Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jay Jay Okocha - so good, they named him twice




“So good, they named him twice” as the saying goes when speaking about Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha. No truer words could describe this man. The Nigerian playmaker never grabbed the headlines for any of the wrong reasons and was idolized at pretty much every club he played for, not to mention whenever he wore the green colors of the “Super Eagles” of Nigeria.  His country’s supporters, obviously, lauded him as the greatest player ever and it’s not without reason; because the man could pull off pretty much every trick in the book whilst playing with a smile on his face.

Fitting perfectly under “the world’s most underrated players” category in my opinion, Okocha always had something unusual to show off during games. His finesse, his touch, his vision and especially his skills were all part of what took him from the streets of Lagos all the way to the biggest venues in world Football. His story, like most Nigerian footballers, started on the streets. It’s where some of the biggest and best African footballers learnt their trade. Okocha was no different. But while others unfortunately remained on the rough streets of Lagos, Okocha’s talents were spotted on a trip to visit a friend in Germany; where a Borussia Neunkirchen scout took him on trial at the then 3rd division club. Talk about luck...or destiny. What followed was a journey that enabled him to play for Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbache, PSG, Bolton, Qatar SC and Hull City as he became a cult figure at almost all of these clubs.

His performances in Germany’s 3rd tier earned him a move to the Bundesliga. It was at Eintracht Frankfurt where Jay Jay really broke into the European football scene and made a name for himself during the 4 seasons he spent there, particularly after scoring one of the goals of the season during his 1st season at the club against a young Oliver Kahn (click here). The magician's tricks were now being watched; however his time at Frankfurt ended on a sour note as a dispute with coach Jupp Heynckes meant that he was surplus to requirements when Frankfurt were relegated in his final season in Germany in 1996.

Okocha abandoned the Bundesliga and headed to Turkey to join Fenerbache. Even though his spell there only lasted 2 seasons (1996-97, 1997-98), he was showcasing his talents on Europe’s biggest stage...the Champions League. At Fenerbache, he had what turned out to be his most consistent performances and his personal best goals/games tally of his career (63 games, 30 goals). Arriving at the World Cup in 1998, he was at the peak of his powers. Okocha impressed with Nigeria, as he usually did whenever he donned the number 10 jersey of his country. His silky skills caught the attention of numerous European clubs and a move soon followed. His love for Fenerbache and Turkey was never in doubt as he even adopted a Turkish name when he obtained Turkish citizenship (Muhammet Yavuz), but when Paris St Germain came calling with a massive $24 million deal to take him to the French capital, Okocha couldn't decline the offer.

The expectations on his shoulders were huge and looking back it's easy to say that he had mixed fortunes in Paris. A fantastic goal versus Bordeaux on his debut (click here) is one of the better memories PSG fans kept of him. Taking over the number 10 from PSG and Brazilian legend Rai meant that he had big shoes to fill – but he never really lived up to the hype nor justified the hefty price tag. Injuries and management issues were among the many reasons that Jay Jay wasn't able to demonstrate his true ability to the Parisian fans, even though he was a firm fans favorite. In his final season at the club, 2001-2002, PSG signed Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho and this signalled the beginning of the end for Jay Jay in Paris with injuries hampering what could have been a dynamic duo. Even though both complimented each other the rare times they did play together, their roles were often considered to be too similar to be complimentary. Okocha stayed with the club for 4 years and was even named captain for a short period. Despite that, he was heading for the exit door. His contract at the end of the season wasn’t renewed and he became a free agent. Following the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, despite Nigeria’s early elimination, Okocha shined once more. The Premier League came calling and it seemed like a match made in heaven when Bolton Wanderers snapped him up on a free transfer.

And so it proved to be. His time at Bolton turned out as one of his more enjoyable experiences - at least in the eyes of his fans and peers. From 2002 until 2006, he racked up an impressive 124 games for the Wanderers, which was more than at any of his previous clubs, and became captain at the club. He was the lynchpin in Sam Allardyce's aggressive side and was soon displaying all his skills in a free roaming role in midfield, a role that he had longed for. The Premier League seemed to suit Okocha's style of play and he's still recognized as a Bolton legend whenever he's spoken about. Despite the club being a far cry from the fashionable city of Paris, Bolton and Okocha appeared to be a perfect match. However, just like at PSG, in 2006 his contract wasn't renewed and he looked for greener pastures to end his career as age was catching up with him. Qatar's big bucks came calling and even though he went there for a short spell with Qatar Sporting Club, he soon returned back to England with Hull City and that didn't last long either. He called time on his career as his tenures at both clubs weren't fulfilling and by the end of the 2008 season, Okocha had hung up his boots.

Never winning a major trophy remains Okocha’s biggest failure and one of the major reasons he was never considered for the top personal accolades in Football, both in Africa and Worldwide. I still think that it is a Football crime that he never won more accolades. The man possessed skills that most players could only dream of doing during a game. Had he been at bigger clubs, or maybe of a different nationality, maybe he'd have gotten more recognition. But for some, like myself, he's always going to be regarded as a truly magnificent footballer. Being able to pull tricks off in training and for fun is one thing, doing them at full speed when the pressure is on is something else. Being able to calm a game down and bring others into play with such ease is a skill that very few can master. But with Jay Jay it seemed like there was never any pressure on him. Everything looked always so natural. A god-given talent to a man who smiled every time he played. A laid back attitude on the pitch, just like his character, and even now after he's retired and gone on to different ventures both in and out of Football, he still oozes with coolness. Jay Jay Okocha, a hero of mine, I salute you.

Watch this footage of Jay Jay on Soccer A.M in May 2011:
http://www.skysports.com/video/inline/0,26691,13894_6943192,00.html

Monday, January 30, 2012

If you could be a footballer, who would you be?



It’s a very subjective question which can only conjure up subjective answers from everyone. I was sitting at a bar with some friends and we got into a discussion about Lionel Messi; and I said that he - for all his undoubted talent, riches, fame and eventual legendary status in the game - seems like a very dull character. I repeat this is very subjective (also the key word here is character. Not footballer). There’s no question about Lionel Messi’s ability as a footballer. He is currently the best there is out there and it might be debated that he could go on to become the best there’ll ever be (very debatable). But what Messi has in talent, he lacks in character. I believe that he doesn’t have that persona that’s going to make him remembered as an immense character on the pitch. So I asked them, and I’m asking you, if you had the chance to be any professional footballer, who would it be? And why?

When I’d said that about Messi, I was then asked about Paul Scholes in comparison, a player I admire but who seems exceptionally private and quiet. In comparing both characters, there lies a telling difference. Both are very silent, but I can guarantee you that if Scholes was on the receiving end of a nasty challenge he’d look at the offender and say “F*** off” or ramble some other insult (possibly even chuck him back with his own special type of "tackle"), whereas Messi, to his credit, stays quiet and goes on doing his job on the pitch. Perhaps that is the right way to behave, but it’s not the one I’d choose. I like those who’ve got a devil in them. Messi is too much of a good boy for my liking. He rarely insults anyone on the pitch. He doesn’t kick back when he’s kicked. He doesn’t react much. He doesn’t have that temper, that fire, that edge which makes football supporters love some individuals who, had they not  been footballers, would be very easy to hate. We’ve never heard stories of Messi being in any sort of trouble. He does the business on the pitch, which is what he’s supposed to do, and that’s it. He’s the model professional. Everything you could possibly want for the world’s most perfect player. But there’s nothing fun or intriguing about his character. I wouldn't want to be him. Personally, there are two types of footballers that I’m fond of…

On one hand, I admire the rare one-club footballers who give their all for the teams they play for, yet still have an urge to fight and are also capable of losing their minds at times. Players who have been in trouble before, seen it all, done it all, won it all. Players who fume when they see some of their own team-mates slacking off during a game. Players like Giggs, Puyol, Del Piero, Maldini, Gerrard, to name a few.  Legends on the field, men with some troubles off the field, but above all of that, leaders in the eyes of their team-mates and opponents. On the other hand, I have a huge weakness for talented nutcases who also possess all the traits I’ve just mentioned. Those special few that are blessed with a gift to play but also who step out of line quite often. Eric Cantona, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Paolo Di Canio…men who’ve proven themselves on the pitch, but gone mental on it too. Characters. Personalities. Legends. Players you wouldn’t want to mess with because their sheer presence means that you’re already intimidated by them.

So the question I’m asking you all is – if you could be professional footballer past or present, who would it be and why? Leave your answers on Facebook, Twitter or even on this article.

(If I had to choose, it always has been and always will be Eric Cantona).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1000 likes




This post has nothing to do with Football. Today, I’m celebrating passing over 1000 likes on the blog’s Facebook page and for me that’s an achievement. It calls for a celebration, even of the smallest kind (just like me), because it means that the blog is doing well I suppose. Especially considering that out of the 1000 likes, only 227 of my friends like the page. But the real reason I’m excited about the 1000 likes is because it means I’ve now got enough backing to put up adverts on the blog – as you'll see starting on February 1st.

I’ve got a lot of ideas to develop the blog and hopefully with time I’ll be able to make that happen, as long as I keep getting the positive feedback and support I’ve been getting so far. It’s a long process because I do have a job like everyone else - which unfortunately has nothing to do with Football.

So, in recognition of these 1000 likes, I’m going to recommend to all of you some other stuff that some good friends of mine have created which you can find online. They have nothing to do with Football (except one), so there’s definitely something in here for everyone. I strongly advise you all to check out these other blogs, websites, artists, brands and people. All these individuals have their own things going on and are all doing a great job in their own special ways. These people are a major part of the reason I have followers and “likes”. So click on their Facebook pages and check their stuff out. They’re all worth much more than a glance or a like. They deserve our support, because these people know their material and are very talented in their own rights. I’ll give you a little insight into each one of them.

(This feels like one of those award things when the person receives an award goes on to thank the entire world. I’m doing exactly that. Also this could be perceived as kissing some peoples asses, but it's not - that happened a while back. All these people helped me boost the blog and I see no reason why I shouldn't help them boost their stuff in return)

MUSIC:

Ramzi: My cousin has been getting rave reviews wherever he’s gone. One of the most talented people I know and gradually becoming one of the brightest up and coming R’n’B & Pop artists. (click here)

Slutterhouse: A personal favorite, their tunes can keep you dancing all night long. You should really check their music out if you want some feel good songs! Already getting loads of positive feedback from a growing fanbase. (click here)

Tree Hoppers: You can catch them at various bars around Beirut covering tunes from all generations, keep an eye out for the guitarist. A talented nutcase. (click here)

BandAge: A cover band with a singer so powerful you’ll get the goosebumps listening to her live. (click here)


JLP: A cover band with a bassist who supports Arsenal, but yet somehow he’s cool. I don’t know how that works, but it does. Great band that perform all over Beirut and gets their crowd singing. (click here)

Jim Rose Expedition: This band are French, and the singer is an incredibly talented individual who sings in pretty much every language. You'll be even more impressed if you see him perform live. (click here)

Karim Douaidy: One of those people that you just know is going to make it big sooner rather than later. Everyone and anyone should appreciate this guy’s music. When he makes it big, you'll say you heard it here first. (click here)

Green Wing Bird: A blog that includes a bunch of unheard songs from the past and the present. Still relatively new and will only get bigger with time: (click here)


MOVIES & TELEVISION:

Let’s Talk about movies: The ultimate movie blog. Covering movies from all decades, this guy knows more about movies than you know about yourself. I can never say that enough because it’s true. You have to check it out for yourself to believe it. (click here)

Beirut, I love you: A TV show which stars a bunch of my friends. Not only is it a great show, but the way it has grown over the past year is admirable as they've made it all on their own. A must watch for all Lebanese. You can stream the show online. (click here)

Cinemoz: Free movies and a CEO that looks like Don Draper. If ever we needed a reason to believe in the future of Arab movies online, this is it. (click here)

FASHION, DESIGN & CLOTHING:

Jasmine Jewellery: My cousin all the way in Canada has her own jewelry brand which she makes all by herself! (click here)

Don’t Switch Me Off: Quite possibly, and probably, the coolest t-shirts ever. I've seen how much hard work goes into this from the production to the printing - they do it all. And they're better than most t-shirts I’ve bought during my entire life! Honestly. (click here)

La-Gaellou: A fashion blog by a fashion freak that covers a whole bunch of fashion-related stuff which I’m sure many ladies can related to. (click here)

Plastic Pills: Necklaces, rings, keychains – these pills could become your next addiction, as they would say! They seem to be popping all over the place, so you’ll probably end up catching them at some point. (click here)

FUN BLOGS:

Gino’s blog: The blog of all blogs in Lebanon. The topics written range from restaurants to nightclubs to every single thing you would need to know about the country. Watch out for his weekly leaks. I still don’t know how he gets them. (click here)

Our man in Beirut: The name says it all really. He's our man. And he's in Beirut (most of the time). The man that became a reference to all bloggers has had the blog published into a top-selling book. You can’t help but admire his writing and achievements - despite his cynicism. The big giant is about to get bigger. (click here)

Yup, this is it: A brand new blog that’s already ticking all the right boxes when it comes to entertaining articles. She’s also decided to remain anonymous, so that makes it all the more enticing for the readers (but I know her. Ha!). (click here)

Haneen and the City: Haneen takes us through her daily adventures in Beirut city. Whether it’s the marriage issues or the traffic issues, you’re in for a good read and a good laugh.  (click here)

Beirut Rhapsodies: Something not many people know, but writing a post for her blog is what motivated me to start up my own blog. She encouraged me to do it. So I’m very grateful to her for that and the existence of her blog which has got so many posts that we can all relate to. (click here)

Plus 961: A blog that gives an insight into lots of different happenings in and around Lebanon. Pictures, reviews, stories and more…Lebanon has never felt so accessible. (click here)

FOOTBALL:

Figo29: My favorite Football blog out there. Full stop. That should say enough about how highly I think of this guy's stuff. A true Football man. (click here)

ART:


Cliff Makhoul: A photographer with a big background in this field. With your support, he’ll get the recognition his work deserves. (click here)

Boudjok Photography: A photographer with the most recognizable beard in town. His pictures will leave you amazed! (click here)

FRIENDS:

Underrated Crew: A bunch of friends of mine that organize theme-parties regularly in Beirut. These guys will make you dance all night long. You’re in for a blast if you go to any of their events! Add them on Facebook and stay tuned as they keep you posted about what they're up to.  (click here)

Philip Yacoub: One of my closest friends, and also a TV anchor with MTV Lebanon...hence how I ended up on his TV show. (click here)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cantona's most famous kick - 17 years later, the other side of the story



Today marks the 17th anniversary of an incident which all know about, which we all have heard every single story about, which we all have watched and relived a thousand times; it was one of those special moments that shook the Football world. It seems like only yesterday that I was glued to my TV screen as a kid when Eric Cantona got sent off vs Crystal Palace in 1995. The incident following the sending-off became one of the most popular and emblematic images in Football History. It became an iconic piece of Football footage that has been replayed so many times that we can almost all tell every single detail of how the incident occurred…it was the day Cantona kicked the fan. It’s a story that needs no introduction all these years later. But there is one thing that hasn’t been exposed much regarding the now infamous confrontation - the other side of the story. Whatever happened to the man who got kicked all those years ago?

To be fair, he was quite young at the time, so using the term “man” to describe him might be a little unjust, though he could be considered old enough to know what exactly he was doing. Matthew Simmons, a then 20-year old Crystal Palace fan, was the person who shouted the verbal abuse at Cantona on that night in January 1995. Depending on the sources you choose to believe, the abuse was deemed as either racial or quite simply the typical abuse Footballers receive when on the pitch. However, what Simmons didn’t know back then, was that he wasn’t insulting any regular footballer. He was offending Eric Cantona - the most talented, arrogant, influential and mad Frenchman in English Football at the time. As Cantona was being accompanied off the pitch by former kitman Norman Davies following his dismissal, Simmons began his tirade. It barely lasted a couple of seconds and before Simmons knew it, he was on the receiving end of the world’s most famous Kung-Fu kick – a moment which Cantona has since publicly described as his favorite moment during his illustrious Football career. The suspension he received was well publicized: a nine-month ban from the game and community service to be served by the Frenchman – who eventually bounced back from it in a manner that only a great footballer could. His heroic status at Old Trafford became intact, as his comeback following the suspension and all that followed it, endeared him even more to his already adoring fans.


As for Simmons, his side of the story obviously never quite made any headlines. That incident was the start of the breakdown in his personal life which led to numerous disastrous problems he’s endured ever since. During the court case at the time, Simmons insulted the judge who had brought up the subject of his troublesome past. Simmons had already previously been charged for attacking a man with a three-foot spanner in an incident at a petrol station; so his record wasn’t exactly clean prior to the “kick”. With tempers rising in the courtroom, and after being found guilty, Simmons tried attacking the judge and was held back. He ended up spending the night in jail. A series of unfortunate events have followed him ever since.


Following the altercation, Simmons lost his job at the time and struggled to get any sort of decent work for years as nobody would hire him. Family members stopped talking to him and have refused to talk to him ever since. Reporters ran after him to get every piece of the story possible and apparently some still do (he even sold a story to The Sun which he apparently only got paid partially for). Crystal Palace revoked his season ticket and banned him from the stadium. His marriage failed and he got divorced, even though he has custody of his now 14-year old son. He even got charged, but avoided jail, as recently as May last year for attacking the coach of the schoolboy team that his son plays for. Apparently the team’s coach, having realized who Simmons was, dropped his son from the line-up causing a massive brawl on the sidelines (that story has many implications which are too long to detail). 17 years on and still the kick affects Simmons’ life. He still struggles with its effects as he is forever recognized as the person that Cantona kicked. He currently works as a construction worker and now goes to watch Chelsea and Fulham as both arenas are "less violent" according to some interviews he's given elsewhere.

Whether or not all these consequences would have occurred had Simmons not got kicked is a question that should seem easy to answer; but the man already had a history of violence before the “kick”. What is for sure though is that getting on the wrong side of the legendary Frenchman is not something he, or anyone, would or should want to do. Not now, not then. That Kung-fu kick remains an unforgettable moment for many Football fans across the world. But the effect it had on the man who was on the other end of the studs is one that hasn’t gotten much attention. It has probably all been the makings of Simmons' own doing. If only he had stayed quiet for those few seconds, maybe his entire life would have been different and he wouldn't have had to endure these long-lasting effects - but little did he know it at the time, and just like with every other kick Cantona took during his career, the effects have always been everlasting.




Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 2012 competition - Win a club jersey of your choice!




Hello All!

The last competition was such a great success as Emile Jressati picked up his well-deserved England jersey. This time, the competition should (I think) be slightly more interesting because the prize is probably more appealing than an international jersey.

This time, it’s your chance to win a Club jersey of your choice – including names & numbers!
 

Basically all you have to do is the following:

1) To participate you have to “like” The Football Supernova facebook page, if you haven't already (click here). You must be a “fan” of the Facebook page if you want to participate (I will check if you’re on it).

2) Post a picture of a professional footballer crying on
 The Football Supernova facebook page with the title of the picture as “Competition Caption".  Only one picture per participant.

3) The picture with the most “likes” wins the jersey, with the name and number, of his/her choice. So spread the word and make sure you get your friends to like the picture you've posted. (Note: the people that "like" your picture aren't obliged to like the page)

That's it. Simple as that!

Deadline:

On February 15th, the winner will be announced. You've got 3 weeks, until February 14th, to start getting some likes on your pics! I’ll update the standing of who’s leading the competition every week.  

Once the winner is announced, I will ask for his/her contact details to send them the jersey they've chosen.
 

Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Football vs Soccer






One thing I fail to understand and accept is the use of the term “Soccer” when referring to the beautiful game. Where did this word come from? Who uses it? And why on earth would anyone call a game where a ball is kicked with the foot, anything other than Football? The British have taken a lot of pride in the fact that they invented the game and what not. However, that fact can be disputed, as other forms of the game were played and created elsewhere in the world –  the British were the ones who created the official rules for it and then enhanced its popularity around the world. They are also one of the harshest critics of the term “Soccer”; just like many other nations around Europe. But the irony of the British’s criticism is that they seem to forget that they’re the ones who created that term – not too sure many people are aware of that.
 


The term “Soccer” was created by the British to differentiate between different types of “Football” with a different set of rules – for example, Rugby Football. But in October 1863, several Football Clubs gathered around and created “The Football Association” – which was the first Football organization in the world. It became popular and suddenly Football became what everyone called the game. So as the term was gradually let go by the British, it somehow stuck in other parts of the world. Around the world there are still lots of people who use it. If you ever wondered about the power of American media, the use of the term “Soccer” is one of its finest examples. They might not be the greatest players of the game, even though that has been changing in recent years; yet they still refuse to accept the term “Football” to describe the sport. As for those who refer to it as "Soccer", it's mainly because a majority of them were probably brought up surrounded by popular American media or were educated in American schools around the world (that doesn't mean it's not used elsewhere and for different reasons).  



Anyways, here's John Cleese explaining why the use of the term “Soccer” is silly (even though he’s English and most of my favorite Football TV shows include the word "Soccer") and why referring to “American Football” as “Football” doesn't make sense. Nobody in Europe calls the game "European Football" to differentiate it from that other thing they play in America. I’m part of the “Anti-Soccer” but “Pro-Football” brigade. You use your Foot and you kick a Ball. It’s Football, not Soccer. Please, don’t let American propaganda try and convince you otherwise. 


                 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fillipo Inzaghi - a tribute to his celebrations


Today I’m paying a tribute to a number 9 who’s on his last legs at the age of 38. He’s not got a lot of time left in his career, so it’s time to pay tribute to “Pippo”… but not to the goals he’s scored. That would need a whole different post and a lot more time because wherever he’s played, the goals have followed. From Piacenza to Juventus to AC Milan, he has scored. But this post is about what I believe makes Filippo Inzaghi a truly special player – his celebrations.

Watching him over the years, it’s not hard to see that he’s never been a player with flair that's going to produce an amazing piece of skill or go on a mazy run. He’s just a natural born finisher. A fox in the box. He’s “Super Pippo”. One of the most lethal finishers the game has ever seen. His contribution has sometimes been under-appreciated and frowned upon. Some have said he never did much and that he was greedy – but that’s what makes him great in my eyes. If there was a player you’d bet your house on, to finish a chance, it’d be him. He could stick the ball into the back of the net blind-folded. He probably knew, and knows, the 18-yard box better than he knows the bed he shares with his wife. The penalty box is his territory.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said about Inzaghi that he was “born in an offside position”. Whether or not that was a reference to his tendency to be offside often, or to a sexual position – it's a reminder of how clinical he can be. Just waiting to get onside to take advantage of the perfect moment. A moment to show the entire world that he's the happiest person out there to have scored a goal. Nobody expresses their joy that much when they score. He could score a tap-in on the line, a bicycle kick, a header, a shot, a chip, left-foot, right-foot, a shot could even deflect off him and end up in the back of the net, he could miskick the ball, and still Inzaghi would celebrate madly. You'd think he's scored the winner of a World Cup final if you only saw his celebrations (even if the goal was from 2 yards out and there was an empty net in front of him). Like a kid scoring his first goal ever. He goes absolutely mental. His hands flap around. He runs at full speed, probably faster than at any time during the whole game! He opens his mouth widely and screams of joy. It’s what scoring a goal would and should feel like for every player! Forget the coordinated celebrations we see in Football today; those are lame. Seeing Inzaghi going wild is what it should be all about; and I’d bet if any of us Football fans scored a goal for our team, we’d probably go just as crazy as he does.

I can’t help but smile or laugh whenever I see him celebrate. Just as I do whenever he gets caught offside or is adjudged to have fouled an opponent, because he literally frowns. He puts on a sad grimace on his face and looks like he’s about to cry. His expressions made him special and unique. There should be more players celebrating like that when they score and more players showing similar passion in the game nowadays. Sadly there aren’t too many out there.

It doesn't matter if he was never the most gifted player on the ball. His goals made up for it. His celebrations, almost, even more so! He shows he cares about the game, about the clubs he has represented and especially about his goals. His passion has always been clear for all to see and it really feels like watching a kid score a goal whenever Pippo finds the back of the net. I can only imagine how he will react when he realizes he’s scored his last goal. The clock is ticking on his professional career and that moment will come soon. But until then, we just have to take advantage of the fact that he’s still around, fit again and could still possibly give us one of his magical celebrations sometime soon.

(click here to see some his goals and legendary celebrations)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fernando Torres & Andy Carroll - one year on




In January of last year, two transfers rocked the English football scene. A record breaking £50 million for Fernando Torres to leave Liverpool and join Chelsea, whereas his immediate replacement was £35 million man Andy Carroll to leave his boyhood club Newcastle United and join Liverpool. A combined transfer fee of £85 million for both players. So much was expected from both of them and one year on, they haven’t lived up to the hype. Why?

Let’s start with Fernando Torres. It’s a combination of things that have haltered his game. Thinking back of his time at Liverpool, and I’m sure most Kop fans would agree, Torres used to drag the defenders that were marking him high up the pitch and then use his pace and explode past them (evidence here), that was one of his major assets. However, he’s been unable to do that at Chelsea, as he's lost that yard of pace since his knee injury. That has been, in my opinion, the major downfall of Fernando Torres. Some will say that all players recover from injuries and what not – but with Torres, his injury damaged his most potent attribute. His speed was his major strength. A knee injury alters that speed. If it’s not a physical thing that has hindered his performances, then it must also be a mental thing, as the fear of the injury returning must be playing a role as well, especially as he doesn't take players on anymore in the same way he did at Anfield. Despite some saying he needed a run of games, which he’s now been getting that at Chelsea, the goals still haven’t been coming. Some say it’s Chelsea’s tactics that must be changed and they should play to his strengths – but are his strengths of today the same as at Liverpool? His major strengths were his acceleration and pace. He's lost that, or so it seems at least. His form has dropped, he’s lost what that made him the most feared striker in the league, and with the talent at his disposal with Chelsea and Spain, there can be no complains about the productivity and creativity of the supply from midfield. It could all be bad luck (click here), but the man is a shadow of his former self at Liverpool. However it’d be foolish to write him off just yet. So far, he has been a failure at Chelsea, but a return to his goalscoring habits could be just around the corner.

January 2010 – January 2011: 40 games, 5 goals

Andy Carroll took over the number 9 jersey that was vacated by Torres. A number worn by Liverpool legends such as Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler - among others - men who have all scored goals for fun at Anfield, so now the expectations were firmly on Carroll’s shoulders to deliver and continue the trend of Liverpool’s number 9. So far, it’s fair to say that like Torres, he’s been a flop. The big difference between both, is that fact that Carroll’s record for Newcastle was good while they were in the Championship (42 games, 19 goals) and then when they promoted back to the Premier League, he had half a decent season. Things were going well for him there. But what is half a season in the career of a Premier League footballer? When he signed, I'd say he wasn’t yet an established Premier League footballer, Torres was. In 4 Premier League seasons he had as a Newcastle United player, he played 41 games and scored 14 goals (06-07, 07-08, 08-09, 2010-11). He’s had his own problems to deal with; as Fabio Capello pointed out, for example, Carroll likes beer…a lot. That’s a part of his lifestyle he is probably changing under Daglish. But when you’re at a club like Liverpool, the pressure is always on to deliver. You can’t expect (nowadays at least) to be drinking and performing at the highest level. His purchase was a gamble. A panic buy after Torres had departed. Carroll joined without having the temperament of a top class professional player. He's probably maturing at Liverpool and could still become a great striker if given the time whilst remaining injury-free. But for the moment, when we look at Andy Carroll, it’s no surprise that some people say this is what you get when you take a young footballer away from his natural habitat and stick a hefty price tag on his head in an evolving team.

January 2010 – January 2011: 31 games, 6 goals

The general consensus is that both strikers need time, need a run free of injury and need games. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for their poor performances over the past year. Their transfers fees were both huge! Torres' price tag might have been justified one year ago, but now it seems like a crazy transfer fee given the return on investment that he's provided. Both Chelsea and Liverpool are teams that, regardless of the systems they play, always score goals. They create a lot of chances. They dominate games over their opponents most times. So both players have got everything at their disposal to succeed. My personal feeling is that Torres will bounce back; whether it’s at Chelsea or not is a different matter, but he’s one of those strikers who has always been a class apart, until he joined Chelsea, and he should adjust his game to suit his current physical condition. With that price tag, and Torres' past record, Chelsea have every reason to give him the time he deserves to prove himself as he's still only 27.  As for Carroll, knowing that he's young and Liverpool are rebuilding their side at the moment, he's also got time and could be one for the future. However, if he doesn't find his form soon enough, there’s no reason why Liverpool won’t shell out the cash on another, much more reliable, striker. His price tag was huge for someone who hadn't done much for a sustained period in the Premier League before his move, but for a number of circumstances, it was a high fee. Time for him to buckle up or risk becoming considered as a Premier League flop, as opposed to Fernando Torres who, regardless of his current form, is already associated with goals during his successful time at Liverpool beforehand. Time for both to step up.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Football Supernova's BlogAd



Hello All! 

Well, here is The Football Supernova's first advertisement (fine "advertisement"). Not sure if we can call it that given the amateur-ish way it was done, but anyways, go along with it. It fits the criteria of ads I suppose. I doubt a "BlogAd" even exists, or has ever existed. So this might be a first: doing an "ad" for a blog! But it won't be the last one this blog will ever have. Revolutionary stuff happening here! 

The filming isn't great. I had no tripod or anything like that. The camera wasn't great either (Panasonic Lumix) I did the editing myself on a rubbish program, but it's an ad nevertheless that'll stay on youtube. So keep that in mind! 

But here is where I need your help with 2 things:

Firstly, please, if you're reading this, open the link below to the Youtube video and share it on your Facebook walls, your Twitter accounts, and anywhere else you believe people might see it.

Secondly, The second thing I'm requesting from all of you, please, and this one goes out especially to the Lebanese people out there based in Lebanon, I need your help to film the next Ad - anyone willing to act in it and especially film/edit the ad (need some pros out there to help!), just contact me via Facebook, Twitter or the blog's email address. The next one has got to be huge! 

Enjoy!

Here's the link. Share it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGZmTfAy0sU


video

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If you are hated, you're doing something right




When I was a kid, my football idol was Eric Cantona. Everything he did fascinated me (and still does, by the way). The collar, the chips, the flicks, the madness, the goals, the passes, the anger…his entire persona was, and still is, what made him a class apart. In the same way the kids around me used to believe they were Superman, Optomus Prime or any other fictional hero, I used to believe I was Eric Cantona (alongside other United supporting friends as kids). The big difference was he wasn't a fictional hero. He was as real as they get. Many schoolmates and I often play-acted his role on the field; besides for the kung-fun kick, we weren't trained enough for it. We'd put our collars up and say his name with a fake English accent in a commentator-like voice. Good times. But what used to confuse us back then was the hatred that people had towards the man.

Every time he did something great, United fans (even the kids) would praise him and other supporters (even the kids) would hate him. For a kid, that was damn right confusing. We thought everything he did was golden. How could anybody hate the man? But as time has gone by, and after years and years of watching our beloved teams, we’ve all become irrationally and emotionally attached to the game and the teams we support. This has led to something that football fans should become accustomed to, but for some reason many supporters out there just can’t seem to grasp it. I've tried to explain this phenomena to several supporters out there, but they can’t their heads around the idea: the more a player or a team is hated by other supporters, the more they’re doing something right.

We’re at an age in history where, thanks to the internet, every single person online has an opinion about everything. And strongly! It’s in your face. Just like this blog. In your face. What you’re reading right now is also very opinionated. You are reading someone’s point of view and you can agree or disagree with it, but normal civilized human beings discuss opinions. Normal civilized human beings understand that opinions can be different and divided. Normal civilized human beings should know that nothing in Football is black and white. But when it comes to Football, none of us are normal civilizied human beings.

Actually, scratch that, when it comes to anything we truly love – we become irrational and start talking from the heart instead of the head. We feel too much and think too little. Football is a great example of this. This does nothing good for any of us because there is a simple reality in Football which fans don’t seem to understand. Read this clearly and murmur it to yourself before you start rambling on about whomever it is that your support: the team you support is probably HATED by many, many, people!

You should be taking the hatred as a compliment, rather than as an insult. Hatred comes with the territory of being successful. You can't be successful and expect the world to love you. Success breeds hatred, envy and jealousy. As supporters, we tend to always believe our teams are the best thing since sliced bread. We believe we are going to defend the team's colors until death does us part and that no other team around us has values close to ours. We think that our team represents all that is righteous and perfect in the game. That's why we're Football fans. We become blinded by the love of our clubs. But the hatred that comes from our love exists at all Football clubs. 

I’ll name a few examples to elaborate my point. If you ask any Barcelona fan, in the world, who they hate the most, they’ll all say “Real Madrid” and perhaps with the exception of one or two other clubs. Ignoring a club like Espanyol, who live to loathe Barcelona. Ask Espanyol fans who they hate the most and without a shadow of a doubt, it's Barcelona. But I can guarantee you that if Espanyol were winning trophies and successful, they’d be at the very top of the list of the Barcelona fans' hate list. Above Real Madrid. But the fact that Espanyol pose no threat whatsoever to their club's success means that nobody gives any special attention to them. The hatred towards them is minimal. Success breeds hatred.

Take Manchester United fans as another example, many United fans have hated Manchester City for a longtime. But there’s a whole bunch of supporters, who haven’t supported the club for such a longtime, that never had any hatred for them until recently – when City started challenging for titles and becoming significant. Yes, they were insignificant little nomads until Sheikh Mansour bought them. Success breeds hatred.

Whenever I’m in the UK and I meet new people, the first topic we always talk about is obviously Football, which always leads to the usual question being asked “who do you support?”, and every single time, without hesitation, I always respond in the same manner by saying “the team you hate the most” ...with a grin on my face. They know who I'm talking about when I say that. If this were the 70s or 80s, that's how Liverpool fans would respond I imagine. They were the most hated side back then. And so on and so forth for all winning sides throughout the history of the game. You win, you're hated. Simple as that. While for some that is considered an insult, for me, the acknowledgement of their hatred for the team I support is the evidence that the team is successful and doing something right. If the team was rubbish, nobody would pay attention to them. They wouldn't be hated. Ask Wigan fans.

To put it into perspective for you, it's just like when a good looking rich girl or guy becomes an easy target for insults by us regular people, the same happens in Football. Hatred comes with the territory of being successful, embrace it while it lasts. Yes, embrace hatred. One day, your teams aren't going to look so good any more and you'll wish you were still public enemy number 1 (ask Arsenal fans). Loving the team you support is what the game is all about. Expecting other supporters to love your team is akin to expecting a married man admitting that a friend's wife is better looking than his. Never going to happen.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Suarez/Evra incident - some thoughts



I've kept quiet so far about this whole Suarez/Evra issue, waiting for the final verdict and evidence to come out in order to grasp fully what I really think of the matter. Here are my thoughts on the whole thing:

      1.       This is my personal opinion. If you don’t agree with it, you’re welcome to leave comments. Please when reading this, think first and foremost as a human being. As a person who doesn’t accept racism (not unless you do). This has nothing to do with Manchester United or Liverpool and the rivalry that exists between both clubs. It has to do with racism. One person being accused of racism versus another, on a football pitch. Please, think of it like that before leaving abusive comments. If you want to leave comments, do so in a sensible manner.

      2.       If any of us, living in a civilized society where racism is not tolerated, used any term in our workplace that was deemed racist or derogatory by the person receiving it, would we still be accepted at our jobs if a complaint was made by the recipient?

      3.       No evidence I hear you say? What about if the person accused of using the term, confirms that he actually used the term but that in his country it means something else – would that be a valid argument knowing that: a) when the incident occurred, he wasn’t in his country; b) the person he’s said it to, doesn’t come from the same country or region; c) the word he’s used is commonly accepted as a racist term in pretty much every anglo-speaking nation in the world (and England is an anglo-speaking nation by the way, just in case you didn’t know).

      4.       Now getting to the difference in points of view – which I’m sure Liverpool fans are going to deny, given some of their reactions to this entire case. According to the FA report, in his defense, Luis Suarez claims he uses the term “negro” with some of his team-mates, notably Glen Johnson. If that was the case, couldn’t Johnson or anyone else at the club for that matter have told him that it is considered a racist comment? He’s been at the club for a year now, surely someone could have mentioned it during that entire time.

      5.       Being a racist is one thing, using a racist term is another. There is a difference. Suarez has been accused of the latter, but many people around the footballing world can’t seem to understand the difference between both.

      6.       This is an unprecedented move by the F.A to ban a player for 8 matches for the use of a racist term on a Football pitch. With that in mind, if the F.A want to keep any sort of credibility, they must remain consistent and for every player accused of racism, the punishment has got to be similar, or worse.

      7.       In the heat of the moment, footballers say a lot of nonsense. We all know that. But to repeat a comment over and over and over again, knowing that it is angering an opposing player surely must mean that it was done intentionally. I’m sure all of us who play football can confirm that often, in a competitive game, we would use words to rile up opponents. So why on earth would he say the word “negro” if not to irritate Evra? What was the intention of using that particular word? Not once, but a reported seven times. He could have called him “shorty” or “slow” or “rubbish” or any other term – but he chose to call him “negro”. Why?

      8.       According to the FA report, Suarez claims “there is no word that means “nigger” in Spanish and I was not aware of this word until the allegations made by Mr Evra.” Fair enough, if that is his reasoning, why not apologize then? At no point has an apology been made. Can you imagine if, following the incident and the claim by Evra, Suarez had simply said “I didn’t know that ‘negro’ was a racist term. I apologize if it was taken in such a manner, I didn’t mean for it to be offensive”, or something along those lines, how this entire mess could have been avoided? But instead, he has fought to prove he’s innocent, when apologizing for a misunderstanding in the cultural sense of a word – could have saved himself, and his club, a lot of trouble.

      9.       Didn’t Suarez himself say something along the lines of “whatever the outcome, someone is going to have to apologize”?

      10.   One thing that I have found a bit poor are the statements that have come out from Liverpool F.C. This is a football club with a history so rich and some traditions so strong, that other rival fans sometimes look in envy at what they’ve achieved, and yet for something as serious as this – a racist comment – their comments have been, to say the least, out of order.

      11.   Liverpool fans ridiculed Fernando Torres for recently saying something like: “if only the fans knew what really happened” regarding his transfer to Chelsea and that he preferred not to say; Kenny Daglish’s comments are no different with “it is unfortunate that you don’t actually know the whole content of what went on. I am not prepared and I cannot say.”

      12.   Let me repeat this loud and clear – Luis Suarez is not being charged for being a racist. He is being charged for the use of a racist term. “Negro” is a racist term. He is an employee in England, paying English taxes, it does not matter what it means in Uruguay. In England, it's a racist term.

I know Twitter isn’t the best place in the world to look for evidence about anything in this world, but if anything it’s a place where everyone has got their say. We find idiots on there and we find decent people. For this case though, I’ve been shocked by the amount of nonsense I’ve found from some Liverpool fans on Twitter and elsewhere. I know that not all Liverpool fans are like this. I’m pretty sure all true Liverpool fans would never support such comments. I am friends with many people who support the club and for that matter I respect their views, even if I don’t agree with them; but when it comes to racism and other serious matters – that should go beyond the tinted specs we wear when supporting our clubs – we should expect them to behave better than this.


                                            

Monday, January 2, 2012

The curse of Chelsea's number 9



When reading this, you’ve got to consider a couple of things. Firstly, the fact that Football fans like myself and all of you can often become so brainless that we become superstitious about things regarding the teams we support. We’re fickle. We know it. We accept it. Carry on. Now, this article is based on nothing more than some facts and a belief that superstition has its role in Football. I’m not a Chelsea fan, far from it, but I've always noticed Chelsea's number 9s to be players who made little, or no, impact at all. So, I looked back on the histories of the players who have worn the number 9 at Stamford Bridge during the Premier League era and I noticed a trend; a "curse" if you will – keep reading to find out more.

Secondly, you've got to consider that the statistics (numbers, not apps/goals - which are only based on the league) below are all taken from the period when Premier League numbers became fixed – meaning from the start of the 1993/94 season. Prior to that season, players would wear different numbers during different games without names at the back. There were preferences for certain numbers, but they were usually chosen based on the positions certain players would play during a match.  Anyways, don’t condemn me for not mentioning some Chelsea greats who have donned the number 9 shirt at Stamford Bridge in the past such as Kerry Dixon, Roy Bentley or Peter Osgood – as explained above, you know the reasons why. This article is based purely on Premier League data.

So, with Torres still firing blanks a year after his record breaking move from Liverpool, how did the other number 9s at Chelsea fare before his arrival? For some of you out there, you might remember that when these players were signed there was always a few common factors between some of them, not all of them:

Hefty price tags; Huge, or great, expectations; a history of banging goals for their previous clubs; expected to be the “next big thing"...etc


                                                  

1993/1994 – Tony Cascarino
A talisman for Gillingham and Millwall, the “fake” Irishman joined Chelsea from Celtic in 1992, and barely had the impact that was excepted of him.
40 apps, 8 goals


                                                   

1994/1996 – Mark Stein
Signed by Glenn Hoddle in October 1993 for a relatively big price tag at the time, £1.6 million, but didn’t wear the number 9 until Cascarino had left. His record at Chelsea wasn’t so poor, and he had his low points at the club. However, with Chelsea going for bigger name signings with the arrival of Gullit and co, Stein was unable to regain his form and place in the side, which he had lost due to injuries beforehand. For his final two seasons at the club, he became nothing more than a reserve and never broke back into the side. It's important to note, that 13 of his goals in his Chelsea career, in his prolific first season at the club, came when he wasn't wearing the number 9.
50 apps, 21 goals

                                                  

1996/1999 – Gianluca Vialli
Recognized for his shiny bald head, he joined the club for a fee of 1 million from Juventus where he had left his mark as captain of the Turin side. However, at Chelsea, despite some good performances, he constantly argued and fought with then manager Ruud Gullit and was often put on the bench. This caused him to ultimately take over as player-manager once Gullit had been sacked in February 1998. There is no doubt that Vialli was a good player, and is considered by some as a Chelsea legend, but he never lived up to the goalscoring expectations put on his mature shoulders.
50 apps, 21 goals 

                                                 

1999/2000 – Chris Sutton

The ultimate failure of all number 9s at Chelsea. Part of the “SAS” (Shearer and Sutton) strikeforce that won the title for Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95, he joined Chelsea in a huge £10 million move in the summer of 1999. His stay only lasted a season. He was unable to do anything of note and was offloaded to Celtic the following summer.
29 Apps, 1 goal 


                                                

2000/2004 – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
The exception that proves the rule. That's how the saying goes, doesn't it? A Chelsea legend. Joining from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2000 to replace Sutton, it was his second spell in English Football following a successful period with Leeds United; an undoubted force up front for the Blues, and the main reason why this number 9 “curse” seems to exist.
136 apps, 70 goals

                                                

2004/2005 – Mateja Kezman
Many opposition fans were shitting themselves when he joined Chelsea, myself included. At PSV he scored 105 goals in 122 games and was being spoken about as the next great striker in Europe. Under the tutelage of Mourinho, we could be forgiven for expecting him to become one of the best strikers around. But it wasn’t to be. He spent only one season there and failed to make any sort of impact. He went on to move to various clubs around the world and was never able to find the form that turned him into hot property back in 2004.
25 apps, 4 goals

                                                

2005/2006 – Hernan Crespo
I feel it's a bit unfair to include him in here, but given his statistics elsewhere, he's a valid inclusion. He wasn't always the number 9 at Chelsea in his spell there. He only had the number for one season which wasn’t his most prolific, spending most of his time on the bench. Prior to that, he was wearing the number 21 at the club and performed better. His time at Chelsea was somewhat successful but he was never able to settle in England despite his efforts. He was loaned to AC Milan for one season, then returned back to Chelsea for another season and then finally left to Inter Milan.
49 apps, 20 goals


                                                    

2006/2007 – Khalid Boulharouz
The Dutch defender joined from Hamburg for a fee of around 8.5 million. The number 9 was given to him as it happened to be an available number, and not because of his "striking prowess" as defenders don't wear those type of numbers. However, despite being a defender, he barely started any games and had no impact in his solitary season at the club, he was then shipped off on loan to Sevilla the following season.
13 apps, 0 goals


                                                 

2007/2008 – Steve Sidwell
Remember when everyone thought he'd become brilliant? He joined from Reading on a free after refusing to sign a new contract at the club and was expected to push his way into the first team following a hugely successful season patrolling the midfield at the Madejski stadium. However, he was unable to break into the first-team at Chelsea and struggled whenever he played. He was sold the next summer and has never been able to find the form that made him such a hit at Reading.
15 apps, 0 goals.

                                               

2008/2009 – Franco Di Santo
Big expectations on young shoulders. He barely did anything at Stamford Bridge and was loaned out the following season to Blackburn where he scored once in 23 appearances. I don't think he has anything to do with the "curse", but rather the fact that he's just rubbish anyways.
8 apps, 0 goals.


2009/2010 – No number 9, Chelsea are crowned Champions…Hmmm.


                                                  

2010- present – Fernando Torres
The best £50 million Liverpool will ever make. He left Anfield in January 2011 under rather bizarre and, according to him, strange reasons that “the fans don’t know about”, he was expected to be the final piece of the jigsaw to make the Chelsea machine steam-roll into another title challenge and become the most feared side in Europe. Fast forward one year, and cue the Torres jokes, the striker who was scoring goals for fun at Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, now looks like a shadow of his former self and seems desperate to score every time he gets on the pitch, even though he starts on the bench very often.

Time will tell whether Torres can recapture his form, but given the track record of Chelsea’s previous number 9s during the Premier League era, I would say that doesn't look likely. Maybe, it's a coincidence that all of Chelsea's number 9s in the Premier League era, besides for Hasselbaink, have failed. Maybe it's superstition. Maybe it's luck. Whatever it is, I think the stats speak for themselves. 



(I love being superstitious and finding a good "consiparcy theory" of some sort, but I repeat this is just a trend I noticed. Take it light-heartedly. Now watch Torres prove me wrong and go score 100 goals or something in the coming year or two. I hope not, though. Oh and a special mention to Andriy Shevchenko who should have been mentioned in this list, but wore number 7).