Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
03 July 2014

How World Cup Goalies Prepare for and Handle Penalty Shoot-Outs

By David Gendelman


Brazil's Júlio César, who performed well in a penalty shoot-out against Chile.

The World Cup’s knockout stage began this weekend. From here on out, each match must have a winner and a loser, and if the game is tied after 120 minutes of open-field play, it gets decided by penalty kicks. On Saturday, Brazil played Chile in the very first of these matches, in the tournament’s Round of 16, and it ended with the most dramatic penalty shoot-out since Italy beat France in the 2006 World Cup final. You got the sense that everything Brazil had put into hosting this year’s event was at stake—not just the money or the national pride Brazilians take in their own soccer superiority, but also the public’s tolerance for the outright absurdity and lack of humanity of the government’s investment in the tournament. The Brazilian team doesn’t have to win the World Cup to keep its people’s political dissatisfaction at bay, but it has to get pretty close. The Round of 16 is not close.

The immensity of the moment became very clear after Brazil won the shoot-out, and half of its team collapsed on the field in uncontrollable, hysterical tears. But it had also become clear a few minutes earlier, when its goalkeeper Júlio César started crying before the penalty kicks even began. Brazil has never been known for its goalies, and César is no exception—he plays in the M.L.S., after all, having signed with Toronto F.C. earlier this year after losing his starting job at Queens Park Rangers, a team that spent last season in England’s second division. But after leading Brazil to its shoot-out victory over Chile on Saturday, César is an afterthought no more.

“Penalties are almost the only time when the goalkeeper becomes a real hero,” said Bodo Illgner, a former goalkeeper and an analyst at beIN Sports. “With all his good performances throughout the match, he still needs a striker to score the goal, and then the striker gets all the spotlight. But a goalkeeper is able to get all the spotlight when he saves it in a penalty shoot-out.”

Illgner would know. As the goalkeeper for the 1990 World Cup–winning West Germany team (which featured a striker by the name of Jurgen Klinsmann, the current coach of the U.S. national team), Illgner led Germany over England in a semifinal win in penalties.

“We’re at such a disadvantage when it comes to penalty kicks that we’re not expected to save it,” said Brad Friedel, a goalkeeper at Tottenham in England’s Premier League who, remarkably, despite this disadvantage, saved the only two penalty kicks he faced for the United States at the 2002 World Cup (in matches against South Korea and Poland), when the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals. Statistics back Friedel up. In open-field play in the World Cup, strikers score on 80 percent of penalties. “All the pressure is on the striker,” he said.

When the moment arrives for an end-of-the-match shoot-out, “you try to transmit all this pressure on him even more,” Illgner said. “You try to demonstrate strength with your body language, maybe you try to talk to him a little bit, play the cool role, show that you are in charge, that you are not worried.” It might work too. As the strikers step up to take the kick, you can often see fear emblazoned upon their faces like an emotional tattoo. In World Cup penalty shoot-outs, strikers’ success rate drops to 70 percent.

Intimidation isn’t the only weapon a goalkeeper has at his disposal in penalty situations. Nowadays, he has seen and studied all of the opposing team’s penalty kickers. He goes into the moment knowing those players’ preferences and tendencies in nearly every circumstance.

But as you get further into the shoot-out, players who have never before taken a penalty step up to the spot 12 yards from the goal. In these cases, a goalkeeper is “going to have to try to detect all that you can,” Friedel said. “I want to see what the planting foot is doing. I want to see where his body weight and shape is. Most of the times, the ball goes where the planting foot is placed, in the direction the toe is pointed. Not every time, but if you’re working on a percentage basis that’s what I try to do.”

In many instances, the new strikers are defenders. “The defensive player tends to make the secure shot,” Illgner said. “The secure shot, from my perspective, was always the diagonal shot. So the right footer would go for the left corner. But then you take this observation into consideration and you see how does this player cross the ball, how does he run with it, how does he play the foot finally. After all these things, then you make the final decision.”

You’ll also see goalkeepers jumping up and down before a penalty kick, waving their hands in the air, and faking a move to one side or the other. “I just try to get in the other player’s head as much as I can before the penalty is taken,” said Raul Fernandez, the goalie for the Peru national team and the M.L.S. team F.C. Dallas. “The movement is a big part of the goalkeeper’s defense.”

“It’s always a game of he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think, and it goes on and on and on,” Illgner said. “As a goalkeeper, once you get into the player’s mind, it’s 1-0 for you already. Because his only concern should be to see the ball, to know where he wants to go, and to hit the ball as good as he can.”

Sunday’s match between Costa Rica and Greece also went to penalties, which Costa Rica won. Its goalkeeper Keylor Navas made only one save of the four taken by Greece, a brilliant diving one on a shot by Theofanis Gekas. It turned out to be the only one necessary. Afterward, Navas was mobbed by his teammates and named Man of the Match, while the Greek players fell to the ground in despair.
Not all penalty shoot-outs have as much riding on them as the Brazil-Chile one seemed to. But maybe what sells penalty kicks as the final decider of a tied match—when nobody really wants the game to end with one—is that they all feel like they do. The World Cup comes only once every four years and a penalty-shoot-out loss in any knockout-stage match breaks the heart of the players, the fans, and often an entire nation. That’s drama enough.

David Gendelman is research editor at Vanity Fair. Follow him on Twitter at @gendelmand.
26 June 2014

The Shot That May Have Broken A Nigerian Player's Arm

Michel Babatunde Injury: Updates on Nigeria Midfielder's Arm and Return

In their quest to reach the knockout phase of the 2014 World Cup, Nigeria had quite a scary moment, as Michel Babatunde had to leave the match against Argentina with what appeared to be a broken arm.
25 June 2014

Uruguay's Luis Suarez Appears to BITE Italy Defender

Uruguay beat Italy, 1-0, on Tuesday, advancing to the knockout stage.

But star striker Luis Suarez's World Cup could be over.

Suarez, maybe the best player in Europe last season, appeared to bite Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 80th minute -- one minute before Uruguay defender Diego Godin headed in the match-winner.
Here are a few looks.
(GIF via @FlyByKnite)

And there is a still photo of Giorgio Chiellini showing his shoulder to the officials (and everyone else) in attempt to convince of Suarez's bite.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first biting incident for Luis Suarez -- it's his third. He was suspended for seven matches in 2010 for biting PSV's Otman Bakkal on the shoulder, and was banned for 10 matches in 2013 for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Suarez was not disciplined during the match on Tuesday, but a suspension could still be coming.

23 June 2014

Assam Official Objects to ISL Team Being Named NE United FC

Guwahati, Jun 23 : A top official of Assam Football Association has objected to the naming of Indian Super League side to be based in Guwahati as North East United FC, saying that the team should have been named after the home city.

Guwahati franchise co-owner John Abraham had announced the name of the team as North East United FC on June 10.

"The Assam government has spent more than Rs 12 crore in refurbishment of the infrastructure in Guwahati so that the ISL team can be based in the city. So, Guwahati's name should have been reflected in the name of the club," Dutta said.

"I have no problems with John Abraham's idea of the team being projected to represent the entire North East region. But with Assam government spending tax-payers money for the benefit of the team, then I feel it is also necessary to reflect Guwahati in the name of the team," he added.

Dutta, who is also an Executive Committee member of All India Football Federation and vice-chairman of I-League Committee, said that he would write to the ISL organisers IMG-Reliance on this issue.

"The names of two teams of ISL have been announced. In both the teams, Kerala Blaster FC and Atletico de Kolkata the name of the home city or the state is being mentioned. Then why not in the case of Guwahati franchise," said Dutta.

"When tender for franchises was floated by IMG-Reliance, it said Guwahati franchise or Kolkata or Kochi franchise. Then, why was the name of Guwahati franchise made North East United FC?" Dutta asked.

"I am going to write to IMG-Reliance on this issue," he added.

I-League side Shillong Lajong FC owner Larsing Ming Sawyan is the other co-owner of the Guwahati-based ISL team.

The inaugural season of the ISL is scheduled to run from September to November this year.

When contacted, Shillong Lajong officials refused to comment on the issue.
12 June 2014

Ranking Brazil's World Cup Stadiums, From Bad To Worse

Wasteful, or criminally wasteful?

Constructing enormous new structures for a one-off sports event hardly ever works out in the host country's favor; the choice these days tends to be between minimizing cost (as London did with its easy-to-collapse 2012 Olympic Stadium) and impressing the world with giant wasteful beauties (like China and Russia did with their Olympic Games, to varying degrees of success). The world is littered with huge stadiums that will never be fully used again, and some of Brazil's 12 World Cup stadiums (some brand-new, some merely redone for the events) will surely face a similar fate. So let's rank them!

These rankings are based on a highly scientific* formula of how cool the design is; how wasteful the stadium is (i.e., how likely a stadium of that size in that place is to be used after the Cup); how remote it is (from Rio, thus contributing a whole lot of burned fossil fuel from players and fans), and how many people died while constructing it (This is a real statistic! In 2014!). Also, I've thrown in how difficult I think the name of the stadium is to pronounce. Your reactions are welcome in the comments section below. These are in order from least worst to worst.

12. Arena Fonte Nova
Nice. Nice. Located in Salvador, the largest city in the northeast coast of Brazil, Fonte Nova seems like it was actually designed to be functional by architects Marc Duwe and Claas Schulitz. It may look from above like a donut, but one section of the blue-green stadium has a big gap, almost like a vent, boosting air circulation in the hot city. Even better, it can be reused later as an amphitheater, with the gapped section looking out on a paved area for concertgoers.
11. Estadio Mineirao
This stadium was previously declared a national monument, so even though it's new, it has kind of a cool old styling thing going on. Vintage stadium! It sort of looks like, I don't know, like Wrigley Field. It'll also be used in the 2016 Olympics, unlike some of the more inconveniently located stadiums on this list.
10. Estadio Do Maracana
Estadio Do Maracana does not, as I had first thought, translate to the "Macarena Stadium." It loses points (there are no points) for that. Fortunately, it's not a one-event stadium; situated in Rio, it'll be used by four of the city's soccer teams as well as during the 2016 Olympics. It is boring and round but at least it will be forced to be functional.
9. Arena De Sao Paulo
The Arena De Sao Paulo, which is in Sao Paulo, as you might have guessed, looks very cool, with this curved windowed roof laid on top of two huge blocks. Why is it ranked so low? Well, um, three people have died building it. Come on, guys.
8. Estadio Castelao
I like Castelao because it was completed on time and within budget. Good work! Also I Googled Fortaleza, the stadium's home city, and the pictures make it look really nice. It is probably the most boring-looking of the stadiums, with a rounded soccer-field shape and a white awning.
7. Estadio Das Dunas
This stadium gets a bump because I can understand what its name means. Also it's shaped like an undulating dune, which is nice.
6. Estadio Beira-Rio
How chilly can a Brazilian soccer stadium get? That's the kind of fun question Estadio Beira-Rio will let us find the answer to, because, as the farthest south of the stadiums, it's also the coldest (averaging around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer). Estadio Beira-Rio will get some use after the Cup, as it'll be host to the team Internacional. I don't love the plain donut-looking circular stadiums, of which this is one, but the texture on the outside looks like folded paper which is kind of cool.
5. Arena Pernambuco
Located on the Atlantic coast more than 1,400 miles from Rio, it rains on average 224 days per year. The BBC says it's built in an economically deprived area "and will eventually form part of a leisure complex and residential development which it is hoped will act as a catalyst for local regeneration." I'll believe that when I see a disused World Cup or Olympic stadium act as a catalyst for anything besides echoes. It has gently sloping sides so that it looks like something Tony Hawk would do a sweet kickflip off of if he were a few hundred feet tall. He's not, though.
4. Estadio Da Baixada
Over 500 miles from Rio, this stadium is situated in an area with nice comfortable weather. That's about its only upside; even though it was renovated years ago, the stadium just barely made it past FIFA's gauntlet to be used this year. It looks like it's made out of Lego.
3. Estadio Nacional
The stadium located in Brazil's capital city, Brasilia, cost three times its estimate, making it the most expensive construction project of this World Cup. Also no major teams play in Brasilia, so who knows what it'll be used for after the Cup? One worker died during construction. The stadium is perfectly circular with a round hole in the middle, which makes it look to me like a butthole.
2. Estadio Pantanal
Located near the Bolivian border, Pantanal's stadium ranks high on the uselessness-after-the-games scale. The only teams that'll use it afterwards are way down in the minor leagues of Brazilian soccer, and yes, I know they're not called the minor leagues. Temperatures there can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Last October, the stadium caught fire, and in May, a worker was electrocuted. Also it looks like a cardboard box with the top folded out.
1. Estadio Amazonia
Are you kidding me with this? Estadio Amazonia is 2,659 miles by road from Rio. That's farther away from Rio than Los Angeles is from New York City. If Estadio Amazonia were as far west from New York as it is from Rio, it'd be 200 miles into the Pacific Ocean. All the players would drown. It would be the worst catastrophe in World Cup history. Also, as its name suggests, it's in the Amazon rainforest--like, on the Amazon River--which means there's a 40% chance of rain at all times and temperatures in the high 80s. Oh, and four workers have died constructing this stadium. Design-wise, the stadium looks pretty cool, the product of German firm gmp Architekten; it's designed to look like an indigenous woven basket, except made out of steel girders. Still, though. Last place.
*That's a lie

Which Teams Will Be Having Sex At The World Cup?

By Barry Petchesky
Which Teams Will Be Having Sex At The World Cup?
It's a long-held myth that athletes should refrain from sex before a competition, for fear of exhaustion or a lack of testosterone. Nearly all scientific studies agree that there's no danger, but the belief persists. To that end, managers for a number of countries have banned their players from having relations with loved ones (or otherwise) at the World Cup.
Citing public statements, we've broken up the World Cup field into those nations that will be celibate and those that will be boning like bunnies. It'll be fun to come back and look at this list once the tournament's over.

Limited or No Sex

"Forty days of sexual abstinence is not going to hurt anyone," said manager Miguel Herrera. To be fair, El Tri are just three years removed from crashing out of the Copa America after kicking eight players off the team following a hotel party with a group of prostitutes.
The Mexicans may not be too bummed when they crash out of the World Cup; Herrera has also banned players from consuming red meat or alcohol while in Brazil.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli, taking a page from his predecessor, has banned his players from sex at this World Cup. And to avoid temptation, wives and girlfriends aren't even allowed in the team hotel.
La Roja have long banned sex before matches, with significant others allowed to visit only on off-days.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
"There will be no sex in Brazil," warned manager Safet Susic. But he's not unreasonable: "They can find another solution, they can even masturbate if they want."
The German national team reportedly has "a strict ban on sex before matches," though wives and girlfriends are staying at a separate hotel. The same hotel as the Swiss team, as it turns out. On learning the news, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka "grinned wolfishly and promised to take good care of them."
Wives and girlfriends will not be headed to Brazil, reportedly against the recommendation of the team psychologist.
South Korea
A team official says it's taken for granted that players will "live an ascetic life."

(Mostly) Unlimited Sex

Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will not ban players from sexing, but asks that they keep it "normal"—and promises to keep tabs on them.
"The players can have normal sex during the World Cup," he said. "Usually normal sex is done in a balanced way but some like to perform acrobatics. We will put limits and survey the players."
Sex for the Socceroos! "With everything we need to do in camp," said coach Ange Postecoglou, "I don't think those things are of primary importance."
The team has no official rules on sex, but players are allowed to spend free time with their families. However, an assistant coach says there won't be much free time.
Roy Hodgson has yet to hand down official rules regarding relations, but he rescinded invitations to wives and girlfriends for the team's World Cup tour. They can still travel independently, but will be barred from spending time with players except on specific days. There is hope, though; coaching Switzerland in 1994, Hodgson initially banned sex altogether before changing his mind just before the tournament.
For the first time, wives and girlfriends have been invited to stay at Italy's training camp.
This marks a radical change from the past, when sex bans were the rule, even if they weren't enforced. In 2002, manager Giovanni Trapattoni caught the wife of one player inside the team hotel. She had snuck in by wearing a media credential. "If you're here as a reporter, get out now." Trapattoni supposedly told her. "If you're here as Vincenzo's wife, here's his room number."
Yes—with a "but."
"It all depends on when, how and how much," said French manager Didier Deschamps. "I don't want them to be cut off from the outside world."
Sex on, you sex-having Americans. Jürgen Klinsmann will not set social rules for his players, declaring that "we are very casual in the way we approach things."

Unknown Amounts Of Sex

We don't know about the players, but 40 percent of Croatian men polled said they would rather give up sex for a month than not watch the World Cup.
The status of this year's side is unknown, but Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama is advocating free love.
"If we'd had sex during the World Cup, it would've been better," Valderrama said. "We would have relaxed after games - especially after defeats. It's total relaxation. "It's not an impediment. It should be quiet, cool, without inventing crazy poses."
Unknown. Manager Luis Fernando Suarez banned sex as the Ecuador coach in 2006, and announced the rules applied to everyone, including him. "That's good," one reporter said. Retorted Suarez: "No, it is not good…It is not good at all."
The 2010 squad was allowed to have sex, but not to stay out all night looking for it. "Players are not Martians," the team doctor said.
Unknown, but manager Fabio Capello handed down an absolute sex ban to his England side at the 2010 World Cup.
Côte d'Ivoire
Costa Rica
11 June 2014

How To Add All the World Cup Matches To Your Calendar in 15 Seconds

The World Cup is upon us. There are so many games during the group play portion of the global tournament that it’s hard to keep up with them all.

So, some good soccer samaritans on Reddit have created calendars that you can easily import into your own scheduling apparatus.

There are good options whether you use Google Calendar or something like Apple’s Calendar app:
  1. If you use Google, go to this site, then hit the little button in the lower right hand corner. It should show up on your calendar, but you can toggle it on and off in the left pane of Google Calendar.
  2. If you use the Calendar app, download this .ics file, then click on it. It’ll bring up a dialog box asking where you want to put all the events. You probably want to add the games to their own new calendar.
06 June 2014

Normal Sex, No Acrobatics: The Variety Of Sexual Restrictions Placed On World Cup Players

By Travis Waldron
Brazil's soccer stars, like Neymar, can have "normal sex" during the World Cup. Acrobatic sex, however, is banned.
Brazil’s soccer stars, like Neymar, can have “normal sex” during the World Cup. Acrobatic sex, however, is banned.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the manager of the United States national team that will head to Brazil facing a tough task in the 2014 World Cup, has attracted his fair share of criticism from American fans for a variety of decisions leading up to the tournament. But his players are probably pleased with at least one declaration Klinsmann made this week: he won’t ban them from having sex during the World Cup.

“We are very casual in the way we approach things. Their families can come pretty much any time, they will be at the games, they can come to the hotel and we can have barbecues together. I think every nation is different,” Klinsmann said when asked if he’d follow in the footsteps of other managers who have banned players from having sex during the Cup. Klinsmann referenced his time as a player — he led West Germany to a World Cup victory in 1990 — to note that different cultures treat the issue differently. But the Yanks will be able to remain focused on the pitch even if they’re doing something else off of it.

“We have a group of guys together and an environment together that is very open, it’s very casual. But once we go on the field for training and for the games we are very serious and down to business.”
The issue of players having sex at the World Cup pops up every four years — Klinsmann was asked because Mexico manager Miguel Herrera announced in late May that he won’t let his players have sex throughout the tournament.

“If a player can’t go one month or 20 days without having sexual relations, then they are not prepared to be a professional player,” Herrera said. “Forty days of sexual abstinence isn’t going to hurt anybody.”

Herrera isn’t alone. Bosnia-Herzogovina manager Safet Susic said in April that he won’t allow his players to have sex during the World Cup, though he added that his players “can find another solution, they can even masturbate if they want.” The managers of Spain, Germany, and Chile have all banned players from having sex.

Then there’s the hybrid approach taken by Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose team is dealing with the pressure of trying to win a World Cup on home soil. “The players can have normal sex during the World Cup,” Scolari said in April. “Usually normal sex is done in balanced way, but there are certain forms, certain ways and others who do acrobatics. We will put limits and survey the players.”

France manager Didier Deschamps, meanwhile, says it all “depends on when, and how much.”
While managers may fret about the amount of energy their players expend between the sheets while at the World Cup, there’s no research supporting the idea that abstaining from sex improves athletic performance. The research that has been published suggests there’s no difference at all, as Discovery News pointed out before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:
In a 1995 study, he challenged 11 men to a treadmill test. Some had sex 12 hours before the test. Some abstained. Results, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, showed no difference between the groups in how much oxygen their hearts needed or how efficiently their bodies used oxygen.
Whether players can or should be allowed to have sex around major sporting events is a common and often funny topic, but sex and sexuality have also been bigger issues around Brazil’s World Cup — and not just when it comes to players. Adidas, one of the Cup’s official sponsors, drew criticism for playing up sexual stereotypes of Brazilian women with two World Cup-themed t-shirts it produced earlier this year. One featured a bikini-clad Brazilian woman next to the slogan, “Looking to score,” the other used a woman’s rear end to illustrate “I Love Brazil.” Even Brazilian president Dilma Roussef criticized the shirts, and the company withdrew them amid calls for it to recognize that Brazil is “more than soccer balls and butts.”

The shirts drew attention to rampant sexualization of Brazilian (and Latina) women worldwide. That sexualization, as Nicole Froio wrote in The Guardian, can be tied to larger problems: one online survey found that 90 percent of Brazilian women say they change their dress to avoid fears of harassment, and 80 percent have avoided going out to avoid harassment. 99 percent said they had been harassed on the street. As Froio noted, latest government statistics show rising rape and sexual assault rates in the country too.

Brazil is also one of the world’s leading destinations for sex tourism, and the Brazilian government has ramped up its efforts to combat such tourism in recent years, asking web sites that sell sex to stop using official Brazilian travel branding and fighting against sex hotels. While some of those efforts have tried to eliminate child sex tourism, other government initiatives have been criticized for illegally and improperly cracking down on Brazil’s sex workers, as City Lab’s Julie Ruvolo detailed this week. In response, many of those sex workers have been among the Brazilians protesting the government ahead of the World Cup.

Of course, sex and sports mix all the time, and not just in Brazil: high-profile sexual assault cases and the sexualization of female athletes, women who work in sports, and male players’ significant others have emerged as major issues in the American sports world in ways that have helped put a new lens on the discussion about misogyny and sexism in broader American society. So while it’s always fun to talk about the sex-related policies of World Cup teams and managers, it’s worth discussing and reshaping the more serious ways in which sports and sex interact and shape society throughout the world too.
14 May 2014

Hoffenheim Win First Friendly in Mizoram

  • The visitors eventual won 3-0 in a game that was broadcasted to the whole of India
  • Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol (l.) and striker Roberto Firmino (r.) look on from the touchline as the Sinsheim side took on a Mizoram State XI
  • Die Kraichgauer received a warm welcome when they arrived at the stadium in Aizawl...
  • well as at the local airport
  • Hoffenheim travelled to India on 11 May and will make stops in Calcutta, Goa and Aizawl
  • The local transport and climate are rather different to what the players are used to in Germany...
  • ...but they were immediately at home out on the pitch in Aizawl, taking a third minute lead in front of an 11,000-strong crowd
  • Aizawl - 1899 Hoffenheim began their trip to India on a positive note after beating a Mizoram State side 3-0 in a friendly match in front of approximately 11,000 supporters.

    Anthony Modeste opened the scoring for Markus Gisdol’s team in the third minute, before Eugen Polanski doubled their advantage shortly before the half-hour mark. Jiloan Hamad sealed the victory five minutes after half-time in a game that was broadcast live nationwide in India.

    'Wonderful experience'

    “We gave a good account of ourselves,” said Gisdol after the final whistle. “The players had a lot of fun out there and our opponents deserve praise for the way they played. They were very active and had some good chances to score. The result isn’t important, it was just nice to feel the enthusiasm of the people here. This wonderful experience will live long in our memories.”

    In partnership with the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), Hoffenheim are in India to promote the Bundesliga across the subcontinent. Furthermore, in close cooperation with the club’s main sponsor SAP, a German multi-national software corporation, the Sinsheim outfit will initiate four new projects. The team will also visit schools and football clubs in Calcutta, Goa and Aizawl and take part in training sessions with local children, amongst other activities.

    13 March 2014

    Zico Lives Up To His Name

    Mizoram soccer captain is the ‘toast of Indian football’
    Aizawl, Mar 13 : Naming a child after a legend is nothing new in this world of hero worship. But whether that child lives up to his/her name is a separate issue.
    So, when government schoolteacher F. Lalvulliana christened his firstborn Zico — after the Brazilian football star often called the White Pelé — little did he know that one day his boy would lead the state football team to win the country’s most prestigious football trophy.
    “I was a great fan of the Brazilian football team, Zico in particular. Even though Zico was past his prime when my first son was born, he was still my hero,” Lalvulliana, now 50, told The Telegraph today.
    From his small village of Khuangleng, near the India-Myanmar border, Lalvulliana watched his 23-year-old son, Zico Zoremsanga, lift the Santosh Trophy on Sunday night.
    Zico lived up to his name, netting a brace in the final.
    There was not a single television in Khuangleng when Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico) was part of the Brazil squad during the 1982 and 1986 Fifa World Cups. But Lalvulliana watched his favourite player on television sets at his friends’ and relatives’ houses in Aizawl.
    The schoolteacher always wanted his son to be a footballer but the realisation that his son finished with nine goals in the Santosh Trophy still hasn’t sunk in.
    “I was overjoyed to see my son’s name on all the leading national newspapers. And I was proud that some writers described him as the ‘toast of Indian football,’” Lalvulliana said.
    The proud father came all the way from his village, about 240km from the state capital of Aizawl, to witness the hero’s welcome accorded to his son and his teammates.
    Amidst the fun-filled celebrations at Assam Rifles ground here today, Zico said: “I am overjoyed that I captained a team that has scripted history. I thank God for giving me this opportunity, my coach for making me what I am and the people of Mizoram for their overwhelming support.”
    The skipper, whose ultimate goal is to play for a major I-League club and represent India at the international level, added, “This is not the end, I have greater heights to scale.”
    Zico played his first football matches at his village schoolground barefoot, like Mama (S. Malsawmtluanga), currently playing for East Bengal and Jeje Lalpekhlua, who plays for Dempo.
    He also had a crucial role in Mizoram’s victory in the recent T. Ao Memorial Football Tournament, a Northeast-level competition.
    Zico has played many inter-village matches and different age-group tournaments but the Mizoram Premier League (MPL) was his ticket to fame.
    He currently plays for Dinthar FC, the reigning champions of MPL.
    The high-profile MPL, which was introduced two years ago, is also the driving force behind Mizoram’s success in the Santosh Trophy and the T. Ao Memorial Football Tournament.
    “The MPL basically aims to provide a platform for talented footballers in Mizoram. Through the MPL, we have put in place a system and a roadmap to take Mizoram football forward. It has paid off,” said Lalnghinglova Hmar, secretary of the Mizoram Football Association.
    The MPL was introduced after artificial turf was installed at three football grounds, two in Aizawl and one at Lunglei in south Mizoram. Most of the matches during the second season of the tournament were played under floodlights.
    Th recent success of football in the state is also due to the Mizoram Football Association’s grassroots development programme, which has been declared by the All India Football Federation as the best in the country. “The grassroots development programme that the MFA initiated in collaboration with the AIFF follows the FIFA model. Youngsters between the ages of six and 12 are a part of this programme,” Hmar said.
    12 March 2014

    Mizoram Ready to Welcome Champs


    Aizawl, Mar 12 : The football-crazy state of Mizoram, which erupted in euphoria on Sunday night when its football team clinched the coveted Santosh Trophy for the first time, is now preparing to give a rousing welcome to their heroes.

    The Mizoram squad, led my manager Lalbiakzuala and coach H. Vanlalthlanga, is scheduled to arrive at Lengpui airport tomorrow, where they will be accorded a warm welcome by the Mizoram Football Association, sports department officials and fans. Later, a felicitation ceremony will be held at Assam Rifles ground here to celebrate the achievement.

    “Preparations are on in full swing to accord the football champions a hero’s welcome,” secretary of the football association, Lalnghinglova Hmar, said.

    The Mizoram government is yet to announce any cash rewards for the squad members but has declared Wednesday a state holiday.

    Governor V. Purushothaman was the first of the state top brass to congratulate the squad. “This achievement has placed Mizoram at a very high level in the national sporting scene and has amply demonstrated the power of its youth. I am confident this will be a harbinger of many more such achievements in the future,” the governor said in a statement.

    “The state has placed its trust in the youth of Mizoram and looks optimistically to the fulfilment of its Olympic Vision, 2016,” he added. The governor will also host high tea for the team on Thursday.

    Sports minister Zodintluanga said, “I am extremely happy that Mizoram football has scaled such a great height. This achievement must be credited to the concerted efforts of all sports department officials, the football association and the hardworking team members,” he said.

    “We had thrown a challenge to the Mizoram youths by providing world-class infrastructure. Our footballers have responded to the challenge,” Zodintluanga said.

    The sports department has laid world-class artificial turf in three football grounds in Mizoram — two at Aizawl and one at Lunglei. Efforts are on to lay astroturf at some more grounds.
    10 March 2014

    Mizoram Wins first-ever Santosh Trophy title, beat Railways 3-0 in final!

    A bunch of unheralded diminutive footballers took the Santosh Trophy by storm and maintained their brand of fast-paced attacking football in the Final to deservingly win their maiden Nationals crown sweeping aside Railways 3-0 in the 68th National Championships for the Santosh Trophy here at the floodlit Kanchenjunga Stadium on Sunday evening.

    A brace from Zico Zoremsanga either side of half-time and a second half injury-time strike from F. Lalrinpuia capped a brilliant tournament for the Northeastern outfit who went from strength to strength as the competition progressed. Courtesy their triumph, Mizoram bagged a purse of Rs. 500,000 (5 lakhs) while runners-up Railways got richer by 300,000 (3 lakhs).

    Railways, who had not won the Santosh Trophy since 1966, came closest in the 43th minute when Rajesh S's close-range header came off the crossbar.

    Present on the occasion were AIFF Senior Vice-President Subrata Dutta and Menla Ethenpa, the AIFF's Competitions Committee Chairman and Executive Committee Member.

    The match started at a good pace with both the outfits looking for an early goal. Railways earned three quick corners to keep the rival defence on their toes while at the other end their goalkeeper Ehtesham Ahmed - oozing confidence after his penalty heroics in the semifinals - spread his body wide to keep Lalnunmawia and Lalbiakhlua's shots at bay.

    With Railways missing their first choice centre-backs Vimal Kumar and Rajiv Boro due to suspension, Mizoram looked to take advantage but first-timers Akhil Rajbanshi and makeshift stopper-back Dipankar Das stood firm. David Larinmuana found Lalnumawia free on the left with a good-looking ball from midfield but the latter was well marked by Dipankar and right-back Y. Raju Singh.

    Lalbiakhlua then tried to be cheeky minutes after the half hour mark, trying to dink Ahmed from just outside the box on the right flank. But the hero of the previous night had his near-post covered with the attempt also landing onto the roof of the net. It was end to end stuff with the action mostly concentrated in the final third.

    The match's best chance fell to Railways when striker Rajesh S. hit the bar from close. Kisku tried his luck from the rebound but his effort was blocked. Moments later, Mizoram took the lead. F. Lalrinpuia crossed to Zico inside the box. The striker who has found the back of the net three times already in the tournament trapped the ball and swiveled past his marker to slot home into the far corner with the goalkeeper at full stretch.

    It was Mizoram who called the shots after the break. Three minutes into the half, Lalrinpuia unleashed a powerful left-footer which was fisted-out by Ahmed but only as far as Lalnunmawia who side-netted his close range effort off the rebound. But the red shirts who have been the flavour of the 68th Santosh Trophy did not have to wait for long to double their advantage and take a giant stride towards their maiden title.

    Zico was in the thick of things again as Mizoram broke on the counter. Lalbiakhlua teed up the goalscorer who did exceptionally well to round the goalkeeper and shoot into an empty net. The second goal deflated Railways' spirit and the three-time champions looked to have thrown in the towel with their high-flying counterparts dominating possession.

    F. Lalrinpuia pinched their opponents' emotion at the death with a third goal from close in injury-time to complete a memorable victory for Mizoram.
    source: arunfoot.blogspot
    25 February 2014

    Mizoram shock Kerala 3-1 in Santosh Trophy

    SILIGURI: Mizoram stunned five-time champions Kerala 3-1 while Maharashtra beat Uttarakhand 3-2 on the opening day of the Santosh Trophy football tournament final round at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on Monday.

    Lalzofolai, Zico and Ronald scored for Mizoram in the Group A match which was locked goal-less at half-time. Nasaruddin pulled one back for Kerala, who were also the runners-up in the last edition.

    In another Group A fixture, Maharashtra got the better of Uttarakhand in a tightly-contested match.

    Allan Dias (37th minute), Mohammed Shabaz (43rd) and Santosh Koli (88th) scored for Maharashtra.

    For Uttarakhand, Ashok Singh (19th) and Sher Singh (68th) found the target.

    Ten teams have been divided into two groups of the five with the top two sides from each group advancing to the Semifinals.

    Group A has defending champions Services, last year's runners-up Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram and Uttarakhand. Group B consists of 31-time champions West Bengal, Punjab, Railways, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

    The final is slated to take place on March 9 at the same venue.
    03 December 2013

    India's Athlete Factory

    By Salil Bera

    Manipur is riddled with ethnic conflicts, insurgency and AIDS, but the people find hope in sports

    WARRIOR PRINCESSES: Girls at an archery class in Imphal.
    WARRIOR PRINCESSES: Girls at an archery class in Imphal.
    PACKING A PUNCH: Mary Kom trains boxing enthusiasts for free at her open air academy at Langol games village. The 3.3 acre was alloted to her by the state government after she won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
    PACKING A PUNCH: Mary Kom trains boxing enthusiasts for free at her open air academy at Langol games village. The 3.3 acre was alloted to her by the state government after she won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
    BEND IT LIKE US: Youngsters warm up for a Judo session at the Imphal SAI complex.
    BEND IT LIKE US: Youngsters warm up for a Judo session at the Imphal SAI complex.
    FIRE IN HIS BELLY: An athlete shows his weight-lifting skills in Imphal.
    FIRE IN HIS BELLY: An athlete shows his weight-lifting skills in Imphal.
    Women exercise at the SAI complex in Imphal before heading to a boxing ring.

     GOING FOR THE KILL: A boy practices fencing at the SAI complex.
    In 1892, the poet Rabindranath Tagore saw the kingdom of Manipur in a fresh light when he made its warrior princess, Chitrangada, the protagonist of a dance drama. A brave protector of her people, Chitrangada was a champion archer like her husband, Arjuna of the Mahabharat.

    Shots of different kinds—drugs and bullets—have troubled the state of Manipur, where a violent separatist movement has been raging since 1964. Human rights violations by the paramilitary forces have forced Manipuri women to march in protest, stark naked. And yet, the state has produced 50 champion boxers. The most famous of them, Mary Kom, is a five-time world boxing champion. She is the only Indian woman boxer to have won a medal at the Olympics. Several other athletes from Manipur have made India proud.

    Dingko Singh won a gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games. Kunjarani Devi, with 52 medals, is one of the most feted Indian sportswomen in weightlifting. The 'Maradona of Hockey', Thoiba Singh, is another international player from Manipur, and Renedy Singh is a well-known professional footballer.

    I am on a visit to the various sports camps in Imphal, and the games village at Langol, which is close to the state capital. Mary Kom's boxing academy in Imphal, established in 2006, focuses on talented underprivileged youth who are offered free training, accommodation and food. The other sports academies in Manipur are run by the Sports Authority of India, the National Sports Academy and the state sports department.

    Youth from different ethnic groups of Manipur flock to these academies for training. For them, practising a sport is a way of establishing their social identity. Ignoring the politics of violence and repression, they motivate themselves, to carry on with their rigorous training.
    “The number of students coming into boxing has certainly increased. They come from different districts of Manipur,” says Ibomcha Singh, the boxing coach who received the Dronacharya award in 2010. “It is not easy. One has to be careful all the time. One ethnic group has been threatening action [against me]. As a safety measure, I desist from using a mobile phone. But the daily training continues without any interruption.”
    He is confident of the talent he has seen in the boys and girls. “Some of them will definitely make a mark on the national front,” he says.
    Watching girls and boys sparring in the boxing ring, I am overwhelmed by the equality of spirit and gender. A slogan on a wall of the room reads, “No risk. No game.” Somebody had tweaked a popular saying and made it a telling comment on the troubled condition of Manipur.
    Sporting facilities in the city are far from ideal. At the SAI complex, one large hall, which has the boxing ring at its centre is also the venue for judo, fencing and weight-lifting.
    At the SAI facility is a stadium where hockey coach Inaocha is training a group of young girls. On another part of the complex, the archers are at practice. Coach Sonachand Sharma calls the shots here.
    Mary Kom's Olympic medal has given the youth of Manipur the confidence to pursue sports as a decent means of survival. But it is far from a level playing field for aspiring athletes. Ethnic conflicts, militancy, extortion and drug addiction loom large in the lives of Manipuris. Though Manipuris make up less than 0.2 per cent of the country's population, their state has nearly 8 per cent of HIV positive cases in India.
    It is a test of resilience for the sporty people of Manipur, where against all odds the quest for excellence continues.

    25 November 2013

    Annual Tamchon Football Tournament Attracts Many Spectators in Delhi

    New Delhi, Nov 25
    : The Tamchon Football Tournament, an annual event, is being held in New Delhi.

    The ongoing event is attracting a large number of spectators. The 15-day carnival of football and cultural extravaganza was inaugurated on November 16 at Dr. Ambedkar Stadium here.

    A total of 16 teams comprising of players from different northeastern states are participating in the tournament to promote peace, friendship and unity among the youth of the country.

    The event has been organized under the aegis of Tanghkul Naga Society Delhi with support from various government and private agencies.

    "We want to promote understanding, fraternity among the various communities of the northeast India. We would like to provide opportunity to our young talented football players. As far as talent is concerned we are second to none," said Ramnganing Muivah, President, Tanghkul Naga Society Delhi.

    During the opening day ceremony, young artists from Tripura performed a harvest dance.

    Donny J from Assam enthralled the audience with his melodious voice.

    Later, choreography was also performed by Donny, along with his group.

    "Platform like this is a good encouragement for talented dancer, artists, singer and players. So all together it's a wonderful platform," said Donny J, Assam

    "It's a good platform to showcase our rich folk dance. I am happy that different people get to see our cultural dance and also it's good to meet different people from Northeast. I feel very good to perform here," said Mukta, artist, Tripura.

    The main attraction on the opening day of the tournament was a match between Zeliangrong Football Club (ZFC) and SSPP (FC). Good skills complimented by intense competition between the teams were witnessed on the ground.

    "We are very excited about the tournament. We are the last year champion and even this year we want to win. This time most of our players are new, but at the first game with all this new players we manage to win, so we are excited," said JG Jaojian, Manager, Zeliangrong FC.

    "Tamchon Trophy is a big scope for new talented players because many Delhi coaches and Managers are seeing our game and they told me that they need talented players for Delhi league like I-League, Santro Trophy so they told me to make it for Delhi league. So, it's a good opportunity," Gaingamlung, Captain, Zeliangrong FC.

    The holding of such events promotes peace and unity among different communities, and also provides a platform to players from the Northeast to showcase their skills.

    Lalrindika Ralte stunner helps East Bengal beat Mohun Bagan 1-0 in Kolkata derby

    Lalrindika RalteLalrindika Ralte (not in picture) scored a spectacular goal in the 73rd minute for East Bengal (AIFF Media)

    India international Lalrindika Ralte scored a spectacular goal in the 73rd minute to give East Bengal a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in a high-voltage round 10 clash of the Airtel I-League. The season's first big Kolkata derby -- and 306th clash between the two sides overall -- was witnessed by a crowd of more than 80,000 in an electrifying atmosphere at the Salt Lake Stadium but produced very few goal scoring chances.

    East Bengal had more ball possession but struggled to break down a well ogranised Mohun Bagan backline before Lalrindika fired in a left-footed scorcher from 30 yards to give Armando Colaco a winning start as coach of the Red-and-Gold outfit.

    The result ended Mohun Bagan's four-match unbeaten run and saw East Bengal overtake their arch-rivals. Both sides have 10 points each but Armando Colaco's side have a superior goal difference and played three games less.

    The first real chance of the match fell to Mohun Bagan as skipper Odafa Okolie, who was playing in a deeper role, sent Eric Muranda clear with a lovely through pass but the Kenyan's effort was saved by Abhijit Mondal and Katsumi Yusa's shot from the rebound was blocked by Arnab Mondal.

    East Bengal's best opportunity of the opening half came just a few minutes before the interval when Lalrindika's through ball sent Ryuji Sueoka past the Mohun Bagan defence but goalkeeper Shilton Paul came out on time to collect the ball at the Japanese player's feet.

    It was almost the same pattern in the second half as East Bengal had plenty of possession but did not really trouble the Mohun Bagan defence.

    At the other end, Odafa had a golden opportunity to put his side in front but the Mohun Bagan captain's header from a Pritam Kotal cross went straight at Abhijit Mondal even though he was unmarked.

    Both coaches made a substitution each to change as young Ram Malik replaced CS Sabeeth for Mohun Bagan while Colaco brought James Moga in place of Cavin Lobo.

    Late in the second half, East Bengal midfield general and skipper Mehtab Hossain came off the field with an injury but just minutes later Lalrindika broke the deadlock with a trademark left-footed effort from 30 yards much to delight of the thousands of East Bengal fans.

    Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa brought in youngsters Sankar Oran and Manish Bhargav in search of the equaliser but it was East Bengal who could have doubled their advantage had Sueoka or Chidi Edeh been a bit more clinical.
    10 November 2013

    Bollywood Still Averse To Casting Faces From Northeast: Mary Kom

    NEW DELHI: Boxing icon MC Mary Kom considers the northeast "one region". She now aims to bring home a bigger accolade than her Olympic medal, but also wishes to mentor young talent from the region who can carry forward her legacy. At the North East Festival 2013 on Saturday, she poured her heart out.

    She said she misses watching Bollywood movies in Manipur because of the ban on screening of Hindi films, and fears that people back home may not be able to watch her biopic which is set to release. Kom and three other sporting and cultural icons from the northeast shared their journeys of making it big and their hopes and concerns for the region at the festival.

    "As a child I had no one to guide me. I used to go to Imphal from my village where I was introduced to women's boxing. I did not tell my family what I was up to because if they had stopped me from boxing, my morale would have really gone down," she says. Her friends discouraged her because boxing is "not a woman's game". "If a man can fight, why can't a woman? I have proved myself," she said.

    Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma, the maharaja of erstwhile kingdom of Tripura and member of Tripura Congress Committee, spoke about his journey as an entrepreneur: "When we started our heritage hotel in 2002, people asked us who is going to come to the northeast. We have proved them wrong by running it extremely successfully." Deb Barma also said that despite being a member of Congress, his personal thoughts on AFSPA are separate from his party's.

    "I am against AFSPA. We need some moderate voices from the northeast to come to the fore. Our story is not only about failures and pain but about so many other positive things," he added.

    Larsing Ming Sawyan, vice president of All-India Football Federation shared his experience of creating a football team that represents the entire northeast region. "Through the 60s, 70s and 80s we did not see much of northeast in national football. We began scouting for young talent in different parts of the eight states and formed a team that qualified for I League. We realized we didn't know much about each other in northeast. There is a need to create an identity that is pan-northeastern," he said.

    Actor Adil Hussain, who belongs to Goalpara in Assam, impressed everyone off-screen too. Reacting to a question on why there have been fewer faces from northeast in Bollywood after Danny Denzongpa, he said, "It (Bollywood) is an industry. They don't cast faces from the northeast because it will not sell. I am probably here because I have some Aryan features."

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