Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Bébé Enigma

The FA Cup match-up (or mismatch as originally thought) between Crawley Town and Manchester United saw a team of amateur footballers virtually unheard of travel to Old Trafford to take on what was essentially a second-string United side. Darron Gibson, Gabriel Obertan and Bébé were handed rare starts in attack, with Obertan and Bébé deployed to attack down the flanks in support of Javier Hernandez.

As the 1-0 win for United would suggest, this was a tactical decision that well-nigh backfired for the Premier League leaders.  It took a header from Wes Brown to send the unconvincing Red Devils through to the next round, which will pit them against either Leyton Orient or Arsenal.  But perhaps the most outrageous of the issues that were thrust into the spotlight following the match was the ridiculous, almost laughable performance by a player who cost United £7.4 million to bring in-  Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, better known as Bébé.

Rather than making the most of being offered a first-team berth to underline his potential, if any, Bébé decided to make a downright mess of things. His first touches of the ball were decent and passed without much incident, at one point nearly releasing Chicharito to bare down on goal if not for a tight offside call. As the minutes went by, his dribbling grew to be stiff, ungainly and aimless. His passing, in particular, was absolutely horrifying.  The 20-year-old forsook the logical option of beating his marker and finding a better angle to put crosses into the box for his teammates to attack, instead resorting to thumping wild balls which found Crawley defenders more often than they did United attackers.

When the time that Bébé made up his mind to attempt to go past the defender finally did come, he found himself surrendering possession, going out of play and putting Rafael under unnecessary pressure; quite virtually everything but dribbling past the defender.  Dean Howell had nearly virtually no issues with keeping him in check and David Hunt couldn't agree more, dispossessing Bébé with conviction on two occasions and easily getting in the way of wishful long balls from the young Portuguese. It wouldn't take Alan Hansen to tell that with such a showing,  Bébé wouldn't quite be ascending the pecking order anytime soon.

Nevertheless, there remains hope for him. He has shown glimpses of his ability, with a beauty of a volley against Wigan in a Reserves match. Against Bursapor in the Champions League, he latched onto a brilliant pass from Scholes, rode a sliding challenge and poked the ball into the net past the keeper. But if he is to stay on and make a name for himself playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, there are many aspects of his game that he needs to improve on: his passing, decision-making, dribbling, speed and acceleration. A lot of work, so little time.

Sir Alex Ferguson has infamously parted ways with even the most promising of players as soon as he could if they failed to perform. Known victims include Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba and David Bellion amongst many others. As things stand, Bébé would be accompanied out of the door by Darron Gibson, perhaps Gabriel Obertan too despite the latter having shown flashes of his immense talent.

If fortune favours Bébé, Leyton Orient may just pull off a shocker against Arsenal in the FA Cup. Whether Sir Alex would deploy him against them, however, is another matter.

He could choose to watch his brief United career crash and burn before him. Or he could adapt to the English game, up the ante and prosper as his illustrious compatriots, Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani did. Either way, the pressure is on.  

By Josh Tong-Lok

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fernando Torres - The "el nino" effect

Now not many of us football fans pay much attention to the business side of the sport. We on the other hand rather like it, and stumbled across something that we found rather interesting.

Although the transfer window is well closed and the shock trasfer of Fernando Torres to Chelsea has settled into our system, I thought I would take one more look at the 50mil Spaniards transfer and just how much this transfer could mean to Chelsea. Now Fernando maybe be looking a bit rusty on the pitch, and at times border lining desperate, but you get the feeling goals will come and he will once again be up there with Europes elite. However, despite his lack of form Torres is paying back the club that signed him in more ways than one. Torres is a foot-balling icon and a world wide image in the sport that streches far and wide. Simple internet findings reveal just how big an icon Torres is.

The most popular social networking site Facebook highlights perfectly how Chelsea can benefit commercially by acquiring Torres," said Oliver Ward, Senior Agent at ITM Sports Management.

With 966,680 fans, Torres is the most popular player in the English Premier League. More people like him than John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba combined, Torres has almost as many fans as either Arsenal and Chelsea Football Clubs.

"With 966,680 fans Torres is the Premier League's most popular player on Facebook"
Now as far as a clubs image goes, no club can be worse off aquiring the Premier Leagues most followed player. He is a sort after commodity, the player every marketing man wants to get his hands on. Torres with Chelsea in the Champioms league is much more appealing than Torres with Liverpool in the Europa league, sponsers know this and will be waiting in the wings for the Spaniard to strutt his stuff in Europes elite competition. A further indication of Fernandos insant success at Chelsea world wide was 24hours after transfer deadline day, when it was revealed that in 24hours Torres Chelsea shirts outsold Carroll Liverpool shirts Chelsea in a staggering 250/1 ratio.

The brand of Chelsea football club has already risen to extreme heights with there expansive spending on high profile players, but with Fernando Torres joining the ranks of the lofty Londeners there world-wide reputation becomes just that much more appealing.
Fernando is not only a top class player, he is a top class piece of business and 50mil is starting to look like a small price to pay considering the amount of potential this transfer has for both club and player. Chelsea officials and fans alike will only be so happy to see him plying his trade at Stamford Bridge.

By Ayden Rhodes

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabregas.... fit or unfit for Birmingham clash?

Arsenal captain and Spanish international Cesc Fabregas is in serious doubt of missing the League Cup final against Birmingham. After picking up an injury against Stoke City, Arsene Wenger came out ruling the number 4 unfit for their historic clash which could see them end their long streak without winning a trophy.

However Fabregas and Arsenal fans alike were given some hope when Cesc's personal trainer cliamed that he is indeed fit to play this weekend.

Juan Ferrando - personal trainer - suggested that the substitution against Stoke was indeed a precaution.

He also stated the Cesc will be ready for their second leg clash with Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Fabreagas is expected to be given right up until kick off to prove his fitness for the clash. However, Wenger will be prioritising the match against Barcelona and even if he does prove to be match fit, he might just be conserved for the crucial clash.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The curious case of Ricardo Quaresma

On the 13th of July, 2 years ago, Ricardo Quaresma signed for Turkish side Besiktas for a fee of 7.3 million euros, ending a spell at Inter that could only be described as disastrous. With all due respect, Besiktas are not quite the club he can expect to challenge for major individual accolades at. They lie sixth in the Super Lig table and are challenging for the Europa League and the Turkish Cup, having one out of their last five matches. 

A far cry from his days at Porto where he set the Champions League alight with his craft with the ball and posed a constant threat to the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. So how did it all go wrong for this prodigiously talented individual who, now entering his peak, never quite got the career that his potential deserved?

In 2004, Quaresma left Barcelona after sustaining a serious injury and falling out with Frank Rijkaard, ending up in his native Portugal offering his services to FC Porto. It was there that he came into his own, netting a debut goal and taking on a key role in an attacking Porto side, who were playing some of their best football with him in the thick of it. Every flick, feint and stepover was met with thunderous applause from the fans. The level at which he played would've put him in strong contention for the Ballon D'Or, if not for a phenomenal season from Ronaldinho and the fact that players in the Portuguese league were awarded fewer points as compared to players in “tougher” leagues such as the Premiership (Premier League as it was known then) and the Primera Liga.  With a string of impressive performances for Os Dragões, he inevitably caught the attention of some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Clubs that included a certain Inter Milan.

Jose Mourinho, identifying the winger as one of his three targets in the summer transfer window upon his arrival at Inter, enticed Quaresma by sending a series of encouraging text messages to him. Inter then launched a formal offer and soon enough, he arrived at Inter Milan, with 18.6 million euros and Pele going in the other direction. Sadly, it was all going down south for the then 24 year old from there on. In the initial stages of his time at Milan, he did well and put in convincing displays whenever he was given a chance to take the field.

However, as time passed, Jose Mourinho, for reasons unknown, left him warming the bench and deprived him of first-team opportunities. To quote: "He is a great talent, but the joy I have at seeing the way Ibra (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) works for and with the team I do not yet have with Quaresma. He will have to learn, otherwise he won’t play, and I am sure he'll change and become more tactically disciplined. He likes kicking the ball with the outside of his foot, but if you ask me about him in a few months' time, we'll be talking about a different Quaresma."

Unfortunately, this was never to be as Quaresma, after returning from a loan spell at Chelsea, was barely given a chance to play. Despite having more than proven himself whilst at Porto at the highest level, Mourinho somehow thought him to be ill-equipped when it came to handling the tactical rigidity of the Serie A. In all honesty, Quaresma never did underperform at Inter unlike most experts claim. He was never given a chance to perform at all. He was left to rot on the sidelines, lost his passion for football and eventually sought reprieve in the form of Besiktas. The reason why Mourinho signed him in the first place, much so less why he refused to consider him in his plans for Inter, is still largely unknown.

It is notable, however, that at Besiktas, he has seen a resurgence, returning to form and enjoying his football. Perhaps, then, a better team may just come knocking and finally provide him with the means to fulfil his potential and take the world by storm once more.

By Joshua Tong-Lok

In 76 now that is true.....

Als je foto's hebt van bezochte wedstrijden van Manchester United stuur ze dan op naar: dan zetten wij ze op de site.

Send your United pics to: and we'll put them on the site.

Highly sought after youngster.... 15 Million Pound baby

Having fought on the pitch for bragging rights in there Champions League games that still isn't enough for local rivals Tottenham and Arsenal. Connor Wickham, 18 next month, is the highly sought-after youngster. His value has recently rocketed to £15million following a first senior hat-trick; Ipswich 6-0 demolition of Doncaster (Tuesday).   

Wickham was seen at the Emirates during Arsenal's triumph over Barcelona. However his most likely destination during the summer transfer window is Spurs, with Harry Redknapp understood to have first refusal. The powerfully built teenager is a big hope having been capped England U21 level.

Marcus Evans (Ipswich owner) and boardroom colleagues have previoulsy discussed a possible deal with colleagues at White Hart Lane. It would seem that Wickham's contract extension keeping him at Ipswich till 2013 is not all it seemed, it features a clause that will trigger a clause once a specific price is matched.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dimitar Berbatov: I'm not tired. I Feel ALIVE !

Winning the Bulgarian Footballer of the year for a record seven times seems a pretty great achievement. But this fades away in the light of the burden of performing for Manchester United who have paid £30.75 million for you. You are being nick-named “Berbaflop”. What do you do? You put your head down, put your hearts in and practise like hell. This is what Berbaflop had to do last summer. And now his nick-name has been tweaked. He’s now “Berbatop”. The hat-trick against Liverpool was the high-light of the season for him.

You have to give him credit for this amazing transformation. Some call him lazy with his movements, but this season he has shown his pace with the ball and also brilliant finishing. Responding for the team when they need you the most. He was compared to “Thierry Henry” by Arsene Wenger. This, even for the Man Utd fans is a compliment.

Let’s take a look at the statistics
Season 1: 14 goals in 43 games
Season 2: 12 goals in 43 games
Season 3: 20 goals in 28 games

The transformation is just not in the statistics. It is also in the belief. He was close to being offloaded with just two seasons with the club, but thanks to SAF and Berbatov’s hard-work, he s considered the spear-head of their attack now. With the departure of Tevez and CR7, adding to it the slump in the form of Rooney, someone had to rise. Berbatov has done just that. And he just attributes it to the hard work during the summer and the managers backing, of course.

Here is the routine he followed. He worked very hard on his fitness. He ran six miles every day during the off season. He watched one World Cup match, went for a run, then watched another and went for another run. He said “ I’ m Not Tired. I Feel Alive.”

Even in the on-going season he had a ten game drought. So for him the challenge would be to improve his consistency through out the season. SAF expects him to reach the 25 goals ,mark in the EPL. That will be no problem SAF.

By Nikhil Kulkarni

Worrying times at Wolfsburg

After already sacking manager Steve McClaren with immediate effect (7 February 2011) Wolfsburg are looking to rebuild, and new manager Pierre Littbarski has taken the reins. He is now laying down the law and is set to suspend Alexander Madlung and Thomas Kahlenberg due to a lack of focus. The Brazilian playmaker Diego has felt the wielding axe during a week where he was suspended for wrongly taking and missing a crucial penalty.

Wolfsburg have slumped level on points with Kaiserslautern third-from-bottom in the Bundesliga table. The duo Madlung and midfielder Kahlenberg have attracted unwanted attention from there manager regarding commitment to the cause. "I have told them and the whole squad we're in a situation where we need players that are 100 per cent committed to the task and their club," he told
"They need to be focussed, they need to work hard. I actually did not get the feeling these two players are committed to us."

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's all about the money... UEFA

This May, Wembley, will hold Europe’s most prestigious football event in the form of the Champions League Final. However the tickets will most expensive the competition has seen, with the cheapest ticket for a neutral, costing 150 pounds ($242).

The game also for the first time has seen its regular Sunday spot changed to Saturday as UEFA look to capitalise in revenue. Announcing there ticket policy at London's City hall (last Thursday) they expected record gate receipts of 14 million pounds ($22.59 million).

The two finalists will be allocated 25,000 tickets apiece for their supporters; an option to buy a Category Four ticket will be made available for £80, UEFA failing to state the amount available.
Any Neutral fan buying via UEFA will be excluded from Category Four tickets.

The options available - Category One £300 , Category Two £225 and Category Three £150 and a few or £26 will also be applied to European sales

Giorgio Marchetti UEFA’s competitions director denied suggestions fans were being priced out and that ticket costs had been ramped up because the final is in London.
“Last year there was already an increase, a more significant increase compared to the year before,” he told reporters. “If you look at other comparable events in football, the Champions League final is still priced below that.

“The prices are a slight increase from last year but these are the prices for an event which is the most remarkable club football event of the year,” added Marchetti.
“We don’t think the Champions League final is over-priced. We do not want to squeeze every single penny out of the market.”

The most expensive tickets for last year’s Madrid final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich were 300 euros, with the cheapest for a neutral supporter at 155 euros ($210.4). UEFA said 61,000 of the 86,000 tickets would be for “football fans” including 11,000 for neutrals.

Four English teams are still hopeful of reaching the final, three from London.

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are well-placed in their last 16 ties after first-leg wins over Barcelona and AC Milan respectively while Chelsea faces FC Copenhagen next week. Manchester United also meets Olympique Marseille next week.

Tickets go on sale on UEFA’s website on Feb. 24.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Special 1 TV, no Sven, no show?

Much loved comedy short, Special 1 TV has been experiencing some fairly turbulant times recently. The show took the drastic measures of sacking the much loved thing - Sven.
The show offers a satirical take on all things football and is centred around Jose Mourinho - who's nickname is the Special One (hence the name). His panel also consists of Wayne Rooney and Sven's replacement Fabio Capello - referred to as the cabbage.

Sven (Sven Eriksson) was booted off the show a few weeks ago and sicne then the show's view count on youtube has dwindled. Here are the figures:

The previous 3 shows before the show entitled "Sven is sacked" averaged - 13117 views - on Youtube

The next 3 shows post the show entitled "Sven is sacked" averaged - 6139 views - on Youtube

The online community has voiced calls for the return of Sven through Facebook groups and calls on Twitter.
It was hinted in the shows last outing that Sven may make a return to the show. Not only through the vast amount of emails read by Wayne but also through a 10 second clip at the end of the show. See below:

It is hoped that Sven may make a much awaited return in the next episode.

Do it!

Italian Serie A Round 26 - Lecce vs Juventus - Review

After a stunning performance to see out Inter in the Derby D'Italia, Juventus' season looked to be back in full swing. However a dismal performance - to say the least - has resulted in a Champions League position slipping away from the Bianconeri. A red card as well as some questionable defending did not help the Juventus cause as they ran out 2-0 losers to Lecce away from home.

An early Juventus shot by Luca Toni just secons into the match looked promising for Juve as they attempted to string three consecutive Serie A victories together. The Juventus back four did however look shakey with Barzagli and Bonucci anchoring Sorenson and Chiellini.
By the time the first 10minutes had past Lecce had seemingly deciphered Juventus' defence with consecutive long balls catching Barzagli and Bonucci out of position.

Eventaully they paid dividends as a ball through to Di Michele saw the striker through; one on one with Buffon. Committed, Buffon had no choice but to instinctively put out a left hand to prevent a certain goal. The offence saw Buffon sent off within the first 15minutes, leaving Del Neri to make a tactical change.
In response, Storari was substituted for Krasic and Juventus turned to a 4-3-2 formation.

The subsequent freekick proved to do little damage to Juventus as it crashed into the wall. However the extra man that Lecce possessed was slowly making itself apparant. Wave after wave of attack came the Juventus way, and although the Old Lady held more possession than Lecce, it was the home side who was making it count. A lobbed pass from Munari 31 minutes in found an unmarked Mesbah, who calmly slotted the ball in beneath Storari to put Lecce up 1-0, to the delight of the home fans.

Just on the 41 minute mark, Juventus remarkably unleashed their first shot of the match. A glorious opportunity missed, through midfielder Aquilani who missed a ball that was absolutely begging to be put home.

Juve went into half time clearly the dominated side. They came out much the same way as Lecce continued where they left off. Immediately after the break Bertolacci scored a second for the home side as Di Michele cushioned the ball for a neat finish. 2-0 to Lecce, and the game looked to be sealed.

Juventus' defence was in shambles, failed clearances were becoming a regular occurence. Storari seemed to be the only thing keeping Juventus in some sort of contact. Juventus were given a lifeline with 20 minutes remaining after Lecce captain Vives was sent off after a second yellow.

From there Juventus began to push forward, taking control of play. However the Bianconeri could not make anything of their time on the ball. Iaquinta and Del Piero could not spark the Turin giants and they were left to fight out the loss.

The loss sees Juventus' fantastic work agianst Inter last week undone as the Milan side secured a victory over Bologna. Juve face Bologna next week, with league leaders AC Milan awaiting them in the following round of games.

Final Score - Lecce 2 - Juventus 0

Man of the Match - Di Michele (Lecce)

Andrea Pirlo in Juventus move?

Midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo has been linked with a possible move to Juventus fromlong time rivals Ac Milan.

The news comes as Pirlo's contract with the Rossoneri comes to an end, and with an influx of new signings the 31 year old looks to be on the out. Giuseppe Marrotta tried to quell the rumour however recent sightings of Juventus scouts at Milan games would suggest otherwise.

Prilo has been linked with clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United also. He has been in stellar form this year guiding Milan to a seemingly untouchable state at the top of the Serie A. With the rumours that midfield workhorse Mohammad Sissoko may be on the way out, Pirlo would serve as a suitable replacement alongside hard man Felipe Melo or possibly Alberto Aquilani.

If the deal goes ahead Juventus would sign Pirlo on a free contract as his contract is at it's end at the conclusion of the 2010/2011 season.

No word has been heard yet from Pirlo's camp, and many Milanista would be happy to see him stay to help guide the young guns of the new look Milan side.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Champions League Round of 16 - Arsenal vs Barcelona - Review

Arsenal, with help from Robin Van Persie & substitute Andrey Arshavin produced a brilliant late fight back beating Barcelona 2-1 on the night.

David villa fired Barca into the lead after nice combination play with Lionel Messi. This was far from the start Wenger wanted after he declared on Tuesday that the Gunners were determined to prove they were a different team to the one humbled 6-3 on aggregate last season. Just 24 hours after north London rivals Tottenham shocked Serie A leaders AC Milan, the Gunners stunned the Spanish champions.

The class however was still there to be witnessed by an aggravated home suppor, as Barca controlled the tempo and dictated the play, on a evening where Messi guilty of missing a glorious chance.

They made it look so easy for much of this last-16 first-leg clash as they slid the ball around Arsenal's defence and sent players darting into the box with fabulous runs pushing the boundaries of offside. For spells it was last season's quarter-final at Emirates Stadium all over again, with Barcelona playing some breathtaking football orchestrated by Barcelona's vast array of stellar names with Messi, Villa, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez all on display showing how "the real game" should be played.

The tide surprisingly turned after the interval when Arsenal attacked with greater conviction and dropped their previous high line slightly deeper. 

Arsenal looked far from intimidated by their opponents' reputation during the opening 15 minutes as they looked to punish Barca before they settled. The early onslaught was helped with the pace of Walcott and his pace exploiting Maxwell. Walcott was running from deep catching Barca cold creating an early chance he threaded his way across the penalty area, evading several defenders, before finding an unmarked Cesc Fabregas. The skipper expertly lifted the ball to Van Persie who forced a smart save on the half-volley.

Sensing the early threat from Barca they weathered the storm with neat and intricate passing in a bid to gain the momentum allowing them to pick up the gears. Arsenal's defence was outmanoeuvred when Iniesta sent Messi through on goal. Messi timing his run to perfection leaving Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou stranded, with only Champions League debutant Wojciech Szczesny to beat he steered cheeky chip wide of the right post. It was a massive let-off for the Gunners, who found themselves being pushed back with increasing regularity, as Messi directed a shot from a good chance straight at Szczesny. The game pattern was turning; Barca happy to play the simple pass and move and Arsenal could only watch. 

With few chances during this Barca onslaught Walcott sliced through Barcelona's midfield, picking out Fabregas; with Valdes stranded in no-man’s land the cross only needed a Van Persie touch, which never eventuated

Respite was offered by a dynamic run from Jack Wilshere, but the move ended when Van Persie took one touch too many before unleashing his wild shot miles wide. Messi scrambled the ball into the net as half-time approached but the flag had been raised for offside.

Arsenal made a bright start and uplifting to the second half with Wilshere just failing to get enough power on his shot to trouble Valdes.
There was greater energy about Arsenal as they staged a series of attacks, although their cause was not helped when Fabregas sent a free-kick into the arms of Valdes.
The returning Samir Nasri threatened at the near post but Gerard Pique arrived to bundle his cross into touch before Van Persie could connect and moments later the Dutchman was kept out by Valdes.
Arsenal suffered a scare in the 68th minute when Eboue let Messi creep free, but the Argentinian hit the side netting instead of squaring to a line of team-mates queuing up to pounce. Arsenal continued to press as the game became increasingly open and in the 79th minute their endeavour was rewarded. Gael Clichy did the initial damage with a superbly-lofted ball down the left channel that was gathered by Van Persie.
The Holland marksman was at a tight angle but his powerful shot slipped inside Valdes at the near post. It was a poor piece of goalkeeping from Valdes but he could do nothing about the winner that arrived with six minutes to go.
Revelling in the space now available to them, Arsenal burst free down the right through Nasri. Arshavin, who had replaced Walcott, arrived on the edge of the penalty area to pick up the Frenchman's pass before burying the ball into the back of the net for the goal which gives Arsenal the edge ahead of their challenging trip to the Nou Camp.

Truly a spectacular finish to a remarkable game.

Final Score:  Arsenal 2 – Barcelona 1

Indonesia Premier League (IPL) - A Change for the Better?

The need for change has always constituted the catalyst for a revolution. This doesn’t just stop in the field of politics, it can span its wings into the football pitch. Numerous examples have been shown worldwide: the formation of the A-League in 2005 in Australia, the breakup of the Yugoslavia to form the various Balkan national leagues, the introduction of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1993 which saw the rise of professionalism of football in the United States.

Fast forward to 2011 and a breakaway league is underway. Not it’s not in a major league in Europe, but in the South East Asian nation of Indonesia. A new, 19 team league has formed, known as “Indonesia Premier League” or in Indonesian “ Liga Primer Indonesia (LPI)” It is a separate independent league not run under the supervision of the Indonesia’s governing football body Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI). In turn, many punters believe that no footballer who plays in a team which competes in the LPI is allowed to be selected and join the country’s national team. As this league is run independently and not under the auspices of the PSSI, it is therefore not affiliated with the world footballing governing body, FIFA.

But why the breakaway? An idea of oil and gas company Medco chairman Arifin Panigor, the league was established amongst allegations of corruption in the PSSI and the neglect of the PSSI towards the state of the league, as well as games being played behind closed doors and issues with referees. The league has a spectacular television deal, as LPI clubs are also entitled to receive revenues from match broadcasts.

As mentioned, 19 teams will compete in the LPI, including three teams (PSM Makassar, Persema Malang and Persibo Bojonegoro) who were apart of the Indonesian Super League (ISL). Each team is allowed to sign up to five foreign players from any of the FIFA confederations, with many teams making some very adventurous signings. Players have come from everywhere, including the A-League and various state leagues in Australia (Aleks Vrteski and Andrija Jukic from Perth Glory FC to name a few) as well securing the high profile regional signings of Filipino brothers Philip and James Younghusband. Former Aston Villa and Derby County midfielder Lee Hendrie has turned out for Bandung FC as their marquee signing.

The teams that will be competing in the inaugural 2011 season are:

  • Atjeh United
  • Bali Devata
  • Bandung F.C.
  • Batavia Union
  • Bogor Raya F.C.
  • Cenderawasih F.C.
  • Jakarta F.C. 1928
  • Manado United
  • Medan Bintang
  • Medan Chief
  • Minangkabau F.C.
  • Persebaya 1927
  • Persema Malang
  • Persibo Bojonegoro
  • PSM Makassar
  • Real Mataram
  • Semarang United
  • Solo F.C.
  • Tangerang Wolves

This league is hoped to raise the level of quality and entertainment in Indonesian football as well as trying to improve the overall status and overall game in this country of around 238 million people. The LPI hopes to improve the football’s level in the country ranked 129th by FIFA and is backed by the country's sports minister. So will the IPL improve the standard of the game in this football loving nation?
We’ll just have to wait and see…

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Flowers of Manchester


A-League 2010/2011 Finals Series - Wellington Pheonix FC preview

Perhaps the luckiest of the final six, the Wellington Phoenix FC had to wait until their final game against the luckless North Queensland Fury FC to book their place in the finals series. In what has been a very indifferent season for the boys from across the Tasman, the Phoenix will be out to prove that they aren’t just there to make up the numbers. A strong preseason (six wins from seven games) had all signs pointing to a tremendous season, but football can be a funny thing sometimes. Only mustering 12 wins from a possible 30, the Phoenix will have it all to do when the take on a rampant Adelaide United FC.

The key behind the Phoenix progressing lies in the hands of four people: New Zealand international Tim Brown, youngster Marcos Rojas, a fit and fighting Paul Ifill and the heroics of former Olyroos keeper Danny Vukovic. Tim Brown has been absolutely resolute in the midfield, setting up crucial goals as well as scoring them in times when the Pheonix really need it. Firebrand Marcos Rojas has been a real revelation for the Phoenix, as his skill, pace, accuracy and finesse has really helped set up goals for the Phoenix as his blistering pace has been hard to contain. Ifill finished joint top goal scorer for the club on seven, despite being out since January but there is speculation that he may return to give Wellington some much needed fire power alongside Englishman Chris Greenacre. Brought in as injury cover for regular Mark Paston, the Perth Glory FC bound Danny Vukovic has been absolutely crucial for the boys across the ditch, pulling off some crucial saves, firing up and organising his defence and even scoring a penalty (albeit in the final minute of the final game of the season regular for Wellington).

For all their determination and spirit, it seems that Ricki Herbert’s men will find it very hard to get past a raging and very fired up Adeliade United, with the defence having trouble containing the three pronged attack of Sergio van Dijke, Argentine Marcos Flores and Matthew Leckie. But football is a funny game and weirder things have certainly happened.

By Marcel Abboud

A-League 2010/2011 Finals Series - Gold Coast United FC preview

Watching Gold Coast United FC 2010/11 A-League season has been like being on a see-saw: it’s either up or down, with a rare moment of an in-between. The second season for the boys from the Glitter Strip have seen them ditch the hype that owner Clive Palmer heaved unto them last season and has seen a team with flashes of brilliance at one time or another. Their final position on the season regular table doesn’t accurately describe their form for the season, at times they were struggling for wins and at other times fighting for second place. Their final position sees them finishing in fourth place, with a home semi-final against Melbourne Victory.

While losing want away captain Jason Culina to a knee injury whilst on Socceroos duty, Miron Bleiberg’s recruitment policy during the season saw the return of two time A-League golden boot winner Shane Smeltz from Turkey, the introduction of former Adelaide United striker Bruce Djite, as well as Peter Perchtold from 1. FC Nuremberg II and South Korean Kim Sung-Kil from Busan Kyotong. While their football hasn’t been flashy unlike last season, it has been enough to get them through to the finals series.

Without a doubt, Shane Smeltz will be once again Gold Coast United’s go to man to bag in the goals. Since his return from Turkish club Gençlerbirliği, he has been on the scoresheet in every game. Service from the midfield will be the key to his firing up, as departing midfield dynamo Zenon Caravella will be relied upon to help supply the attacking front.

A cagey and tight affair will be had against Melbourne Victory, with a goal to separate the two sides. Even though the ledger falls in Melbourne Victory’s way, PTA favours a Gold Coast United progression over the two legs with Smeltz playing a key roll. Should Adelaide United win their semi-final tie, it will be hard to see a Culina-less Gold Coast United make it to the Grand Final.

By Marcel Abboud

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A-League 2010/2011 Finals Series - Central Coast Mariners FC preview

Perhaps the darkhorses for the entire 2010/11 A-League season, Central Coast Mariners FC have been a revolution both on and off the field. Everyone has been talking about the coaching and player changes at the rampant Brisbane Roar FC, but it seems that the Mariners have flown under the radar (to their advantage it seems). The replacing of Lawrie McKinna with former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has reaped dividends, as he has managed to transform a team who were playing ugly, dire football last season to this season’s runners up in the reason proper.

While getting off to a slow start at the beginning of the season with two draws and two losses in the opening four games, the boys from up the Coast managed to string in some great attacking performances, no less thanks to mini midfield Argentinean maestro Patricio Perez feeding the likes of hometown hero Matt Simon, Adam Kwasnik and Daniel McBreen to bag in a considerable amount of goals each. Brought in from Gold Coast United FC to replaced departed goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, Jess Vanstrattan suffered a season ending ACL injury. Taking a gamble, Arnold placed his faith in 18 year old Matthew Ryan who has shined this season while taking the A-League record of most clean sheets in a season with 12 (breaking Clint Bolton’s record while at Sydney FC).

Pipping out Adeliade United FC for second spot, Central Coast Mariners booked their double chance spot in the finals on the back of a wonderful season and if they can keep up their form, they may just meet Brisbane Roar FC in the Grand Final.

Defensive stalwart and captain Alex Wilkinson along with Dutch import Patrick Zwaanswijk will hold key to stop any form of attack on the Mariner’s goal, but it’s the midfield that holds the key for the Central Coast. Patricio Perez will be crucial but if along with young Mustafa Amini can fire up and deliver the supply to the attacking front, there may as well be no stopping the Coast on the march to the Grand Final.

It will be hard to see them loose in the finals series, so a Brisbane Roar FC and Central Coast Mariners FC final looks like it's on the cards.

By Marcel Abboud

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A-League 2010/2011 Finals Series - Melbourne Victory - Preview

Arguably the most successful club in the history of the A-League, Melbourne Victory have experienced a season resurgence in 2011, just making the top six. A season marred by controversy especially surrounding their captain Kevin Muscat, who, made one of the most vicious tackles in the history of the game.
Melbourne's season was always going to be one of catchup, after their opening round draw against rivals Sydney - where they came back from 2 goals down.

Melbourne relied on in form striker Robbie Kruse for much of the season. The young gun eventually earning an Australian call-up as a result of his stunning performances. Marquee player Ricardinho found his feet slowly at the club, but once he was up and running, Melbourne took creativity to a new level, breaking down even the best of the defences in the A-League. Carlos Hernandez meanwhile, was having that season, where inconsistancy was a regular part of his game.

With the absence of Muscat due to a lengthy suspension, Melbourne wll have to rely on their up and coming stars to pull through, to help the team mount a challenge against their rampant opposition. A loss on the last matchday of the season(Adelaide 2-1) will certainly do harm to the morale. The season certainly has not shaped up for Melbourne. Finishing 5th in the league will add an extra level of difficulty to the final, if they make it.

The five other teams who will contest the knockout round, may have produced a better brand of football this 2010/2011 season. However Melbourne have experience over the field. It may just be the advantage that is needed to carry Melbourne to the summit of the A-League yet again!

A-League 2010/2011 Finals Series - Adelaide United - Preview

Adelaide adopted a different coaching approach in the 2010/2011 A-League season. Coming through the hardest time in clubs history which involved the club going under financial administration, crowd numbers dramatically falling and a disasterous run of performances on the field.

Under new ownership Adelaide began the season by making a host of new signings, including the much hyped move of Sergio van Dijk to the club. But it wasn't van Dijk who would prove to be the instrumental start to the season. Argentinian import Marcos Flores, brought creative flair to the midfield going forward. United's season looked to be in good stead when Flores scored one of the greatest goals in A-League history against the Jets.

This form continued with van Dijk going top scorer of the league. His head proved to be the difference in many games, as well as his physical domination upfront. They took the A-League to a new level comprehensively accounting for the North Queensland Fury 8-0 on their way to the top of the table. Adelaide were on a collision course with the Roar. However Brisbane steamed past Adelaide 4-0, beginning their form slump which was evident for the remainder of the season - they went on to lose 10 of their last 19 games. They finished 3rd in the league after a win against the Victory on the final matchday.

Adelaide have a genuine chance of winning the A-League title this year. However to do so they will need to replicate the form which took them straight to the summit of the A-League. Marcos Flores and Sergio van Dijk will have to lead the team through the knockout phase. With instrumental attacker Matthew Leckie out probably for the rest of season, United will have to push their squad to the limit.