Sunday, December 25, 2011

Safee Sali, Malaysia's goalscoring hero


It seems south-east Asia has a plethora of goalscoring royalty, each eulogised for their ability to hit the net. Thailand has Teerasil Dangda, Vietnam boasts Le Cong Vinh, while in Indonesia there is Bambang Pamungkas. In Malaysia, the pin-up goal king is Safee Sali. And the prolific 27-year-old has the track record to prove it.

Already popular in the massive football fan base that is Malaysia, Sali last year took his profile to another level. A five-goal haul lifted the previously underachieving Malaysia to the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Championship for the first time in their history. Celebrity status was immediate, along with a high-profile apparel deal.

And, but for red tape, Sali might now be plying his trade with Cardiff City in the English Championship. Such a deal would be new ground for a Malaysian footballer, but for now Sali must content himself with starring in the highly competitive and popular Indonesian national league.

European dreams
Sali spent September in Cardiff trialling with the Welsh club, impressing manager Malky Mackay, but the Bluebirds boss stated that while the Malaysian impressed, UK work permits are an inevitable issue to overcome. It may well be that Sali, to avoid that hurdle, seeks a move to continental Europe at some stage down the track. Indeed three of his national team colleagues are currently enjoying regular game time in Slovakia.

Sali says it would be a dream come true to secure a contract in Europe. “I really want to play in Europe so I hope, after my trial at Cardiff, to have more chances,” he told “I would be proud and happy if I can play there [in Europe], and I hope that many Malaysian players can go there. It would help development in Malaysia a lot.”
I would be proud and happy if I can play there [in Europe], and I hope that many Malaysian players can go there. It would help development in Malaysia a lot.
Safee Sali, Malaysia striker

For now, though, Sali is happy to develop his poaching instincts with Pelita Jaya, having previously enjoyed prolific stints with Sarawak and, more recently, Selangor in his homeland. His achievements for both club and country have led to Sali being mentioned alongside iconic Malaysian striker of the 1970s and '80s, the late Mokhtar Dahari.

“Indonesia is a step forward for me,” said Sali. “It is different level and experience in Indonesia. The club environment is very good with big crowds. There is a lot of passion for football there.”

Tigers hungry for success
Despite the modest achievements of the national team, football in Malaysia has a massive fan base that is desperate for success. Some 90,000 spectators - the biggest global crowd in the current FIFA World Cup™ cycle - turned out at Kuala Lumpur’s cavernous Bukit Jalil stadium in July as the Malayan Tigers hosted arch-rivals Singapore. The match ended 1-1, with Sali, almost inevitably, bagging the home team’s goal. However, a 5-3 scoreline in the return ended Malaysia’s Brazil 2014 hopes before they had begun.

That disappointment came barely six months after what was arguably the biggest moment in Malaysia’s football history as they claimed the regional title for the first time. It was a genuine moment of national euphoria and the softly-spoken Sali was front and centre of the action on and off the field. Sali’s five goals effectively proved the difference for the Malayan Tigers in lifting the crown, with the athletic frontman collecting the tournament’s top goalscorer award.

“It [Suzuki Cup] was a big achievement for me,” said Sali. “It was something that I dreamed of before and I never thought I could get the goalscorer award.” It was, he says, the turning point in his career. “It was a very sweet year for me.”

Now the challenge is to maintain the impetus - “We have some momentum now,” as Sali puts it. Malaysia are building for success and if achieved, Sali, one feels, will be key. “For the next year we want to win the Suzuki Cup again, and then our goal is to qualify for the [2015] Asian Cup,” he says. “We can achieve it if we work hard for our target and have the right preparation.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joseph S. Blatter confirms ISL file will be published despite objection of involved party

( Tuesday 6 December 2011

On 21 October 2011, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter announced his commitment to publish the ISL-ISMM file after receiving the full backing to do so from the members of the FIFA Executive Committee. Today, the FIFA Presiden confirms his determination to publish the file on the ISL-ISMM case despite the fact that legal measures have been taken by one of the parties involved.
These measures request another thorough legal analysis which will postpone the envisaged publication of the ISL file.
Joseph S. Blatter stated today: “FIFA has been working intensively over the past few weeks with its lawyers and legal team to be able to publish the ISL file at the next meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in Japan on 17 December 2011. It was my strong will to make the ISL file fully transparent at this meeting. I have now been advised that as a result of the objection of a third party to such transparency it will take more time to overcome the respective legal hurdles. This does not change my stance at all. I remain fully committed to publishing the files as soon as possible as an important part of my many reform plans for FIFA, which include handling the past as well as preparing the future structure of the organisation.”
The reform process has in any case already started and will continue with a view to presenting concrete measures at the 2012 FIFA Congress.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Auckland's Barça connection dare to dream

(AFP) Wednesday 7 December 2011

FIFA Club World Cup favourites Barcelona might be on a different footballing planet from minnows Auckland City, but the Kiwis can at least boast of some unlikely connections with the Spanish giants. Prolific Auckland striker Manel Exposito made his debut for Barcelona on the same day superstar Lionel Messi made his first appearance for Barça, while the Oceania champions have another former Barcelona man in Andreu Guerao.

And the association between part-timers Auckland and their more illustrious counterparts does not end there - Ramon Tribulietx, Auckland's coach, is from Barcelona and has adopted the Spaniards' attractive pass-and-move approach. "When I scored the goal in the (Oceania) final and I knew we would be champions, I actually started to think about it then during the game," Exposito said recently of a possible reunion with Barcelona.

The 30-year-old was with the reigning Spanish and European champions from 2002 to 2005, and like Messi made his first-team debut in November 2003 against Porto. But Exposito's progress was hampered by injury and he played for a number of other Spanish clubs before finding himself at Auckland, the rank outsiders at the seven-side intercontinental showpiece that starts tomorrow in Japan.

Auckland take on J.League winners Kashiwa Reysol to kick the tournament off and they would need to pull off the highly unlikely - make the final - if they are to stand any chance of facing the mighty Barça. However Expositio is happy to have much smaller goals in relation to his former side. "I hope I can see Barcelona in this tournament, that would mean everything in the world."

Barcelona native Guerao is another dreaming of a date with his former side. The midfielder, 28, made his first-team Barcelona debut in a friendly in 2004 against Marseille but was later released.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The eternal elegance of Florian Albert


In football as in life, nothing is eternal. And while the passing of former Hungary international Florian Albert on Sunday is clearly a great loss to the sport, the imprint that he left on the game is unlikely to ever be forgotten.

Regarded as one of the most graceful players in history, Albert was a one-club man for his entire career, representing a successful Ferencvaros side between 1958 and 1974, a period during which the forward also starred for a Hungary team that was bent on reliving past glories.

“Florian was an extremely elegant footballer with extraordinary skill and ball control,” recalled FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in a letter of condolence to Sandor Csanyi, President of the Hungarian FA. “These qualities ensured that he was highly respected by his opponents," he added.

Albert was bitten by the football bug at the age of nine when, as the third of four children living in Hercegszanto, a small village in southern Hungary, he was enthralled by the exploits of Gusztav Sebes’ celebrated Mighty Magyars, a side that included players of the calibre of Zoltan Czibor, Nandor Hidegkuti, Sandor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskas, among others.

“I learned everything I know from that team. I was a great admirer of the marvellous show they were able to put on,” Albert once said.

After six years of constant progress at Ferencvaros’ youth academy, Albert made his first-team debut on 2 November 1958 in a 3-1 win over Diosgyor. His simple approach and fluid style, backed by a remarkable level of technique, marked him out as one of the most outstanding players of his era. That comparisons are often drawn between his poise and that of Franz Beckenbauer, whose career partly coincided with the Hungarian’s, is a sign of the esteem in which he is still held.

Pele’s absence forgotten
Albert’s talent outshone his inexperience, and he enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence. He won his first cap for Hungary at the tender age of 18 in June 1959, in a 3-2 win over Sweden, although he had at that point started just two matches for Ferencvaros.

One year on, the striker would score six times during his country’s three group matches at the 1960 Olympic Football Tournament in Italy. This included an impressive 7-0 win over France, but he was powerless to prevent them from being knocked out 2-0 by a surprising Denmark side at the semi-final stage. The bronze medal, secured by way of a 2-1 triumph versus Italy, would offer some consolation.

During the 1962 FIFA World Cup Chile™, he led Hungary to the quarter-finals, where they were eliminated in a tight 1-0 loss to the former Czechoslovakia, with Albert finishing as second-top goalscorer at the tournament.

Following a laudable UEFA European Championship 1964 performance in which the Hungarians achieved third place, he then also tasted European success at club level, propelling Ferencvaros to some of the greatest results in their history during an exceptional Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (now UEFA Europa League) campaign.

The run culminated in a memorable 1-0 victory over Juventus in the final on 23 June 1965 at the Stadio Comunale in Turin, after Fradi had eliminated Roma, Athletic Bilbao and Manchester United along the way.

Florian was an extremely elegant footballer with extraordinary skill and ball control.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter

But it was during the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England that Florian Albert truly left his mark on the history of the game. The first-round encounter between Hungary and Brazil, from which the Europeans emerged victorious 3-1, is widely regarded as one of the greatest matches the tournament has ever witnessed.

Lajos Baroti’s side, boasting an Albert at the height of his powers, ran rings around the then world champions, who were deprived of the skills of Pele through injury. One of the match’s most memorable moments came in the 21st minute, when Brazil goalkeeper Gilmar had to pull off an exceptional save following some entertaining head tennis inside the box between Ferenc Bene and Albert.

The 57,000 spectators present at Goodison Park in Liverpool that day likely had trouble believing their eyes because, for the first time in nearly a decade, a team was beating the hitherto all-conquering Brazilians at their own game, namely all-out attack.

The goal which gave Hungary the lead in the 64th minute again stemmed from good interplay between star strikers Bene and Albert, who sent over the perfect cross for Janos Farkas, whose volley left the keeper with very little chance. There was then no way back for Brazil. Albert’s performance made many fans forget all about the absence of Pele, and he was given an incredible standing ovation.

“I remember his sensational performance in the game against Brazil at the FIFA World Cup in 1966 in England, which cemented his standing as one of the world's top players,” confirmed President Blatter.

Award and injury
The year 1967 was a memorable one for the Hungarian magician, as not only did he win the European Footballer of the Year Award, but he also saw his second son born in December. Florian Jr would later play for Ferencvaros, as well as for clubs in Israel and France.

These happier moments were followed by more difficult times, as 18 months later Albert sustained a broken leg in a clash with Danish keeper Erik Engedahl. He returned to football a year later, but was unable to rediscover the style or form with which he had made his name.

On 17 March 1974 he took part in his 351st and last-ever league match, bringing to an end a career during which he had scored 245 goals and pulled on the green shirt of Ferencvaros 537 times, all competitions combined. His international swansong came two months later in Szekesfehervar when, in front of 15,000 fans, he won his 75th and final cap in a 3-2 win over Yugoslavia. His international goal tally would forever stand at 32.

The former forward remained in the world of football, first as a coach in Libya and then in various roles at Ferencvaros, the club dearest to his heart. This legend of the Hungarian game passed away on Sunday 30 October after complications following heart surgery.

“On behalf of FIFA and the football family, I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to the Hungarian FA and, most importantly, to all of Florian Albert’s loved ones and friends,” Blatter concluded in his letter.

Friday, October 21, 2011

City, United primed for titanic derby

(AFP) Friday 21 October 2011 (FIFA)

Manchester may not yet be, as a local newspaper columnist recently declared, "the football capital of the world." But for 90 minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday, it will certainly feel like it.

A global audience of several hundred million will turn their gaze to the "Theatre of Dreams" as Manchester City attempt to underscore their emergence as the rising power of English football against Manchester United.

A potentially titanic showdown between the two richest clubs in English football will see City open up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League if they score their first away victory over United since 2008.

It is the first time since 1968 that City and United have met while occupying first and second place in the table. That statistic lends weight to the view that the power struggle between the red and blue halves of Manchester is poised to become the defining rivalry of the Premier League in the coming years, if it has not already done so.

City served notice of their wherewithal to supplant United with victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's side en route to capturing last season's FA Cup. United duly responded by clinching their record 19th league title before claiming a 3-2 victory over City in this year's Community Shield curtain-raiser.

Since then the two clubs have been neck-and-neck at the top of the Premier League, before City edged two points clear last weekend with a 4-1 win over Aston Villa while United were held 1-1 at Liverpool. Yet if City are to extend their lead this weekend, they will have to overcome United's astounding home form, which has seen them drop just two points in their last 25 games at Old Trafford.

They [Manchester City] are playing a lot of good stuff and it will be difficult to play against them. But we should not forget; we are United.
Manchester United winger Nani

Ferguson's team have not lost at home since April 2010, and Portuguese winger Nani believes that gives the Red Devil an advantage on Sunday. "City have a fantastic team at the moment with fantastic players," Nani said. "They are playing a lot of good stuff and it will be difficult to play against them. But we should not forget; we are United.

"When we play at home it is very hard to beat us. That is why we are so confident. With a record like ours, we should be confident every time we play at home. We have to believe we are going to win most of the games."

City midfielder Nigel de Jong believes his team-mates will derive confidence from the fact that they are now looking down on United from the summit of the Premier League. "Everyone believes we can go there and win," de Jong said.

"We're going there as number one and the aim is to stay number one. We feel we can do that but United will be confident as well, and they're playing at home, so it's a massive game for both of us."

Nani meanwhile rejected suggestions that Sunday's game could be a title decider, pointing to the improved form of Chelsea, who face west London neighbours Queens Park Rangers in another Premier League derby this weekend. "City are one of the teams who have been doing fantastically well since the season started," said Nani.

"But there are a lot of teams who are doing well and we need to be aware of them. Chelsea have been excellent for a start. It is too early to say it is just going to be about Manchester United and Manchester City for the title."

Meanwhile third-placed Chelsea will attempt to build on their recent run of form against QPR at Loftus Road. QPR boss Neil Warnock insists his side will not be over-awed by the occasion.

"People will try and write us off, but the challenge of the Premier League is to try and do well against these teams," Warnock said. "Who's to say we can't do well against the big teams? There will be one or two shocks this season and hopefully we can provide it."

Thursday, October 20, 2011



Didi, the unflappable genius

Just four minutes had been played in the Final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup™ between Brazil and hosts Sweden at the Rasunda stadium in Solna, when Nils Liedholm struck to put the home side in front. After the ball nestled in the back of the net, Brazilian midfielder Waldir Pereira – better known as Didi – unhurriedly fished it out and tucked it under his arm before walking slowly but deliberately back towards the centre circle.

In his relaxed body language and serene manner lay the message Didi wished to pass on to his shocked team-mates. Reflecting the coolness on the ball he showed throughout his stellar career, Didi made it clear there was no need to rush, no need to panic; provided they kept their heads, Brazil´s talent would see them through.

“I was already in position out on the left wing, ready for kick-off, and I saw Didi walking slowly with the ball in his arms. I ran over to him, shouting in desperation, 'Come on Didi, we're losing!' He just said 'Calm down lad. We're still a better team than they are. Don't worry, we´ll turn this game around soon enough,'” fellow Seleção legend Mario Zagallo told “And once we heard that, everybody suddenly calmed down. We equalised five minutes later and the rest is history. That's what Didi was like: he made everything seem easy.”

Why sweat it?
Yet the very same steady, deliberate approach that paved the way for Brazil´s 5-2 win against the Swedes and a first world title had also earned him more than his fair share of detractors. In fact, though the 30-year-old was at that point an established Brazil international and firm favourite at then club side Botafogo, as well as previous employers Fluminense, his composure, intelligence and economy of movement was often mistaken for a lack of both pace and commitment.

This was the case during his brief spell for Spanish giants Real Madrid, who in 1959 swooped for a player widely acclaimed as one of the star performers at Sweden 1958. “The Spanish fans loved players who put in tackles and went to ground, and I never used to tackle anybody,” recalled Didi, in a 1987 interview with Brazilian magazine Placar, of his frustrating time alongside the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

“My shirt and socks would still be spotless by the end of a match and they couldn´t get their heads round it. I used to have to grab a handful of mud and smear it across my shirt. Why should I have to do that, when I could attack and put our strikers through on goal? The fans used to get so angry,” added Didi, who returned to Botafogo in 1960 and won a second world title with Brazil at Chile 1962.

My shirt and socks would still be spotless by the end of a match and they couldn´t get their heads round it.
Didi, Brazil legend.

What's more, with his laid-back yet determined personality seemingly reflected in every gesture, be it a simple sideways pass or that iconic stroll in Solna, Didi became the perfect muse for Nelson Rodrigues, the writer who, for many, best encapsulated Brazilian football in the 1950s and ´60s. Rodrigues compared Didi´s elegance on the pitch to that of an “Ethiopian prince”, which in time would become his unique nickname.

Didi treats the ball lovingly. At his feet, it seems to become a rare and sensitive orchid, which must be looked after with affection and pleasure,” was one of Rodrigues´ particularly descriptive portrayals of the midfielder´s class in possession. And though such eloquence may seem a little over the top nowadays, there are few stars whose playing style lends itself as much to poetic license as Didi´s did.

Respect of his fellows
Underlining the steel that lay hidden beneath Didi's calm and what some perceived as haughty exterior was the authority he enjoyed amongst his colleagues. This ability to lead served him well once he turned his hand to coaching, having hung up his boots in 1966 on the back of a low-key spell with Sao Paulo.

His first success in the dugout came after returning to Peru's Sporting Cristal, where he had briefly played in 1963, with victory in the 1968 Peruvian championship earning Didi the opportunity to take charge of Peru ahead of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Once on Mexican soil, the team he assembled stormed all the way to the quarter-finals, where they exited at the hand of eventual winners Brazil, thanks in good measure to an outrageously gifted 20-year-old by the name of Teofilo Cubillas.

Didi was the man who taught me how to score from free-kicks and how to shoot,” Cubillas told, on the coach who handed him his senior Peru debut. “It´s also because of him that, despite being right-footed, I worked hard in training until I could use both feet equally well.”

As much of an idol as Cubillas was, however, it is the words of another even more legendary figure that best sum up Didi´s place in the history of the beautiful game. “I´m nothing compared to Didi. I'll never be anywhere near as good as he is,” said none other than Pele, in an interview given during Sweden 1958. “He´s my idol, he's the guy I look up to. The very first picture cards I bought were of him.” Need we say more?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Masuk Grup Neraka, Timnas Siapkan Strategi

Di Grup A, Indonesia akan bergabung dengan Malaysia, Thailand, Kamboja, dan Singapura.

Rabu, 19 Oktober 2011, 19:56 WIB
Marco Tampubolon

VIVAnews - Pelatih tim nasional U-23 Indonesia, Rahmad Darmawan, menilai kekuatan tim-tim di Grup A SEA Games 2011 mendatang cukup seimbang. Meski demikian, ia juga menuntut skuad Garuda Muda untuk bermain jeli agar bisa lolos dari 'grup neraka' tersebut.

Dari hasil drawing yang dilakukan sore tadi, Indonesia tergabung di grup nereka. Titus Bonai dan kawan-kawan harus bersaing dengan Malaysia, Thailand, Singapura, dan Kamboja.

Malaysia merupakan juara bertahan, sementara Thailand dan Singapura adalah salah satu kekuatan ternama di sepak bola Asia Tenggara. Adapun Kamboja juga tak bisa dipandang sebelah mata.

"Hasil drawing tadi saya juga baru dengar bahwa kita satu grup dengan Malaysia, Thailand, Singapura, dan Kamboja. Saya pikir, seperti yang saya katakan kemarin, kita ingin mendapatkan hasil drawing yang terbaik dan mungkin inilah yang terbaik yang kita dapatkan," kata RD seusai memimpin latihan timnya di SUGBK, Rabu sore 19 Oktober 2011.

"Pertama, mulai sekarang kami menyiasati di Grup A ini bagaimana kita bisa lolos dari penyisihan dulu. Saya pikir ini sesuatu yang memang harus kita hadapi. Tinggal sekarang kita harus jeli memanfaatkan kondisi yang seperti ini," lanjut pria asal Lampung tersebut.

Menurut RD, persaingan akan sangat ketat karena kekuatan lima negara yang bersaing tak jauh berbeda. Apalagi, ini masih di level yunior.

"Saya pikir kekuatan dan peluang semua tim sama. Kekuatan tim pada saat timnya bermain di usia yang dibatasi seperti usia U-23 ini, kansnya sama besar."

Terkait strategi, RD tak mau membocorkannya. Sebab, semua calon lawan memilki gaya permainan berbeda dan ini sedang dipelajari oleh RD dan timnya.

"Soal strategi, setiap lawan nanti akan kita sesuaikan dengan kekuatan masing-masing dan kita sudah melakukan pemantauan. Kami juga mengutus salah satu pelatih berangkat ke Vietnam," kata Rahmad.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Behind the scenes of the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2010


On 10 January this year, the first ever FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala was held at Zurich's Kongresshaus, where the crème de la crème of world football gathered to watch Lionel Messi and Marta take the top prizes.

As you would expect, was present and shared the evening's celebrations through a series of articles, interviews and unique photos. Indeed, FIFA's backstage photographers took snaps of all the protagonists, including nominees for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, FIFA World Coach of the Year and FIFA/FIFPro World XI, as well as the winner of the FIFA Puskas Award and various former stars.

In case you missed this brilliant gallery first time around, is here to help you relive the action. From Jose Mourinho's beaming smile, Marta's and Fatmire Bajramaj's ball gowns and Cristiano Ronaldo's black-and-white portrait, to conversations between players in the lounge, Desmond Tutu's laughter and the laid-back cool of Hamit Altintop, it is all there for you to enjoy.

Click on the photo gallery on the right to relive the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010.