Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The FIFA Ballon d'Or awards;

For those of you rock dwellers, FIFA hosted it's annual gala last night, to dish out awards for outstanding footballing perfomances of the year 2012. To recap, Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the best player in 2012, ahead of Christiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. Vicente del Bosque won Coach of the Year, ahead of Pep Gurdiola and Jose Mourinho(who didn't bother to attend). The FIFA/FIFPro Team of the year was; Casillas, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Christiano Ronaldo, Messi and Radamel Falcao.

Naturally, some of these selections caused a lot of ire among certain sections of soccer fans. The loudest complaints came from fans of Robin van Traitor, who couldn't believe he was not on the team of the year. Folks also felt aggrieved that Andrea Pirlo wasn't included in that team; or even on the 3 man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or. Pep Gurdiola being up for coach of the year, despite coaching for 6 months of 2012 and only winning the Copa del Rey, wasn't well received. Let me comment on a some of these complaints;

It's true Pirlo should have been on the shortlist; but ahead of whom? Ronaldo or Messi? Definitely not. Iniesta? No, and this because for all Pirlo's Euro 2012 heroics(the basis for most people's arguments , Iniesta actually won the tournament; as the brains of the Spanish team(Iniesta played more through passes that led to  goal scoring chances, than all midfielders at the Euros combined!!). What's definite is that Pirlo deserved a place on the FIFPro XI ahead of both Alonso and Xavi, if not for anything, for being the heart of a Juventus side that won the Serie A unbeaten.

Robin van Persie had a scintilating 2012. The rabid calls for his inclusion in the XI seem however to be tribal fanaticism, to me. It seems Premier league fanatics refused to believe that the 'greatest league in the world' failed to get a single player on the team. Also, fans of the 'greatest team in the world' couldn't accept that one of theirs(albeit for 4 months) was snubbed. Of the three forwards selected, who would one have snubbed to insert RVP? Take into account that Falcao scored more goals in 2012, for club and country that van Persie, with significantly weaker supporting casts at both levels.

 Perhaps, all factors considered, the English league should have been represented by at least two defenders; Vincent Kompany surely should have gotten the nod ahead of Mr. Shakira. Ashley Cole (an integral part of Chelsea's Champions League winning team) has, is and will always be a better left back than Marcelo, and should have gotten into the team ahead of the Brazilian.

At the risk of sounding partisan myself, Gurdiola had no business being nominated for Coach of the Year. Antonio Conte(for Juve's unbeaten title run); Juergen Klopp(for knocking Bayern off their f****g perch) and Roberto di Matteo(for performing a miracle of Red Sea parting proportions) should all have been nominated ahead of the man who looked like as stressed as one being hunted for sport by the time he escaped to Manhattan in the summer.

All these perceived injustices were of course blamed on FIFA's incompetence by most. Some went as far as to say FIFA cheated Falcao by not awarding him Goal of the Year, forgetting that voting was open to the public on FIFA's website. I wish FIFA had never merged the old European Player of the Year award(Ballon d'Or) with their own World Footballer of the Year award. Back then, we all knew FIFA's award was a popularity contest and mostly political, while the Ballon d'Or was voted for by respected sports journalists and carried more weight. Though at times the two winners coincided, most of the time, FIFA's choices seemed ridiculous; like awarding Ronaldo da Lima their award, in 2002 after he played a handful of games at the World cup.

In FIFA's defence, they try to make the current awards as inclusive as possible by getting all national team coaches and captains to vote; as well as respected sports journalists. I guess then that the problem eith this system is the same problem with all democracies; idiots, fanatics, nuts and ignoramuses are allowed to vote. I doubt some of these chaps even watch European soccer. Maybe they catch Blitz highlights. Maybe!

I think, for the integrity of their awards, FIFA need to use a vetting committee to provide a kind of 'guided democracy' like they do at the Oscars. Maybe the sports journos thoroughly comb through the nominees and stats, and come up with shortlists that guide the voters. Without a more thought out approach, these awards will always be looked upon with suspicion, especially given FIFA's track record of scandal.

If I had a vote..

World Footballer of the Year; Leo Messi

Coach of the Year; Juegen Klopp

Team of the Year; Casillas, Hummels, Chiellini, Ramos, A. Cole, Pirlo, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo,         Falcao

Akward moment of the night.

Christiano Ronaldo telling a young child that one of the tenets of success is humility. That was very rich, coming from a man who claims he's booed, not for his arrogance, but because he is, "rich, handsome and good at football" He also has some of the vainest goal celebrations in world football; like pointing at his thigh after scoring a thunderbolt of a freekick.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

And we thought Balotelli was crazy…

Happy new year folks. Hope you enjoyed your holidays. 

Since we have just gotten out of holiday season and most of us are feeling a little blue, I thought my first blog of the year should be a tard light hearted. In this spirit, I present the zany antics of some truly insane footballers. If you thought Mario Balotelli was insane, take a quick read. I am here to tell you that Balotelli isn't as crazy as he is made out to be. He just plays football in an era devoid of flamboyant characters. Take a look at the chaps below, they make Mario seem like Santa. They don't make them like this anymore.

Edmundo ‘The Animal’

From the man’s nickname, one can tell he was a bit bat-s**t crazy. He was also immensely talented, in a way only Brazilians can be. He and Brazilian legend Romario were what today’s teens would call ‘Frenemies’. They partied hard together, played on various teams together; and fell out as many times as Blair and Serena on the show ‘Gossip Girl’(you’re all going to front but you know these people. You don’t have to watch the show to know them) To save some time I will list just a few of his misdemeanours;

He had it written into his Fiorentina contract that he was allowed to go to The Brazilian Carnival regardless of circumstances. He chose to leave for Brazil when Gabriel Batistuta was injured and the Viola were relying on him to crank up their Serie A chase in 1997.

The Animal hosted a birthday party at his house were he hired an entire circus; and was pictured feeding a chimpanzee, champaigne and whisky. This didn’t go down well with animal rights groups that naturally staged protests which he naturally didn't give a toss about.

You thought I was kidding, right?

He was also convicted of drunk driving and manslaughter after being involved in a car accident where 3 people were killed. He was sentenced, like most rich famous people, to a prison sentence which obliged him to spend nights in prison; and days free. Of course this interfered with his night life and he fought to have the sentence revoked.

Igor Denisov.

Igor Denisov is a Russian international and the club captain of Russian super rich club, Zenit St. Petersburg. He has made a reputation as the ultimate bad boy of Russian football. He is the only active player I can think who could find himself on such a list. He most recently came to the mainstream light when he went on strike, demand a contract re-negotiation, after Zenit signed Hulk and Axle Wiestle and made them the club’s highest earners, surpassing Denisov himself.

Before his strike, most people outside Russia didn’t know about his numerous antics. His rap sheet reads as follows; His views are said to be the reference point of the posting on Zenit’s website, by the clubs Ultras, stating the club should not sign black or gay players and should sign only Russians, and/or players from fellow Slavic nations.

He really does look like an Ultra
In 2010, he attacked his coach, in training, and had to be restrained by teammates before he could knock his lights out; Months later, he attacked an opposition coach during a league game, causing a mass brawl that earned him a 4 match ban; he was also pictured cupping his ears while the Russian anthem was played before a Zenit match against Anzhi-whose-second-name-can't-be-spelt-or-pronounced.

Vinnie Jones.

Vinnie Jones is perhaps best known by younger people as ‘Jaggernaut’ in X-men or a debt collecting goon named ‘Bullet Tooth Tony’ in one of Guy Ritchies movies. Before Hollywood, Jones was a footballer. He turned out for Wimbledon, Chelsea and Leeds among other clubs. He also captained Wales. But he was mostly notorious for his madness, on and off the field. For example;

Jones holds the record for fastest booking in Premier league history, after 5 seconds!

He once commented that he had, “taken football hooliganism from the terraces onto the field”

Vinnie was caught on tape, grabbing Paul Gascoigne’s 'family jewels', during a match, in a bid to unsettle him.

You thought I was kidding again, right?
To date, Vinnie is still ranked as the most indisciplined footballer in modern English football, racking up 12 red cards and 82 yellows(not counting the Old first division) in his career.

He also released a video called ‘Soccer’s Hardmen’ in which he gives advice to fellow goons . One of the tips was ‘plucking at your opponents armpit hair’ to unsettle them at corner kicks. He was given a 6 month ban and a suspended 3 year ban by the FA for his troubles.

Little wonder then, that even film casters don’t bother casting him in nice guy roles. He is perfectly suited to playing a constantly cussing tough guy who smashes people’s heads in with his car door!

Eric Cantona

And finally, if you still think the black Sicilian is crazy, take a look at Mr. Cantona himself… 


And then?

There's hope yet for young Mario. Vinnie Jones went on to have a succesful movie caree;, Eric Cantona is Mr. Joga Bonito; Edmundo is now commentator after a failed attempt to be a policeman; and Denisov continues to be a cult hero among fans in St. Petersburg. The English media needs to stop being so judgemental about Mario. Football has lost its characters. We should cherish Mario.

Thanks for reading folks.