WordBall 2017

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 and 2016 editions, we are delighted to present WordBall 2017.

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 couple of months 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


Crossing the Line: experiencing homophobia in American soccer
Author: James Bridget Gordon (@thaumatropia) for Unusual Efforts (@UnusualEfforts)
A grinding tale of cultural homophobia in American soccer and the radical changes which are slowly trying to make the game more inclusive.
How Sassuolo transformed themselves into a top six club
Author: Karan Tejwani (@karan_tejwani26) for These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)
This is an incredible story of Sassuolo, a small town club from the lower teirs of Italian football and their meteoric transformation and rise to the top of the footballing pyramid in the frenzied nation.
The Romanian Network – The Story of Dubious Friendly Matches
Author: Costin Ștucan (@CostinStucan) for Futbol Grad (@futbolgradlive)
A very detailed and closer look at a conspicuous scandal in Romania, involving referees, false identities and dubious friendly matches.
How Putin hacked world football
Author: Peter Macia (@petemacia) for Victory Journal (@victoryjournal)
An insightful story on Vladimir Putin’s determined stance in trying to make FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia an undeniable success and it’s political repercussions.
Escaping Kakuma
Author: Louis Bien (@louisbien) (Images by Kainaz Amaria) for SB Nation (@SBNation)
In the midst of curfew and turmoil, this is the story of Kenya’s famous Kakuma Premier League, the premier soccer organization of the world’s third largest refugee camp.
The Soccer-Star Refugees of Eritrea
Author: Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) for The New Yorker (@NewYorker)
When football paved the way for a few athletes of the national team of Eritrea to plan a mass defection from a nation under emergency ruling since 1998. This is a joyful read.
EC Iranduba – The women’s team putting Amazonian football on the map
Author: Joshua Law (@JoshuaMLaw) for The Set Pieces (@thesetpieces)
The incredible story of EC Iranduba, the women’s football team who are on a quest to put Amazonian football on the world map.
Leipzig contra mundum
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People (@GameofthePeople)
This exceptional article revolves around the Austrian multi-million conglomerate Red Bull and where Leipzig as a footballing city fits in the grand scheme of things.
Author: Nick Wells (@nickwellsy) for In Bed With Maradona (@Inbedwimaradona)
A remarkable story of two immigrant football-loving siblings who try and live through the reparations caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries.
African Cup of Nations’ failures mirror Gabon’s sorry state
Author: Uri Levy (@Levyninho) for Africa is a Country (@africasacountry)
An incisive story on how Gabon’s failure to progress beyond the group stages of AFCON 2017 was more than what meets the eye.

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El Chato – The man who sent off Pelé
Author: Alberto Salcedo Ramos (@SalcedoRamos) for Football Pink (@TheFootballPink)
A referee with a bit of a temper, El Chato reminisces on his career, a mushy cocktail of blood spilled, punches thrown and football. Oh, and sending Pele off in a friendly for which he got assaulted by the entire Santos team. What a read.
Around the World Part 1: Vatican City
Author: Alex Dieker (@adiek22) for The Crossbar Post (@thecrossbarpost)
This is a tremendous series about the travels of the beautiful game covering all corners of the globe. In this part, the fantastic author takes a look at one of the smallest nations, but by no means any less passionate than the rest of the world: Vatican City.
Dario Hübner: the bison who bulldozed Italian football
Author: Nemanja Grbić (@Nemcy85) for These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)
In one of the strangest pieces at our disposal, the author takes a look at the curious case of Dario Hübner, a most unconventional man who took the world’s strongest league by storm in a whirlwind of a swansong season.
Italia Wasteels: The Story of the UK’s Longest Surviving Italian Football Club
Author: Gianlucca de Paoli (@ManySundays) for Gentleman Ultra (@GentlemanUltra)
When a football club was formed out of a community of Italians living in London from before the Second World War, who then went on to become the longest surviving Italian football club in England. The Italia Wasteels. The ‘Britalians’.
Edwin van der Sar: the master of Cruyffian methods in goal
Author:Rahul Warrier (@rahulw_) for These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)
Tomasz Kuszczak, former Manchester United goalkeeper once said how when he had joined the club he thought he would in a few seasons replace their ageing goalkeeper to play for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Five years later, he was still on the bench thanks to Edwin van der Sar. A long but extremely insightful read.
Author: Somnath Sengupta (@baggiholic) for In Bed With Maradona(@Inbedwimaradona)
In the lands of the footballing gods, this fascinating piece looks at small timers Chacarita Juniors and their incredibly miraculous Metropolitano championship quest in 1969: their only triumph in history.
A Play for Independence: The Forgotten Story of Bangladesh’s Football Revolutionaries
Author: Shirsho Dasgupta (@ShirshoD) for VICE Sports(@VICESportsUK)
A group of revolutionaries united to play for the freedom of their people. This is the phenomenal story of the legendary Shadhin Bangla Football Dol, one of the flagbearers for Bangladesh’s struggles to becoming an independent nation.
Furious Fergie
Author: Thore Haugstad for Time on the Ball (@TimeontheBall)
The infamous Glasgow fury dancing on Sir Alex’s famous forehead as he lets rip at his perpetrator in full volume. The blast furnace that mellowed down to a hairdryer, Furious Fergie is all that and so much more.
Parallels In The Lives & Times Of Brian Clough & Sarajevo
Author: Bojan Babić (@JournalistBabic) for Beyond The Last Man (@BeyondTLM)
This interesting story is about the city of Sarajevo, and how it’s fate got intertwined with one of the world football’s most ingenious managers, Brian Clough ever since the two forces collided for the first time in 1972.
Nikolai Sokolov – The Founder of Russian Goalkeeping
Author: Vincent Tanguy for Russian Football News(@RusFootballNews)
Russia has traditionally produced a long line of outstanding custodians between the posts, Lev Yashin the most famous among them. This outstanding article is about the man who started the Russian goalkeeping revolution that transformed the beautiful game forever and beyond: Nikolai Sokolov.

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An incredible collection of artworks by painter and muralist Martin Gordopelota. Surprisingly, it does not depict some famous athlete, rather Martin had captured Argentina’s amateur soccer culture in an unapologetic way.
The Secret Life Of Syrian Ultras
Author: COPA90 (@COPA90)
In a world turned upside down, Syria’s ultras feel like something familiar. This documentary is a reminder that we are all bound by our love for this game, and the joy of following our local teams. Football is exactly the same for them as for us, but in such a deeply fractured society, the stands yearn for a healthier form of Rivalry.
Chile: As Far As You Can See
Author: Sabino Aguad for Where Is Football (@whereisfootball)
Photographer Sabino Aguad – born in Chile, currently living in France, and crazy about the beautiful game – took a trip back around his home country to capture its football heartlands. This article is a love letter to his own sporting heritage and the soul of La Roja.
Urban Goals
Author: Urban Goals (@UrbanGoals)
A fascinating collection of unorthodox goalposts often found in the corner of the streets or abandoned fields. Within this stout frames lie football’s romance; breathing in a different realm to astronomical TV deals and Sepp Blatter. A place where the game is still beautiful.
This Fan Girl

The beautiful journey of Amy & Laura, who travelled up and down the country to document what football fandom looks like across the UK, and bringing to us all the characters they meet as they go.

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A tactical guide to man-marking
Author: David Selini (@DaveSelini) for ESDF ANALYSIS (@esdfanalysis)
This articles stresses on the art of defending and how the Italian clubs adopting man-marking defensive setups in specific areas or across the pitch. An incredible guide to the budding footballers and football tacticians.
State of Play: Charlton Athletic – a valley of stress
Author: Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People (@GameofthePeople)
An in-depth analysis of Charlton Athletic’s popularity decline in last decade. While smaller London clubs like Crystal Palace and Millwall are gaining popularity each year, Charlton is struggling in south London competition.
Preparing for 5 a side competition
Author: Spielverlagerung.com (@spielvercom)
This article combines technical, tactical and physical aspects into a holistic training approach, that focuses on decision making under variable space, time and opponent pressure in 5-a-side football.
On the anatomy of a counter-attack
Author: Will Gürpınar-Morgan (@WillTGM) for Statsbomb(@StatsBomb)
This article dissects the different types of counter attacks of Premier League in last few seasons. With data from Opta and Clustering, this article brings out a detailed inspection of counter attacking techniques.
The Art of Tempo Control
Author: Sauharda Karki for Outside of The Boot (@OOTB_football)
Tempo Control – sometimes very apparent, but most of the time a subtle presence in respect to other aspects concerning football. This article elaborates the often overlooked side of the game and how it became so relevant in modern football tactics – a fascinating analysis.

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Video Assistant Referees: Black Box Thinking in Football and Learning From Failure
Author: Simon Bolger for By Far The Greatest Team(@ByFarBlog)
This is an article exploring how the smallest of alterations can accumulate to a significant improvement in the outcome. In this context Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been put under the scanner. As like any new invention, VAR is neither perfect nor it is going to improve by leaps and bounce. But its acceptance at a global level will only pave its way towards better decision making in football.
Something Surreal in San Siro
Author:Blair Newman for Gentleman Ultra (@GentlemanUltra)
Embrace yourself for a journey right into Milan derby in the midst of one of the most passionate fan groups – the Ultras. But surprisingly there is no violence, rather it’s the awe and serendipity of the crowd which caught the attention of the author. This is a piece which does not restrict itself to the match only, but rather what football is all about.
Son of the King
Author: Motez Bishara (@motezb) for The Blizzard (@blzzrd)
Not many starkids can handle the burden of their parents’ name. But rarely has there been such a devastating story than Pele’s son Edinho’s. Money-laundering, drug mafia, and off course football takes the centre stage in this riveting tale which raises the question – what could have been!
How to play like N’Golo Kante
Author: Austin Nyquist (@austinnyquist) for Outside of The Boot (@OOTB_football)
N’Golo Kante has caught the imagination of football fans worldwide with his immense hard-work, match reading and tackling skills. He is like a rock every team desires to have and it’s no wonder that he has won two back to back league titles with two different teams in England. This is a tribute, although a bit flashy and over the top at places, to this scintillating moder day sensation.
Football and it’s changing meaning in my life
Author: Joel Slagle for The Footballist Papers (@TFPapers)
This article is in a space of its own. Relating religion to football, raising some pertinant yet uncomfortable questions surrounding holier than thou approach, football in popular literature – this exemplary article covers them all.
Gil Heron – Celtic’s first black star
Author: Stephen Stratton (@TheStevieGinger) for BewareFlyingFooty (@bewareflyingfb)
A very relevant topic which tackles the issue of racism in football. And to think of it, the backdrop of this story in the early days of post-war Britain where a clored man made his mark in one of the most iconic football clubs.
Inside the Stadin Derby
Author: Danny Lewis (@DannyLewis_95) for Box To Box Football (@boxtoboxfootbal)
This fascinating article explores the uncanny conflict between Helsinki’s two biggest clubs and itssurvival.
Parking The Coach: Liverpool & The Anfield Boot Room
Author: Edward Carter (@dotmund) for Two Hundred Percent (@twoht)
If you are a student of football management, if you get intrigued by stories of managers rather than the players only, then you cannot afford to give this article a miss. You will be set for a journey traversing on the managerial changes – along with their entire set of backroom staff – at Liverpool since 1959. And yes, Bill Shankly takes the centre stage here.
Fantafrica: Inside a Ghanaian Football Academy
Author: Pete Martin (@pbm6pbm6) for Football Pink (@TheFootballPink)
This article narrates the first hand experience of a visit to a football academy in Ghana. Far from the facilities of the first world, this is an eye opener how love for the game is changing lives.
The Sixty-year War: Abolishment of the wage cap in English football
Author: Samiran Mishra (@scoutdesk) for The Temporal Wisdom
This is a walk down the hostory lane. This is when football was trying to enter into semi-professional era and players had little to no say about their wages. So much so, players losing their lives due to injuries suffered on the field were deprived of any insurance claims due to bizzare reasons. Come to think of it, how much – and surely for better – have we progressed since!!!

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Congratulations to all WordBall 2017 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.