Martin Odegaard: Madrid get the Norweigan prodigy but may have already damaged the promise of his career

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Premier League 2014/2015 scores, Football England
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The rumours, no matter how unlikely, concerning Gareth Bale’s exit from Real Madrid, with Manchester United the possible destination, continue to flow. He has 36 goals in 18 months in Madrid, but the strained relationship between Real’s record £85 million signing and the fans, first showing itself last January after misplacing a pass against Granada before the boos returned earlier this month after he failed to pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, has so far undermined his time in Spain.

Winning goals in the finals of the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League have been highlights but in the minds of Real Madrid fans- expecting Ronaldo levels of return on his world record fee- they have counted for little in a stint that has been hampered by injury, accusations of poor work-rate and the form of Isco in his absence.

Bale hasn’t been poor since joining from Spurs, far from it in fact, but he so far hasn’t reflected the billing to which Madrid projected him with that obscene transfer fee, which is of course isn’t the Welshman’s fault. Now a similar predicament faces 16 year old Martin Odegaard.

Odegaard was in Madrid last week for his unveiling after making a £2.2 million move from Stromsgodset- the fee is set to rise to a potential £8 million should he reach simple objectives- in front of a packed press room, the excitement was clear.

Madrid already had the symbolic victory of beating Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Arsenal and Paris St Germain to the Norwegian’s signature and the potential is huge. The midfielder is Norway’s youngest ever debutant and goal-scorer, his former manager Ronny Deila described him as “special and to celebrate his signing, Real released a mouth-watering video to showcase his undeniable talent to the world. It is not just his ability that separates his brilliance but an attitude that so many believe will see him stay on the route to the top.

Describing the lengths Real went to securing his services can give some indication into the extent of Odegaard’s ability. To ensure his signing they have given Hans-Erik Odegaard, Martin’s father, a role as youth team coach, while also paying the teenager an £80,000-a-week wage.

That has already caused issues among Madrid’s reserve side, where Odegaard is likely to spend his first months in Spain as Madrid seek to run his development with caution, with captain Sergio Aguza making clear his envy of the riches the Norwegian has been given. Aguza will also be denied the same opportunities, Odegaard will train with the first-team but will play with the reserves.

Odegaard only has to look to Aguza, a player who also joined Real as a 16 year old only to see his career fail to take off, for warning. The midfielder is now 22 but has yet to make a first-team appearance for Real since joining them in 2008, managing 23 appearances for the B side while staying mostly a regular for the Castilla team in the third tier of Spanish football.

It is unlikely Odegaard’s career, given the clear signs of an extraordinary talent, will follow a similar path of stagnation, but Aguza is just one of many cases of players who have failed to successfully realise their true potential as they age into the maturity of late-teens and early-20s.

Madrid will also be familiar with many of those cases. Samuel Eto’o was a fellow 16 year old signing but he only managed 3 games for Real before leaving for Mallorca while Esteban Cambiasso was also 16 when he joined from Argentinos Juniors. The Argentine would be loaned back to his native league on a couple of occasions before moving to Inter Milan on a free as a 24 year old. It would then ire Madrid to watch him lift the Champions League, alongside Eto’o and another Real-reject Wesley Sneijder, in the Bernebau in 2010.

Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo would all fail to make the cut in Madrid’s academy but total over £130 million in transfer fees over the past five years. Real would not reap that money, nor the brilliance of Eto’o, Cambiasso and Sneijder in their prime, and would instead have to keep subscribing to the ‘Galactico policy of constant investment in order to wrestle league and European dominance away from bitter rivals Barcelona.

Again, this would be irksome to Florentino Perez and Real, aware that Barca’s juggernaut under Pep Guardiola was founded on a group of supremely gifted academy products. How Madrid longed to replicate that, but simply found it beyond their reach. “You have to know how to manage a youth system, and Madrid aren’t doing that” said Negredo, who failed to make a single appearance for Real despite two spells with the club.

Whether Real will heed the lessons of the recent past and alter their approach in managing precious young talent will now come under intense scrutiny with Odegaard, as the club try desperately to nurture and mould their own Ballon D’Or winner instead of attempting to break the bank on one every summer.

But such are the finances already involved on a player unable to drink alcohol in his native country and only just out of compulsory education, the attention on the Norwegian will be microscopic. The private jets, the VIP treatment and the packed press-boxes, with all that comes ludicrously high expectation.

Odegaard will have to be very special to justify it all, anything less and the critics will find their voice. They may have compromised Odegaard’s career before it has even truly begun.



Written by Adam Gray

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Champions League: An Infographic on the 2014/15 Round of 16 contenders

Below is an infographic highlighting and detailing the round of 16 contenders in this season’s Champions League. It was created and designed by the folks at Guarantee Tickets.

Champions League Round of 16 Infographic

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Bayern Munich: The Bavarians demolish Roma to move onto road to perfection

In Marti Perarnau’s new book “Pep”, which accounts Pep Guardiola’s first year in charge of Bayern Munich, there is an enlightening extract which highlights just how obsessive the coach is. After a win over Hannover last September, Guardiola hides away from his family for several hours, going over and over videos of the match before finally cracking a tactical solution.

It is an instance of the attention to detail and the quest for perfection that drives Guardiola, leaving no stone unturned as he prepares his team for an upcoming opponent. “All I do is look at opponents and try to demolish them” is how Guardiola describes his passion for analysis and preparation, the recipe that has led him to 18 trophies since he first took charge of Barcelona in 2008.

“We were well set up by the coach, he had pin-pointed where the weak points in the Roma side were and they were exactly where he said they would be” said Bayern’s Thomas Muller after Tuesday’s 1-7 rout in Roma that became the latest landmark on Guardiola’s journey to reaching footballing paradise.

Though as the Catalan told Sky Italia his team still had “things to improve on” and bemoaned how Roma were given too many chances at the start of the second half, one senses that he and his team will never quite get to that plateau of sporting mastery. With Guardiola, there will always be another ceiling to smash through.

The performance in Rome however, more specifically the opening 45 minutes, was exceptional. Last season’s Serie A runners-up, a shrewdly assembled squad under the astute eye of Rudi Garcia, this was no shoddy opponent, yet Bayern were 5 up on 36 minutes, with Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben (who scored twice) and Robert Lewandowski carving through the normally resolute Italians, who have shipped just 4 goals in their opening 7 Serie A games, at will. A Thomas Muller penalty would put the icing on the cake of a scintillating opening half.

Franck Ribery would then come on to toy with the stunned defence, running on to a through-ball from Robben to chip audaciously over a hapless Morgan De Sanctis in the Roma goal, before Xherdan Shaqiri rounded things off. Gervinho’s consolation was a footnote, a blemish on something truly special. The following day, with Bayern making a visit to the Vatican, praise came from the Pope who said the Bavarians “delivered a wonderful game of football”.

As the head of the Catholic Church was presented with a Bayern shirt it added to the surrealism of the occasion, Bayern reaching a level of such importance that they would be gratefully received in audience with the Pope. Guardiola would say the win was “not normal” and called it “a fluke”, though there was an measured and unerring quality to this victory; how Roma couldn’t live with the intense pressing, how Francesco Totti and Gervinho were suffocated by Bayern’s fearlessly high-defensive line, how Ashley Cole was targeted by Robben (both Totti and Cole had to be withdrawn at half-time) and how Lewandowski’s movement simply eluded the helpless centre-back pairing of Kostas Manolas and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

As Robben said, “Roma had no answer to our attacking game and that quickly decided the match”. We really must thank our coaching team because they prepared us outstandingly for this game”.

Guardiola had said before the trip to Rome that it would be “very difficult to win at the Stadio Olimpico without a great performance” and it would be hugely difficult, given Perarnau’s depiction of the maddening footballing obsessive, just how many hours he had invested in conjuring such a lethal game-plan. Though it has been coming, since September 20 Bayern have won all six of their games in all competitions by a combined score of 24-1. Tuesday evening was the crescendo to their mini-period of ruthlessly irresistible form.

Despite winning the domestic double in his first year in Germany, Guardiola’s time with Bayern has been plagued by internal criticism of his style and methods. Club president Franz Beckenbauer would be particularly outspoken after the 0-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals. “What I feel is we must play with the ball and attack as much as possible” said the German World Cup winner, giving a revealing insight into the dissatisfaction in the club’s higher echelons of the embracement of a slower style, moving away from the direct, overwhelming power of Jupp Heynckes’s team that dominated the European game the season before.

In the post-Hannover extract in Perarnau’s book, Guardiola says this to his squad. “Gentlemen, this is tiki-taka and it is s—. We’re not interested in this type of possession. It’s totally meaningless. It’s about passing for the sake of it. We need our central midfielder and our defenders to move out with an offensive mentality and break the opposition lines in order to push the whole team high up. The U needs to go.” From as early as 14 months ago, the Catalan had been itching to dispense with the style that he had previously become synonymous with during his time at Barcelona.

Paderborn, Hannover and Bremen, the last by a 6-0 score-line in their last league outing, have all recently been brushed aside with consummate ease and there is definitely a clear echo of Heynckes appearing in their play. Long balls can go into Lewandowski, the movement of Gotze can be fed with clever through balls. Robben and Ribery are on hand to burst down the flanks. Juan Bernat, the young Spanish left-back, is wasting no time in being converted to an irrepressibly vibrant winger, while in Xabi Alonso Guardiola signed a conventional all-round midfielder capable of initiating attacks with long-sweeping diagonal balls, the type that did for Bayern last April in that pivotal thrashing at the hands of Madrid.

Following what was likely to be months of fanatical pondering and deliberation, Guardiola has managed to discover a more all-rounded approach that now threatens to take Bayern to the next-level he was initially hired to reach. The performance and result of Rome will now be filed away in the Guardiola archives, bracketed alongside Barcelona’s 2-6 and 5-0 wins over Real Madrid and the 3-1 Champions League final destruction of Manchester United in 2011, as his relentless search for footballing perfection goes on.

“This game is an exception, an incident” said Guardiola, refusing to let the force of his focus slip, “it’s not the difference between the two teams, we will see that in two weeks”. For that return game at the Allianz, it will be business as usual for the Spaniard; extreme detail, tireless and extensive planning and an impassioned devotion to excellence. As we all marvelled at was achieved in Rome, Guardiola will strive for even better.



Written by Adam Gray

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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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Bundesliga: Entertainment, Drama and Upsets all around

The start of a season see’s fans, managers and players conjoined by the same idea of a fresh start and newly held ambitions – usually influenced after what is seen as a fruitful recruitment drive and with the likes of Ciro Immobile, Xabi Alonso and Mehdi Benatia all joining the ranks of the Bundesliga, It is understandable why the attraction of the league is at a record high right now.

But with vast change comes instability, unorthodox results and performances to match. Case in point SC Paderborn – the newly promoted side were welcomed to life in the Bundesliga by being tipped to be relegated, but after a strong performance and an attacking display in their opener against Mainz which ended 2-2; it was anyone’s guess to see how far this team could go, until the week after they stomped over HSV to win 3-0 proving that they meant business and they were here to stay. Games against Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach have brought them back to reality somewhat, but it doesn’t get away from the fact that this team can compete in this league, especially after buying smartly, for example the signing of Elias Kachunga from Borussia Monchengladbach who has scored 3 goals in his 6 appearances for the club so far, after making his move permanent.

Bundesliga powerhouses Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke have had an indifferent start to their season, both teams showing inconsistencies within their performances and a lack of positive results which would please the fans early on. Both teams at Gameweek 6 took part in the derby of all German derbies to the avail of FC Schalke who came out on top with a 2-1 win that saw creativity from both sides, but the quality of finishing from Schalke ultimately put the game to bed. FC Schalke started slowly losing heavily to Borussia Monchengladbach, but after an inquest and a much needed confidence boost with a 3-0 win over Werder Bremen, it seems that they can jump start their season again and get into the kind of position that their quality merits.

Borussia Dortmund are struggling to get the balance right. After conceding Bundesliga’s fastest goal after 9 seconds on Gameweek 1 it was a massive test of character for the squad, especially with the amount of new additions that Jurgen Klopp has brought to the club after somewhat of an exodus over the past few transfer windows. One revitalizing moment for Dortmund was the transfer of Kagawa back to Dortmund from Manchester United, which in turn saw him contribute to the score line before half time in Gameweek 3. Although, with big losses against Mainz and Schalke, Jurgen Klopp’s new team needs to gel together and gel fast if they are to meet the expectations of the fans. It’s more of a case of patience for Dortmund fans, with the likes of Ciro Immobile getting to grips with German football and Kagawa having to regain his fitness and form that he lost when he moved to the Premier League.

Werder Bremen as of Gameweek 6 have found themselves in a tricky situation. After starting to season in no real disastrous fashion, it seemed as weeks went by Robin Dutt’s team weren’t able to find a win, drawing their first 3 games of the season. Two heavy losses on the trot against FC Augsburg and FC Schalke didn’t merit fans appreciation, but thanks to Ivica Olic goal, Bremen managed to scrape a win to nail their first win of the campaign. With this victory in sight, Bremen can surely hope to spearhead a burst of positive form that will help bring them out of the relegation zone.

Inevitably with all this disparity to usual procedures of Germany domestic league football, the Bayern Munich machine is roaring as ever and are top of the table on 14 points. The addition of Xabi Alonso by Pep Guardiola seems to be a master stroke with the absence of Javi Martinez with an ACL tear during the SuperCup game against Dortmund. The former Madridista has broken the record for the amount of touches in 1 game against Cologne and seems to fit seamlessly into the Guardiola system of play, ironically enough. He looks set to be a big part of the spine of Bayern’s team this season.

The strange nature of the Bundesliga where anyone can beat anyone is something that for the neutral is something to savour and dedicate time too, the competitive nature between 2nd and below now too with such well organised teams and brilliant tacticians coming through is something the Premier League is now lacking. With the 50+1 rule now in operation throughout the Bundesliga also, it forces teams to be more adventurous with their scouting networks, a direct result of this has seen the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki and Atsuto Uchida come to into first team action, along with many more Japanese nationals.

Whatever criticism Bundesliga has had in the past, it is growing in influence and stature and can’t be looked down upon anymore.

Written by James Clark

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Football Entertainment: Soccer Saturday Bingo

Soccer Saturday is a football institution in the UK and Ireland and has been ever since its inception in 1992. Broadcast on Sky Sports, the premise of the program is simple in that there is a host and four studio guests that review the Saturday afternoon football matches that play as they happen. There are also roving reporters at many of the other matches around the country and these are visited throughout the afternoon.

While the premise would make the program sound boring, the fact that it has been on air for 22 years is down to the on screen chemistry of the host, Jeff Stelling, and the studio guests makes the program watchable each and every week. The studio guests are currently former Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, former Arsenal defender Paul Merson, ex Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and Celtic and Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas.

As a result of the on screen chemistry between the five in the Soccer Saturday studio as well as their familiarity with each other as well as the passion of these football men appearing while watching the matches we are often treated to a display of football analysis that is usually reserved for time spent in the pub with your mates, except on prime time TV!

The nature of the program, as well as the occasion faux pas from the studio guests, has led to many spin offs for people to join in at home. The most famous of this is the Soccer Saturday drinking game where shots of beer or Jagermeister are to be drunk at times of different things happening during the program.

However, for those of us that do not want to spend our Saturday afternoon’s getting heavily drunk we have come up with a bingo version of the game that allows you to play the same game without being unable to function for Saturday evening!

To play, just print off this bingo card from Butlers Bingo or write down the below situations and hand them out to all of the people playing the game. The winner is the first person to get all of their situations to appear on screen.

  • A goal is scored
  • A sending off
  •  Half time
  • Chris Kamara is talking
  • Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (i.e.”he’s hit the beans on toast”!)
  • Swindon Town appear on the vidiprinter
  • Dundee appear on the vidiprinter
  • Phil Thompson says ‘Stevie Gerrard’
  • Jeff makes an ‘A Trialist’ joke
  • Your team scores two goals
  • Jeff calls Kenny Deucher ‘The Good Doctor’
  • Hartlepool score a goal
  • A pundit shouts off camera
  • LeTiss is mentioned in connection with a takeaway
  • Chris Kamara says “it’s unbelievable Jeff”
  • Jeff mentions “dancing in the streets of TNS
  • Jeff says “its Doom and Gloom at…”
  • The team ‘Keith’ is referred to as just being one guy
  • Brighton & Hove, or Daggers & Redbridge are jokingly referred to as two different teams playing the same oppo
  • When Arbroath striker Kevin Webster scores and Stelling says “ohh, Sally will be pleased”
  • Something bad happens to Craig Bellamy (injury, og, booked, arrested for assault etc.)
  • Northampton Town appear on the vidiprinter.
  • Jeff sings “I feel good” when James Brown scores for Hartlepool

These are just a taste of the situations that occur during Soccer Saturday, and feel free to add more of your own making to spice up for your Soccer Saturday bingo session! Once you’ve played this, jump online to play free games at any bingo site. You can win big and use it to spice up your Soccer Saturday fun!

Would you prefer to just play football instead of sitting at home? So basically you want to be a professional footballer? Click here!


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Feature: Much awaited football tournaments in the world

Soccer as it is called in the United States and Canada and football to the rest of the world, is one of the most popular sporting extravaganza played by millions worldwide.

The game is played with different formats with different pitch and team sizes but the most prevalent one feature two teams with eleven players each, playing on a grass pitch measuring approximately 105m x 68m with the main aim of kicking or heading a ball into their opponent goal. Men’s football was introduced into Olympics Games in 1908 while the women’s competition was added in 1996.

There is various international football tournaments played all around the world which are eagerly awaited by soccer fans.

Visit Carlton Leisure to book flights to various destinations around the world to enjoy these precious moments of various tournaments.


FIFA World Cup

Ask a football fan what delights him the most and undoubtedly you get the answer as FIFA World cup. There is no greater sports competition than this ultimate sports extravaganza. The next FIFA World Cup is held in Brazil from 12th June 2014 to 13th July 2014.

Come and enjoy the game of stamina and passion and see your favorite football giants competing against each other.


The UEFA Champions League

The UEFA Championship League is the most glamorous club competition in the football tournaments. The competition is organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Since 1992 it has become one of the most prestigious club competitions in European football which has helped to turn Europe into football’s most financially powerful continent.

The finals of 2012-13 UEFA championship is the most watched sporting events in 2013 worldwide drawing over 360 million television viewers. There is no club competition to match the champion league.


The Copa America

It is one of the oldest existing continental football competitions. It is a South American international Association Football Competition contested between CONMEBOL as well as two other nations, frequently Mexico, Costa Rica or the United States.

Brazil and Argentina are referred as South American football’s “Big Two” current holders but it is the Uruguay which is the most successful team of the tournament with 15 wins till date.


The FA Cup

The Football Association Challenge Cup which is commonly known as the FA Cup is an annual knockout cup competition in English football. It is the most famous domestic competition in the world.

A women tournament is also held known as FA Women’s cup. Established in July 1871, it is arguably the oldest association football competition in the world.


Africa Cup of Nations

It is a main international association football competition in Africa that pits the continents greatest international sides against each other in a fascinating battle of supremacy. It was first held in 1957 and since 1968, it has been held every two years.

The tournament is held in the month of January and the continent’s most successful side is Egypt which has won this tournament a record seven times.


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Football: What does it mean and how us fans shape our lives around it

There comes a time where we must all grow up. Young boys stop playing with little action figures and move on to games consoles, young girls stop wearing their mothers make-up and start wearing their own. We all go to secondary school, reach an age where an interest in the opposite sex grows and we watch more shows created for an older fanbase, as opposed to the kid’s TV we used to enjoy.

We can change our minds so easily when we grow up. We outgrow almost everything from our childhood, be it a show, a board game or an obsession with our favourite teddy or toy that never left our side. Even hobbies find their way of slowly drifting from our routines and finding their place in our memories, never to be forgotten.

One thing that seldom changes, however, is relationships. Some even grow stronger. Childhood friends become school friends, school friends become work friends, maybe even partners. Having an affinity with something rarely changes, and it’s the same with football.

Football can shape the childhood of children so easily. We watch and become transfixed by one player, one team or just the sport in general. For children in football mad families, it is inevitable that they will watch football from early. As a young boy in an Arsenal mad family there was no other team I was ever going to watch, and when I did watch I was hooked by Thierry Henry.

He was my first idol, the first player I fell in love with. And even today, the sight of Thierry Henry or the mere mention of his name buckles me up and takes me down the greatest evocative road I’ve ever journeyed on. Reliving the moments that lit up my childhood, experiencing those moments again. Just fantastic.

To this day, as an 18-year old, I will admit that if it come down to going on a date with a beautiful female or going to watch the Arsenal, I’d pick Arsenal. She may be upset by that so I’d invite her along. If she says no then that’s her problem, not mine. However strong that may sound, football has played a part in my life so huge that living without it would be fairly difficult. It’s an escape, and the same for many other people.

People shape their lives around football. Socially and professionally, everything is built around football. Unfortunately though, not for me, professionally speaking. I work when most Arsenal games are on, and as an 18-year old I’m sadly unable to dictate when I work.

Money comes first when you’re building for a future. Needs must. But it’s not the same for others. People book days off from work to go to games. Even if they’re just going to watch it down the pub with some friends, football comes first.

It’s a strange connection, as people who don’t love football are unable to comprehend the feeling felt by fans when a goal is scored, a pass is misplaced or the ball is controlled. All these footballers are really are just normal people who can kick a ball better than the rest of us, but it’s not as simple as that.

As kids we idolise these men and treat them as superheroes and when we grow up we just sit back and watch in awe. They become parts of our lives and on the back of interviews and performances we end up feeling like we know them.

It even influences the way we use social media, particularly on Twitter. Many people you’ll find on there use it solely to air views and discuss football. There’s something about mixing social media and watching football that results in a narcissistic belief that our views are superior to others. Opinions in the world vary, but on social media the passion we hold for our clubs exudes into 140 characters and any objection comes across as disparagement. So, naturally, we bite back.

Peronally speaking as a reserved individual, football provides a platform for conversation. With not many interests other than the beautiful game finding a middle ground is difficult, and relating to people is rare. With all this in mind, football is the most important thing in my life and it’s played a huge part in the development of me as a person. It’s taught me many different emotions and even a few swear words along the way. Like millions of my fellow humans, I don’t know where I’d be without football.

Football elicits emotion that is not comparable to anything in life. Loyalty to your club is not a choice, it is an obligation; something that is very much permanent; like a birthmark, or a mole - something we cannot remove from ourselves. No matter how frustrating we may consider our connection with a football club to be, there is no doubt that however illogical perserverance through frustration sounds, it would sound even more illogical to contemplate removing your loyalty.

So loving football isn’t necessarily a choice, it’s a requirement. And it’s fun to be part of a community that’s so widespread yet united as one. It’s a wonderful feeling. And that’s why football will always come first.


Written by Ryan Goodenough

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Special Feature: How Poker Can Improve Your Football Game

Most players focus on physical fitness when training for football, but that only gets you so far. In order to be the best player you can be, you have to get your head in the game as well.

There are plenty of creative ways to train your mind for football, but playing poker is probably one of the most obscure ones you’ll come across. Nevertheless, it could enhance your skills in more ways than one.

Let’s take a look at how poker can improve your football game.


Reading Your Opponents

Poker is a game of strategy much like football is. It requires the ability to read other people you are playing against and identify their strengths and weaknesses. When you’re on the football field, you need to be able to see similar strength and weaknesses so you can adjust your strategy and ultimately score a goal. A little time at the poker table could be just what you need.

You can learn from a person’s body language and his playing style in a poker game. Subtle twitches can indicate hesitance and a lack of confidence worth tapping into. If you can pick up on those signs in a soccer game, you will be able to dodge other players and successfully get the ball to someone else on your team. Your mind will be in the game then.


Maintaining Your Aggression

In order to intimidate your opponents in football or in poker, you need to be a bit aggressive. That doesn’t mean you have to start punching people in the face. It just means that you have to exude enough confidence to make people start questioning themselves.

If you can learn to be confident when you play poker, you can take that same mindset into a football game. Make the other players feel like you are superior to them. Make them shudder at the idea of playing against you. Then you will have an easier time scoring a goal.


Holding Your Bluff

You don’t always have to have a good hand to win in poker. You can make other people think you have something you don’t. In football, you can make people think you’re going to move one direction when you have other plans entirely.

This isn’t bluffing, so to speak, but it is a matter of manipulation. If you can begin reading players in poker, you can start to see what you can do to make them fold under pressure.

In soccer, you can use those reading abilities to psyche the other players out on the field. Adjust your body language, speed, and sight to indicate a move that contradicts your true plans. You can get through a game much easier after that.


Keeping Your Focus

Concentration is a large component of poker and football alike. If you cannot focus on you opponents and the game as a whole, you could be caught off guard. It is difficult to practice concentration on the playing field because you have to move your body and your mind at the same time.

With poker, you can use your brain alone. Once you get your mind trained to pay attention, you can get your body to follow suit.


Planning Your Strategy

Poker may seem like a game that happens one card at a time, but it actually involves a complex set of moves. Much like a chess player, a poker player has to think about his moves and his opponent’s future moves before deciding how to act in a hand. Should he check, wait for a bet, and then raise? Should he bet strongly from the start to weed out the potential for luck?

Both activities require the ability to think three steps ahead of the other player. You can improve your chances of strategizing on the fly after playing poker.


Releasing Your Stress

At the end of the day, poker doesn’t have to be serious and intense. It can just be a fun game to play with your buddies. If you’re stressed out from work, school, sports, and more, you may simply want to let loose from time to time. Poker is a great way to step away from reality and take the pressure off yourself for a while. Learn to use it to your advantage.

Whether you’re preparing for the World Series of Poker or the FIFA World Cup, you can benefit from the skills listed above. Tune into your true capabilities, and you will be unstoppable on the field.

Author bio: Curt D Peterson is an avid gamer, who also loves writing. He has for years played in poker tournaments around the world and made a living off it. He has also ghost written a number of articles that have been featured in reputed journals.

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Robert Lewandowski: The Body’s move to Bayern highlights the widening competition gap in domestic Germany

“I want a new challenge next season” Robert Lewandowski told Sport Bild in November. From then it was clear, he’d made up his mind to leave Borussia Dortmund.

It took only four days of the January transfer window for the inevitable to occur in Germany, Robert Lewandowski confirming a 5-year deal with Bayern Munich whom he will join in the summer from Borussia Dortmund. The Polish striker’s contract is up in the summer and despite Dortmund’s refusal, perhaps ired by Munich’s capture of Mario Gotze in May, to cash in then, the Bavarians have waited patiently to complete the deal, worth a reported 11 million Euros a year to the Polish striker, at no expense.

It is an excellent move for Bayern, so far unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga, sitting seven points clear of Bayer Leverkusen, they have relied on Mario Mandzukic, scorer of 12 goals so far, to lead the attack.

Goals, 42 of them in the league so far, have come from everywhere, Thomas Muller has 7, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery 6 each and Gotze, the £32 million signing from Dortmund last summer, has 4. Lewandowski, with 65 Bundesliga goals to his name since joining Dortmund from Lech Poznan in 2011, will add further potency to an already frighteningly gifted front-line.

Josep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich juggernaut, which also breezed through their Champions League group as winners, are set to become even more dominant than they were last season when they processed to the German title by a margin of 25 points.

The Spaniard will find in Lewandowski a striker who will fit into his philosophy of excellent movement and intelligent link-play, not only a instinctive forward who lurks in the box for supply, but one who also drops off to orchestrate his own chances.

That Uli Hoeness, Munich’s ubiquitous president, dispensed with Mario Gomez, scorer of 93 goals in 2 years, for just 15 million Euros to Fiorentina, and how easily Guardiola has sought an alternative to Mandzukic, who has 35 goals in 18 months, is indicative that the direction the club is aiming to go will not accommodate strikers who deal in goals alone.

Lewandowski of course, is about so much so much more than goals. He was the lone mobile attacking hub of the double-Bundesliga winning Dortmund side, a central link to the fluid front 3 that took in Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Gotze over the past 3 years.

The diligent leader of the intense pressing system that made all the success possible under the innovative Jurgen Klopp and the prolific forward who became the first ever player to net 4 goals in a Champions League semi-final as he single-handedly demolished Real Madrid with a display of unerring finishing, the Pole possess every asset of a modern centre-forward. Arguably the most complete striker in Europe, coveted by Chelsea, Real Madrid and Arsenal amongst others, Bayern are set to yield his excellence for nothing.

This will all register with Klopp who will be aware that he is not only seeing his side weakened by the departure of another integral player, his top-scorer, but a player whose unique qualities are central to his system. Patrick Aubameyang, the £10 million signing from Saint-Ettiene in the summer, has 9 goals to his name so far, though Klopp prefers his electric pace on the left wing, his direct running perhaps too one-dimensional for a lone attacking role.

Klopp’s use of the transfer market has to date been exemplary, specialising in unearthing diamonds and moving them on for significant profit, and it will take another shrewd deal to substantially replace their outgoing striker.

Dortmund’s participation in May’s Wembley Champions League final, in which Lewandowski played, may seem a distant memory for the Black and Yellows as they look up at Bayern from league position of fourth, glancing envious eyes in the direction of their rivals 12 points above them. Not only have they struggled to replace Gotze, but Klopp’s philosophy of intent pressing, strained by last year’s 52-game campaign, has given way to a staggeringly unfortunate run of injuries.

Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels, NevenSubotic, Marian Sarr, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Kehland Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all missed a month or more due to injuries while Nuri Sahin has been asked to play through the pain barrier.

Marco Reus, unable now to share his attacking burden with Gotze, has suffered for form, whilst the summer’s two major signings, Mkhitaryan and Patrick Aubameyang, have been superb on occasion but unable to consistently produce that standard of performance on a regular basis.

While Bayern Munich have progressed and will continue to do so as they chase their aim of global dominance, Dortmund have notably regressed as the unbalance of power between the two clubs became so palpable with the contentious transfer of Gotze last year.

Lewandowski’s defection will only serve to intensify the ever-widening gap between the two clubs and with no sale-money available to reinvest, Klopp’s wise scouting eye will be called into action once more as he aims to rebuild a successful Dortmund.

With Lewandowski’s impending arrival, Bayern have become much stronger, Dortmund much weaker, so too you feel, has the Bundesliga as a whole.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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