Category: Europe



(Esta nota fue escrito originariamente en junio 2015)

Finalmente el Everton ha completado el fichaje de Gerard Deulofeu después de semanas de negociación y especulación.

El mediocampista español viene desde Barcelona para €6m en un contrato de tres años. Marca el segundo fichaje de Everton este verano, después de la llegada Tom Cleverley desde Manchester United.

Deulofeu se presenta como jugador de Everton

Deulofeu se presenta como jugador de Everton

Deulofeu pasó una temporada exitosa en el club inglés en 2013-14 pero encontró menos oportunidades en su regreso al Barca eso verano.

El rápido joven, de 21 años se considera muy bien entre los expertos como un extremo promisorio y ahora hay debate entre las hinchas y oficiales de Barca, centrado en el precio bajo de su traspaso al Everton.

El entrenador de los Toffees, Roberto Martinez cree que ahora Deulofeu es un jugador aún más talentoso que el joven que fue cedido al Goodison Park hace dos años.

Añadió que el fichaje de Deulofeu fue uno de sus objetivos más vitales del verano.


They celebrated in the streets of Gibraltar when the national team was finally admitted to UEFA. There may be only 30,000 people living on the Rock, but it felt like every one of them had descended into the narrow streets and the main square as young and old, player and fan stood side by side, almost all bedecked in the team’s red and white strip as the music blared and the confetti fell.

For all involved it marked a happy end to a prolonged, tiresome struggle for international recognition that began in 1999 when the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) made its initial application to UEFA. 13 years of Gibraltarian frustration, UEFA backtracking, referrals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Spanish stubbornness followed, with Gibraltar’s neighbours threatening to pull out of international competition if UEFA welcomed the territory into Europe’s footballing fold.

There’s a huge irony in the fact that it took Gibraltar – with a football association formed in 1895, easily predating those of Spain, France and Germany, amongst others – so long to be officially recognised when they have one of Europe’s longest football histories. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Rock welcomed several Spanish clubs, the pinnacle being a famous 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in 1949.

The battle at times seemed so hopeless that some could have been forgiven for believing they would never see the day when UEFA finally relented and admitted Gibraltar. Indeed, as recently as 2007, Steve Menary, after chronicling Gibraltar’s lengthy application process in his book Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot, concluded: “Spain, it seems, has won again and Gibraltar will not be allowed in.”

Gibraltarians take to the streets to celebrate UEFA acceptance

Gibraltarians take to the streets to celebrate UEFA acceptance

 

Yet, in May 2013, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport had twice ruled in the GFA’s favour, Gibraltar’s provisional UEFA membership was ratified and they became Europe’s governing body’s 54th member. There is still understandable frustration at the ridiculous length of time it took for admission to be granted and the petty politics that complicated the process, but the overriding feeling in Gibraltar is one of elation at the chance to compete against the continent’s finest in the coming years.

Bursting onto the international scene in 2001, current captain Roy Chipolina has seen it all from up close. Announcing his arrival in the Gibraltar side with a brace on debut against the Orkney Islands at the Island Games aged 17, the defender soon established himself as a vital cog in the Rock’s team. In 2007, he was part of the side that took gold at the 2007 Island Games, and four years later he scored in the impressive 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands, themselves members of FIFA since 1988, which proved to the world that Gibraltar was capable of competing on a bigger stage. In January 2013, he even represented his homeland in the Futsal Euro qualifiers, scoring in a dramatic 7-5 defeat of San Marino. There are, therefore, few people better qualified to comment on the territory’s bitter struggle for international recognition.

Indeed, it was Chipolina who led the team out for their first UEFA-sanctioned friendly against Slovakia in November, when 500 Gibraltarians made the 250 mile trek to Faro, Portugal (Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium deemed unfit by UEFA) to witness a superb 0-0 draw. Chipolina, partnering Danny Higginbotham in the heart of defence, was reported by Eurosport to have delivered a rousing speech after hearing Gibraltar’s national anthem played “for the first time at the highest level.”

Coach Allen Bula has wasted little time in supplementing a mainly local-based squad with talent from abroad. Gibraltar have already enlisted the help of several current or ex-professionals, including Danny Higginbotham (now retired from club football but formerly of Manchester United, Southampton and Stoke City), Preston North End full-back Scott Wiseman, Wrexham defender David Artell, and midfielder Liam Walker, who recently joined Israeli outfit Bnei Yehuda after leaving Portsmouth. Bula has left no stone unturned in his search for eligible players, with forwards Adam Priestley and Reece Styche plucked from Farsley AFC (of the Northern Premier League Division One North) and Forest Green Rovers’ reserves respectively.

Yet Chipolina maintains that some of the national team’s home-based players are equally gifted: he has previously said veteran striker Lee Casciaro and midfielders Joseph Chipolina (a distant relative) and Brian Perez are capable of playing at a professional level. For Joseph Chipolina, comfortable either at left-back or as a winger, this seems particularly plausible: last year the 26-year-old impressed in a week-long trial at Leyton Orient, as well as attracting interest from Livingston.

Roy also believes Anthony Hernandez, who scored on his international debut against the Faroes aged just 16, and has already spent time on trial at Middlesbrough, is one to watch in the future. There are parallels to be drawn with Gibraltar’s last wonderkid, defender Jason Pusey, who signed a 3-year contract with Atlético Madrid after finishing his GCSEs in 2006, yet faded into obscurity and has now returned to local football on the Rock.

The hopes are that Hernandez, unlike Pusey, will now have a chance to develop on an international stage with regular, competitive games; Menary’s depressing footnote in 2007 that “any idea that Jason Pusey may have of pursuing an international career with the place that he grew up in are dead” is thankfully no longer applicable to Hernandez.

Chipolina (far left) during celebrations in the main square

Chipolina (far left) during celebrations in the main square

Despite being drawn in a tough group for Euro 2016, including Germany, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, you get the impression that Chipolina and his team-mates fear no-one. The defender, a customs officer for the government for over a decade, will be looking to make sure Gibraltar give their opponents a thorough interrogation no matter how many star names are in their team.

I was recently fortunate enough to have the chance to put some questions to Roy, and the captain proved very accommodating – as his answers demonstrate.

**********

How important was it to finally be admitted to UEFA after decades of trying and how elated were the players?

For Gibraltar being admitted into UEFA was nothing more than making a dream a reality!  It was a very emotional and jubilant day.  After such a long battle which began way back in the mid-1990s Gibraltar has become the well deserved 54th member in UEFA.  For us, the players, the opportunities that come with being in UEFA are huge and we are just glad to be part of it.

 How special was it to be the first man to captain Gibraltar in an official UEFA game?

It was a great honour and the proudest moment of my football career to lead my country out into our first international match.  It was a very emotional day and one that I will cherish forever.

Is it true that you gave a rousing speech in the dressing room before the Slovakia game and if so, what did you say?

No, not really.  We are a very close bunch and with Gibraltar being so small, most of us have played alongside each other from a very young age.  We are like a family.  The senior players, most notably Al Greene, Daniel Duarte and myself, are usually going around motivating the rest of the team before a match but as you can imagine the team didn’t need much motivation for this match.  We had been waiting many years for this moment.  The whole squad knew how much this match meant not just to us but to the whole of Gibraltar!  We usually rally together just before kick off and this is what we shared before kick off.

What was the atmosphere like in the dressing room after the draw with Slovakia? The players must have been delighted with the result.

The atmosphere was electric and the team was buzzing.  It was very emotional not only for the players but the backroom staff too.  Just being able to represent your country in an official international friendly was a dream for all of us but to get a draw against such a respected footballing nation like Slovakia in our first match was surreal.  Well, let’s just say, it felt like a victory!

Roy (shirtless) shows his passion

Roy (shirtless) shows his passion

Which language is used in team talks and in the dressing room? Do most players speak both English and Spanish?

Our main language is English but most of us can speak English and Spanish fluently. Our team talks are always done in English but we tend to speak our own dialect which is actually a mixture of English and Spanish (Llanito). People are usually amazed when hearing us talk as we jump from English to Spanish within the same sentence at the blink of an eyelid.  It’s unique.

What is the team’s relationship with the community like? Do you think the bond with the public of Gibraltar is stronger because of the small population and your underdog status?

Being that our population is just 30,000 the team’s relationship with the community is a special one, and I think one which isn’t matched by any other nation. It’s as if they are part of the team. We are such a small community that you literally know everyone. Add in that football is followed religiously here in Gibraltar and you get some tremendous support. Though we are considered underdogs I can assure you that the expectations of the people in Gibraltar are very high.

You may not have drawn them for Euro 2016, but how special would it be to play against England?

Being that England is the nation I have supported and the league I have followed since I was a young boy it would be a dream to step out at Wembley and face the mighty England.  It’s every boy’s dream to play at Wembley and I am no different.

Did you agree with UEFA’s decision to keep Spain and Gibraltar apart for the Euro 2016 draw?

I will leave any political issues to the politicians.  I am just extremely happy that UEFA has finally given me the same opportunity as all the other 53 members, and that is, to be able to represent my country on the international stage.

Does having to play ‘home’ games in Portugal somewhat negate home advantage? What are the chances of being able to play home games in Gibraltar in the future?

At a press conference with manager Allen Bula

At a press conference with manager Allen Bula

I suppose it does.  The following we get in Portugal won’t be as much as if games were to be held here in Gibraltar but after our great experience in Portugal and the warm welcome we received by its people I am sure it won’t be long before we make Portugal our home from home.

There are plans to begin the construction of a new stadium at Europa Point. It’s a three-year project and I envisage that if everything goes according to plan, we should be able to use the facilities of the new stadium for the next round of World Cup qualifiers, provided we are given the awesome privilege of becoming FIFA members by then.  This indeed would be the icing on the cake! You can watch a video on YouTube called ‘Europa Point Stadium’ which gives a good insight.

How long do you plan to continue playing? Do you have any plans for post-retirement?

At the moment I would like to concentrate on playing for the Gibraltar national team for as long as possible.  I have no plans of hanging up my boots any time soon but I do hope that in the future I am able to attain my coaching badges so that I am able to carry on being a part of the building and improving football on the Rock.


[Note: interview originally conducted in 2012]

Franziska Klingelfuss may not be a household name, even in her native Switzerland, but the experienced goalkeeper has both benefitted from, and contributed to, the women’s game in Switzerland during a distinguished 14-year playing career.

The fact that Franziska played in the male youth team of second-tier side FC Aarau – a club who count former Chelsea Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo, ex-Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz and Oceania Footballer of the Century Wynton Rufer among their former players – until her teenage years could be counted as both an advantage and disadvantage to her career. On the one hand, often being the only girl on the pitch in a testosterone-fuelled sport highlighted the difference between Franziska and her team-mates and could have made it hard to fit in – but the confidence gained from proving herself  as good as, and better than, many of her male counterparts was surely invaluable.

Unsurprisingly, recognition from further afield followed: in 1996, she was selected for the under-16 Aargau regional team, representing the canton’s population of 600,000; two years later, Franziska progressed to the Swiss under-18  women’s national team – a huge achievement given she was plying her trade far down the Swiss league ladder at the time.

At Schlieren in 2006-07 (photo: fussball-fussball.ch)

At Schlieren in 2006-07 (photo: fussball-fussball.ch)

Although her practical inability to move to a top-flight women’s club – deemed necessary in order to progress further in the Swiss FA youth setup – unfortunately ended her national team career in 1998, Franziska went on to enjoy a successful career that began at Aarau and also took in two spells at FC Baden as well as stints at FC Schlieren, FC Domat-Ems and CB Laax.

A persistent and painful back injury has limited her playing time in recent years – the goalkeeper has been without a club since 2010, but, having looked into back treatment, Franziska refuses to throw in the towel: she is yet to officially retire, and with luck, will soon be back on the field.

Klingelfuss has taken advantage of that spell on the sidelines to further a promising coaching career that began in 2001 as the goalkeeper coach for SC Schöftland’s 8-16 year olds. Franziska has since passed on her expertise to the new generation of Swiss footballers in a number of roles, including training youngsters at the annual FC Aarau football camp, and helping local girls by coaching Aargau’s under-14 regional team.

2004 was the exception to this rule as Franziska took up a role as match reporter and commentator for third division men’s team FC Gränichen, but she has since returned to coaching by helping to nurture FC Aarau’s 5-7 year old “Brügglikids”.

Modest and thoughtful in equal measure, Franziska offers a fascinating insight into the life of a female footballer in Switzerland; although the women’s game has improved in recent years, it still has some way to go.

NAME: Franziska Klingelfuss

POSITION: Goalkeeper

COUNTRY: Switzerland

CLUBS: 1996-98 – FC Aarau; 1998-01 – FC Baden; 2001-04 – FC Aarau; 2004-05 – FC Baden; 2005-07 – FC Schlieren; 2007-09 – FC Domat-Ems; 2009-10 – CB Laax.

 

*****

What was the best moment of your career, either playing for a club or the Swiss under-18 team?

To play in the Swiss under-18 team was great – I was 16 and playing in the lowest women’s league in Switzerland at the time. Normally only the players from the Nationalliga A [Swiss top flight] and maybe sometimes from the Nationalliga B [second division] get a call-up, so I was very proud, although it was just for one year.

Then the coach from the Swiss under-18 team told me that I needed to move to a club in a better league to stay in the under-18 team. It was hard for me, but at this time I couldn’t change teams because of school – if I had moved to a club in a higher division, I would have had to travel for more than an hour to get to training, and that was too much. So I stayed in the lowest league for the moment.

But it was also great to play in the clubs I’ve been. For example, with Schlieren [2005-07], we played in the 1.Liga [Swiss third division]. During the championship we won all of our 16 games; we scored 75 goals and only conceded 8 goals. That was great for me as a goalkeeper! We were promoted to the next league, Nationalliga B. In this great season we also reached the semi-final of the Swiss Cup. That was extraordinary for a team from the 1.Liga.

Which team did you enjoy playing for most, and do you have any funny stories/anecdotes from your time in football?

First, to play with the boys was cool. Once I had to play with the Ea-Juniors; this was the better team that I played for and the trainer was a little bit strong. So I was very nervous – both when I went to the meeting and in the first minute of the game. But after it was great: we won the game 3-0 and the trainer was very happy and friendly to me.

Then playing for Baden was excellent, because there I had the best goalkeeper coach ever in my career. We worked very hard but we understood each other; he was there for me if I had some questions or a private problem. We worked seriously together but we could also laugh together. We stay in contact, even now.

Also, playing for Schlieren was awesome. I said earlier that in my first year there we won ever game in the championship. And in the second year at the end of the season we finished in third place even though we were in a higher league.

As an anecdote, I can say that I hated football when I was young! My father always went to watch the games at FC Aarau with my brother. And I would never ever go with them. Then in school there was a boy I knew whose father was a coach at FC Aarau. So once I went with him and from this moment I played football.

In Swiss Cup action for Schlieren in 2005 (fussball-fussball.ch)

In Swiss Cup action for Schlieren in 2005 (fussball-fussball.ch)

And I’m proud that I never received a single yellow or red card in the 19 years I played!

At what age did you first start playing football and for which team?

I started to play football at the age of 9. And I played for FC Aarau with the boys. This was for the Eb-Juniors team.

What was it like being the only girl in a boys’ team at youth level? Were the boys jealous or did they respect you for being as good as them?

For me, the boys and the trainer, it was normal that I played with the boys. They saw that I could play football [just as well as them] – sorry, I don’t want to be arrogant, but it’s true!

But the other teams that we played against always laughed when they saw that my team played with a girl in goal. They always said something like: “we will score 10 goals against you, because you have a girl in goal”. Sometimes it was hard for me, because I just wanted to play football. Luckily we won most of the games and after the game the players from the other teams said nothing at all! Most of the time the other trainers come to me to say that I had played well. That was great.

How has women’s football in Switzerland developed in recent years? How big is support for it in Switzerland – how many people watch each match?

I think at the moment it’s better than ever for the women’s  football in Switzerland. In my time we never, ever received money for playing – on the contrary, we had to pay an annual subscription so that we could play for the club!

Now it’s better. I don’t know how much [money] they get, but at some clubs – for example FC Zurich and Grasshopper Club – the players receive some money. Zurich have a couple of ex-national team players in Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss; I think they get a lot of money, because they are professional players.  I think that they are the only professionals in Switzerland, so it’s great that they are playing in the Swiss league –  they can push football in our country, and because of them Zurich always has a lot of people who watch their games: last season there were sometimes more than 500 people there, and that’s a lot in Swiss women’s football!

In my time it was impossible to be a professional footballer. We always had to go to school or to work [as well as playing]. If you had to go to the national team you had to take holidays off work so that you could go. Today it’s better, most of the players work 60% to 80% of the time. And most of the time they get time off from their employer if they had to go, for example, to the Swiss national team.

Also, a few years ago an academy was created in Huttwil for the biggest female talents in Switzerland. They can train there twice a day, going to school at special times, and they live in Huttwil with a host family. These players often stay at the academy for two years, playing for a local club at the weekend.

The Huttwil academy aims to bring through a new generation of Swiss footballers (bzbasel.ch)

The Huttwil academy aims to bring through a new generation of Swiss footballers (bzbasel.ch)

How do you think the women’s game in Switzerland compares to other countries in Europe and worldwide? Is there a reason why the Swiss women’s team have never qualified for the World Cup?

In Switzerland women’s football is not professional – there is less money. And it’s too hard for the players to work 80% of the time or go to school for the whole day and juggle that with playing football 5 or 6 times in one week.

For many years, the same group of players were being selected for the national team –  the coach liked them even they were not the best players from Switzerland.  Now we have a new coach in the Swiss national team and she has changed some players. I think it’s better now, but it will take some time for them to play how the coach would like.

With our youth national teams we’re always better [than at senior level]; at the moment our under-20 national team is at the World Cup in Tokyo.

Who is the best player you have played with and against, and the best team you have faced?

The best player I have played with was Sheila Loosli. She was a Swiss international for many years. She was 34 years old when I played with her. She has two daughters and was a member of the police. We trained 3 or 4 times each week and she was always there. It was very impressive.

The best team I have faced? Let me think… I’d say a representative team from the USA. With Baden I played in a tournament in Italy and in the final we had to play against an American team. We had no chance and we lost the game 4-0. It was so impressive to watch how they played. They were all very strong and focused.

Have you had other jobs in football to earn money, seeing as the clubs you played for didn’t pay you?

Yes, I have done the following things:

  • August 2001-June 2003: Boys’ goalkeeper coach for FC Schöftland, 8-16 year olds
  • July 2001-July 2006: Coach at annual football camp for FC Aarau
  • August 2003-June2005: Boys’ goalkeeper coach for FC Rudolfstetten, 8-12 year olds
  • August 2004-August 2006: Match reporter and commentator for FC Gränichen (Men’s 3rd division)
  • August 2006-June 2007: Goalkeeper coach for Aargau regional under-14 girls team
  • August 2012-present: Coach for FC Aarau, 5-7 year olds

 

Thanks to Franziska for her time.


Thanks to all the deadline day frenzy involving Marouane Fellaini, James McCarthy et al, Joel Robles’ arrival at Goodison has almost been forgotten already, but the goalkeeper looks to be a shrewd signing by Roberto Martinez. Though first-choice custodian Tim Howard has been a fine servant of the club over the past seven years, as the popular American approaches the end of his career, it’s reassuring to see that Martinez already has a worthy replacement lined up.

Robles entered English football fans’ consciousness in January with an impressive loan spell at Martinez’s Wigan Athletic – so impressive, in fact, that the 23-year-old ousted Ali Al-Habsi (a veteran almost ten years his senior) as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. However, the Getafe-born shot-stopper is much better known in his home country, having been a part of the Spanish national youth set-up since he was 16.

Joel the giant: the lanky Spaniard feels he’s made for the English game (pic: Premier League)

Joel joined Atletico Madrid’s academy in 2005 and eventually became a regular for the club’s reserve side, but sought a move abroad earlier this year when first-team opportunities remained limited. His time at Wigan was fruitful and culminated in an FA Cup winner’s medal as he helped the Latics surprise Manchester City in the final.

The player cites his physical attributes as key to his success, and at 6ft 5”, it’s easy to see why. Robles believes his huge frame will help him deal with aerial challenges in one of Europe’s more physical leagues. Handed a 5-year deal by his compatriot Martinez, it’s clear Everton see the ‘keeper as a fine prospect and – with the possible exception of McCarthy – Robles is perhaps the summer signing likely to be turning out in royal blue for years to come.

Arguably the biggest challenge for Robles will be to avoid repeating the fate of his back-up predecessor, Jan Mucha, who was consigned to the bench throughout his career at Goodison. The Slovakian was released this summer having made just two league appearances in three years in Merseyside, but Robles looks better equipped to seriously challenge Howard for game time, with the American another year older and Joel already boasting experience in the Premier League.

Indeed, Martinez has described the Spaniard as “someone who is going to give us great protection and fight with Tim Howard – and push him all the way.” For that level of competition, the £650,000 Martinez paid Atletico Madrid seems a bargain. Joel concurs: “It is a great honour to work with Tim – he’s a great, great goalkeeper and I am looking forward to learning a lot from him.”

Bergara’s presence should allow Robles to settle quickly (pic: ceroacero.es)

The player has also been quick to emphasize the importance of being reunited with Wigan goalkeeping coach Inaki Bergara, who also worked under Martinez at Swansea and followed him from the DW Stadium this summer. “I am delighted to be back working with Inaki again – he is a great professional and a really nice guy,” says Joel. The feeling is clearly mutual – Bergara has already professed his belief that Robles “has lots of potential” – and this relationship could prove pivotal to Joel’s success at Everton.

Howard may have seen off many a back-up over the years, but it looks like Robles could finally be the worthy replacement the club have been searching for. With bundles of talent and a long career ahead of him, don’t be surprised if Joel is one of the first names on the Everton team-sheet in a few years’ time.


There are some parts of the American take on the beautiful game that just won’t be transferred to England. Strapping cameras to referees is one, the MLS SuperDraft – where players are traded, assigned and picked from colleges – is another, and finally, there’s the annual MLS All-Star game between the league’s 20 best players and a club from another country.

Since switching from the East vs West format in 2005, the MLS had chosen a British team every year as the All-Stars’ opponents, but this year, Italian giants Roma broke that trend by travelling to Kansas City to play against the cream of America’s footballing crop, coached by Kansas boss Peter Vermes. The involvement of a non-British club follows the increasing glamour the All-Star game has attracted; while the likes of Fulham and West Ham United were early opponents, Manchester United, Chelsea and now Italian sides are becoming open to the idea (no doubt attracted by the revenue opportunities associated with the game).

Vermes and MLS Commissioner Don Garber had picked a strong squad including the likes of Thierry Henry, Marco Di Vaio and Landon Donovan,  and while Roma brought their star-studded first-team – among them captain Francesco Totti and fellow Italy internationals Daniele De Rossi and Federico Balzaretti – the most familiar name to US football fans was national team midfielder Michael Bradley, who has been playing in Europe since 2006.

Strootman slots home Roma’s opener (Pic: USPresswire.com)

There’s been much debate in the US as to whether the league would be better served by a return to the East vs West format of the past, but there’s still plenty of interest in this fixture: the 21, 175 who turned up to Kansas’ Sporting Park was the highest attendance in the stadium’s history.

Vermes opted for an experienced front-line, pairing Henry and Di Vaio (combined age 72) while Roma named Totti, Bradley and new signing Kevin Strootman in an impressive line-up.  To the crowd’s dismay, Roma controlled the tempo from the start and took just four minutes to open the scoring; exploiting the All-Stars’ high defensive line, Strootman collected a through ball before beating Peruvian ‘keeper Raul Fernandez in the hosts’ goal (via an unfortunate deflection off Kansas defender Aurelien Collin.

The All-Stars struggled to recover from that early blow, and just three minutes later Roma almost doubled their lead. Totti, picking the ball up deep in his own half, curled an exquisite 30-yard pass in behind All-Star left-back Corey Ashe for Alessandro Florenzi to run onto, but the 22-year-old’s shot slid just wide. Vermes’ men were dealt another blow on 24 minutes when Graham Zusi, playing just behind the strikers, was forced off with an injury; he was replaced by Vancouver Whitecaps’ Brazilian magician Camilo Sanvezzo.

With the Italians continuing to dominate proceedings but failing to add to their lead, half-time arrived with the score still at 1-0. Just seconds after the restart, however, they made the All-Stars pay: Ashe once more failed to track Florenzi’s run, and Balzaretti’s centre from the left was clinically converted by the unmarked midfielder.

The All-Stars almost managed an immediate reply when Thierry Henry took on three defenders on the left before crossing towards Chris Wondolowski, but the San Jose Earthquakes frontman just failed to connect with the delivery. The hosts’ best chance arrived 20 minutes later, when an unwise short goal-kick from Roma allowed Landon Donovan to pinch possession back; the ex-Everton man rounded the last defender but fired straight at Morgan De Sanctis from close range.

Roma celebrate with the All-Stars trophy after their win (Pic: Goal.com)

It was a miss they were made to pay for. From Roma’s next attack, Bradley released the impressive Strootman with a brilliant one-touch pass, and the Dutchman’s pull-back was turned in by Junior Tallo. Rookie full-back DeAndre Yedlin – on as a substitute for the hapless Ashe – came close to pulling one back on 85 minutes, playing a delightful one-two with Wondolowski but skying the final effort at goal.

However, the All-Stars didn’t have to wait long for their goal. In the first (and only) minute of injury time, Sanvezzo curled a fine free-kick onto the head of fellow sub Omar Gonzalez, and the LA Galaxy defender summoned up enough neck power to beat De Sanctis’ deputy Bogdan Lobont and restore some credibility to the scoreline.

The final whistle blew soon after on an interesting contest that will divide opinion on whether the MLS is as close to Europe as it thinks it is. Make no mistake, Roma strolled to victory here, but, as Jeff Carlisle notes for ESPN, “[given] that the MLS players had a grand total of one training session, and that the Roma players are all eager to impress new manager Rudi Garcia, it was no surprise to see the visitors run out to a 3-1 victory.”

League Commissioner Garber used the game’s interval to announce plans to expand the MLS to 24 teams by 2020 (it currently has 19, with New York City FC set to join in 2015). That demonstrates an ambition that can only help the MLS close the gap on Europe’s elite in the near future, and, as Carlisle adds, “a loss in the All-Star Game isn’t going to change that.”

All-Stars: Fernandez (Rimando 45); Besler (Gonzalez 45), Beltran, Collin, Ashe (Yedlin 66); Johnson, Beckerman (Magee 45), Davis (Donovan 45), Zusi (Sanvezzo 24); Henry (C) (McInerney 57), Di Vaio (Wondolowski 45).

Roma: De Sanctis (Lobont 63); Torosidis, Benatia, Castan, Balzaretti; Pjanic (Marquinho 63), Bradley, Florenzi (De Rossi 63), Strootman; Totti (C) (Ricci 87), Tallo (Caprari 80).

Referee: Hilario Grajeda.

Game MVP: Alessandro Florenzi.


This article, by Natalia Guerrero, originally appeared on the BBC Mundo (the Spanish-language BBC) site on 10 June 2013; all credit should be given to her. The original article can be accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/06/130609_cultura_haiti_espana_cronica_miami_ng.shtml.

24 hours before their game against Spain, Haiti’s national football team still doesn’t have a kit or anywhere to train. It’s raining non-stop in Miami and Haiti’s limited resources mean they’re unable to hire somewhere undercover to practice.

Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, had sent their team to this American city to face Spain – the world champions – for the first time in their history. The incentives for setting up the clash included the presence of the Spanish superstars, the agreement that, for every spectator attending the game, $1 would be donated to Haiti, and moreover, the chance to see a classic David versus Goliath encounter.

However, the feeling of jubilation enjoyed by almost all of the 37,000 fans at the Sun Life stadium when the Haitian forward Donald Guerrier scored his country’s only goal against Spain contrasted with the team’s reality for the rest of the week. BBC Mundo accompanied the lonely Haitian team on their journey to play the world’s favourite team.

Extra Shirt

It’s 3:30 on Friday evening – the day before the game –  and the kit is due to arrive at the hotel where the team are staying. The Colombian Miguel Trujillo, the Haiti Football Federation’s exclusive agent, is feeling stressed. He doesn’t want the players or the coaching staff to arrive at the press conference without a shirt to wear. “They have to be equal to Spain. Haiti is beginning a new era in which it won’t lack the basics. We’re not inferior to anyone,” affirms the agent.

Miguel Trujillo presents the new shirt to one of the Haitian players (Photo: BBC)

However, Trujillo has had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure the eleven boxes of kit arrive on time.  They come from Colombia because Saeta, a sports clothes manufacturer, agreed to sponsor Haiti with high-tech kit. Their contract with the Haitian Football Federation, according to Trujillo, will last 4 years, in which time the company will invest close to $1 million; their shirts will be sold online and through the Federation.

But according to defender Judelain Aveska, the most exciting part of the agreement is that the players are now able to exchange shirts with their opponents at the end of a game – something that was previously unthinkable: if they’d given their shirt away in the past, they wouldn’t have had a shirt to wear in the next game.

A Turbulent Week

That Friday, Haitian officials had managed to secure the use of a playing field on the outskirts of Miami. Training lasted less than ten minutes. The players began to form two circles, but while they filled the field with their singing and laughter, it began to hail, and they were forced to take shelter. After two hours of waiting hopelessly for the weather to clear up, Blake Cantero – the team’s technical director, of Cuban origin – was concerned; his team were unable to train, partly because of the rain and partly because they’d only arrived the day before.

“We are Cubans, they don’t give us the Visa easily,” he told us, to explain the delay, adding that the side’s fitness coach – also Cuban – hadn’t received his Visa in time for the match. Cantero asked the players to board the bus and assured us that he would get them to jog along the corridors of the hotel, because “they can’t arrive like this tomorrow.”

The two Cubans have been in charge of Haiti’s national team for little over a year; their presence in the team is based on an agreement between the football federations of the two countries which is understood as a Cuban mission in Haiti. Each one has been allocated a monthly salary of $1,000 – all the Haitian Federation can afford given it has just one sponsor. To put that in perspective, their wage is roughly 158 times less than what Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque earned in 2012.

Life After Death

The earthquake in 2010, which devastated the country and caused more than 200,000 deaths, instilled in the players a renewed sense  of responsibility for their country. This has resulted in an improvement in the FIFA World Rankings: Haiti has gone up 18 places in the last two years and are now ranked 63rd – above countries with economic conditions much more favourable for sport, and with more experience in international competition.

“After the earthquake, something very strong happened in the players – a positive reaction to the tragedy. We understood that we were playing not only for ourselves…now we have a concrete way of obtaining money for our country,” says midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre.

The whole stadium celebrated Haiti’s goal against the world champions (Photo: BBC)

One of the first examples of that “concrete” method of helping their country occurred just a few days after the earthquake. The team travelled to Germany for a game; the money raised by the match was donated to the Haitian government. Almost half a million dollars were raised – money which was invested in the reconstruction of the Football Federation’s Headquarters (which had disappeared with the tragedy)  and in the building and improvement of football facilities.

The Federation now boasts its own bus and a school for children in which they’re given training, education, food and free accommodation as a way of escaping their difficult environments.

“The ball is a little round thing and it’s for everyone”

Before the game, Judelain Aveska, a defender for Independiente de Rivadavia in the Argentine second tier, forms an imaginary sphere with his hands. I ask him if he thinks Haiti can beat Spain, and he tells me – in Spanish, with an Argentine accent – “the ball’s a little round thing, and it’s for everyone”.

His team-mate Jean-Marc Alexandre, a player for American side Orlando City, agrees that the two teams have the same possibilities: “We respect them, but it doesn’t mean we can’t beat them. We’re ready and excited to play,” he told BBC Mundo. Both players are Christians, and revealed that they often pray before a match. “Before I go out on the pitch, I pray that my opponent doesn’t get injured, because an injury can end your life,” says Jean-Marc

“We’re not aliens”

Despite losing 2-1 to Spain, the Haitian players are content at the final whistle. Fans gather in front of the team bus at the stadium exit to greet the Haitians as if they’d won, asking for autographs and pictures. Minutes later, in the press conference inside the stadium, goalscorer Donald Guerrier is sat between coach Cantero and a translator. He looks happy; he says his goal was dedicated to his son, born the previous day.

Although Guerrier has been patient with the journalists’ repetitive questions, this time he decides to answer more bluntly: asked how he feels, having scored against the best team in the world, he retorts: “I’m not an alien, I’m a human and my job is to score goals if the ball comes to me. On the pitch, we’re all equal.”

With that attitude, the Haitian team left later that day for Brazil, with another friendly lined up against Italy on Tuesday.


The Republic of Ireland held England to an impressive draw at Wembley in a game which bore more positives for them than their hosts. West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long nodded the visitors into the lead early on, but Frank Lampard levelled soon afterwards, and neither team was able to break the deadlock in the second half.

This was the sides’ first meeting since 1995 – that clash, at Landsdowne Road, had been abandoned after English fans began to riot. Ireland had last played the Three Lions at Wembley in 1991, and this fixture marked the renewal of an old rivalry; although a friendly by name, they game was always likely to be hotly contested with national pride at stake more than ever.

Roy Hodgson rewarded Ashley Cole recently reaching the 100-cap mark by bestowing upon him the England captaincy – a somewhat controversial decision given the Chelsea defender’s rocky relationship with the Football Association. Ireland were skippered by a much more obvious choice: Robbie Keane, by some distance the country’s leading marksman.

It was Keane who produced the game’s first shot, on 3 minutes, but his effort flew comfortably wide of Joe Hart’s goal. England responded well, dictating possession and the pace of the game, and Wayne Rooney fired a warning to the Irish with a weighted chip that dropped wide of David Forde’s far post.

Shane Long rises highest to nod Ireland into an early lead

However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock soon afterwards with a goal from nothing. Everton full-back Seamus Coleman was given time and space on Ireland’s right, and he duly made the most of it: his brilliant cross was met equally well by Shane Long, who glanced a header over Joe Hart and into the far corner.

Predictably, the Green army in the stands were ecstatic, and their joy was demonstrated as play resumed, a plume of green smoke seeping across the Wembley pitch as the Irish continued to celebrate. Their team looked to have the upper hand – the early goal had once more brought English pessimism to the fore – but the lead was to be short-lived.

10 minutes after Long had found the net, Daniel Sturridge received the ball wide on England’s left. With little to aim for in the area, the Liverpool attacker delayed his cross. He finally whipped the ball over after spotting Frank Lampard’s late run, and the veteran midfielder was on hand to poke beyond Forde after Sean St Ledger failed to clear. It was a goal arguably deserved on the balance of play.

Sturridge’s assist would prove to be his last notable action: the striker’s first international start was cut short on 32 minutes when he damaged his ankle in a challenge with Glenn Whelan,  and had to be replaced by Jermaine Defoe. Theo Walcott did the most to provide further excitement, his searing pace allowing him to glide beyond Stephen Kelly on 38 minutes, but the Arsenal winger’s low centre was well cleared by St Ledger.

The first half ended in mild controversy when Keane had a penalty appeal turned down – England somehow managed to clear the ball backwards from an Ireland corner, and Rooney appeared to haul Keane to the floor as the visiting captain attempted to scramble home.

He’d been forced to make a change earlier in the game, but at half-time Roy Hodgson opted to further tinker with his line-up, introducing West Brom custodian Ben Foster for Joe Hart and Phil Jones for Glen Johnson at right-back. England started the second period brightly, and Rooney’s excellent chip found Walcott in space on the right; his first-time centre almost reached captain Cole for what would have been his first international goal, but Ireland defenders converged to intervene.

It would prove to be Cole’s final chance to score as captain, as he was replaced on 54 minutes by Everton’s Leighton Baines, the armband passed to Cole’s clubmate Lampard. England continued to threaten, and a quick counter-attack ten minutes later saw Defoe release Walcott in space, but Millwall stopper Forde made a good save from the winger’s low drive.

A momentary lull in proceedings followed, with Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni ringing the changes – Keane, Aidan McGeady and Whelan were sacrificed for Simon Cox, James McClean and Jeff Hendrick. The substitutions helped swing momentum back in the visitors’ favour, and Foster’s blushes were spared with ten minutes to play when he fumbled a deflected cross under pressure from Long, the referee calling a foul before Jon Walters could prod home.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spurned two good chances for England

England responded by creating the clearest chance of the second half: Rooney feigned to shoot before cleverly sliding a ball into Oxlade-Chamberlain’s path, but the Arsenal youngster shot into the turf and against Forde’s legs. Two minutes later they sliced Ireland open again, Lampard picking out Walcott in space, but once more Forde blocked well to preserve parity.

Further substitutions disrupted the game as it drew to a close, and a draw was the fair result on the balance of play. Clearly, however, it went down better with the visitors – Shane Long’s elated celebrations at full time served to prove that. England looked assured in possession but were worryingly wasteful in front of goal, while Trapattoni will take pleasure from his side’s fine defending.

England: Hart (Foster 46); Johnson (Jones 46), Cahill, Jagielka, Cole (Baines 54); Walcott, Lampard, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Milner 87); Rooney, Sturridge (Defoe 33).

Ireland: Forde; Coleman, O’Shea, St Ledger, Kelly; Walters (Sammon 82), McCarthy, Whelan (Hendrick 74), McGeady (McClean 68); Long, Keane (Cox 66).

Player Ratings – England:

Hart: 6 – Little to do and not at fault for Ireland’s goal.

Johnson: 6 – Offered an occasional threat on the overlap; solid enough defensively. (Jones 6 – eager to attack but no end product)

Cahill: 6  – Rarely beaten, but occasionally caught in possession or out of position.

Jagielka: 6 – Sometimes struggled with the troublesome Long, but generally sound defensively.

Cole: 7 – Determined to impress as captain. Fierce in the tackle and almost found the net. (Baines 6 – looked good in possession, but rarely able to get in behind Ireland)

Walcott: 7 – Threatened with pace, especially in first half, but failed to take chances. Promising at times.

Lampard: 7 – Scored the all-important equalizer and used possession well; dictated pace of game.

Carrick: 6 – Efficient if unexceptional. Some good defensive work.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6 – Poor defensively but used pace to scare Ireland on occasion. Should have scored. (Milner 5 – not given enough time to make an impact)

Rooney: 6 – Some clever link-up play from “in the hole”, but never looked like scoring.

Sturridge: 6 – Set up England’s goal but game cut short by injury. (Defoe 5 – quiet; didn’t look like scoring)

Player Ratings – Ireland: 

Forde: 8 – Some excellent saves, and could do little to about the goal. Unlucky not be Man of the Match.

Coleman: 8 – Skillful going forward and brilliant cross for Ireland’s goal. Decent defensively; given Man of the Match.

O’Shea: 6 – Sometimes wasteful in possession but defended well.

St Ledger: 6 – Could have prevented goal, but otherwise solid enough.

Kelly: 6 – Played out-of-position at left-back, but did a reasonable job on Walcott.

Walters: 5 – Worked hard, but little end product. (Sammon 4  – little time to impress, but contributed nothing of note)

McCarthy: 6 – Tidy in possession but failed to threaten England’s goal.

Whelan: 5 – Put in a shift in midfield, work was mainly spoiling rather than creating. (Hendrick 5 – little impact)

McGeady: 7 – Looked tricky, tested Johnson down Ireland’s left with mazy dribbling but dragged shots wide. (McClean 5 – failed to test Jones)

Long: 8 – Superb header to open the scoring, and was a thorn in England’s side in first half. Faded towards the end.

Keane: 6 – Quiet but some intelligent link-up play. (Cox 5 – tried hard but little of note going forward)

Artemi on Trial


Former Southend defender George Artemi has confirmed that he is currently on trial with League Two side Torquay United. The Gulls are known to be on the lookout for a new central defender to replace Mark Ellis, who left for Crewe Alexandra in June.

Although Torquay boss Martin Ling is desperate to sign another defender before the start of the 2012-13 season, many fans will be surprised to learn of 19-year-old Artemi’s trial – Ling had promised the new centre-back would have “experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”.

Artemi at Rusden & Diamonds in 2009

That Artemi has spent most of his senior career in the reserve teams of professional clubs or playing in non-league suggests that either Ling thinks very highly of him indeed, or sees the ex-Rushden & Diamonds man as a third-choice centre-back. The Gulls completed the signing of former Arsenal youngster Tom Cruise in late June, and Cruise’s ability to play on the left side of defence or midfielder means that Artemi could take his place in United’s central defensive roster – with Cruise now seen as cover at full-back.

Beginning his career in Leyton Orient’s youth system, Artemi was part of Ling’s regime at Brisbane Road when the manager spent six years at the club between 2003 and 2009. A former captain of Orient’s youth sides, Artemi trialled with Rushden & Diamonds in the 2008-09 season, and, after impressing for the club’s youth team, made his senior debut aged 17 in a Hillier Senior Cup clash with Kettering Town.

Although he has a distinct lack of Football League experience, Artemi is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble of men’s football – described as a “strong, no-nonsense centre-back” by Diamonds, he faced 6ft strikers Anthony Elding and Moses Ashikodi on his debut for the club, and has since enjoyed loan spells further down the football pyramid with Great Wakering Rovers and Malden & Tiptree.

Following a trial with Southend in March 2011, Artemi signed a contract with the Roots Hall club, but he found first-team opportunities hard to come by and, after more loan spells, was released at the end of the year. Artemi, of Cypriot origin but fluent in Spanish, joined Bishop’s Stortford in January 2012, but would spend just two months at the club before leaving for Conference South outfit Thurrock in March.

Relegation-threatened Thurrock had little chance of survival – they would ultimately be relegated in the first week of April – and Artemi was handed his debut in March, starting against mid-table Weston-super-Mare in a 2-2 draw. Though the result was a good one for Thurrock on their travels, Artemi was replaced just 14 minutes into the match and failed to appear again in 2011-12.

Should he join Torquay on a permanent basis if his trial proves successful, Artemi will complete a hat-trick of players on the club’s books with Cypriot heritage. Left-back Alex Avraamides and 15-year-old midfielder Charalambos Mouzouros are both members of United’s youth team, and both impressed in the U-18 side’s 4-2 victory over international academy Pulse Premier on Friday.

With the Gulls also linked with Morecambe centre-back Chris McCready and ex-Crawley stopper Pablo Mills, it seems unlikely that Ling would take the risk of having Artemi, untried in the Football League, in his starting line-up. However, the youngster could provide valuable cover across the backline and act as back-up to the first-choice pairing of Brian Saah and the expected signing of a new, experienced centre-back.

Image: http://www.thediamondsfc.com


Dutch international Luuk de Jong has signed for German side Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee in the region of €15 million, following months of speculation linking the forward with a move to Die Fohlen.

Beginning his career with De Graafschap in 2008, de Jong took just 14 Eredivisie games to attract the attention of bigger Dutch clubs. Having already contributed vital assists and crucial goals – including a spectacular overhead-kick winner against Heracles Almelo in March 2009 – de Jong established himself as one of the country’s brightest young talents, and few were surprised when FC Twente swooped to sign the forward in April 2009.

De Jong poses with his new shirt

Two assists on his debut, an 8-0 cup rout of SC Joure, set the tone for a prolific spell at the De Grolsch Veste stadium. Over the next three years, de Jong netted 39 times in just 76 league games – a strike rate of over one goal every other game. His goals powered Twente to the Eredivisie title in 2009-10, and he was the club’s top scorer in the following two seasons.

After a brilliant 2011-12 campaign in which de Jong scored 25 league goals in 32 appearances, Twente manager Steve McClaren and president Joop Munsterman appeared to be resigned to losing their star man. Believing the 21-year-old was headed for the Premier League, McClaren told the Daily Mirror: “Luuk is an English style striker, made for English football. I am just ­desperate to keep him for one more year, but I ­realise that will be difficult. Luuk is big, strong, brilliant in the air and scores goals so easily. He has every quality a top class striker needs to have for a big club.”

With many European clubs rumoured to be interested in the Swiss-born striker, Munsterman slapped a hefty €15 million (£11.7 million) price tag on de Jong – a figure that put off some potential suitors, including English side Newcastle United. Having offloaded last season’s top scorer Marco Reus to Borussia Dortmund for €17.5 milli0n, Borussia Mönchengladbach had money to spend and needed to invest in a goalscorer.

Die Fohlen had finished in an impressive fourth place in the 2011-12 Bundesliga, and their success and ambition clearly tempted de Jong once the club had met Twente’s €15 million valuation. Indeed, the frontman admitted he would forego personal success at his new club for the benefit of his new team: “I would be happy to give up the [top] scorer’s title if it meant challenging at the top of the table. The club has made the right steps with its transfer. Maybe we can win the league in the next five years. I didn’t sign until 2017 without having any long-term objectives.”

Relieved to have finally completed the signing of de Jong after months of speculation, Mönchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl smiled: “”We are very pleased that it’s now a done deal after all, and that Luuk will be able to travel to our training camp in Tegernsee on Friday. In Luuk, we have secured the services of a very talented striker who already has plenty of international experience under his belt with Twente and the Dutch national side, despite his tender age of 21.”

Recording a strike rate of at least a goal a game for each of the Dutch youth teams he represented at international level, de Jong was handed his senior Holland debut in 2011. He was named in the country’s Euro 2012 squad, but despite the Oranje’s disastrous tournament, was left on the bench for all three group stage games.

Image: http://topnews.in


Brazilian side Botafogo have completed the signing of Uruguayan wonderkid Nicolás Lodeiro from Ajax for an undisclosed fee. The deal was confirmed on Botafogo’s official website on Friday, and Lodeiro will link up with his new team-mates after the Olympic Games.

Making his debut for Uruguayan giants Nacional aged just 18, Lodeiro enjoyed national honours in his second season in senior football as Nacional won the Primera División in 2008-09. Although still a teenager, Lodeiro played in 25 of Nacional’s 32 league fixtures that season, earning rave reviews and showing maturity beyond his years.

A 2011 Copa América winner, Lodeiro has a fine international pedigree

After helping his side reach the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores in 2009, Lodeiro began to attract interest from a number of European clubs and few were surprised when the midfielder left for Dutch giants Ajax in January 2010. Although linking up with compatriots Luis Suarez  – who had recommended Nicolás to Ajax boss Martin Jol – and Bruno Silva somewhat softened the blow of having to leave his home continent, Lodeiro predictably struggled to make an immediate impact at Ajax, only making ten appearances in all competitions.

Included in Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup squad, Lodeiro did little to boost his chances of first-team football at the Amsterdam Arena by first becoming the tournament’s first player to be sent off, and then picking up an injury that kept him out for the entire 2010-11 campaign.

To his credit, Lodeiro recovered to make 12 Eredivisie appearances for Ajax last season, scoring his first league goals for the club and also netting against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late to save his Ajax career, and the Dutch giants have allowed Lodeiro to leave as they prepare to defend their league title in 2012-13.

Five years ago, Lodeiro’s decision to leave Europe for the Brazilian top-flight would have been viewed as a huge step backwards, but the league has markedly improved in recent years as national heroes return home to end their careers and Brazil’s youngsters now choose to bide their time at home rather than rushing into an ill-advised move to Europe.

In joining Botafogo – currently just one point shy of fourth place and a Copa Libertadores berth – Lodeiro follows in the footsteps of Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who left Europe for The Lone Star at the start of the month. The fanfare surrounding the former AC Milan and Real Madrid schemer, who still dominates Botafogo’s official website over 20 days after joining, will take some of the pressure off Lodeiro.

At the age of 23, Lodeiro has played just 81 games at club level – Seedorf has made over 800 appearances. Named as Man of the Match in just his second senior appearance for Uruguay, Lodeiro clearly has talent, and moving back to South America can help him settle and rediscover the form that led him to Europe in the first place. He needs more first-team football, and Lodeiro is more likely to play regularly at Botafogo than Ajax.

A statement on Botafogo’s official website said: “Botafogo closed on Thursday the signing of Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro, 23. The player, who signed for four years with the club, is meeting with the Uruguayan team in preparation for the Olympics in London, and [will] submit to Botafogo after the competition.”

Image: http://fifacats.blogspot.co.uk