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. If you would like to know about any such word associated with the football world, do toss in a mail at editor@goaldentimes.org

Moneyball Signing:

It’s that time of the year when the so-called ‘moles’ are the most sought-after people to all hardcore football fans, everyone wishes to see their club buy a magic wand in the form of marquee signings. Clubs, however, try to get players at reasonable prices in order to maintain ‘value-for-money’. In this regard, a new term has taken transfer market over the last few seasons: ‘Moneyball signing’.


The term was first used by Michael Lewis in his bestselling book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game[1].  Lewis coined the term totally in perspective of the baseball game. The book portrays the fairy tale rise of Oakland Athletics baseball team under the stewardship of general manager Billy Beane. Beane adopted some revolutionary methods and tactics for his team and made them successful ahead of their more glamorous rivals. He came up with new ways to judge each player’s ability. Beane argued that the statistical indicators that were being used were never the true indicators of a player’s performance; rather he opted for advanced statistical techniques that helped him find talented unproven players at lower prices. The idea of Moneyball is based on the use of sabermetrics, where a range of statistics and trends are used to predict the potential of a player. So profound and out-of-box idea was Moneyball that it soon entered the baseball terminology. All teams that follow similar methods are said to have adopted the ‘Moneyball methods’! The Boston Red Sox team was one of the teams that took this idea on board and won the World Series in 2004 after 86 years. They again won in 2007. However, that does not necessarily imply that the concept of Moneyball is the most ideal one as there have been so many instances of failures of this particular approach.

Given the apparent potential of the concept, it was not long before Moneyball was borrowed heavily by football. Beane says: “Every business has metrics that correlate to success, it’s just finding them and which ones are the most valuable and which ones do you invest in and which ones you get a return on“. In recent years, Liverpool is said to have adopted the idea. Damien Comolli, the then Director of Football of the club and a friend of Billy Beane, was a proponent of the Moneyball concept. Also, the club is owned by John W. Henry, the Boston Red Sox owner and so it is easy to see why they went for this strategy. Sporting franchises who invest in football clubs tend to look for rational reasons for opting for the paths they choose, the old school methods of scouting almost no longer appeals to them. Comolli used to put so much emphasis on the statistical performance of the players to analyse them while recruiting that he came to be known as Damien ‘Stats’ Comolli.

However, players brought through this style of scouting failed to generate the desired results and Liverpool suffered a mediocre season. Although this may be a one-off incident but the question of viability still remains regarding the Moneyball concept in football.

Sabermetrics used in baseball is defined as: “the search for objective knowledge about baseball“; where instead of scouts, all that is required are computers containing the players’ databases. Players are drafted in based on the practice of sabermetrics. Now consider the same being applied to football. A club team requires no scouting network but loads of data concerning players’ performances based on which they will be recruited. Players with relatively low vital statistics – like number of goals scored / assists given – such as Xavi (7 assists in La Liga 2011-12 compared to Mesut Ozil‘s 17 and Angel Di Maria ‘s 15) will be the most neglected!

So it can be seen how flawed the Moneyball concept can be if used without any consideration for basic football philosophy. The closest definition of Moneyball in football can be: “Maximum return on investment on players being recruited”. But the performance indicator of players cannot be statistics alone. For instance, Real Madrid had bought players like Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso for quite similar hefty price tags three seasons back. However, at this point of time, no one can argue Alonso’s contribution to Los Blancos over the seasons although there is little to show in terms of statistics when compared to Benzema. At the same time, it has to be accepted that there is room for statistics in modern football as modern day managers do use various tools to analyse the performance of their respective teams. Having said that, pure statistics of players cannot possibly be the way in football. Football is much more than a team of individuals and a successful team thrives on collective performance. Actually the elements of Moneyball concept of unearthing undervalued players has been in and around for quite some time now and it’s the major way for clubs who have to work on a threadbare budget, more so under the current economic climate. There are managers who are experts in spotting talents and nurturing them into world-class players. Arsene Wenger is one of them who happens to be exceptionally good in signing young talents and getting returns in terms of on-pitch performance or resale value. Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Nicolas Anelka are some prime examples. On the basis of these ideals, Wenger has taken Arsenal forward both in terms of results on the pitch and solid financial footings.

[1] Later adapted into a film (Moneyball) starring Brad Pitt.

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 editor@goaldentimes.org

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.

What’s the Goalden Word?

We football fanatics often use terms and phrases without understanding its meaning. We hear them on television or read them in magazines and then wonder what the word really is all about. We shall focus on such terms and their usages and create our own footballpædia. If you would like to know all about any particular word, you can email us on editor@goaldentimes.org

CANTERA: (can·te·ra): [Feminine – Noun – Singular]

The word cantera is of Spanish origin and literally means a pit or a quarry. In ancient times, it would refer to the area where stone carvings would be carried out. And just as the carvings would produce wonderful sculptures, so do canteras of modern day produce footballers. In football parlance, the cantera refers to the youth academies and nursery clubs where future football stars are nurtured and their skills honed. Notable canteras include those of Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, RCD Espanyol and Sporting de Gijón.

The most famous cantera is Barcelona’s La Masia (pictured below), which served as the residential house for young academy players from outside Barcelona from 1979 till the middle of 2011.

The Most Famous Cantera of them all – La Masia de Can Planes which was closed on 30 June 2011

 Some of the most illustrious names in football have come through those gates including Leo Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and the current Barcelona manager – Pep Guardiola. The cantera policy has served Barcelona well, building trust and understanding between the young players coming in and is the real secret behind “the Barcelona way” of playing football.

The other famous cantera is the Athletic Bilbao one who had imposed a strict Basque-only policy for recruiting new players. Their motto is Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación (With home-grown teams and supporters, there is no need for imports). Some of the legends of Spanish football who have come from Bilbao’s cantera include Rafael Moreno Aranzadi aka Pichichi – after whom the top goalscorer trophy is given in La Liga, Zarra – the all-time top goalscorer in La Liga, José Ángel Iribar – who made a record 466 La Liga appearances and was a member of the Spain team when they won the European Championship in 1964 and Andoni Zubizarreta the most capped Spanish international to date.

Real Madrid too have their own cantera in the Real Madrid Castilla and have produced players like Iker Casillas, Raul, Guti and Juan Mata. When Madrid won the 1966 European Cup, they were the first team to win it with 11 home-grown (Spanish) players and a home-grown manager.

The canteras, however, face a real problem in the poaching of wealthy clubs who would have a readymade source of good quality footballers at a cheap price (Think Arsene Wenger recruiting Fabregas at 16). There are occasions when the canteras of the big clubs poach on those of the smaller clubs. In some cases, the players themselves prefer to move on, unable to establish themselves in the main team (like Gerard Pique, a product of Barça’s cantera, at one point of time, had moved to Manchester United).

One thing is certain though, with the UEFA FFP coming in, more and more clubs need to produce their own stars of the future and adopting a cantera policy will help them achieve it.