Italian football: A reflection of the nation’s rich, dramatic history

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1982 World Champions

Italy is a beautiful, complicated, passionate country filled with a rich and dramatic history. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the country’s favorite sport of Italian football, or “calcio”, would be steeped in rich history… and drama, as well.


History of Italian Football

In 1898, the Federazione Italiana Giuco Calcio  was started in Turin, Italy. It was created to serve as the governing body for Italian football.

With Mario Vicary at the helm as the first president, the budding organization provided Italian football with the structure it needed to be taken seriously. In fact, according to FIGC.IT, their first championship, the “tri-colored championship”, was won by Genoa in Turin in 1898.

Having won the title for four World Cups in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, today’s Italian National Football Team – the Azzurri - is the second most successful national team in the world. They are second only to Brazil, who has just one more World Cup trophy under their belt.

They also won the UEFA European Championship in 1968; took first place for the gold medal in the 1936 Olympic football tournament; and was a two-time winner of the Central European International Cup in 1927.


Game of the Century

One of the most notable and hard-fought games in Italian football history is the “Game of the Century” that took place between Italy and West Germany during the semi-finals of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Played in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in the company of more than 100,000 fans, Italy won that game 4 – 3, after five goals were scored in extra-time. That was the first – and only - time in World Cup history that has happened.

Unfortunately, after such an exciting game, Italy fell to Brazil in the finals of that World Cup competition.


Scandal rocks Italian football

Over the years, Italian football has had its share of scandal. The most recent of which is the news of the betting scandal that broke at the end of June, 2011. Also, in that same month, a match-fixing corruption scandal hit the headlines, overshadowing the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing case.


Italian National Football Team gets new management

Former Juventus manager Antonio Conte recently replaced Cesare Prandelli as the manager of Italy’s National Football Team, following the team’s disappointing elimination in the first round at the 2014 World Cup competition in Brazil. Another disappointing World Cup campaign for the Azzurri, which doesn’t match up and hold a candle to its glorious and memorable history in the game.

Here’s hoping to better times for Italian football.


Written by Ann Tiller

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The Boys in Green: The top 10 best players ever to don the Irish green jersey

Ireland may well be a small country but it is certainly not short on footballing talent. Over the years, many great players have donned with pride the green jersey of the Republic of Ireland. From the many years spent in the football wilderness to the heady days of Italia 90 and beyond, the Irish have, without doubt, had their fair share of football legends.

The Top 10, in no particular order…


Liam Brady

Liam was born in Dublin on 13 February 1956. From 1972 – 1990, he was capped 72 times for the Republic and scored 9 goals. He spent most of his domestic career as a midfielder with Arsenal from 1973 – 1980, making 235 appearances before leaving for Italy and playing for Juventus, Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Ascoli. He returned to Britain to end his playing career with West Ham before retiring in 1990.

Liam progressed into management positions with Celtic (1991 – 1993) and Brighton & Hove Albion (1993 – 1995) before rejoining Arsenal in 1996 as head of Youth Development, a role he still holds.

In 2008, he was appointed assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team under Giovanni Trapattoni.


Packie Bonner

Packie was born on 24 May 1960, in County Donegal, Ireland. The goalkeeper made his debut for the Republic in 1981, the first of 80 appearances. He played 642 times for Celtic from 1978 – 1995, winning 4 League Championships, 3 Scottish Cups and 1 League Cup.

In 2003, Packie took up the position of technical director with the Football Association of Ireland and also currently works as a soccer pundit on Irish television.

He is probably best remembered internationally for his penalty save against Romania in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy.


Johnny Giles

Johnny was born 6 November 2021 in Dublin, Ireland. He joined Manchester United in 1957, playing 99 times before leaving for Leeds United in 1963. He played 383 games for the side and became one of the all time Leeds heroes during their golden days under Don Revie.

In 1975, he joined West Brom, followed by player manager posts with Irish side Shamrock Rovers and in USA.

He spent 19 years as a member of the international squad and has gained many awards and accolades, including a position in the 100 League Legends and the best Irish international player of the past 50 years.

Johnny is currently a football pundit on Irish radio and television.


Ray Houghton

Ray was born 2 January 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. He began his playing career with West Ham in 1979, making only the one appearance before moving to Fulham in 1982. He spent the majority of his career with Liverpool, from 1987 – 1992, where he scored 28 goals in 153 appearances.

He also spent time with Oxford United, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Reading and Stevenage Borough, retiring in 2000.

He played his first game for Ireland against Wales in a friendly on 26 March 1986, went on to play 73 matches, and scored six times. He was in two World Cup squads, which travelled to the finals, in 1990 and 1994.

Ray now works as a football commentator on both radio and television.


Roy Keane

Roy was born 10 August 2021 in Cork City, Ireland. He began his somewhat controversial career with Irish side Cobh Ramblers in 1989 before moving to Nottingham Forest in 1990, Manchester United in 1993 and Celtic in 2005 where he stayed for one season before retiring from the game. He was one of the all time favourites at Old Trafford where he played on 452 occasions, scoring 51 times.

Roy was chosen to play for Ireland in 1991, going on to captain the side and made international headlines when he was sent home in disgrace from the 2002 World Cup Finals after a bust up with manager Mick McCarthy. He made a comeback to the team under new manager Brian Kerr in 2004, although not as captain. He announced his retirement from international soccer in 2006 after 66 games and 9 goals.

After hanging up his boots, Keane moved into management and is now currently the assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland’s national side.


Niall Quinn

Niall was born 6 October 2021 in Dublin, Ireland. The lofty striker began his professional career with Arsenal in 1983, staying with the club for 7 years in which he made 67 appearances, scoring 24 times. He moved to Manchester City where he stayed until 1996, playing 204 times and hit the back of the net 90 times. A move to Sunderland followed, with another impressive 91 goals in 203 appearances before retiring from playing in 2002.

Internationally he made his debut in 1986 and on retiring in 2002 he was the all time top scorer for his country with 21 goals, a record since broken by Robbie Keane.

He received an honorary MBE in 2002 after donating the entire proceeds of his testimonial between Sunderland and Republic of Ireland to charity. Quinn played for both teams during the game.

After retirement from the game, he had a short coaching spell with Sunderland before buying a stake in the club with a business consortium. He was chairman of the side until 2011.


Mick McCarthy

Mick was born 7 February 1959, in Barnsley, England. He began his career playing for Barnsley in 1977 for whom he made 272 appearances. He moved to Manchester City in 1983, followed by Celtic in 1987. He moved abroad to play for French side Lyon in 1989 before returning home to Millwall in 1990, retiring in 1992.

He played his first of 57 games for the Republic in 1984, going on to captain the side and becoming known as ‘Captain Fantastic’. He was in the Euro 88 squad and World Cup 1990 team, where he gained the dubious honour of committing the most fouls in the tournament.

After retiring both domestically and internationally in 1992, Mick went into management, firstly with Millwall from 1992 – 1996. He then managed the Republic for a spell until 2002, resigning after coming under constant criticism that had mounted since his bust up with Roy Keane.

He then managed Sunderland from 2003 – 2006, before taking other management roles with Wolves and Ipswich Town, which he currently holds.


Paul McGrath

Paul was born on 4 December 2021 in Ealing, London. Brought up in Ireland, he began his playing career with local side St Patrick’s Athletic in 1981 before moving a year later to Manchester United. The defender made 163 appearances for the team and scored 12 goals. He moved in 1989 to Aston Villa, scoring another nine times in 252 games and was christened ‘God’ by the fans.

In 1996, he spent a year with Derby County, followed by another year at Sheffield United before retiring from the game.

Internationally his career spanned from 1985 – 1997, with 83 appearances and 8 goals, captaining the side 4 times. Football pundit Eamon Dunphy named him as one of his all time Irish top three players in 1997.


Steve Staunton

‘Stan,’ as he is affectionately known by the fans, was born 19 January 2022 in Drogheda Ireland and began his career with Irish side Dundalk in 1985. He moved to Liverpool the following year, spending 5 seasons at Anfield with 65 appearances, including a short loan spell at Bradford in 1987.

In 1991, he joined Aston Villa and played for them 205 times before moving back to Liverpool for another 2 years in 1998. 2000 saw a loan spell at Crystal Palace, followed by another 73 games at Villa where he remained until 2003.

The next 2 years were spent at Coventry City and his final year as a player was with Walsall in 2006.

Internationally, Steve gained 102 caps between 1998 – 2003, including playing in two World Cups and captaining the squad for the 2002 tournament. He is the only player to have played in over 100 matches for Ireland.

After his playing career ended, Staunton took up a management position with the Republic of Ireland. It was a short-lived post and ended in 2007 after much controversy over the side failing to qualify for Euro 2008.


Frank Stapleton

Frank was born 10 July 2022 in Dublin, Ireland. The striker joined Arsenal in 1974, playing 225 times and scoring 75 goals. He netted another 60 for Manchester United, who he joined after leaving the Gunners in 1981.

He spent short periods with another nine teams – Ajax, Anderlecht, Derby, Le Havre, Blackburn Rovers, Aldershot, Huddersfield Town, Bradford City and finally Brighton & Hove Albion before retiring from the game in 1995, after spending 21 years as a professional player.

He won his first international cap with Ireland in 1976 and played 71 games for the squad until 1990. He was captain of the Euro 88 squad and is considered one of the all time greats of the national team.


Written by Julie-Anne

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Gheorghe Hagi: The Maradona of the Carpathians


Short summary

The article presents the career of one of the greatest Romanian football players of all time in detail. Gheorghe Hagi was Romania’s best scorer and the national team’s leader during its most fruitful period. He played for top teams like Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona.

Also, Hagi became Turkey’s hero after leading Galatasaray Istanbul to the all-time best performance in Turkish football: winning the UEFA Cup. The article includes a chapter on the player profile, depicts his activity after ending the football career and discloses some of his personal preferences.


Long summary

Every country has a huge talent, a symbolic football player within one generation. Zinedine Zidane was France’s football player of the ’90s, Raúl González was Spain’s football player of the ’90s, Del Piero is a symbol of Italian football and Romário is a symbol of Brasil in the’ 90s. Who was Romania’s symbolic football player in the ’90s?



Gheorghe Hagi was born on May 2, 1965, in Săcele, Constanța. His parents were Macedonian farmers. Little Gheorghe was declared the most technical football player of the Hope Cup and his name appeared in “Sportul” newspaper on September 7, 1976. Hagi played for the junior team under sixteen (four matches), for the junior team under seventeen (13 matches, 1 goal), for the junior team under eighteen (32 matches, 9 goals) and for the Olympic team (four matches). His first coach was Iosif Bükössi.


Club and national team career

Hagi started playing for F.C.Farul Constanţa (1982-1983), scored 7 goals and then moved to Sportul Studenţesc (1983-1987), where he scored 58 goals. Gheorghe Hagi started playing for the national team at the age of 18, in a friendly match against Norway, in 1983 (0-0).

Hagi was loaned to Steaua București in 1986, after the Romanian team won the European Champion Clubs’Cup in 1986. Steaua București (“Steaua” meaning “The star”) is the Army football team, was and still is the most prestigious Romanian football team. Hagi scored 76 goals in 97 matches and won three national championships and three national cups while playing for Steaua.

Hagi won the 1987 UEFA Super Cup (1-0, against Dynamo Kiev), scoring the decisive goal. Gheorghe Hagi was the leading scorer (four goals) in the 1988 European Champion Clubs’ Cup (he was equal to five other players). The owner of Panathinaikos wanted Hagi so bad in 1988 that he offered 8 million dollars to the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu to allow the transfer to Panathinaikos, but the communist leader refused.

He considered the valuable football players as national values and did not allow them to leave the country until “they had done their duties” to Romania. Some of the football players left Romania illegally (Miodrag Belodedici - Red Star Belgrade, Marcel Răducanu - Borussia Dortmund), others continued to play in Romania in spite of the considerable offers from major clubs (Ion Voinescu - Arsenal Londra, Vasco da Gama, Florea Dumitrache - Juventus Torino, Nicolae Dobrin - Real Madrid, Cornel Dinu - Bayern München, Ilie Balaci - A.C. Milan, Rodion Cămătaru - F.C.Kaiserslautern, Benfica Lisabona).

While other Romanian football players were allowed to leave abroad at the end of their careers (Rodion Cămătaru - Charleroi, Boloni -Racing Jet de Bruxelles, Tudorel Stoica - Lens, Victor Pițurcă - Lens). Steaua reached the 1989 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final (lost 0-4 to Milan).

After Romanians gained their liberty in the 1989 Revolution, Hagi was transferred to Real Madrid for 4.3 million dollars, where he played for two seasons (1990-1992) scoring 15 goals.

From there, he joined Brescia (1992-1994), helping the team to return to the first division (Serie A) scoring another 15 goals in the process.

Hagi led Romania in the 1984 UEFA European Championship and the 1990 FIFA World Cup and then he achieved the greatest performance in the whole Romanian football history, namely acceding to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals in United States. He scored three times there, including a brilliant lobbed goal from 40 meters against Colombia.

Hagi’s goal against Colombia (3-1) was also voted the fifth in a poll hosted on, gathering 9,297 votes. There were 341,460 votes online from over 150 countries worldwide for the greatest goal ever scored in FIFA World Cup history. Romania lost on penalties to Sweden (2-2, 4-5, after penalty kicks) in its 1994 World Cup final match. Hagi was the fourth football player in the world in 1994 (50 points), according to FIFA. He was selected in the 1994 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.

Hagi’s performances attracted F.C.Barcelona’s interest and the Spanish club transferred him for 3 million dollars. Hagi scored 7 goals for Barcelona in two years (1994-1996), winning a second Spanish Super Cup for his team.

Hagi with the 2000 UEFA Cup trophy.

Hagi with the 2000 UEFA Cup trophy.

Hagi joined Galatasaray (1996-2001), where he won four championship titles (1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999) and two national cups (1999, 2000). He scored 50 goals in 132 matches for his team. Gheorghe Hagi became Galatasaray’s leader and won the UEFA Cup (1999-2000) in a penalty shootout against Arsenal. Galatasaray Istanbul became the first Turkish team to win a major continental trophy and Hagi was the hero. Three months later, Galatasaray won the European Super Cup (2000), defeating Real Madrid.

Adrian Păunescu, a poet, convinced Hagi to return to the national team in an emotional and carefully prepared TV show in 1999, one year after his retirement. Hagi was cheered by his fans at three o’clock in the morning. It was a night to be remembered… Hagi retired in 2001 after 125 caps.


Player profile


Gheorghe Hagi was a great leader on the pitch, blessed with sublime vision, a creative, ingenious and precise passing ability, a disconcerting dribbling and an outstanding ball control. He was a greatly feared shooter from any distance and position. He also had a fine free kick technique. Hagi wore number ten.


Fair play

Although Hagi was mostly fair and disciplined player throughout his career, he was eliminated several times in the final years of his career, including during some important games like the final of the 2000 UEFA Cup against Arsenal, in extra time, when playing for Galatasaray (won 0-0, 4-1) (94 minute) and the 2000 European Championship quarter-finals, when playing for Romania (lost 0-2 to Italy).

He also attacked a Turkish referee in 2001, leading to a lengthy suspension (six matches) (Galatasaray- Gençlerbirliği SK 2-1).


Various records

Hagi was the top scorer in 1984-1985 season and then again in 1985-1986 season. He scored 141 goals in 222 matches in domestic games (0,63 goals per game). His domestic record is only second to Dudu Georgescu (Dinamo Bucureşti), who held the record (47) for goals scored in one season for a long period (1977-2012, which was eventually surpassed by Lionel Messi- 50 goals) and who also won the European Golden Shoe in 1975- 33 goals, who bagged 252 goals in 370 matches.

Hagi’s percentage (0,63 goals per game) is very close to Dudu Georgescu’s percentage (0,68 goals per game), a very rare performance for a midfielder. Hagi was declared the best Romanian football player of the year seven times (1985, 1987, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, and 2000). He has also scored 32 goals in 95 games in European Cup tournaments.

As an offensive midfielder, Hagi compensated for the weakness of the Romania national team’s attack in many cases. A midfielder is rarely the top scorer yet Hagi surpassed the very durable record of Iuliu Bodola, a football player of the ’40s (1939, 30 goals, 48 matches) in 1997 and still holds the first position (35 goals), which Adrian Mutu equaled in 2013.

Gheorghe Hagi played in three World Cups (1990- Italy, 1994- United States, 1998- France) (equalling the old national record of Nicolae Kovacs, present in the World Cup Final Tournaments in 1930, 1934, 1938 and playing 12 matches) and in three European Championships (1984- France, 1996- England, 2000- Belgium and Netherlands).

Gheorghe Hagi also surpassed Boloni‘s record for caps (108 matches for the national team) which had lasted ten years (1988-1998). Hagi holds the second place (125 caps) after Dorinel Munteanu (134 caps). Hagi led Romania 65 times (continuously 1990-2001), holding the present record (the next one is Cristian Chivu, Internazionale Milano, 50 times).


Post-football career

Hagi coached the Romania national team, Bursaspor, Galatasaray (twice), FC Politehnica Timişoara and Steaua București. He won a National Cup as Galatasaray’s coach in 2005. He founded “Academia de Fotbal Gheorghe Hagi” (Gheorghe Hagi Football Academy) for training football talents and also founded Viitorul Constanţa, which promoted to the First Division in 2012.

Beside his coaching activities, Hagi is a businessman, he owns the four stars Iaki Hotel in Mamaia. In addition, Hagi is National Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Romania, supporting children in difficulty.


Private life

Hagi is married for the second time. His first wife was Leni Celnicu (1990-1995) and he is now married to Marilena Vlahbei, Gheorghe Popescu’s sister. He has two children from the present marriage, Kira (15 years old), who has humanist inclinations, and Ianis (13 years old), who plays football. Hagi has two older sisters, Sultana and Elena.

Gheorghe Hagi is a close friend of another great Romanian football player, Gheorghe Popescu, who was FC Barcelona captain. Hagi enjoys listening to Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Mariah Carey. He likes Johan Cruijff as a football player and coach, J.F. Kennedy as a politician and Napoleon as a historical figure.

His favorite actors are Al Pacino and Michelle Pheiffer. Hagi likes eating macaroni and drinking red wine and prefers Hugo Boss clothes and BMW cars.



“Maradona of the Carpathians”, as Gheorghe Hagi is sometimes called, is a hero in Romania and Turkey alike for helping both countries decisively establish their greatest national or club performances. The Romanian Football Federation declared in 2008 that Hagi is the most valuable Romanian football player in the last 50 years.

Miodrag Belodedici (the Romanian football player with the best club success, namely that he won the European Champion Clubs’ Cup twice, in 1986 with Steaua București and in 1991 with Red Star Belgrade), Gheorghe Popescu (winner of the 2000 UEFA Cup with Galatasaray, was also Barcelona captain in the 1996-1997 season) and Cristian Chivu (winner of the 2010 Champions League with Inter Milan) are the other Romanian football players with international performances.

“The King”, as some people called Gheorghe Hagi, is one of the most popular Romanian sport players abroad, along with the great gymnast Nadia Comăneci and the tennis player Ilie Năstase of the ’70s, and along with football players Adrian Mutu and Cristian Chivu of the present generation.



Written by Vladimir-Adrian Maftei

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Diego Maradona: A Controversial Career

Diego Armando Maradona is widely considered to be the best player ever to grace the football field. Regardless of his playing ability, he is certainly one of the most controversial figures the sport has ever seen. Here is a look back at the life of the diminutive but contentious man.

Born and raised on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, his talents were first spotted playing for his local side Estrella Roja, aged just 11. He was quickly picked up by Argentinos Juniors, where he eventually debuted aged fifteen, going on to score 116 goals in 166 league appearances, spanning five seasons. Boca Juniors payed £1 million for his services in 1981 and he helped them to the league championship in 1982, scoring 28 goals in 40 games for the club.

The national side called soon after Maradona had turned professional and he debuted in February 1977, in a 5-1 friendly win over Hungary. The 1978 World Cup came too soon and he was left out of the squad that went on to clinch the trophy on home soil. His first international goal came against Scotland at Hampden Park, as Argentina won 3-1.

By the 1982 World Cup, Maradona was an important part of the national side and although Argentina disappointed during the competition, the player earned himself a move to Spanish giants Barcelona for a then world-record fee of £5 million.

His time in Spain was not easy, suffering badly through injury and illness before falling out with directors and demanding a move, which eventually saw him transferred to Napoli for £6.9 million, another record breaking fee. He still managed 38 goals in 58 Barca appearances, winning three medals in 1983.

During his seven years in Italy, Maradona enjoyed the most successful spell of his career, winning two Serie A titles, a UEFA Cup as well as two other domestic medals. He also enjoyed international success, winning the World Cup in 1986 as captain and narrowly failing to defend the title in 1990, losing out in the Final to West Germany.

The first of these tournaments featured the infamous match between England and Argentina, in which Maradona deliberately punched home the opening goal, before scoring what would later be voted FIFA Goal of the Century, single handedly beating five players with eleven touches and cooly firing past Shilton. Controversy about the “Hand of God” raged, but critics were silenced with two goals in the semi-final, before setting up the winner in the final.

By now, his personal problems were building. He developed a cocaine habit and was repeatedly fined for missing matches and training, not to mention allegations of fathering an illegitimate son. A failed drugs test saw Maradona hit with a 15 month worldwide ban and his career would never recover. He returned to the game with Sevilla, where he played for a year before returning to his native Argentina.

On the international front, he played just two games in the 1994 World Cup before being sent home after failing another drugs test, this time for the stimulant Ephedrine. He never played for Argentina again, after winning 91 caps.

Turning his hand to coaching, he had two short and unsuccessful managerial jobs, lasting no longer than four months, which led to him coming out of retirement as a player. He returned to former side Boca Juniors, where he scored 7 goals in 31 games, before finally calling time on his 37th birthday.

After quitting football, his health deteriorated and he struggled with obesity. In and out of rehab with his cocaine problem, he eventually suffered a heart attack in 2004. The following year he had gastric bypass surgery to fight his weight problems, but was back in hospital after less than a month with hepatitis and alcohol abuse related problems.

Later that year, he hosted a chat show in his native Argentina, where he remains something of a celebrity. In 2007 he claimed to have stopped drinking and that he had been drug free for more than two years.

The news that broke at the end of October 2008 surprised many. Diego Maradona would be the new Head Coach of Argentina after the resignation of Alfio Basile, his first game in charge was on November 19th at the scene of his first international goal, Hampden Park, against Scotland. He was also, for a brief period, in charge of a club based in the UAE, Al Wasl.

As magical as he was in his playing days, with the question marks against his health, his tax evasion case and his dip into the field of management it remains to be seen how the great man will fare in that realm. One thing is for sure though, we’re in for a roller coaster ride.


Written by Dominic Field

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Artificial football pitches: Is it a good move?

Due to the climate in certain countries, the debate surrounding the use of artificial grass has grown ever bigger. Recently, the debate has risen to a higher profile than previously with the Women’s World Cup planned to be carried out on artificial turn in arenas located in Canada. Sparking debates on whether not it should be used, FIFA’s secretary general has said that he believes the Men’s World Cup could be played on artificial grass “sooner rather than later”.

This belief is thought to be shared between him and other members high up in the FIFA governing body.  Obviously there will be divided opinions on such a large step in football, because some of the purist fans will not appreciate the change of surface from natural to artificial. However, others will understand that it offers countries with unsuitable climates for good quality natural grass more opportunities to host larger competitions – such as the World Cup.

Artificial grass is a fairly modern development in technology; it is an artificial turf made up of lots of synthetic fibres so that it looks similar to natural grass as much as possible. Often artificial grass is chosen by homeowners with artificial grass companies like Forever Green Lawns, so that they can cut down on maintenance and have a green lawn all year round.

Recently though, it has become part of a debate as to whether or not it can be used in professional sports such as football. The theory of integrating artificial grass into the sport comes with Canada hosting the Woman’s World Cup, and having planned to use artificial grass instead of natural grass due to the country’s climate.

As many of you might expect, when you start introducing a new turf into any sport – there will be negatives and there will be positives. FIFA has obviously identified the positives to outweigh the negatives in some situations, its doubtful that artificial grass will ever become the main playing surface, but it does offer a certain amount of pros as an alternative.

With artificial grass it offers you a playing surface that you can use in almost any conditions, low maintenance, not patches, and most of all it thrives no matter what the country’s climate is. Some lower league clubs might currently be spending a high amount of their revenue on maintenance and keeping their pitch up to scratch, however with this new technology it will allow lower league clubs to have a pristine playing surface every match with very little maintenance compared to natural grass.

With that in mind, paying maintenance fees is not a big deal for clubs in the higher tears of football, with large revenues being created each and every year. That being said, when a large club meets a smaller club that might mean playing on artificial turf.

At such a high level in any sport the smallest differences in playing surface can make a big impact on athletes performance. For example, in golf, the length of the grass makes a huge difference on the behaviour of the golf ball when it bounces or rolls etc.

Another example is tennis, tennis courts are usually grass or clay – each surface feels different under the feet of the athletes and the tennis ball reacts slightly different on the different turfs.

So in football, would the playing surface make a difference in the teams performance and could it offer a noticeable advantage to those who use artificial grass consistently.

Taking this into account will be the people who sit right at the top of FIFA’s governing body. Over the course of the Woman’s World Cup they are likely to see how artificial grass plays out on a world stage, most likely dictating whether or not we see artificial grass in football a lot in the future.


Written by Aedan Kiernan

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Charlie Austin: Why the QPR goal machine can’t become the forgotten man among the England striker debate

When Rickie Lambert scored the winner in England’s friendly with Scotland back in August 2013, much was made of the striker’s meteoric rise from the humble beginnings of non-league Marine, Blackpool and Macclesfield via a short stint in a beetroot factory.

Lambert had to wait until he was 31 for his first England cap and now, after earning 10 more in the following 18 months or so, it seems like the chances of adding to that tally will be severely limited as his lack of games for Liverpool leaves him struggling against a sudden growth of attacking options available to Roy Hodgson.

Saido Berahino has 10 Premier League goals for West Bromwich Albion while Danny Ings has 9, Andy Carroll hit 5 for West Ham after returning from injury (before he suffered a new season-curtailing knock), Daniel Sturridge has hit form immediately for Liverpool after recovering from his own long-term injury and Hodgson is adamant his captain Wayne Rooney will remain as a striker despite being fielded as a centre-midfielder by his club boss Louis Van Gaal.

The battle to partner Rooney is heating up as England prepare for next month’s games with Lithuania and Italy, and Hodgson’s recent vocal backing of Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the midst of the searing form that has taken him to 23 goals in 35 games this season suggests the 21 year old will be included. Though Hodgson was curiously quiet on the other Englishman who is levelled on Kane’s 13 in the league-scoring charts, QPR’s Charlie Austin whose career path bears similarities to Lambert’s.

It was the 46 goals from 46 games for Poole Town in the semi-professional Wessex League Premier Division, whilst he worked as a bricklayer that brought him to the attention of Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, unable to sign the striker due to a transfer embargo, and Swindon’s chief scout Ken Ryder.

Ryder would bring him to the Football League and the goals would flow; 37 in 65 games for Swindon then 45 in 90 for Burnley. QPR’s £4 million would get them 20 Championship goals from Austin as they achieved promotion last summer, but the 25 year old would face questions on whether he could do what so many have failed (David Nugent, Jay Bothroyd, Robert Earnshaw etc.) and translate that form to the very highest level.

Those doubts have been answered emphatically with the 13 goals that have been a huge factor behind Rangers sitting out of the relegation zone with 13 games left despite their decrepit away form which saw them lose on every trip up until last week’s triumph at Sunderland. 9 of Austin’s goals have come at Loftus Road where they have been bolder and more attacking, partnering Austin with Bobby Zamora in a 4-4-2 to produce results that have been vital in QPR’s bid to stay up.

Such examples have come with the hat-trick in the 3-2 win over West Brom and the brace over Aston Villa, ensuring points over close relegation rivals while showcasing the facets of Austin’s ability in front of goal. The bullet strike from outside the area against Villa or the powerful header from a corner against West Brom, or even the superbly taken control-turn-and-volley strike at Southampton make for an impressive show-reel.

Austin is a burly presence who provides restless work for opposition defenders, full of movement and able to constantly press them when they are in possession. He also has the quality to pounce onto the ball and create something from very little, traits that left Manchester City and United rather fortunate to leave Loftus Road with reward this season. His game is one that has obviously been forged in the lower leagues, full of work and enthusiasm for the opportunities he has been given.

However his link-up play perhaps needs some work, Austin averages 21 passes per game from which he has created a measly 13 chances and just 2 assists from his 22 games so far, a poor return for a striker who operates in a partnership. Though one cannot argue with Austin’s effectiveness in front of goal, where he is rated highest in the league, ahead of the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, for shot accuracy with 67% from 84 shots. Austin is also the striker most integral to his side’s attacking fortunes having been directly involved in 60% of Rangers’ 25 league goals.

Having lost Harry Redknapp earlier in the month QPR are now tasked with staying up under the guise of caretaker coach Chris Ramsey, who will be hugely reliant on Austin returning to top form after a recent toe injury. He will come back fully aware that should he continue among the goals an England call-up may yet present itself as the next stage of Austin’s remarkable career progression at the end of March.

Whether he is of the required class to play internationally will be up for debate, but it can only be settled if he is given the chance he may have warranted. If he is, it is certain he will respond the same way to every level of challenge his career has so far thrown at him. Yet again, he may end up surprising many people.


Written by Adam Gray

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Random Special: The World’s Shortest & Tallest Football Players in Professional Football Today

Kristof van Hout

Football players come in all shapes and sizes. Their physical attributes can often, but not always, determine how and where on the pitch they play. From towering goalkeepers to target-man strikers, from miniscule midfielders to pocket-rocket wingers, here are the shortest and tallest football players playing professional men’s soccer today.


World Football’s Tallest Football Players

Unsurprisingly, a goalkeeper tops the tallest football player list. Belgian giant Kristof van Hout currently plays for India’s Delhi Dynamos and is officially the tallest football player in the world. Measuring an impressive 2.08m (6ft 10 in), he barely has to raise his arms to reach the 8ft crossbar.

Croatian goalkeeper Vanja Iveša comes close to the Belgian giant alongside Chinese striker Yang Changpeng. Both measure 2.05m (6ft 8½ in). Changpeng, dubbed “China’s Peter Crouch”, had a trial for English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers in 2006, but never signed. He currently plays in China.

Next up are the Norwegians. Striker Tor Hogne Aarøy (2.04m) currently plays for Norwegian second division club Aalesunds FK. His fellow countryman and striker Øyvind Hoås (Hønefoss) is only a fraction shorter at 2.03m, as is Hasle-Lören IL defender Even Iversen and goalkeeper Kjell Petter Opheim. Completing the quintet is AS Monaco’s Lacina Traore also at 2.03m (6ft 8 in).


Lacina Traore (center)

The world’s tallest football player list is wrapped up with a more familiar name in Serbian centre forward Nikola Žigic, who is a powerful striker for England’s Birmingham City measured at a height of 2.02m (6ft 7½ in).

To put these giants of the game into perspective, towering Stoke City striker Peter Crouch measures in at 2.01m (6ft 7 in).


World Football’s Shortest Football Players

Height profiles for the world’s shortest football players seem to vary depending on the source – official club websites often differ from other soccer stats resources. However, Brazilian attacking midfielder Élton Jose Xavier Gomes, who plays for Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh, would appear to take the accolade for top-flight football’s shortest player at only 1.58m (5ft 2 in).


A whole host of footballer’s measure in at between 1.60m and 1.63m (5ft 3 in - 5ft 4 in), many of them technically gifted South American midfielders like Elton. The Brazilian contingent of shortest football players comprises Madson (5ft 3 in), Carlinhos Bala (5ft 4 in) and Joãozinho (5ft 4 in).

From Argentina come Maximiliano Moralez (5ft 3 in), Diego Buonanotte (5ft 2 in), Juan Cuevas (5ft 4 in) and Franco Niell (5ft 4 in). Completing the Latin American connection are Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Lara (5ft 4 in) and Mexican Elgabry Rangel (5ft 4 in).

Diego Buonanotte

One of the few Europeans to challenge for a position amongst the world’s shortest soccer players is English midfielder Levi Porter. Porter, currently contracted to Shepshed Dynamo playing at the semi-professional Midland Football League, is 1.60ms (5ft 3in) tall.

Lionel Messi, World Football Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner, is not the tallest of footballers. However, at 1.69m (5ft 5 in) he is still some way off from joining the ranks of the world’s shortest football players.



Written by TG Dunnell

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Race for FIFA presidency: The chase takes shape, but Blatter the favourite to win yet again

The window for gathering nominations in order to stand for this year’s FIFA presidential race shut last night and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if it was met with a collective breath of relief. When Luis Figo entered his name into the ring on Tuesday it was getting hard to keep track of the candidates.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the French former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne,  Dutch FA president Michael Van Praag and former Portugal midfielder Luis Figo had joined current incumbent Sepp Blatter, whose desire to stand for a fifth term has been met with ubiquitous ire in Europe, as well as David Ginola’s farcical sideshow in tandem with bookmaker’s Paddy Power.

Ex-Spurs and Newcastle midfielder Ginola however has missed out after failing to collect the required 5 nominations, putting to a close an absurd campaign that saw the Frenchman peddle the rhetoric of much-needed change for 2 weeks, in exchange for £250,000.

The bookmaker meanwhile would receive a large amount of cheap publicity for what amounted to a ridiculous charade. The crowdfunding project raised just another £250,000 of a £2.3 million target, bludgeoning Ginola’s reputation while further exposing Paddy Power as the cynical company that sees no subject off-limits in their quest to cream money from football.

While Ginola’s withdrawal from the race has been welcomed, Blatter’s relatively low-key announcement that he will stand once again, posted on his Twitter feed late on Thursday night, will be met with frustration. After saying in 2011 this term would be his last, Blatter enters the 17th year of his reign as favourite to stay in his position, despite allegations of corrupt World Cup bids and elections that have tainted his last four years.

There may have been a lack of credibility about Ginola’s short-lived campaign but his manifesto spoke repeatedly of change and it is change that FIFA undoubtedly needs. Van Praag’s progressive plan speaks of “modernisation” and Prince Ali, who has picked up the nomination of the English FA, has prioritised the need to “shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to the sport”.

Figo, meanwhile, is motivated by his disillusionment regarding the organisation’s recent failure to publish a report into the deeply-controversial awarding to Qatar of the 2022 World Cup. “If you search FIFA on the internet you see the first word that comes out: scandal — not positive words. It’s that we have to change first and try to improve the image of FIFA. Football deserves much better than this” he said.

Blatter will fly this weekend to Saturday’s Asian Cup final in Sydney possibly comfortable in the knowledge that he is well supported over there. General Secretary of the Asian Football Confederation Dato Alex Soosay pledged his full support to Blatter at last year’s FIFA congress and that sentiment was reaffirmed this month in the wake of Prince Ali’s decision to stand.

It is Blatter’s FIFA that of course, whatever the circumstances, delivered the World Cup to Asia with Qatar and Soosay’s backing has been echoed by a series of powerful Asian football officials. The continent has 41 associations and whereas Prince Ali will target votes in Europe where he enjoys popularity, that vote will be split between Figo and Van Praag. It is advantage Blatter before anybody can even think about the May 29th ballot.

Champagne may also play a divisive role in the European vote, though his proposals follow a similar theme of reform to his UEFA rivals. A former 11-year ally to Blatter within FIFA, Champagne’s views into the current regime are indicative of how toxic the association has become. Speaking on the resignation of Michael Garcia, the man who investigated the awarding of 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, he said “It has not only damaged FIFA, it has also damaged football”.

“The image of the organisation is so poor that people make fun of FIFA. It’s very negative. More and more people want to grab football for their own economic, political, or sometimes criminal, interests rather than serving the game said Champagne, also a fierce critic of the abuses suffered by migrant workers in the Gulf, a recurring topic in the debate of the Qatar World Cup. He points to insidious corruption throughout FIFA and the dubious process of how members are voted onto the executive committee which he opines as actively encouraging collusion.

Though Blatter, aptly referred to as the Teflon Don, somehow clings onto his presidency and remains impervious to criticism brought about by ludicrous plans such as the Interplanetary Cup- the idea of playing a tournament between different planets. One only has to look at how Blatter has ensured himself the chance to stand for yet another term to find out how rock solid he is at the head of FIFA’s murky pyramid. In the congress- described by the English FA’s Greg Dyke as “something like North Korea”- he managed to fend off the introduction of term limits, therefore clearing the path for another campaign.

Now shorn of some his most loyal allies in the regime, Blatter still has fervent support throughout the global game. The 78 year old was determined to take the World Cup to Africa ever since visiting Ethiopia in 1976 and he of course delivered on that promise in 2010.

It is in Africa where FIFA spends the majority of its surging revenues, for instance funding the flagship Goal programme which aids development and football infrastructure in countries that need it the most. Those projects are mostly found in Africa. On Tuesday, numerous CAF officials said that Blatter had the overwhelming support of the continent which has 56 associations.

After the nomination window closed it will now be determined which names will appear alongside Blatter’s on the ballot sheet, but they sadly seem likely to be cast into irrelevancy as the Swiss gears up for another term in office. Regardless of the turbulence that has occurred under his guise, or the bile that is thrown his way as a result, Blatter, friend of Africa and Asia, seems immune, no matter how much Figo, Van Praag or Prince Ali seek a process of change.


Written by Adam Gray

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Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: An Infographic that compares the two living legends

Messi or Ronaldo? A popular and divisive debate among football fans. Two players with different styles, but both wonderful and enjoyable to watch and admire. Below is an infrographic provided and created by the folks at Guarantee Tickets that compares stats and other details between the two living football legends. Regardless of all the records and stats the two behold, both are a pleasure to watch, so let’s enjoy their presence and talents while their still around and in their prime.

The stats highlighted are up until the end of 2014. Ronaldo has since won another Ballon d’Or to make it 3 for the Portuguese talisman to magical Messi’s 4.


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Football/Sports Tips: How to Effectively Communicate With Your Players

Communication is key in any sport, especially team ones such as rugby and football, where the success of the club depends on effective management of large pools of talent. Keeping track of the well-being, health and fitness of each individual player is essential to manage your resources and ensure that the group on the pitch is able to get the best results. It can also help you to avoid injury, overrunning certain players in the build up to important events, and overseeing opportunities as they arise.


Face-to-Face Communication

Whether you are training or giving the team a talk during half time, it can be difficult to get your message across clearly both to the team as a whole, and individuals who need specific advice or criticism. Especially during intense situations such as games, mistakes made by players can be frustrating for the coach and manager, but a negative approach to communication can only have adverse effects. In any situation, try to build a criticism into a compliment. Tell them what they were doing well, then how they can improve their game, and you are much more likely to get a positive response.

Listening is as important for coaches and managers as it is for the players. Instead of giving them a 5-minute talk on where they have gone wrong and how they could improve, get them more actively involved in the conversation. Ask them where they think things went wrong, and talk through their situation to come to a solution. By being approachable and willing to hear what the athletes themselves have to say, you might also be surprised at how many of them are perfectly capable of self-diagnosis, and ask for advice of their own accord.


Interacting off the Pitch

However much you might try to cover every base in the time spent with your players, you inevitably can’t keep track of each player at all times. Yet understanding their feelings and physical situation is crucial to effective team management, and a passing comment during training from a player might easily get lost in the pipeline. Equipping your players and your organisation with sports performance management software allows you to interact off the pitch.

Your players can fill in surveys on their performance and fitness, whilst you can co-ordinate their training and development remotely, accessible on mobile devices to fit around the busy lives of every member of the organisation. By doing so, you can secure on-going communication with your team, and make sure that everything is professionally tracked and recorded.

In a modern world where mobile technology offers the opportunity to interact any time, anywhere, as a sporting organisation or individual, communication on the pitch is only one half of the picture today. Investment in sports performance management software and makes interaction with your players easier and more effective. Combined with an approachable and positive style of coaching and management, you can get the best out of your team to watch the success speak for itself.


Article by Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, freelance copywriter from Yorkshire. Kelly loves the great outdoors, interesting places and fine foods. You can follow her on Twitter at @KellyGGrassam. This article is written with support from The Sports Office.

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