WordBall 2015

We at Goalden Times celebrate the game of football, its history, passion, romance, culture and the great personalities that have graced this wonderful game, through our writing. In keeping with our philosophy, we decided to celebrate our fourth anniversary by bringing to you, our followers, the best of football writings of the past year. And hence the idea of WorldBall 2015 was born.

We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of entries we received. We ended up with over 500 rich, enlightening and entertaining articles from bloggers, authors and lovers of the beautiful game. It took a dedicated GT team over a month to go through each article multiple times, debate and deliberate amongst themselves and finally come up with the following selection which we believe is the crème de la crème of football writing in English from the past year. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

We received nominations from all around the world and we would like to express our gratitude to everyone. The team of GT has also explored some fantastic articles beyond these nominations to unearth some of the gems few people may have seen before. We also acknowledge the fact we might have missed out on a number of deserving candidates and we take this opportunity to say sorry to all of them. But we did our best to ensure that every single article to make the cut is a commendable one.

Congratulations to everyone who have made the list. We will try to bring WordBall to you every year, and may be reach out to more diverse genres. Let us know your feedback by tweeting to @GoaldenTimes, or by writing a comment below.

Finally, a word for all the bloggers and authors — all of you are just brilliant! Keep writing and inspiring!

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Honorary Mention


Legia Warsaw, ultras and the lost Polish East
Author: RightbankWarsaw

It is a pity that Poland, apart from a certain Robert Lewandowski, does not make that much headlines in the footballing world. But that does not stop some of the most passionate fans around to make their presence felt. Articles like these really prove the global appeal of the beautiful game.

South Atlantic Ocean football: Far from the madding crowd
Author: Tomos Knox

Football is all about World Cups, Ballon d’Ors and Champions Leagues. Well, this statement is as farfetched from truth as it can be and this article proves that. The Saint Helena Football League opens up a cherished world for the football lovers and, trust me, you won’t regret going through this brilliant piece.

The malaise in Milan
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People

Truth is best served naked. That is what this article does in depicting the miserable state of the two Milan based clubs. They are both still among Europe’s wealthiest clubs, but they have lost substantial ground. What makes the piece stand out is the author’s honesty — instead of giving any false hope, he forewarns for even worse consequences.

Why Real Madrid are the most boring club in world football
Author: Gary Hartley for Four Four Two

One instantly gets curious about this article by looking at the strong statement made in the headline. But once into it, one soon realizes that it’s an outright laughathon. But don’t be fooled by the impression that it is a light story – it is one of the best to feature in our list. And it is one of its own too!

Author: James Clark for The Set Pieces

With the advent of the social media, we get to know more about fans – both from the clubs whom we support and from our rival ones. Like most of the features in this excellent website, this masterpiece is an in-depth study into the psyche of those ardent fans – called fanboys – who urge to become a “loyal fan” at any cost.

Author: Eion Smith for The Boot Room

Signing youngsters and shipping them out on loan has been an age-old practice. While it provides the much-sought-after first team experience to the greenhorn, the parent club also benefits by balancing its books. But what happens when a truckload of such youthful prospects are backpacked from one club to another? Case in hand is Chelsea and the author simply nails it.

A look at the cultural significance of the hijab and France’s Jessica Houara
Author: Laurent Dubois and Shireen Ahmed for Sports Illustrated

Cultural biases in sport have been a fuelling subject. Football is no different this entry depicts the plight of Jessica Houara, an eminent member of the French Women’s National team. This one traces her amazing journey as a footballer.

Author: Robert O’Connor for In Bed With Maradona

Armenia, an almost non-existent footballing nation is the backdrop of this amazing narrative. True to the brilliance of the inspirational website, comes another masterpiece which weaves its plot around financial and political foul plays. The content is dark and depressing, but its story worth telling.

European Football Is Conforming To The Needs Of Its Super Clubs
Author: Daniel Butler for The Tactics Room

Any nomination, award or recognition is incomplete if it does not have a fair share from the tactical pieces. True to its name, The Tactics Room brings forth an interesting number crunching tale of big clubs’ and countries’ dominance in Europe.

The Future of the Indian Super League and Indian Football
Author: Sami Faizullah for Outside of the Boot

Here is an article on Indian football that covers the dilemma facing the footballing crazy fans – ISL or I-league. The root cause of the problem – fans of the beautiful game not that of superstars – and the (well- known) solution to improve the level of football in the country forms the crux of the story. Good research on a poignant topic and simple to read.

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The Romantic
Author: Thore Haugstad for Twenty Minutes Read

The story of Xavier Hernández Creus, arguably one of the finest football players of Spain, beautifully narrated by Twenty-Minute Reads. The impact, of course, will last much longer than twenty minutes.

Football and Revolution: When Uruguay’s urban guerrillas took over the 1969 Copa Libertadores final
Author: Martin da Cruz for The Antique Football

Uruguayan President Jorge Pacheco declared a state of emergency in June 1968 and the urban guerrillas took over the 1969 Copa Libertadores final. What a story of football, politics and history!

Author: Stefan Martens for In Bed With Maradona

Cizrespor, the football club who play in the fifth tier of Turkey’s football system had a fairy tale journey when they made it to the group stage of Turkish Cup. This is the story of their fascinating journey and what a story it has been.

Author: Huw Thomas for In Bed With Maradona

Alderney Football Club doesn’t boast of a great record with just two wins in 108 games but they too have a story. IBWM tells the story of the underdogs in their impeccable style.

Gigi Meroni – La Farfalla Granata
Author: Ian Such for The Gentleman Ultras

The original ‘Gigi’ from Turin, Luigi ‘Gigi’ Meroni was an exceptionally gifted footballer. This is an amazing story of Gigi’s life, football and death.

Football in Exile in Nagorno-Karabakh
Author: Dirk-Jan Visser and Arthur Huizinga for Futbolgrad

FK Qarabağ Ağdam is a football club of refugees with a homeless fan base. The Azerbaijani football club is currently based in the capital Baku and longing for a return to its home ground in Ağdam. This is a sad story, a very sad one.

Franco’s Own Goal
Author: Vadim Furmanov for The Antique Football

The all-star Spanish team did not make it to the inaugural European Nations’ Cup. The Antique Football does a detailed story on General Francisco Franco’s call and the aftermath.

This is Sicily: Football, culture and history on the island
Author: Greg Lea for These Football Times

When it comes to Italian football, Sicily is not a place that gets much attention. These Football Times writes about the island’s football, culture and history. Very our kind of article.

The wizard: The controversial novelty of Helenio Herrera.
Author: Thore Haugstad for Twenty Minutes Read

The fascinating story of the man who ruled his teams with a combination of dictatorial discipline, gruesome training regimes, bizarre psychological habits, military-style training camps, and strict dietary plans — the story of Hlenio Herrera

The Ultras of Napoli
Author: Luca Hodges-Ramon for Beyond the Field of Play

The story of football in the city of Naples is not just about the romanticism with Diego Maradona. Beyond the Field of Play writes an insightful story about the ultras of Napoli.

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Football Age of Wonder
Author: Dan Leydon

Leo Messi who had a deep wonder of the sea and what lay beyond his immediate horizons and Cristiano Ronaldo as the first human to ever lay eyes on the small chain of islands. And Argentina plays a classic World Cup final match against Portugal. The superbly innovative writing is actually a work of art!

Off The Beaten Track: Polish Football Landscapes
Author: PRZEMEK NICIEJEWSKI for The Inside Left

A football pitch somewhere off the beaten track, away from the main road, amid overwhelming, oppressive silence. All one needs to imagine is 22 players running after a leather ball. Terrific photography and surreal writing from Przemek Niciejewski

‘The Outsiders’: Hungarian Photographer Tamas Paczai Captures Football Fever at Kyrgyzstan vs Australia World Cup Qualifier
Author: Tamas Paczai and Chris Rickleton for Global Voices Online

World Cup qualifier match between Kyrgyzstan and Australia. Brilliant photo-blog by Hungarian Photographer Tamas Paczai.

Bonding Brutally With Russian Soccer Superfans
Author: Andrew Boryga and Pavel Volkov for Lens/NY Times

Football fans come in all forms– fans, fanatics, and hooligans. Meeting with a bunch of hooligans in Russia and, probably, becoming one at the end of the journey, has been brilliantly documented through this author’s lenses.

Against Sanitised Football
Author: Alexander Shea for The Blizzard

With globalization, we now have football fans from all the clubs, especially the big clubs across the globe. The clubs are becoming bigger brand names. But can they ignore history in the name of brand building? The author raises a very important question here.

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Roger Schmidt’s Footballing Philosophy And His Breathtakingly Brilliant Bayer Leverkusen Side
Author: Daniel Butler for The Tactics Room

Bayer Leverkusen’s performances in the last two seasons have been very consistent. But how the 2014-15 season under manager Roger Schmidt is different has been superbly analyzed using data and visual storytelling. This article is ample testimony that even tactical football writing can be lyrical.

Capitalising on Player Potential – The Myth of Moneyball in Football
Author: Left Wing Soccer

Football borrowed the term “moneyball” from baseball to imply the philosophy of not spending money beyond ones means in the world of splurging in the transfer market. But how apt is the term to football? Leftwing Soccer brilliantly explains by analyzing data from the last decade.

Analysis: Which academies and clubs develop the best players?
Author: Sami Faizullah for Outside of the Boot

With Barcelona’s overwhelming success in the last decade, La Masia has been touted as one of the best, if not the best football academies ever. This article analyses some of the academies and looks at different phases in the career of footballers to illustrate which are the best academies and the finest players they have produced in recent times.

Pep Guardiola: Re-inverting the Pyramid through Positional Play
Author: Hamoudi Fayad for Outside of the Boot

Pep Guardiola’s football philosophy is not just ‘tiki taka’ but actually effective positional play that help players to extract, innovate and develop tactics that make them a superior unit. A creative, insightful and in-depth analysis of Bayern Munich’s tactical display under Pep to show how he has been ‘re-inverting the pyramid’.

Counter- or Gegenpressing
Author: RM for Spielverlagerung.

What is Gegenpressing? The author explains the concept of pressing the opposition right after losing possession effectively with a number of real examples from the ground. A sumptuous tactical analysis.

Bournemouth: Tactical Analysis of The Cherries
Author: Luke Keattch for Outside of the Boot.

Bournemouth won the English Championship last season playing a very attractive brand of football under Eddie Howe. Outside of the Boot does another fantastic tactical analysis.

Swansea City – A Design For Life
Author: The Swiss Ramble

Swansea city climbed 53 places in English football between 1992 and 2014, the most remarkable rise in UK. Swansea also reported another robust set of figures in 2013/14 which is their third consecutive year of making profits. Swissramble looks at their P&L and does an excellent analysis of their financial performance.

The Premier League TV Deal – Master And Servant
Author: The Swiss Ramble

When it comes to television rights, the English Premier League has one of the fairest distribution models in Europe, but the gap between the top and bottom team is increasing significantly. Swissramble cuts the huge numbers associated with the TV rights into insightful slices and dices and comes up with this mind-blowing analysis.

Borussia Dortmund – What’s gone wrong?
Author: Colin Trainor for Stats Bomb

Jürgen Klopp’s last season at Borussia Dortmund saw the team finishing 7th at the end of the season. During the winter break in December 2014, they were #17 on the league table and Statsbomb did this superlative statistical analysis to find out what went wrong.

Eye on Tactics: How The USWNT Evolved Into World Champions
Author: Coleman Larned for Empire of Soccer

Experts say that USA’s win of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada is a result of the team’s tactical evolution. Empire of soccer brilliantly analyzes three particular games to show how the team evolved and finally emerged triumphant.

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Valencia’s Uniquely Intense Style Under Nuno Is Carrying Los Che Back To Success
Author: Daniel Butler for The Tactics Room

Valencia indeed had a great last season and The Tactics Room again nails it by letting the number paint the story. Tactical analysis has seldom been so enthralling.

Sympathy for Steven Gerrard: A Lion Tamed
Author: Ryan Paton for Outside of the Boot

Not actually a tribute for Steve G as the name suggests. This article analyses the now-MLS star player’s career, its limited highs and numerous lows and how he could have been much more effective in the national colors. Razor sharp reasoning and crisp writing makes this one a must-read for the football lovers.

Fussballhelden GOLD 2010: 1970 Brazilian World Cup Team
Author: Kako for The Antique Football

Art work by Kako, the artist from Sao Paolo. Superlative!

Menotti vs Bilardo: The Battle for the Soul of Argentine Football
Author: Ian M. Walker for The Antique Football

There are two types of football managers, one belongs to the leftwing camp and the other to the rightwing. Brilliant story of the conflict of philosophy between the two world cup winning Argentina managers.

Author: Mike Devlin for In Bed With Maradona

West Germany had won the FIFA World Cup in 1954. But their national players had been unable to beat Manchester City in five games. This is another fantastic story by IBWM.

The Crimea Precedent – How Tavriya and FK Sevastopol remap European football
Author: Manuel Veth for Futbolgrad

Football is far more complex than being just a beautiful game. As we see in Ukraine, politics and Russian billionauers have entered the league big time. This is a riveting article about the different possibilities for the Crimean clubs

Boca Juniors – Reforming the People’s Team
Author: Manuel Veth for FutebolCidade

Carlos Tevez’s return home brought Boca Juniors in to the limelight in the last few months. But there are more serious social and security issues around La Bombonera which have been brilliantly put together in this piece.

Author: Travis Timmons for Bundesliga Fanatic

As the name suggests, this is an article from a series that celebrates the silent workers in the middle of the pitch in the German top flight. Apart from an in depth analysis, what catches the reader’s attention is a fluid writing style that is both lyrical as well as razor sharp.

All hyped up: Italia ‘90
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People

For many of the 30-something generation of football fans today, Italia 1990 was the first FIFA World Cup that they saw live. Game of the People writes the story of Gazza, Milla and the Sicilian Schillaci, the story of Italia 90.

A Tale of One City: Cairo
Author: Andrew Flint for These Football Times

Zamalek Sports Club was founded in 1911, only part of which was dedicated to football. The club has collected an impressive 86 trophies in its 104-year history. Here is a very informative article about football in the city of Cairo.

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Congratulations to all WordBall 2015 Winners. Feel free to use the winner’s badge at your website or blog. Right-click on the images and click save to download.

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Goalden Times Editorial Team

About Goalden Times Editorial Team

Goalden Times Crew | Reach out to as at editor@goaldentimes.org or tweet as @GoaldenTimes.