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Gibraltar keen to make impact as Uefa's newest nation against Slovakia

» vantise 10/15/14 11:22:11  » soccer » comments: 0

vantise The eyes of Europe will fall upon Paris, Solna, Zagreb and Bucharest on Tuesday evening. It is in the Algarve, however, where a significant piece of history will be made.

Gibraltar, the Rock that fewer than 30,000 people call home, will play their first full international fixture against Slovakia. It follows a bitter 14-year campaign for the right to Uefa eligibly, fought in the face of Spanish opposition, which eventually ended with victory for the British territory in May.

The Estádio Algarve in Portugal, Gibraltar's home in the short term, could hold the country's entire population. Allen Bula's side – comprised of policeman, firemen and civil servants – have made the four-hour trip across Iberia because their own Victoria Stadium is not big enough to fulfil Uefa's international criteria. It is the only pitch available for Gibraltar to train on, other than one that belongs to the UK Ministry of Defence.

It is a tale one would normally expect to hear in the early rounds of the FA Cup, only on a grander scale. The majority of Gibraltar's players have Cheap Arsenal Soccer Jersey day jobs but on Tuesday night they will be lining up against a squad that includes stars from Liverpool, Olympiakos and Napoli.

Bula called up the former Manchester United defender Danny Higginbotham, his nephew, via Twitter – meanwhile, the striker Jeremy Lopez has revealed certain employers do not accept letters of exemption from work issued by the Gibraltar Football Association. Uefa's 54th member state is an eclectic mix of individuals plucked out of a playing pool of approximately 1,400.

These are the challenges that currently face Gibraltar. Bula has ambitious aims and is confident his side will not become European whipping boys alongside the likes of San Marino. Between 500 and 1,000 fans are expected to travel to the game and the Gibraltar FA chief executive, Dennis Beiso, admitted it is a step into the unknown.

"This means everything, it's difficult to put into words," Beiso said. "It's the result of a long, long struggle but we feel we deserve to be here. Our association was established in 1895, which makes us the seventh oldest national asso Cheap Chelsea Soccer Jersey ciation in Europe. Football is a daily passion for Gibraltarians – a lot of people live for football in Gibraltar. As much as 10% of the population are involved in the game.

"We're very excited, it's obviously a very historic day for us. We've been working very hard for almost two decades now and a lot of people have put in a lot of hard work just to make this day a reality. We're very much stepping into the unknown, we know that Slovakia will have an extremely high level compared to us. For our boys, with a few exceptions, this will be a completely new experience. Nerves will play a part but I'm sure the players are going to give a good account of themselves.

"They are committed lads. Because of what this game represents I am sure they will give 100% on the pitch and maybe we will be able to spring a surprise."

Spain, which claims ownership of the territory on its northern tip, fought Gibraltar's effort to become official Uefa members as it feared similar Catalan or Basque teams could emerge in the future. Uefa has ruled that Spain and Gibraltar canno replica soccer jerseys t be drawn in the same group during qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, a tournament that Bula has in his sights.

On the game against Slovakia, the manager said: "We are looking at the nerves of our players. It's something new, the historic moment, the emotion. One minute [into the match] and it's got to be out of the way. If not, that can play against us but we are going out to win."

Bula believes his side are capable of matching Malta, Liechtenstein and Andorra in the early stages of their development. Gibraltar beat the Faroe Islands 3-0 in a friendly in 2001 but establishing themselves as a recognised and dangerous nation to play is a challenge that will take some time. Beiso added: "There were times when we doubted it would ever happen. We were up against significant forces, both in the footballing and political sense, but we were confident our position was right on moral and sporting grounds.

"Who knows what will happen. I'm not going to say we will win the World Cup, that would be ridiculous, but we might just surprise a few people."

Sky's roving reporter tries to down BT Sport in whirl of rotor blades

» vantise 10/15/14 11:20:35  » soccer » comments: 0

vantise On opening night for the United Kingdom's second television channel on 22 September 1955, the BBC, the established service, sent a 25-year-old newlywed farmer's wife, Grace Archer, into burning stables to rescue a trapped and frantic horse. She paid for her selflessness and gallantry with her life but her sacrifice ensured that the 20 million people listening to the Ambridge conflagration on the Light Programme were not watching Independent Television's launch. Fifty-eight years later, Sky Sports, on the day of BT Sport's debut evening of programmes, sent its excitable, thundering news anchor Jim White off on a helicopter odyssey of eight football grounds as part of an at times enjoyable, interminable and ultimately preposterous spoiling strategy.

Sky Sports News gave itself an 11-hour start on the broadcaster's new rival with White opening proceedings at 7am in radiant sunshine on a balcony at company HQ in west London, the presenter seemingly more enthusiastic than ever. The combination of ozone and aviation fuel perhaps gave his exuberance a new peak when he set out his quest on behalf of "this wonderful, wonderful channel". Over 15 hours until 10pm the goal was for the programme Cheap Real Madrid Soccer Jersey to groundhop all 92 Premier and Football League clubs and his personal objective to make pilgrimages to Gillingham, Arsenal, Watford, Swansea, Cardiff, Wigan, Liverpool and Manchester United was revealed with such reverence that one almost expected his instructions to self-destruct, Mission Impossible-style.

While he set off in the "92 Livecopter" his co-presenters remained wedded to their desks, dropping in on White's lieutenants doing the rounds of clubs on their patches in the manner of a host Eurovision country corralling the votes. We began on the roof of Goodison Park where we met the first of the morning's groundsmen. If its intention was to show the variety of trades required by clubs and the value they provide to employment, Sky succeeded as we were introduced during these goodwill visits to Huddersfield Town's chef, Rochdale's kit man, Notts County's falconer whose charge keeps the Meadow Lane pigeons at bay, Bournemouth's club ambassador, Colchester United's sports scientist and Fulham's Diddy David Hamilton.

A more traditional cast of managers, chairmen, chief executives and players represented most clubs but the chief delight of the channel and its reporters we Cheap Barcelona Soccer Jersey re the "access all areas" privileges they were able to share with the viewers. If at times this seemed to involve frequent strolls down vibrantly painted brick corridors, thrumming commercial-scale drying machines and displays of formation lawn-mowing there was the occasional scoop, none bigger than Doncaster Rovers' signing of One Direction's Louis Tomlinson on non-contract terms. The club announced that he would be training with the first-team squad and wear the No28 shirt but not that the Keepmoat season ticket-holder would be leaving the band or have any genuine chance of making the grade. Still, as a gimmick to raise funds and the profile of the work he does for a local hospice it was the most worthy in a day of such numerous stunts that occasionally one got the impression the channel intended you to wonder whether it was parodying itself.

Jake Humphrey inaugurated BT Sport with his feet on the ground and from the centre of the Olympic Stadium and it was intriguing that it chose to introduce the faces of its coverage while playing Elgar's elegiac Nimrod, as if emphasising custom, seriousness and restraint. There was something rather broadsheet about its roster – Clare Balding, cheap soccer jerseys Tom Watt and Danny Baker – suggesting effort had been invested in gauging the kind of reputations of most appeal to the audience it covets.

Humphrey and his rugby presenter colleague Craig Doyle walked about the set, showing off the main new toy, a glass pitch on the studio floor which can spool through the sports from football and rugby to tennis and basketball for the experts to stand on and act out their analysis. Who knows whether the perky crowd gathered standing around the staff on the Top Gear principle was for the party only or will become a regular sight.

Steve McManaman, David James and Michael Owen were, like the hosts, dressed down – part solicitor in Café Rouge for Sunday brunch, part Boden model. Both channels exuded confidence, Sky Sports News as market leader, hamming up its schtick for all its worth to stress its sense of ownership of the game and almost so brash it ate itself in the process, BT Sport trying to assert its differences and relative sophistication. On another day of compelling Ashes cricket it was difficult for one channel to upstage the other entirely and fortunately no cast member of the Archers was killed in the making of either spectacle.

Joachim Löw drops Germany down a gear but power is still there

» vantise 10/15/14 11:19:11  » soccer » comments: 0

vantise Roy Hodgson had injury problems. He was confronted by Germany, a nation with whom it is fair to say England have a bit of history, and the match represented the climax to the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations. There is no such thing as a friendly against these guys.

So what does the England manager do? Pick his strongest available team and seek a pre-World Cup morale-boost or tell Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole to rest up at their clubs? After all, his three most established players are sure to make his squad for the finals in Brazil next summer. There would be little to learn from pressing them into service, particularly as club games come thick and fast.

The reaction to Hodgson choosing the latter option would not have been difficult to predict. And yet this is precisely what Joachim Löw, his Germany counterpart, did at a largely subdued Wembley.

Injuries had deprived him of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Ilkay Gundogan, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski but it was his decision to stand down Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Mesut Özil, who are almost certainly his most important players.

The move blurred the line between confidence and swaggering arrogance and, with Löw having used the trio agai Cheap Brazil Soccer Jersey nst Italy last Friday (Neuer and Lahm from the start; Özil as a substitute), it was easy to imagine where he considered England to be in the international pecking order.

The psychology worked on several levels and it served to frame the contest in Löw's favour. A disappointment, and he could point out that his stars were missing; anything more encouraging and it was a result that was achieved with one hand, metaphorically, tied behind his back. The Germans do not need everybody against their old rivals. And so it proved. The bonus number came in.

Löw would not have wanted to lose with his strongest team to England who, despite their well-documented travails, are capable of taking the prized scalps in friendlies. They beat Italy and Brazil last season. But when the teams were confirmed (the public announcer used hushed tones for the Germans), Löw had effectively stripped away the primacy of the result.

The focus, from his point of view, could be trained on the second-stringers, even if it feels wrong to refer to Toni Kroos and Mario Götze in such terms. The Bayern Munich attacking midfielders started poorly, as did their team but they moved smoothly through the gears and, in the second-half, they called the tune; Kroos having been moved to a Cheap Chelsea Soccer Jersey deeper role and Götze to a roving central striker position. "We had a good grip on the match," Low said. Nobody could argue.

Germany's initial lack of touch and rhythm had been jarring and one loose pass from Kroos midway through the first half seemed to capture the mood.

Max Kruse, the third-choice striker, was too eager to impress and he was left to lament an opportunity missed.

Kroos demonstrated the hallmark of class by finding a way to make the difference. It was as if a switch had been flicked towards the end of a dull first half. His corner was cleared back to him and, making a difficult skill look straightforward, he weighted a first-time ball into the area that implored Per Mertesacker to attack.

Moments earlier, the Arsenal centre-half had drawn Joe Hart into a reflex save which set the narrative of the goalkeeper's positive return rattling into action. Mertesacker, though, gave him no chance on the second occasion, his header a fusion of power and precision.

No sooner had the captain finished his celebratory knee slide, than the enclave of visiting supporters piped up. "Football's coming home," they chortled. Yeah, yeah. Löw got in on the act: "Per has been a pillar of strength … literally speaking given his heig replica soccer jerseys ht." The Germans enjoyed this.

Löw made his changes because he could. Of his starting XI, only four, perhaps, could be regarded as first choices: the defenders Jérôme Boateng, Mertesacker and, possibly, Marcel Schmelzer, together with the left winger Marco Reus, who was uncharacteristically off-colour.

The pool of talent available to Löw is remarkable, particularly in midfield, where the Bender twins, Sven and Lars, brought tenacity if not creativity. Löw's mission was to fine tune.

Germany were better in the second-half and there were pleasing combinations for Löw on the counter; moments of real slickness about his team's work. Götze showed his quicksilver quality and the only disappointment was their inability to score the second goal. Reus and the substitute Sidney Sam were profligate. It did not matter. Germany were streetwise and smothering; they did not allow England a single shot on target and Löw radiated trademark conviction at full-time.

"I can approach 2014 with quiet confidence," he said. "The players I tried can gain from this win. Our thoughts are already geared towards what we can achieve next year. There is only one game left to prepare for the World Cup but we know what the sticking points are. We will address them."

Why Internazionale's new owner was happy to invest outside Indonesia

» vantise 10/15/14 11:09:08  » soccer » comments: 0

vantise Internazionale's new owner, Erick Thohir, had an interesting weekend with his club, bouncing on the pitch as supporters sang "If you don't jump you are an AC Milan fan", joking with reporters about signing Lionel Messi and then watching as a Nerazzurri XI lost a friendly 1-0 to a second division Swiss team.wholesale soccer jersey

There was a little surprise in Thohir's native Indonesia, where the billionaire is much more of a court-side than pitch-side presence. His investment company has shares in one of the country's leading football clubs, Persib Bandung, but he is a much more visible supporter of the all-conquering Satria Muda team he owns. Basketball, it is generally agreed, is the media magnate's love; football is business pure and simple.

There is nothing pure and simple about football in Indonesia. Since the Soviet Union built the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in 1962 people have tended to take, not give. The Jakarta arena has, when full, the best atmosphere in Asia, rivalled only by Tehran's Azadi. While this face of Indonesian football can take one's breath away, so can what happens out of view.

In the bowels of the stadium are the brown windowless offices of the country's football association, PSSI, linked by quiet windowless corridors where footsteps echo on the shiny wooden floor. From here over the years the stench of corruption and more besides has pumped out to all corners of this vast archipelago.

There are no guarantees that even with the best governance Indonesia would not have lost 1-0 in China on Friday but the Merah Putih (red and whites) would have had a better chance. It is also less likely that they would have all but crashed out of qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup with a third of the group games still to play – one point from four games, albeit in a tough group, says it all.

The 2012 ASEAN Cup – a regional tournament that Indonesia has never won, unlike tiny Singapore with its four titles – ended at the group stage. Much is written about how China struggles in football but the Middle Kingdom is far ahead of Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world. Recent Chinese success at club level has come as investment followed a clean-up of the league. Indonesian fans are not holding their breath.Cheap Real Madrid Soccer Jersey

A senior official at PSSI admitted in May that there were major issues after it was fined $15,000 by the Asian Football Confederation for the latest in a series of crowd disturbances at international games. "Football management in Indonesia is in such a mess at the moment. We aren't able to do anything about things like this," said the spokesman Rudolf Yesayas. "We have much bigger problems."

Those include deadlier levels of violence that can be evidenced in the domestic leagues – during the big game between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung in May 2012 three fans were killed – but there is plenty more besides as the country is still trying to recover from years of infighting, incompetence, corruption and cronyism.

The low point came in 2005. The reputation of Nurdin Halid, the PSSI president, was not high even before he was sent down for the first of two prison sentences on charges of corruption. Fifa seemed to care little about enforcing its own rules about criminals or politicians (he was also a member of a major national party) running national associations and Nurdin continued to hold office while in his cell.

Though the 'Jakarta Joker' was finally deposed in 2011, his legacy lives on. Eventually the opposition took power of PSSI and, while the de-Nurdin-ification started (though an increasing number of the old boy's supporters are back in positions of influence), the politics did not stop. The national team coach Alfred Riedl was popular with players and public – during his time in charge of Vietnam more than 80 fans came forward in 2007 offering to donate a kidney on hearing that the Austrian needed a transplant – but in the first act of the new regime he was fired.Cheap Atletico Madrid Soccer Jersey

By this time there were two federations with two different leagues. Players who left clubs in the official competition to join the rebels were banned by Fifa. A 10–0 thrashing in 2012 at the hands of Bahrain in a qualifier for the Brazil World Cup prompted accusations of match-fixing. Whether foul play was involved or not, this was a demotivated D-team even if the humiliation was A-grade.

In China foreign players have just helped Guangzhou Evergrande become champions of Asia but in Indonesia many imports play with virtual visas, promised but never forthcoming, and phantom pay packets. So numerous are those agents, players and coaches owed money by Indonesian clubs that there have been discussions as to whether to start a Facebook group.

The Indonesia striker Bambang Pamungkas, who stated in March that the country's football was dying, helped to form a players' union in 2012, claiming that 60% of his fellow professionals faced late payment issues – a report in The Times alleged that the total amount owed to players was more than $6m.

Bambang has still not been paid almost a year later and, if it can happen to the country's biggest star – Indonesia's golden boy with almost five million Twitter followers – then what chance do the rest have? The tragic story of Diego Mendieta made headlines around the world last December when the Paraguayan died alone in hospital. He was unable to leave or afford medical treatment after his club had stopped paying him.Cheap Manchester City Soccer Jersey

In a decade of lows that was the lowest but there is always hope. The Under-19 team recently defeated South Korea 3-2 in qualification for the 2014 Asian Championship to send a Jakarta crowd of 50,000 and a nation wild with delight. Some of the near 70m people in the country under the age of 14 are crying out for a little of the youth development system that the Koreans, who hardly noticed the defeat, take for granted.

That passion means that the politicians will always find the game attractive. For Indonesian fans the major event of 2014 is not the World Cup – the 1938 appearance in the guise of Dutch East Indies, the first ever by an Asian nation, is not looking like being repeated any time in the near future – but the presidential election.

As they say, "Control football and you are on your way to controlling Indonesia." There is not much evidence of anyone controlling anything at the moment and, until that happens, such as Thohir cannot really be blamed if they look to spend their money overseas.


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