5WFootball Crest of the Week: CA Hurucán, the Argentinian aviators

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 5: CA Hurucán.

Continue reading “5WFootball Crest of the Week: CA Hurucán, the Argentinian aviators”

Stop comparing Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, they are both the future of England

Video Assistant Referee. Messi and Ronaldo. Who will win the title race? Three debates that are unavoidable on a daily basis that, if you’re like me, will make your ears (or eyes, in the age of social media) metaphorically bleed. Three torturously annoying debates that have no real answer, but are still discussed on the daily. Another argument that seemingly pops up in conversation nearly as frequent as Brexit does is whether or not young Englishmen making the move to the German Bundesliga – or other foreign top leagues for that matter – is better than sitting on the bench back here.

The best example of this is Jadon Sancho, who was the trend of conversation around the country this week due to his return to Wembley in a Borussia Dortmund shirt. The teenager made the audacious and trendsetting move to Germany in the summer 2017 after failing to see a route to the Manchester City first team and ever since, he has been the example for many pub arguments, as midweek debaters look to backup their point that every English youngster should follow suit.

Yes, he is doing brilliant at Dortmund, who are leading the way in Germany, and Phil Foden may not be pulling up trees for Manchester City, but he is doing it his way, and that is fine too. Like VAR, there is no definite answer over what path is best: stop comparing the two. One size does not fit all, and while Sancho is clearly ahead of Foden (and the likes of Hudson-Odoi etc.) at the moment, it does not mean that all youngsters should quit the club they have grown up with, in search of regular football.

If the rows over VAR and the like weren’t enough of an eyesore for you, the pathetic, shameless clickbait journalism of many clickbait organisations this morning is enough to ruin a weekend.

While it was only Newport County, Phil Foden stood out in a midfield populated with a World Cup winner David Silva, and created more than the likes of Leroy Sané and Riyad Mahrez. Therefore, the ‘it is only Newport’ counter-argument for this will not suffice. Foden possesses a turn of space to leave any defender in their wake, and the ball stuck to him with elasticity on a pitch unfit for a Sunday League game.

This was not the first time Foden has stood out in the FA Cup this season, with the youngster excelling against Rotherham in January.

While Rabbi Matondo became the latest to leave City for Germany in the transfer window just gone, Phil Foden is patient in waiting for his chances, but they are coming. Admittedly, his chances are coming less frequently than others, but the experience of being coached by Pep Guardiola must count for something here.

Jadon Sancho, on the other hand, is thriving at German league leaders Dortmund, with manager Lucien Favre happy to build a team around Sancho as one of the focal points of the attack. Would he walk straight back into Manchester City’s team? No. Sterling and Sané are still ahead of Sancho at this current moment, just like De Bruyne and Silva (either of them) are ahead of Foden.

He may find earlier success than Foden does, but does that mean Sancho will have the better career overall? There is no definite answer to this, so stop comparing them.

The Bundesliga route is audacious, and I admire it all the same, but it doesn’t mean that staying at England means that the player will not ‘make it’. If Foden doesn’t play a single minute for four years, he will still be younger than the likes of many of City’s first-choice eleven including Sterling, Bernardo Silva, etc. If he doesn’t play a minute for four years, obviously then he will move, but in the hypothetical situation, getting regular game time in this star-studded City side will do for 18 months more yet.

By the time Foden is 21, David Silva will have retired or at least moved on from City, while Ilkay Gundogan will likely be of an age where he may leave. Therefore, the path to the first team is clear. He may not be a guaranteed starter, but with City competing on four fronts, that is irrelevant.

Just like the Messi and Ronaldo debate, stop comparing the two and just realise that we are witnessing two era-defining talents. Even though you may have your clear favourite, if you cannot appreciate the greatness of both of them, this sport is not for you. The same argument stands for Foden and Sancho: yes, Sancho may be better, and he may have made the right choice in joining Dortmund, but that does not mean Foden will not ‘make it’ at City. These are two of England’s best youngsters for well over a decade, so we should stop comparing them and get behind them both, as England look to end their half-century of hurt.

In a decade, England may finally win the World Cup again, with a squad full of Bundesliga-bred talent. If that is the case, fair enough. For now though, stop comparing the two different routes to first team action. Just watch Phil Foden for one game, you will see he is more than ready to step up into Manchester City’s team and excel for years to come.

Alexander Hleb, BATE Borisov’s Belarusian bustling creator

“Arsenal was the best time in my career. I was absolutely, 100% happy. I had an unbelievable coach, fantastic friends and amazing team-mates. It was a dream come true”.

Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine in 2017, Alexander Hleb recalled his time at the North London club as the best of his lengthy career that has taken him from Belarus to London and back again, via Birmingham, Barcelona, Stuttgart, Samara and Ankara.

Now in his fifth spell at BATE Borisov of the industrial city of Barysaw in Belarus, the 37-year-old has had a career like few others, and can probably stake a huge claim to the tag of the greatest footballer from Belarus, of all time.

As the winger prepares to face his old club Arsenal in the Europa League round of 32, we take a look back on Hleb’s career, and reach a decision on how highly he will be remembered in the game…

Continue reading “Alexander Hleb, BATE Borisov’s Belarusian bustling creator”

5WF Crest of the Week: Real Sociedad, King Alfonso XIII’s holiday home

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 5: Real Sociedad.

Continue reading “5WF Crest of the Week: Real Sociedad, King Alfonso XIII’s holiday home”

Four battles, one war: remembering the four Clásico’s in 18 days of 2011

Take out your diary and grab a pen, then jot down this note: Barcelona versus Real Madrid, the great eternal rivalry of Spain, the most watched derby in football, three times in the next 25 days. 6th February at the Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey, the return leg on the 27th at the Bernabéu, a blockbuster league tie on 2nd March at the Bernabéu. Good watching for the neutral, right? Certainly so, but nothing on 2011. Pep v José, Barça v Madrid, four times in 18 days…

It was the height of modern footballs answer to Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier, the ‘fight of the century’ between Pep Guardiola and his antithesis José Mourinho. There were no rhyming phrases like ‘Thrilla in Manila’ for the finale, but it was still a heavyweight scrap between the two biggest clubs in world football: the greatest club side in the history of the game to many, against the negative, aggressive, yet hugely effective Real Madrid side of the man who once sat in the Camp Nou dugout as translator and de-facto assistant to Bobby Robson. 

Mr Robson was the unfortunate man to have the first job in the post-Cruyff era, he had the fans on his back from day one, but this man – Pep Guardiola, ex-Barca player icon – was the Blaugrana hero who led Barcelona back into the thinking of Total Football. José Mourinho, Robson’s former right hand man, was the man tasked with ending Barcelona’s monopoly over La Liga (and the world) – after all, he was the man who got the better of Guardiola in the Champions League with his Inter Milan side.

This catalogue of games was enough for a Hollywood movie, four games with a billing worthy of Oscar nomination. It was sports psychology at its highest. Matchday 3 and 4 in the Champions League group stage is often dubbed the chance for tacticians to shine (as teams play each other back to back, two weeks apart), this was a mixture of how to balance tactical know-how, mental fatigue, physical detriment, all put together with the biggest managerial rivalry for decades. 

Revolutionary ex-AC Milan boss Ariggo Sacchi described the duo as ‘two Pablo Picasso’s in one period’. That, like a lot of things Sacchi has said or done in the game, was spot on.

The rivalry started over a decade prior, or at least the friendship that led to the feud did. Barcelona had just won the Cup Winners’ Cup final in Rotterdam against PSG, against the declining French side Paris Saint Germain. As players often do when they win a big game in sport, Guardiola – sporting a thin haircut and short shorts with the number 4 – fell to the ground in celebrating. It was the first season without the great Johan Cruyff at the helm, so this trophy felt like a big one for Barça. As Guardiola got to his feet, he clocked a member of the club’s staff, who he ran to with inviting open arms. That man, of course, was Mr José Mourinho.

They were not best of friends, but they were good friends, which Pep later reminded José of in  a press conference: “I only want to remind him that we were together for four years. He knows me and I know him. I keep that in my mind.”

Over the coming years, José’s character blossomed into what we know him as today. They met on opposing benches for the first time in 2009, when they played out a 0-0 in Italy, before Barcelona won 2-0 at the Camp Nou. These two matches were only in the group stages, and Mourinho’s demeanour perhaps foreshadowed what was to come. Mourinho had worked out Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, and when they met in the semi-finals later that season, he put that plan into action. Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan defeated Barcelona over two legs. The great Barcelona side, with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta – the list goes on – were humbled.

Over in Spain, the Madrid hierarchy were standing up and taking notice of Mourinho, the man who had now conquered Europe with two teams – Inter and Porto – as well as his record breaking Chelsea side. Not long after, Florentino Perez sanctioned the deal – Mourinho was the man they tasked to end the Barcelona rule under Guardiola, and this set in motion a few seasons of politics, power, scrutiny, and in short, football entertainment of the highest order, for the neutral anyway.

The first Clásico between the two ended in humiliation for Mourinho, as Barcelona triumphed with a 5-0 victory thanks to a remarkable display from Lionel Messi, who by now was widely considered the worlds greatest player. The scoreline did not flatter Barcelona, who were excellent, but it didn’t by any means dictate that the four Clásico’s were to be one sided…

1. 16 April 2011, La Liga, Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid

Real Madrid's Pepe, left, gestures at Barcelona goalscorer Lionel Messi during Saturday's tense Clasico clash at the Bernabeu.

By this point, Guardiola had stopped going the gym. He used to spend up to two hours a day working out, a keen believer of the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ theory.

The first showdown was tame, almost as if the teams were nervous – which was certainly the case. Like a sparring match, or the first 20 minutes of a big match anywhere in the world, both teams were content with a draw. For Barça, the draw meant that the title was all but sealed. For Madrid… well, they were just happy to not lose.

The only real talking point that was memorable was the tight marking of Lionel Messi by the hardman Pepe. The Argentinian wizard rarely gets agitated, but when he does, you know. This was one of those occasions, with some of his team mates having to calm him down from frustration. It wasn’t the first and certainly wasn’t the last time that Messi was almost unfairly marked out of the game with aggression and strength, but Messi got particularly wound up this time.

Messi calmed down despite Pepe being a protagonist in the tunnel trying to spark fights, and a bigger task was just four days away: the Copa del Rey final in Valencia…

2. 20 April 2011, Copa del Rey final, Mestalla, Valencia

Image result for copa del rey 2011 final

Four weeks is a short time to prepare to play the same team again, never mind four days. Yet just four days after the mundane one all draw in Madrid, José Mourinho’s men had a huge advantage, both psychologically and tactically (unless you class those as interlinking).

Although it took an extra time strike from Cristiano Ronaldo to win the game and trophy, Real Madrid were deserved winners, and Mourinho had got one over on his arch enemy.

The final may best be remembered for what happened off the pitch, with two contrasting events. The first was in the direct aftermath when Lionel Messi stormed into the dressing room and sat on the floor crying, uncontrollably. He is a born winner, and the thought of losing escapes Messi. On the other hand, Sergio Ramos got so caught up in the celebrations that he dropped the trophy off an open top bus parade.

Who did this affect more psychologically? The Barcelona team who spent the whole journey home in pretty much silence on the coach? Or was it Madrid, who celebrated not just the win, but the fact they knew, or thought, they had the upper hand going into the Champions League ties in the coming week.

The problem went beyond Pep’s mental endurance, writes Guillem Balague in his book ‘Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning’. “The constant friction made it difficult to take the right decisions, his juggling of so many roles – figurehead, coach, beacon of the club’s values – was becoming too much to bear”, continued Ballague.

Reportedly, one of Pep’s closest friends heard him threatening to leave Barcelona due to this mental fatigue. For him, every trophy – the entire campaign – was being contested against the eternal rival in the period of eighteen days. It is sports psychology at the highest order.

Mourinho had got to him, Guardiola was rattled, you could say. He was feeling the pressures of management like never before, and despite the fact his team was widely tipped the best in the world, he wasn’t enjoying a minute of it. He had to somehow sell each Clásico different. He couldn’t brief the team the same four times, nor he couldn’t praise them too highly for any good things as they may slack. Guardiola had to balance more than he felt he could. He needed some sort of uplift psychologically.

3. 27 April 2011, Champions League semi-final first leg, Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid

Image result for madrid v barca cl semi 2011

That psychological lift came from the most… likely source. Guardiola often used weird techniques to lift his team ahead of big games. In one of his Champions League finals, he showed them a highlight video of their highlights to get them in the mood. In another, he simply said ‘Do it for Abi’, referring to Eric Abidal, who had recovered from cancer to make the final. This time, it was a speech in a press conference aimed in response to a personal attack from Mr Mourinho, who accused Guardiola of unfair play for moaning about refereeing decisions.

Despite being advised not to refer to Mourinho, Guardiola – a usually calm man – stormed into the press conference and delivered a speech aimed at his rival. Pep glanced around the room with a half smile, almost sinister like in nature, making sure he had the attention of the gathered journalists, before delivering 2 minutes 27 seconds of anger and aggression:

“Because Mr Mourinho permitted himself the luxury of calling me Pep, I will call him Jose. Tomorrow at 8.45 we are going to face on the pitch. He has already won the battle off the pitch. He has been winning all season. If he wants his own personal Champions League I’ll let him have his own off-field trophy. I hope he takes it home and enjoys it as much as the other trophies. He can say or do whatever he wants. In this room Mourinho is the fucking chief, the fucking boss.”

The Champions League two legged semi final had just started. Guardiola returned back to the dressing room to a standing applause from the team, led by the midfield diamond Xavi Hernandez.

Mourinho’s off the pitch strategy had not worked, it had done the opposite – motivated his opponents.

On the pitch, Barcelona were by far the better team, and two late Lionel Messi goals secured a 0-2 victory for Guardiola’s team. Mourinho continued, though. The turning point in the match was the sending off for Madrid’s key defender – Pepe. The Portuguese international was the one tasked with marking Messi out of the game, which he did well for sixty minutes, before his red card. Following this, Mourinho remarked that Barcelona had the referees on their side and that Guardiola should be ashamed, saying that he would not want to win the Champions League that way. Via saying Guardiola was going to win the Champions League, Mourinho was playing his old trick of telling the press he thinks his side are out of the competition.

Guardiola disagreed, knowing there was still work to be done: “A team that has won nine European Cups can never be written off”, he said.

4. 3 May 2011, Champions League semi-final second leg, Camp Nou, Barcelona

Related image

The fourth and final Clásico wasn’t as eventful as the others, the calm after the storm like an action movie with a happy ending, for Barcelona at least. The game finished one goal apiece and Barcelona qualified for the Champions League final.

Pep Guardiola, and his players, were shattered, as were the fans I imagine. Four Clásico’s in 18 days is ludicrous and a huge test of mentality. Barcelona came out victorious, and went on to win the Champions League that season with a victory over the great Manchester United, led by Sir Alec Ferguson, a hero of Pep’s when he was first getting into management.

The biggest test of sports psychology that either manager will face, and one that has shaped their careers. With three in 25 days now, as well as Guardiola’s City side going for a gruelling four trophies, these experiences may come in handy.

By Lewis Steele. 

WHILE YOU’RE HERE: Please consider reading our story on footballer turned political prisoner Hakeem Al-Araibi, and helping to #SaveHakeem 

5WF Crest of the Week: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, the hairless dog

Welcome to a new 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 4: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente.

Continue reading “5WF Crest of the Week: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, the hairless dog”

The Sea, Rio Branco, Cobija: a look at footballers born in obscure locations

Have you ever been sat playing Football Manager and FIFA and come across a player and see his nationality and question where on earth that place is? From ‘The Sea’ to the Amazon Jungle, to Suriname, home of some of Holland’s finest imports, Brian Bertie takes a look at some of the finest stories of footballers to originate from obscure nations… 

Weverton – Rio Branco

Image result for weverton rio branco

A gold medalist for Brazil during the 2016 Olympics, and current goalkeeper from Palmeiras, Weverton is one of few from the Acre region, let alone Rio Branco.

Brazilians have a lot of inside jokes, but a popular one includes that Acre does not exist as part of Brazil. Since it’s so isolated to the rest of the country, it’s a state that is often shrouded in mystery. All of the big cities (Cruzeiro do sul, Brasileia and Rio Branco) have below a 700,000 population and this affects its football as well.

Currently, Acre has Atletico Acreano playing in Serie C. While not the historic Rio Branco team, it doesn’t stop the people from actively supporting them since they are closer to the top flight. The historic team, just known as “Rio Branco FC” has played in an international tournament despite never being in the Brazilian Serie A. They played in the Copa CONMEBOL in 1997 and were eliminated in the first round via penalties to Deportivo Tolima of Colombia.

Back to Weverton though. He is known for being an excellent penalty stopper. The shootout in the Olympic final with Germany is a good example. He started at Juventus of Acre. In order to get a move to the east, he played a blinder of a game against Corinthians with Juventus during the Copinha about 10 years ago. The Paulista side were clearly impressed and were keen on bringing him in. He is usually affiliated with Atletico Paranaense and now he is currently Palmeiras’ keeper, the current champions of the Brazilian top flight.

Rio Mavuba – The Sea

For those who have played Football Manager, you’ll notice that SI’s research team have made Mavuba’s birthplace as “the sea”. This is indeed no mistake, and it is possibly one of the most intriguing stories in world football.

Rio has spent most of his career at LOSC Lille, including during the Gervinho and Eden Hazard era, where they won the title. He is now a frenchman, but it is said that his birth certificate claims he was born at sea, and has no nationality on it. There is quite the story about it.

He is the son of Mafuila Mavuba, a former footballer from the DR Congo, otherwise known as Zaire back in those days. He was even a part of *that* Zaire team from the 1974 World Cup. Sometimes infamously known as “the worst team in World Cup history”. Zaire of course has dealt with plenty of conflict since the 1960’s. Even after the Leopold era, they have not seen plenty of moments of peace despite them arguably being the richest country on earth in terms of resources.

During the Congo war, Mafuila escaped to Angola. While there is few official sources that claim he met his fiancé in Angola, given Mavuba’s mother is Angolan, it is fair to assume he did. Of course, Angola later experienced a civil war of their own, which led to Mafuila escaping again, this time to sea. In 1984, Rio Mavuba was born with no official passport. They escaped to France and he didn’t get his passport officially until 2004.

Gatty Ribeiro – Cobija

Related image

Bolivia may be landlocked, and begging for a coast, but this doesn’t stop them from being an absolutely gorgeous nation. As all countries, there are particular regions that don’t get much importance or attention as they should, and that area in Bolivia is perhaps Cobija located in the far north on the border with Brazil.

Located in the Amazon jungle, Cobija is not the first type of landscape that comes to mind when people think of Bolivia. Despite this, it should be interesting to note most of Bolivia’s best footballers come from Santa Cruz de la Sierra which is more grounded as opposed to La Paz, the infamous capital that is the highest in the world, and where Bolivia play all their home games at 3600 metres above sea level.

Gatty Ribeiro isn’t the most prestigious footballer to ever play, but there is quite the unique story to him. He was born in Cobija, and was taken to La Paz to play for Bolivar, arguably the country’s biggest club. He was a right back, and played there professionally for about 8 years before moving to Real Potosi.

His final club was Guabira and then retired in 2011. However, in 2013 something happened that made him rethink things. Universitario de Pando won the Bolivian Segunda Division and became the first ever team from the Pando region to play in the Bolivian top flight. This made Gatty come out of retirement and play for his new local side. They played their games on the University pitch, since a proper stadium was not yet constructed. Today, they have a built stadium called the Estadio Jordan Cuellar, which holds about 24,000 people. This is nearly half of Cobija’s population and is one of the bigger stadiums in Bolivia.

Unfortunately for Universitario Pando, they immediately got relegated and never has a club from Pando played in the top flight again. Gatty Ribeiro retired again however, decided to stay in his home town instead of La Paz and began to pursue politics. Similar to other footballers such as Romario and George Weah did after retirement.

Gatty won the municipal elections in 2015 and became the mayor of Cobija. That is another former international footballer (he did get a few caps for Bolivia) to add to the politics list. Cobija even has a club named after him now that actually does quite well in their region.

Clarence Seedorf – Suriname

Image result for seedorf

One of the greatest players of the 21stcentury, it’s hard to not include Seedorf in one of these lists. In terms of club history, it speaks for itself. However, how did he go from one of the smallest South American countries with an obscurity with football to becoming a part of one of the world footballing powers in the Netherlands?

Well the story is quite simple, but first Suriname does deserve an introduction. Firstly, similar to Guyana, Suriname is technically not a part of South America. Geographically, it is located on the continent. However, it is very different to most South American countries and often they refer to themselves as part of the carribean.

They speak Dutch which is not a latin language, not many people know about Suriname in South America and they drive on the left side of the road, something that is unheard of in many parts of the America’s, let alone the south. However, the most important thing as mentioned, is that they don’t really consider themselves South Americans. Kind of similar to how some Egyptians don’t consider themselves Africans, even though they are based in the continent.

Now as for Clarence Seedorf, he was born in the capital of Paramaibo but moved to Almere in Holland when he was 2 years old. Of course he started his career at Ajax and went on to become one of the dutch greats. Not much of an argument with the following, but he is easily the best footballer to come out of Suriname, despite never playing for their national team.

Brian Bertie wrote a thread on Twitter about this topic, which has more examples. You can see that below: 

5WF Crest of the Week: Blackburn Rovers, the working mans nod to the Lancaster Rose

Welcome to a new 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 3: Blackburn Rovers. 

Continue reading “5WF Crest of the Week: Blackburn Rovers, the working mans nod to the Lancaster Rose”