WordBall 2016

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 was born. After a grand success of 2015 edition, we are delighted to present WordBall 2016.

We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of entries we received. We ended up with over 3000 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


Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro and the History of the Vuelta a Boedo Campaign
Author: Matt Hawkins (@mhawkin2) for Futebol Cidade (@FutbolgradLive)Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro is a club with lots of history and romanticism. Futebol Cidade brings a brilliant compilation about the journey of this club on their way to emerging as one of the biggest clubs in Argentina. You can read Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke and how the Premier League became the new NBA..And Why It’s Dangerous
Author: Jonathan Fadugba (@JFfutbol) for Just Football (@JustFootball)The move of Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City had raised quite a few eyebrows. That makes the author bring an analogy of the English Premier League to the NBA with all the global interest and clever marketing which makes it the most glamorous league in football.
FK Krasnodar – Sergey Galitskiy’s Pet Project Is Paying Off
Author: Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint) for Futbol Grad (@futbolgradlive)Sergey Galitskiy is the co-owner and founder of Magnit which is Russia’s largest retail company and the person behind the recent success of Krasnodar. Krasnodar has been related to money more than history. Futbolgrad brings an interesting story about the contributions that Sergey has made in building academies and for youth development in the region of Krasnodar.
The sad state of Croatian football
Author: Miran Saric (@therealbozz) for Outside of The Boot (@OOTB_football)Over the years, Croatia has provided some exciting talents in world football. As the headline suggests, this incredible story is about how the present state in Croatian football has deteriorated starting from corruption in the domestic leagues, crowd troubles etc.
On Deadline Day, Banter and all-out Greed
Author: Glen Wilson(@glenglenglen) for Popular StandTransfer Deadline day is one of the most exciting days in the life of a football fan anticipating all kinds of deals that can happen for his coveted club. Here is a brilliant article on the banter and fun on the Sky Sports Deadline Day Show.
Is Levante’s Pretty-Ugly Fairy Tale Finally Over?
Author: Mark Griffiths for Peripheral Vision (@peripheralfooty)A story of the dreadful run of Levante which left them relegated to the Secunda Division. A very good analysis by the Peripheral Version of the things that went wrong and led to such a fate for this club.
FIFA: Infantino, Interviews & Infantility
Author: Mark Murphy for Two Hundred Percent (@twoht)A lot of controversies have been surrounding FIFA in recent times. Here is a strong and bold article talking about the shenanigans of the association and how football fans around the globe should remain informed about them.
Brexit and the Premier: The Goldblum theory
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People (@GameofthePeople)Here is an insicive article that investigates the impact of Brexit on the fate and curriculum of English football with an alternative insight.
On Soccer, Orlando, And Why Gestures Matter
Author: James Bridget Gordon (@thaumatropia) for Paste Magazine (@pastemagazine)Football has always been a great leveler. It has helped people deal with disasters and this article describes one such demonstration following Orlando massacre.
The deafening silence surrounding sexual assault in football media
Author: Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) for Unusual Efforts (@UnusualEfforts)The next selection is a mindblowing article that intersects the misogynist system that is afraid to tackle, and unwilling to address, the repugnance of rape culture apologia in football. This was much needed and the author have flamboyantly placed her content in the perspective.

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Ireland and Rule 42 – Football as a ‘foreign’ game
Author: Kevin Nolan (@KevinNolan11) for Football Pink (@TheFootballPink)Ireland is known for its beer and football. This is the story of how a rule created history and changed the fate of the game in the country.
Son of Naples
Author: Thore Haugstad for Twenty-minute Reads (@TwentyMinReads)The story of Naples and Maradona remains one of the most coveted pieces in football folklore. This article describes how one of the greatest footballers ever changed the fate of a relegation- threatened club.
Masters versus champions: British perceptions of calcio in the Fascist era
Author: Matt McGinn (@McGinn93) for Gentleman Ultra (@GentlemanUltra)One of the golden ages of Italian football was marked with two decades of fascist rule. The Gentleman Ultra gives impressions of what happens when a fascist Italian enters the British world.
No Sleep ‘Til Basel: in praise of Europa League, the undercard of tournaments
Author: James Bridget Gordon(@thaumatropia) for Unusual Efforts(@UnusualEfforts)Europa League had never made it to being an elite tournament and has been believed to be a consolation prize for not being good enough to play the Champions League. Here’s a story about Europe and Liverpool’s journey under Klopp.
Beitar Jerusalem – The History Behind the Chechen Affair
Author:Uri Levy (@Levyninho) and Yossi Medina (@yossport1) for Futbolgrad (@FutbolgradLive)There has always been a huge conflict between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem. This article describes the racist scenes that followed in Beitar Jerusalem after a successful double transfer deal.
Just Why Do We Love Football? A Historical Perspective
Author: Ben Jones (@Benny_J) for The Football History Boys (@TFHBs)Bill Shankly had once said – “Some say football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it is much more serious than that.” An article from the pages of history narrating how a sport became so important and the love of the game brought different sections of the society together.
The philosophy of football: a complete perspective
Author: Jamie Hamilton (@stirling_j) for These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)One of the finest articles of the last year where the author portrayed a mindblowing analysis on art, philosophy, absurdity and irrationality of football coaching.
Coaches And Horses: The Sacchi/Sarri Commonality
Author: Blair Newman for Tactical Calcio (@tacticalcalcio)Arigo Sacchi ranks as one of the greatest football managers of all time, a master tactician who has contributed vastly to Italian football. Here is a story where we try to find our modern day Sacchi.
1985/86 Week: The Morning After – Bradford City After The Fire
Author: Ian King for Two Hundred Percent (@twoht)The Bradford City stadium fire is one of the worst fire disasters in the history of football. Two Hundred Percent provides a very good insight into how the city and everyone related to the incident dealt with it.
Author: Emmet Gates (@E_I_M_G) for In Bed With Maradona(@Inbedwimaradona)In the 90s, Serie A used to be the home of the finest crème of world football. IBWM comes up with a brilliant narrative of one such bittersweet season when all the big stars converged on the Italian peninsula.

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From the sidelines: a day in the life of a steward
Author: B. Steward for The Football Pink (@TheFootballPink)Being present in a football stadium is probably the most exciting place to be for anyone, except if you are in those green or orange vests. Football Pink brings an amazing story on what it feels to be a steward on a football ground and all you get to worry about is the crowd’s safety without paying any attention to the match going on.
Uni Papua FC in Indonesia
Author: Harry Widjaja for Goal Click (@Goal_Click)This is the story of a native island in Indonesia and how a small football club went out of its way to make people aware of the social issues and nurture the youth to work towards a fruitful life. Harry Widjaja is to be credited for putting together such a brilliant photographic compilation.
Botswana: Mokoro-Hours
Author: David Poulnot Jr. for Where Is Football (@whereisfootball)Where is Football comes up with a story from the beautiful highlands in Africa, where distances are calculated in terms of ‘mokoro-hours’ . A wonderful compilation of photographs taken by the author himself helps us to believe that football indeed has reached the deepest corners of the earth and truly is a global sport.
Football Unites
Author: BabaGol(@BabaGol_)One of the creative stories in our list: A story about the consequences of the genocide in Darfur and the atrocities faced by people in Eritrea. A beautiful short movie follows the article narrating the tale of the two countries and a match played between Israeli students and refugees from Holot seeking asylum.
Hollandse velden / Dutch Fields
Author: Hans van der MeerThe only individual project in the selection. The photographer has done an amazing job in compiling different snaps from all around Netherlands along with noting down his memories as he travelled around the country – a mind-blowing collection.

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How To Create A Game Model
Author: Spielverlagerung.com (@spielvercom)This article stresses that the creation of a successful game model involves very basic things like the base, analyzing the surroundings, the players, simplifying the methodologies for better understanding and coaching.
Tactical Theory: Vertical Build-Up Passing
Author: Spielverlagerung.com (@spielvercom)The ultimate aim in football is to make sure you have the ball inside the opposition goalpost more than the number of times they have in yours. The article analyses how vertical build-up passing, if perfected, can be the most deadly form of attack in the game.
A Goalkeeper’s lonely job
Author: Sam McGuire for Confession of a Rambling Red (@SamMcGuire90)The beautiful game is evolving and so is the job of goalkeepers who have to adapt with the times and styles to keep on performing at the top level in the days to come. Here’s an analysis on their adaptation.
Leicester Have Transformed Themselves Into Title Challengers By Mastering The Transition
Author: Daniel Buttler for The Tactics Room (@TheTacticsRoom)Premier League as always is a league full of surprises. Leicester City’s sudden rise to title run by the sheer tactical implementation of Raneiri and his boys has been one such major surprise. This article provides a fitting appraisal to them.
Player Aging: Attacking Players
Author: Colin Trainor (@colintrainor) for Statsbomb(@StatsBomb)Players of different positions peak at different times. Here’s a sublime look into the peaking period of wingers and forwards and their performances during that period – a fascinating analysis.
A question of scheduling
Author: Omar Chaudhuri for 5 Added Minutes(@OmarChaudhuri)A very interesting observation on how the sequence of home and away games scheduled for a particular team affects them during the course of the season.
Analysing the tactics of Red Star’s European Champions of 1991
Author: David Selini (@DaveSelini) for Running the Show(@RunTheShowBlog)East European football has seen little European success with Red Star Belgrade being the last team to win the coveted European Cup. Here’s a brilliant analytical piece explaining their counter-attacking strategy.
Analysis: How to play like Sergio Busquets
Author: Austin Nyquist (@austinnyquist) for Outside of The Boot (@OOTB_football)One of the best in his trade, Sergio Busquets has a unique combination of awareness, movements and timings and consistency that sets him apart from the rest. Here’s a wonderful analysis of his playing style.
Manchester City – The Modern World
Author: The Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble)Manchester City have slowly and steadily risen in English football over the past few years and have had their targets set high. The author investigates the various profits made by City in the past season in this analytical masterpiece.
Analysis: Pochettino’s Tottenham and the counterpress
Author: 13steps(@13stepsco)Upon Pochettino’s arrival from Southampton, the Tottenham squad struggled with the concept of Counterpressing but as the Argentine’s reign has progressed, the improvements were prominent. This is a delighful piece that depicts an indepth analysis of the tactical evolution at White Hart Lane.

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Bombs and bungs: The story of Andrei Kanchelskis’ United exit
Author: Simon Winter (@SimonJWinter) for Republik of Mancunia (@R_o_M)Andrei Kanchelskis was one of the finest right wingers of his times and holds the distinct record of scoring in the Glasgow, Merseyside and Manchester derbies for Rangers, Everton and Manchester United. This nostalgic article narrates the story of his beginning and end of his stint at the Old Trafford.
Chievo Verona: The Donkeys who Dared to Fly
Author:Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) for Gentleman Ultra (@GentlemanUltra)The fascinating story of the football club Associazione Calcio Chievo Verona whose fans continue to live the miracle of the club’s adopted nickname, Mussi Volanti – Flying Donkeys.
A Fan’s Notes
Author: Michael J. Agovino (@MJAgovino)This is a story of a football fan’s hope of being able to read more football books and articles amidst the despair of his long pursuits of the game in United States of America. The simple yet powerful writing will gradually attract your mind.
Heroes & Villains: The Rise & Fall of FK Obilić Belgrade
Author: Bojan Babi (@JournalistBabic) for Beyond The Last Man (@BeyondTLM)This is a very interesting story of the mythical rise of the Fudbalskiklub Obilić Beograd commonly known as Obilić Belgrade in Serbia and its painful decline along the civil war in Yugoslavia. Great read.
Ben Tornato Siena: Has The Robur’s Revival Begun?
Author: Beyond The Field of Play (@LH_Ramon25)Società Sportiva Robur Siena formerly known as AssociazioneCalcio Siena is a football club from the beautiful Tuscuny region in Italy. This is an intense story of the club’s potential revival, their promotion from Serie D and the hard ambition of getting back to Serie A.
Secrets of the ‘Italian’ 4-4-2
Author: Thore Haugstad for Twenty-minute Reads (@TwentyMinReads)If Atlético Madrid’s La Liga win in 2014 is an inspiring story, Leicester City’s EPL triumph in 2015 is a fairytale. This powerful article compares and contrasts the style and tactics adopted by the respective managers Diego Simeone and Claudio Ranieri.
Is it time for programme 2.0?
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People (@GameofthePeople)Match programmes with the team sheets, club history and some trivia about the teams used to be collectibles for football fans. But in today’s digital era, match programmers are non-existent and probably for the right reason as well. This interesting article argues for next gen match programmes especially for non-league teams and their senior fan base.
Islington Corinthians On Tour
Author: Somnath Sengupta (@baggiholic)for In Bed With Maradona(@Inbedwimaradona)Islington Corinthians, the club founded in 1932 London Borough of Haringey to raise money for local charities got dissolved in 1940. This is the untold story of the otherwise ordinary club’s extraordinary World tour playing 95 games in over a dozen countries including Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt, India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Japan, Hawaii, the United States and Canada.
The Playboy King: Romania at the 1930 World Cup
Author: Alfie Potts Harmer (@ahtralfie) for A Halftime Report (@AHTReport)This is a royal and often unheard story of Romania’s King Carol II aka ‘Playboy King’ who was not just another football fan but someone who managed to take Romania to Uruguay in 1930 and also played a significant role to make Yugoslavia travel to Latin America as the 4th European nation to participate in the first FIFA World Cup.
The Long Road Back For Crystal Palace
Author: Greg Lea (@GregLeaFootball) for The Set Pieces(@thesetpieces)This is the story of the 111 years old club from South Norwood, London from a fan’s perspective. It’s not necessarily about winning trophies but more about potential financial oblivion and excitement, not anxiety, not something to be afraid of.
Azerbaijan – Developing Football in the Land of Fire
Author: Thomas Giles (@Thomas_Giles_UK) for Futbolgrad (@FutbolgradLive)Republic of Azerbaijan’s name in the football world has been associated with the controversial sponsorship of clubs like Atletico Madrid, Sheffield Wednesday, and RC Lens. This article carefully explores how the country is becoming competitive in Europe and on its way to have impact on the football pitch.
The truth behind being a Russian ultra, with Spartak Moscow’s Fratria
Author: Daniel Armstrong (@DannyWArmstrong) for These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)This is an incredible portrature of Russian ultras who follow Spartak Moscow religiously. The author able to capture their emotion, passion and perspective through an intriguing narration.
The Premier League’s lost identities
Author: Alex Lukas Nathan (@AlexLukasNathan) for Under The Cosh Blog (@under_thecosh)In recent times, we have seen an influx of money into the Premier League. With change in location: in terms of new stadiums, change in footballing styles etc, it’s time to rethink if some of the clubs are losing their identities.
Breaking Down Bielsa’s Philosophy of Football
Author: Paul Grech (@paul_grech) for Blueprint FootballJed Davies is known for his analytical skills of different footballing philosophies and tactics. Blue Print Football sits down with him as he discusses what brings Marcelo Bielsa into the limelight with deep insight.
Koninklijke HFC, the Netherlands’ first football club
Author: Outside Write (@outsidewrite)There is a certain bittersweet feeling about Netherlands, playing brilliant football but not many big trophies to show for it. This particular article takes us down the memory lane all the way to where it started: the forerunner of dutch football.

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Congratulations to all WordBall 2016 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.