Category Archives: Football

Some Football Writing

Its been a while since I have updated. The past few days have been spent in some fledgling football writing for Bleacher Report.

My first article, a match report, can be found here and this is the second match report.

I have also written another article on the under-performers at Arsenal FC and a piece on Sol Campbell.

The writing is still very Arsenal centric as it is the team I know and understand the best. I hope to soon branch out into writing about the premier league, the champion’s league and Indian football.

Sunil Chhetri has made his debut for the Kansas City Wizards. Let’s all give him our support and wish him the best for his stint in the MLS.

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We are lucky

It has been almost 16 years since I started following football. My first memory of a match is the 1994 World Cup semifinal between some random team and Sweden, which is also the first time I heard of Sweden and somehow the name stuck. The day after the final, my teacher asked me who won the world cup and I enthusiastically replied Sweden. The Goan that she was, my teacher looked suitably scandalized, before informing me that Brazil had won the world cup. This was the first time I heard of Brazil. And they were the random team who had defeated Sweden in the semis.

But after that my interest soared thanks to ESPN and my father’s encouragement and I usually watched the Euro and the World Cup before discovering the Premier League, Sirie A and La Liga. At times, I listen to my father and other uncles talking about famous matches and players they had the privilege of watching live and I feel I have missed a lot. But I realize am also blessed to have seen some truly brilliant players live for so many years now. Here is a list of 10 footballers I am proud to have seen playing and maybe 50 years later when I am sitting with my grandkids, I can regale them with stories about these greats. So in no particular order, here goes:

1) Paolo Maldini
One of the greatest defenders in the history of the game Maldini is the epitome of loyalty. He spent his entire career at A.C. Milan and was a brilliant leader. He captained Milan to glory countless times and remains the best defender I have seen. When he finally retired at 37, he left behind some big boots to fill and I fear football will never see a player like him again.

2) Dennis Bergkamp
He was not the main striker at Arsenal or Holland. The role never really suited him. But as a supporting striker he was deadly. He had an impeccable first touch and great ball control. My abiding memory of him is when he scored that goal against Newcastle United. There can only be one Bergkamp.

3) Thierry Henry
France, Arsenal or Barcelona, Titi has always been brilliant. Always a prolific scorer, he has turned so many games around with his skill. Though he will be missed at Arsenal, he will remain a Gunner forever.

4) Christiano Ronaldo
He may be a complete cunt and a diver but never for a moment can anyone question his talent. He wreaked havoc on the opposition in the premier league and continues to do so in La Liga. His pace and skill are enough to win any game and he has done so on more than one occasion.

5) Ronaldinho
Not in his prime right now but around 2005, he was as good as a player can ever get. He danced around the pitch and the ball seemed to be attached to his feet. His cheeky free-kick against David Seaman in the 2002 world cup still brings a smile to my face.

6) Zinedine Zidane
Enough said.

7) Lionel Messi
There have been so many Argentinians who have been called “The next Maradona” but Messi is the only one who seems to deserve the title. 2009 was his season and the fact that Barcelona will probably not sell him for a 100 million pounds, says a lot about him.

8) Cesc Fabregas
Messi’s midfield colleague from the Barcelona youth team and Arsenal’s second youngest captain ever, he has admirably filled the void left by Patrick Viera’s departure. Though not quite as successful as Viera, Fabregas has been a delight to watch with his wonderful passing and vision. And he is only 23 so it will be wonderful to be able to watch him for the next 10 years he is at his best.

9) Ryan Giggs
Perhaps the biggest regret is that like the great Alfredo Di Stephano, giggs has never played in a world cup. Easily the first choice left winger for any national team, the Welshman has enjoyed enormous success with Manchester United. On his day he was unstoppable and I am happy to have watched him tear teams apart on a regular basis.

10) Peter Schmeichel
530,000 pounds is what Manchester United paid for the Danish goalkeeper, and they could not have had a better bargain. He is the best goalkeeper I have seen and for me he surpasses even Cassilas and Buffon. If it were not for him, United could never have won as many titles in the 1990s and even if those two goals were scored by Sherringham and Solskjaer, the real star of that game was Schmeichel. If it was someone else, United would have been 4 goals down with no hope left.

I could probably name a 100 more names but I think I will end it at this. All said, I feel it is these men and others who make the beautiful game what it is and yes, we are lucky……

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Revenge, best served cold?

This report in Mumbai Mirror about a 5-3 win for Mohun Bagan against arch rivals East Bengal in the i-league claims that with this victory, Mohun Bagan finally avenged their loss 5-0 in the 1975 IFA Shield Final.

Ask any football fan, is any victory in a league game, no matter how many goals are scored, ever compensate for a defeat in a final? Revenge is complete ONLY when Bagan defeat East Bengal in the IFA Shield final. I am sure the Maroon half of Bengal would agree.

Only goes to confirm my belief that Mumbai Mirror is a crappy newspaper.


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My First International Football Match

The great advantage of being in a world class institute is having world class sports facilities. And Georgia Tech sure is one of the best in this area. As Atlanta was the host city of the summer olympics in 1996, a lot of work went into sports development. The Georgia Tech campus was the site for many events, most importantly the swimming events. They are mad about football here. Not the beautiful game, their own version of it. So there is a 55,000 seater stadium on campus and a huge artificial turf for practice.

We had to start committing sacrilege at one place or the other so we went to their practice field with out good old soccer ball in hand and started kicking the ball around. Turns out it wasn’t sacrilege at all. Loads of people in Atlanta do play soccer and they are exceptionally good at it too. So since there were only four of us, we decided to join 5 other guys to play a game. Turns out they were Colombians visiting the campus and they had all of Valderama’s genes in them.

We scored a good first goal but after that it was basically over as a contest with the ball flying into the goalpost from unimaginable distances and angles. Add to that the fact that it was at least four months since we had had any real exercise. So it was just an exercise in futility. We were soon joined by two American girls, Deedee and Danny who represented their respective colleges in soccer. Deedee joined our team which led to a brief resurgence but in spite of the fact that she played better and was fitter than all four of us put together, the competition was too tough.

Enter Adnan and Faisal. Two Bangladeshis out of which Faisal was a professor of Material Science in Gatech. Well we tried out best. They played their part. But the game ended at 16-8. And by ended, I mean the four of us were too tired to go on and trudged back. Those guys quickly reformed teams and went at each other without a break.

We came back home tired and defeated, but as everybody knows, the aim of a good game of football is not about deciding who won or lost, its just about that sweet great feeling you end up with which feels like someone saying, “Attaboy champ. You had a great time.”

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Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion

Arsenal kicked off the 2008-09 season yesterday with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over newly promoted West Bromwich Albion. A 4th minute strike by debutant Samir Nasri was enough to see off the wolves as the gunners held on to their lead for the next 86 minutes.

Arsene Wenger was forced to play many players out of position due to injuries to his squad. The 21 year old old Denilson took on the mantle of holding midfielder with Nasri and Theo Walcott on his left and right with Emmanuel Eboue incongruously playing in the centre of midfield. Youngster Johan Djourou was given a start alongside Willam Gallas in the back as usual suspects Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy and Bakary Sagna completed the defence. Upfront were hitman Emmanuel Adebayor and surprisingly, Nicklas Bendtner.

Arsenal began the first half in hot form with some brilliant plays along the left flank thanks to overlapping runs by Clichy and Nasri and only 4 minutes into the half, their efforts bore fruit and Denilson latched on to a Clichy pass and just did enough to turn it in for Nasri who finished it like he had been playing with the team forever. A few minutes later Theo Walcott headed the ball off an Adebayor cross, only to be denied by Scott Carson. Not too long afterwards William Gallas thundered in a shot which was just instant away.

Just when the Arsenal fans were expecting a rout, the Wolves became sharper in defence and managed to kill off some good moves. Walcott looked unsettled and was unable to put his pace to any use. Eboue always looked short of ideas and Adebayor revealed a selfish streak as he refused to pass the ball to a better placed player and prefered to shoot wide.

The Wolves were impotent in the first half with only one good chance which was parried by Almunia. The second half saw them more lively as they threatened to score on more than one occasion. An Ishmael Miller shot was replused by Almunia who was helpless to stop the rebound by Paul Robinson, but it was cleared off the line by Djourou. Things did not favour either side as Robin Van Persie replaced Bendtner with Kolo Toure coming on for Walcott. The match ended in a well fought victory for the gunners and as for West Brom, there is really no shame in losing to Arsenal at their home ground after putting up a good fight. If they show this tenacity in all their games, even a top half finish cannot be ruled out.

As for Arsenal, it was clear they were missing the creativity of Cesc Fabregas. The fans would be relishing the prospect of seeing him and Nasri working in tandem. Denilson rose to the occasion and made a few good interceptions and generally held the ball well. It would be interesting to see how he holds up against the bigger clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea. At back, Djourou made a few errors but that came from a lack of confidence and he should shape up pretty well. Gallas led the lads well and it was a correct decision to let him retain the armband.

Theo Walcott has to get more creative and improve his dribbling. A case of stiff legs perhaps? Adebayor had better not let his ego get in his way and Bendtner needs to combine better with the Togolese. Van Persie is due for a bit of luck as far as injuries are concerned and will hopefully start scoring soon.

What one looks forward to is the return of Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Rosicky, Eduardo and the free flowing, mouth watering football that flows when this young (now also experienced?) and unlucky (but not for long hopefully!) side takes the field. Next up, its Fulham.

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Anything for football

We were playing 5 on 5 football the other day in college. Saju’s hand caught Debu in the face and he got a nosebleed. Chakks went to help him out (and impress a girl showing how caring he is for a friend) while we just waited kicking the ball around aimlessly. We were waiting for Debu to recover and come back but he was taking a lot of time. So I told people to start playing 4 on 4.

At this point, KD looks at me coldly and says : “Saala koi mar jayega toh bhi tu bolega chalo 3 on 3 khlete hain.”

Now I ask you, Who wouldn’t???

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Dudu Come Back

After Martin Taylor’s horror tackle yesterday which broke Eduardo D’Silva’s leg, one wonders if Taylor can sleep at night. But then again, one is purely thinking from the point of view of an Arsenal Fan. A review of the tackle makes it painfully obvious that he had no intention of breaking Dudu’s leg, he just went for the ball. Anyway, hard luck to both men.

The mental strain of such a horrific injury is much more than the physical strain and I hope that Dudu comes out of this spot as a stronger person. Arsene Wenger has thankfully withdrawn his statements as it would have only led to bad blood among the teams. Come on lads, we need to win the league for Eduardo!!! Godspeed.

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