Arsenal and Man UTD Legends to Grace Indian Soil

Arsenal and Man UTD

Thierry Henry!!

Paul Scholes!!

The Neville Brothers!!

Cole and Yorke!!

Robert Pires!!

Ryan Giggs!!

David Seaman!!

Saha, Silvestre, Irwin, Parker, Butt!!!!

Aaaaahhh! I believe it’s time for football fans to go mad. I know I am. It seems that all these great names I have listed above will be gracing Indian soil.

Arsenal and Man UTD

Arsenal and Man UTD in India!

No, I have not invented a time machine. Neither have I figured out a way to enter an alternate universe where the Indian Super League is greater than English Premier League and I am the de facto manager of Arsenal. If pigs had wings…

What I have come across is information that these legends of the great game of football will be playing a couple of Masters Cup matches in Goa.

When? You ask me with your tongue lolling and drooling about like a football sycophant?

Don’t worry mine is dangling like an anteater too!

The games will occur in the first week of June. June 3 and June 7 to be precise.

The first match will supposedly take place at the Cooperage stadium of Mumbai City FC, while the second match will be hosted by the Nehru Stadium of FC Goa.

What’s The Gig about Arsenal and Man UTD Players in India?

Arsenal and Man UTD

Henry and Pires

While I don’t like to wonder about the guthli (the seed for all the foreigners here) while gobbling down the aam (that will be the mango around the seed), my journalistic sense tingles every time I give it a bye.

The news is that the Western India Football Association (WIFA) and Goa Football Association (GFA) have been directed by the Indo Global Foundation to prepare the facilities of the games.

Supposedly, they have actually been asked to make ‘elaborate arrangements’, keeping with the importance of the event.

I like this Indo Global Foundation already. They seem to know their football and seem to also have their priorities right i.e. football before politics. I wonder who they are though because I can’t find jack about them anywhere except for a barely fleshed out Facebook page.

If any one of you knows, kindly give me a heads-up. I’m very curious.

An Annual Football Masters Cup in India

Schole and Giggs

Schole and Giggs

Back to the story here – it seems that this event will be an annual affair, if you’re willing to believe Henry Menezes, the CEO of WIFA.

I am inclined to believe him simply because he revealed that his stadium has already been booked by the organisers. According to him, there will be a total of 32 ex – Arsenal and Man UTD players, of which 26 would have World Cup caps in their records.

The Indo Global Foundation chose to not reveal the names of the players citing the lame excuse that the ‘charm will be lost’. He did give away some information by stating that there will be 10 players at the level of ISL Marquee players. He went on to add that having a minimum of 100 caps is a loose prerequisite.

ISL Blog had earlier reported on the chances of Thierry Henry coming to India. Apparently, we were just off by the timing.

Still, the names we came up with above were leaked out. Smart strategy from the organisers that!

Now we look forwards to the first match, which is just under a month away!

FC Goa 2015 Squad – Lucio to Be Their ISL Marquee Player?

Lucio for FC Goa 2015 Squad

FC Goa look all set to make the ISL 2015 season even better than their ISL 2014 season. The preparations have been fast-tracked which has resulted in the Goans almost on the verge of finalising their ISL 2015 squad. The highlight of moves being made in terms of FC Goa 2015 squad is that they may sign the Brazilian defender Lucio as their next ISL Marquee Player.

Who Is Lucio and What’s Will He Bring to FC Goa 2015 Squad?

Lucio boasts of a career that can make most footballers envious. He has won virtually everything there is to be won in a footballer’s career. His accolades include.

  • FIFA World Cup with Brazil (2002)
  • FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil (2005 and 2009)
  • UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan (2009-2010)
  • Coppa Italia with Inter Milan (2009-2010 and 2010-2011)
  • Serie A with Inter Milan (2009-2010)
  • DFB – Ligapokal or German League Cup with Bayern Munich (2004 and 2007)
  • DFB – Pokal or German Cup with Bayern Munich (2004-2005, 2005-2006, and 2007-2008)
  • Bundesliga with Bayern Munich (2004-2005, 2005-2006, and 2007-2008)
Lucio for FC Goa 2015 Squad

Lucio for FC Goa 2015 Squad

Lucio will bring a lot of experience to the FC Goa 2015 squad defence and will most probably by partnering Gregory Arnolin who had a wonderful debut Indian Super League season last time out.

The Brazilian is typically a no nonsense defender with a lot of upper body strength and a good leap off the ground. His ball control skills, while not legendary, are good enough for him to be a ball playing defender in the ISL.

At the age of 36, Lucio may not have a lot of speed, but he will look to compensate for that with his experience. Lucio also has a mean freekick on him.

Why Is Lucio Replacing Robert Pires as FC Goa’s ISL Marquee Player?

Robert Pires, FC Goa

Goodbye FC Goa

It comes as no surprise that FC Goa have decided on a new ISL Marquee Player as Robert Pires could only play eight games out of a total of 16.

In fact, if you assess Pires’s contributions in those eight games, it becomes clear why FC Goa’s pragmatic coach Zico chose to do without him and look to add Lucio to the FC Goa 2015 squad. Here are Pires’s stats.

  • Played eight games,
  • Didn’t complete those eight games and only played 561 minutes which is equivalent to just over six full games, and
  • Scored one goal and made no assists.

The impact of Robert Pires was limited on the pitch. These numbers aren’t surprising because at the age of 41, everyone knew that Pires was brought in for marketing reasons rather than footballing reasons.

Lucio or Riquelme; Zico Chooses

Juan Roman Riquelme

Juan Roman Riquelme

Zico was actually given a list of players who were interested in becoming ISL Marquee players for FC Goa 2015 squad. In the end, Zico shortlisted Lucio and Juan Roman Riquelme as potential member of FC Goa 2015 squad.

Those of you who’ve been following football for some time will remember Riquelme being brought to Europe by the resurgent Barcelona FC in 2002. Riquelme only played for Barcelona 30 times in three years before he was shipped to Villareal FC.

Riquelme actually made a name for himself with the Yellow Submarine. At Villareal Riquelme pulled strings from the midfield with Diego Forlan, who is being linked with Atletico De Kolkata, the most obvious beneficiary. Both would go on to become famous players from their countries and in Europe. Riquelme will be 37 years and is an attacking midfielder.

Riquelme’s age and the fact that he plays in midfield is probably why Zico chose to go with Lucio over him. Riquelme retired in 2011-2012 before making a comeback for his childhood team Boca Juniors. At the beginning of this Riquelme retired again but is still being connected to ISL as a potential ISL Marquee Player. Riquelme, by the way, also has a very good freekick on him.

I believe Zico made a wiser and much more informed choice in choosing Lucio over Riquelme for FC Goa 2015 sqaud. The reason for this is that the latter may not have much in the tank for the rigours of ISL. Lucio is a safer bet and has shown a keen interest in working with Zico.

Zico Key to Lucio’s Potential Arrival to Indian Shores

Zico, seeing the potential of his team, has decided to get a player who is only 36 and can contribute far more than Pires did at 36 to the FC Goa 2015 squad. It’s also a smart move to sign a central defender as the ISL Marquee Player because central defenders tend to have longer playing careers. Central defenders aren’t required to have a lot of stamina since they don’t have to run as much as midfielders who cover much greater areas.

For example, Paolo Maldini, the epitome of central defenders in recent history played at the top of the ladder till he was 41. Maldini was playing for AC Milan as late as 2009. He was born in 1968. Granted, players like Maldini come once in a lifetime but Lucio is also in the same mould. What’s better is that Lucio is only 36 and is still playing at the top of the league in Brazil. More importantly, Lucio looks to be very keen to work with the legendary coach Zico.

Mainstream media is reporting that Lucio already has a written offer in front of him. Moreover, it is expected that he will sign very soon, if he hasn’t already.

Match Report: Northeast United 1 – 1 FC Goa

Like Rehenesh TP debuted in the Indian Super League (ISL) today, this post marks the debut of ISL Blog. However, I’d like to avoid the fate of the Northeast United’s Goalkeeper as he was the one who started the goal proceedings in a negative way.

I could’ve probably chosen a more entertaining game to begin ISL Blog but at the same time, I could’ve chosen something much worse. I will settle for this one.

Impressive But a Slightly Dirty Beginning from Northeast United

Like Rehenesh TP debuted in the Indian Super League (ISL) today, this post marks the debut of ISL Blog. However, I’d like to avoid the fate of the Northeast United’s Goalkeeper as he was the one who started the goal proceedings in a negative way. I could’ve probably chosen a more entertaining game to begin ISL Blog but at the same time, I could’ve chosen something much worse. I will settle for this one. Impressive But a Slightly Dirty Beginning from Northeast The game began tentatively with the first major incident being the battering of Robert Pires at the hands of Isaac Chansa. Chansa did make up for going after my favourite player in the league by showing some real verve and drive for the rest of the game and eliminating the hooligan from his game. The first good incident was the drive from Capdevila under the wall which almost went in due to a deflection. Seda, Goa’s goalkeeper, played well throughout the night and kept Northeast’s multiple attacks at bay. The game was dominated by Koke from beginning till he was substituted. While people may have expected Pires’s pedigree they saw the calm panache of Koke. Somehow, he always had enough space and time to gather the ball, look up, and slide in a sumptuous pass.  That was the crux of the game from the Home team. Northeast would press hard and high, get the ball, hand it to Koke, and watch him slide balls left, right and centre to willing runners from the middle and the flank. This strategy, eventually, lead to FC Goa being pushed back into their own half and hoping for counters, especially since Pires’s age and rustiness meant that he couldn’t dominate the game. I have to say, I liked Northeast’s game. The First Goal against the Run of Play As is the case with such strategies, Northeast received a lot of offsides against them. Some of the credit must go to Goa’s defence for this and particularly Gregory who made many key interceptions and kept a tight control over the whole defensive line. Gregory would make an even more key contribution at 17 minutes when Goa took the lead against the run of play.  It was a scrappy goal. Chansa, in his early quest to scalp Pires, put in a dirty challenge and was yellow carded. Pires was constantly being double teamed and fouled. I understand the need for laying down the gauntlet to a silky stylish player but forced physicality is not something that I believe Indian football should be straddled with. We, anyways, lack the required technique and quality needed to excel on the world football stage. If the referees start letting tough fouls go by then we’ll end up becoming Neanderthals on the pitch. No one wants to play like Stoke’s ogres do they? The punishment was fair on Chansa and the insult to injury even more so. Santos, the perennial flab master and whipping boy of fans, took the free kick. It was a simple enough affair but Rehenesh decided to make a hash of it or should it be Renehash? He fumbled the simple catch and the ball fell to Ranti Martins, who flicked it towards the goal on the fall. The ball hit the post and rolled across the mouth of the goal. Robin came in and tried to clear the ball which promptly hit Rehenesh’s head while he was flailing on the floor and went to Gregory. Gregory side footed the ball in from a yard out. Yes, it was not a beautiful goal. More importantly, it was against the run of play. Rehenesh would spend the rest of the game being uncertain whether he should come for a ball or let his defenders handle it. Northeast’s Reaction to Going Behind Northeast, after the goal, got even more aggressive with their pressing, running, and hounding. The temperature kept on going up inside the stadium till it exploded with the equaliser at about 36 minutes. The equaliser was controversial though, seriously controversial. The referee for the night, one known as D Gantar, has probably never made a bigger blunder in his life. He gave a penalty to Northeast that should never have stood. Even R Herbert, Northeast’s manager looked slightly surprised and bemused. The call was so poor that the referee should go home take the Ice Bucket Water Challenge just so he could feel clean again. The ball was bouncing around and looped up into the air. Robin jumps from the outside of the box into the air and so does Debarata. The two collide and, for some reason, the grey matter inside Ganter’s head turns into slush and he decides to go for fame. Penalty given. At least, he had the sense to not send the player off. Koke stepped up and calmly equalised with his second goal of the tournament. He coolly sent the keeper to his left and slotted nonchalantly towards his right. No fuss, no huff, bread buttered, breakfast had. Home fans, promptly set off some rockets – its Diwali after all. Northeast continued to dominate the rest of the half. Such was their domination that they had 59% possession. The home fans deserve appreciation and some criticism. I liked the way they cheered their team but I don’t like the fact that they chose to boo the other team’s substitutions. I’ve not heard of categorically booing the opponent’s substitutions, even though I know specifically hated players get the special treatment. Not good sportsmanship at all. The One Way Second Half The second half was starker than the first half. Northeast took control of the game firmly and pushed and pushed to get multiple chances. Goa retreated into their half, presented two banks of defenders, but still gave away a number of good chances. Northeast, led by Koke’s creativity and Capdevila good defending, got many through balls in to runners on flanks but the final ball was always less than perfect. Capdevila would win it and lay it off to a teammate who would promptly pick out Koke. Koke would then proceed to dish out pass after wonderful pass. The finishing was poor though and Seda in good form. He singlehandedly kept Goa in the game and came up with a number of good saves. Pires and Santos, both spent forces, were taken off by Zico later. Isn’t it typical of Zico to setup his team defensively? At least that’s how I remember that man’s managerial stints. He was surprisingly defensive for a Brazilian.  The Final Stretch Edgar Marcelino came on for Pires and he does deserve a mention because he almost took the game by the scruff of its neck a few times. He ran with the ball and put in some good passes before he was too shut down by the Northeast midfield. Chansa also made a difference with his engine, once he put a lid on trying to physically intimidate every opponent. After he stopped giving away fouls, he actually became the archetypical Box to Box midfielder. About the 80 minute mark, everyone got tired with the heavy ISL schedule taking a toll. Some more substitutions were made and both teams seemed to accept that one point will be good enough but the fatigue at the end of the game was palpable. Certain rules also had a role to play in creating that fatigue for both teams. For instance, in an ISL match, both teams must have at least five domestic i.e. Indian players on the pitch. The rule, while good for the development of Indian football, does mean tied hands for managers. Isn’t that a nugget you can throw in your friend’s face the next time he shows off his football knowledge to you in the middle of a match? I’ll try to give you one fact like this with every post on this blog. All in all, the match turned out to be far better than what I expected (I’m used to watching the European – Spain and England – standards of football). Some expectations were met. I thought the foreign names would dominate the game and they did. Only time will tell whether some fairy dust (experience) from those legends will brush off onto Indian players’ shoulders. I did see Pires and Capdevila trying to be generals on the pitch while Koke had a calmness to him that helped his team. Here’s to hoping the Indian players will show some flare and technique in the future matches. Cheers!The game began tentatively with the first major incident being the battering of Robert Pires at the hands of Isaac Chansa. Chansa did make up for going after my favourite player in the league by showing some real verve and drive for the rest of the game and eliminating the hooligan from his game. The first good incident was the drive from Capdevila under the wall which almost went in due to a deflection. Seda, Goa’s goalkeeper, played well throughout the night and kept Northeast United’s multiple attacks at bay.

The game was dominated by Koke from beginning till he was substituted. While people may have expected Pires’s pedigree they saw the calm panache of Koke. Somehow, he always had enough space and time to gather the ball, look up, and slide in a sumptuous pass.

That was the crux of the game from the Home team. Northeast would press hard and high, get the ball, hand it to Koke, and watch him slide balls left, right and centre to willing runners from the middle and the flank. This strategy, eventually, lead to FC Goa being pushed back into their own half and hoping for counters, especially since Pires’s age and rustiness meant that he couldn’t dominate the game. I have to say, I liked Northeast United’s game.

The First Goal against the Run of Play

As is the case with such strategies, Northeast received a lot of offsides against them. Some of the credit must go to Goa’s defence for this and particularly Gregory who made many key interceptions and kept a tight control over the whole defensive line. Gregory would make an even more key contribution at 17 minutes when Goa took the lead against the run of play.

It was a scrappy goal. Chansa, in his early quest to scalp Pires, put in a dirty challenge and was yellow carded. Pires was constantly being double teamed and fouled by Northeast United.

I understand the need for laying down the gauntlet to a silky stylish player but forced physicality is not something that I believe Indian football should be straddled with. We, anyways, lack the required technique and quality needed to excel on the world football stage. If the referees start letting tough fouls go by then we’ll end up becoming Neanderthals on the pitch. No one wants to play like Stoke’s ogres do they?

The punishment was fair on Chansa and the insult to injury even more so. Santos, the perennial flab master and whipping boy of fans, took the free kick. It was a simple enough affair but Rehenesh decided to make a hash of it or should it be Renehash? He fumbled the simple catch and the ball fell to Ranti Martins, who flicked it towards the goal on the fall. The ball hit the post and rolled across the mouth of the goal. Robin came in and tried to clear the ball which promptly hit Rehenesh’s head while he was flailing on the floor and went to Gregory. Gregory side footed the ball in from a yard out. Yes, it was not a beautiful goal. More importantly, it was against the run of play. Rehenesh would spend the rest of the game being uncertain whether he should come for a ball or let his defenders handle it.

Northeast’s Reaction to Going Behind

Northeast, after the goal, got even more aggressive with their pressing, running, and hounding. The temperature kept on going up inside the stadium till it exploded with the equaliser at about 36 minutes. The equaliser was controversial though, seriously controversial.

The referee for the night, one known as D Gantar, has probably never made a bigger blunder in his life. He gave a penalty to Northeast that should never have stood. Even R Herbert, Northeast’s manager looked slightly surprised and bemused. The call was so poor that the referee should go home take the Ice Bucket Water Challenge just so he could feel clean again.

The ball was bouncing around and looped up into the air. Robin jumps from the outside of the box into the air and so does Debarata. The two collide and, for some reason, the grey matter inside Ganter’s head turns into slush and he decides to go for fame. Penalty given. At least, he had the sense to not send the player off.

Koke stepped up and calmly equalised with his second goal of the tournament for Northeast United. He coolly sent the keeper to his left and slotted nonchalantly towards his right. No fuss, no huff, bread buttered, breakfast had. Home fans, promptly set off some rockets – its Diwali after all. Northeast continued to dominate the rest of the half. Such was their domination that they had 59% possession.

The home fans deserve appreciation and some criticism. I liked the way they cheered their team but I don’t like the fact that they chose to boo the other team’s substitutions. I’ve not heard of categorically booing the opponent’s substitutions, even though I know specifically hated players get the special treatment. Not good sportsmanship at all.

The One Way Second Half

The second half was starker than the first half. Northeast took control of the game firmly and pushed and pushed to get multiple chances. Goa retreated into their half, presented two banks of defenders, but still gave away a number of good chances. Northeast, led by Koke’s creativity and Capdevila good defending, got many through balls in to runners on flanks but the final ball was always less than perfect. Capdevila would win it and lay it off to a teammate who would promptly pick out Koke. Koke would then proceed to dish out pass after wonderful pass.

The finishing was poor though and Seda in good form. He singlehandedly kept Goa in the game and came up with a number of good saves. Pires and Santos, both spent forces, were taken off by Zico later. Isn’t it typical of Zico to setup his team defensively? At least that’s how I remember that man’s managerial stints. He was surprisingly defensive for a Brazilian.

The Final Stretch

Edgar Marcelino came on for Pires and he does deserve a mention because he almost took the game by the scruff of its neck a few times. He ran with the ball and put in some good passes before he was too shut down by the Northeast United midfield. Chansa also made a difference with his engine, once he put a lid on trying to physically intimidate every opponent. After he stopped giving away fouls, he actually became the archetypical Box to Box midfielder.

About the 80 minute mark, everyone got tired with the heavy ISL schedule taking a toll. Some more substitutions were made and both teams seemed to accept that one point will be good enough but the fatigue at the end of the game was palpable.

Certain rules also had a role to play in creating that fatigue for both teams. For instance, in an ISL match, both teams must have at least five domestic i.e. Indian players on the pitch. The rule, while good for the development of Indian football, does mean tied hands for managers. Isn’t that a nugget you can throw in your friend’s face the next time he shows off his football knowledge to you in the middle of a match? I’ll try to give you one fact like this with every post on this blog.

All in all, the match turned out to be far better than what I expected (I’m used to watching the European – Spain and England – standards of football). Some expectations were met. I thought the foreign names would dominate the game and they did. Only time will tell whether some fairy dust (experience) from those legends will brush off onto Indian players’ shoulders. I did see Pires and Capdevila trying to be generals on the pitch while Koke had a calmness to him that helped his team. Here’s to hoping the Indian players will show some flare and technique in the future matches. Cheers!