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.