Juan Quintero: Jury still out on the Colombian Messi

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Premier League 2014/2015 scores, Football England
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Bought by FC Porto in the summer of 2013, Juan Fernando Quintero’s performances in pre-season friendlies, notably in the prestigious Emirates Cup tournament in London, and then early in the 2013/14 campaign, appeared to indicate the northerners had struck gold again.

An exhilarating dribbler, powerful shooter – usually with his magical left foot – and an eye for a killer pass, the Colombian seemed set to spread the gold dust at the Estádio do Dragão as a direct replacement for his compatriot James Rodriguez, who left for Monaco in the same transfer window.

The two have been friends since their childhood days, and Rodriguez had no doubt that his international team-mate would prove a success at Porto, confidently predicting: “Quintero’s going to shine brightly. He’s a great player and can only grow at a club like FC Porto. It’s only a question of time before he makes his mark there.”

Few disagreed after Quintero’s first outings in a Porto shirt. Within a minute of coming on as a substitute in Porto’s first league match of the season against Vitória Setúbal he scored a thunderous long-distance left-footer, and his zippy and unshackled style of play quickly made him popular among the fans and critics alike, so much so that coach Paulo Fonseca was faced with a barrage of questions as to why he started so few matches. “Quintero’s quality means he’ll soon force me to make him a starter,” responded Fonseca.

But the early promise proved a false dawn. Quintero failed to hold down a place in the side and was powerless to invert a disastrous 2013/14 for Porto. The Dragons completely rebuilt their squad in the close season, but the diminutive forward avoided the clear-out and the club made it abundantly clear they continued to believe in him.

Unfortunately, this year Quintero has again found it difficult to impose himself, spending more time on the bench than on the pitch. He continues to show flashes of brilliance in his sporadic appearances, the clinically taken winner against Braga with that trusty left foot a good example. But Quintero’s growing frustration at lack of opportunities has gone hand in hand with Porto losing patience with his lack of development.

As is often the case, what is notionally an advantage for a player, flexibility, is actually part of the problem. Quintero has chopped and changed from a winger to a No10, showing undoubted ability but extreme inconsistency in both roles. He lacks positional discipline and his decision making is questionable, to put it kindly.

The fact little progress has been made to eradicate these failings in almost two seasons at Porto – under three different coaches – raises questions about his football brain, or lack thereof.

In Quintero’s defence, for one reason or another, occasional injury setbacks included, he has never been given a prolonged stint as a regular in the side. Having only recently turned 22, should a manager at Porto or elsewhere smoothen out the rough edges and fully harness his obvious talent, Quintero is still in time to enjoy a highly successful career.


Written by Tom Kundert

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Andre Carrillo: Sporting Lisbon’s Peruvian snake is on the loose

An extravagantly talented winger, Sporting Lisbon winger André Carrillo has at last added the missing piece to take his game to the next level – consistency.

Carrillo arrived in the Portuguese capital still a teenager in the summer of 2011, and from the outset the Peruvian proved both an explosive and a mercurial performer. With speed to burn, majestic dribbling skills and a rocket of a shot, he is capable of the truly sublime. His high-speed dribbling is especially thrilling to behold, his ability to slither past opposing defenders earning him the apt nickname of “La Culebra” (the snake).

But Carrillo exhibited the failing so often found among both flair players and young footballers. His form fluctuated wildly and he was liable to “go missing” in games, sometimes for several weeks at a time. Together with his utter lack of contribution to defensive duties, he was very much a luxury player.

In what has generally been a turbulent time at Sporting, each of the six different coaches who have had Carrillo at his disposal over the past four seasons have given the wide man a lengthy run in the side, yet he could never nail down his position as an automatic starter. Until this season that is.

Upon the arrival of Nani on loan, Carrillo may have had concerns his chances would be limited, with many analysts suggesting the inclusion of two maverick wingers in the team was too much of a risk. Those fears proved unfounded. Carrillo appeared to draw inspiration from Nani’s resurgence back at his home-town club. The Manchester United man’s mesmerising early displays may have taken most the headlines, but Carrillo was proving equally effective and even outshined Nani on several occasions as the season wore on.

With a third of the campaign to play, the Peruvian international has more than doubled his previous season’s best in terms of goal-scoring, having found the back of the net 7 times in 34 games in all competitions. He has also become far more disciplined from the tactical point of view, tracking back and helping the team keep its shape when possession is lost.

A stand-out performance against Chelsea in London in the Champions League raised his profile further, so little wonder that Sporting have been working furiously to try and get him to sign an improved contract.

Even if not in the immediate future, Carrillo’s exceptional talent will surely earn him a move to one of Europe’s major leagues.


Written by Tom Kundert

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João Mário: Sporting’s midfield pearl

It’s been quite a year for João Mário. Just over twelve months ago, the then 20-year-old Sporting Lisbon prospect was sent on loan to fellow Portuguese top flight club Vítoria de Setúbal. It was felt he had outgrown the club’s B-team and a more advanced level was required to develop his precocious talent.

The decision was fully vindicated as Mário enjoyed a fabulous half season, making himself an undisputed starter and helping his new team turn around their season. Vitória were fighting the threat of relegation when Mário joined, but finished the season 7th, narrowly missing out on Europa League qualification. The midfielder’s contribution was key to the upturn in fortunes and he was picked in Portugal coach Paulo Bento’s 30-man long list for the Brazil World Cup, although he did not make the final cut.

Back at Sporting ahead of the 2014/15 kick-off, Mário had to show patience as part of the first-team squad, but just like with his loan period, when his opportunity came – in late September – he grabbed it with both hands, providing two assists in his first start in a 4-0 victory at Gil Vicente. He has not looked back since, subsequently making himself an integral part of Sporting’s midfield and winning his first full Portugal caps.

Endowed with marvellous vision and superb long-range passing ability, João Mário has been used effectively as a deep-lying midfielder on occasion. However, his quick thinking and execution, creative spark and eye for goal suggests his best position is further up the field as a No10 or even as a second support striker. Mário has notched 6 goals in 29 appearances for Sporting this season thus far.

His considerable skill set is allied to an imperturbable temperament. Nothing seems to ruffle his smooth and elegant style, gliding around the pitch, distributing the ball accurately and quickly, or shooting powerfully, with remarkably mature decision making considering his age and relative lack of experience.

The quality of Mário’s displays in his first year of senior football augur for a brilliant future in the game.


Written by Tom Kundert

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Yacine Brahimi: The Algerian ace has the world at his feet

Fourteen new faces were brought in by FC Porto last summer to rebuild after a rare season of failure. The influx included big names from La Liga, such as Barcelona’s Cristian Tello and Atletico Madrid’s Oliver Torres and Adrian Lopez. But another Spanish-based player, Yacine Brahimi, has outshone them all.

He was undoubtedly Porto best performer in the first half of the season, his superb dribbling, incisive attacking and eye for goal making him a key player for the Dragons. Although a potent weapon when out wide and attacking the by-line, he is even more effective when drifting inside, his tight control, intelligent combination play and clinical finishing making him a nightmare for opposition defences.

After a month’s absence to represent Algeria in the African Cup of Nations in January, he came back looking as sharp as ever, notching the only goal of the game in Friday’s vital victory over Vitória Guimarães.

We should not have been surprised by Brahimi’s wonderful dribbling skills. Last season he finished top of the ‘successful dribbles’ statistics chart in Spain, ahead of Lionel Messi (164 versus 143). But it is his ability to produce an end product that makes the sleight Algerian truly stand out.

As well as abundant assists, he has weighed in with 10 goals in 25 matches in all competitions to date, several of a spectacular nature. He only made his Champions League debut this season but already has five goals to his name in the world’s greatest club competition, including a memorable hat-trick against BATE Borisov.

Having produced mesmerising displays at Granada in 2013/14, for Algeria at the Brazil World Cup, and for Porto this season, Brahimi was a worthy winner of the BBC African Footballer of the Year Award for 2014.

And Portugal winger Ricardo Quaresma believes there is even more to come from the 25-year-old, recently saying: “Brahimi is truly exceptional. He can become the best player in the world.” 


Written by Tom Kundert

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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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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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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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William Carvalho: Moyes could finally bolster United’s midfield with the Portuguese powerhouse

After David Moyes’s reign at Manchester hit the nadir of the 0-3 home defeat to Liverpool, the outlook has started to become a lot brighter for the Scottish manager who strains desperately for his team to produce indications that he is worth both the long-term patience and financial backing of the Glazer family.

Olympiakos were batted away 3-0 in the Champions League while West Ham were beaten with what was arguably United’s most cohesive and slick performance since the 50 year old succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson last summer.

The morning after Wayne Rooney’s double did for the Hammers at Upton Park, the Sunday papers were awash with the news United have already begun to plan for the future. Not since May 2007 have United signed a genuine holding midfielder, Ferguson forever on the sharp side of criticism for the folly of losing Paul Pogba to Juventus for free while his midfield problems were allowed to develop to the extent of a desperate call for Paul Scholes to undo his retirement in January 2012.

Scholes finally exited along with Ferguson at the age of 38, Moyes inheriting the uninspiring midfield of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, the bowel-troubled Darren Fletcher and the 40 year old absurdity that is Ryan Giggs. Anderson has been since jettisoned to Fiorentina while Moyes, who spent the summer trawling for an dynamic presence in the form of Ander Herrera, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, had to settle for Marouane Fellaini who has since struggled to justify his £27.5 million fee.

The Belgian is however more of a box-to-box asset, a player more adept in advanced positions which leaves United short of steel in the engine room, a vulnerability that has been seized upon by more sides than Moyes wishes to remember in his inaugural year at Old Trafford.

Moyes’s other purchase has been the £37 million Juan Mata who adds to the glowing list of attacking options alongside Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, the inexcusably under-used Shinji Kagawa and the exciting Adnan Januzaj.

Against West Ham, in the absence of Van Persie who had on Wednesday scored a hat-trick to steer United into the last eight of the Champions League, Mata, Kagawa and Rooney, together with Ashley Young, conjured up a bewitching attacking display tinted with fluid movement and guile to give United’s travelling fans a warm feeling of optimism that has this season been all to rare. It was an indication that fears United have lost some of their attacking verve during the transition from Ferguson to Moyes may be premature.

The back-pages of Sunday’s newspapers filled its inches with who they believe to be Moyes’s first signing of the summer, Sporting Lisbon’s 21 year old defensive midfielder William Carvalho, the player who will be tasked with holding United’s system together as well as protecting the defence should he complete the mooted £37 million deal which meets his release clause.

The move is rumoured to be completed after the World Cup where Carvalho, who has 2 caps so far for Portugal, is expected to rival Miguel Veloso for a starting spot, testament to the rapid rise of the Angola born midfielder who only made his professional debut for Sporting back in August.

It was in Portugal’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden when he made his first senior appearance for the national team, entering the fray to shore up Paulo Bento’s midfield after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored twice in four minutes.

“His quality and recent performances justified the call, which also has to do with his height which could be an influent aspect in the match” said Bento who showed no aversion to thrusting the youngster into such pressure. Carvalho calmly sat and offered his defence protection as Cristiano Ronaldo sent the team to Brazil.

The Leoes are recovering from last season’s disappointing seventh place finish and a recent era of financial mismanagement and misplaced luxury buys, so have now altered their approach to the investment of home-grown talent.

All 3 members of Leonardo Jardim’s midfield trio has been produced by the club, Andre Martins and Adrien Silva operating either side of the anchor provided by Carvalho, who has racked up 23 appearances in his first season at senior level, as Sporting attempt to bring a viable challenge to Benfica’s charge to the Liga Sagres.

The touted fee of just under £40 million may seem hefty for a player whose valuation lies mostly in potential, but for the rate of development Carvalho has seen over the past 18 months, the price will be seen as justified for United who seek a holding-midfielder in the mould of Nemanja Matic or Yaya Toure who are both playing major roles in their respective team’s challenge to the Premier League title.

With a powerful core strength and an imposing six-foot build, Carvalho may be compared to the latter though it is the way he shuffles across his defensive zone, covering areas in front of his own defensive third allowing for team-mates to move up the field, will bring similarities to Matic.

Not a dynamic player who will sprint the ball out of his own half but a more considered one, specialising in the basics and keeping it simple, unselfishly allowing for the more attack-minded players to thrive with the shackles released.

Another young Portuguese prospect likely to go to Brazil with Bento’s OS Seleccao is Cedric Soares, the Lisbon right-back who has benefited greatly from the stability Carvalho has added in playing the neo-holding role where disciplined positional sense is just as important as tenacity.

Knowing Carvalho is able to cover if needed, Soares has often been free to advance down the right to provide another attacking option and that type of link-up will be important to Moyes, who has sent club officials to watch the midfielder over 15 times this season, as he seeks next season to implement a greater conviction in his United when going forwards.

Carvalho’s agent Jorge Mendes, who has previously taken Nani, Anderson and Cristiano Ronaldo as well as Bebe to Old Trafford, has been rumoured to have recently been invited to United’s training complex as a move nears closer to fruition amid a period of major upheaval at the club.

Moyes is said to be targeting a centre-half, a left-back and two central-midfielders as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic head to the exit door and questions still remain over the future of Patrice Evra. Carvalho will usher in the first part of Moyes’s renovation work, the firm holding-midfielder that Ferguson perhaps should have acquired before he passed the reigns over.


Written by Adam Gray

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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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