This category contains 6 posts

Lionel Messi retires from international soccer: Will he return?

What do you say to Lionel Messi when he loses yet another final and announces his retirement from internationals?

Are his fans to cry, “Come back, Messi, we’ll always love you, come what may”?

Or to join his plaintive chorus to ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’.

“Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don’t keep your distance.”

Truth be told, my first reaction to Messi’s missed penalty was the demoralising effect it would have on his teammates. To see their skipper miss his shot by a mile could only create more flutters and nerves in their midst.

And sure enough, his teammates missed another and that was the end of Argentina’s Copa America Centenario dreams.

That Messi would take this loss to heart and view it as a personal failure could only be foreseen in hindsight.

Will Messi be back?

The magician with the ball does know that soccer is a team game and that he’s not expected to shoulder the blame for his team’s inadequacies. And it’s not as though there isn’t a blueprint available on how to nullify the Messi threat personified by an Argentinean side. Germany have done it before and Chile did it to them twice.

Messi is hardly the first high-profile player to miss a crucial penalty. His Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo missed one in this year’s Euro. Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini are on that unfortunate list too.

Time is a great healer and it’s possible that the lure of another World Cup could draw the mercurial forward back.

Yes, it’s possible, and we certainly hope to see him back in national colours.

Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy his exploits with Neymar and Luis Suarez for Barca.

Luis Figo’s futsal Premier League hits roadblocks

Luis Figo’s dream of introducing the five-a-side variant of soccer—futsal—to India may be still-born.

English: Luís Figo

LuísFigo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Portuguese ex-footballer was in the country to sell his new venture Premier Futsal as its president.

The 10-day event is scheduled to begin in mid-July and will consist of eight city franchises whose squads will have 56 international players and 40 Indians.

Each side would have three international players, one international marquee soccer player and one Indian player.

Each squad would have 12 players.

The eight chosen cities are: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Hyderabad and Goa.

Figo said:

“It’s a new challenge and adventure I have taken up which I hope to make as a success and that s why I said yes to this new project.

People love soccer and cricket out here. India has a huge population, a huge market and it offers a huge opportunity for doing sports events with great success. I am doing something positive for the sport and the country and my experience as a soccer player will hopefully help me in this development.

Back in Portugal I have played futsal extensively growing up which instilled quick thinking, skills and close control.”

The proposed league hit a speed-breaker when the world body FIFA wrote to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) claiming that the Futsal Association of India is a non-affiliated group and thus the Futsal League is not sanctioned by them.

Futsal is played mainly indoors and consists of two halves of 20 minutes each.

The main differences between traditional soccer and futsal are listed below:



Futsal (Five-a-Side Soccer)

#5 Ball   #4 Ball – 30% less bounce
11 players   5 players
3 substitutions   Unlimited “flying” substitutions (12 Players on a Team)
Throw-in   Kick-in
Running Clock   Stopped Clock
45 minute halves   20 minute halves
No time-outs   1 time-out per half
Goal kicks   Goal Clearance (throw)
Some contact   No shoulder charges or sliding tackles
No absolute time limit to restart game   4-second rule on restarts
Offside Rule   No Offside Rule
Goalkeeper steps   No restrictions, but limited to 4 seconds
Goalkeeper cannot touch by hand a ball kicked back   Goalkeeper cannot touch by hand a ball played back
Unlimited back passes to Goalkeeper   One back pass to Goalkeeper
No sub for player sent off   Player sent off can be substituted for after 2 minutes or other has scored
Corner kick placed in arch   Corner kick placed on corner

The Futsal Association of India (FAI) was formed in 2007.

Namdev Shirgaonkar is the former president of the organization.

They are affiliated with Association Mundial de Futsal (AMF) since 2011. They claim to be Founder Members of Confederation of Asian Futsal (CAFS).

FIFA World Cups for Futsal have been held since 1989 and the next is scheduled in Bogota, Colombia this year.

FIFA has competition from the Asociación Mundial de Fútbol de Salón (AMF) which was founded in July 1971.

Futsal tournaments as organised by AMF predate any tourneys organised by FIFA.

The promoters FAI have probably foreseen opposition from FIFA and AIFF. Talent will be scouted from all over India for the league; it’s unlikely that existing AIFF players will participate in big numbers lest they fall foul of their parent body.

We can only hope that budding footballers are not penalised for being part of this league much like players in the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL) were.

If the concept takes off, expect the AIFF to consider floating a rival franchise.

Futsal , if it succeeds, could very well popularise the game further in the country making it more accessible to the masses. We could very well see Futsal leagues mushrooming nationwide and schools, colleges and universities taking part enthusiastically.

Sponsors hit back at FIFA and BCCI: Image is everything

Português: Joseph Blatter, da Fifa, fala à sold it..

Joseph Blatter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sponsors have hit back and with a vengeance.

First, it was their demand for probity in FIFA affairs with Coca Cola, McDonalds, Visa and Budweiser seeking Joseph Blatter’s ouster.

Blatter responded with his characteristic bluster failing to acknowledge the winds of change.

His own Ethics Committee reacted less than a week later suspending him and his lieutenant Michel Platini for 90 days.

In India, Pepsi India served notice to the BCCI over its inept handling of the spot-fixing and betting scandals threatening to pull out of the title sponsorship.

The newly elected BCCI working committee has its hands full when it meets on October 18 to discuss the issue.

Blatter’s troubles originate with the Ethics Committee’s investigation into allegations of under-the-table payments to its former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL) in 2013.

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blatter’s mentor and godfather João Havelange resigned as honorary President. Blatter was given a clean chit.

Matters came to a head this year when the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) arrested seven FIFA officials and indicted 14 on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Since FIFA employees are not government officials, the US government cannot charge them for bribery. Federal laws prevent them from doing so.

Blatter resigned four days after his re-election for an unprecedented fifth time.

Blatter was first elected president in 1998.

The arrests triggered separate inquiries in Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Switzerland.

Part of the Swiss investigation involved a ‘disloyal payment’ of two million Swiss francs to Michel Platini by Blatter for work performed between 1999 and 2002.

The Swiss head was also alleged to have signed off television rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to a former FIFA official Jack Warner at below market rates.

Criminal proceedings began last week against the FIFA president.

The Ethics Committee moved swiftly suspending him and Platini  for 90 days. They further banned Ex-FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon for six years.

While Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonald’s and Visa were united in their opposition to Blatter’s continuance, Adidas refused to join  them.

The German sporting giant that has manufactured the World Cup match ball since 1970 and has been licensed to do till 2030 has the most to lose.

Soccer is the only sport in which it has a lead over its competitors. It is a Catch-22 situation.

It could either back the other advertisers and lose its most important market or suffer an erosion of its market share given the bad publicity surrounding FIFA and its running.

Blatter is believed to be an Adidas stooge.

Aidan Radnedge writes:

“Adidas supremo Horst Dassler plucked Blatter from the marketing department of luxury Swiss watchmaker Longines, trained him up for several months in Landersheim offices then installed him on the first – if lofty – rung of the Fifa ladder.

‘He taught me the finer points of sports politics – an excellent education for me,’ Blatter later said of Dassler, who also provided useful instruction in how to best enjoy a good cigar.”

It was Dassler and Havelange who  plotted the ouster of Sir Stanley Rous as Fifa president in 1974.

It was they who recognised the power vested in the federations of Asia and Africa. The poorer bodies felt alienated and under-represented. Havelange exploited their fears thus paving the way to become the most powerful man in soccer. He was ably assisted by his then right-hand man—Joseph Blatter.

ISL was founded in 1982 by Adidas heir Horst Dassler. For nearly two decades, it enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the commercial interests of both the world football federation and the Olympic movement.

ISL went bankrupt in 2001.

It is believed that without the pressure from Coca Cola and the others, the Ethics Committee would have proceeded more judiciously giving the accused a first hearing before issuing penalties.

FIFA expert professor Alan Tomlinson from the University of Brighton said:

“The sponsors have certainly ratcheted things up, and this is one of the main reasons why the ethics committee has, for once, acted quite swiftly. The normal procedure is for the accused to be initially heard and then, perhaps, issued with a provisional suspension, pending a full inquiry.

The sponsors have told FIFA that they have had enough and this has had a huge impact on recent events. This whole thing has come down to money because that is the one thing that people within FIFA understand.”

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A quarter of FIFA’s revenues over a 4-year-World-Cup cycle comes via sponsorship deals.

In India, PepsiCo, the soft drinks giant, are considering exiting the title spot citing concerns about the image of the IPL given the spot-fixing and betting imbroglios and suspension of franchises Chennai SuperKings and Rajasthan Royals.

PepsiCo India signed a deal for Rs.396 crores in 2012 for a five-year period.

If Pepsi pull out, then not just BCCI but also the franchises that have sold it ‘pouring rights’ will be adversely affected.

The ‘pouring rights’ are worth Rs.2 crores per season.

A co-owner of a franchise said:

“If the news about them pulling out of the IPL sponsorship is true, it’s a big loss. In these times when the brand value of the IPL is down so much, it will be difficult to sell the ‘pouring rights’ for more than Rs 50 lakh.

The tobacco and liquor companies were the ones to spend big money in sponsorship deals in cricket, then the cola giants became the big sponsors. In between, there were a few to associate with cricket like DLF and Hero Honda, but they pulled out too. If the cola companies pull out, it’s not good for the sport.”

The teams’ revenues too will be hit. The central revenue pool which is shared at 60:40 between the teams and the BCCI is the other main source of income besides team sponsorships. Any reduction in title sponsorship will lessen this intake.

The BCCI sought to play down the crisis.

An anonymous source within the BCCI and IPL said:

“Firstly, it has nothing to do with the 2013 IPL spot fixing scandal. At the moment, they’re concerned about the future of the IPL – whether it’ll be a 6, 8, 10 or 12-team tournament. Secondly, they’re not satisfied with the publicity that they’re getting out of the event vis-a-vis the other sponsors. They’ve to pay us Rs 90-100 crores every year, which isn’t a small amount.

It’s a sham. They have sponsored two IPL editions since the scandal broke out. I think they’re facing financial difficulties of their own. When we met them in Delhi some time back, they never gave an indication about this. In fact, we had a healthy discussion with their chairman and CEO for India region, D Shivakumar, about our future plans.”

The stern action and harsh words employed by commercial interests in the sporting properties of FIFA and the BCCI are reminiscent of tactics employed by activist investors in corporate governance.

Activist shareholders secure equity stakes in corporations to put public pressure on their management.

Their goals may be financial or non-financial.

Despite having a relatively small stake–sometimes just 1% is enough—, these activist investors seek the support of financial institutions who hold larger stakes to further their goals.  Some of them even manage to secure seats on the board.

While sponsors cannot be said to own equity stakes in sporting federations, given the huge contribution they make to their revenues, their influence cannot be discounted.

The IPL, in the wake of Lalit Modi’s ouster, installed a Governing Council to overlook its operations. Would it be a far-fetched idea to have a sponsor representative on the council that could safeguard their interests?

Corporate governance for sports federations that include the interests of sponsors would be more than practical.

For once, interests of fans and sponsors are aligned. Will it always be so?

Mirror Girls Soccer League begins in Mumbai on Saturday

Girls playing Soccer.

Girls playing Soccer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mumbai Mirror is writing a new chapter in women’s soccer—nay, girl’s soccer—in Mumbai.

The tabloid—in concert with Western India Football Association (WIFA) and Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA)—has organised a Girls Soccer League beginning this Saturday at the Cooperage.

Over 100 teams are participating. The aim is to promote the game at the grassroots.

WIFA CEO Henry Menezes said:

“WIFA has successfully conducted coach education and grassroot programmes. It is important to get such an event for the kids to display their talent, especially girls. Even at national level our girls have started to do much better than boys.
Hopefully once this becomes a success, this tournament will become a year-on affair.
We are getting non-stop enquiries. It is so promising. It will be hard to accommodate everybody. But look at the interest. It’s tremendous. We need to set up trend with this tournament.”

The rink tournament is five-a-side.

NGOs, private clubs, local sides and, of course, schools will take part in three categories:

Under-14, Under-16 and Open.

The Mirror Girls Soccer League will be one of the largest sporting events dedicated solely to the fairer sex.

The Mumbai Mirror is a part of the Times of India group of publications.

Football (Soccer ball)

Football (Soccer ball) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women’s soccer is played in 176 countries internationally.

It is a little known fact that women’s football was banned by the British Football Association in 1921 on the grounds that it was distasteful.

This led to the formation of the English Ladies Football Association. Matches were played on rugby grounds.

The FA’s ban was finally lifted in 1971.

The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991.

Women players do not make as much money as the men; their earnings on the average are a seventh of their male counterparts.

Coverage of the sport, too, is minuscule.

According to an article in the Guardian, “stories about men’s sports outnumbered those about women’s sports by 20 to one in March 2013 in six national titles – the Sun, Mirror, Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express.”

Jane Martinson wrote:

“The arguments usually put forward for the lack of coverage is that no one is interested in women’s sport, yet the interest shown on social media and among TV viewers suggests otherwise. Women’s football got its own series on BBC2 for a bit, while the women’s football World Cup final of 2011 was at the time the most-tweeted event in the history of Twitter.

Previous research has shown that sports journalism has one of the lowest percentages of female journalists, with a Women in Journalism study three years ago revealing that just 3% of all sport stories in a given month were written by women.”

English: Girl playing soccer

English: Girl playing soccer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Their cause was not helped by FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments in 2004 when he said:

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts.

Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

The remarks only highlighted Blatter’s ignorance.

Pauline Cope, the then England and Charlton goalkeeper, responded:

“We don’t use a lighter ball for one thing, and to say we should play football in hotpants is plain ridiculous.

It’s completely irresponsible for a man in a powerful position to make comments like this.”

Then Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey added:

“Surely it’s about skill and tactical ability first and how people look second. Ten years ago we did play in tighter shorts. Nobody paid attention then.”

Movies like ‘Bend it like Beckham’ have engendered interest in the sport amongst young girls over the past decade.

The Indian women are ranked 56 as against the men who are a lowly 167.

With some luck, hard work and better organization, India could have a women’s team representing the country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup much before the men.

That would really be something. Wouldn’t it?

Disclaimer: The writer is in no way connected or associated with Mumbai Mirror or its sister publications.

ISL and I-League must merge: AIFF and players

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) finds itself at the crossroads.

On one side, they have the Indian Super League (ISL) that has corporate sponsors, star coaches and players, Bollywood glamour and Star Sports.

On the other, they have the national tourney, the I-League that languishes with failing clubs, poor marketing and little or no television audiences.

Praful Patel, the AIFF president, is the man in the centre of the storm.

Both tournaments want longer terms but that can happen only at the cost of the other.

It is a fine balancing act. And the AIFF is wary of treading on anyone’s toes.

They do not wish to do away with the old without checking that the new will work out.

The I-League has tradition and history on its side.

The ISL has deep pockets and committed owners.

Patel does not believe that the I-League is doomed for extinction—yet.

He said:

There’s no question [that the I-League will stick around]. It is the league of India. ISL is a tournament — like the Rovers Cup or a Durand Cup. It is a tournament — not a permanent league as a league of the country recognised by FIFA. I-League has to remain as the principal league of the country.

An immediate merger with the ISL is not on the cards either.

The I-League teams don’t have any illusions about their financial future. Two Pune clubs, Pune FC and Bharat FC, have already put up their hands as being candidates for dropping out from the league.

A meeting of ISL promoters IMG-Reliance and I-League club representatives led to no resolution of the football calendar.

Patel said:

I-League clubs felt that new challenges have come after ISL’s success. This was a meeting on how to strengthen the I-League and make it more marketable. After ISL, television viewership of I-League also went up. While it may not translate into tangible benefits immediately, it shows one has had a spin-off effect on another. It will be better to take this to the right direction.

Patel warned that even a merger is no guarantee that teams will not continue to lose money.

A committee has been formed to look into a possible merger.

Patel added:

Even ISL clubs lose a lot of money. But we need to bring in people who have to be committed to that. If somebody is committed and passionate they will come forward. It’s not the first time clubs have gone out. I would like to see clubs remain but that won’t affect Indian football in the long run.

The I-League clubs have historically been there. Clubs are open to the merger but it would be unfair to say it’s done. There will be issues, because there are legacy clubs in Kolkata and Goa too. The ISL being a city based tournament, the question is how we integrate. Therefore this subgroup has been formed to give us an agenda.

The AIFF chief believes that a merger may take two to three years.

The I-League begins in January and ends by late May.

The ISL has a three month slot beginning October and ending in December.

AIFF general secretary, Kushal Das,  maintained that they are not being pressurised by FIFA or AFC into committing to just one league.

Das said:

Across the world, we have just one league and we have to follow the best practices. This was an excellent meeting and everyone agreed that, for the sake of Indian football, all of us have to work together.

I-League team owners are not convinced that they are not the football association’s step-children.

A disappointed club official said:

There was no commitment from the AIFF or genuine concern for I-League clubs, two of whom are close to shutting down. There was no discussion on how we can enhance the popularity of the I-League. All we are hearing of is another committee and we have seen all of this before.

English: Selwyn Fernandes is an Indian footbal...

Selwyn Fernandes is an Indian football player who plays as a Defender for I-League team Pune FC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Das insisted that the AIFF has a roadmap for merging the two leagues.

He added:

We have a roadmap which is to have one league within two-three years. But we have to chalk it out on how to go about it. There will be a shake-up in Indian football. There has not been any impact so far but it will happen in future and we have to sort this out. More or less all the teams — ISL clubs and I-League clubs and IMG Reliance — are of the opinion to have one league.

The AIFF general secretary also clarified that they are not keen on forming new I-League teams from existing cities specifically from Bengaluru.

Pune has three clubs, two of whom—Bharat FC and Pune FC—have threatened to shut shop.

The clubs claimed to have difficulties forming fan bases.

English: Lester Fernandez (born 6 December 198...

Lester Fernandez (born 6 December 1986) is an Indian football player who plays as a Midfielder for I-League team Pune FC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The I-League currently consists of 11 teams.

Team City State Home venue Capacity
Bengaluru FC Bangalore Karnataka Sree Kanteerava Stadium 24,000
Bharat FC Pune Maharashtra Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Complex 22,000
Dempo Panaji Goa Fatorda Stadium 19,800
East Bengal Kolkata West Bengal Salt Lake Stadium 68,000
Mohun Bagan Kolkata West Bengal Salt Lake Stadium 68,000
Mumbai Mumbai Maharashtra Cooperage Ground 10,000
Pune FC Pune Maharashtra Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Complex 22,000
Royal Wahingdoh Shillong Meghalaya Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium 30,000
Salgaocar Vasco da Gama Goa Fatorda Stadium 19,800
Shillong Lajong Shillong Meghalaya Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium 30,000
Sporting Goa Panaji Goa Fatorda Stadium 19,800

Source: Wikipedia

Das said:

The bid is already open and we will not take another team from Bengaluru as we already have BFC there. When BFC came into existence we had already made it clear there would not be another team in near future as per the contractual obligation.

English: Team photo of the Indian Football tea...

Team photo of the Indian Football team Pune FC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prodded on the subject of clubs folding, the AIFF chief, Praful Patel, said:

I want each and every club to keep functioning. But clubs do close down in football and a lot depends on financial planning.

The Indian players do not seem to have a problem with the proposed merger of the leagues.

Pune FC defender, Anas Edathodika, said:

The standard of the ISL is pretty good. There were several World Cup players in the ISL in 2014 and the youngsters can learn a lot from them. But if these great players could be involved in Indian football for a longer period, we could learn even more from them.

If the ISL is merged with the I-League, then we could have a longer tournament which would give Indians more opportunities to play alongside these foreigners. It would also force the I-League clubs to become more professional in their approach and that can only be good for the game.

Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri has no qualms either.

He said:

I would love to have just one league in the country…. where there will be 16-18 teams and which goes on for 11 months and there will be a format of Federation Cup like the FA Cup in England. I just hope things work, like I-League, ISL and the Federation and AIFF sit together and chalk it out. It would be great to have that for Indian football.

English: R.C Prakash (born 1979) is an Indian ...

R.C Prakash (born 1979) is an Indian football player. He is currently playing for HAL SC in the I-League in India as a Forward. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With so much said about the non-viability of two independent leagues and the problems with the existing I-League and with the players all for it, it must seem a  cinch that a merger is the best thing possible for the future of the sport in India.

Is it, really? More on that later.

Soccer: Sebastian Ariosa beats cancer and club Olimpia

It’s not okay to be seriously ill when contracted out to a soccer club.

At least, that’s what Paraguayan club Olimpia seemed to believe when it suspended Uruguayan Sebastian Ariosa’s contract when the player chose to undergo chemotherapy for a chest tumour.

The defender had a five-year contract with the club beginning 2011.

The Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) ruled in Ariosa’s favour awarding him 7% of his contract value ($60,000) as “moral damages” and $90,000 as sporting compensation for his team’s lack of “sportive ethics”.

This is as against an earlier FIFA edict that the Uruguayan’s contract should be paid out in full.

Both sides appealed to CAS; the Uruguayan sought other compensation.

Club officials had demanded his return to training from Uruguay while he was undergoing treatment there.

Alexandra Gomez, a lawyer for the global players’ union FIFPro, said:

“We see this as a great result. CAS stated that the club was not responsible for the condition of the player, but it was responsible for its own response to this situation.”

The court has also ordered the club to pay Ariosa his overdue salary plus interest as well as a 13th month accrued over the term of his agreement.

FIFPro , in its statement , said:

“FIFPro is pleased to announce a major legal victory has been awarded to Uruguayan footballer, Sebastian Ariosa.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found Paraguayan outfit, Club Olimpia, breached almost all of its obligations toward Ariosa, including a blatant attempt to exploit the player’s incapacity to work after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Such is the significance of this case, CAS awarded ‘moral damage’ to Ariosa, which is extremely rare. It stems from Club Olimpia’s appalling behaviour to suspend the player at a time when he was suffering greatly, fighting for his life and dealing with the effects of chemotherapy.”

FIFPRO added:

“Olimpia was in breach on all counts. Its response was to stop paying and suspend Ariosa, while demanding that the player return to training in the midst of his treatment. This behaviour corresponds with the two requirements which the tribunal considered in order to grant moral damage; exceptionality and severity.”

Ariosa now turns out for national side, Defensor Sporting.



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