have changed for the better. We have legal protection against racism and that is important; it is not political correctness. As a football manager, this man should not have said it.”

The British Chinese Project termed Whelan’s latest comments highly offensive.

A statement read:

“Once again, Mr Whelan, rather distressingly, believes he can speak on behalf of Chinese people. His comments are extremely unhelpful in our fight to end discrimination and racism against Chinese people in the UK. Once more, he is using a public platform to tell a wide audience what Chinese people find offensive.

Contrary to what Mr Whelan may believe, the vast majority of our community deem the terms ‘chink’ and ‘chingaling’ highly offensive. For many in the Chinese community these words hold deep emotional resonance, as they are often used in conjunction with racial violence, harassment and hate crimes.

Therefore, to say that ‘there is nothing wrong’ with using such terms or that Chinese people ‘aren’t offended’ by their use, demonstrates a dangerous level of ignorance. We have noticed that Mr Whelan has truly gone out of his way to apologise to the Jewish community, it is a shame that the same level of apology hasn’t been extended to the Chinese community. We can assure him that we are just as angry and just as offended as the Jewish community.”

Wigan, meanwhile, responded on-line saying:

“Wigan Athletic are reminding supporters that it is illegal to swear or use racist, homophobic or sexist language. The club has a zero tolerance on this and any supporter found to be using inappropriate language runs the risk of being ejected from the match.”

Emmanuel Petit: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Emmanuel Petit calls for a Franco-German union (well, almost).

What he said:

“France is hypocritical and cowardly. Sometimes I think that if we’d been overrun by the Germans, we’d be better run.”

Former France midfielder Emmanuel Petit is disgusted with the way the French national press have consistently treated his former team-mate Thierry Henry. Henry recently announced that he will be quitting the New York Red Bulls after four and a half years. The French forward is mulling retiring from the game. He is 37.

Petit said:

“In England, they’ve built a statue of Thierry. That means a lot. He is revered there. This bad image [in the French press] of Thierry Henry, it annoys me. What can we reproach Henry for? His handball against Ireland? He helped France qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. He has done nothing.”

He added:

“Wayne Rooney is not hated in England, even though he was not always right in his boots on the field and off. Thierry Henry never had a bad move on the pitch and there were no stories in his private life.

He’s not hated but he’s certainly not loved. He got screwed by the French press after his handball and has since not spoken to the French media.

In France, he has no collusion with the press, so what? Perhaps because he was not smiling when he scored for Les Bleus! Well, that’s what I hate in this country.

I have great difficulty with the French, I have never seen such arrogant, smug, lying and hypocritical people.”

Arsène Wenger, French football manager.

Arsène Wenger, French football manager. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said:

“He(Henry) is an Arsenal man. The best moment certainly of his life and of his career has been experienced here. Certainly one day he will come back here. In what role I don’t know, that is what he has to think about: what direction he wants to give to his next life.”

He added:

“Thierry has all the qualities because he is intelligent, committed, he loves the game. He just has to think, ‘Do I want to sacrifice all the rest of my life to be involved in that job?’

Yes [he can still do a job as a player], but 37 today in the Premier League … I don’t think he wants to do that again.

Thierry has given a lot, he has come out [of the Premier League] with an image that is fantastic. I am not sure that he wants to play again in the Premier League.

I don’t think he wants to carry on. That is a virtual world.”

What Petit really meant:

“Why couldn’t the French press be like the Argentines and simply term the handball incident the ‘Hand of God’ or, at least, the ‘Hand of Henry’? Why be critical of your best player and label him a cheat? It’s a national disgrace.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I’ve got my history wrong. The French were overrun—twice. That’s why the French press is so rabid towards fellow Frenchmen. They’re Deutsch in disguise.”

Mario Balotelli: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Mario Balotelli hashes it up on Instagram.

What he said:

“Not all Mexicans have a moustache, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money.”

Irreverent Italian striker Mario Balotelli is in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

The Liverpool forward stirred up some soup for himself with a controversial post on Instagram.

Balotelli was quick to delete his post in the face of a barrage of on-line and offline criticism.

And was even quicker to attempt damage control.

His first tweeted response:

He followed it with:

Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out has forwarded the offending post to the Football Association. FA has set a deadline of 18:00 GMT Friday the 12th for the Italian to provide a cogent defence for his anti-Semitic remark.

Speaking to BBC, a Liverpool spokesman said:

“We are aware of the posting which has since been promptly deleted by the player. We will be speaking to the player about the issue.”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said:

“I don’t know hardly anything about it, I have been busy getting the team ready for this game.

I will probably find out more about it.”

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, a former FA executive, said:

“We abhor all forms of racism, wherever it is found. We call upon the FA to investigate this offensive social media post and to take action if appropriate if we are to succeed in kicking racism out of football.”

Sports media trainer Alec Wilkinson added his bit:

“There are those that are famous, earn lots of money, with a sky-high profile, who think ‘What can you teach me? I can say what I like, it won’t damage me. We spend a lot of time explaining to them it’s good for them to take the pressure off themselves, to understand how the media works, how you can offend people.”

What Balotelli really meant:

“You know something, I suddenly realized that stereotypes, racial or not, are funny only until they’re not. Now the joke’s on Finally Mario.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I’m going to grow a moustache, play basketball instead and take a pay cut.”

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