Tag Archives: Football

The Fascination Football Fans Have for Ties Between English and German Clubs

The Allianz Arena, site of the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final
Source: Richard Bartz, Wikimedia

Although the rivalry between the English and German national football teams can be intense at times, it is often considered to be more of an English obsession. German fans tend to focus on encounters versus Brazil, France and the Netherlands as much, if not more, than those against England. In fact, England has been playing internationals against Germany since 1899 so it is one of the most enduring rivalries in the whole history of international soccer. That said, fans on both sides of the North Sea have enjoyed some fantastic rivalries build up between the leading football clubs in each country. You only have to look at the excitement generated from the last 16 draw in the 2018-19 Champions League to understand just how much fans enjoy these encounters.

On-form Liverpool face a home clash against Bayern Munich, a club with an outstanding record of success in the competition. Likewise, FC Schalke will take on the highly positioned Manchester City. And if that were not enough for those who relish clashes between Premier League clubs and those in the Bundesliga, Tottenham Hotspur will take on Borussia Dortmund. With some justification, the current round of fixtures is being seen by many as a clash between the two leagues, both of which offer high-quality club football week in week out. Yes, fans of the six clubs concerned will take a great deal of interest in how their teams fare but there is also likely to be fascination from football fans across Europe and the globe. Many people who engage in sports betting will be interested in how the Premiership teams get on when pitted against those from the Bundesliga. Not only is there a great deal of fascination with the history of such ties but also in the relative merits of each of the nation’s leagues and – not least – the amount of money clubs in them spend on their players.

The Classic Encounters Between English and German Clubs

One of the things that piques the interest of sports fans when English clubs are drawn against German ones in European competitions is the history of high-quality matches between the two countries. For example, although Bayern Munich may consider their German counterparts Borussia Dortmund to be their main rivals, the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final versus Chelsea produced a truly classic encounter. Perhaps it was because Bayern Munich had just been pipped to the domestic league title by their old foes in Dortmund that the final against the London club took on such significance for the Bavarians. What made the encounter of such significance was the fact that the final was scheduled to be played at Bayern’s home ground. The Bavarian press billed the encounter as Munich’s odds-on chance to redeem their season at home and hyped it as such. When Chelsea restricted the home side to a one all draw after extra time, the pressure on the German team became utterly intense. Chelsea ended up pulling off the narrowest of victories against the odds after penalties.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Source: Tor Alte Kleven, Wikimedia

Another memorable encounter in the Champions League Final came in 1999. This tie also featured Bayern Munich, this time against Manchester United. Contested at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Munich were in the lead for much of the game following an early free-kick which Mario Basler converted. It was only in injury time that one of United’s substitutes, Teddy Sheringham, managed to force an equaliser. Two minutes later, another super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjær – United’s current caretaker manager – scored the winner, utterly deflating the German team. Interestingly, the final was welcomed widely by English fans, not just those who were avowed supporters of the Manchester club.

However, English clubs have not had it all their own way. Far from it! Famously, the 1975 clash between Bayern Munich and Leeds United ended in victory for the German side. The European Cup Final that year was played in Paris and Leeds fans went on to riot after the two-nil loss, resulting in a ban from European competition which would last two seasons. Borussia Dortmund won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1965-66 season, beating both West Ham and Liverpool on their way to that title.

An Endless Fascination?

Given the many encounters between English and German clubs, you might wonder why these fixtures – as opposed to those between English and French clubs, for instance – attract so much global interest. Perhaps it has something to do with the top-notch soccer that is played but is there more to it than that? The outspoken English manager Brian Clough certainly had a theory. While managing Nottingham Forest, he gained victories over Cologne and Hamburg during his tenure. According to Clough, who was very proud of his record against German clubs, the rivalry stems back to the wartime experiences of older fans. Perhaps this is not so much of an issue for the current generation but one thing is for sure – German and English club fixtures will go on to offer fascinating football for years to come.

England take on Germany in a friendly
Source: Richj1209, Wikimedia

What Happened To World Cup Winner Mesut Özil?

Playing for Arsenal
Source: Wikimedia

A player who was widely regarded as among the most skillful attacking wingers in the world during his pomp, Mesut Özil has recently been seen on the substitutes bench more frequently than he has started for his club. Özil, who has been a key part of the German national squad in three World Cup campaigns, has few peers in terms of his distinguished playing career. And yet, some fans at his North London club, Arsenal, are concerned about his current form, commitment and the longevity of his career. The 30-year-old midfielder may be in the autumn of his career but with such pedigree, few top sides would not wish to have his experience and skills on board. Why then is there so much talk about his future at Arsenal?

Mesut Özil garners attention wherever he goes. The focus is sharper on him than other players right across the globe because of the very fact that he has enjoyed so much success over the course of his career. From opinion pieces in the New York Times, not a newspaper that is very often associated with European soccer, to daily coverage in the German press, interest in Özil has surrounded the player since his senior professional career began at Schalke 04 in the 2006-07 season. A truly worldwide star of the game, the fascination with the German player is not merely due to his footballing abilities. It comes down to an interest in his character and – for some – what he appears to represent. What is it that makes Mesut Özil stand out from other footballers, even those who have – like him – enjoyed plenty of success on the pitch?

Mesut Özil’s Playing Style

One of the great things about watching Özil play is that he expresses himself on the pitch in a way that few other players do, even if they had the technical skills needed. Yes, those who are fascinated by the statistics that they can use to work out the best bets to place on him will be more interested in hard facts like when he recorded the second most assists in the Premier League season of 2014-15 at 19. However, gathering footballing data for sports betting at online casino websites does not really give a true picture of Özil’s style. A mercurial player, he fails to fit into distinct categories – touches, assists, goals – when he is on the pitch. So much of what he does, especially when he is on the ball, defies such a tight view of what football is all about. In fact, watching him is often like observing a great soloist rather than a fully orchestrated individual. Perhaps he looks like he is improvising on the ball because he so often is? Although this quality makes him hard to defend against because you will never know what he will do next, such abilities can also cause coaches frustration no matter how much positivity he brings to a side.

Özil has received five German Player of the Year awards, a record number. No one could argue that he is not a team player. Nevertheless, his playing style is not always suited to teams which are trying to play in a fully structured manner. On the other hand, no player with 92 international caps to his name is incapable of adapting his style to meet the on-pitch requirements of his side at any given time. The question for many is whether Özil feels that he needs to meet a coach’s expectation of him now he’s in his thirties. After all, few managers in European football can point to a playing record that is as distinguished as Mesut Özil’s.

Representing the national team
Source: Wikipedia

The Personal and Cultural Factors

When interviewed by the British press about Özil, the Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, said that his highest-paid player had a personal life that was his own. However, Emery interestingly revealed that his star man – who had not been picked in the starting eleven for the Premiership club for a while – was planning to get married. Emery mentioned that Özil had told him of his plans to marry in the summer. Although this personal gem of information may not be of any significance to Özil as a player, the fact is that a new personal life at the end of the season may also mark a new professional beginning. Certainly, some Arsenal fans have speculated as much.

Secondly, Özil has faced some criticism – not least from the German Football Association – for being pictured with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past. A man of Turkish descent, it is perhaps not surprising that Özil might have chosen to meet the president. In Germany, it led to accusations of racism being levelled by the footballer against the German Football Association’s president, Reinhard Grindel. Consequently, Özil retired from international football. The player’s cultural origins are undoubtedly part of his identity as a man. What is noteworthy is the fact that Özil is not prepared to sideline issues that arise from them. Indeed, he is outspoken and not afraid to express his opinions. Perhaps this, too, has led to tensions between manager and player? After all, most coaches find it harder to manage articulate players who express themselves clearly.

Özil’s Recent Career at Arsenal

Given the tensions that followed his departure in the international set-up, many thought that Özil would put all of his energies into his club side. Given Arsenal’s rather poor form of recent times, some fans have questioned his commitment to the club. However, the future may not be as dark as some who follow the player’s career at the club suspect. Emery has said that Özil will feature in his starting sides again soon. He’s been keen to stress that Özil’s absence from his usual spot was down to injury concerns and not from any player-manager conflict. One thing is for sure – whether at Arsenal or elsewhere – people will continue to marvel at the playing career of Mesut Özil.

Top 7 Most Expensive Player Transfers

When it comes to the world of football, money tends to get a little out of control. The values of players can go through the roof, to the point that the number of zeroes starts to seem a little outrageous. But then, some will argue that the amounts are justified, given how much of an impact a key player can have on a team, and that team’s chances of turning the tides towards victory.

Plus, let us not forget that certain players bring their fans with them, meaning that the amounts paid are also based around potential earnings. Either way, one can’t help but raise an eyebrow when reading some of the following numbers. These are the top 7 most expensive player transfers in sports history.

Neymar Jr

Neymar Jr signing
Source: publimetro.com.mx

How much money would you ever hope to come across in your life? Let’s say, if you’re playing pokies and smash a progressive jackpot win that sends you into a celebration of dancing? Would it be $1 million, or perhaps $5 million that got you this excited? Now let’s look at the number that Paris Saint-Germain paid for Neymar; $263 million. They managed to steal him from Barcelona for this stunning amount of money, although it should be kept in mind that there are very few clubs in the world that could afford to fork over this kind of cash for a single player.

Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe signing
Source: senegal7.com

It was, no surprise, also Paris Saint-Germain that dished out a total of €214 million for Kylian Mbappé. They took him from Monaco, and this really does start making one wonder just how bottomless the pockets of this club are. The two most expensive players in the world are both residing in Paris, and it can only be hoped that these purchases were wise ones or they may feel a bit out of pocket.

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho signing
Source: AS English – Diario AS

In this case, it seems like some clever profits were made where Philippe Coutinho is concerned. Liverpool got the player from Inter Milan for the not to be sneezed at price of €13 million, after which he was sold off for €160 million.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo signing
Source: AS English – Diario AS

Ronaldo is a name that is famous, and for very good reason. Not only does he make fans stand up and cheer wherever he goes, but this talented player has twice been the most valuable in the world. Most recently he was transferred from Real Madrid to Juventus for €117 million, or $136.9 million. Not high enough to make him number 1, but still, he is likely not complaining.

Ousmane Dembélé

Ousmane Dembélé signing
Source: Yahoo Sports

Ousmane Dembélé played for just a year in Germany before Barcelona wanted a piece of the pie, handing over €105 million, or $123.9 million, to have him on the team. To date, this is the most expensive transfer ever made in Germany’s football scene. Not too shabby a record to hold.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba signing
Source: Soccer365

Another famous name in football, Paul Pogba may only be number 6 on this list, but is certainly worth more than most progressive jackpots, which pretty much says it all. He transferred from Juventus to Manchester United for the cool sum of €105 million, $116.6 million.

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale signing
Source: Paragon Interiors

Last on this list is Gareth Bale, who held the title as the most valuable player in the world in 2013. He may have fallen somewhat since those glory days, but the numbers are still pretty impressive. He made the move from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for €100 million, or $132 million. This is still the most expensive purchase ever by the Spanish based club. Sadly, Bale will likely not be regaining his throne, but he can still rest easy in what is likely a very big mansion.

Ronaldo Rules Instagram!

Ronaldo Rules Instagram
Source: Sporting News

It’s a hard task, to encapsulate the popularity of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese soccer super star commands the respect and attention of millions of fans, many of those on Instagram, and literally competes with celebs and popstars in terms of followers. I don’t own an Instagram account. I’m not one for taking photos of my life only to showcase them to everyone to sell my vanity. It’s bad enough that I’m on Facebook, part of the social media spectrum, and something almost completely dedicated to self-worship.

Whatever the original intentions of social media was, it has gotten lost under a sea of commercial ventures and self-glorification. What’s interesting to note about something like Instagram is the manner in which it makes money. You see, when you download and join these apps “for free”, you waver certain rights. One of those rights is in fact the rights to your pictures. Let me put this another way; if one of your pictures taken via Instagram ever appears on a billboard in China advertising washing powder, you’re not the one who will be getting paid.

People like Ronaldo are commercial gold to a company like Instagram who pays the star a whopping £308 000 by way of sponsored photos. He’s the highest paid soccer player on this forum but not the highest paid of the lot. No, that position belongs to Kylie Jenner and pop queen herself – Selena Gomez, follows her.

The Fanaticism of the Fans

Zealots, fundamentalists – fans. These are the followers; those dedicated to their sports and celebrity idols. Okay look, this is a vast and gross exaggeration. I’m quite sure that many of the so-called fans lead very normal lives and are simply harnessing the perks of technology. Although having said this, think about this: when Ronaldo was at Real Madrid, the team had an Instagram following of 120 million. After his transfer to Juventus was announced, they dropped to 60 million! One team member, I say gain, one team member, was responsible for half of the team’s following!  Then there’s the fact that this epic drop in numbers happened within 1 hour of Ronaldo being sold. There’s no discounting the power that this guy wields. However, if we were to look at the leader board, then he is trumped, although only by two stars, namely Kylie Jenner and the brand itself that makes all this ridiculous fandom possible – Instagram.

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From Madrid to Juventus: The Numbers

Ronaldo’s move to Juventus was apparently the result of a dispute with Madrid president Florentino Perez over a new contract, something to be expected when you consider that Lionel Messi and Neymar are both leading him as far as player salaries are concerned. In terms of dollars, he walks away with $64 million, $2 million short of what he would have earned had he stayed with Real. However, the man is a walking economy and tops all his peers when it comes to endorsement deals. Annually he makes $47 million from his numerous ties and affiliations. Still, this writer believes it’s somewhat of a strange moves when you consider that Juventus comes in at 9th place on Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable soccer teams. Italy does however have a top tax rate and this to my mind says that in the future, Ronaldo will cream it when it comes to his net profits. In conjunction with his endorsements, this will make him the world’s second highest paid soccer player. His departure from Real Madrid is the end of an era. He is their all-time leading goal scorer and if fortune favours him as it has thus far, he will bestow this talent on Juventus.

A football-shaped diamond for the World Cup

diamond for the World Cup
Source: Pixabay

Something unusual happened just before the 2018 World Cup quarter final match between Russia and Croatia. Russian mining group, ALROSA, unearthed a 0.50 carat, black and white diamond from the northern Arkhangelsk Region, which coincidentally, looked just like a soccer ball. Nature is famous for creating whimsical shapes, but this is the first time a football-shaped diamond has ever been found. That it happened during the beautiful game’s ultimate tournament, just before a critical match that the host country was playing in, was viewed by some as simply fortuitous, but by many others, as a good omen.

Good omens and exciting competitions

Of course, Russia did not end up winning their quarter final match. Instead, Croatia emerged as the victor in this game, as well as their subsequent semi-final showdown against England, before succumbing to France in the final. Nevertheless, Russia’s hosting of the event, for which ALROSA was one of the main sponsors, was widely regarded as a triumph, and the unearthing of the football-shaped diamond one of the tournament’s many happy stories. ALROSA even went ahead with launching a special football collection of 32 rough-size diamonds, with each precious stone representing a country that took part in the World Cup. In addition, fans were given the opportunity to choose a “football name” for a 76.53 carat stone, which would become the focus of the collection. In the end, two winners were chosen and given tickets to the final – their suggestions were “Lev Yashin”, in tribute to the popular Soviet-era goalkeeper, and “Brilliant Moment”. But, because Yashin was considered a national treasure, ALROSA decided to give his name to another 69.7 carat diamond, which was mined at the Jubilee pipe and not intended for auction.

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Since forever ago

While it seems apt that a diamond shaped like a soccer ball, discovered during the World Cup, would capture the minds and hearts of fans from around the world, the fact is that diamonds have been part of the collective consciousness for centuries now.

First unearthed in India in the 4th century BC, diamonds have gone on to play momentous roles in wars, betrayals, unions, marriages, inheritances, economies, and more. As for how they naturally form, it’s in a multitude of ways – the most significant being, under the pressure and heat of the Earth’s gravity, 100 miles below the surface at the mantle, near the molten core. Volcanic pipes then proceed to transport these valuable minerals closer to the surface, where they are mined. But that’s not the only way they are created.

Diamonds can also form in the midst of a cosmic collision between an asteroid and Earth, which incidentally brings us back to Russia: they claim to have a deposit of diamonds that was formed as a result of a crash 35 million years ago. Diamonds created in this way are unlikely to have gemstone qualities, but because of their strength can be used for industrial purposes, like cutting.

Gifts from the gods

Meteorites are also known to bring diamonds, and scientists have proposed that the massive stones found as a result, could only have formed within another planet that was demolished during the early stages of the solar system. In ancient times, diamonds were considered to be gifts from the gods, which would bring wealth, health and strength to the wearer – think about those meteorites transporting diamonds to Earth and the idea doesn’t seem so fanciful.

Presently, we continue to assign similar philosophies to diamonds, even though we know how they’re formed. As a result, diamonds are still very much a part of our popular culture – for example, they’re even subjects of online casino games at Spin Palace. Moreover, as a legacy of 2018’s World Cup in Russia, and as enduring symbols of wealth and success, we suspect they will continue to do so for years to come. After all, diamonds are forever!

Spanish Authorities Arrest 1st Pro Footballer for Match Fixing

Jorge Morcillo involved in match fixing
Source: Diario AS

Segunda star and Almería captain Jorge Morcillo is a man who is used to seeing his name in the newspapers. The central defender has led his team to many a victory and a few disappointments since joining the side in 2015. Now, Morcillio is back in the news, this time for being the first Spanish player in the Primera or Segunda division to be arrested on charges of match fixing.

Morcillo was just about to board a plane to Italy for a short holiday when police arrested him in connection with suspected illegal betting activities and alleged match fixing. Morcillo was just one of 19 people arrested in the “Operation Cortes” sting which was put together to look into the unlawful practice of match fixing in Spanish football. It is believed that Morillo was involved in rigging a game between the Andalusian side and Gimnastic back in January.

Why Mocillo Was Arrested

While he did not play in the match himself, he was said to have orchestrated the one-all draw. According to popular betting site Federbet, they began to have suspicions about match fixing when an abnormal number of bets were placed on the results of Segunda match shortly before kick-off. Other Almería games have also come into the spotlight including the Almería-Nàstic de Tarragona played at the Mediterranean Games Stadium in January. Police are looking into the strange pattern of online betting on all previous Almería games. If it does come to light that match fixing was an issue and that the games were rigged, many bettors are sure to want to stick to playing Blackjack in the future, as at least then, the results cannot be rigged!

If he is found guilty, Jorge will face criminal charges with heavy fines and possibly jail time. While the scandal has rocked the Spanish football community, this is the not the first time a football player has been in the spotlight for match fixing.

How Match Fixing Works

For those who are unsure of how it works, match fixing involves persuading a team or individual to “throw” a game so that prospective bettors can be sure of the results. Players are paid out a cash sum for rigging the match while the online betting syndicate profits from placing thousands of dollars in bets.

The match fixing system is usually initiated by a betting ring that approaches key players like the captain or strikers. They offer the player or the team a certain cash sum to ensure they do not score or allow their defence to get sloppy. If the result goes the right way, the bettors are paid handsomely from the online betting sites and the players get an extra cash boost.

Needless to say, the practise is completely illegal but quite prevalent in the world of sport. Just about every sport from soccer to cricket, American football to ice hockey, tennis and even eSports has seen its share of match fixing scandals. Recently six English football players were arrested in connection with fixing matches in British lower league football matches.

Who Benefits?

According to the police, it is easier for bettors to approach the lower league teams, as they are more susceptible to bribery as their salaries are lower. The matches also remain out of the spotlight and results tend to be ignored. It is the betting sites that tip off the police when the see an abnormal number of wagers placed on “less important” games. Every time there is unusual behaviour in the market, this sends up a red flag and must be looked at in relation to past games.

This same pattern is seen across all of the sports. The people who instigate the match fixing are part of large betting syndicates with millions of dollars ready to be used for wagers that can guaranteed a profit. While most sports are regulated and kept within the confines of fair and competitive activities, the rise of online betting has meant that there are more opportunities for illegal activities to take place, and that those who want to rig the system have greater opportunities to do so.