First Whistle : July 2012

“On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail. Reasons the card, but passion the gale.”

As this edition marks the completion of its first year of e-publication, it is with passion that Goalden Times forges forward in its mission to unite every football lover across nations in their vision to support evolution of freedom of expression and attain the goal of knowledge sharing across generations; finally, hoping to bring its dream to fruition.

For the editors and all the staff of this periodical it has been a valuable and satisfying 12 months.

The magazine is intended as a medium by which everything under the sun surrounding the ‘beautiful game’ is conveyed in all humility, and a forum for debate on issues which are likely to shape the future of football.

When our first issue appeared, we did not know how much of a response we would enjoy. In the event, site views have risen slowly but surely with each subsequent issue, affirming your faith in us. We could not have made this headway without your constant support.

Our aim is to offer a variety of genuinely different ideas and we have never made any attempt to impose editorial uniformity where the views of our contributors are concerned. We heartily encourage our readers to provide feedback as much as they can. Your contributions, whether formal or informal, are very welcome. We may be contacted via e-mail at Our home page address on the internet is:

Goalden Times was conceived at a time when there was no football following Copa America. This year, the scene is a little different though. After the domestic leagues in Europe, we had Euro and now football in Olympics will nicely take us through the beginning of the European leagues.

Olympic football has kicked off with a stunner from Japan as they beat the European and World champions Spain. This naturally leads people to question how good Spain really is. Do they belong to the same league as the other great sides in international football like the Uruguayan team of the 1920s, the Italian side of the 30s, the Argentina team of the 40s, the Brazilian team of late 50s and 60s or even the French team of late 90s? Spain has always produced supremely talented football players who played with their contemporary international football greats, thanks to the high standard of the domestic league in Spain. However, before Euro 2008, Spain was tagged as the serial underachievers and rightfully so; but since then they have won everything that they have played for. Right after the Euro 2012 triumph, their under-19 team won the UEFA European championship.

Coming back to Euro 2012 – a tournament played across two time zones, two languages, two currencies – our team followed the game closely and brought insights before and after the game for our readers. In this issue we have done a team by team post-mortem of the big names in Europe.

The football transfer market has been simmering with Paris Saint-Germain leading the battle; they have already bagged Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan, Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli among others and are looking to strengthen their squad further by bringing in the likes of Luka Modrić. UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea has signed on three talented midfielders: the Brazilian wonder kid Oscar, Marko Marin of Germany and Eden Hazard of Belgium. We shall no longer see Park Ji-Sung donning a Manchester United jersey this year, but he will still be seen in English league playing for Queens Park Rangers. United’s new signing Shinji Kagawa has already made an impact and will be the Asian prospect in England. Ballon D’Or winner Ricardo Kakà is facing an uncertain future as the Real Madrid boss José Mourinho has made it clear that Kakà will not be a part of his plan A next season. Kakà, however, is desperately seeking to return to regular football. Can he get back to his old club AC Milan and restore the glory days for him and the club?

We shall bring you more transfer stories and football news from the Olympics while stepping into Year Two of Goalden Times, looking for the same love and encouragement that we have received so far.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, especially those who contributed articles and ideas, for helping us in our work over the last year. Working together with you all has been a most fruitful and rewarding partnership for us. We look forward to continuing our collaboration in future issues. May football unite us.

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The Nowhere Man

Carlos Tevez was the name on everyone’s lips for the entire January winter transfer window. Here Gino de Blasio takes the slide rule to the issue to find out what the hoopla is all about. Catch Gino on twitter @ginodb

All dressed up, nowhere to go

Remember high school? The social awkwardness, the struggle to make friends, the isolation that can encapsulate your dreams being burnt like a second year science class before a bunsen burner? Just like the ugly child who no one wants to take to the end of year dance, Carlos Tevez must have been feeling the same, come January 31st.

So how did one of football’s greatest talents get himself into the social exclusion award of the year category, and will he ever make it out in time for his career to fully shine?

Munich – 27th September 2011

Tevez Ignored Mancini

It was a cold autumn night and Manchester City were playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage. Away from home and under the spotlight of Europe’s footballing elite, Carlos Tevez was going to commit a cardinal football sin – disobey the manager.

In a sideline dispute with City boss Roberto Mancini, Tevez refused to enter the pitch for a substitution prompting an expletive-charged tantrum for the world to see. The Tevez camp had later claimed that it was all due to some miscommunication – Tevez’s English speaking skills apparently to blame for the fiasco, however, that did not stand a chance. The cold Munich night lay witness to a calm Tevez while Mancini gesticulated wilder than any Italian since Nero saw Rome burning.

Tevez sat calmly as Mancini gesticulated wilder than any Italian since Nero saw Rome burning

Tevez didn’t get up. Mancini sat down.

The team talk, the flight home, the interviews with the press – all of these constitute modern day football, a tasteful reminder that not only the player has some explaining to do, but the coach too. But it was to be a sombre Mancini, a man who looked destroyed by the whole episode; the stress taking its toll on his verbal capacity to talk, he nonetheless exclaimed, “Tevez will never play for this club again”. To which a nonchalant Tevez expressed his desire to leave anyway as he is not happy to stay away from his family.

Like all great crimes since 1974, this became known as “Tevez-Gate”.

A two-week ban, loss of wages, exclusion from followed by forced inclusion into training. Carlitos needed a new home; Manchester City had made it as much clear.

And so Began the Rat Race…

Who was going to take in “the Apache”? More known for his petulance than a history teacher’s velvet elbow padding and more disliked by his manager than the school snitch, Tevez’s saving grace is that when he plays, you forget all of the above.

His work rate is exceptional, his physical diminutiveness compensated by the terrier-like aggression he uses to win and protect the ball; blessed with a hawk-esque vision he can pick out passes from all over the pitch. Any club would find a position for him, even if it meant selling their prized possession to have him.

A Tale of One City, Two Clubs

Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport ran the story of how Tevez was a step away from Milan

Like an after-school detention featuring the misfortune of sitting and watching your teacher’s marks, Tevez was totally powerless. It was to be the red and black half of Milan to make the first move, a proposition that would give Milan arguably the best attack in the world and bolster their domestic efforts by resting Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Champions League appearances. Milan agreed on personal terms with the player and the move seemed imminent, till City put the brakes on it by not allowing a free move on loan, preferring an outright sale.

When Milan failed on their first proposal to capture the Argentinian ace, it was set to start an inadvertent bidding war with local rivals Inter Milan. A move seen by many as one-upmanship due to the technical abilities which Tevez would bring, rather than the cure to the cold Inter had acquired; Tevez was a solution for Milan, not for Inter.

This was all taking place the week of the Milan derby; no longer was Tevez the ugly duckling, he was the one everyone wanted to take to the ball.

Cometh the Sacrificial Lamb

When Milan’s original proposal was rebuked by Manchester City, they knew the only thing that could win over the North West club was going to be an offer that they couldn’t turn their nose at. Adriano Galliani played out a move worthy of “hell hath no fury like a Brazilian scorned”. Using the media, and relations with the new Paris Saint-Germain coach (former Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti) and sporting director (former Milan scout and manager Leonardo), a series of open contacts were made to Milan regarding the sale of

Alexander Pato to PSG, a move that would bring in the capital required to purchase Tevez outright.

This seemed like the gamble of a century – selling the young, talented but injury-prone Brazilian for an older, temperamental and non-tested-in-Serie A Argentine. Add to that, Tevez hadn’t played since September – whatever form he was in, it wasn’t going to be match-ready.

Young, Injury-prone, Loyal, Promising or Mature, Proven, Disharmonious; which one to pick?

It wasn’t to be.

Pato’s sale was blocked at the last moment making Galliani come out of negotiations with Manchester City surrounding Tevez. So neither did Milan sell their star Brazilian nor did they buy the sidelined Argentinian. Nothing had changed, much to the dismay of the Twitter audiences around the globe proclaiming the sale of one, the purchase of another. Tevez was stranded. He was, yet again, the one the cool kids didn’t want in their group.

And Then…

There were flutters, both from PSG and Inter (again) but nothing concrete. The media circle that had encapsulated the story and run wild across Europe never came to fruition. Milan were without their preferred striker from the market (a last ditch effort to get Maxi Lopez from Catania did happen), Inter and PSG re-enforced and sold in different departments.

The sad truth is, however, Tevez only has himself to blame for the debacle. And who knows if time will teach him a lesson in player-manager protocol; he won’t be joining the diplomatic mission, that’s a certainty.

Scouting Network – Stephan El Shaarawy

Scouting Network identifies young players under the age of 21 who have exceptional talent and could be one of the leading players of the future. This month GoaldenTimes profiles Stephan El Shaarawy

Il Faraone

Date of Birth: 27.10.1992

Place of Birth: Savona, Italy

Club: AC Milan

Height: 1.78 m

Weight: 72kg

Position: Forward

Nationality: Italy, Egypt

Market Value: €7m

There is a sense of destiny about Stephan El Shaarawy.

A particular numerology site actually lists him with having #9 associated to him and says “He is the righter of wrongs“. For those who do not believe in the occult and would like to have much more concrete proof, check out these facts.El Shaarawy, nicknamed Il Faraone (The Pharaoh), given his Egyptian heritage (his father is Egyptian while his mother is Italian), is the fourth youngest player ever to play in Serie A. Starting in the Genoa youth system, he led the Primavera team to Primavera Cup, Primavera Super Cup in 2008-09 season and Primavera Scudetto in 2009-10. Realizing that he is destined for bigger things, Enrico Preziosi, the Genoa president loaned him out to Padova in Serie B. As an 18-year-old, he led Padova to the Serie A promotion play-offs against Novara. In that match, an unfortunate red card to Padova defender Cesar, led to El Shaarawy being sacrificed as the substitute for a new defender. Ultimately Padova would lose that play-off but El Shaarawy’s performance over the 2010-11 season with Padova (9 goals and 2 assists in 30 matches) won him the year-end best player in Serie B award in the annual Calcio Oscars. At the age of 19, he has played for every Italian team he has been eligible for – U16, U17, U18, U19, and now has debuted for the U-21. At every stage, he has scored at least one goal barring the U-21.

Tales of his talent were well known in the peninsula and Milan was especially aware of it, being the team that Genoa Primavera beat in the Super Coppa. Adriano Galliani, Milan’s #2 man after President Silvio Berlusconi, had already made an attempt to sign him in 2010 but Preziosi rebuffed him. Finally in 2011, on the back of his show for Padova, Milan coerced Preziosi to co-own Shaarawy. It was expected that he would be loaned out to gain first team experience. But somehow it didn’t materialise. Milan had a debilitating injury crisis at the start of the season and The Pharaoh made his debut as a substitute, in a losing cause at Napoli. He would come on as a substitute 3 days later when Alex Pato was injured in the 29th minute against Udinese at home and Milan losing 1-0. That day, El Shaarawy would save the Milan blushes with his first ever Serie A goal. However, with the stars returning for Milan, the opportunities would dry up and further talks of move away from Milan in January transfer window would arise. But opportunity in a friendly match against Paris Saint-Germain in January showed once again what he offers. Further injuries to strikers would force Massimiliano Allegri to start El Shaarawi against his old nemesis Novara. Twice in a week, in a cup pre-quarter final and Serie A he would be instrumental in Milan’s win against Novara. The defeat with Padova would be avenged. There would be further evidence of his growing reputation in the Cup quarter final win from behind against Lazio, especially his assist to Clarence Seedorf. Each subsequent match that he would play for Milan would only reinforce that reputation.

Padova’s director of sport Rino Foschi is not surprised. “El Shaarawy is a phenomenon, a special player. When Galliani called me before taking him, I said he is the strongest in his age group in all European leagues. He could be much more important in a few years than what Carlos Tevez (Milan’s #1 transfer target in January) is“.

Given how the Pharaoh is progressing, it wouldn’t be long before Foschi’s forecast turns out to be true.

Maximus Tacticus – Newcastle United

In this feature, Debojyoti Chakraborty analyzes the strategies of top EPL sides. This time it is Newcastle United.


Newcastle United have set themselves a target for this season – they want to make up for lost time. From playing in the qualification stages for Champions League in 2003 they had only gone backwards and even tasted the dogfight in the Championships. No more of those agony stories. They have a settled team, a cool manager at the helm, and as always, a passionate fan base. Europe does not seem too far away this time round.

New Era Beckons

The summer started with much of uncertainty for the Magpies. Known and established faces left the club and the manager refused to splash cash and bring in some star players. Alan Pardew opted for young starlets and his policy is now paying rich dividends. He may not have the strongest of squads at his disposal, he might be lacking a bit of depth in his squad, but Pardew certainly has put together a strong team who can give their opponents a run for their money.

The policy of trusting on youth has rarely been so effective than Tim Krul, the #1 goalkeeper for Newcastle this season. A little known 23-year old Dutch coming from a small club like Den Haag has caught everyone off guard with his command on the game. Krul is a typical English-like goalkeeper who can hurl the ball a long way. He has a good outing sense and likes to punch the ball away and thus initiates a counter attacking move. He may have to work on his reflexes but he is already a valued proposition and a possible transfer target for many big clubs.

Newcastle’s captain this season has been a summer recruit who was no headline when he joined the club in August. But Fabricio Coloccini has provided the much needed stability in the defence with his calm and composed demeanour. He is good with the ball and often comes out of the danger zone with the ball in his feet. With close to 85% passing accuracy, he can easily dictate the game from the back. Coloccini’s partner in crime in a silk-n-steel defensive pairing has been Steven Taylor. A perfect foil for a ball playing defender, he is a no-nonsense stopper who plays a primary blocker and clears the ball out of defence at the first opportunity – eight clearances in each game on an average. His strong physical presence is always an asset in set piece situations – both while defending and when attacking. The star man in defence, though, has been a little Taylor playing down the left flank – Ryan Taylor. On the right back position, Danny Simpson is given the license to venture forward in his marauding runs as Ryan Taylor sits back making it a compact 3-man defence.

Newcastle’s attacking threat

Pardew has opted for a traditional 4-4-1-1 formation in most of the matches. But he has been flexible enough to bring out the best in each of his players. That is why quite often his on-field strategies have revolved around a 3-man central midfield formation of 4-2-3-1. This is to be expected when two commanding midfielders are marshalling the centre of the field – Cheik Tioté and Yohan Cabaye. Both are quite similar in nature with strong physical presence and ability to marshal the midfield by quick ball interception and accurate passing. Cabaye in particular has been impressive with his leadership and ability to dictate the play. He is given a free roaming role at the heart of Newcastle’s midfield and is entrusted with the responsibility of linking the flank with the strikers. Together with the tireless Tioté or Danny Guthrie – deployed as the defensive screen, Cabaye has ensured that Newcastle play to a high tempo, take a direct approach, press high up the pitch but flood the attacking third if the opportunity arrives.

Strong attacking flair is provided by Jonás Gutiérrez from the left flank. A nimble dribbler, he is equally adept at cutting inside, opening up the defence with short interchange of passes or delivering a telling cross. Coupled with Ryan Taylor, he has formed a deadly partnership. Newcastle have missed the same threat from the other flank as Gabriel Obertan has been rarely impressive with his final balls. Another sore point for Pardew is the supporting striker/ attacking midfield position. Hatem Ben Arfa has been inconsistent or sidelined due to injury for most of the time. Leon Best is not the typical #10; he can win some aerial duel but his overall awareness of the game as well as his work ethic quite often lets him down. Shola and Sammy – the Ameobi brothers seem not good enough to play at this level week in week out.

Having covered them all, we come to the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle and how well has he fit in! Demba Ba. It won’t be wrong to say that he has single-handedly propelled Newcastle to the position they are right now. Worrying days await Pardew as others have failed to contribute except him. This might make Newcastle pay dearly in their charge towards Europe when Ba is unavailable owing to injuries or on international duties.

Man to Watch (1) – Demba Ba

He is a perfect striker – good with the ball on his feet, strong physique to win headers and capable of displaying a thunderbolt of a shot to catch the opposition unaware from a distance. To add to that, Ba is playing the football of his life and have rejuvenated a side that was lacking a serious target up front with the departure of Andy Carroll. He is not easy to mark either as he can cut inside to shoot with his reverse leg or can cut through a defence with some slick touches. He has been in lethal form this season and has netted 15 goals averaging almost one goal per game. Playing for a team with limited ammunition going forward, it is a brilliant achievement. But to measure his influence with goals alone would be wrong – he drops back effortlessly drawing his marker along with him. This creates a vacuum in the opposition defence which his team mates can exploit. He is more than a poacher, sometimes even playing as a false nine where he lurks outside the penalty box for the right opportunity. This is evident from his movements in the 3-0 thrashing of Manchester United recently.

Man to Watch (2) – R Taylor

Ryan Taylor, the left back, has been sensational this season on both fronts – two goals, three assists to go along with seven clean sheets. Besides his delightful long balls towards the opponent’s penalty area, he is the stand-out free kick taker for Newcastle. Taylor is a right-footed left back who attacks like an inverted winger. This has made him a very unique player for the Magpies and a headache for the opponents. To summarize his influence let us have a look at his performance against Sunderland. He got a decent 70% accuracy in his passing but most importantly, he was spot on with the balls which mattered. Out of his 14 miss passes/ attempts, 3 each were free-kicks and throw-ins – cases where 50-50 balls are delivered more often than not to open up the defence and hence accuracies are naturally on the lower side. Six of the remaining eight miss passes came along when Taylor was trying a long diagonal, proving he was quite smooth in his own half while defending. To top it up, he also scored the only goal of the match from a direct free kick. Not bad, Ryan Taylor, keep it up!

Taylor’s Influence


Blue Line – Successful Pass

Red Line – Unsuccessful Pass

White Line – Assist / Goal

Journey to the Theatre of Dreams

Akshay Iyer goes on a journey of his lifetime to a place of his dreams and encounters the experience millions will never forget from the closest seat possible

Being a Manchester United fan for close to 14 years, my dream had been to watch at least one match at Old Trafford – also known quite aptly as the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.


The Manchester United Restaurant and Bar (MURB) in Bengaluru in southern India was organising a trip for fans to fly out to Manchester and watch the Red Devils take on Arsenal at Old Trafford. I was not aware of this initially but when I came to know about it through my sister, I just had to go to MURB and get more details of this trip. My plan for 2012 was to watch at least one match at Old Trafford, but when I chanced upon this unexpected opportunity, the decision to make the trip was a no-brainer.

I was part of a group of six who flew to Manchester from Bengaluru in the early hours of August 25, 2011. We reached Manchester the next afternoon, and the remainder of that day was largely spent going around the town centre.

The real action started on August 27, when we were scheduled to tour the home of Manchester United. There haven’t been too many occasions when I have had goose bumps, but as we approached Old Trafford and walked down the Sir Matt Busby Way, I felt a myriad of emotions including excitement, happiness and unabashed pride.

Among the first sights one sees at the magnificent stadium is the clock which depicts the time of the Munich air crash as well as a mural honouring the players and officials who lost their lives in the tragic event. There are also two statues outside the stadium – one is of the United Trinity of Sir Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law and George Best, while the other is of the legendary Manchester United manager, the late Sir Matt Busby.

It was then time to take the tour of the stadium and the museum, which is housed inside Old Trafford itself. Apart from one of the veteran guides to take us around, we also had the pleasure of having the company of Bryan Robson, a former Manchester United captain and now a global ambassador of the club.

The first stop on the tour was the North Stand, which is now called the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, as we were given a quick walk through of the history of the stadium and the stand itself, from where one had a panoramic view of the ground. We also went to the lower tier of the East Stand, a part of which has been marked for the physically disabled and provides them easy access on match days.

Our experienced guide shared many interesting facts with us as we went around, and I also used the opportunity to pick Robson’s brain about his playing days, the current Manchester United squad as well as his role as the global ambassador of the club. ‘Captain Marvel’ Robson said Phil Jones has a bright future, but was unsure if Tom Cleverley had it in him to take over the mantle from United legend Paul Scholes. Robson, though was optimistic that United would win their 20th league title this season, and said: “(Manchester) City certainly have a strong squad, but our experience of winning trophies and Sir Alex’s ability to nurture youngsters and give them the confidence to do well, makes me feel we will be successful in defending the BPL title.” Robson also touched upon his tenure as Thailand’s manager and said, though the players and people of that country are passionate about football, the lack of infrastructure has hindered their progress on the Asian and world stage.

Robson said the game has become faster and more competitive now than in his playing days, but the basics of skill are still central to a footballer’s success. He also mentioned that being at the receiving end of Ferguson’s ‘hairdryer’ ire isn’t a pleasant experience; however, he was all praise for his former manager and the winning mentality he has instilled in the club.

The tour also included a visit to the dressing rooms and I felt an adrenalin rush as we entered the home team’s dressing room and saw the playing gear of United’s squad as well as the screen that Ferguson uses for match tactics. I could feel the sense of history as we walked around different areas of the stadium, and this was one of those moments when I would have been glad had the walls of the hallowed stadium shared their experiences as well!

It was then time to take a walk down the Munich Tunnel and get a glimpse of the tragic days in the club’s history. The tunnel had self-explanatory images that depicted the tragic event, its aftermath and effect on the city of Manchester, and finally the rise of United from the ashes. While these were nostalgic and emotional moments, I was also proud of being the fan of a club that overcame adversity of the worst kind with flying colours. The legacy of Sir Matt Busby and the determination of the players who survived the horrific event, including Sir Bobby Charlton, to make Manchester United a club to be reckoned with were nothing short of inspirational.

We then took advantage of the fact that Robson was with us and managed to take a walk down the tunnel that is used by the home and away players to enter Old Trafford’s green field. While we obviously couldn’t step on the playing surface as it was the day before the match against Arsenal, we went as close to the hallowed turf as possible. It was also an amazing feeling to sit in the home team’s dugout and soak in the vast expanse of Old Trafford from that point.

We bid adieu to Robson and our guide before embarking on a shopping spree at the Manchester United Megastore. The day didn’t end there though as we were joined for lunch by former Manchester United captain Gary Neville at the Red Cafe. Once Neville came, eating was the last thing on our mind and we spent close to half an hour in his company. Neville was also confident that United would successfully defend their Premier League title this season and his respect and admiration for Ferguson was evident each time he mentioned his former manager’s name. Talking about the time when his brother Phil moved on from Manchester United, Gary said it was part and parcel of the football business. When asked about his snubbing of former United teammate Peter Schmeichel’s offer for a handshake in the tunnel before the 2002 Manchester derby, Neville just offered a wry smile. Schmeichel left Manchester United in 1999 and after stints at Sporting CP and Aston Villa, the Danish goalkeeper joined City in 2002 and that earned him Neville’s ire.

The next day – August 28, 2011 – was all about the big match between Manchester United and Arsenal. One could feel excitement in the air on the tram from our hotel to the stadium, which had a mix of fans from both the clubs, but as could be expected, there were certainly a lot more Red Devils supporters than the Gunners. The excitement and expectations only grew as we walked from the Old Trafford Station to the Theatre of Dreams among a sea of people as well as the merchandise and food stalls. And, despite the large number of spectators in the different stands, there was no pushing or shoving to enter the stadium.

As we made our way to our seats in the top tier of the East Stand, which is the one opposite Stretford End, players from both clubs were warming up. I had always expected the atmosphere inside Old Trafford on a match day to be magical and electrifying, but to actually experience and be in the midst of it as United fans chanted and sang songs is a feeling that can’t be put into words but suffice to say it’s one of those moments that one can live over and over.

Manchester United would go on to subject Arsenal to a humiliating 8-2 defeat, which was the Gunners’ worst loss since 1896. Six of the ten goals scored in the match were in front of the East Stand – five of those by Manchester United, which made the experience all the more memorable. The save that David de Gea made off Robin Van Persie’s penalty kick was also in front of the East Stand as were the five goals that Manchester United scored in the second half.

The stadium celebrated each of the United goals and De Gea’s penalty save in unison; while the two Arsenal goals were met with deathly silence. It was a festive atmosphere inside the stadium and Arsenal as well as their fans were taunted as the goals went in and whenever they lost the ball, with songs and chants.

All eight United goals were a joy to watch, but the pick of the lot were Rooney’s two goals from free kicks and Ashley Young’s curling finishes to the top corner. The picture of the match though was Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny going down on his haunches after Young had scored his second and Manchester United’s eighth goal; and that was an apt reflection of the Red Devils’ dominance in this match from start to finish.

We lingered outside Old Trafford for a while after the match and soaked in all that was possible of the post-match celebrations. Those two days were by far the most memorable of my life, and these are experiences that money just can’t buy. I’ll cherish these moments and experiences for the rest of my life and this trip to Manchester has only increased my resolve to watch as many live matches at Old Trafford that I possibly can.

What’s the Goalden Word?

We football fanatics often come across terms and phrases that we start using without knowing its meaning. We hear them on television or read them in magazines wondering what the word is all about. WTGW will endeavour to focus on such terms and their usages helping us create our very own footballpedia. This month’s word is Nadeshiko.  If you would like to know about any such word associated with the football world, do toss in a mail at

NADESHIKO:  (na-de-shi-ko)  (なでしこジャパン)  : [Feminine-Noun-Plural]

Pink or Frilled Pink Carnation

The word nadeshiko in Japanese means the Dianthus superbus flowering plant also known as the large pink or frilled pink carnation. It is used in conjunction with Yamato, the ancient name for Japan for the floral metaphor Yamato Nadeshiko which is a term for an ideal Japanese woman. This term is presently used in Japan to describe the traits of traditional Japanese women of yesteryears that are rare in the current generation.
In 2004 Japan Football Association (JFA) organised a public contest to select a nickname for the national side. On 7th August 2004 JFA announced that ‘Nadeshiko’, from the phrase ‘Yamato Nadeshiko’ had been chosen amongst 2700 entries. The name proved lucky for the team as they won the silver medal in the 2006 Asian Games after losing to North Korea in a tie-breaker.

The triumph of the Nadeshiko

The culmination of the Nadeshiko came in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. After upsetting hosts Germany & strong contenders Sweden in the quarterfinals and semi finals respectively, the Nadeshiko came up against the Americans in the finals. The Americans created more chances, hit the woodwork twice and twice took the lead.

Both the times the Nadeshiko came back with an equalizer, with the 2nd equalizer in the 117th minute from captain Homare Sawa. The team believed that it was their destiny to win this tournament and goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori saved two penalties in the shoot-out. Saki Kumagai converted her penalty to make Japan the first Asian team to win a senior football World Cup across genders. The Nadeshiko lived up to the various traits of their nickname – grit, tenacity, belief and undying spirit.

UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage Preview

The business end of Champions League is about to begin. Get the lowdown on each team and each tie with Debojyoti Chakraborty

2011-12 has been a landmark year for the Champions League as it has probably taken a step to show it is no longer an elitist domain. With no fewer than nine countries being present at this stage, the UEFA President can boast of his Spread the Game campaign. One time undisputed superpower, Italy has the envious record of having at least three teams – and this time the only country to be so – for the seventh time in a row. Other giants in European football – England and Spain – are going through one of the worst seasons for years as they have only two representatives. That is the same number Russia have achieved this year, for the first time in their history, along with the usual attendees like Germany and France. Russia should not feel lonely as Eastern Europe has another representative in the form of knockout stage debutants APOEL Nicosia from Cyprus. Together with FC Basel of Switzerland, the other knockout stage debutants they have shocked quite a few with their strong showing in the group stages and it would be dangerous to demean their chances in the business end. Joining the league of debutants is the rejuvenated club from Italy, FC Napoli who are basking in Champions League glory for the first time ever. They could do well to emulate Real Madrid who is making a record 15th consecutive appearance at this stage of the competition, followed closely by Arsenal with 12th straight show down. Not surprisingly, Real also holds the record of winning the title for a record nine times. Milan is at second place with seven winners’ medals to their name. Current champion and hot favourite Barcelona have won this competition four times, same number as that of Bayern Munich, another giant in European football. Following the pack are Inter (three titles), Benfica (two titles) and Marseille (one title). When the round of 16 draw was made in Nyon, Switzerland about two months back, everybody knew that the teams from same group or same country could not be drawn together, but very few would have anticipated such delectable ties.


APOEL FC vs. Olympique Lyonnais


14th February, 2012

Stade de Gerland, Lyon (FRA)

GSP Stadium, Nicosia (CYP)

7th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

FC Zenit St Petersburg (H) 2-1

FC Shakhtar Donetsk (A) 1-1

AFC Ajax (A) 1-1

Real Madrid CF (H) 0-2

FC Porto (A) 1-1

FC Porto (H) 2-1

GNK Dinamo Zagreb (H) 2-0

AFC Ajax (H) 0-0

FC Zenit St Petersburg (A) 0-0

FC Shakhtar Donetsk (H) 0-2

Real Madrid CF (A) 0-4

GNK Dinamo Zagreb (A) 7-1

Talking Point

Talking Point

Surprise package of the season. With a paltry annual team budget of €10 million – close to the amount Emmanuel Adebayor earns from Manchester City, and he is not even considered good enough for a substitute role – this small club created history by coming this far. They are the first team from Cyprus to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. They are not favourites to win this tie but they were not tipped to top the group stages either. Rode their luck to a great extent as two perfect results on the final matchday of the group stages saw them through to the knock out stages. But their second half display against Dinamo Zagreb on that day, when they unleashed six goals en route a 7-1 win, showed they meant business. A few were suspicious of this unlikely result, specifically with the second half showing, but that should not distract Lyon much. Hugo Lloris has been sensational for them under the bars with the most number (30) of saves in the competition so far. Except for the games against Real Madrid, he has conceded only once in four matches. Lyon faces an uncomfortable second leg away from home and hence should try to seal the tie in the first leg itself.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. FC Barcelona


14th February, 2012

Bay-Arena, Leverkusen (GER)

Camp Nou, Barcelona (ESP)

14th February, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

Chelsea FC (A) 0-2

Valencia FC (A) 1-3

AC Milan (H) 2-2

Chelsea FC (A) 0-2

KRC Genk (H) 2-0

Chelsea FC (H) 2-1

FC Bate Borisov (A) 5-0

KRC Genk (H) 2-0

Valencia FC (H) 2-1

KRC Genk (A) 1-1

FC Viktoria Plzen (H) 2-0

Valencia FC (H) 2-1

Talking Point

Talking Point

Beating the best team in the world, or arguably the greatest club team ever to embrace the game of football, is not a cakewalk. But they have scalped one Spanish side in the group stages already and that should give them some hope.  Still it would need much more than the famous German steel, the undying spirit of a certain Michael Ballack and a great bit of luck – and a Bengali in the form of Robin Dutt at the helm of things – to come out of Nou Camp with their heads held high. Barcelona have not been beaten this season in the Champions League and it seems this record won’t be broken any time soon. Leo Messi and company could have got a trickier tie but they would settle for this with the second leg at home. Their La Liga form is not spectacular, but it would take some doing for any team to beat them over a two-legged tie. Their midfield has not come to the party as yet in this competition but this should be the ideal stage to stamp their authority on Europe.

FC Zenit St Petersburg  vs. SL Benfica


15th February, 2012

Stadion Petrovskiy, St Petersburg (RUS)

Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Lisbon (POR)

6th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

APOEL FC (A) 1-2

FC Shakhtar Donetsk (H) 1-0

Manchester United (H) 1-1

FC Basel 1893 (H) 1-1

FC Porto (H) 3-1

APOEL FC (H) 0-0

FC Oţelul Galaţi (A) 1-0

Manchester United (A) 2-2

FC Shakhtar Donetsk (A) 2-2

FC Porto (A) 0-0

FC Basel 1893 (A) 2-0

FC Oţelul Galaţi (H) 1-0

Talking Point

Talking Point

This would be the home coming for the Portuguese duo Bruno Alves and Danny. Zenit would like to take the full advantage of the first leg at home under freezing Russian weather, but that’s not their only talking point. They have two of the top defenders in the Champions League this season in Nicolas Lombaerts and Tomas Hubocan with most number of balls recovered so far. Besides the return of influential star striker Alexander Kerzhakov from injury would be a major boost for them. However, Zenit would severely lack match sharpness as their domestic season will start only days before the second leg match. Topped the group which had Manchester United and thus were able to avoid other group toppers. They have also been fortunate not to be drawn against some strong runner up teams from the group stage like Milan or Lyon. A trip to Russia will not be a stroll in the park though a second leg at home might just suit them. Nicolas Gaitan has eclipsed his more illustrious contemporaries to become the most influential playmaker in the tournament with the most number of assists so far and Benfica would look upon him as an inspiration.

AC Milan vs. Arsenal FC


15th February, 2012

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan (ITA)

The Emirates Stadium, London (ENG)

6th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

FC Barcelona (A) 2-2

FC Bate Borisov (A) 1-1

Borussia Dortmund (A) 1-1

Olympique de Marseille (H) 0-0

FC Viktoria Plzen (H) 2-0

FC Barcelona (H) 2-3

Olympiacos FC (H) 2-1

Borussia Dortmund (H) 2-1

FC Bate Borisov (H) 2-0

FC Viktoria Plzen (A) 2-2

Olympique de Marseille (A) 0-1

Olympiacos FC (A) 1-3

Talking Point

Talking Point

A battle of experience vs. youthful exuberance, a tussle between composure and agility – this is a mouth-watering clash. Milan started the campaign brightly with a 2-2 draw at Nou Camp. But they faded off afterwards and managed only two points in the last three matches. That did not prevent them from qualifying for the next stage but they finished a good seven points behind the group winner, Barcelona. They have been presented a second leg away from home which may very well suit their counter-attack based football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored in all the CL matches he has played so far and Milan will hope that this trend continues. Arsenal have been historically drawn against tough oppositions quite early in the recent years of Champions League draw. This time too they feature in The match of the round like last year. Arsenal could enjoy a free flowing passage of play against Milan but they have to be careful of their defensive lapses which could well be exposed by the counter-attacking threat of Milan. It raises a few eyebrows if Robin van Persie does not feature in the score sheets. It will be good show down with Ibra, but can his young and inexperienced teammates see Arsenal through? The second leg at the Emirates could well be the decider.

PFC CSKA Moskva vs. Real Madrid


21st February, 2012

Stadion Luzhniki, Moscow (RUS)

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid (ESP)

14th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

LOSC Lille Métropole (A) 2-2

Trabzonspor AŞ (A) 0-0

GNK Dinamo Zagreb (A) 1-0

Olympique Lyonnais (A) 2-0

FC Internazionale Milano (H) 2-3

LOSC Lille Métropole (H) 0-2

AFC Ajax (H) 3-0

GNZK Dinamo Zagreb (H) 6-2

Trabzonspor AŞ (H) 3-0

FC Internazionale Milano (A)   2-1

Olympique Lyonnais (H) 4-0

AFC Ajax (A) 3-0

Talking Point

Talking Point

Beating Inter at their own backyard was not the only requirement; CSKA also needed a draw between Lille and Trabzonspor on the final matchday to secure a knockout stage berth. Fortunately CSKA got the result they wanted but their luck may run out against a rampant Real Madrid. They are a decent side who like to play open attacking football. Seydou Doumbia is one of the leading goal scorers in the tournament with five goals in five appearances and he would love to portray his skills in front of a wider audience. But even a star shot stopper in Igor Akinfeev could prove to be not much against Cristiano Ronaldo and company. Also they are handicapped by the same problem as that of Zenit – lack of match sharpness. Real has been in superb form and their statistics prove that. They have scored nineteen goals in the group stages – only archrivals Barcelona have been able to better that by one goal – and have conceded two goals, the least by any team. Sergio Ramos Garcia has been a star performer as Real are yet to concede any goal in 400+ minutes with him on the pitch. Real have proved that they are much more than Cristiano Ronaldo alone as they have marched past the last two matches without their star striker. But Jose Mourinho should not take this Russian side lightly. They are favourites to progress and they should, unless complacency gets the better of them.

SSC Napoli vs. Chelsea


21st February, 2012

Stadio San Paolo, Naples (ITA)

Stamford Bridge, London (ENG)

14th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

Manchester City FC (A) 1-1

FC Bayern Munchen (A) 2-3

Bayern 04 Leverkusen (H) 2-0

KRC Genk (A) 1-1

Villarreal CF (H) 2-0

Manchester City FC (H) 2-1

Valencia CF (A) 1-1

Bayern 04 Leverkusen (A) 1-2

FC Bayern Munchen (H) 1-1

Villarreal CF (A) 2-0

KRC Genk (H) 5-0

Valencia CF (H) 3-0

Talking Point

Talking Point

Napoli had attracted quite a few eyeballs at the start of the season. They have done their reputation no harm by entering into the knock-out stages in their debut campaign at the expense of cash-rich Manchester City. They were in the Group of Death but their inexperience might just catch up with them here. Star forward Edinson Cavani could be in his last season at Napoli before the cash-rich clubs snatch him away and he could leave his mark before bowing out. Chelsea are having a rocky season in the Premier League, but they have a very strong record at the knockout stages of the Champions League in this decade. Their new manager Andre Vilas Boas may be a newcomer to England, but he is no greenhorn in Europe having already won the UEFA Europa League with Porto last year. Chelsea are going through a transition phase, but getting a debutant team at this stage may just see them through.

Olympique de Marseille vs. FC Internazionale Milano


22nd February, 2012

Stade Vélodrome, Marseille (FRA)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan (ITA)

13th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

Olympiacos FC (A) 1-0

Arsenal FC (A) 0-0

Trabzonspor AŞ (H) 0-1

LOSC Lille Métropole (H) 2-1

Borussia Dortmund (H) 3-0

Olympiacos FC (H) 0-1

PFC CSKA Moskva (A) 3-2

Trabzonspor AŞ (H) 1-1

Arsenal FC (H) 0-1

Borussia Dortmund (A) 3-2

LOSC Lille Métropole (A) 1-0

PFC CSKA Moskva (H) 1-2

Talking Point

Talking Point

Little known players from Marseille have caught the eyes of Europe. Surged by a strong defence, they have propelled through to the knockout stages of Champions League, but they will be underdogs going into this tie. Surely they preferred an easier opponent; at least a second leg advantage at home would have given them some hope. Inter are peaking at the right time. After starting their campaign with a shock defeat to Trabzonspor at home, they bounced back to top the group. They are not likely to be overconfident against Marseille as they bowed out to Schalke FC last year under similar circumstances. And it might be time for Wesley Sneijder to settle in and start imposing his authority again.

FC Basel 1893 vs. FC Bayern Munchen


22nd February, 2012

St. Jakob-Park, Basel (SUI)

Fußball Arena München, Munich (GER)

13th March, 2012

Road to Knockouts

Road to Knockouts

FC Oţelul Galaţi (H) 2-1

SL Benfica (A) 1-1

Trabzonspor AŞ (H) 0-1

LOSC Lille Métropole (H) 2-1

Manchester United (A) 3-3

FC Oţelul Galaţi (A) 3-2

PFC CSKA Moskva (A) 3-2

Trabzonspor AŞ (H) 1-1

SL Benfica (H) 0-2

Manchester United (H) 2-1

LOSC Lille Métropole (A) 1-0

PFC CSKA Moskva (H) 1-2

Talking Point

Talking Point

FC Basel’s shot to fame was knocking out Manchester United from the group stages on the last matchday. This may end up being their high point in this year’s campaign as they look to lock horns against Bayern Munich in their inaugural knockout stage appearance. Alexandar Frei & Marco Streller have both played in Bundesliga before but their influence may not be enough. Bayern Munich, a heavyweight in Europe will be favourites against FC Basel. Sheer professionalism of the German team would be a bit too much for Basel. Bayern would have taken a major boost from the timely return of midfield lynchpin Bastian Schweinsteiger, but his return to field was short- lived as he suffered a torn ligament in the German Cup quarterfinals. His partnership with Mario Gomez, top scorer so far in this year’s CL having scored 6 goals in less than 400 minutes in the pitch, should prove deadly going forward.

Cover Page – February 2012

February edition of Goalden Times has been published. Follow Us Follow Football. This edition is full of interesting picks all across the globe by columnists from vast cultural backgrounds.

First Whistle – January 2012

Goalden Times wishes its readers a wonderful 2012. Hope football brings in golden times in our lives throughout the year.

We have witnessed some amazing football in the year gone by – especially with the return to glory for some of the greatest and oldest institutions of the game. It had ended though, with two shocking losses for Football ‘upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent’.

Another significant event of 2011 has been the launch of Goalden Times. Our efforts on the website were recognized by Such acknowledgement made us feel good but in the longer run it’s your love for the game that will keep us going and help in widening the fraternity.

The beginning of 2012 saw the Argentine international, Lionel Messi winning his third successive Ballon d’Or, thus equalling Michel Platini – the only other player to have won the award three times in a row. The award was open to Europeans only, when Platini had won it from 1983 to 1985; thereby making Messi’s achievement even more astounding.

Baichung Bhutia, India’s most accomplished footballer bid farewell to football as a player, with an exhibition match where the Indian national team played against FC Bayern Munich. Although the Munich side made it look too easy in the 4-0 triumph, it was a grand and emotional end for Baichung. When he left the pitch on the 85th minute, 30,000 fans at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Players from both the sides shook hands with him as he walked his way to the bench for the last time.

With the Africa Cup of Nations in a few days, the UEFA Champions League back in action in February and the domestic leagues moving into critical stages, football looks to get more exciting in the days to come. Some clubs are making some meaningful adjustments in their squad using the winter transfer window and we are sure to watch some more drama on the last few days of January. At Goalden Times, we introduce some exciting new features, while continuing with the ones you have liked. Keep helping us spread the love for the game.

Follow football, follow us!

Cover Page – January 2012

January edition of Goalden Times has been published. Follow Us Follow Football. This edition is full of interesting picks all across the globe by columnists from vast cultural backgrounds.

Cover Page – November, 2011

November edition of Goalden Times has been published. Follow Us Follow Football. This edition is full of interesting picks all across the globe by columnists from vast cultural backgrounds.

First Whistle – November, 2011

Here’s presenting the fourth issue of Goalden Times and it’s been like ‘watching the baby grow – from the tiny bundle of joy, kicking in the air to rolling over and then taking its first wobbly toddler step to feel the earth that is soon to become its playing field’. It’s the most fascinating magic show in the world – perhaps only comparable to the magic on a football pitch. One is never prepared for the surprises that a fascinating game of football can present on a given day.

Take for instance, how Sir Alex Ferguson reeled for a while from the merciless drubbing as his “noisy neighbours” emerged as the club of the month to retain the top spot in England. And first time around in UEFA Champions League, they have turned the tables and brought alive the group of death. Moving on to Germany, Bayern Munich seems to be cruising through both the domestic and European competitions, but it remains to be seen how they perform after losing their charismatic midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger to an unfortunate injury which can keep him out of action for the rest of the year. In Spain, Real Madrid appears to be in great form. They have established a 3-point lead over their archrival Barcelona and look forward to changing the colour of the ribbon on the league trophy. Serie A continues to be the most competitive league with Udinese and Lazio sharing the top spot and Milan right behind them; but Juventus have a game in hand and a win will bring them back on top and make it a 4-way title fight.

In the European circuit, Ronaldo led Portugal into Euro 2012. They were joined by Czech Republic, Croatia and Ireland who also won their respective play-off matches. Moving to the land of Africa, Esperance have lifted the prized CAF Champions league and Zimbabwe striker Edward Sadomba has won the Golden Boot. In other news, as FC Barcelona players continued to dominate the Ballon d’Or shortlist‎ this year, the club president has triggered a fresh debate, suggesting FIFA should pay players during the World Cup. We will keep an eye on how this debate unfolds.

The month was marked by sudden, unexplained illnesses of Rino Gattuso and Antonio Cassano. Last heard, they are recovering steadily and inching back to being match-ready. As true blue football fans, we’d like to wish them all the best and look forward to their speedy return to the pitch. As Diego Armando Maradona says: “Forza Antonio. Forza Rino. Football needs you.”

Follow football, follow us!

First Whistle – August, 2011

The common thread between us is our love for the beautiful game. We have enjoyed an exhilarating 2010-2011. Europe was dominated by Spain. Barcelona football club’s domination continued both in the domestic league as well as in Europe. In South America, Santos won the Copa Libertadores after three years, thanks to some outstanding performances by the likes of Ganso and Neymar.
This year, while recharging ourselves for the next season and waiting for the transfer market to warm up, the idea of a group blog was floated to expand our football discussions to a wider global audience.
Meanwhile, international football took centre-stage. Spain, after winning the FIFA World Cup and Euro, made a clean sweep by bagging the European Under-21 and Under-19 Championships. The Copa America kicked off in Argentina, but Neymar and Ganso could not match their club performances with the Brazilian national team. The biggest disappointment of the tournament though was the lack of Messi ‘magic’ that we are accustomed to, at Barcelona. As a result, the two Latin American giants crashed out and
Uruguay won it for a record fifteenth time. The FIFA Women’s World Cup had drawn a lot of attention and Japan became the first Asian champions of the tournament beating Team USA in a closely fought final. Amidst all this, the corruption charges against the FIFA officials hit the headlines again, and football lovers around the world could only hope that the sport would emerge cleaner from such testing times.
Our initial thoughts of a group blog progressed towards a monthly magazine. We named it “Goalden Times” to bring you a flavour of global football all year round. Our present contributors span four continents and are looking forward to more. We stay true to our motto of “Ludo Ergo Sum” (I Play, therefore I am).
The upcoming football season promises to be exciting. Barcelona remains the team to beat in Europe, but they have their work cut out to sort their finances. What needs to be seen is how UEFA’s financial fair play policy impact team strategy. Clubs need to focus more on fresh talents and find ways to increase their revenue streams. We invite you to be with us to usher in the new season of football.
Follow football, follow us!