Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Farewell Didier Drogba

When Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win Champions League final, the Blues’ fans were obviously in seventh heaven and buoyant. Without getting into the specific details of that game, there is one particular moment that stood out and it didn't occur during the 120 minutes, nor during the penalty shoot-out. It was when Chelsea were celebrating their victory, Didier Drogba had a moment alone with the Chelsea fans to whom he bowed and waved farewell. That image summed up what we were witnessing: another footballing icon leaving European shores.

Didier Drogba has recently announced that he will be leaving Chelsea following 8 years at the club and is most likely to join Nicolas Anelka for one final big payday in China (money which, for those don’t know, will help fund the hospitals he’s building in Ivory Coast). You can’t blame the 34-year old for leaving the club at this moment in time because he has simply won every major trophy he could possibly imagine lifting at the club. Leaving on a high is a privilege that not many players ever have the chance to achieve - but Drogba could and he has. For the rest of his days, his final contribution to the Chelsea cause will always be remembered as scoring the equalizing goal in their first ever Champions League victory and scoring the winning penalty kick. He probably couldn’t have even written such a script for himself.

He’s been a symbolic figure of Abramovich’s Chelsea ever since the Russian took over the club and he’s also become an emblematic figure for the Premier League in a similar way to Thierry Henry was a few years ago. There’s no need to compare records or anything as such between Drobga and other strikers, because this isn’t about who’s the better player, but simply about the loss of a colorful character that the Premier League was blessed to have.

You don’t need to be a Chelsea fan to acknowledge his presence or impact. He had his flaws which were always obvious such as his diving antics, groaning, feigning injury and moaning to the referees. It made many of us hate him. Even some Chelsea fans hated that aspect about him as it became a bit too farcical at times (he did give Busquets a run for his money in the semi-final though). But he also had another side to him which made him an absolute monster of a player; a bulldozer of a striker who was a key part of Chelsea’s most successful period in their history. Volleys, headers, tap-ins... he scored all types of goals, but with an absolute brutal force. He even made tap-ins look like powerful goals at times. That’s the type of player he is. His cheer physical presence was intimidating for many.

I do strongly believe that Drogba is the sort of player not many people will ever appreciate unless they've seen him live (that’s if you’re not a Chelsea fan), which I’ve been fortunate to do a few times. Every single occasion, even when facing the team I support, and I know I'm not the only one to admit this; Drogba was always by far the most dangerous player in Chelsea’s line-up. Every single time. Powerful, robust, annoying, athletic, creative and just a simple bloody beast - Chelsea face a difficult task in replacing him next season.

We often forget how much of a big game player he’s been for Chelsea down the years, scoring in pretty much every big game (9 goals in 9 finals or something like that) when Chelsea have needed him the most. For Chelsea fans, especially of this era, Drogba will be missed. For the rest of the Premier League fans, I think we should all appreciate that the league will be a little less colorful without him in it.

As a new wave and generation of footballers are coming to the limelight, I’ll just say (like I did on a recent post): Farewell Didier!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farewell to some Legends - the end of an era

While most people are still getting to grips with the end of the season bonanza that occurred in most of the top leagues around Europe, there’s been something of a sad trend that’s gradually been taken place. Everything has an expiry date in life and no more so than in Football. Players’ careers span for the best part of 15 years and within that time, with a bit of luck and a lot of talent, they leave supporters with some great memories. 

As the 2011/2012 season draws to a close, a host of great Footballers have either announced their retirements or are on their way to pastures away from European Football’s floodlights to go into semi-retirement in America or Asia as they begin preparing for life after Football. For some of these players, nothing’s been confirmed as to where they’ll be next season (particularly Seedorf, not sure about his future), but these players are leaving behind their familiar territory and these heroes of the late 90s and 2000s will be sorely missed wherever they end up.

Today, we’re bidding farewell to quite a few Footballing legends and I use the term “legend” in no uncertain manner. That’s exactly what these men are - Legends. To all of them, even though they’ve scored or hurt many teams that many of us love, sometimes we’ve got to acknowledge their talent when we see it and we should thank them for the fantastic memories they’ve provided to the sport as a whole.

A new footballing era has arrived with new players, new faces, new heroes, new places - but being a romantic of the game, I deeply believe that Football will be a poorer place without these men. To all of them, I salute you.

These are their farewells in many sorts. If you have any footage of other farewells of theirs, please feel free to share:

The Milan legends waving Goodbye.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy announces his retirement.

Raul is given a farewell gift by Shalke.

Alessandro Del Piero waves Goodbye to the Juventus faithful.

Monday, May 14, 2012

City win it, United lose it - a personal post

It feels like a bad hangover. A nightmare. Waking up this morning and realizing that it’s actually happened. Manchester City are the Premier League champions.  I’m struggling to conjure up the words to sum up what happened during those final moments of the final day of the Premiership season, but I’ll try. As many people who follow this blog know, I’m a Manchester United supporter. A pretty mad one at times. On this blog I rarely give myself the chance to write posts about the club I love for the simple reason that it would lack some credibility to the blog itself. I also give the opportunity to other supporters to write posts about their clubs to make sure there’s some sort of balance if it’s needed. But today, I’m doing a piece about the club I love and the events that occurred yesterday.

Prior to the game, most United supporters had already somewhat given up on the title. Blowing an 8-point lead during the final month of the campaign is the sort of thing United have always watched others do, while the title fell right into our hands. But this time, we’ve been the ones who've shot ourselves in the foot. “Mind games”, “squeaky bum time”, call it what you want, the point is we blew it. And not just on the final day of the season, but throughout the season, games and performances have been mediocre by Manchester United’s standards. This isn’t to say that we should bash the players and call for Fergie’s head. Far from that. We’ve been so blessed by the success that we’ve had that we should learn to accept defeat with dignity. And when both teams kicked off yesterday, we somewhat already did accept beforehand that City would go on to win the title. An 8 goal cushion meant that if both teams won their respective games, City would be crowned Champions. We knew that. But never could we have imagined that it would happen this way.

Forget the poor performances against Everton, Wigan, Newcastle, Blackburn - not to mention the City defeats. We’ve all come to accept that the team needs some adjustments in certain areas. We finished level on points with one of the most expensive assembled teams in the league’s history and lost it on goal difference. Somehow I feel proud. Not because I believe we should have won or anything like that. But because with this group of players we have which, on paper, doesn’t have the stellar names required to win championships, we gave City a bloody fight until the end. The only reason we were even in with a shout to win the thing is thanks to Fergie pulling the strings. We should recognize that.

It is a cruel way for us to lose the title, but we’ve won so many other titles in the same manner down the years, that getting a taste of our medicine (for once) was always going to be a bitter pill to swallow; particularly in this manner and particularly losing it to Manchester City.

United were comfortably winning 1-0 vs Sunderland and playing down the clock with a few minutes remaining, while City were 2-1 down at home to QPR. As things stood, United would be Champions, City would finish second and QPR would avoid relegation (they needed a win or a draw to avoid relegation and could afford to lose and stay up - only if Bolton lost or drew against Stoke). The news broke through that Stoke had now equalized against Bolton making it 2-2 over there. Knowing that result, QPR could now lose the game against City and stay up. One could be forgiven for believing that QPR had taken their foot off the peddle for the last few minutes. But within the 5 minutes of injury time that were added at the end of the game (mainly thanks to Joey Barton, a former City boy, being a complete tool), City found it within themselves to score two goals and with that, beating QPR 3-2 and winning the league title. Two minutes. That’s all it took.

Up until the 90th minute, we thought we’d won it. Before the game kicked-off, I’d mentioned to many friends that if United are to lose this title on the final day and on goal difference, my only hope was that it’s lost right at the beginning of both matches - making it a foregone conclusion and not to go through 90 minutes of anxiety and hope only to be shattered in the end. So much for hoping that! The worst way to lose it in such a scenario is what happened. The only thing left to do as a United fan is congratulate Manchester City on winning the title. We have no one else to blame but ourselves. This isn’t about their money. This is about sloppiness, complacency and inexperience on the behalf of many players in the United squad at various points during the season. Looking at the season as a whole, City were the superior side and the points tally at the end would normally have been enough to win it for United but the bar has now been raised and it's up to the whole league to react to it. As opposed to when Abramovich’s Chelsea came to the fore, this is a whole different monster we’re dealing with. It’s the neighbors. They’ve gotten very loud and they’ve just taken away our title. We’ve got to bounce back, because that’s what we do. That’s why we have to accept this defeat. We’ve won it too many times to lose ungraciously. We should put our hands up and accept that, over the course of 9 months, the better side won...only just though. We need to make sure we get our trophy back soon and make our next success a sweet one!

To end this post, allow me to just say that yesterday was evidence about just how entertaining the Premier League is in comparison to other leagues. Has there ever been a better advert for a league? Nobody could have written such a script...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hold your head up high - a look back at Liverpool's season

(The following post was written by Liverpool fan Antoine Choueiri, who has already contributed to the blog before. As I could not possibly write anything related to Liverpool, and since this blog is about having all sorts of views, I'll let him do the talking or as he simply puts it "I was asked to review Liverpool FC’s season in a page before we lost the FA Cup final. Could have done a 10-page formal report but here’s my not-so-posh-one-page shot".)

It’s May, and just like every year since the mighty 1964, we Liverpool fans look back and count the trophies we’ve won this season. (Well, it’s been a while since we needed a calculator, but it’s an old tradition you know)

Liverpool Football Club had already lifted a (the smallest) major trophy in February, and was looking to lift their ultimate prize this season, the oldest and most prestigious football trophy in history that is the FA Cup. A few centimeters away from our most successful season since 2001 (a single European Cup trophy is still a single trophy), we saw our hopes crushed by a composed Chelsea performance (who happen to be going through the most exciting times of their entire history since their formation in 2004), easily cruising past a silent, shy, lost, poor, or simply shite Liverpool team.

It’s both funny and unfortunate that our most important game of the season perfectly summed up the last 9 months. Poor, but yet underachieving expensive signings, all looking lost ; two goals conceded from defensive mistakes, shyness up front, and most of all, bad luck. It could have been all different had the eleven Liverpool players celebrated the so-called “ghost goal” like they did in the 2005 semi (the ball DID cross the line, Mourinho), it could have been all different had the linesman just seen the ball behind the line. It could have been a great season. But it wasn’t.

After last year’s events and our finish on a high (we were unplayable), and the money recouped from the players’ sales and the owners’ contribution, the least we could expect was a fine season. What we got is 8th (?) in the league and the Carling Cup. Turns out it takes much, much more than that to get a sport institution like Liverpool FC back to the top. We’ve had to deal with new owners, new managers, the Suarez saga, Carroll’s negligence, the other signings’ under-performances, Lucas and Gerrard’s injuries, a thousand woodworks, and the endless list of harmful factors and bad luck.

Who’s at fault? Laying the blame on Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish alone, the man who’s won 28 major trophies at Liverpool, won us finals by himself, gave us 14 years of magical memories, picked up the club in the aftermath of Heysel and kept it going, and attended every single one of the 96 Hillsborough funerals is bang out of order. The same man who’s built arguably the strongest Liverpool team ever (1987/1988) and one of the most exciting sides in football history, and brought back flashes of this classy brand of football when he replaced Roy Hodgson. Even the greatest human associated with LFC is not immune of criticism, but the issue is much, much bigger than that.

In October 2010, Liverpool Football Club was on the brink of administration, hours away from rotting in financial crises and eternal mediocrity, at best. If you’d come at the time and told me we would win a domestic Cup, finish Runner-Ups in the other, we’d have professional owners, no debts, money to spend, be on a firmer footing, and have Kenny fu**in' Dalglish as our manager, I’d have told you to piss right off.

For the first time since David Moores sold the family silver to a pair of cow-boys, Liverpool FC looks like the unity carved by Bill Shankly himself 50 years ago, the Holy Trinity, the managers, the players and the supporters (and the owners). Liverpool FC is a club in transition; the once colossal, conquering bastion of invincibility, has been reduced to a pitiful, sinking ship, only to be rescued at the last-minute, and is still going though a steadying process. The (shameful) people who are calling for Kenny’s head are the same ones who called for Rafa’s head a couple of years back, and they got Roy Hodgson. Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s not lose the man who said he will forever be in debt to Liverpool FC. Let’s not lose the man that is everything this football club is about. The least we owe him is another chance, another season and a proper backing.

Prior to the final whistle on Saturday, 30,000 Scousers, heads and scarves held high,  burst into one of the most loud and passionate YNWA renditions ever, even though we were losing the FA Cup final and our season dwindled in the most disastrous of ways. A Wembley message of forgiveness to a team which had let them down for sixty minutes (and most of the last 9 months), but which had then responded impressively but belatedly. The fans stood with their players, their manager and their club in their moment of shared despair, pain and disappointment.
That is something the plastic-waving Chelsea fans will never have, or understand. It’s something you cannot buy, something Bill Shankly would have been proud of. It’s what makes Liverpool Football Club special.
Hold your head up high, and bring on next season. A Golden Sky awaits.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Juventus - a long way from Rimini

(The following post was written by Juventus fanatic Philip Yaacoub. It's a personal piece and probably expresses exactly how most Juventus fans are feeling right now)

There I sat, in front of my television early September 2006, wearing my Serie B black and white jersey and thinking to myself that I can’t wait to get back to Serie A. My love for the Bianconeri began back when, as a 10 year old, I watched the Champions league final 1997 loss to Borussia Dortmund. Despite the loss, I had felt greatness in that side that boasted a young Alessandro Del Piero.

Fast forward 10 successful years for club, and in 2006, just as Italy were crowned world champions, "Calciopoli" hit Juventus hard (unrightfully) and the team began a quest (- 7 points), losing star players that made the team a pillar in the world of Football and even drawing 1 - 1 with Rimini in Serie B. Purgatory year, promotion attained, new players, old guards, new spirit, Serie A rebirth? Not at all.

4 seasons back in the Seria A with a team that largely overachieved during its first 2 seasons back with the big boys by finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively. Some pleasant Champions League performances and then came two mediocre, to say the last, campaigns finishing 7th. It was heart-wrenching to watch a team being put together by incompetent directors and managers coming and going and yet unable to understand and cope with the grandeur of a team like Juventus.  Until came a man called Antonio Conte.

Known for his “Grinta” (Italian for Grit) as a former captain of Juve, Conte had successful spells coaching Serie B sides, gaining promotion with 2 teams, the last being Siena in the 2010/11 season, before joining Juventus in the summer of 2011. His impact was instantaneous, with a new state of the art stadium that got fans out of their seats in the inaugural match against Notts County, and alongside some mastermind signings of the likes of Arturo Vidal, Stephan Lichsteiner, Mirko Vucinic and of course the “aging, crippled, not half the player he used to be”, Andrea Pirlo.

The start of the season began with a bang with a 4 - 1 against Parma (a team Juve failed to beat twice in the previous campaign), with Pirlo’s imprint felt directly, Vidal aggressiveness, a water tight back 4, a coherent midfield and a versatile front line - all forming the basis of what was to come during the entire season. Everyone ticked like a clock around Pirlo in a change of mentality enforced by Conte, who favored an attacking aggressive style of play with players covering every inch of the pitch, slickly passing the ball, retaining possession and creating lots of scoring chances. And the rest is, as they say, history.

Juventus have been unbeaten this season and were crowned Serie A Champions Sunday 6th May 2012, with one game left, to reap the fruits of some hard labor and work both on and off the field. The mentality has changed, you feel that Juventus are once again a monumental team, ready for European football, hungry for more titles. Don’t believe me? Stats don’t lie. Forza Juve, Campioni d’Italia! 30 scudetti!

By Philip Yaacoub

Saturday, May 5, 2012

R.I.P Rashidi Yekini - a Nigerian legend

This probably won't make the headlines everywhere around the world. It will probably only be noticed by those who watched Football in the nineties, those who are from Nigeria and particularly those who were fans of the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

Rashidi Yekini, former Nigerian striker, has sadly passed away at the age of 48. He had apparently been ill for over a year as his struggle with bipolar disorder, depression and other neurological defects finally took their toll on him.

He will forever be remembered for being the first Nigerian player to ever win the African Footballer of the year title in 1993, as he had scored an astonishing 34 goals in 32 matches in one season for Vitoria Setubal in Portugal. His peak with the Nigerian national team though came when he steered them to lifting their first ever African Cup of Nations trophy in 1994 (finishing as top scorer of the tournament), followed by their first ever appearance at a World Cup. During the 1994 World Cup in the USA, Nigeria's first ever game in the tournament was against Bulgaria, whom they destroyed 3-0, but the moment that will forever stand out during that tournament was Yekini's celebration when he scored the country's first ever goal in a World Cup (Click here and forward to minute 1:00 for the goal and celebration). A true emotional moment in Nigerian Football history.

Those were the glory days of Nigerian football. When Daniel Amokachi, Sunday Oliseh, Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amunike, Peter Rufai and of course Rashidi Yekini, all kept us entertained. Now one member of that glorious team has passed away. It's a sad day for Nigeria and a sad day for Football.

R.I.P Rashidi Yekini.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The coolest competition on this blog...ever!

As the season is reaching its end in all major leagues around Europe, the sad thought of no Football for a while is beginning to sink in. But at least we have Euro 2012 to keep us busy during the month of June! This year I believe a lot of people watched the Premier League on Abu Dhabi Sports channels. Even those who don't watch the Premier League at all have caught glimpses of its action at various points during the year. So, I do firmly believe a majority of you are ALL familiar with the FORD advert which was overplayed, overused and stuck in our brains for a long time: "Can a car excite you? Oh yeahhhh"!

So here comes the competition my friends.

1 - You have to film YOUR VERY OWN VERSION (like the legendary dude that filmed his below) of that ad with whatever camera you want. Even the one on your phone (if you have one).


2 - Save the video and post it on Youtube with the title being:
"Can a car excite you? Oh yeah! - The Football Supernova competition"

3 - In the description of the video on Youtube, copy and paste the following message

"This video is being done as part of a competition on the football blog: It is not intended to offend or degrade FORD, but is rather a sketch to reproduce our own version of their popular advertisement that all Football fans in the region had become familiar with. The blog does not benefit financially from any of these videos".

4 - Post the video on The Football Supernova facebook page.

5 - And then the video with the most "likes" wins...

6 - Winner will be announced on May 20th. So start posting from now!

You will win the following 3 prizes (there will be only one winner who'll collect all 3 prizes): 
- A jersey of your choice (club/country with name/number).
- A scarf of your choice
- A Mug of your choice

Good luck people!