Sunday, July 31, 2005

Now Now Mr Boateng

"Middlesbrough's pre-season build-up turned sour last night in the Algarve as they lost heavily and had a man sent off" according to the club's official site on the 4 - 0 drubbing doled out by Sporting Lisbon on Friday night. Boateng swinging at Sporting's Moutinho after a ridiculous 2 foot challenge and a 4-0 defeat is always going to be a sour one, but you could hardly call the round of pre-season friendlies so far a blazing trail of glory - a 3-0 drubbing from Hartlepool, a 1-1 draw with Hearts, a 4-2 win over Carlisle and a 0-0 abysmal first half performance against Darlington before the game was abandoned. Hardly promising is it? I'd say the build-up was consistently pretty sour from the off, no turning there.

Mind you maybe those at the website didn't know the scores of the other game, it's that bloody hard to find match reports or results for the pre-season friendlies, even on the official site you're lucky to find anything. I've had to trawl the internet for countless minutes looking for info to see how we're shaping up for the season (which I've come to the conclusion is pretty bad to be honest). Come on people, sort it out, give us the info we want!

In other news, Boro have been saved from throwing a massive load of cash in wages ( reported to be £47000 a week!)at yet another 32 year old on a free by Tottenham, who have thankfully pippedMcClarenn to the post on the signing of Davids from Inter Milan after a less than spectacular time there. What is it with Boro's signing policy? Does anyone take any notice of what's actually happening around the players they sign or is it just a random draw? Potagetz, the 22 year old Austrian international signed for £1.8million from Bayer Leverkusen, looks highly unlikely to have his 24 week ban (for a reportedly horrendous tackle leaving his opponent with a double leg fracture) overturned. and why should he? But even more importantly, why did anyone fail to notice the not too small matter of the ban when he was signed?

And lastly, Boro have sent 25 year old Danish winger Lovenkrands back to Rangers after a rare attack of common sense. The winger was at the Riverside for talks ana bitit of an audition when luckily someone realised he was rubbish. Phew!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Manchester United Lose in Japan

Man Utd lose in Japan.
Manchester United lost 2-1 to current J-League leaders Kashima Antlers in a pre-season friendly at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Masashi Motoyama scored twice for Kashima with Ryan Giggs netting for United. All the goals came in the first half. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha were guilty of some bad misses for the Reds and the game ended with a bitter argument between van Nistelrooy and defender Rio Ferdinand.

United wrap up their tour of Japan with another friendly against Urawa Reds at Saitama's World Cup stadium just outside Tokyo on Saturday.

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Bolton in Japan

Bolton in Japan.
28 June

Bolton Wanderers completed their pre-season tour of Japan with a 1-1 draw with J.League side Kawasaki Frontale.

The Trotters also drew 1-1 with Vissel Kobe earlier in the week. The English Premier League side came back from 1-0 deficits in both games. James Sinclair grabbed the equalizer for Bolton with 4 minutes to go.

Bolton manager Sam Allardyce expressed interest in bringing a Japanese player to join the already international brigade at the Reebok in the future.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Liverpool Red Diary

Liverpool v Chelsea Champions League Semi-Final 2005

The ruthless and relentless Chelski revolution, that now appears to dominate every football-related media publication, seems to have sprung up virtually overnight. It seems only yesterday that the west London club had a side befitting of their history; completely unremarkable. Now they are trying to take over the world, and what is worse is that the world seems to be listening. I was doing a coaching session recently in a remote corner of central Russia, where an alarming proportion of youngsters were sporting counterfeit Chelsea shirts. It's hard to think that just two years ago they would have been that of Arsenal, Man United and even Liverpool.

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Less is Mour, a Premier League preview

After a summer of relative tranquility, where only the visit of Australian cricketers or a meeting of 16 peculiar people in a house could arouse our interest, the return of the Premiership is set to awaken us from our betting slumber.

The bookmakers have created a colossal amount of markets for the new season, including which manager will be the first to leave his post, which player will receive the most bookings, and for the more adventurous, which team will win the title.

To discover everything you need to know about your team’s chances for the new season, and preview the mountain of specials on offer, read on.

Arsenal

Winners 10/3 @ Bet Direct
Relegation 10,000/1 @ Sporting Odds
Season Special – Arsenal to finish above Chelsea 5/4 @ Super Soccer
Player Special – Henry to win the Golden Boot 9/4 @ BET 365

The sale of Vieira was the shock of the summer, but if Wenger can remain unruffled after throwing a Paddy, we must take the hint that he’s happy with the abundance of talent at the club. The Premiership’s most consistent team of recent years are Gunner regain their title.

Aston Villa

Winners 500/1 @ Sporting Odds
Relegation 25/1 @ Totesport
Season Special – Villa to finish above Birmingham 4/5 @ Super Soccer
Player Special – Angel to score more than Forssell 10/11 @ Super Soccer

O’Leary has added real quality to the Villa squad; Kevin Phillips is a fantastic signing for £750,000, Stuart Taylor looks the part and he’s managed to get his hands on a free Berger. European football? It’s coming to a Holte.

Birmingham

Winners 700/1 @ Sporting Odds
Relegation 16/1 @ UK Betting
Season Special – Birmingham to finish above Villa 11/10 @ BET 365
Player Special – Forssell to score more than Angel 4/5 @ Super Soccer

The Forss may be with them, but can they sign Pandiani? The City manager believes that the Uruguayan can make all the difference for the Blues, and what’s good for the Bruce, is good for the Panda.

Blackburn

Winners 1,500/1 @ BET 365
Relegation 10/1 @ Stan James
Season Special – Blackburn to finish above Bolton 6/5 @ Stan James
Player Special – Robbie Savage to be sent off in a league match 2/1 @ Super Soccer

He’s more camp than Savage, more hillbill than Kill Bill, but his antics always generate interest. You can back Robbie to be sent off in any league match at 2/1, but beware, he rarely gets caught.

Bolton

Winners 500/1 @ Super Soccer
Relegation 25/1 @ Skybet
Season Special – Betting without the big 3 25/1 @ Ladbrokes
Player Special – El Hadji Diouf to be sent off in a league match 5/4 @ Super Soccer

The signing of Diouf is a major gamble, and reports of a summer bust up with a team-mate’s partner (The spit man and her) have done little to improve the Senegalese hit-man’s reputation. However, Big Sam is a master of his trade and a top half finish is guaranteed.

Charlton

Winners 1,000/1 @ Super Soccer
Relegation 8/1 @ UK Betting
Season Special – Charlton to finish in the top half of the table 13/8 @ Paddy Power
Manager Special – Curbishley to be the first manager to go 14/1 @ Coral

Charlton’s customary end of season collapse brought the following quote from the manager, “Maybe I’ve been here too long.” A slow start to the season could see Alan kicked to the Curb.

Chelsea

Winners 5/6 @ VC Bet
Relegation 10,000/1 @ Stan James
Season Special – Chelsea to win the quadruple 100/1 @ UK Betting
Player Special – Drogba to win the Golden Boot 16/1 @ Coral

Paul McCartney believed that ‘Money can’t buy me love’ but Paul Daniels and Chelsea fans would probably disagree. Retaining a title is always tougher than winning a title, 2nd place for the Blues.

Everton

Winners 300/1 @ Totesport
Relegation 40/1 @ William Hill
Season Special – Everton to finish above Liverpool 7/2 @ BET 365
Player Special – Beattie to score more than Cisse 11/8 @ Super Soccer

Liverpool are the best team in Europe, and Everton are the best team in Liverpool; Chelsea must be petrified. Everton’s drop down the table is as certain as night follows day, possibly more so.

Fulham

Winners 1,500/1 @ Super Soccer
Relegation 4/1 @ Totesport
Season Special – Fulham to finish in the top half of the table 11/4 @ Paddy Power
Player Special – Helguson to score 10 or more league goals 11/10 @ Super Soccer

The loss of Van der Sar will be a real blow for Fulham, but as Andy Cole has also left the club, the news hasn’t been all bad in the transfer market this summer. The arrival of Helguson should guarantee a few goals this year as Fulham consolidate their mid-table position.

Liverpool

Winners 20/1 @ Stan James
Relegation 2,500/1 @ VC Bet
Season Special – Liverpool to finish above Man Utd 7/4 @ Super Soccer
Player Special – Cisse to win the Golden Boot 22/1 @ BET 365

After finishing 37 points behind Chelsea last season, Benitez has decided to bolster his forward line of Cisse and Morientes with Peter Crouch. Possibly the worst decision since a Scouser set fire to his Gerrard shirt, the day before he agreed to sign a new contract. D’oh.

Man City

Winners 750/1 @ Sporting Odds
Relegation 20/1 @ Totesport
Season Special – City to do the double over United 25/1 @ Super Soccer
Player Special – Andy Cole to score 10 or more league goals Evs @ Super Soccer

An awful pre-season for the Blues saw Joey Barton scrap with a 15 year old Everton fan, and Andy Cole sign a contract. Psycho will probably continue with his cunning plan of playing David James up front, as they’ll almost certainly concede fewer goals.

Man United

Winners 7/2 @ Bet Direct
Relegation 5,000/1 @ Stan James
Season Special – Man Utd to finish above Arsenal 11/10 @ Stan James
Player Special – Rooney to win the Golden Boot 14/1 @ Coral

The arrival of a quality keeper will ensure that United are a real threat for the title this season. The 14/1 about Rooney topping the goalscorer charts looks real value, it’s as clear as the chin on his chin.

Middlesbrough

Winners 300/1 @ Coral
Relegation 33/1 @ William Hill
Season Special – Middlesbrough to finish above Newcastle Evs @ Stan James
Player Special – Yakubu to score more than Shearer 5/6 @ Super Soccer

It’s time to ask the question; is Steve McClaren a good manager? One Carling Cup and the odd UEFA Cup tie against the likes of Egaleo does not represent a reasonable return on Steve Gibson’s considerable outlay; 15 for the Yak, or Macca for the sack.

Newcastle

Winners 250/1 @ Totesport
Relegation 40/1 @ Super Soccer
Season Special – Newcastle to be the top North East club 5/6 @ BET 365
Manager Special – Souness to be the first manager to go 11/2 @ BET 365

After a season of dressing room unrest, the manager’s plan to improve morale consists of replacing Craig Bellamy with Nicolas Anelka. Oh dear. The Geordies have fallen for the Scott Parker myth; it’s another disappointing season ahead.

Portsmouth

Winners 3,000/1 @ Sporting Odds
Relegation 9/4 @ VC Bet
Season Special – Pompey to finish in the top half of the table 7/2 @ Paddy Power
Player Special – Robert to score 5 or more league goals 11/8 @ Super Soccer

Laurent Robert is the footballing equivalent of modern art. Occasionally pretty to look at, but it serves no real purpose. They struggled last season with Yakubu and Berger, they’re relegated without them.

Sunderland

Winners 5,000/1 @ Skybet
Relegation 4/5 @ Stan James
Season Special – Sunderland to finish in the top half of the table 7/1 @ Paddy Power
Manager Special – McCarthy to be the first manager to go 14/1 @ VC Bet

Stead and Elliott look to be a handy partnership up front and their goals can ensure Sunderland’s survival. Victor Chandler make Mick McCarthy a 14/1 shot to be the first manager to leave his post; a case of a big Mackem fries.

Tottenham

Winners 200/1 @ Skybet
Relegation 66/1 @ Totesport
Season Special – Tottenham to finish in the top six 7/4 @ Ladbrokes
Player Special – Defoe to win the Golden Boot 18/1 @ Stan James

Spurs have been linked with every world class player on the market this summer, and have bought Tom Huddlestone. Alex Ferguson believes the Spurs may be a challenger this season, although exactly what he expects them to be challenging for is open to question.

West Brom

Winners 5,000/1 @ Bet Direct
Relegation Evs @ BET 365
Season Special – West Brom to finish above Portsmouth Evs @ BET 365
Player Special – Earnshaw to score 10 or more league goals Evs @ Super Soccer

The film ‘Get Carter’ inspired their summer transfer policy. The film ‘Falling Down’ will represent their season.

West Ham

Winners 5,000/1 @ Ladbrokes
Relegation 8/11 @ Super Soccer
Season Special – West Ham to finish above Tottenham 7/2 @ BET 365
Player Special – Repka to have the worst disciplinary record 20/1 @ Totesport

The bookies make them favourites to finish bottom of the league, but don’t be deceived; not every Hammer is a tool.

Wigan

Winners 5,000/1 @ Skybet
Relegation 4/5 @ Premier Bet
Season Special - Wigan not to be relegated 11/10 @ UK Betting
Player Special – Roberts to score more than Ellington Evs @ Super Soccer

Wigan now have a top class football team and an awful rugby team, if this move towards an upside down parallel universe continues, who knows? Birmingham may win a trophy that doesn’t have the word ‘windscreen’ in the title. Wigan have a great manager and great strikers. They’ll stay up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Darlo Vs Boro - is this what we've got to look forward to next season?

A pretty much full strength Premier League Boro team (with the notable absence of New lad Yakubu) managed to turn in a dire first half performance against Division 3/English League 2/whatever you want to call it's Darlington on Saturday, in Darlo hero and ex-Boro squad member Craig Liddle's Testimonial game.

A welcome return to the fold for Mendieta, Jimmy Floyd and Boateng saw the team pose no threat whatsoever to Darlington whose No.6 looked the most competent and threatening player on the pitch. Now, yeah, I'm not looking forward to more of that in the coming season, but even more worrying is the way in which the game ended - a half time evacuation due to a bombscare called in from a phone box in the town. Is this what we've got to look forward to next season? Countless games ruined & abandoned by idiots with nothing better to do than spoil an afternoon's entertainment. With the seriousness that the Police have to take cases like this at the moment and the pressure that Police are under, why would anyone ring in a hoax bombscare? Well, it certainly pushes their resources to the limits, but what good can possibly come of it? Who's paying attention to a North East friendly in the first place and if it is just some idiot "having a laugh" how exactly is that funny? The Police are apparently doing their best to track down the hoaxer and lets hope they get him/her soon. And what a way for Craig Liddle to end his career.

Hopefully this won't be a taster for the season to come, in terms of the football but most of all the way the game ended.

Interview with Ian Crook

Sydney FC’s assistant coach reveals how Australia’s sporting public will recognise Dwight Yorke – and it’s got nothing to do with the local nightlife.

Former Tottenham and Norwich City midfielder Ian Crook is playing a pivotal role in the development of football in Australia. Earlier this year, Crook was named assistant coach at self-confessed glamour club Sydney FC, pre-season favourites to claim the title in the inaugural A-League season starting late next month.

In addition to 18 years in English football’s top-flight during the 1980s and ‘90s, Crook finished his career in Australia where he spent the last six seasons involved in the defunct National League. Now the man who helped the Canaries beat European heavyweights Bayern Munich in 1993 will aid in steering the club representing Australia’s largest city into a new chapter of soccer down under.

Head coach Pierre Littbarski, a former World Cup winner with Germany, has joined Crook at the helm of newly formed Sydney FC, a club barely nine months old yet already under pressure as the standard-bearers of the brand new national competition.

Not only has Sydney recruited the most talented squad of players, its target market covers something in the region of a quarter of Australian residents. As a consequence, its success is sure to dictate the pattern of national acceptance of the new format in a sport hardly among Australia’s favourites.

Crook is one of the many who believes the development of the A-League offers football its last opportunity to make an impact down under.

“It’s getting to the stage where the league hasn’t got too many more chances,” Crook admits. “It has suffered badly over the last ten years where it’s gradually dipped and dipped. I think it is (a last chance) and this time there are no excuses.

“The administration side of it is good, the sponsors are onboard, the players are coming back, everything’s better. If it fails to find it’s little niche in the market now, then where else is there for it to go?”

In Crook’s mind, the support of specialist broadcaster Fox Sports has been crucial. Parallels can be drawn between English football pre-1992 and Australian today. The last decade of the Premier League confirms that improving the game’s exposure ultimately delivers a better product – something the old NSL never benefited from. As Crook puts it, “It’s now not just about what’s done out on the pitch. There needs to be a little bit of razzmatazz I suppose.”

Furthermore, Australia’s domestic game can finally compete with the Premier League on a level playing field. For fans down under, being able to regularly follow Sky’s comprehensive coverage has merely accentuated the gulf between local and overseas standards. The Premiership has in no small way contributed to the lack of passion 10,000 miles away.

By recruiting from the Premier League, A-League clubs plan to capitalise on a decade of free publicity. Crook’s employers fired a warning shot to their rivals with the prized capture of Dwight Yorke, a veteran of 15 seasons at the summit of English football. Yorke joins as Sydney’s dedicated ‘marquee’ signing, meaning he can be paid outside the AUD$1.5million annual salary cap.

The former Manchester United striker is renowned for being able to generate front- and back-page headlines in equal measure and his signing has raised concerns in some quarters. The profile of the inaugural league season could well plot a similar course to Yorke’s own. Crook, on the other hand, believes Australian football needs a player with the charisma of the Trinidad and Tobago international.

“The great thing about Dwight is he’s such a likeable character,” Crook says. “People will just recognise Dwight because of his smile. It’s really important that the game out here can have not just a good player, but a good character that’s going to be able to promote the game.”

Moreover Yorke’s face fits, not only because he’s one of the Premiership’s all-time leading goalscorers, but because of the ubiquitous nature of the English game. “If that had been (Andriy) Shevchenko, who is at the peak of his game and probably the best striker in the world,” Crook argues. “90% of people out here wouldn’t know him.”

Much has been made of the official name change from soccer to football, with equal doses of arrogance and fear on display in the written media. The round-ball game is moving forwards but is never likely to match sport fans’ desire for traditional ‘footy’ codes like Rugby League and Australian Rules. “If the game’s looking to do that, then I don’t think it will succeed,” Crook says. “The important thing is for the game to be comfortable with the niche it can find.”

Over time, its role should develop to the extent Australia’s most participated sport starts to rank alongside its most watched. But it will take time. “If people are expecting the A-League to blow everything away in the first year, that’s wrong,” says Crook. “You saw from the World Club Championship qualifying games that the standard was better. It will get even better over the next three years. That’s the time you’ll see the real difference.”

South Korea's Dynamic Duo

It’s a pretty good time to be a Korean football fan. Qualification for the World Cup was expected but still welcome for all concerned. But what is really getting people excited are the ‘Two Parks’ – Park Ji-sung and Park Chu-young.– the hottest properties in Asian football.
Park ji-sung

The older of the two, Ji-sung, has just joined Manchester United in a $7.4 million deal; one that thrusts the shy Suwon native stumbling onto one of the brightest stages on the planet.

Manchester United is the biggest and richest sports franchise in the world, have fans from Auckland to Argentina, have lifted the English title eight times in the past thirteen years and have young players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and will be challenging for titles at home and abroad for years to come.

The 24 year-old will need to use all of his, not inconsiderable, experience in England. He took the unusual route of moving to Japan without ever appearing in the Korean league. His two years at Kyoto Purple Sanga were successful ones but they weren’t the reason why the midfielder earned a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.

Ji-sung’s exploits in South Korea’s run to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup were the clincher to his European move as was his relationship with then Korean boss Guus Hiddink. When Park scored an exquisite goal against Portugal in Incheon, he ran straight to the Dutchman and jumped into his arms.

Hiddink has since been reluctant to let go and when he took over the reins at Eindhoven he wasted no time in persuading Park to join him and despite some initial settling-in problems, the Korean established himself as an integral part of the midfield in southern Holland, leading the team to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

Such performances inevitably attracted the attention of bigger fish and they don’t come any bigger than Manchester United. It’s difficult for any player to turn down the “Red Devils” and Park will soon become the first South Korean to play in the Premier League.

Equally inevitable were suggestions in the English and European media that United bought Park to ‘crack’ the Asian market – to help boost the focus of the club’s smooth merchandising machine in the east.

The biggest service the star, for a star he now is, can provide to the Asian game during his time at United is to prove that European clubs can actually sign Far Eastern players for their talent and skill and not for the dubious perceived benefits of selling shirts in the Orient.

It won’t be easy, as he has to break into the first eleven in England and stay there but playing with stars like Rooney and Ronaldo can only help the Asian develop.
“What is important for me is whether I can play in games or not,’’ Park, who is planning to study English, said in a press conference.
``I don’t think I will become a big star like David Beckham right now,” joked the Korean about the former Manchester player. “Maybe I can if I was that handsome, but I am always trying to be a better player, so I don’t think it is impossible to become a player like Beckham.’’
Such humor will serve him well as will his typical Korean determination to succeed. English fans prize effort, heart and willingness to give everything for the team above everything, qualities that Park has in abundance as well as no little skill.

If the elder Park is Batman then Chu-young is certainly the boy wonder and plans to follow the trail blazed by the United man, repeatedly stating his desire to play in England. With the meteoric rise of the player, who turned 20 on July 10, few would bet against the sensation doing just that.
Park Chu-young

To anyone living in north-east Asia, it is scarcely believable that the Daegu native was unknown just a year ago. The striker’s six goals during last November’s Asian Youth Championship, won the title for his team and the prize of MVP for himself.

The greater award of the AFC’s Young Asian Player of 2004 title was received in January 2005 as was attention from a host of K-League clubs with FC Seoul eventually capturing the services of the emerging celebrity.

Encouragingly for Park and for South Korea, he seems to be able to make the step up to the next level with breathtaking effortlessness. He finished the pre-season Hauzen Cup competition as joint top scorer and then went one better by becoming the outright leading marksman in the first stage of the K-League, despite missing five games due to international duty. His mere presence tempts the sometimes reluctant Korean public to pour into stadiums all over the republic.

If observers didn’t believe the hype, they had to reconsider in June. After only three appearances in the K-League, national coach Jo Bonfrere bowed to media pressure and included the deeply- religious goalgetter in the starting line-ups for the vital World Cup Qualifiers in Uzbekistan and Kuwait.

A last minute equalizer in Tashkent kept his country on the road to Germany 2006 and five days later, the striker scored the first goal in a sweltering Kuwait City and earned the penalty for the second to secure the win that guaranteed South Korea a place in a seventh World Cup.

Rarely has a rise been so dramatic but the ambitious and single-minded 20 year-old doesn’t plan to stop anytime in the near future as his avowed intent is to move to England as soon as possible.
South Korea just may have a pair of global stars on its hands

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Soccerphile World Cup Blog

Soccerphile World Cup Blog

Davor Suker & Dino Pokrovac


Ozren Podnar reports on an unresolved enigma




Six weeks after the event, the police in Croatia still say they have no clue as to who murdered the well-known players' agent Dino Pokrovac in Zagreb.



Pokrovac, who managed the career of, among others, Niko Kranjcar, was executed in an obvious mafia-style killingon June 11th in the stairway of his residential building and the assassin was obviously a consummate pro as he did not leave any traces.



Three weeks later another event stunned the Croatian public when Dinamo Zagreb's coach Josip Kuze had his car burned in front of a popular Zagreb cafe. A year before his death, Pokrovac also had a car, a shiny Mercedes, burned and blown up, which the police interpreted as a mafia warning.



The two events may have something in common since Kuze was one of Pokrovac's chief debtors, as this soccer agent apparently used to do a lot more than mediate in players' transfers. Kuze called him "a usurer" who had lent him money under extremely unfavourable conditions, which in the end cost Dinamo's coach an apartment in Zagreb and a part of the ownership of his house. Kuze says he resorted to Pokrovac because he had no choice as he had incurred huge gambling debts.



Same procedure, different perpetrators?



However, those who threatened and ultimately killed Pokrovac may not be the same people who warned Kuze in early July, and the Croatian press speculates that the perpetrators of Kuze's car burning may have been Pokrovac's pals, angry because of the coach's accusations against the former players' agent. The police on the other hand have no clue as to who has Kuze in their sights.



The people who mediate in players' transfers clearly belong to the elite of Croatian society, as far as their financial power and their social influence is concerned.



The sales of highly respected Croatian footballers abroad (hundreds of whom ply their trade outside of their homeland) involves such high commissions that a couple of transfers guarantee a lucky agent a wealth beyond the reach of 95% of ordinary Croatians.



Pokrovac's coup, albeit certainly not his biggest deal, was the mediation in the transfer of Niko Kranjcar from Dinamo Zagreb to Hajduk Split for 1.8 million euros - a huge sum for the modest Croatian market.



When he was killed, dozens of local players and coaches, including the national team coach Zlatko Kranjcar (Niko's father) expressed their dismay and sorrow at their friend and associate's death.



His funeral was attended by some 1200 people at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, including high profile footballing personalities and several equally prominent individuals with police records.



Suker may continue Pokrovac's work



Among those present at the funeral was Pokrovac's partner in his transfer dealings, the great Davor Suker himself, not hiding his tears at the death of a close friend. Suker, one of the most lethal goal poachers of the nineties, was in London when Pokrovac was killed and when he returned he hardly made any comments to the press.

"I am shocked, my condolences to Dino's family," was all that the former Gunner and Hammer said to the media. He was also interviewed by the police, along with hundreds of other Pokrovac's friends, partners, clients and alleged debtors.



"The police investigation included more than 200 people, many of them from the world of sport," said a police spokesman on the day Suker visited a police precinct, not in the status of a suspect, though.



Suker's activities after his retirement in 2003 have been mostly related to his Football Academy in Zagreb, with branches elsewhere in Croatia, but he also used his many contacts acquired during his 20-year long career to try his hand as a soccer agent. It is thought, according to the Slobodna Dalmacija daily, that the Golden Boot winner from the 1998 World Cup will continue Pokrovac's work with players, which include former international Mato Neretljak with Korea's Samsung, Srdjan Andric from Panathinaikos, Daniel Hrman and Almir Turkovic from Hajduk and several other distinguished Croatian footballers.



The public does know very much about Suker's post-footballing career as he rarely volunteers news about himself and the press in Croatia doesn't really persecute celebrities as the English tabloids do. Here's a country where Paul Gascoigne or David Beckham would enjoy peace and quiet among meek and friendly reporters who obediently back away from controversy.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



When Sukerman ruled the world



Croatia never had someone like him, not even in the times of the ex-Yugoslavia. The left-footed wizard Davor Suker debuted at 16 in the Yugoslav First Division with Osijek and at 21 he was the League's top scorer with 18 goals. A member of the 1987 Youth World Cup winning side in Chile, he was transfered to Dinamo Zagreb, where he notched 34 league goals in two seasons.



He debuted in the fledgling Croatian national team in 1990 against Romania, but he also appeared in two games for Yugoslavia in 1991, a few months before the start of the Croatian Independence War. When the war stopped all sporting activity in Croatia, Suker moved to Sevilla, where he spent five years and become a real crowd favourite - even ahead of Diego Maradona in 1992/93 when the two played together.



Nicknamed "Sukerman", he was transferred to Real Madrid where he spent another three famous years, collecting a League championship and a Champions League medal, among other honours.



His excellent goals tally in the Spanish League was surpassed by that in the Croatian shirt, as he went on to score 45 international goals in 69 full internationals!



He was at his best at the 1998 World Cup in France where he scored six goals in seven games to lead the chequered shirts to a magnificent third place, the best that any South Slav nation, including the former Yugoslavia itself, ever managed.



He was named by Pele among the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004. In the same year, he was voted the best Croatian player in the last 50 years in the UEFA-promoted poll to celebrate UEFA's 50th aniversary.



Davor Suker Factfile



Name: Davor Suker

Birthdate: January 1, 1968

Birthplace: Osijek (CRO)



Club career:

1983-89 NK Osijek

1989-91 Dinamo Zagreb

1991-96 Sevilla

1996-99 Real Madrid

1999-00 Arsenal

2000-01 West Ham

2001-03 München 1860

International career:

Croatia 69 appearances, 45 goals

Yugoslavia 2 appearances, 1 goal

Honours:

Yugoslav League top scorer 1988/89

Spanish League 1996/97

Spanish Supercup 1997

Champions League 1998

Intercontinental Cup 1998

UEFA Cup finals 2000

World Cup bronze medal 1998

World Cup top scorer 1998

European Silver Ball 1998



Monday, July 25, 2005

Darlo Vs Boro - is this what we've got to look forward to next season?

A pretty much full strength Premier League Boro team (with the notable absence of New lad Yakubu) managed to turn in a dire first half performance against Division 3/English League 2/whatever you want to call it's Darlington on Saturday, in Darlo hero and ex-Boro squad member Craig Liddle's Testimonial game.

A welcome return to the fold for Mendieta, Jimmy Floyd and Boateng saw the team pose no threat whatsoever to Darlington whose No.6 looked the most competent and threatening player on the pitch. Now, yeah, I'm not looking forward to more of that in the coming season, but even more worrying is the way in which the game ended - a half time evacuation due to a bombscare called in from a phone box in the town. Is this what we've got to look forward to next season? Countless games ruined & abandoned by idiots with nothing better to do than spoil an afternoon's entertainment. With the seriousness that the Police have to take cases like this at the moment and the pressure that Police are under, why would anyone ring in a hoax bombscare? Well, it certainly pushes their resources to the limits, but what good can possibly come of it? Who's paying attention to a North East friendly in the first place and if it is just some idiot "having a laugh" how exactly is that funny? The Police are apparently doing their best to track down the hoaxer and lets hope they get him/her soon. And what a way for Craig Liddle to end his career.

Hopefully this won't be a taster for the season to come, in terms of the football but most of all the way the game ended.

Real Madrid 0 - 3 Tokyo Verdy 69

Tokyo

Real Madrid ProgramTokyo Verdy 69 3 Real Madrid 0

On a hot and humid night in Tokyo, Real Madrid lost 3-0 to J-League side Tokyo Verdy 69 in a pre-season friendly in Japan's capital.

The match is part of Real Madrid's 2005 tour of the USA, China, Japan and Thailand.

Tokyo Verdy 69 have recently parted company with their manager, Ozzie Ardiles, after a poor run of form in the first half of the current J-League season.

Real Madrid in Japan Program - Collector's item.
Full-color 74 page Real Madrid v FC Tokyo official program August 2003. New photos of David Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul, Zidane and Roberto Carlos.

See the latest images on the Beckham boom in Japan.

Size: 21cm x 30cm
Price: US$29.99

Sunday, July 24, 2005

World Cup 2006 Poster on Sale

Official FIFA World Cup™ Germany 2006 Poster.
Offizielles Event-Poster der FIFA WM 2006™.
World Cup Poster 2006
The winning design by Berlin design agency We do Communication GmbH featues a football made up of stars glittering in a night sky. The winning design beat off four rivals in a telephone and text poll by 50,000 people in Germany.
"We liked both the idea and the execution. Stars taking the shape of a football is a new, strongly symbolic idea, and the poster struck an emotional chord with me. In my opinion, football is all about emotion and passion. The fans have made the right choice," said 2006 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee President Franz Beckenbauer.

Germany World Cup 2006 SPECIAL OFFER!

Size: 60cm x 75cm (approx. 24 x 28 inch)
Price: US$ 49.95

World Cup Poster 2006

World Cup 2006 Poster

Official FIFA World Cup™ Germany 2006 Poster.
Offizielles Event-Poster der FIFA WM 2006™.
World Cup Poster 2006
The winning design by Berlin design agency We do Communication GmbH featues a football made up of stars glittering in a night sky. The winning design beat off four rivals in a telephone and text poll by 50,000 people in Germany.
"We liked both the idea and the execution. Stars taking the shape of a football is a new, strongly symbolic idea, and the poster struck an emotional chord with me. In my opinion, football is all about emotion and passion. The fans have made the right choice," said 2006 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee President Franz Beckenbauer.

Germany World Cup 2006 SPECIAL OFFER!

Size: 60cm x 75cm (approx. 24 x 28 inch)
Price: US$ 29.95

World Cup Poster 2006

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Japan Announces Fall Friendlies

Japan Announces Fall Friendlies.
The Japan Football Federation announced on July 22 that Japan would face Honduras and a "top European nation" at home this fall. Honduras, which is currently ranked 39th in the world, will play Japan on September 7th at Miyagi Stadium, in Sendai; the second match, against an as yet undisclosed opponent, will be held at the National Stadium in Tokyo on November 16th. The latter match will be Japan's final friendly of 2005. At that point, eyes will turn towards the World Cup draw in Germany.

Coach Zico said that he is taking both matches very seriously, and that he will call up his Europe-based players to take part. Japan has struggled against Latin sides, and the Honduras match will be a good tune-up in the run-up to next summer's World Cup.

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Guus Hiddink Appointed Socceroos' Coach

PSV Eindhoven coach Guus Hiddink has been appointed coach of the Australian national team in a bid to lead them to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The Dutch coach, 58, lead Dutch champions PSV to the semi-finals of last season's Champions League and was in charge of the South Korean national team which reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

He replaces Frank Farina, who stepped down after Australia lost all three of its matches at the recent Confederations Cup.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Robocup Images

The 9th RoboCup International Competitions was held in Osaka, Japan, from July 13th-19th.

RoboCup Bremen Germany 2006RoboCup is part academic conference, part soccer round robin, and all nerd’s paradise, RoboCup was created to give a boost to robotics and artificial intelligence. Since its debut in 1997, the tournament has attracted more and more attention and a larger number of participants. Also, more importantly, the rules have had to be updated as the technology of the robots has improved.

RoboCup Osaka 2005

Images of RoboCup 2005

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

FIFA World Rankings July 2005

FIFA World Rankings July 2005

1 Brazil
2 Argentina
3 Netherlands
4 Czech Republic
5 Mexico
6 USA
7 France
8 England
8 Spain
10 Portugal

FIFA World Rankings

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Australia Learns From Asian Success

AUSTRALIA LEARNS FROM ASIAN SUCCESS
BY MARC FOX


June 2005 was the month the FFA regime under Frank Lowy and John O’Neill confirmed Australian football’s immediate future lay overseas.

Within a hectic 24 hours for the communications department, first Frank Farina faced a press conference to announce he would be leaving the post of national team coach; then Australia’s trumpeted defection from Oceania to the Asian Football Confederation was ratified by FIFA.

It was the timing of Announcement One rather than its message that shocked the football community. Farina and the FFA were to part company with immediate effect; the dispiriting display against Tunisia in the closing match of the Confederations Cup proving the final nail in Farina’s coffin.

With little more than six weeks before the double-header with the Solomon Islands – for the right to play-off against the fifth-placed South American side – Farina’s continued uncertainty about his preferred system and best XI worried the heads at the FFA. His decision to try something different in that last game rather than give his strongest line-up much needed game-time together was the last straw.

The question as to why now remains unanswered. Farina had given his employers plenty of ammunition in a turbulent six-year spell in charge not least the inability to beat Uruguay over two legs in 2001. History proves that World Cup qualification failure almost never results in a new contract for the Australian national team coach.

Off the field too Farina’s decision-making had been publicly called to account. An incident involving SBS television journalist Andrew Orsatti led to a study by the FFA after which they released this statement: “The investigation concluded that the conduct of Farina during the incident in question was substantially less than what the FFA is entitled to expect from a person holding the position of the Australian national team coach.

“As a result the FFA has provided Mr Farina with a formal warning and required him to undergo counselling to prevent similar occurrences in future.”

The insensitive wording of the statement alone meant the writing was on the wall.

Reports that Farina will be replaced with Dutchman Guus Hiddink will be confirmed over the next seven days. Hiddink is a smart choice by the smart cookies at the helm of Australian football. The man who guided the unfancied South Koreans to the semi-finals in 2002 is likely to agree a short-term, part-time contract to oversee the Socceroos’ final push for World Cup participation for the first time since Nixon was in the White House.

As Hiddink will combine this role with his day job as manager of Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven, the long-term replacement for Farina is as yet undetermined. Hiddink, though, is unlikely to turn down the chance to have a third crack at a World Cup Finals should Australia qualify under his leadership.

The cancellation of next month’s friendly meeting with Columbia gives the new coach precisely no matches in which to tinker and test. He has only a London-based training camp before September’s must-win play-off with the Solomons.

The FFA then seem certain to add a second friendly international to October’s date with Jamaica before November’s deciding battle with a CONMEBOL rival. Hiddink will have less than five months to rebuild the confidence dented by three straight losses in the Confederations Cup in June.

One glance at his schedule makes you wonder if he’s already looking forward to Christmas. Matches with the Socceroos might be thin on the ground but assessing the strength of a squad whose players are spread across seven European leagues in addition to Australia is some commitment even for a full-time coach.

Hiddink will be making at least one trip down under for the Solomon Islands fixture in Sydney; plus a possible second depending on October’s plans. In the meantime, the Dutch-based coach will lean heavily on Farina’s former management team of assistant coach Graham Arnold and technical director Ron Smith.

Throw in Hiddink’s rebuilding at PSV following the summer departures of Park, van Bommel and Vogel, a domestic league title to defend and first round European Champions League commitments and you’re left with enough Frequent Flyer points to treat the whole family.

Whether or not Hiddink can work a miracle in November, at least Australia is leaving the lottery of knockout football as its only passage to the World Cup for good. The carrot of a guaranteed route to the 2010 Finals is now dangling following Announcement Two just a day after Farina had been axed. FIFA confirmed Australia’s membership of Oceania will end on December 31 and the federation will join the AFC as its 46th member straight away.

The announcement means the end of having to topple a South American qualifier to reach football’s ultimate competition. AFC qualifying guarantees a minimum of four nations will appear at the World Cup with a fifth side pitched against a North American runner-up in the CONCACAF section. Not necessarily an easier route but at least a certain one.

Furthermore, the impact of the move will be felt domestically if, as expected, the top A-League teams are allowed to compete annually in the lucrative Asian Champions League. For the first time, Australia’s national league clubs will compete with Asia’s finest in front of sell-out 60,000 audiences plus millions more TV viewers. As a revenue generator, the implications are huge.

The long-term future of the game here is now secured. The next five months though will be enough to test any fan’s staying power.

A-League

The Fan

The Fan by Hunter Davies
Hunter Davies
Pomona Press
ISBN: 1904590020; Paperback, 352pp

As a season-ticket holder for both Tottenham Hotspur and their
North London rivals Arsenal, Hunter Davies has a stronger claim
than most to the title of "The Fan".
His loyalties lie with Spurs (he shares his Highbury seat with another
semi-regular), but as he explains with his trademark good humour,
his true passion is the game of football itself.
That love, though, is not unconditional. In his collection of observations of the game between 1996 and 2003 - first published in his fortnightly
column in The New Statesman - the prolific and celebrated
author is clearly unhappy with the direction the British game has
taken in an era when Sky dictates kick-off times and players earn
tens of thousands of pounds a week before the bum-fluff has been
blown from their chins.
Like many supporters with middle-class sensibilities, Hunter had
a satellite dish installed only when it dawned on him that any attempt
to face down the Murdoch media juggernaut would be self-defeating,
depriving him, as it would, of his raison d'etre - long afternoons
and evenings in front of the box, soaking up anything from the Champions
League to the French lower divisions.
The original format for his musings mean the chapters can seem unconnected
- a diary this is not. But all of the important occasions are there:
Euro 2000, the departure of "our Kev" and the arrival of Sven, the
World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and the stirrings of Rooney-mania.
In between we are treated to entertaining digressions - set out
in short, pithy chapters - on everything from following Carlisle
United, Davies's topsy-turvy diet, his neighbours in the stands,
the FA, Sky (again), Julie Burchill's excruciating attempt to explain
David Beckham's sex appeal, Prince William's support for Aston Villa
and, in a more serious vein, Spurs' latter-day neglect of their
elderly former legend, Bill Nicholson.
There are also vignettes from the Davies household, usually involving
genteel digs at his wife, who, despite her preference for evenings
alone at the theatre or cinema, probably knows more about football
than her hubby lets on.
Who, after all, could have lived with a man of Davies's obsessive
nature for so long and not be influenced by it?
The reader's time in his company is limited to a few hours over
300-plus pages, but his seductive techniques, buttressed by amiability
and humour, are no less sharp for that. For most of us a season
spent watching football at White Hart Lane is a terrifying prospect,
but one imagines being able to sit next to Davies at his wryest
every other Saturday would make it more than bearable.
Compared with the (surely worn-out) fandom genre whose writers delight
in recalling pints sunk and noses split, or miles clocked and funny
foreigners encountered, Davies occupies another football universe.
As a highly recommended close-season read through "The Fan" should
prove, "Hunt" is no mere "supporter with a pen," but, happily for
us, a first-rate writer who happens to be barking about "footer".

Justin McCurry


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Football Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sport Club Rio Grande

July 19 is a special day in the history of Brazilian football.

In July 1900 a group of young British, Germans and Portuguese conceived of the idea of a club entirely devoted to football. After several false starts, the group eventually met at the Germania Club on 19 July, which had catered for the Teutonic community and their families since the 1860s. It was on the occasion of a young German's twenty-fifth birthday that Brazil's longest-running football club came into being.

Originally from Hamburg, Johannes Minneman had migrated to Rio Grande to work in the commercial opportunities presented there. But he had not been living and working in Brazil for long and still lacked fluency in the Portuguese language. It is not surprising then, with the large number of Germans in the group, that the founding documents for Sport Club Rio Grande were written in German, using gothic characters.

The aims were modest enough. With 22 founders, the club had enough players to make up two teams. With little imagination they were called A and B respectively. For the first few months they played amongst themselves, before meeting external opposition for the first time in May the following year. On that occasion the combined forces of Sport Club would be ranged against a team of English sailors from the battleship Nymph, beating them 2-1. Two years later the club finally settled on red, green and yellow as its team colours – the same as the state flag – which it has kept to this day.

Minneman would marry and have children in Rio Grande before returning to Germany in 1906. Over time the German and English influences at the club would wane, as Rio Grande's influence as a major port declined. In 1922 Sport Club won the Independence Cup, a competition held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Brazil. Fourteen years later the club won the state championship – its last major success.

With the professionalisation of the sport, the period since the Second World War has been less than kind to the club. In recent years Sport Club has turned out in the state's Second Division, usually ending the season in the bottom half. In 2004 they finished last out of nine teams in their first-round group, winning one and drawing three. Their position forced them into a wooden spoon play off against the two clubs immediately above them, Uruguaiana and Rio Grandense. Honour was partly restored with a victory and a loss against both, placing them second in their group.

Given that low level of achievement, the only note of pride for the club in recent years has been its centenary, dragging them out of national obscurity and back into the public eye. In July 2000, a full page advert appeared in some of Brazil's biggest newspapers, including the Rio-based Jornal do Brasil. Its publicity was designed to highlight that it was the oldest football club in Brazil, challenging the claims of several other more famous clubs, including those of Ponte Preta, São Paulo Athletic Club, Flamengo, Vasco da Gama and the Bahian club Vitória. For good measure and to ensure it had the official seal of approval, it played its trump card by informing readers that the president would be coming to their celebrations. With that invitation confirmed and eventual agreement by the football media, Sport Club Rio Grande could at last claim the title of Vovô de futbol brasileiro – the grandfather of Brazilian football.

by Guy Burton

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RoboCup: Only 16,433 Days to Go

sm-final
The final day of the tournament, and Intex is packed. A press pass is no guarantee of a good seat; many resort to watching the matches on big screen televisions set up around the fields. Peering around and between heads and bodies is what most opt for.

The FU-Fighters downed Cornell University in the Final in the Small Size league, taking the trophy and salvaging pride after an upset loss in the early rounds. The win also confirmed its status as the dominant side.

In a thrilling Final in the Four-Legged League, the German Team downed Australia’s NuBots on penalties. Tied 2-2 after regulation play, the German Team edged the Aussies in the PK round.

In the Humanoid League, local favorites Team Osaka took honors, making it two in a row after triumphing in Lisbon last summer.

A total of 180,000 people trooped out to Intex for a lot of action and a taste of the future. For those of us still alive in 2050—only 16,433 days away—we can expect to see a team of robots take on a team of humans. The grandchildren of Ronaldinho have their work cut out for them.

Winners:

Small Size League: FU-Fighters (Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany)
Medium Size League: Eigen (Keio University, Japan)
Four-Legged League: German Team (Germany)
Humanoid: Team Osaka (Japan)
Soccer Simulation League: Brainstormers 2D (University of Osnabrueck, Germany)
Rescue Robot League: Toin Pelican (Japan)

C. Ogawa

RoboCup 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

K League First Stage Review - Part One

K League First Stage Review - Part One
K League First Stage Review - Part One
The first stage of the K League is complete so it’s time for Soccerphile’s usual team-by-team summary.

7 Bucheon SK

After spending the last two years at the bottom of the K-League a seventh place finish and mid-table mediocrity is a splendid achievement for the Bucheon boys.

Hiddink’s former assistant Jong Hae-seong has done a sterling job in the million-strong city since taking over last season.

He has started with the defence and it was no surprise that the star of that unit, the young Kim Han-yoon earned a call-up to the national team. As a result there haven’t been many goals for the fans to enjoy, ten scored and ten conceded, but compared to what they have seen in the past, it’s a good start.

8 Daejeon Citizen

The loyal fans of Daejeon will also be happy with the first stage if the season as the team only lost twice –the same number of defeats as second-placed Incheon. That statistic would be more impressive if they hadn’t drawn eight games. Still, the Citizen have become a hard to beat outfit with Brazilian striker Leandro proving to be a tricky customer.

Without more investment, something that is unlikely to happen for the publicly owned team, there isn’t much chance of Daejeon challenging the top clubs.

9 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

The first stage was an unmitigated disaster for the champions and only a couple of late wins moved them up to their highest place of the season but their lowest finish in history.

This was supposed to be the season that Suwon demonstrated their dominance over the rest of the K-League with a series of high-profile and big money transfers.

To be fair, the team has suffered much through injuries –to Kim Nam-il, Nadson, Song Chong-guk, Park Keon-ha to name just a few – and a number of international call-ups.

Still, there should have been enough strength in depth for a top half finish but as it stands now, the only way that Suwon can successfully defend the title is by winning the second stage outright.

10 Chunnam Dragons

It all started so well back in the middle of May with an emphatic 4-1 opening day victory over Daegu. New signing Adrian Neaga scored a hat-trick and looked to be a class act. Unfortunately on the south-west coast, the Romanian picked up an injury and is believed to be on the verge of joining newly-promoted Premier League club, Wigan Athletic.

With the loss of influential international midfielder Kim Nam-il to Suwon and last season’s top scorer Mota to Sporting Lisbon, the Dragons were never likely to win a first title but a tenth palace finish is hugely disappointing.

11 Chonbuk Hyundai Motors

If Chunnam’s stage was disappointing, then fellow Jeolla Province team Chonbuk’s season was a total disaster as most of it was spent in bottom place.

It was only last November that the Motors were moments away from appearing in the AFC Champions League final and the 2003 FA Cup winners were one of the favourites to appear in the end of season play-offs but 2005 saw the Jeonju outfit start badly and then fall away.

The poor form cost coach Jo Yoon-hwan his job and he was replaced by former national team coaching staff member Choi Kang-hee. In his two games in charge Choi inspired his team to a mini-revival as four points were collected but there will be an awful lot more to do in the second half of the year.


12 Daegu FC

It is a measure of how far Daegu has come since its inception in 2003 that the fans are disappointed at such a lowly finish. Hopes were high in the south-east that the club could establish itself as a mid-level K-League member.

The loss of strikers Nonato and Feijiao were offset somewhat by the capture of the impressive Sandro Hiroshi. The Japanese-Brazilian found the net six times but with the defence conceding 25 goals in the 12 games, his efforts weren’t enough to prevent Daegu from losing two-thirds of their games.

13 Gwangju Sangmu

The league’s military outfit tasted victory only the once but what a victory it was –a 5-3 win in FC Seoul’s home stadium in which Korea’s golden boy Park Chu-young scored a hat-trick but still ended up on the losing side.

After those heights that were hit in the second game, it was downhill for Gwangju all the way to the bottom of the league and a last day defeat at Daegu was the icing on the cake.

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RoboCup Osaka 2005

“Conveniently located a short subway ride from downtown Osaka,” or so one soccer site read. I got off in the blazing heat at Cosmossquare, the final Chuo Line stop—and where you are to transfer to the New Tram line for the final two stops to Intex convention center. I figured however I could walk it. Built on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, Intex shimmered in the distance, or“just 10 minutes on foot” according to the ticket taker at the station. Two minutes into this journey, I was drenched. Like a proverbial mirage, Intex loomed large in the distance—but as much as I pushed on never seemed to get any closer. After a twenty-minute slog past construction sites, an industrial port, vast empty fields of weeds and landfill, I arrived.

Still dazed, I went up to the first reception counter and got my press pass and wandered in. No sign of robots or soccer, but a lot of men in rep ties standing in front of booths with widgets. Core-Tech 2005 Japan: Wrong conference.

Back out and a few halls down and, voila: robots and lots of badly-shaven guys in t-shirts with laptops.


Now with two press passes around my neck, one of the first things I saw was the wondrous Ms. Ando (aka, the android). Eerily human, the robot female was conducting an interview with a vaguely human television“talent” from a local tv station. If anything her spoken Japanese was too perfect—and certainly not Osaka dialect.

The first match held was a Middle Size League game between Aros (Sweden) and Satrap (Iran). After a decidedly slow start, things stopped altogether: technical difficulties. The crowd wandered over to an adjoining pitch, where Keio University’s EIGEN was thrashing Team DTU of Denmark. With little or no passing and a lot of human intervention, the Middle Size game got old fast. On to the real action: Small Size League.

Germany’s FU-Fighters put on a masterful display of off the ball movement, passing, and powerful shooting that would have made Gerd Mueller proud. If only the flesh-and-blood German team were as entertaining. Two of the goals were stunning, one a bullet hit from outside the penalty area that flew into the net past a motionless keeper. The orange blur that was the golf ball had the 100 or so spectators on their feet. The Japanese woman doing play-by-play—along with a lot of timely explanation of rules—squealed over the loud speaker with delight at this goal.


From there it was time for some Humanoid action. Or lack thereof. The humanoids totter towards goal with a ball at their feet. The only obstacles between them and glory are a humanoid goalie, the time clock, and gravity. Often enough time would elapse without a shot being fired. Or the shooter would simply fall over if his minders failed to catch him in time.

The last event for me was the AIBO crowd, or the Four Legged League. The dogs are quick, aggressive, and move in packs. Matches were low-scoring but fast and hard.

The New Tram ride back was blessedly cool and uneventful.

RoboCup Osaka 2005: Day Two

secom-girl
Day Two of the RoboCup witnessed pre-tournament favorites FU-Fighters lose to Field Rangers of Singapore 4-0 in a stunning defeat in the Small Size League. The Big Red Machine of Cornell University, on the other hand, chalked up two wins. Friday is the final day of the Round Robin; on Saturday the Semi-finals begin.

Between matches, we wandered around Hall 4 and came across the Secom Booth. Intrigued by a young woman wearing a headset and a shiny flame-retardant electric blue and gray shorts-and-top combination, we listened to a 20-minute presentation on the wonderful products Secom is developing for the aged. Among them was a self-feeder: using just one's chin, a bed-ridden person can control a lever to guide a spoon from a plate, fill it with food, and bring it to his mouth. Looking every bit like a character from an anime film, the woman chirped on about the benefits for the infirm and incontinent.

Back to the action. In the Humanoid Division, Team Osaka is pulling away. In the Four-Legged Division, the Dutch Aibo Team appears to be the team to beat.

C. Ogawa

RoboCup 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Football T-Shirts

Be The Reds!It's T-shirt weather again and Soccerphile carries some great football tees.

First up is the classic, no-nonsense Korea 2002 vintage Be The Reds! tee. Available in both adult and child sizes at low, low prices - direct from Seoul. South Korea will be in Germany 2006 and what better way to show support than kit out the whole family in cool as red hot chillies Be The Reds! tees.

Liquid Football

World Cup Germany 2006 - let's say "No To Violence" and "No To Racism" in an ubercool Liquid Football tee. There's plenty more designs to choose from including the classic ICH LIEBE FUßBALL, ACID CRUIJFF and ENGLAND'S GLORY all for 15 quid.

Goldenballs

"EVERYBODY LOVES GOLDENBALLS", yeah, right!
England's going to be massive, even if they don't win it, innit.
Limited Edition T-Shirts and Track Tops for all the Family, made in the UK. 100% Quality Cotton Tees available in Black, Red & White.

World Cup T-shirts

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Liverpool Books & DVDs

Golden Past, Red FutureIn the wake of Liverpool's amazing comeback victory in the Champions League Final, the DVD of the match is highly popular and selling well.

Visit our Liverpool FC bookstore for new books just published on Rafa Benitez, the 2004-2005 Champions League winning season, Joey Jones and the 1970s "golden age".

Liverpool Books & DVDs

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Confederations Cup Images

Confederations Cup, 2005
Photographs of the Confederations Cup 2005, Germany.

Images of the stadiums, fans, players, matches and press pack at the Confederations Cup 2005, Germany.

Copyright © The Purist

Confederations Cup Football Images

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Thursday, July 7, 2005

Park Ji Sung

Park Ji Sung
Busan I’Park are just two points away from clinching the first stage title in the 2005 K-League season.

The FA Cup holders remain unbeaten after ten games and with two games remaining are in the enviable position of sitting five points above second-placed Ulsan Hyundai Horangi.

Coach Ian Porterfield has turned I’Park into an impressive, effective machine who in 2005 seem to effortlessly pick up points wherever they go. In sixteen games in the K-League and AFC Champions League the south-coast outfit have won thirteen and drawn three.

Such consistency is based on a tight defence, well-supported by international understudy Kim Yong-dae in goal but the Busan success story is one of some unsung heroes of Korean football – Lim Kwan-shik, Lee Jong-hyo, Park Seong-bae and Doh Hwa-seong. These players can’t be seen at the national level, which is not something that will overly concern their Scottish boss, but have produced a number of impressive performances that will, barring disaster, give Busan the first-stage ‘title’.

Another plus point for I’Park is the performances of new foreign signings, Brazilians Luciano and Bobo who have slowly but surely settled in well and made important contributions to the team’s success.

A 1-0 victory at the home of Chunnam Dragons, courtesy of a Lim Kwan-shik strike has put the AFC Champions League quarter-finalists within a win of the top spot and a place in the end of season championship play-offs.

With both remaining games to be played at the Busan World Cup Stadium, not many would bet against the leaders staying in pole position.

Even if the required two points are not forthcoming both Ulsan and Incheon United would have to collect the maximum return to overhaul the leaders. Such a feat seems to be beyond United who are going through a rough patch at a bad time and have collected just two points from the last four games, leaving the sophomore club sliding down the table.

Still, United will be more than happy with the first stage in only their second season in existence and the performance of Jang Woe-ryong at the helm of the club bodes well for the future of the west coast club.

As Incheon have slipped, Seongnam Ilhwa have found their form with three wins in a row that have lifted the six-time champions into fifth place. It is much too late for Ilhwa to challenge Busan but the improvement means that the 2003 champions can look forward to the second stage.

The 2004 champions, Suwon will be looking forward to the next stage also but for different reasons as the opening phase has been a nightmare for the Bluewings who finally managed a second win of the season at the home of bottom club Gwangju Sangmu.

Coach Cha Bum-keun will need to win the second stage to have any chance of defending the title he won in his first season back in his native land; failure to do so will increase the pressure of the former Bundesliga star.

It is a similar story for FC Seoul, tipped by many to be Suwon’s challengers for the title. Injuries to the highly-rated Nonato and international duty for Park Chu-young have interfered with the capital club’s much-vaunted dream strike force and it has been Kim Eun-jung who has taken on the goalscoring burden for the LG-backed outfit. The team, formerly known as the Anyang Cheetahs, are yet another one under a lot of pressure to produce a dramatically improved second half of the season.

The same can be said, only more so, for Chonbuk Hyundai Motors, who only a few months ago were unluckily losing the AFC Champions League semi-final to eventual champions Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

The Motors have spent much of the season rooted to the bottom spot, a dismal record that cost Jo Yoon-hwan his job as coach. His replacement Choi kang-hee has a wealth of experience with the national squad but will have his work cut out restoring confidence to a decent team – though the 2-1 win at Incheon United will help.

Park Ji-sung to United

The protracted transfer of South Korea’s star midfielder was finally settled with the English club paying a reported $7.4 million for the PSV Eindhoven midfielder.

The Dutch champions did their best to hang on to the 24 year-old but the lure of becoming the first Korean to play in the Premiership and for one of the world’s biggest clubs was too much for the former Kyoto Purple Sanga star to resist.

Park returned to his native Suwon to open a new road named in his honour and admitted that his first challenge was to break into the star-studded side.
“ I welcome the challenge and know that I have to prove myself,” the versatile midfielder told reporters “But playing at PSV gave me confidence and I believe that I can do well in Manchester, too.’’
The 2002 World Cup star has much to do to displace players such as Giggs, Keane, Scholes or Ronaldo but the player will be happy just to play.
``I don’t care much about my position. What is more important for me is whether I can play in the game or not,’’ he said.
Park’s determination, engine and no little skill should endear him to the Old Trafford faithful as well as the manager and the Korean hopes to win them over.
``I don’t think I will become a big star like David Beckham just yet. Maybe I can if I was more handsome,’’ he joked. ``But I strive constantly to improve my game to become a better player, so I don’t think it is impossible to become a player like Beckham.’’
The Suwon-born star has come a long way since being turned down by his hometown club, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and is excited about playing for the two-time European champions.
“The facilities, the stadium, everything show why people call them the best club in the world. I felt so happy to be there,” he also had the opportunity to briefly speak to new boss Sir Alex Ferguson by phone. “It was a short conversation but he welcomed me to Manchester and said that he expected much of me.
The same could be said of his countrymen who will be watching his every move in the north-west of England.

K. League

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Signed Football Shirts

Signed Football Shirts
Signed Thierry Henry Shirt
In the Soccerphile soccer shop we've added some great signed shirts by Roy Keane, George Best, Thierry Henry and Rivaldo.

More to come as the new season gets underway including Johan Cruyff, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs and Paolo Maldini.

Signed Soccer Memorabilia

Dwight Yorke

Dwight Yorke has arrived in Sydney from Birmingham City to take up his position as Sydney FC's marquee player in the inaugural Australian A-League.
The 33-year-old former Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United striker has promised to concentrate on scoring on the pitch rather than the dance floor.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Millonarios River Plate

El Monumental, River Plate StadiumWe changed our flights, sped round the south of Argentina at the speed of light and managed to get to Buenos Aires in time for the weekend and the footy - River Plate playing Olimpio on the Saturday night, a lad in our hostel was going with a girl from Buenos Aires and we were in. Excellent. We walked through the cobbled streets of San Telmo, past the old men in berets with handlebar moustaches sipping red wine on the Plaza and took the bus up to El Monumental, home of Los Millonerios, aka River Plate.

El Monumental
As we walked up 90 mins before kickoff, the air was already full of the crack and boom of fireworks, the police poised on their horses, but not too many fans about to tell the truth. This wasn't a big game and with the Boca River derby only a week away, people were saving their energies. So us men paid our 10 pesos (2quid/400 yen), the ladies their 5 and we were off into the "Populare" end of El Monumental, the peoples end where apparently under no circumstances should you show any sign of wealth or of being a tourist. Ooh er. After 5 body searches and the confiscation of my lighter (only me, everyone else got frisked once, bloody typical) we got in, greeted by the irresistible rhythm of the drums from inside the ground and the 4ft baton toting policemen on the perimeter. Up the stairs we went (lambs to the slaughter? I was beginning to wonder), greeted by a man with blood covered hands crouched over another in a pool of his own blood, not the best of omens.
River fans
And then we were in, "Vamos Vamos Vamos Millonarios, Vamos Vamos Vamos River Plate", the singing and the music never stopped for a second, people hanging very precariously off every available ledge, the pitch just visible through the ganja fog. Not that it mattered. The players came on, not many noticed, the game went on, not many watched. As a pretty dismal, scrappy display of footy unfolded on the pitch below (surprising as River are one of the top teams in one of the top leagues of South America), the band played on and the crowd sang on, oblivious to what was happening down below them. Nobody cared. They were there to sing, dance and taunt Boca ahead of next weeks derby, and the footy going on right now wasn't going to spoil that for them.

River Plate
Highlight of the game was a penalty given near half time - River protested, the ball was put on the spot, but then oh no, the refs changed his mind, No penalty, a corner. Eh? Whats going on? The Olimpio players come crowding round the ref, they want their penalty and then poof! Its back on again, a penalty. I've never seen a more ridiculous display of refereeing and people aren't happy. Momentarily. Then its back to singing and dancing again.
River fans

River Plate lost 2-0, but I've never seen anyone so happy in defeat -half an hour after its all ended, they're still there singing their hearts out with no sign of budging. We on the other hand squeeze past the tear gas gun toting cops in riot gear and head out for a night of steak and tango. Vamos Millonarios!

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Friday, July 1, 2005

Midnight Mardi Gras

Midnight Mardi Gras.
Midnight Mardi Gras

Unless you hail from Argentina then Wednesday night in Frankfurt will stay with those present a long while. From the storm that split the stadium's hi-tech textile roof to the spectacle of a canteen full of journalists erupting with the cry of "HUTH!", there was no shortage of memorable moments.
The most indelible memory, however, came hours after the final whistle as waiting reporters checked their watches mindful of deadlines, column inches and airtime that needed to be filled.

Suddenly the bowels of the stadium were transformed as a samba/conga train consisting of the entire Brazil squad was led by Roque Junior, Dida on drums and Ronaldinho on tambourine in single file from dressing room to bus and on to a hotel party.

This snatch of carnival was the brainwave of their shrewd yet gregarious coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who brought up the rear in almost comical concession to the quote quota demanded by reporters still too stunned to realise the ruse had denied them any words from the all-but-musically mute players.
Such non-synthetic ebullience and glamour was what the German organising committee could only have prayed for as they look for their promotional bandwagon to peak by the same time in 2006.

"Over-organisation gone mad... the logical result of combining FIFA with this country" was the view of one anonymous Kicker magazine scribe of his own compatriots and their approach to the tournament's overall organisation.
Still, somehow the rhythm of Brazil had prevailed and put the uber-bureaucracy, the roadblocks - email das purist via soccerphile.com if you want to know the German for road rage - the confiscation of prize-winners' rival-sponsored clothes for the day by McDonalds staff, all the translation snafus and even the likely doping let-off for Mexico in perspective.

Stelios Giannakopoulis had advised das purist beforehand to monitor the movement of Kaka up close over that of the trio that routinely overshadow him: top-scorer Adriano, Robinho and Ronaldinho - who was lucky not to exit the final prematurely and escape with a yellow card for an elbow on Coloccini.
And how das purist was seduced... merely the Milan player's contribution to the scoreline was ample evidence of his almost unreal talent, with the lack of backlift and perfect command of the ball's trajectory leaving this observer in awe.
A Mexican colleague, who could not bring herself to miss this "super-classico" even to be in Leipzig that night as her boys took on Germany, summed up Kaka's talent in an arresting way. "When he plays it is like a computer game, only better!"

Too true, and the sheer skill, elegance and athleticism of the man is enough to make anyone older simply want to give up and go home. Those younger, however - the sponsor-friendly legions of kids on hand who'd been given photo-op tips in return for shedding their hostile-brand garments, for example - they could only be inspired, surely?

So sombreros off, amigos, the best team won.

GO AND SEE A GAME!

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Germany 4:3 Mexico

Germany 4:3 Mexico.
Germany 4:3 Mexico
3rd/4th Place Play-Off
Germany 4:3 Mexico
Germany: Podolski 37, Schweinsteiger 41, Huth 79, Ballack 97
Mexico: Fonseca 40, Borgetti 58, 85
Weds 29th June 2005, 1745h Zentralstadion, Leipzig
Att: 43,335

Germany downed Mexico 4:3 in Leipzig in an entertaining finale to their Confederations Cup campaigns.

The clash of the losing semi-finalists may not have been hotly anticipated but was far from forgetful with a healthy seven goals to send the home fans home happy and looking forward to next year's World Cup.

For Mexico, the conquerors of Brazil, it was another close-run defeat following their semi-final penalty agony against Argentina, but they can cross the Atlantic proud of their tournament showing, which surprised European eyes and won the CONCACAF champions a great deal of respect.

Lukas Podolski’s began the goal-fest in the thirty-seventh minute with a twenty-yard missile from a sweet Bastian Schweinsteiger backheel that lodged in the top corner of the net. But three minutes later Mexico were level from Jose Fonseca’s low drive before Schweinsteiger restored Germany’s lead with a tap-in at the far post a minute later.

Mike Hanke received a red card after fifty-four minutes for a clattering tackle on Carlos Salcido and the Germans lost their lead again four minutes later when Luis Perez crossed for Jared Borgetti to head past Oliver Kahn.

Chelsea’s Robert Huth, who had had a tough tournament, was smiling again when a Schweinsteiger corner landed at his feet and he short through a crowd of bodies to make it 3-2 Germany with eleven minutes to go.

But Mexico were the Lazarus team tonight and drew level for a third time when Borgetti, who else, powered another trademark header past Kahn after 85 minutes.
It was left to Germany’s flag bearer Michael Ballack, who grew up in the Leipzig area, to win the day with a curling free-kick over the wall seven minutes into extra-time.

Post-match, Germany boss Jurgen Klinsmann noted his side’s resilience over the two weeks, which saw them draw level several times: “One fascinating aspect has been how the team has always been capable of responding after conceding a goal.”

Scoring skipper Michael Ballack waxed, “That will give us confidence over the coming months. This team has great attacking potential.”
Oliver Kahn however sounded a note of caution, adding “This Confederations Cup was a tournament of all-out attack. We will not win with that tactic at the FIFA World Cup next year.”

Mexico’s Gonzalo Pineda acknowledged his side’s impressive showing: “This competition was a good test for us and has helped us increase our knowledge of other teams. We want to do even better next year.”
Echoing his sentiment that Mexico, who were ousted 2-0 by the USA at the last World Cup, should be feared next year, coach Ricardo La Volpe opined: “We have played some of the biggest names around and we have not fallen far short of beating them all. We believe in our ability to play good football and we will start intensive preparations for the World Cup over the coming months.”

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