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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Suso: Hapless Liverpool prodigy aims to prove he is not to be another disappointing buy for a new-look Milan

Back in June 2013 when Riccardo Saponara was on his way from Empoli to AC Milan, the hype surrounding the midfielder was so much the then-21 year old was being referred to as the “new Kaka”. Milan had signed him for €4 million that January but allowed him to remain with Empoli until the end of the season, where he finished with 13 goals and 15 assists in Serie B.

The excitement that shadowed Saponara to the San Siro was perhaps unfair, he only had previous experience of playing in the league below and with comparisons to Milan’s last truly-elite player, the 2007 Ballon D’Or winner Kaka, came a foreboding weight. He has failed emphatically to live up to the billing; in the following 18 months he has mustered just 8 appearances for Milan, not scoring or assisting once, and having made only a single appearance in this campaign he finds himself returning to Empoli on loan for the rest of the season.

The Rossoneri he leaves behind is a troubled club languishing eighth in Serie A, 17 points behind leaders Juventus, with manager Filippo Inzaghi appearing to consent with Silvio Berlusconi that a targeted-third place finish is now out of reach. With desperation creeping in, a £15 million move for Alessio Cerci, the striker who had failed to settle in Spain with Atletico Madrid, has been completed but met with a degree of cynicism from fans with fond memories of recent success.

Cerci will take the number 22 shirt, which supporters were quick to point out was once previously worn by Kaka. That name again, still lingering over Milanello despite the Brazilian having departed to see out the final rungs of his career in the sunny climbs of Florida and Orlando City. Ricardo Montolivo has urged supporters to forget about the past, “It’s hard to draw comparisons, but we’re talking about two teams searching for an identity” said the midfielder, “it’s a different Milan team than it used to be, there’s no point denying that.”

League winners as recently as 2011, Milan have had to sit European football out this season for the first time since 1998 and given their current struggles- they have won just 2 of their last 11 games, it will be a tough task to return for next year. Expectations have been downgraded considerably and so has the wage bill, now €94 million from the €160 million it stood at just two years ago.

Financial Fair Play regulations means the neoteric days of shelling out £16 million for Robinho, £22 million for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and £17 million for Mario Balotelli have passed, with bargain-basement captures of Giacomo Bonaventura, Adil Rami and Fernando Torres, signed for a total of £12 million last summer, or even frees for those discarded by Europe’s top clubs, Alex, Diego Lopez, Michael Essien, Jeremy Menez, is now the order.

The policy of spending-restraint led to the capture of Saponara (who took Gennaro Gatusso’s number 8 shirt which became another thorny issue for the sentimental) and most latterly Suso, signed from Liverpool on a 4 and a half year deal as the January window reaches its mid-way point. Again it is underwhelming, a midfielder who had managed just 21 appearances for Liverpool since his debut in September 2012 and leaves Anfield under a cloud after attending his Milan medical without the permission of his former club, fitting a crescendo to a series of attitude problems that were rumoured to have hindered his progress on Merseyside.

There is unquestionable potential in the Spanish midfielder Rafael Benitez personally intervened to sign from Cadiz under the noses of Real Madrid and Barcelona in 2010, then honed with time in Liverpool’s reserves and the NextGen series in 2011. The following season impressive first-team appearances came against Manchester United, West Brom and Norwich City and he was rewarded with a long-term deal that October, with Brendan Rodgers praising his “outstanding technical qualities”.

A further 16 appearances followed that season before he was sent on loan to Almeria for first-team experience and his time in La Liga was, on the whole, successful, registering 7 assists (more than Arda Turan of Atletico Madrid and Iker Muniain of Athletic Bilbao) and scoring 3 goals to help Almeria avoid relegation by a single point. As a small, agile, nimble-footed playmaker, he was mostly used as a left-footed winger on the right-side, given license to move centrally to create with his incisive passes in support of Rodri, the lone striker favoured by manager Francisco Rodriguez, and that combination would link together for 4 goals.

His bad side would also be showcased in Spain, one that would often fall short with his end-product, translating into a pass completion percentage of just 72.2 and a poor return of 103 inaccurate crosses from a total of 129 attempted. He would be disposed often as he struggled with direction on the ball, usually committing an over-zealous tackle in order to compensate, resulting in the 9 bookings and 1 dismissal he picked up, a significant number for a creator who should be more concerned with the elegant and technical side of the game.

He would return to Merseyside with the void left behind by Luis Suarez’s departure harbouring promise of a first-team breakthrough, though his progress would be stymied by a talented list of midfielders in Adam Lallana, Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Lazar Markovic, and he found himself limited to just one appearance, as a substitute in the League Cup against Middlesbrough. His goal in extra-time became his last act in a Liverpool shirt as mentality issues would again come to the fore and Rodgers’s patience would ebb away.

The Spaniard will now compete with Bonaventura, Cerci, M’baye Niang, Keisuke Honda, Jeremy Menez and Stephen El-Shaarawy for the playmaking spots but Inzaghi’s welcome suggested he would be given added opportunities in a more central role. “We are very happy to have Suso here and the fact he arrived early means he’ll be given more of an opportunity to acclimatise”, said the manager, “Suso can give us an important hand this season. He has great quality”.

“Suso is here because Riccardo Saponara wanted more playing time and we could not guarantee him that” said Inzaghi, perhaps subscribing to the same hope that will be shared among most Milan fans that Suso will not become a similar disappointment.

It is still a shock to see Milan lumbering along in Serie A and the 21 year old will have to improve on his time at Liverpool and Almeria if he is to help avoid it becoming the normality.


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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AC Milan: Inzaghi forging managerial career at the San Siro with help from a couple of rejuvenated forwards

“Segna per noi” shouted 2,000 AC Milan fans to Filippo Inzaghi as he was unveiled as the club’s new coach back in July. They were asking him to score a goal, a nostalgic request to the former striker who made a living off his predatory instinct. There would be no doubt that Inzaghi would have been tempted, but as a manager now rooted firmly in the dugout, he would no longer be scoring goals, though he did using a recent training session to show the deadly scoring touch has not yet left him.

Goals will now have to be delivered by others as Inzaghi embarks on his managerial adventure, coming from Milan’s under-19 side, with whom he spent two years, to the front-line of a Rossoneri that, under the controversial eye of Silvio Berlusconi, is desperate to enter modernism.

Inzaghi’s predecessor, former team-mate Clarence Seedorf, was dispensed with in the summer after just 5 months in charge with Berlusconi describing the Dutchman as part of the club’s “past”.

Ironically Inzaghi comes from the same Milan past as Seedorf, both members of the side that won two Serie A titles and two Champions League in the eleven years that “Pippo”, as Inzaghi is affectionately known, spent at the club.

The last Scudetto came as recently as 2011, though it seems like an age since that was delivered by Massimiliano Allegri. Since then a period of decline has set in, last season’s 8th place finish was their lowest for 15 years and it was unsurprising to see Allegri fall by the way-side half-way through the campaign.

So came a summer of sweeping change. Backroom staff and players disagreed with Seedorf’s methods so he was axed, while 11 players departed with 10 coming in. With Mario Balotelli sulking and Stephan El Shaarawy’s campaign blighted by injury, how those Milan fans congregated to welcome Inzaghi, scorer of 126 goals for the club, at Casa Milan in the summer wished they were witnessing his return as a player.

Not quite, but Inzaghi set about an attacking upheaval. Mario Balotelli was sold to Liverpool while Robinho and Kaka, with no room for sentiment in this new era, were both jettisoned to the other side of the Atlantic. In would come Giacomo Bonaventura, a left-winger signed for £6 million from Atalanta, Jeremy Menez on a free from PSG while a punt was taken in the form of a 2-year loan for the struggling Fernando Torres of Chelsea.

Inzaghi would also be encourage to focus on the attackers already at his disposal, the likes of the returning El Shaarawy and Keisuke Honda, the Japanese playmaker who disappointed in his first few months at Milan following his long-awaited move from CSKA Moscow in January. Honda himself slated his contribution after netting just once, saying “this is not me, I know that people expect a lot from me. I hope that Milan fans will wait for me next season”.

The wait has been worth it, Honda scored Milan’s first goal of the season in the 3-1 win over Lazio, while strikes against Parma, Empoli and Chievo followed. The 28 year old also assisted Bonaventura’s first goal for the club in the rollercoaster 4-5 win at Parma and has settled impressively into the right-wing slot of Inzaghi’s favoured 4-3-3 system, urged to cut inside onto his left-foot.

“Keisuke Honda arrives 2 hours before training and leaves 2 hours after. He has an incredible attitude and I am happy” said Inzaghi, reminiscent of the work-rate the Italian coach himself displayed during his playing career.

Menez has also been a resurgent success, the forgotten man in Paris as his disappointing 8 goals in 3 years saw him subjected to the periphery of a squad that contained the luxuries of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi; the 27 year old has already struck 3 times in 6 games under Inzaghi.

After a goal on his debut against Lazio, two followed in the win over Parma, including an outstanding back-heel finish. Misfortune has struck however, with the forward going into the international break facing tests on an abductor muscle that could see him ruled out of action for a significant period.

With Torres’s arrival giving Inzaghi enough tactical flexibility to switch between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 which accommodates the Spaniard as the sole striker, Menez’s absence can be managed though undoubtedly greatly felt. Respite will come in the fact that Torres, so often fragile in terms of confidence, has already opened his Milan account while goals from Sulley Muntari are also in the offing, the Ghanaian having already managed 2.

It has all made for a modest start to the campaign for Milan, taking 11 points from 5 games in which they have lost just once, a narrow 0-1 reversal to league leaders Juventus. Dropped points away at Cesena and Empoli will make Inzaghi aware that there is a long journey ahead before they can genuinely rival the Old Lady at the top, but a return to the Champions League may not be beyond Milan’s reach.

With Menez and Honda both firing and Torres and El Shaarawy, plus Giampaolo Pazzini and M’Baye Niang, working under the striking wisdom of Inzaghi, then such a target is perfectly possible. If it is achieved and the European nights are restored to the San Siro, then Pippo may become idolised for something other than just scoring goals.



Written by Adam Gray

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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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Personal Feature: Three top players I wish I had seen in their prime

Football has long played a huge part in the lives of many people, and football players have left many memories for those who have witnessed their talents. Memories that can be passed on and kept alive for future generations.

Having been born in 1995, I’d perhaps be considered part of the last generation to have witnessed the greatest players from 2000 onwards, and I would consider myself fortunate enough to be at the age where I am able to pass on some wonderful memories. There’s nothing like football to make you feel old.

Being a kid and growing up learning about football is a truly mesmerising experience. Your eyes open to a world full of professionals who have mastered their craft, transfixed by skill, technique and innate ability combined with the rewards for hard work. Past or present, some footballers have lit up the world more than any player of their generation can dream of. It’s due to the learning of football that I’m writing this.

I have learnt a lot from other people, books, videos, documentaries, and because of that learning I am familiar with some of the greatest players to ever play without ever being alive to see them at their best.

So, as to not digress any further, here are  players that I wish I had seen play


3 - PELE

Probably the greatest goalscorer of all the time, the Brazilian scored over 1000 goals for Santos and grabbed 77 goals in his 92 games for his country. Pretty impressive. He is also the only player to ever win the World Cup three times.

During his international career, he helped create Brazil’s synonymy with the beautiful game, taking them to a new level alongside some great teammates. He could dribble at pace, score goals, had skill and a great mind, as proven with his famous ‘runaround move’ around the Uruguayan ‘keeper in the 1970 World Cup.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele was given the nickname “O Rei do Futebol” (the King of Football) and will go down as perhaps the greatest Brazilian footballer ever.



Alongside Pele, The Black Panther as he was known, took goalscoring to a new level, and the pair were perhaps the Ronaldo and Messi of their time. Two players above everyone else, scoring goals for fun. With so much power and athleticism he became an unstoppable force in Benfica’s quest to dominate Europe, and was a similar feature in Portugal’s National Team too.

After his recent passing, many players who have had the pleasure of facing him spoke fondly. A gentleman in the game, a player who was almost impossible to stop, one of the best ever - many things were said, and all positive. Born in Mozambique, he was signed by Benfica after rejecting a trial from their rivals, Sporting. They missed out on one of the greatest players ever.

He had pace, a powerful shot, strength and many other attributes that propelled him to excellence. Admittedly, I’m not the most knowledgable when it comes to Eusebio, but he’s a player that I’ve enjoyed watching back. If only I could’ve seen him first hand.



“When he was out there, the pitch was a circus ring, the ball a tamed animal, the match a party invitation. Garrincha nurtured his pet, the ball, and together they created such mischief that people almost died laughing. He jumped over it, it gambolled around him, hid itself away, skipped off and made him run after it. And on the way, his opponents ran into each other.”

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer, puts it perfectly. Garrincha played football to entertain; to enjoy himself; for the fun of it. He was not worried about the money, the occassion or the opposition: he would take on any right-back in the world, and beat him. He cared only for football and women.

Give him the ball and he would provide many people with pure joy. While Pele may stand as the greatest Brazilian player ever, Garrincha will always be the most adored. His Botafogo and Brazil team-mate Amarildo, who replaced Pele in the 1962 World Cup after his injury, states that Garrincha is the only player who is loved by every one. Fans of rivals love him like the fans of Botafogo; he belonged to Brazil.

With a turbulent lifestyle and bent legs, Garrincha’s talent was outstanding. However, that turbulent lifestyle ultimately cost him. After retiring from football, he was no longer able to sweat out the alcohol he was drinking and it took its toll, leading to his death. It’s his incredible story that drew my interest in him. Learning of his life and watching old clips of him has been great fun, although it would have been more fun to have seen him live.

Taking on a defender then turning back to take him on again is something not done in today’s era, but done all the time by Garrincha. He was an entertainer, rightly nicknamed Alegria do Povo and undoubtedly a joy to watch. Just a shame I never had the opportunity.


Some other names:

Personally speaking, I couldn’t simply pick just 3. That would be far too difficult, but after much deliberation I decided I had to.

However there were some others in the running:
Marco van Basten, a player I fell in love with during Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial. You could see the class with every touch of the ball, even flicking it over the head of one defender (Steve Bould if I remember correctly) and unleashing a sweet left-foot volley which was saved by Mart Poom.

As an Arsenal fan there are many players I wish I’d have had the pleasure of watching. Liam Brady, Charlie George, Paul Davis and Bob Wilson to name a few, and as a follower of the Brazilian National Team Socrates and Zico spring to mind as well. Puskas is another who has intrigued me. Many great players have graced football pitches over the years, and many have left memories in the minds of fans. Memories to be cherished and passed on.

Divulging into the history of the sport is a pleasure for many young fans, and maybe in 30 years time another teenager will be sitting there wishing they could’ve witnessed the brilliance of Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho or whoever, but one thing’s for certain - players come and go, but great players remain.

Thank you for reading.


Written by Ryan Goodenough

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Clarence Seedorf: AC Milan bold enough to take a justified gamble on the Il Professore

The greatest testament to Clarence Seedorf’s dedication to football was how he described his decision to call time on his 22 year career as a “difficult night”. Seedorf had 16 months previously left Europe, where he had spent two decades, to join Botafogo of Brazil in a hugely lucrative deal, though any amount of money could not douse his ever-burning ambition.

There was still a desire to achieve success and he led the club, suffering from crippling financial problems and declining attendances, to the 2013 Campeonato Carioca. “One of the most important objectives was to put them back on top and get them back in the Libertadores for the first time in 17 years” he said, “the clubs deserves it, the fans deserve it and the players deserve it.”

Seedorf was speaking after his decision to retire from playing and take up the vacant managerial position at AC Milan where he spent ten years as a player. It comes after Milan finally lost patience with Massimiliano Allegri, fired after Domenico Berardi hit all 4 goals as Sassuolo came back from 0-2 down to win 4-3 on Sunday, leaving Milan just 6 points clear of the Serie A relegation zone.

Allegri, who had won just 5 of his 19 games in charge of Milan this season to leave them 30 points adrift of leaders Juventus, had gathered dark clouds overhead for a large portion of the campaign and the only surprise is that the Berlusconis waited as long as January to remove the 46 year old.

Another surprise comes in the form of Seedorf’s appointment, made on the back of no previous formal coaching experience but to no hesitation from the Milan hierarchy. “The decision [to sack Allegri] was decisive,” Seedorf said. “The call came in the middle of a training session. Obviously, it’s a place where I spent 10 years of my life so when the president asked me I couldn’t say no”.

It is a gamble perhaps made with the view that any chance of a top 4 place has already evaporated, presenting a chance for the Dutchman to learn the job and to be eased into the position in a window where the expectation levels are exceptionally low. There my even be hope that the managerial change to a club legend could galvanise the squad enough to close the ten point gap on Europa League qualification in order to rescue something from a bitterly disappointing campaign so far.

However the two and a half year deal according to his agent suggests the Rossoneri have something more long-term in mind. He comes in with the unanimous backing of president Silvio Berlusconi, with whom he describes his relationship as “very close”, and vice-president Adriano Galliani.

It will be his devout professionalism and enlightened understanding of the game, traits that contributed to his remarkable longevity, that appealed to them, as well as the unyielding dedication and versatility that sees Seedorf write a column for the New York Times as well as running a restaurant in Milan alongside his long-reaching charity work.

His humility and human touch make Seedorf a natural leader and in no uncertainty that he will be a success upon his return to the San Siro is his former coach Carlo Ancelotti, now in charge at Real Madrid. “Seedorf was my player, he has a very big personality,” said the Italian, “he has the capacity and knowledge to do everything in the world of football. He is going to get experience in an atmosphere he knows very well.”

The previous lack of managerial experience has not deterred Milan before of course, employers of Fabio Capello and Arrigo Sacchi and Ancelotti himself, though a career that garnered 21 trophies including four Champions Leagues and five league titles spread across three different clubs in three different countries suggests he is better placed than many to make the transition from player to head coach.

The sheer amount of silverware Seedorf, who has 87 caps for Holland, won will definitely arise hope that he can restore a winning mentality to a Rossoneri that has undergone dramatic decline since winning the Scudetto in 2011, as well as a dogged tenacity and work-ethic he embodied as a steely midfield force during his playing career.

It is significant that Galliani expressed a degree of sympathy for Allegri who had to endure the outgoings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo, Thiago Silva, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta across the past two years of a tough transitional period for Milan.

Injuries to Stephan El Shaarawy and Giampaolo Pazzini have curtailed Allegri’s plans though a first XI including the likes of Mario Balotelli, Ricardo Montolivo, Nigel De Jong and Ignazio Abate have been complimented by a squad of average depth.

Adil Rami and Keisuke Honda have arrived this month and the summer capture of Kaka was a hugely promising signing, though Allegri failed to coax anything that resembled the potential best out of this group of players.

The massively respected Seedorf will be the next to attempt such a task, and given the resolute energy he puts into everything he does, few can bet against him failing.


Written by Adam Gray

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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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