Monthly Archives: June 2022

Fred Pentland: Athletic Bilbao’s English coach who changed the face of Spanish football


Fred Pentland was invited back to Athletic when they hosted Chelsea in his honour at San Mames in 1959
“It may be 100 years since he first set foot in the city, but mention the name Fred Pentland and Athletic Bilbao fans will fondly recall the legend of the Englishman with a trademark bowler hat and cigars. ‘El Bombin’ wasn’t the first English coach to lead the Basque club but he did leave an unprecedented mark on their history and can also claim to have played a key role in the evolution of Spanish football. …”
BBC
W – Fred Pentland
1930s Month: Pentland’s Lions of Bilbao

Why Barcelona’s ground is called ‘Camp Nou’ not ‘Nou Camp’


“Less than three weeks working for The Athletic have been enough for me to raise an existential doubt that has nagged me since the day I set foot on English soil. ‘Why is Barcelona’s stadium widely regarded as the ‘Nou Camp’ in England?’ It sounded really wrong in my head. The Athletic editors listened to my enquiry and actually gave some thought to that. Barcelona’s home has been popularly referred to Camp Nou since it opened on September 24, 1957. However, there was a long path to that becoming its official name. …”
The Athletic (Video)

A Soccer Team’s Success Puts Its Small Arab Village on the Map



“… His community’s soccer team, Maccabi Bnei Reineh, did not exist until six years ago. Less than two years ago, in September 2020, it was still a largely unknown club from a small Arab village of 18,000 people near Nazareth, preparing for yet another season in the Israeli fourth division. Now, after three promotions in quick succession, the name Maccabi Bnei Reineh is on everyone’s lips in Israeli soccer. The team’s success, to the surprise of even the village’s own residents, has put its community firmly on the map. …”
NY Times

“Nothing short of the end of the earth will prevent this from going through…”


In the 1980s Oxford United and Reading FC of the English Football League almost became the same club. Robert Maxwell, one-time editor of The Daily Mirror, was the owner of Oxford and had the ill-conceived idea to merge the two rivals. This is the story of how it wouldn’t work out. Written by David Goldblatt, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube

Paulo Dybala and the Problem With Italy



“Paulo Dybala did not, particularly, look as if he were ready to say goodbye. As the lights at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, his home for the last seven years, flashed and flickered, and Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’ began its crescendo, he started to cry. Not in the sense of a single, elegant tear rolling down the cheek. He sobbed. He racked. His chest heaved as he gulped for air. …”
NY Times

Premier League five-a-side teams: who would you pick for your club?


“… We tasked our Premier League reporters with picking a five-a-side team from the club that they cover. There are some obvious picks — and some less obvious ones. The rules: *The ball is not allowed over head height  *Slide tackles are forbidden *Each team must have a goalkeeper and they can’t come out of the area *Outfield players are not allowed in the area *They can score from anywhere outside the area. Here we go then. Please feel free to disagree wholeheartedly with their picks in the comments section…”
The Athletic

What is the secret to man-management in football?


“The Portsmouth team that Harry Redknapp led to the Premier League in 2003 was a curious beast.”
“Managers devise training sessions, draw up complex tactical plans, manage multimillion-pound budgets, field challenging questions from the world’s press, shoulder the pressure of the club’s fanbase – and yet, when it comes to managing human beings, some of them struggle. Why? Because relationships are complicated. Players have distinct personalities, shaped by their unique upbringings, and they have egos and entourages. The best managers find the right balance between being tough on players and sensitive to their needs. …”
Guardian

Newcastle and Stepping Stone Players


“Newcastle United want Champions League football. But they are a long way from achieving that with the current squad of players. However, would Champions League quality players want to join Newcastle in their current state? So, how do they make that jump? With Stepping-Stone players. Seb Stafford-Bloor explains what they are, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.”
YouTube

Mexico World Cup squad prediction 2.0


“This past FIFA window for Mexico was replete with many of the same narratives that dominated their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goals were scarce, the team’s supposed stars underperformed and the Fuera Tata chants were heard in matches that were played both in the United States and in Mexico. Each one of those realities will shape Mexico’s run up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Head coach Tata Martino must solve El Tri’s goal drought, and perhaps recall Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernadez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, in order to do so. …”
The Athletic

More than a national pastime


“Recent contests over the presidency of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have been keenly contested, with good reason. Nigeria’s size and football pedigree (the Nigerian men’s national team has qualified for the World Cup six times and won the African Cup of Nations three times) mean occupants of the NFF presidency have frequently used this position as a launch pad for more senior positions in both the continental (CAF) and global (FIFA) football governing bodies. Amaju Pinnick, the current president, is no exception. …”
Africa Is a Country

Scottish Premiership 2021-22 Stats


“The 2021-22 Scottish Premiership season has come to an end. Rangers were the defending champions after stopping rivals Celtic winning a record tenth title in a row the previous year. However Celtic claimed the league trophy back after a 1–1 draw with Dundee United in May. It was still a successful season for Rangers however, with The Gers reaching the Europa League final and winning the Scottish Cup. At the wrong end of the table, St Johnstone maintained their top-flight status by winning the Premiership play-off final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Dundee were automatically relegated to the Scottish Championship. …”
The Analyst

Darwin Nunez vs Liverpool: Analysing the two games that wowed Klopp


“Darwin Nunez could become the most expensive signing in Liverpool’s history and his journey there has been seven years in the making. It was around 2015 when a Liverpool scout based in South America spotted the young Uruguayan striker playing for Penarol’s under-19s. Since then, Liverpool tracked Nunez’s progress as he went from making his debut in place of ex-Liverpool player Maxi Rodriguez for Penarol in November 2017 to his move to Almeria, in Spain’s second division, in 2019. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Darwin Núñez
NY Times: Soccer Rediscovers the No. 9
W – Erling Haaland

The disappearance of Wee Willie McLean: Solving America’s oldest soccer mystery


February 5, 1946. The entrance to Mount Pleasant Mental Health Center in Henry County, Iowa scales a gentle grade; a long, wide driveway passing through rows of oak trees, past manicured lawns and flowerbeds. If you’ve never been here, you’d assume you were entering the grounds of a botanical garden, or maybe an elegant estate. Then the facility’s main building comes into view, a brick-and-concrete goliath that eventually consumes your entire field of vision. It is cold, dark and imposing. Function over form, a warehouse for the unwanted. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Willie McLean (soccer, born 1904)

How Bournemouth Returned to the Premier League under Scott Parker


“AFC Bournemouth’s top-flight return arrives at an interesting moment in the club’s history. After earning promotion back to the Premier League at the second time of asking, the Cherries are hoping to pull off a surprise or two under Scott Parker in 2022-23. … Parker, still only 41, has made a significant impact at Bournemouth since arriving from Fulham last summer, introducing a new style of play to lift Eddie Howe’s shadow from the Vitality Stadium. …”
Breaking the Lines (Video)
W – Scott Parker

In Qatar’s World Cup Summer, the Mercury Rises and the Clock Ticks


“DOHA, Qatar — The sun comes up before 5 a.m. and immediately puts the entire city on convection bake. By lunchtime, the temperature has finished its methodical climb up the scale, from unusual through uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The wind off the bay offers no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot. This was to be the summer the World Cup came to Qatar, an idea that seems as preposterous now as it did a dozen years ago, when the tiny Gulf country, let’s just say, acquired the hosting rights to soccer’s biggest championship. …”
NY Times

Jorge Luis Borges: “Soccer is Popular Because Stupidity is Popular”


June 2014: “… I don’t lose all my critical faculties, but I can’t help but love the World Cup even while recognizing the corruption, deepening poverty and exploitation, and host of other serious sociopolitical issues surrounding it. … In Argentina, as in many soccer-mad countries with deep social divides, gang violence is a routine part of futbol, part of what Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges termed a horrible ‘idea of supremacy.’ Borges found it impossible to separate the fan culture from the game itself, once declaring, ‘soccer is popular because stupidity is popular.’ …”
Open Culture
New Republic: Why Did Borges Hate Soccer? (June 2014)

Golden Games: The 50 greatest individual Premier League performances ranked


“In the breathless moments after the final whistle in the Premier League, a player is ushered into a makeshift interview suite, told he has been named the man of the match and invited to make grand, sweeping conclusions about the game and its significance. … Players know when they have played well or played badly, but over the course of 90-plus minutes of physical exertion and intense focus, in and out of possession, alternately going on instinct and making split-second decisions under pressure, they are rather unlikely to have considered their performance in any wider context. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Best Premier League performances: No 50, Jamie Vardy for Leicester City v Man Utd
The Athletic – Best Premier League performances: No 49, Wayne Rooney for Everton v Bolton

USMNT’s Memorable, Sloppy End to June Camp Gives Berhalter Much to Consider for World Cup


“The U.S. men’s national team ended its June international window, and its longest stretch of World Cup preparation, back where it set off on the road to Qatar. That September night in San Salvador, the U.S. was subjected to a raucous and deafening crowd that filled Central America’s largest stadium (despite pandemic limitations). There were fireworks during play, projectiles, and a motivated and energetic opponent. In short, the youthful visitors experienced a lot of what Concacaf has to offer. They escaped with a point and some valuable first-hand experience. On Tuesday night, with far lower stakes and amid rain-soaked conditions that somehow were significantly worse, the U.S. had to endure even more to earn yet another draw. …”
SI

Why Kylian Mbappe didn’t join Real Madrid


Kylian Mbappe is almost certainly now the highest-paid footballer in the world. In a saga that appeared to show Real Madrid as his favoured destination, Mbappe has recently signed a new deal at PSG, making him perhaps the most expensive player of all time. But why did he decide to stay? And how did this saga unfold? Written by Adam Crafton, illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube

Tragedy and triumph: the remarkable tale of Croatia’s first football steps


Croatia’s Davor Suker celebrates after scoring in the 1998 World Cup semi-final against France.
“Igor Stimac, a 54-year-old Croatian man usually full of laughter and love, begins to cry as his memories grip him in a world darkened again by a devastating war. The fleeting tears of the former footballer fall for Ukraine and its people. They have suffered in a way that reminds Stimac of everything his own country endured during the terrible Balkans conflict that surrounded its independence from Yugoslavia almost 30 years ago. It was a time when football gained a rare real-life significance as, out of bloodshed and carnage, Croatia’s defiant, gifted and fiercely intelligent players lifted their young nation by lighting up Euro 96 and then leading France in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in Paris. …”
Guardian
Croatian and Serbian Hooligans: Football Foes Share Love of Hate (June 2020)

The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst

Predicting the pass, in-game shape, player pressure: welcome to next gen of football analytics


“Football analytics continues to innovate. For many years there have been two branches of football data. One is event data, which logs everything that happens on the pitch, such as passes, shots, interceptions or tackles. The other is tracking data, which logs the locations of every player on the pitch at a rate of 25 frames per second — in case you needed clarification, that is a lot of rows on a spreadsheet across a 90-minute game. …”
The Athletic

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich and the Bitter End


“Robert Lewandowski does not, in his own words, like to make “too much show.” He is, and always has been, a touch more impassive than the average superstar. He does not greet his goals, the ones that have come for so long in such improbable quantities, with a roar, or a leap, or a scream. Instead, he grins. For the really good ones, he might go so far as a beam. …”
NY Times

Elano: ‘It’s not money, it’s passion. It has made me see how beautiful football is’


“The former Brazil international Elano spent a glamorous 15-year playing career with teams such as Santos, Manchester City, Grêmio, Flamengo and Shakhtar Donetsk. High wages, powerful club infrastructures and stadiums packed with vibrant fans seemed worthy reward for the midfielder’s accurate passes and tackles, and his calming, reassuring presence. …”
Guardian
W – Elano

Chile Loses Bid to Replace Ecuador at World Cup


“Chile’s bid to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup failed on Friday when a disciplinary panel at soccer’s global governing body rejected a claim that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. The case involved the defender Byron Castillo, who Chile contended was not only born in Colombia but also three years older than is stated on the documents used to identify him as Ecuadorean. Chile’s soccer federation produced registry documents, including birth certificates, that it said supported its claim. …”
NY Times

Gavi’s contract impasse at Barcelona and the problem of too much football


“… Luis Enrique was speaking after Barcelona midfielder Pablo Martin Paez Gavira’s outstanding performance in last Thursday’s 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw with Portugal. Of course, you will know him as Gavi and the still just 17-year-old had been the game’s outstanding figure, showing tremendous personality and game intelligence to overshadow experienced Portuguese midfielders like Joao Moutinho and Bruno Fernandes. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Pitso Mosimane’s real fight is with his winning self


“Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane conjures up the image of an enraged bull when he is on the warpath. His deadly stare, menacing temper and sharp tongue pierce his detractors when he is cornered. But if you listen to him closely, and look at the bigger battle he is waging, an angry Mosimane is more like a matador. The anger that he flashes like a giant red cape for all to see conceals a deadlier weapon that you never see coming if you don’t watch closely. That weapon helps Mosimane control the narrative while many focus on the anger. …”
New Frame
W – Pitso Mosimane
W – Al Ahly SC

It’s the Bandinis 2022! The complete review of Serie A’s 2021-22 season


Serie A lost some stars, but the football on the pitch still sparkled. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma or Antonio Conte the league simply had to make do with one of its most compelling title races for decades. It ended as a duel between Milan and Inter, two halves of the same city, clubs who share a stadium and the black stripes on their shirt but are divided by the red and the blue. Rivals who have emerged together from a decade in the wilderness, reminding themselves and each other that this league did not always belong to that lot down the road in Turin. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – 2021–22 Serie A

Malo Gusto: Lyon’s new right-back is already a star and is being chased by clubs around Europe


“It has been a season of disaster for Olympique Lyonnais. The French side finished eighth in the league, accumulating just 61 points , the worst points haul since the 2013-14 season (except the 2019-20 season curtailed by Covid-19). Even though PSG restored their supremacy at the top, the fact that Lyon were eighth indicated their poor season especially after finishing fourth, the prevous year. However, they fared a little better in the Europa League, topping their group before being eliminated by West Ham United in the quarter-finals. …”
Foot the Ball
W – Malo Gusto

UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 2


Raheem Sterling, England
“The third edition of the UEFA Nations League has kicked off. The first matchday is done, with five more to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures from the Matchday 2 encounters. …”
UEFA Nations League (Video)

Cruel Twist Puts Wales in World Cup and Keeps Ukraine Out


“CARDIFF, Wales — When it was over, when the referee blew his whistle and the crowd roared and Ukraine’s dream of earning a place in this year’s World Cup was gone, most of its national soccer team dropped straight to the grass. A few players held their heads in their hands. The rest simply stared off into space. The scoreboard confirmed what, in that moment, even the Ukrainians themselves could scarcely believe: Wales 1, Ukraine 0. A World Cup qualifying journey laced with symbolism and spirit and national pride, an opportunity delayed three months by war with Russia and reaching its denouement on a day that had begun with explosions in Kyiv, the first direct airstrikes on the capital in a month, had ended not in triumph but in the cruelest of twists: defeat to Wales on an own goal scored by a Ukraine forward, Andriy Yarmolenko. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Kyiv locals put Ukraine’s defeat into context after World Cup near miss

‘They build an image of the enemy’ – France’s struggles to police football fans


“It might be of little consolation to the Liverpool fans, young and old, who were aggressively kettled, callously tear-gassed, arbitrarily struck with batons, cruelly denied entry to the stadium or viciously mugged on the day of the Champions League final, but there has been almost as much outrage in France over what happened at the Stade de France last weekend as there has been in the UK. Within hours of the game, and with the dust having barely begun to settle on Real Madrid’s 1-0 win, journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum were deploring the stark organisational failures that had led to the dangerous bottlenecks that were allowed to build up before the game and angrily denouncing the French government’s attempts to blame the travelling Liverpool supporters. …”
The Athletic

A Very Specific Risk


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times

How Wydad Casablanca became the kings of Africa


30 May 2022: Wydad fans during the CAF Champions League final.
“As Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly emerged from the subterraneous player tunnels at Stade Mohammed V, it was immediately clear that the visitors from Egypt stood virtually no chance in the CAF Champions League final in Morocco. That insight was not based on footballing analysis such as playing tactics, quality of personnel or coaching acumen. It was merely unimaginable that any group of players would be able to climb into that lion’s den and play through the palpable pressure emanating from the stands. …”
New Frame

Pulisic’s Quality Worthy of Applause as USMNT Accelerates Its World Cup Prep


“For the layman, it was extraordinary. For Christian Pulisic, it was expected. And once again, the margin of victory for the U.S. men’s national team could be measured, in part, by the distance between Pulisic’s ability and that of the average—or even exceptional—player. Amid the heat and humidity of FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, and forced to work hard early by a Moroccan side as pressed for World Cup preparation time as the hosts, the U.S. men’s national team took a lead it never relinquished on another gorgeous, game-breaking play by Pulisic. …”
SI

A Premier League model beckons for Brazilian football


“For all the talk of samba football and Copacabana beach dudes juggling balls on the sand, Brazilian football is still largely anonymous to the rest of the world. Every four years, the media focuses on the Brazilian national team and expectation invariably exceeds reality – it is now 20 years since they won the World Cup, eight since they were humbled on their own turf by a rampant Germany. That’s international football, but what about Brazil’s domestic game, which despite exporting hundreds of players, is still something of a mystery? …”
Game of People
The Athletic: ‘Brazilian football has been in chains’ – Is this its Premier League moment?

Tallying the Costs, Shirts and All, of Missing the World Cup


.
“In those initial moments of agony in March after Nigeria was eliminated from qualification for this year’s World Cup, the most immediate thoughts of Amaju Pinnick, the president of Nigeria’s soccer federation, were of the disappointment being felt by his 200 million countrymen in Africa’s most populous nation. He needed only to look down on the scenes unfolding inside Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to see what it meant. Thousands of angry supporters had poured onto the field after the final whistle to vent their anger, knocking over the advertising boards, chasing the players from the field and clashing with security officers. …”
NY Times

Silvio Berlusconi-backed Monza will play in Serie A for the first time in their history


“Silvio Berlusconi slouched down in his seat and appeared to take a nap. It had been a long day and, at 85, he is getting on a bit now. Rather than dozing off at his Arcore estate, though, Berlusconi was in the stands at the Arena Garibaldi, where the noise was enough to wake the dead and the tremors may have caused the nearby Leaning Tower to lean a little bit further. A pitch invasion was going on down below and the home side, Pisa, suddenly believed in promotion again. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is a long shot for Italian president — but a likely kingmaker (Audio)

For Ukraine the World Cup looked unthinkable. Now they’re 1 game away after spirited win over Scotland


“GLASGOW, Scotland — Ukraine are 90 minutes away from the World Cup. For a country that is fighting for its very existence following Russia’s invasion in February, to even think about the insignificance of qualifying for a football tournament is difficult to comprehend, but Ukraine’s 3-1 win against Scotland in their World Cup play-off semifinal on Wednesday sent a message to the world that theirs is a country of incredible spirit and resolve. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Ukraine players offer their suffering nation a moment of joy and clarity
Guardian: Ukraine deny Scotland on emotional night to set up playoff final with Wales