Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Mindless thugs or adrenaline junkies?

From one corner of Peru to the far corner of Poland, hooligans have been a part of football culture for a countless number of years and it doesn’t look like it’s going to disappear anytime soon.

 

Hooliganism has been associated with football as early as the ninetieth century. Then, like now, the biggest rivalries took place between sides from the same city or area. However after the two world wars violence at football matches started to decline.

The 1960’s was plagued with social uprisings by angry and misunderstood youths. Juvenile’s crime rates were increasing rapidly throughout Britain. Looking for violence – an adrenaline rush – the youths targeted football stadiums as it was an ideal place to fight due to the large number of people at the games. Following this, teenagers mainly from council estates began to form alliances among themselves, known as firms. This gave them a sense of community, a place where they felt like they belonged.

The “English disease” was now spreading rapidly in 1980’s Britain. A rise in unemployment, racism and inflation are among the main contributing factors for increased hooligan activity. Along with the growing numbers of hooligans came a decrease in the number of police due to government cut-backs. As a result to the cut-backs only 150 police were left to control 10,000 travelling Millwall supporters on their way to Luton for an FA Cup tie. During the game Millwall fans climbed out of the away terrace and stormed the Luton fans, ripping up seats and firing missiles at the home supporters. Following this incident, known as the ‘Kenilworth Road riot’ Luton Town banned away fans for the next four seasons. It was evident that hooliganism was getting out of control.

 

 

 

 

 

On the 29th of May 1985 the Heysel Stadium disaster occurred. On this day 60,000 supporters made their way into the stadium in Brussels for the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool. Roughly an hour before kick-off, the opposing fans began taunting each other but quickly things became violent as missiles were thrown and Liverpool supporters began to charge the Juventus section. This led to the wall dividing the supporters to collapse under the pressure which resulted in hundreds of fans being crushed and trampled. Thirty-nine fans were killed and another six-hundred injured, a majority of them Italian and Belgian. The Liverpool fans were largely blamed for the deaths; as a result of this English clubs were banned from European competition for the next five years. Six years for Liverpool. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported the ban, saying; “We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again.”

 

England was definitely not the only country prone to hooliganism as it was becoming a major problem in Italy, Netherlands, Germany and many parts of Eastern Europe. Social class was the main contributing factor in England but in Spain it’s down to sub-nationalist politics, sectarianism in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and historical regional antagonisms in Italy. In most European countries football related violence is an internal problem, meaning the violence occurs at club level. Most European sides international support is well behaved, but there are a few exceptions such as England, Germany and the Netherlands who are known for organising fights with opposing fans at major tournaments. It is believed that close to 10% of European football fans are classified as ‘violent’. So it is clear that hooliganism is not an English problem, but a European problem, and on a greater level, a world problem.

 

The government and police have worked side-by-side to prevent hooliganism and advanced techniques were being used to tackle the issue. One such technique is by using spotters. The spotter system involves a liaison officer being attached to a particular club. His job is then to identify and monitor hooligans when they are travelling to away games. The spotter would then co-operate with police forces from both the UK and abroad to inform them of any hooligans travelling who may cause trouble. As technology has developed over the years, it has as a result played an important and crucial role in the policing methods used to prevent hooliganism. CCTV cameras are now a common sight at any modern grounds, this has been the most successful method so far. The sale of alcohol has been reduced in a majority of stadiums across Britain which was seen as a catalyst to football related violence. The police have been successful at combatting hooliganism in the football grounds but these methods do not prevent the violence that occurs outside the grounds, at times organised between two rival firms. Despite the efforts of police and governing bodies hooliganism does not seem to be going away at any time soon. It may be less prevalent but it still continues throughout the world.

 

Are these die-hard fans that spend their hard earned cash travelling the country and continent to see their team play or are they thugs just using football as an excuse to locate violence?

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Profile of the week: Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini (born 26 June 1968, Milan) was an Italian footballer who spent his entire career playing for Ac Milan. Many people acknowledge him as one of the greatest defenders ever. Despite being naturally right footed, Maldini played in the left back or central defender position for a majority of his career. He played at an elite level his entire career spanning over two and a half decades.

16-year-old Paolo Maldini making his debut for Ac Milan

At the age of 16 Maldini made his professional debut against Udinese in the 1984/85 season, making him the youngest ever player to play for Ac Milan in the Serie A. It would be his first and final appearance of that campaign. However the following season he started eleven times for the Rossoneri. The following season marked Paolo Maldini’s first Serie A trophy. This would be his first of seven. He also played a vital part in the Milan side who went the entire season unbeaten. Due to his fine form Maldini played all four games at Euro ’88 for Italy, eventually being knocked out by Soviet Union in the semi-finals. On the 24th of May 1989 Maldini would lift his first European Cup after Ac Milan bet Steaua Bucarest 4-0 . They went on to win it the following season too. Many feel that Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan were one of the greatest teams in history as no team has won the European Cup back-to-back since. The 1990 World Cup then came around, Italy were hosts and felt they could go on to lift the trophy for the fourth time in the country’s history. However this was not the case as Italy once again fell short, being beaten by Argentina in the semi’s on penalties.

Following the disappointment of Italia ’90, Maldini was lifting silverware with Ac Milan almost every season. Winning the Scudetto three times in a row (91/92, 92/93 & 93/94). During this period Milan went on to win their fifth and Maldini’s third Champions League against are Barcelona side which were considered heavy favourites. The Rossoneri went on to win 4-0. Paolo Maldini was made captain of the Italian national team for the 1994 World Cup in America. This tournament proved to be more heartbreaking than the previous World Cup. Italy made it all the way to the final against Brazil to be once again denied on penalties. Maldini was named in the team of the tournament, 32 years after his father, Cesare Maldini, received the same honour. In the same year, he also became the first defender to ever receive the World Player of the Year award.

Maldini won two more Serie A titles before the end of the ’90s (95/96, 98/99) but continued to return from major tournaments with Italy trophyless, following disappointing team performances at Euro ’96 and the World Cup in 1998. In 2000 Maldini was denied another international trophy as Italy were beaten in extra-time by a David Trezeguet golden goal in the final of the Euro’s. This would be the last time Maldini would play in an international final.

After being knocked out of the World Cup in 2002, Paolo Maldini decided it was the right time to retire from international football. Although he retired trophyless, he retired  as Italy’s most capped player of all time, making 126 appearances for the Azzurri. He also captained his country a record 74 times throughout his international career.

Remarkably, 2003 became the one and only time Maldini won the Coppa Italia beating Roma 6-3 on aggregate. Just three days before the Coppa Italia final second leg, Ac Milan beat another Italian rival, Juventus. However this was in the Champions League final, which they won on penalties in Old Trafford, Manchester. This was the fourth time Maldini has won the competition.

Paolo Maldini lifts the Champions League for the fifth time in his career.

 

The 2003/04 season saw Carlo Ancelotti’s – a former team-mate of Maldini’s – Milan side win the Scudetto for the first time in five seasons.  That season, Paolo Maldini was named the Serie A defender of the year for the first time at the age of 36. Ac Milan once again reached the Champions League final in 2005 against Liverpool. Maldini opened the scoring himself after just 51 seconds but he was again denied by an unlikely comeback as Liverpool went on to win the final on penalties following a 3-3 draw. However in 2007 he would get his revenge as Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final to give Maldini his fifth and final European Cup.

On the 17th of May 2009 Maldini played his 900th official match for Ac Milan against Udinese. The following week saw Maldini play in front of San Siro crowd for the final time in a match which Milan lost 3-2 to Roma. Maldini’s send off was marred by a banner displayed by a small section of Milan fans which read “Thank you, skipper. On the pitch you were an infinite champion, but you failed to show respect towards those who made you rich”. His last appearance in a Milan jersey came on the 31st of May, a game they won 2-0 against Fiorentina. The win meant Milan qualified automatically for next season’s Champions League, although Maldini would be absent.

The famous number 3 jersey which Paolo Maldini wore throughout his Milan career has been retired but it may be restored if either one of his children, Christian or Daniel  play for the Milan senior squad in the future.

Time is golden

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has asked for an alternative to penalties, so is it time to bring back the golden goal rule?

The golden goal rule: Following a draw, two fifteen-minute halves of extra-time are played. If any team scores a goal during extra time, that team becomes the winner and the game ends at once. The winning goal is known as the “golden goal.” If there are no goals after both periods of extra time, penalties decide the game.

Golden goal was introduced in 1993 by Fifa but was not made compulsory, individual competitions could choose whether to stick with traditional extra time (15 minutes a half) or golden goal. The first major international tournament the rule was introduced for was Euro ’96 in England, hoping to promote more attacking play. However it didn’t exactly promote attacking play at all, with teams more concerned about conceding than trying to get the match winning goal. Oliver Bierhoff did in fact score a golden goal in the final to win Germany the Euro’s though.

Probably the most famous golden goal was scored at Euro 2000 when French striker David Trezeguet sealed the winner with a stunning strike.

Many will also remember the Italians crashing out of the World Cup 2002 to a South Korea golden goal that shocked the world.

Golden goal didn’t really last too long though, officially being removed in 2004 despite giving us some great moments over the years along with some very dull moments.

As a football fan I do believe that reintroducing golden goal would add more excitement and suspense to extra-time, knowing that one mistake or one kick of the ball could win or lose the game for either side. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve watched two teams knock the ball about during extra-time, both looking pretty content to bring it to penalties. Golden goal, I believe, would somewhat do-away with the defensive mentality adopted during extra-time.

David Trezeguet famously scores a golden goal to win Euro 2000 for France.

Task Force Football 2014 was set up to come up with an alternative to penalty shoot-outs even though I don’t think penalties are the main problem, extra-time is. It looks likely that golden goal could be that alternative but what will make it different than before? How can they guarantee that teams will not adopt a defensive mentality once again? We’ll have to wait to see what they come up with, if they do come with an alternative at all.

Do you think they should reintroduce golden goal or should everything remain as it is?

Spain vs Italy: Euro 2012 final

Two of these teams met in Group C on June 10th, where they played out a fairly entertaining 1-1 draw. Now though both Italy and Spain will be hungrier, knowing that either of them could be crowned champions of Europe in just a few hours time.

A lot of football fans doubted Italy’s ability to make it out of their group, never mind go all the way to the final. When the Italians met Germany in the semi’s, it looked like it could be the end of the road for the Azzuri but a vintage display by Pirlo and a Balotelli brace proved to be enough with Italy winning 2-1. Cesare Prandelli has got his tactics pretty much perfect for every game so far, including the opening fixture vs Spain in the Group. They have not trailed for a single minute at the tournament so far. Italy are the only team to put the ball in the Spanish goal so far at this Summers finals and will be confident they can do it again.

It doesn’t come as much as a surprise to people that Spain have made it to the final. However, they haven’t done it with the same style and class that they won the previous World Cup and European Championships with and have received criticism from certain parts of the footballing community for not playing with a true striker in some of their games, the first of which was Italy. The Spaniard eased past Group C, topping the group unbeaten. They then bet France with ease and proceeded to the semi’s where they met Portugal, which Spain won on penalties. If they do in fact win the Euro’s then there is no arguing that this Spanish team is one of, if not the greatest international side of all time.

Key Battles 

Andrea Pirlo vs Xavi

Possibly the two best passers of the ball in world football so it’s obvious to see why these men will be influential for both their sides. Andrea Pirlo has carried his Scudetto winning form to Euro 2012 and has been Italy and arguably the tournaments greatest player, picking up three man of the match awards out of Italy’s five games so far. Xavi was one of Spain’s key players in 2008 & 2010 when they lifted silverware. Nothing has changed. He is still pulling the strings in the middle of the park for ‘La Rojas’, completing 465 successful passes so far in this tournament. Xavi can tend to go under the radar during the match which is one of the reasons why he is such a threat. Give either of these players an inch and they will make you pay with a pinpoint pass that could have a huge say on who’s set of supporters will be celebrating come the end of the night.

Gianluigi Buffon vs Iker Casillas 

“[Gianluigi] Buffon and [Iker] Casillas? That face-off will be crucial”, they are the words of legendary Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff. He could prove to be correct. Goalkeepers are one of the key players for most teams out there but there are very few teams in the world that can claim to have goalkeepers as solid and consistent as Buffon and/or Casillas. They both captain their sides and both have made well over 100 caps for their country. I expect this game to be a very tight one so both keepers will have to be at their best if either of them is to lift the trophy at the end of the night.

Now mere moments away from kick-off, who will be come champions of Europe?

Will it be Del Bosque’s Spain or Prandelli’s Italy?

10 Young Players to watch out for at Euro 2012 (Part 2)

Sotiris Ninis

Country: Greece

Club: Parma

Age: 22

Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The pacey Albanian born winger made 7 appearances for Greece in the qualifiers netting a goal in the process. Ninis was linked with moves to big European clubs such as Man United and Lyon earlier in the year, instead he opted to sign for Serie A side Parma back in March. Having twice won ‘Greece Young Player of The Year’ a lot was expected of Sotiris Ninis but so far he hasn’t lived up to the hype at Euro 2012 having only played 53 minutes of the tournament. However Greece have progressed to the quarter-finals so hopefully we will see him perform like the Greek fans know he can.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Country: England

Club: Arsenal

Age: 18

Position: Winger

“The Ox” caught a lot of peoples attention this season for Arsenal and one of them people was Roy Hodgson who gave the teenager his debut in May against Norway. Oxlade-Chamberlain is a powerful and physically strong winger who can easily knock full-backs off the ball, showing traits from his days playing rugby at school level. He started in the game against France but only came on as a late substitute against Sweden so it’s still not certain whether he will start or be sitting on the bench for England’s clash with co-hosts Ukraine today. At only 18 ‘The Ox’ still has to develop and mature as a footballer but the future looks very bright for the young Gunner.

Yann M’Vila

Country: France

Club: Rennes

Age: 21

Position: Defensive Midfielder

M’Vila has been compared to legendary French midfielder’s Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele. M’Vila was the rock in the Rennes side that finished 6th in Ligue 1 last season.  He has already captained his club Rennes, making him the youngest captain in the clubs history and has now proven to be the heart of the French team. The ball-winning midfielder has incredible vision and is constantly looking to play the ball forward. M’Vila has only played 20 minutes at the Euro’s so far due to an injury he picked up in a friendly against Serbia before the competition began. I wouldn’t expect to see M’Vila playing in Ligue 1 come next season as it looks more and more likely that he could be on his way to the Premiership to join Arsenal.

Mario Balotelli

Country: Italy

Club: Manchester City

Age: 21

Position: Striker

Most people will be familiar with Balotelli at this stage. In just one game he can have moments of madness and/or moments of brilliance. The highly entertaining Italian can be unpredictable both in his play and personality, which makes people think “What’s he going to do next?”. The Palermo native netted 13 goals for City this season as they went on to lift the Premier League for only the third time.  Gifted with pace, technical ability and a powerful shot, Balotelli can be a real handful for defenders. In August 2010 Balotelli earned his first cap for the Azzuri in a friendly match against Ivory Coast. Making him only the third black player to ever play for Italy. Last night he scored his first competitive goal for his country against Ireland, a wonderful bicycle kick inside the area which could quite possibly be goal of the tournament so far.

Holger Badstuber

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

Age: 23

Position: Defender

The German defence has been rock solid this tournament and one of the main reasons for that is the Badstuber/ Hummels defensive partnership. Badstuber has established himself as a key figure for both country and club. He helped guide Bayern Munich to the Champions League final this season but will be hoping to go one step further with Germany by lifting the European Championship trophy come July. So far he has played every minute for Germany in the Euro’s winning  over 90% of the tackles and headers he has attempted. Former Bayern Munich manager Louis Van Gaal stated that Badstuber is the “best left footed defender in Germany”. If the Germans are to go all the way to win it (which many expect them to) then Holger Badstuber will one of the main reasons for their success.

 

See Part 1 here: https://footballtopic.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/5-young-players-to-watch-out-for-at-euro-2012/

Football Topic end of season awards.

The end of the season has come and it’s time to declare the winners of each category in our opinion for the Premiership, Serie A and La Liga.

Barclays Premier League:

Darren’s picks –

Player of the season: Vincent Kompany
Young player of the season: Sergio Aguero
Manager of the season: Alan Pardew
Signing of the season: Nikica Jelavic
Overachievers: Newcastle/Norwich
Underperformers: Aston Villa
Flop of the season: Stewart Downing
Comeback player of the season: Paul Scholes
Moment of the season: City’s comeback on the last day to clinch the title.
Match of the season: Man United 4-4 Everton
Goal of the season: Haten Ben Arfa vs Bolton. Wonderful solo run.
Hero of the season: Fabrice Muamba. It was amazing to see him back at the Reebok.
Villain of the season: Luis Suarez/Joey Barton
Unsung Hero: Alex Song

 

Our young player of the season.

Craig’s pick –

Player of the season: Robin Van Persie
Young player of the season: Sergio Aguero
Manager of the season: Alan Pardew
Signing of the season: Demba Ba
Overachievers: Newcastle
Underperformers: Aston Villa/Liverpool
Flop of the season: Stewart Downing
Comeback player of the season:Paul Scholes
Moment of the season: Fabrice Muamba returning to Reebok
Match of the season: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham
Goal of the season: Mata Volley v MUFC
Hero of the season: Mario Balotelli
Villain of the season: Carlos Tevez
Unsung Hero: Grant Holt

Serie A:

Ibra had his best season as an individual but failed to win a major title in the end.

Player of the season: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Young player of the season: Gaston Ramirez
Manager of the season: Antonio Conte
Signing of the season: Andrea Pirlo
Overachievers: Lazio
Underperformers: Inter/Genoa
Flop of the season: Diego Forlan
Comeback player of the season: Andrea Pirlo/Diego Milito
Moment of the season: Del Piero and Pippo Inzaghi scoring on the last day of the season
Match of the season: Inter 4-2 Ac Milan/ Inter 4-4 Palermo
Goal of the season: Juan Cuadrado vs Siena
Hero of the season: Heroes, Udinese offering to take care of the late Piermario Morosini’s disabled sister.
Villain of the season: Delio Rossi for attacking his own player/ Genoa Ultras.
Unsung Hero: Antonio Nocerino

La Liga:

Player of the season: Cristiano Ronaldo
Young player of the season: Javi Martinez
Manager of the season: Jose Mourinho
Signing of the season: Radamel Falcao
Overachievers: Malaga
Underperformers: Villarreal
Flop of the season: Ruud Van Nistelrooy 28Games 4 goals
Comeback player of the season: Abidal playing again after cancer
Moment of the season: Ronaldo silences the Nou Camp
Match of the season: Levente 3-5 Rayo Vallecano
Goal of the season: Ronaldo 1st v Levante
Hero of the season: Eric Abidal
Villain of the season: Pepe
Unsung Hero: Xabi Alonso

Pepe seemed to be constantly in trouble. What’s new?

Who would be your picks?

The Bianconeri rise again.

Juventus lifted the Scudetto for the 28th time in their history this season. A season in which they went unbeaten.

Who would of predicted this six years ago?

Match fixing Scandal

In 2006 Juventus were one of the five clubs who were linked with the Italian match fixing scandal. They were stripped of the two titles they won under Fabio Capello and demoted to the Serie B for the first time in the clubs history. As expected some key players left, including Lillian Thuram and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However others showed their loyalty and agreed to remain with Juve despite playing in the second tier of Italian football. The main players being Buffon, Nedved, Trezeguet and Del Piero. Juventus went straight back up after winning the Serie B, only losing four times in 42 games.

Rebuilding

The following season Claudio Ranieri took over the “Old Lady”, guiding them to a very respectable third place finish.  It also meant they had qualified for the following seasons Champions League.

2008-09 season was going to be a test for Ranieri’ men as they now had high expectations on their shoulders. The Summer transfer window saw them bring in eight players to strengthen the squad. Amauri being the “big” signing, coming from Palermo for €22.6 million. Juventus looked like genuine title contenders at various stages of the season and to boost the confidence of the fans they topped their Champions League group which contained Real Madrid. They were later knocked out by Chelsea in the last 16. However the players were struggling to remain motivated at certain times throughout the season as Ranieri belittled their title chances. The team went seven consecutive league games without a win. Despite this they finished second, a total of 10 points behind Champions Inter. Ranieri was sacked for failing to win a trophy.

With new coach Ciro Ferrara spending over €50 million on transfers, people imagined that the team could make the push and once again become champions of Italy. This was not the case as the 09-10 season proved to be disastrous for the Bianconeri. They failed to qualify from their Champions League group. Following the loss to Inter in the Coppa Italia, Ciro Ferrara was sacked as manager. The day later Alberto Zaccheroni was made head coach. Zaccheroni made a pretty decent start, knocking Ajax out of the Europa League followed up by a 3-1 win over Fulham. However Juventus were bet 4-1 in the second leg thus knocking them out, a poor run of form followed. Juve finished 7th in the Serie A.

Juventus started the following season with a new president, Andrea Agnelli and a new manager, Luigi Delneri. Despite the change Juventus once again had a poor season, finishing 7th for the second consecutive season and once again another year without a trophy. The crowds were plummeting, failing to sell out the 28,000 seater Stadio Olimpico once. Agnelli knew something had to change.

Resurrection 

There was a lot of change, the main one being the change of Stadium. Juventus became the only team in the Serie A to fully own their own stadium. Former Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte was made manager. The fans became optimistic and Juventus stadium was frequently sold out. Andrea Agnelli pumped money into the club and Conte gladly spent it, bringing in no more than twenty new faces for a total of €94.5 million. They knew they had to challenge Ac Milan for the title, a title that the Rossoneri were not going to give up easily. Juvetus won six of their first ten games, beating Inter and Ac Milan in the process. Despite the good form some criticised them for drawing too many games, something that might just cost them the title. Between the 5th of Febuary and the 11th of March Juve drew six of their seven Serie A games. However this was followed by an impressive run of form that saw the Bianconeri gather up nine wins on the trot. Despite Milan throwing away their lead earlier in the season, they still remained closely behind. Juve slipped up slightly following a 1-1 draw with Lecce, which allowed the Rossoneri back into the title race. It all came down to match-day 37. Ac Milan had to beat rivals Inter to keep their title hopes alive. A breathtaking Milan derby ended with the Rossoneri losing 4-2. Juventus win away to Cagliari meant they became champions of Italy for the first time since 2003. The win on the last day of the season ensured that Conte’s men went the entire Serie A season unbeaten, becoming one of only three teams to do so (Perugia in 78/79 and Ac Milan in 91/92).

Del Piero lifts the Scudetto in his final season as a Juve player.

Juventus have the chance to do a domestic double when they play Napoli in the Coppa Italia final on Sunday.

They will be hoping to defend their Scudetto next season and continue their unbeaten run. They will also be expected to do well in next seasons Champions League and could well prove to be dark horses.

Does this Juventus side have what it takes to become one of the best sides in the world?