Saturday, February 29, 2020

Qualifiers announced to represent LFC in ePremier League grand finals

Qualifiers announced to represent LFC in ePremier League grand finals

Donovan 'Tekkz' Hunt and Ollie Hall have played their way to the grand finals of the ePremier League tournament, which will be played over two days at London’s dedicated eSports facility the Gfinity Arena and broadcast live on Sky Sports, after beating off thousands of rivals for the coveted spots to represent Liverpool FC.

Qualifiers announced to represent LFC in ePremier League grand finals

Battling it out in the live club playoffs that were held at Anfield, Tekkz came out on top of the eight players competing on FIFA 20 for XBOX, while Ollie Hall was the overall winner of his group of eight playing the popular football videogame on PlayStation 4.

In December 2019, all 20 Premier League clubs opened up online qualifying rounds for the ePremier League tournament, with the best 16 players earning a spot in the live playoffs to compete for a place in the grand finals - one place was up for grabs for a player competing on XBOX and one place for a gamer on PS4.

The playoffs took place over a series of group stages, with the eight players per platform pairing up into four teams and going head to head, with the winning four players for each platform then battling it out in a single-elimination stage.

Local Liverpool band and BBC Radio 1 playlist act, Circa Waves, also took their place on the stage to entertain guests with their DJ set at the start and close of the event.

The LFC gamers will now come up against 38 representatives from the other 19 Premier League clubs in the grand finals, which will be played over two days in London on 27 and 28 March 2020.

The gamer who beats off all other competition will be crowned ePL champion and will walk away with the £20,000 prize money, with the runner up scooping £10,000 for themselves.

This is the second year that the tournament has taken place, with top-ranking EA Sports FIFA player Donovan ‘Tekkz’ Hunt claiming the inaugural ePL trophy for the Reds last year.


Announcement of Liverpool FC's 2018/19 Financial Results

Announcement of Liverpool FC's 2018/19 Financial Results

Announcement of Liverpool FC's 2018/19 Financial Results

Liverpool FC has filed its annual financial accounts for the season in which the club won its sixth UEFA Champions League title and invested a club record £223m on players.

Summary of the financial period

Won sixth UEFA Champions League title Four new player signings Eleven player contracts extended First official training partnership signed Nine new commercial partnerships signed Maintained seventh position in Deloitte Football Money League £50m invested in training ground opening in July

During the reporting period for the year to May 31, 2019, Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri all signed for LFC, with Danny Ward, Danny Ings, Ragnar Klavan, Dominic Solanke and Lazar Markovic leaving the club. The first-team squad was further reinforced with 11 players renewing their contracts, including club captain Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Turnover increased during the period by £78m to £533m, which represents sustained growth across the club and enabled the further investment into the playing squad. All three revenue streams saw rises, with media revenue increasing by £41m to £261m, commercial revenue increasing by £34m to £188m, and match revenue increasing by £3.5m to £84m.

The increase in turnover is a result of a new UEFA Champions League broadcasting deal which commenced in this period, a second-placed finish in the Premier League and higher partnership and merchandising value. Overall profit before tax for the period was reported at £42m.

Andy Hughes, LFC’s chief operating officer, said: “This continued strengthening of the underlying financial sustainability of the club is enabling us to make significant investments both in player recruitment and infrastructure.

“Being able to reinvest over £220m on players during this financial period is a result of a successful business strategy, particularly the significant uplift in commercial revenues. “The cost of football, however, does continue to rise in transfers and associated fees but what’s critical for us is the consistency of our financial position, enabling us to live within our means and continue to run a sustainable football club.”

Liverpool maintained its seventh position in the Deloitte Football Money League having moved up two places from ninth during the previous financial year.

Nine new commercial partners joined the club, including its first official training partnership with AXA. Retail had a record-breaking season in sales with footfall surpassing a million fans into the official LFC stores.

The club’s international expansion plans have also grown with a new retail partner announced in Malaysia, shop-in-shop opened in Thailand and new selling channels on Amazon in the USA, Canada and Germany. E-commerce orders were shipped to more than a record 190 countries worldwide.

Digitally, the club’s global social media followers increased by 26 percent to nearly 70m. LFC’s official YouTube channel reached 2.5m subscribers and is the most-followed club in the Premier League. Twitter also increased by 11 percent to 13.5m and reached 59m total engagements during the 2018-19 season – 6m more than any other Premier League club.

Hughes added: “What we’re seeing is sustained growth across all areas of the club, which is aligned to the recent performance on the pitch. Since this reporting period, we have continued to reinvest in the club’s infrastructure and we look forward to the opening of our new training base at Kirkby ahead of the new season, which will provide first-class facilities for our players and staff.

“We have also just completed a second-phase consultation on a proposed expansion of the Anfield Road stand which could see an increase in the stadium’s capacity, giving even more supporters the opportunity to see the team. There is more work to do and, importantly, we will continue our dialogue with all key stakeholders, including local residents, businesses and community groups.

“These financial results and this sustained period of solid growth is testament to our ownership, Fenway Sport Group, who continue to support the club’s ambitions and continue to reinvest revenues both in strengthening the playing squad and the club’s infrastructure to build for the future.”


Thursday, February 27, 2020

VAR and Away


This is a leap year in more ways than one. VAR's full implementation for the first time in the Premier League has caused a ton of arguments.

Far from there being universal content that dodgy decisions are now a thing of the past, there is instead a weekly furore over goals being ruled out by a matter of centimetres or umbrage over clear refereeing mistakes.

There was always heated post-match chat about the officials' decisions but the technology has only seemed to increase the dissatisfaction.

If the tech was supposed to facilitate the football, then VAR has been a resounding backfire.

Every correct decision it has made or rubber-stamped has been drowned out by fan frustration over its shortcomings, or more often than not, its over-zealous application.

The fact goals are being ruled out more than before has altered the stadium experience in an unforeseen way, as supporters are now unsure how loudly to cheer, for fear of looking stupid if the machine says otherwise.

While the pedantic puritanism of ruling out strikes because a toe, an elbow or an ear was marginally offside grates with those on the receiving end, then there are also clanging errors in the application of VAR with which everyone can concur.

Last weekend's Chelsea v Tottenham match, for instance, provided the clearest evidence yet that the tech is flawed when the referee and video officials inexplicably failed to spot Giovanni Lo Celso's stamp on Cesar Azpilicueta, an ugly foul which on review demanded a red card be shown.

Yet perhaps the system's biggest shortcoming is that it disrupts the flow of what has always been a fluid sport, unlike tennis or American football which have intrinsic breaks in their action.

FIFA has so far remained quiet on any changes to VAR but the IFAB board who decide on rule amendments are set to meet in Belfast this weekend for their 134th annual meeting.

IFAB contains eight representatives, one each from the home nations and four from FIFA with any law changes requiring a 6-2 majority.

Point five of their "Items for Discussion and/or Decision" this weekend in Ireland concerns VAR and is split into a "Report on global VAR use" and "Possible future developments."

This all sounds a bit toothless, but I could be wrong. I am hoping they grasp the mettle. It would be a serious dereliction of duty were they to ignore the elephant in the room.

Picture from
The sport's governing body simply must do something now to stop the rot or else the anger will only grow louder.

This season the Beautiful Game has changed and not all for the better. If change is voted for this weekend, any alterations will become mandatory across FIFA from the start of June.

IFAB might be a somewhat invisible body and FIFA does not help with transparency by not listing its members on its website, but this eight-man team wields extraordinary power.

If it wants to soothe the anger it can. Their problem is there is no obvious panacea to the VAR crisis beyond calling a ceasefire as there are many facets to consider and thus far its implementation has been piecemeal anyway across the soccer world.

Should FIFA for instance insist on referees consulting the pitchside screen if the VAR officials suggest so because right now he/she may decline to; should they show the incident on the big screen at the same time as the referee is deliberating as they do in rugby?

Should they limit the number of referrals and/or introduce time limits?  Should they insist on the same criteria for VAR in the Champions and Europa League as in domestic competitions etc.

There really is a plethora of issues surrounding VAR and one wonders why these problems were not flagged up during the extensive trials.

For my money I would be happy to ditch VAR and just employ technology for goal-line disputes or at most penalty awards as well. If we are going to have VAR for offside then I would prefer designated daylight between attacker and defender than the strict status quo which defeats the human eye.

It is high time the game's rulers admitted VAR's shortcomings need urgent attention.

Football has taken a gamble and it has not paid off, but it is not too late to make amends.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Thursday, February 20, 2020

AFC 2019 Awards

Rasim Movsumov, Ballon D'Or Juror: "The AFC 2019 Awards were a Celebration of Asian football"

Billions of people have an opinion on who the best male and female footballers in the world are though only a select handful can make the decision. One of those people is Ballon D’Or juror, Rasim Movsumov, who hails from Azerbaijan.

Rasim Movsumov
Rasim Movsumov
Movsumov is a journalist and also a Juror for the Ballon d’Or Award and also a Juror for the UEFA and European Sports Media for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award; so when people debate about Messi and Ronaldo then he is one of the people at the heart of the conversation.

Movsumov was in Hong Kong as a guest for the AFC awards and wrote a piece upon his return to his homeland which he happily translated below for They are his reflections of his time in Hong Kong and the awards ceremony itself.

AFC 2019 Awards

"The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) selects and awards the best from the Asian continent at the end of each year. This time, the award ceremony was held in Hong Kong. As a Jury member of the prestigious Ballon d'Or Award, I also attended in the 2019 AFC Annual Awards event."

"Hong Kong can be considered the cradle of Asian football; the Hong Kong Football Association was established in 1914 and was admitted to FIFA. The HKFA was one of the founders of the Asian Football Confederation in 1954 and also hosted the first AFC Asian Cup in 1956. The Hong Kong team, which played its first game in 1947 regularly plays in FIFA World Cup qualifying and has since the 1974 World Cup."

"In Hong Kong, I also met with Fulham FC former midfielder Andrejs Ć tolcers, who played in Baku FK in the first half of the 2005/06. He is currently working as a technical director at the Eastern SC. Ć tolcers fondly remembered his days spent in Azerbaijan."

AFC 2019 Awards

"The 2019 AFC Annual Awards was held at the Hong Kong Convention and the Exhibition Center located on the shores of Victoria Harbour, featuring exhibitions, conferences and other major events. Inside the event, there were interesting forms of entertainment at the reception area. An artist wrote guest names with Chinese hieroglyphs as a patterned picture and another artist drew on paper, a caricature portrait of everyone who sat in front of him.”

"At the event, which was hosted by Jason Dasey and Lisa Wong, the start of the event also saw a dragon dance that is an integral part of Chinese culture."

"The AFC event was attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John, as well as several other FIFA and other football organizations officials such as Timothy Fok from Hong Kong, Kozo Tashima from Japan, Faisal Saleh Hayat from Pakistan, Pengiran Matusin Matasan from Brunei, Valentino San Gil from Guam, Uzbek Ravshan Irmatov and Scotland’s Andy Roxburgh and many more. The attendance of Spanish football legend, Xavi, who now head coach of Qatar's Al Sadd, also added extra color to the event."

"Akram Afif, who plays for Al Sadd but is currently contractually owned by Spain's Villarreal, became the 2019 Asian Footballer of the Year, and Tottenham's 27-year-old Korean striker Son Heung-Min was selected as best Asian International player. In fact, the results were not surprising as the Qatari national team with Akram Afif won the AFC Asian Cup in early 2019 for the first time in their history.”

"The Asian Women "Footballer of the Year" was Lyon's Japanese midfielder, Saki Kumagai. At a press conference before the ceremony, she said that she would try to win the title as she was playing well for both the national team and the club."

"His Excellency King Abdullah of Malaysia was awarded the "Diamond of Asia" special award. As an athlete, he won a gold medal with the Malaysian polo team in the 1983 Southeast Asian Games. He later headed the Football Association of Malaysia, was vice-president and member of the executive committee of the AFC and a member of the FIFA Council."

Timothy Fok Tsun-ting
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting
"As for the other candidates, there was also Barcelona B team 20-year-old Japanese winger, Hiroki Abe, who won for the Young Player Award."

"One of the nominees for the Women Coach of the Year was Katayoun Khosrowyar, who is currently running Iran's U20 women's team. When she found out I was from Azerbaijan, she spoke to me in Azerbaijani, "How are you? Are you good?" During the conversation, she said that her father's parents were born in Baku and on the maternal side she is 'Tatar'."

"The 32-year-old coach was born in the US, Oklahoma, but moved to Iran at the age of 17. She is also fighting for women's rights to watch men's football inside the stadiums in Iran. In the competition for the award, she was defeated by Asako Takakura from Japan, who was selected as the best female coach in Asia for the seventh time."

"Taking the opportunity I want to thank Brian Ching, a Hong Kong photographer, who shot my photos at the event and Nedal Omar Bahran, an AFC media consultant who has been helping me in everything I did while in Hong Kong. It was a fun and entertaining event which will remain in my memory also I met with many pleasant acquaintances. Good luck to Asian football, signing a wonderful event in Hong Kong led by Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa!"

By Rasim Movsumzadeh Ballon D'Or Award Juror


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The New York Cosmos Bring Back Danny Szetela

The New York Cosmos Bring Back Danny Szetela

The New York Cosmos Monday announced the signing of captain and midfielder Danny Szetela for the 2020 National Independent Soccer Association season.

New York Cosmos
The New York Cosmos in Hong Kong in 2010
Per team policy, no further contract details were released.

Szetela, 32, became the first Cosmos player to sign for the new season.

"Even though I thought about retiring, I am not ready to retire," Szetela said. "I am excited and ready to go. The season doesn't start until August, but in the meantime, I know there's a lot of preparation we've got to do and that I'm mentally ready when the team comes in, that I am ready to fight. We've got to go all out in the fall season to win the championship."

NISA accepted the Cosmos for its fall season, which is expected to kick off in August. The league began play last year with provisional third division sanctioning from the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). The Cosmos’ application for sanctioning by USSF is expected to be reviewed in February.

Szetela, who joined the Cosmos for the 2013 North American Soccer League, will begin his eighth season with the club. He played a vital role in three NASL championships (2013, 2015 and 2016).

He said he was "very hungry" to bring another one home to the club and its fans.

"We're starting in the fall," he said. "It reminds me of the NASL days, and the same thing can occur. It's like history happening again."

In 2013, the Cosmos joined the NASL for the fall season and won the league championship.

Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes said it was important to bring back an influential player such as Szetela.

"In building a professional roster for NISA, we need to focus on the spine of team with veteran experience and leadership," he said. "Danny has been with the Cosmos for many years and is our captain. He’s the perfect player for us to build around."

Cosmos Acting Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover said that while several veterans will be brought back to the club, there will be a number of new faces on the team as well.

"We are going to put a lot of emphasis on signing talented young players with high potential and ambition, similar to Haji Wright and Eric Calvillo," Stover said about two players who performed with the club as teenagers before moving on. "Danny became a pro at just 16-years-old, so we see him as a great mentor for the young kids that we’ll be bringing in."

Carlos Mendes

The New York Cosmos also announced that Carlos Mendes has re-signed as Head Coach of the club and will take on the extra responsibilities of sporting director. Mendes has compiled a record of 36-3-3 in two seasons in the NPSL.

"Carlos’s commitment to the organization is tremendous," said Cosmos Acting Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover. "Moving back into a fully professional league this Fall Season will require us to rebuild the roster. No one understands this club and this market better than Carlos."

The Cosmos will begin play in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) in Fall of 2020. NISA began play last year with provisional third division sanctioning from the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). The New York Cosmos’s application for sanctioning by USSF is expected to be reviewed in February.

"We have a big challenge ahead of us and I’m excited to get back at it,” added Mendes. “NISA is a new league and a step up from the past two years. I’m thankful to Rocco Commisso for giving me the opportunity to rebuild the roster and to compete for more championships."

Mendes became the first player to be signed by the reboot Cosmos in December 2012, and was an anchor on the back line while captaining the club for five straight seasons. In 122 appearances for the Cosmos, Mendes recorded four goals and two assists, while becoming the first member of the modern era club to reach 100 games played (2016). He was named in the North American Soccer League’s best XI three times.


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hong Kong Versus China FIFA World Cup 2018

Hong Kong Versus China FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Match - November 2015

Photographic highlights from the Hong Kong against China FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match held at Mong Kok Stadium on November 17th 2015.

Hong Kong Versus China FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Match

Hong Kong Versus China

Hong Kong team

Meet the press




Hong Kong Versus China FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Match

FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Match

Mong Kok Stadium

Hong Kong Versus China FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Match

Jaimes McKee
Jaimes McKee

Photos by Christopher KL Lau


Paris Saint Germain in Hong Kong

Paris Saint Germain in Hong Kong

By Christopher KL Lau

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
At the height of his powers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic visited Hong Kong in 2015 with Paris Saint Germain. The French side were to take on local favourites, Kitchee. Paris Saint Germain eventually defeated Kitchee 6-2 at Hong Kong Stadium. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at his prime and lived up to his superstar billing with a hat-trick in front of a delighted crowd at Hong Kong Stadium.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic in training

PSG v Kitchee

Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc

Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc

PSG v Kitchee

PSG v Kitchee

Edison Cavani
Edison Cavani with Lucas Moura

PSG v Kitchee

Photos by Christopher KL Lau