Injured. Probably the word most football fans would use to describe Abou Diaby’s career. He’s now announced his retirement at the age of 32. Diaby made just 198 club appearances in total during a 14-year career, and had been without a club since being released by Marseille in 2017. Continue reading “We need to talk about Abou: how good was Diaby?”→
On Monday evening, a clash between Germany’s first and second most hated clubs finished as an exciting 1:1 draw. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim played like the home team despite being almost 300 miles from Sinsheim. Leipzig, despite being incredibly flat for 85 minutes, nabbed a late equaliser through captain Willi Orban, assisted by Marcel Halstenberg. The game was more than just a European-chasing rival clash, though, as Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann, who was so close to earning a full three-point reward for his tactical masterclass, his side were better than Leipzig in almost every area – flooding men forward on the counter but always remaining defensively sound in transitions. The game was in interesting analytical piece but to me it has more to give than just what happened on the green at the Red Bull Arena.
Welcome to a weekly feature on 5WFootball, where we will look at some of the best crests in football. When you think of past teams, the first thought may well be the players, but secondary, the thought turns to the identity: the kit, the crest, the stadium, the fans. The emblem, like many elements in football, is rather cliché like – yes, some look nice, but nobody really knows what they mean. They are the symbol for the passion shared between fans and teams. This weekly feature celebrates the best, from all over the world. Welcome to week 6: Carolina Dynamo.
If you’ve spent a large amount of your life playing, watching and generally consuming football then it follows logically that you should know a lot about it. But the sport is so broad, deep and structurally layered that it’s impossible to be on top of it all. Stop a self-confessed football fanatic on the street and ask them who is fourth in the Eredivisie and there’s a good chance that they won’t know (AZ Alkmaar). That same fan, though, can tell you off the top of their head that Emile Heskey scored seven goals in 62 England appearances over an eleven-year international career. Or that a young Dimitar Berbatov came off the Bayer Leverkusen bench in the 39th minute of the 2002 Champions League Final.
In a brand new weekly series, Kieran Ahuja takes a look at a weird, wonderful, wonky or just damn nice football kit.
There’s a couple of things to talk about in the picture above. The most noticeable thing is that the Atlético Madrid goalkeeper appears to be the love child of Axl Rose and Kid Rock, in perhaps the most questionable match outfit ever seen. Even more remarkable is that this is in fact Argentine goalkeeper Germán Burgos, who actually beat kidney cancer in the 2003-04 season whilst remaining Atlético’s first-choice goalkeeper. Slightly less remarkable but still firmly noteworthy is that someone, somewhere, in the upper echelons of Atlético’s management, decided that a man who chose to wear both a headband and a cap at the same time was suitable to become the assistant manager of the club later in his career, second to fellow Argentine and Atletico player Diego Simeone.
As tempting as it is, however, we’re not here to discuss Germán Burgos (he saved a Luis Figo penalty with his face). We’re here to discuss the ostensibly mundane kit that Atlético are wearing. It may not seem like a classic kit, I grant you. It looks somewhat like they’re wearing the shirt and socks of their home kit, but something akin to the 2006 Spurs lasagne incident has occurred, and the team has been subsequently forced to wear the shorts from their away kit. In this sense, the Atlético kit has always looked a bit mismatched, a bit passé, a bit gauche.
Usually, therefore, Atletico Madrid wouldn’t enter the periphery of covetable football kits. The shirt alone is unremarkable; especially as an English football fan, it’s only minutely different to the kits of Southampton, Sunderland or Stoke; then with the shorts it seems like two halves of different kits.
The 2003-04 iteration of the kit is only covetable for the wrong reasons; thanks to a sponsorship deal with Colombia Pictures, every few weeks the team would be forced to become walking advertisements for the latest Colombia blockbuster. The season’s pictures provide a comprehensive exploration of early noughties film history. In what was his breakout season for the club, many photos of Atletico’s 2003-04 season feature a bambino Fernando Torres. El Niño smoulders whilst advertising Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch; embarks on a spritely dribble with Peter Pan emblazoned upon his chest; readjusts his curtains whilst imploring the viewer to watch Bad Boys II (it was a busy year for Will Smith); and silences the crowd whilst wearing a shirt with the Hellboy logo. Most entertaining is a photo of him posing with Ronaldinho whilst marketing the Adam Sandler comedy romp Spanglish.
Never Forget in 2003/2004 Atletico Madrid signed a shirt sponsor deal with Columbia Pictures, turning them into a cascade of dadaist poetry pic.twitter.com/S2Ux2dEmXN
Aside from the entertaining kit, however, it was a fairly uneventful season for Atletico. They finished in 7th, reaffirming themselves as La Liga mainstays after being relegated in the 1999 season and remaining in the Segunda División for two seasons – a hard vision to comprehend considering Atletico’s domestic and European successes under Simeone. Their shirt advertising would again come under scrutiny in 2013, when the country of Azerbaijan sponsored the team as part of their push to become more of a global cultural power. Some found the collaboration mildly eccentric, whilst some found it unadvisable, considering the country’s poor human rights record.
However, the club are now sponsored by the Plus500, a financial services company – continuing a proud tradition of inoffensive but mildly ugly football kits.
Within the cultural, racial and political melting pot that is Asian football, the region of South East Asia often finds itself forgotten. The likes of Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia have over the years made multiple appearances at World Cups and have won numerous Asian Cups. Meanwhile, Australia’s membership of the South East Asia Football Federation (ASEAN) notwithstanding, South East Asia has been under-represented. But while westerners associate that corner of the world with anything but football, a sleeping giant appears to be awakening. Keen to known for more than just a war, Vietnam is on the rise.
Sheffield born Chris Wilder is quickly becoming a highly reputed manager in the Championship as he propels his boyhood club into automatic promotion contention. Wilder, whom began his managerial career at Alfreton Town, is earning plaudits for his unorthodox tactical style.
After earning his trade in the Yorkshire Sunday league as manager of Bradway FC, Wilder has gained a reputation for using philosophies he learnt when he started out in management. He believes his players should be treat like normal, working-class people who are playing for passion and points, rather than their hefty wage bill. Unlike his promotion contending counter-parts; Marcello Bielsa (Leeds) and Daniel Farke (Norwich City), Wilder’s roots into management stem from the lower reaches of English football.