“At that level, every goal is like a knife in the ribs.”
“I don’t like compliments. No. I prefer criticisms; prefer to prove them wrong.”
”If any player has a bad game it’s there in the back of your mind in the next game. There’s always a hangover. It is like a wounded animal in a way, as you want to get out there as quick as possible and rectify it.”
Professional sports is not always about speed and power.
It’s also about skill, precision and deception.
Nothing illustrated this better than Vijender Singh’s performance during his WBO Asia title bout against Australian Kerry Hope and Ronaldinho’s in the Premier Futsal game for Goa against Bengaluru.
Hope was the more aggressive of the two seeking to flatten Singh with his left jab and powerful right. But Vijender absorbed it all and retaliated with counterpunching of his own—Hope’s only response was to engage in ‘professional’ clinching of the worst kind.
It was the Haryanvi’s first 10 rounder but he withstood the onslaught of a man who had run a half-marathon in 1:35 just two weeks earlier.
Admittedly, it was not a very entertaining encounter. Perhaps, boxers and students of the sport would appreciate it better.
The result, though, was an unanimous decision in Vijender’s favour.
Unlike his earlier six fights, this did not end in a knockout. The prize, however, was his.
Ronaldinho retired from international football last year.
Futsal is his second coming.
The happiest soccer player on the planet was in his element in the game against Bengaluru on Sunday scoring five out of seven goals for his side.
The Brazilian displayed his entire repertoire in a spirited performance that left the crowd astounded and his fans in delirium.
Two exponents of the art of two different games but a common thread shone through them.
Experience counts for something—after all.
Everybody loves a winner.
Even more so, a pretty one.
Like Federer, like Brazil in the 50s and 60s.
Sometimes, winning is everything.
So when the purists crib that Portugal were unaesthetic in the triumph at the European Cup this year, let’s put their comments in the right perspective.
It is Portugal’s name that will be inscribed on the trophy and history will record them as victors.
Will it matter , in a few years, how they emerged kings despite winning just one game in normal time? Will it matter that they barely made the pre-quarters, drawing all their three group Games?
It will not and Cristiano Ronaldo knows and recognises this better than anyone else.
Hobbling on the sidelines in the final, the man from Madeira cheered and spurred his teammates on inspiring them to the podium in his absence.
In the process, he went one better than his rival and the best player on the planet, Lionel Messi.
Messi may be beautiful, he may be sublime, but he has still to win a title for his native Argentina.
Ronaldo has his measure there.
Unlike tennis, badminton or squash, soccer is a team sport.
And one man does not a team make.
Winning need not be elegant, it need not be pleasing to the eye or the spectators.
Sometimes, it’s simply about getting the job done, doing what’s needed when it’s required.
Yes, we love to see our winners be gorgeous, heavenly and glorious.
But for every Federer, there’s a Nadal.
And for every Spain, there’s a Denmark, a Greece and now a Portugal.
“National teams depend a lot on the professionalism of their footballers to perform well in major tournaments. And, that professionalism owes a lot to club football.”
—I M Vijayan.
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.
Will it be third time lucky for Lionel Messi?
The mesmerising Argentinean played his part in thumping hosts USA in the semis of the Copa America Centenario with one stupendous free-kick and two assists.
The men in striped white and blue take on defending champions Chile in a rematch of last year’s summit clash.
This is Messi’s third final in two years for his nation.
Will this end their title drought?
The line-up for the last four places were as the form book suggests.
Colombia and USA made up the numbers.
Brazil—minus Neymar—were a pale shadow of their former, glorious selves. And Uruguay were unfortunate that they had to leave their talismanic striker Luis Suarez on the injury bench.
100 years of the Copa America and there couldn’t be a more befitting end if Lionel Messi were to finally acquire the silverware he richly deserves.
Alexis Sanchez may have dissimilar thoughts.
What he said:
“I hope Puma don’t make condoms.”
Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri made the most cutting remark of the evening when he said the above following the shredding of four team-mates’ jerseys during a group game with hosts France at this year’s European Cup.
Admir Mehmedi, Breel Embolo, Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka all lost their shirts—literally—in their goalless draw in Lille.
Xhaka had to change shirts twice.
Former England World Cup hero Gary Lineker was equally scathing on Twitter indicting German industry.
This is not the first time the Swiss encountered problems with their Puma tees.
Breel Embolo lost his top in a friendly against Montenegro.
“We have had a few problems with the jersey. The kit manager is not fully ready yet, but we are.”
“There was one batch of material, where yarns had been damaged during the production process, leading to a weakening in the final garment. This can happen, if the combination of heat, pressure and time is not properly controlled in the manufacturing process. All federations have confirmed that they never had any such issues and are very happy with quality, functionality and design of their jerseys.”
Puma supplies shirts to Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia.
Its home rival Adidas was also targeted when its ‘Beau Jeu’ ball designed especially for Euro 2016 burst open in the same match.
“We are looking into what happened. Incidents of this nature are extremely rare.
The reason for the tear has not yet been identified, but Beau Jeu [the tournament ball] has been widely praised by respected experts for its contribution to the exciting start to the tournament.”
What Shaqiri really meant:
“A tear—at the wrong time—makes nine.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’ll opt for double protection the next time I play—I’ll wear two jerseys instead.”
“I don’t know if I’m a good person, but I know I’m not a bad one.”—Zinedine Zidane.