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Indian Football – Where do we go now?

Posted in Football, India, Indian Football, soccer, sports by clash on November 22, 2010

Suddenly, it looks like everyone is throwing their toys out of the pram. The media, supporters and former footballers alike are having a go at the Indian football team now. Our English coach, Bob Houghton found this coming and has tried to side step by making his plans obvious – quit after the Asian Cup.

AIFF in fact did literally set up circus tent, when they planned to pull out 30 established players to prepare for the upcoming Asian cup in Qatar. Little did they know their one and half year dedicated program is  not going to earn results. Now, it should be quite clear to them after the thorough drubbing from some premier Asian teams.

Before jumping on to the criticizers’ band wagon, there are some facts that need to pondered upon. First of all, the plan of leasing out established players from clubs to prepare for Asian Cup was not essentially a wonderful idea. There are nations that have implemented such programs, but that involves thorough planning and dedication. As things go, we know how our football federation works.

Selecting 30 players have literally shut out options for other upcoming and better performing players being selected in to this esteemed coterie. This means, some old, experienced and injured players went for conditioning camp in Portugal, and now they are back playing some international friendlies, needless to say losing some of the matches in huge margins.

Talking about friendlies, how many of them have we played now? From the month of October onwards we have played nations like Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Yemen and recently Iraq, UAE and Kuwait. There should not be much of surprise that the team is loosing on bigger margins now. They are definitely tired and that is no surprise with a not so fit a team and some aging legs in the group.

While the idea to group 30 odd players for Asia Cup would have been Houghton’s brain child but the execution part of it has been totally screwed up the federation. Otherwise they would not have arranged so many friendlies, especially with premier teams within such a time frame. It also points out that one and a half year is hardly enough to prepare for a competition of this sort.

So where do we go now? Actually, these results don’t come as a surprise. Other than the odd Nehru Cup win and the AFC challenge Cup, this team hardly has any international experience. All of a sudden they are thrust in to a tizzy world of friendlies and the team is definitely finding it difficult to live up to these situations.

What they now need is a breather. They have to pick themselves up from the drubbings they got from the teams like Kuwait and UAE. The AIFF on the other hand is expecting better performances from the team in the Asian Cup. An official said that the team is going to learn from these defeats and as a part of the continuous improvement they are expecting better results. Mind you, we are grouped with the likes of Bahrain and Australia. Expecting anything better might put day dreaming to shame. So let us not.

If there is something that we can learn from this, it is that one and half year is not enough to build a winning football team. It involves dedication and thorough grooming over a larger period of time.

Criticizing the manager and players, I feel is not the right way to go. You could have differences with Bob and his style. Personally, I am not a big fan of the style of play he espouses. I thoroughly feel disinterested when I see our players pining long balls in to opposition half, where we hardly win a header or win possession.

I also don’t buy in to coaches like Nayeemuddin and his bleating about how a foreign coach gets all that he wants in terms of foreign tours, friendlies and sorts. Bob simply has the authority or knack to work his way through a not so friendly federation who are strapped for cash. If  Nayeem could not earn all the facilities and tours he wanted, it was simply because he could not convince them or could not make his way forward with the Association. There is no point in bleating away now.

We should not be expecting miracles in the upcoming Asian Cup, instead if we can focus on the further growth even after the tournament by adding some fresh players to the select 30 and continue, we might earn results in the coming years. We should not be expecting that to happen, after all this was project Asia Cup. In our parlance, that strictly will only be for Asia Cup and nothing more than that. Wait and watch for how many more years will we have to wait for another friendly after our Asia Cup appearance.

India 0-2 Iraq

Posted in Football, India, Indian Football, Iraq, soccer, sports by clash on November 12, 2010

Indian team is in Dubai preparing for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011. There recent loss against Iraq in a friendly is a welcome change than it being another sad note in our football. Iraq, after all is the reigning Asian Champions. Losing 2-0 to Iraq is no way bad.

Gone are the days or folklore performances of drubbing other Asian nations. Today we simply fail to match to any kind of  teams in Asia. There are some good analysis and afterthoughts appearing on the internet. I really liked this one here. The player analysis over there is quite interesting as it toes along my disjointed perspective about Indian football players. I dont get to watch as much of Indian football, so my opinions could be half baked but now that doesnt seem to be so.

Bob Houghton has implied that he might leave after the Asian Cup. I feel it is quite unnecessary of him to pop up now and talk about his departure plans as we ought to completely concentrate on the preparations even though it might not earn the desired results as we are in a tough qualifying group. Even then the departure talk can take a back seat, he might simply be steering across to put some pressure on the football governing body. With the looks of it, that is the only way to counter such an organization, so it is not very fair to be overtly critical of Bob at this moment.

Lets hope Bob and the team take the positives from the Iraq match and move on. Thinking of underdogs in football, Otto Rehhagel’s Greece in Euro ’04 always comes to mind. It is certainly fanciful of me to expect something of that sort by in India in the Asian Cup but you dont have to pay a penalty for dreaming, so let me!

On another note, the under-23 or the India B team has progressed to the last 16 in the Asian Games. They thrashed Singapore 4-1 enroute to the last 16. Let us wait and watch, what this team can do.

The best part about Asian games and the recently friendlies are there are live streams appearing over the internet. While it was almost impossible to find live streams of Indian football earlier,with this new trend let us hope footy lovers can enjoy their share of Indian football over the internet.

Where are the playgrounds?

Posted in Football, India, Indian Football, Kerala, soccer, sports by clash on August 11, 2010

Asks the Kerala football team coach – M.M Jacob, who was in helm for the recently concluded Santosh Trophy.

Sorry, if you mistake this as a ritual, I kindly request you not to consider this as one. Even though most of my posts have that quintessential cynical streak in them, I need to make it clear that I don’t really intend to constantly churn out pessimistic articles about Kerala football. The problem is that it keeps coming most often than expected because, that is the state of kerala football right  now.

The irony of  our football is well explained at this moment. We have a Kerala footballer in Denson Devdas, who scored a brace to take West Bengal to Santosh Trophy title after a long wait for 11 years. On the contrary we have the  Kerala team which crashed out in a quarterfinal match against Mizoram. While the state still produces players like Denson, there is something seriously lacking in our football as M.M. Jacob explains in this interview report to Stan Rayan of The Hindu.

The interview needs no in-depth analysis  as Jacob is quite candid about our footballing situation, but he points out a very important factor that is contributing to the decline of  Kerala football. The availability of play grounds , an issue which has skipped the attention of many in Kerala. He says : “Children these days don’t have a ground where they can run and play freely. There is so much restriction everywhere. I think, if we get the Ambedkar Stadium (in Kochi), develop it nicely, it will help football in a big way,” And it can’t get anymore clearer. There is a massive shortage of open spaces, leave alone play grounds in Kerala. The chaotic urban and rural planning hardly leaves any space for public utilities like a park or a play ground, what so ever happened to the current government’s policy of identifying 10,000 play grounds.

Kerala has not won the inter-state tourney after 2002 and has been crashing out of the tournament in the earlier stages of the competition, thanks to humiliating defeats at the hands of other states. The situation is quite bleak with the once super star I.M. Vijayan admitting that the talent coming forth is substandard. Academies and nurturing talent right from young age is the way forward, but all those will only come in to place unless we realize the importance of play grounds and start planning towards creating more space for children to play.

Talking about playgrounds and stadiums, the latest news is that Viva Kerala, the team representing Kerala in i-league is on the run to find a ground where they can play their home matches. If Viva has to hunt a ground, imagine the plight of a  kid wanting to play some football.

The most cynical preamble for WC 2010

Media, English and the vernacular is awash with news about football fever in kerala.  Extensive and in-depth coverage of the football fever in fact.

While the World Cup build up is happening, Kerala is currently participating in the Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy – Junior NFC.  The results are a contrast to the euphoria that media is trying to push down our throats. In this junior national tournament, Kerala is in a tough cluster but that is no excuse for the failure.

Here is what we have managed so far.

score card courtesy :

score card courtesy :

Thorough thumping in both the matches played. The score line is indeed a matter of worry. It shows that we were not even a match against both these teams.

Chandigarh is home to a very decent football academy and its a government run one.  North eastern states are innately very good at football and some of them are the beneficiaries of effectively implemented Vision India programme, a junior footballing programme conducted with the help of AFC. I am not sure if  Mizoram is part of this programme yet.

Kerala, for being a football loving state, does not have a single government run football academy. A lot private short term football coaching camps happen and there are considerably successful ventures like SEPT ,but these are not helping our football in a desired manner.   I also tried tracking the Vision India programme that was implemented in Kerala, but hardly any news came up of it.

This is not new, last time around we crashed out of this age group tournament in good fashion.  I carried out my usual cynical work here.

When everyone is eagerly awaiting the world cup football, it is probably not a right moment to contemplate about Kerala football . It would be nice if  the Malayalam journos who are waxing lyrical about the world cup fever stand up and take notice of  our football’s decline.

Thejas online has two different stories about the World Cup football fever, here and here.

Before blasting them for not having enough attention to our own backyard, i have to say that Thejas carries the best football news in Malayalam on any day.

For a week or more, i have been trying to jot down something about my world cup memories but that never happened. The draft happened, shelved, dusted again and then again shelved.

Memories would remain memories, it looks like.

All these while i was getting treated to variety of news articles from various sources over the internet about the football madness that is slowly creeping in Malabar. A coincidence that the  Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy – Junior NFC is also currently underway.  I couldn’t stop myself, here i am with a post that could the most cynical preamble written  for this world cup.

I have a contender here : Who’s losing at the World Cup?

I am happy that i managed to conjure something up about football before the world cup started.

My bets for this world cup  :

1. Argentina (Eternal favorites!)

2.Netherlands (Van Persie, Top Scorer)

3.Spain (Fabregas, have a good tournament and stay with us for another year or so.)

4.Cameroon (African teams are supposed to do good in this cup and my pick is Cameroon. They have an imbalanced team not anywhere close to Milla and co, still i would vouch for them)

And that is it. Enjoy the footballing month ahead.

After the Villa match and before the Portsmouth one.

Posted in Arsenal, soccer by clash on December 29, 2009

A few points that i am concerned with the whole media ga-ga about the Villa match.

While i completely agree that cesc was fabstatic during the cameo appearance of 28 mins, it is important to note that the team as a whole did put up a spirited display that evening.

It is completely tosh, if anyone is trying to tell me that Villa contained us in the first half. From what i saw, they did not contain us, but had difficulties in controlling us.

We played to our strengths, our midfield devoid of Cesc put up a decent show. Villas midfield was surely undone by our quality.

While i felt, we did not create enough chances in the first half because of Denilson’s more defensive minded play. It really restricted us from having a few more chances in the game.

Even then, in the first half we created the opportunities while our keeper Almunia was hardly tested in the first half.

ESPN pundit, Maasssa blathered that we were trying to play in to Villa’s tactics in the half time analysis. Probably he needed to take a look at our bench before he made that statement.

Cesc was introduced, and from then on i dont remember a single ball being played in to our half. We were just mounting pressure on them. It was quite crazy.

If someone is doing a case study about quality, you can really cite Fabregas’s cameo as an example. Such was the difference he made to a team, which was effective but failed to create enough chances till his introduction.

Villa simply doesn’t have the class or quality to match up with Arsenal. I did not see anything spectacular about the Villa team, who were receiving plaudits from all and sundry before th Emirates duel. They did have a good run, but yet again it was confirmed, in this edition of league, anyone can be exposed of  their frailties any where.

With chelsea dropping points, we really had to win this match and so did we. The important part will be continuing this run. The coming matches have to be approached with utmost sincerity and importance. Hope, the team would stand up to this moment.

All together it looks like a wonderful ending to 2009 footballistically.

Apart from Arsenal, the Indian press have gone ga ga about the year 2009 for Indian Football. While there has been some heart warming achievements in 2009, i am not getting carried away. There is quite a long way to go.

I have to say, there is a sense of optimism among the Indianfootball fans. The two full decades i have lived, i did not have such a feeling about Indianfootball, apart from what i am experiencing right now. Nice, aint it?

This looks to be the last blog post in 2009.

Welcoming 2010, by wishing one and everyone a “HAPPY NEW YEAR”

The absence of Abou Diaby….

Posted in Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, soccer by clash on November 24, 2009

Tim Collings, of UK has written an article about Carlos Vela, about whether he will be able to live up to the expectations of Arsene, that he is of Robbie Fowler mode.

Subsequently he talks about the jittery Sunderland match, the team had and elicit some of the issues that is niggling arsenal’ form now. I am not even sure, you could term the sunderland bungle a serious dent in form, as it was a defeat that came after a long streak of 14 games unbeaten.

One of the reasons that he mentions is the absence of Abou Diaby in the team. Diaby had a long run in the team this season and occasionally most Arsenal supporters have questioned his uselessness in the middle of the pitch. When we missed him for the last match, it was quite evident what was lacking in the middle of the pitch. For me, it was obvious – Abou Diaby. I am happy that, at least his absence made me realize, what contribution he makes to arsenal’s solidity while playing a 4-3-3.

And here, Tim Collings puts it in the right words…..

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And, dare it be said, it is the continued absence of Abou Diaby, through injury, that has coincided with this slip in form. He may not be the eye-catching, perfectionist in a team of ball-jugglers, but his rangy style, long-legged tackling and covering and awkwardness in possession gives Arsenal a physical presence in midfield that was missed sorely last weekend. Like Alex Song, he does a lot of the team’s dirty work.
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After the Sunderland Defeat….

Posted in Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, soccer by clash on November 23, 2009

After the Sunderland Defeat…. this is what i feel, i am in for a long haul.

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What a sad showing from some of our ’supporters’ after the first defeat in, oh, so long.

What a pathetic life they must lead. Just imagine, losing a football match! Supporting a team like Arsenal, with it’s history and a Roll of Honour, the equal of any and superior to all but a very few, requires a bit of humility and intelligence.

It is a privilege available only to a minority, Most fans must spend their lives dedicated to the Watfords and Exeters of this world with only the odd cup run or promotion campaign to relieve the humdrum dedication of their support. They shame you.

No team wins every match. For that we should all be thankful. How boring the striving for success would otherwise be.

Thick and thin, people, thick and thin. Compared to the vast majority we have had a lot more of the former than the latter. Those who do not appreciate that, and the team that we have, are just thick.

We are The Arsenal.

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Stupid hacks and India’s bid for 2016 Olympics

Posted in China, CNN-IBN, Delhi, dream, Football, India, Indian Football, Kerala, Kozhikkode, Newspaper, politics, soccer, sports by clash on October 4, 2009

I seriously cant weigh up my sense of frustration every other time i watch Sekhar Gupta, Swapandas Gupta, Chandan Mitra and of course maudlin Barkha Dutt and their counterparts appear on screen, giving their opinions on various issues. Off-late, i have felt that these hacks and their visual media counter parts hijack any issue of national interest in their favor and of course a lot people who watch these shows, take them and their opinions for granted.

Mind you, all these buggers have an agenda and they are very committed to their cause.  When i saw Abhinav Bindra, the sole gold medal winner for our country in Olympics and Sekhar Gupta, Chandan Mitra and Abhishek  Singhvi sitting together and debating in NDTV about our supposed Olympics bid for 2016, i was quite interested to see, what these hacks were blathering.  And in no sense they failed to arrest the ever increasing disgust in me towards them. The so called audience for the debate was also pathetic, mostly for all the debates, that is the case of  “audience”.

While Abhinav Bindra , as any other sensible sports person in India made very good sense when he argued that we need to invest those millions which would go in to the construction of  world class stadiums, arenas, fly-overs and airports in to our sports system to better it and create a system which is well-working and raise the standard for our sports from grassroots level.

The sole politician who appeared on the show, went up in arms against him saying that bidding for Olympics and creating a good atmosphere for the promotion of sports is not mutually exclusive.  Yeah, not mutually exclusive! But for the past 60 years or so, the sports policy in the nation has not been inclusive at all. Everyone knows that  and how badly we had to play up our sole gold medal winning performance in Olympics to cater to our inflated egos.

The hacks went a bit further in their arguments, they said we should bid for Olympics, you know why?  Yeah, we will have good roads, fly-overs, airports and stadiums that will come up.  I wonder if Olympics is all about sports or about wonderful stadiums, arenas, over head metro railway lines or an airport.

Sekhar Gupta and Chandan Mitra were very lucid about their opinions. It doesn’t matter, if we will be able to get more than a gold medal or not, but the bid should go ahead because it will make way for good “infrastructure”. Yeah, these hacks will be vying couple of adverts from these construction magnets .

Isn’t “infrastructure” a very fond of word for these kinds who appear on TV? Yes, it is important, but are we looking at making over-head railway lines that are made on war-footing negligence that buckle and kill several or are we looking at infrastructure that is part of some sensible development pattern?

It is very clear these hacks and their hidden agendas prefer the former way.   They prefer it because, contracts are made with their buddies in the industry who will provide these hacks with adverts which will pump up their profits and of course death due to the negligence/corruption is another opportunity to increase their media share, isn’t it?  To an extent these days,  some of these hacks are terribly subservient to contractors and the filthy rich who after all help their survival.

Anyway, it was very interesting and eye opening to see Sekhar Gupta and Chandan Mitra making their priorities very clear by vying for the contractors. They hardly seem to be bothered about the condition of sports in India. They attributed its pathetic state to the inefficient sporting bodies. Yeah, very easy. It is an easy excuse they make in our country and with that argument they can completely forget about sports and  channel their  interest towards bids for Olympics  and sorts, because they know, if at all Olympics come to India, they can make a meal out of it, even if we win medals or not.

Abhinav Bindra is not a very assertive person, he along with another journalist made their point, that we need to pep up our system so that we can have a decent show if at all we are to hold such an event.  ( Or he couldn’t be assertive with the likes of  Sekhar Gupta and Chandan Mitra, who are conditioned “debate masters” around) He looked like, he wanted to scoot from there as soon as possible.

These hacks who continually appear on our prime time television is the biggest hazard to our integrity and sane opinions that we carry around . They are able to form opinions that is being rallied around by idiotic masses who follow them. They are able to neatly spin our sensibilities so that it conform their hidden agenda, as in this case, Sekhar Gupta and Chandan Mitra tried to bat for the contractors and infrastructure industry.

The audience seemed to have completely immersed in the idea of Olympics happening in their city, their dreams of 8-lane roads in which their cars might zoom without incurring dents and scratches, snazzy airports and some even went up to the extent of asking, if we will be making a lion’s den as China made bird’s nest. Ha, i don’t think i need to say anything more.

We sadly forget the plight of innumerable youngsters who take to sports out of their willingness and some out of necessity (It can earn them a govt job!) We as a nation needs more respect towards these youngsters who are trying to cut a career in streams that are not at all lucrative in our nation. If we have that respect, what we should do is to cater to their interest, help them to achieve more, an Olympic bid is not the right way.

If Fabianski is world-class….

If Fabianski is world class, i would love to add K.T. Chacko also to that list.

For people who dont know K.T.Chacko, he was a former Indian international from kerala. He guarded the goal for Kerala in Santosh Trophy.

Living a reasonable way – The Arsenal way

Posted in Arsenal, English Premier League, Europe, Fidel Castro, Football, soccer, sports by clash on April 18, 2009
It is quite evident these days that the days of living reasonably are over. Moment is that of opulence, extravagance and what not. It is not a phenomenon simply associated with club football alone.I remember reading an article about the drastic change in the mentality of the new generation from those who experienced the world wars and great depression. The article argues that this change  is best explained  on the  dinner table  these days . It says in  those days people never preferred to take another food serving while their plates still had food in it and goes on extrapolating this  mass behavioral change in to all aspects of life.

So it is natural that there are cries all around Arsene Wenger, to splurge, to predate super stars and strengthen the team. The French man has been a different character among those who have been suffering from the above mentioned behavioral change. It is like a silent revolution against the order and it has been an extremely painful one at times.

World over, young and old (my father!) support this sorcerer of football. Immensely impressed by his work with his  youngsters, my father a Marxist – “who always envisages the toughest thing to bear fruit” once quipped – “history will absolve him”. It was not a mere coincidence that these words were that of another Marxist who is still running a creaky, rumbling revolution – Fidel Castro.

Arsene’s ways of working has been tremendously painful for him and us. At times in the course of this journey, we have been cynically apprehensive about his project but he has fought on, imparting oodles of confidence for his young team, trusting them to the hilt.  A win at Wembley will be very nice as it offers some positive hope for those who tend to think different.

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“One of the biggest reproaches I got was: ‘Why do you not spent £30
million, £40 million, £50 million?’ That’s unbelievable. They basically
reproach me for not bankrupting the club. So instead of getting credit
because I try to live in a reasonable way I get accused of not making the
whole thing explode.”
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