Sunday, September 27, 2020

Liverpool FC and Joie continue relationship

Liverpool FC and Joie continue relationship

Liverpool FC has today announced that it will be extending its partnership with its official Family Partner, Joie. Beginning in 2017, Joie has been a partner of the club for three years, during which time it has worked closely with the Reds Red Neighbours programme and its official charity, LFC Foundation, to deliver a host of family-focused events and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

Liverpool FC


Supporting Red Neighbours’ Breakfast Clubs has helped to provide local families with activities and nutritious food during the school holidays and Joie has helped to deliver a dedicated Special Educational Needs programme at Millstead Primary School through the LFC Foundation, as well as creating unforgettable memories for two deserving families through its Dream Ticket campaign. To celebrate the extension of the partnership, Joie has teamed up with the club’s official charity, LFC Foundation, to bring a very special surprise to one local family, who have never enjoyed the opportunity to visit Anfield. 

Nine-year-old Ste Slocombe and dad Stephen Lynch, who have taken part in the Foundation’s inclusive Kicks programme, were given a much-deserved treat when they received an unexpected phone call from Michael Owen, who had further surprises to follow. The former Liverpool FC striker broke the exciting news to the family that they have been invited to an unforgettable experience at Anfield once supporters are allowed back into the stadium. Ste has autism and struggled with his social skills before he first joined the Kicks programme last year. 

Having never played football before, he now actively takes part in the sessions each week and has even started playing for the team in the competitive disability leagues, representing LFC Foundation. Matt Scammell, Commercial Director, Liverpool FC, said: “During the last three years, our partnership with Joie has helped to bring unforgettable experiences to some of our deserving fans and families, who have each been battling through difficult times. “

Joie is a brand that really embraces and promotes family values, echoing perfectly the philosophy of Liverpool Football Club. We are very much looking forward to continuing this important work with Joie, as well as offering our fans new and exciting products for young fans and families through the partnership.” 

David Welsh, Managing Director, Joie, said: “It has been an honour to work with such a community-focused club over the last three years, and we are all very excited to see what our partnership can achieve next. We want to continue to support local families through the club’s various outreach programmes, ensuring that the beautiful game is accessible to all.”

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Raffles Family Office Seals Three-Year Partnership with Juventus

Raffles Family Office Seals Three-Year Partnership with Juventus

Raffles Family Office Seals Three-Year Partnership with Juventus

Raffles Family Office (RFO), a Hong Kong-headquartered multi-family office, has entered into a three-year partnership with Juventus, one of the most famous and successful football clubs in the world, which commences from the start of the 2020/2021 season.

Under the agreement, RFO will be recognised as the Club's Official Regional Partner in Asia across five markets where RFO is committed to addressing clients' long-term wealth and legacy planning needs across generations. 
The markets include Greater China and Singapore. Juventus is the only Italian club to have won Italy’s top-tier Serie A football division nine years in a row and, like RFO, deeply embraces the values of heritage recognition, confidence, determination and uncompromising conviction. 

Chiman Kwan, founder and CEO of Raffles Family Office, said, “Raffles Family Office is proud to support Juventus and become one of the Club’s strategic partners in Asia. The RFO-Juventus partnership is an emblem of the shared beliefs that both organisations live by – the importance of safeguarding family legacies, the value of dedication and unity and the tradition of innovating to conquer new horizons. We are excited to be associated with Juventus, which embodies our core ideal to create true value through exceptional execution in a dynamic and fun culture.” Commenting on the partnership, Giorgio Ricci, Chief Revenue Officer of Juventus said, “We are happy to welcome Raffles Family Office as an addition to the Juventus family. 

This innovative collaboration represents Juventus’ open and diverse strategy towards partnering with brands. Both our Club and Raffles Family Office share a solid synergy in our embracing and nurturing family legacy and heritage. We believe this partnership will undoubtedly support both brands’ aims to expand their horizons in Asia.” The partnership will see RFO and Juventus collaborate on a range of branding and marketing activations including exclusive incentives for RFO’s ultra-high-net-worth clients, business partners and employees. 

The Club will aim to bring its First Team members to Asia in the upcoming seasons. Federico Palomba, Managing Director of Juventus APAC added, “This partnership, which is one of the very first since the establishment of our APAC Branch in late 2019, truly demonstrates the significant success of our presence in the market – particularly in Greater China. It also demonstrates immense value of the Club’s awareness and assets and Raffles Family Office’s expansive network. We look forward to bringing the partnership to life through the development of customised activations with Raffles Family Office that speak to the ideals of its distinguished clients.”

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Reds unveil new third kit for 20/21 season

Reds unveil new third kit for 20/21 season

Liverpool FC has revealed its third kit for the 20/21 season - the final kit to be launched by the club for its upcoming season - which is now available for limited pre-order online. Taking inspiration from the iconic European nights played at Anfield, the third kit’s design is heavily influenced by the array of chequered flags and banners that decorate the Kop each home game during European competitions. 
A tradition heavily embedded in the club’s history and one which ignites the undeniable and unrivalled atmosphere on the Kop.

New LFC Third Kit
New LFC Third Kit


The third kit pays homage to those European nights with a black and anthracite check pattern on the front and back of the shirt, combined with crimson side panelling and a v shape neckline. Black and anthracite can be seen once more on the sleeves to seamlessly blend the colourway together. 

To complete the shirt, the shorts have been designed in plain black, while again bringing to life crimson red detailing in the form of the club crest and Nike swoosh. Black and anthracite check socks with crimson red detailing tie the whole kit together. On the nape of the neck, the 96-emblem encased by the eternal flames sits proudly in memory of the 96 children, women and men who lost their lives at Hillsborough. 

Demonstrating the passion and atmosphere of the Kop, representatives from key supporter group Spion Kop 1906 take their place on the third kit campaign images, along with local supporter and fashion designer, Nadia Atique. Spion Kop 1906 plays a huge role in organising the flags and banners that adorn the Kop each home game, the main inspiration behind this season’s third kit. Nadia is a Liverpool FC obsessed fan who grew up in the shadows of Anfield, defying expectations off the pitch with her mission to transform football fashion for women. 

This season, LFC has also introduced a new crimson name and number in the LFC style (an alternative to the Premier League) to complement the third kit colourway and will be printed on shirts. Liverpool FC midfielder, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said: “It’s always special to pull on the Liverpool shirt, especially when we get to play in European competitions at home in front of our fans. There are no words to describe that feeling of walking out in front of our supporters on those special nights. This shirt is a great celebration of our club’s history and I can’t wait to wear it on the pitch.” 

The kit launches as part of Nike’s ‘Tell Us Never’ campaign for the 20/21 season, which encapsulates just what it means to be undeniably Liverpool FC – always surmounting the impossible and striving for success. 

Scott Munson, VP Nike Football Apparel, said: “For the Liverpool FC third kit we explored the long-standing traditions of the club and how we could bring that to life through the lens of sneaker culture. We were inspired by the atmosphere of the Kop on those special European nights and an iconic Air Max colourway combined to create a third kit that delivers on style and performance.” The new kit is available for limited pre-order online now and will go on general sale for purchase in store and online from Tuesday 15 September. It is also available now for Early Access from nike.com and all other Nike retailers from Tuesday 15 September. 

Also available online from Tuesday 15 September will be the new Nike Air Max 95s in the third kit colourway, but only a limited number of products will be available. Supporters will also be able to get their hands on the new third kit training range in store and online from Tuesday 22 September. 

For more information please visit www.store.liverpoolfc.com

Kitchee Prepare For the Resumption of the 2019-2020 Season

Kitchee Prepare For the Resumption of the 2019-2020 Season

Starting on September 19th, the HK premier league season will finally resume. Kitchee will play Eastern at Tseung Kwan O stadium and social distancing and safety will be a priority. 

Hong Kong season to resume

Hong Kong season to resume

Hong Kong season to resume

Kitchee Prepare For the Resumption of the 2019-2020 Season

Kitchee Prepare For the Resumption of the 2019-2020 Season

傑志很榮幸宣佈,「Fitogether將為傑志提供官方指定電子表現追蹤系統(EPTS)贊助。來自韓國的「Fitogether為國際足協認證的電子表現追蹤系統供應商,整套系統包括可配置於平版電腦使用的Oh Coach雲端分析系統以及放置於「Fitogether特製背心背面上的GPS接收器,紀錄跑動距離、熱點圖等數據,讓教練團更有效率地掌握球員的狀態,制定更合適的訓練方案。

Fitogether」現為韓國職業聯賽的官方合作夥伴,為所有參賽球隊提供體能測試以及電子表現追蹤系統。而在世界各地,亦有不少球隊選用Fitogether電子表現追蹤系統,表現值得信賴。

在是次合作計劃中,「Fitogether除了重視傑志一隊的成績之外,亦渴望推動本地的青少年足球發展,因此傑志十八歲以下梯隊亦會獲得同樣的配備,讓年輕球員有更全面的發展。為答謝其對球隊發展的支持,傑志的賽前熱身訓練球衣衣袖將會印上「Fitogether標誌。傑志足球總監朱志光表示:「電子表現追蹤系統讓球會更清楚了解青少年球員的成長進度,配合明年首季落成的運動營養餐廳,利用現今科學和科技的發展,務求培育出更多優秀的球員。」

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Leeds Breath New Life into the EPL

They Let in Four But Won All the Plaudits

English football would not be averse to giving this season's Manager of the Year award to Marcelo Bielsa after only one game.

The fact it was also a defeat for Leeds United just adds to the aura of admiration glowing around the legendary coach in his first campaign in England's top flight.

Marcelo Bielsa

On Saturday, Liverpool won the season opener 4-3 but knew they had had a real escape. 

The defending champions were eclipsed in most eyes by the Yorkshiremen's innovative tactics, which bore all the hallmarks of a Bielsa hothousing. 

Rarely do away sides come to Anfield and take the game by the scruff of the neck like that or do Mo Salah hat-tricks get so quickly forgotten or even hardly noticed.

The visitors endured a nightmare start when a careless handball gave the Egyptian a chance to score from the spot but Jack Harrison's equaliser eight minutes later was full of bravado and showed the confidence the Premier League new boys have after winning the Championship.

Leeds' third goal was a thing of wonder as five white shirts had infiltrated the Liverpool box to receive Helder Costa's through ball and Mateusz Klich showed a top-drawer first touch and shot past Alisson. Their audacity was almost chutzpah but also the proof of the hours their famously obsessive coach had been dedicating to this clash. 

Bielsa must have relished an opening day's trip to the lion's den, the home of the champions, as soon as the fixture list was released.

His side's fast possession play was clear to see and looked novel in this division - a system of organised pressing, Kalvin Phillips orchestrating from deep and mass attacking, fine-tuned by the centre backs and midfielders splitting wide to stretch the opposition and create space to exploit.

Leeds play vertically and with quick transitions, tactics which helped Leicester City win the Premier League, but they keep the ball more tightly - last season they had more possession and spent more time in the opposition's third than any other Championship team and only Fulham passed more.

Bielsa's side does have weaknesses - they let in four goals in their first match after all, three from schoolboy errors  - the way Leeds' man-marking switched off to let Virgil Van Dijk sail in and score must have particularly irked their assiduous manager.

They are also not that rich so may not have the cash to reinforce in the transfer window like bigger clubs will.

New sides often cause a stir in the Premier League before their tactics get found out and they then struggle, typically from second-season syndrome. A season is long and attritional and shallow squads will suffer. Bielsa's second string's sudden exit to Hull City in the EFL Cup does not bode well.

But there seems something different about Leeds. With the Argentine genius at the helm expect at least a season of fireworks and entertaining tactics to feast on.

So let us give a warm welcome to the new kids on the block, back in the top flight after 16 years in the wilderness.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Soccer Needs a Soul

WHY FOOTBALL'S OWNERS MUST BE FIT AND PROPER PERSONS

"I think sport should have nothing to do with politics," a school friend of mine thundered as we discussed the ban on apartheid South Africa back in the day.

If only that were possible. Politics and football are entangled because football is part of a larger world. We might like to think we are entering a dreamscape when the whistle blows and the Bacchanalian revel begins, but it is only a brief illusion. 

Once the gates open again after 90 minutes, the rest of the world floods back in.

The politicisation of football is at times overt - the World Cups of 1934 and 1978 were stamped by the respective regimes which hosted them - fascist Italy and the Argentine Junta, but it more usually involves a leader leeching off a good side, making sure they arrange lunches and photo ops with the players.

At other times there is a theme of soft power - Silvio Berlusconi launching his political career on the back of Milan's 1990s success or Russia's capture of the World Cup 2018 vote were textbook examples, and in 2022 Qatar will be doing its best to soothe its angry neighbours and spruce up its reputation. 

We cannot keep politics out of football but we can at least try to keep it at arm's length. It would be tragic if there were ever a government-sponsored boycott of World Cups in the way the Superpowers ruined the 1980 Moscow and 1984 L.A. Olympics.

It is much harder to kick big business out of football, desirable as that may be.

Although the 1966 World Cup is often cited as the start of the global commercialisation of the beautiful game because television had mushroomed, perhaps the first milestone was in 1923.

Big business married football as car giant FIAT bought Juventus F.C

That day in Turin, big business married football as car giant FIAT bought Juventus F.C.

The corporate takeover may have begun accidentally in Germany in 1904 when Leverkusen's Bayer pharmaceutical company started a works team, as happened in the Netherlands a decade later with the Philips Sports Union (P.S.V.) 

More recently there is Red Bull Leipzig and over in Japan Yokohama F.Marinos, who began life as Nissan Motors. 

Presumably Marinos fans like Nissan cars or else they would support someone else. It can be hard to cheer for something you do not believe in. Lothar Matthaus said the only thing he did not enjoy about being Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning skipper was having to wear Adidas: He had grown up in the Puma side of Herzogenaurach in Bavaria, a town split down the middle by the Dassler brothers' sportswear companies.

If you want your club's owner's values to tally with yours, the list of English Premier League club owners today makes for sobering reading - a motley crew of bankers, oligarchs and industrialists who have all scrambled to be part of the highest-profile and most exclusive executive club.

Globalisation is to the fore, with China and the Middle East predominating and barely a quarter of England's top sides owned by Britons.

The latest failed takeover of Newcastle United drew howls from human rights groups because it came from Saudi Arabia but there has been comparatively little ballyhoo about Sheffield United's owner, Abdullah Bin Musa'ed, a Saudi prince.

Manchester City has been plagued by criticism of owners from Thaksin Shinawatra to Shaikh Mansour Al-Nahyan but most of their fans shrug and move on.

Their club's transformation from the eternal bridesmaid has left some feeling uncomfortable, however. David Conn, the award-winning journalist, wrote of his difficulty as a lifelong City fan in squaring his team's new-found glory with the reasons behind it in his 2012 book, 'Richer Than God'.

Chelsea set a billionaire-owner precedent when a certain Russian oligarch arrived in 2003. "Abramovich Earthquake - Never seen one like this before", screamed the headline in Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, and his questionably-gotten gains remain dyed into the fabric of the blue shirts to this day.

PSG's historic first Champions League Final appearance this year was similarly coloured by reminders their owners were an actual nation and one with a poor human rights record to boot. What a far cry from the factory owner or well-to-do businessman owning their local club.

I lived in Parma in 1994 and marvelled how such a modest town's team could be winning European trophies and acquiring talents like Faustino Asprilla, Tomas Brolin and Gianfranco Zola. That club was a plaything of the local Parmalat dairy company, which went on to collapse in a sea of money-laundering and corruption in 2003, £13 billion in the red, a European record for bankruptcy.

Chelsea lift cup

Club owners do not get much dodgier than Pablo Escobar, the popular owner of Colombia's Atletico Nacional in the late '80s and early '90s and the world's most infamous narco, so the bar is set pretty low.

Is there anything football can do?

Well yes there is. The 'Fit and Proper Person Test' used to vet potential owners in English football could do with an overhaul. As it stands it debars those bankrupt or at risk of financial insolvency or who have conflicting interests in other clubs but there is nothing about potential owners being involved in kidnapping, robbery, torture or other crimes.

FIFA tried with their Financial Fair Play test to at least limit the excesses but the regulations are riddled with exploitable holes, as Manchester City recently proved.

Until the football authorities shore up their defences and show some real moral fibre and backbone, we will have to live with the risk of our teams finding success on the back of others' misery. 

Supporters alas, do not seem strong enough. The rebellion against Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United failed to dislodge him, although it did give birth to the fan-run F.C. United of Manchester and reminded everyone that football owners should at least be football-lovers.

Owners should represent their club and fans' noblest ideals and qualities.

We should not turn a blind eye to who is in charge of football. FIFA's scandal-ridden Executive Committee was rightly purged only recently after the clamour got too loud so why not clubs' bad apple owners? Ethics matter to us on a personal level so there is no reason they should not apply everywhere. 

Football is part of the world and everything is connected. And as with people or businesses, it is vital that it has a soul. 

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Don't Take Me Home

THE RED DRAGONS' 2016 MIRACLE IN FRANCE

Wales is a backwater. It sits on the edge of the UK and almost on the edge of Europe. 

It was founded by Celts fleeing the invading Anglo-Saxons. Its name means 'strangers' in English, 'compatriots' in Welsh (Cymru). It has not been a sovereign nation since 1282.

Wales national football team

Psychologically, it is relatively insular. For that reason, its language has thrived despite the adjacency of the world's most global tongue, English. Its rich coal reserves meant there was relative prosperity in the 19th century, which meant its people stayed put, unlike the Scots and Irish, whose emigrant cultures were carried to the four winds.

To this day even in continental Europe if you are Welsh, or like me, used to live there, you often have to explain what 'Gales' or 'Le Pays De Galles' is and moreover that it is not a part of England.

Football is an international language but if your country is not any good at it, it will not carry your fame. Given Wales never seemed to qualify for any finals, nobody knew who they were. I even remember an American soccer magazine circa 1990 referring to 'Ian Rush of Whales.'

'It's more rugby there isn't it?' a Frenchman once said to me when I told him I lived in Cardiff.

Well yes and no. There is nothing like an international Welsh rugby day when the whole nation comes to a stop and seems to descend on the capital. Football still does not do that in Wales.

For a while, in the 1990s Cardiff Arms Park was selling 50,000+ tickets for Wales football matches but the national team, despite some memorable victories over Belgium, Brazil, and Germany, kept missing out on finals.

In 1993 a home win over Romania would have taken Wales to the US World Cup but they lost 2-1, agonisingly missing a penalty to boot.

"You can never rely on Wales," a Welsh friend of mine rued as the national team saw another hopeful opening to a campaign fizzle out. Dourness and fatalism, traits assigned to the Welsh by its great poet Dylan Thomas and others, felt perfectly at home with its football.

Unlike England or Scotland, there was no Welsh national stadium for football, only for rugby.

Rugby continued to be shorthand for Welsh sport, with football looking on in eternal jealousy. It felt unfair. Northern Ireland had reached Espana '82 and Mexico '86 while Eire enjoyed halcyon days at Euro '88, Italia '90 and USA '94, and Scotland has had memorable World Cups, but Wales was always left on the quayside.

Welsh football's historic failure is perhaps not surprising given the oval ball's iconic status in a country of only three million people, but their football association dates back as far as 1876, the third-oldest in the world.

It had been an interminable wait for the Dragons since they had finished in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Sweden. There, without their Serie A star John Charles, they were only knocked out by a Pele goal for Brazil. Reaching the last eight in the world was a great achievement but relatively few knew about it in an age before the internet or even global television.

Despite intermittent talents popping up like Charles, Ivor Allchurch, John Toshack, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs, the red shirts tripped up time and again when it came to qualification, each near miss ensuring a tough draw the next time.

Euro 2016's expansion to 24 teams allowed the minnows a greater chance than ever, but the omens for the Dragons were not good: Wales were placed in pot four of six in the draw in 2014, a hard group a given. 

The team was still in the doldrums after their annus horriblis of 2011. That year Wales missed out on Euro 2012 by finishing fourth out of fifth in their group and out of the blue, popular manager Gary Speed committed suicide, stunning the football world.

Chris Coleman, the former Fulham boss with the baritone voice, began the difficult job of rebuilding a shattered national team but progress was slow: Wales finished fifth out of six in their qualifying group for Brazil 2014, missing by a mile again. Plus ça change.

But then the litany of losing changed when they qualified for Euro 2016, their first finals in 58 years.

In France, the new boys in town not only acquitted themselves admirably but amazed Europe. From a FIFA World Ranking of 112th in 2010, Wales ended summer 2016 in the last four of the European Championship, in any man's language a huge transformation.

For the Welsh it understandably felt like a once in a lifetime event, so happily a filmmaker Jonny Owen commemorated it with a documentary, 'Don't Take Me Home'

The film scores by taking the first few minutes dealing with the Speed tragedy and Coleman's frankness about how wary he was of making changes, finding the players were still loyal to a dead man.

But once he found the courage to implement his ideas, the results improved, helped not a little by the presence of one of the world's best players in Gareth Bale, living the dream at Real Madrid. 

In close support was talented midfielder Aaron Ramsey, now following in the footsteps of Charles and Rush at Juventus.

The relief at finally qualifying for a finals was felt across Wales.

"Everybody I know who is into football is going, everybody," a fan in the film admits.

30,000-odd crossed the sea to France and made their presence well known. There could have been more footage of fans on the ground for my liking, a window into that intimate experience, but the overall picture was clear enough: The Welsh were having the time of their lives. A sea of red jerseys washed in everywhere they played.

Wales football team

But for them it was doubly wonderful because of what happened on-field. An opening win over Slovakia began to wake Europe up; the first-timers were not just making up the numbers. 

Meeting the old enemy England was icing on the cake and Wales enjoyed 14 minutes of heaven before Jamie Vardy tied Bale's opener and Daniel Sturridge bagged a last-gasp winner.

A commanding 3-0 swatting of Russia saw the novelty qualifiers finish group winners and an attritional 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in the second round meant the Red Dragons would play the Red Devils in the last eight.

Belgium were hot favourites, boasting the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku. After a screamer from Radja Nainggolan gave them the lead they had the Brits under the cosh. But then Wales fought back and scored three goals, sending their fans into ecstasy and leaving everyone else in disbelief.

"Quelle Folie!" screamed L'Equipe, France's daily sports paper - what madness!

Cristiano Ronaldo was insuperable in the semi-final, however, masterminding a 2-0 win for Portugal after a scoreless first half. In the film, Coleman compares his imperious physicality to memories passed down of the great John Charles.

Still, it had been a remarkable journey. A heroes' welcome at Cardiff airport and a packed city centre for an open-top bus parade was a novel experience, perhaps a one-off, for Welsh footballers, Bale apart. 

For the thousands who had crossed the Channel to France, there was a lifetime of memories to cherish. For the many more who watched from home, the month was almost as exciting. 

As with Cameroon in 1990, football had shown its unique ability to propel a hitherto unrecognised nation onto a big stage.

Wales missed out on Russia 2018, only losing one match out of ten but drawing five. They have made it to Euro 2020 however, where they will play Italy, Turkey and Switzerland next summer.

"You go somewhere in the world and people don't know where Wales is," says a Welsh fan at the end of the film. 

"We're known now."

A footballing backwater no more.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

From Madrid to Merseyside

ANOTHER FRESH START FOR THE HERO OF 2014

Everton have signed James Rodriguez on a two-year deal from Real Madrid.

The Colombian international links up again with Carlo Ancelotti after playing for him at the Bernabeu and for Bayern Munich.

James to Everton
Pic from Evertonfc.com

"That was a massive reason to come here," Rodriguez told Evertonfc.com. "I have enjoyed some great times with him previously at two different clubs...I am really, really happy to be at this great club" he went on.

At 29, James still looks as young as the boy wonder who lit up the 2014 World Cup finals. 

But like Michael Owen in 1998 or Toto Schillaci in 1990, perhaps his explosive arrival on the world stage was his golden age and he is fated never to reach those heights again in his career.

It is easy to forget that only six years ago James was the world's most exciting prospect. After gradually emerging in the slipstream of Radamel Falcao for club and country - both played for Porto and Monaco, a freak injury to Falcao in 2014 gave a chance to the young attacker from Cucuta, a hot and humid city on the Venezuelan border in Northeast Colombia, to shine on the world stage.

And didn't he shine. At Brazil 2014 James exploded. Despite being little known on the world stage - English commentators were pronouncing his name 'James' and not 'Ha-mez' at the start of the tournament, he not only won the Golden Boot with six goals and was named on the World Cup All-Star XI, he scored such a spectacular goal in the Round of 16 against Uruguay that it was voted goal of the tournament on the FIFA website and it later won the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year.

The only prizes James did not win at that tournament were the World Cup itself - rotation fouling by Brazil in the quarter-final saw to that, and the Golden Ball for player of the tournament.  Lionel Messi bagged that one, although Diego Maradona no less opined it should have gone to the Colombian.

To nobody's surprise, Real Madrid rushed to buy the Spanish-speaking starlet. He then enjoyed a great first season in Spain under Ancelotti but two years later requested a transfer after failing to impress Zinedine Zidane, who preferred the Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro to James' attacking instincts.

Zidane seemed to confirm the suspicion that James was a rushed purchase, a surplus galactico in a team already containing the flair of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Questions were also raised about what sort of a player he was - too slow to be a striker or winger, too thoughtful or delicate to be a central midfielder? 

James at heart is a number 10, thriving in the hole between attack and midfield but with an orchestrating forte normally reserved for players a bit further back and a desire to get in the box and score too. It was remarkable that the winner of the 2014 Golden Boot was not a striker by trade.

He is also frequently used as a wide midfielder, where he may line up for Everton. In other words, he is what the Italians call 'un atipico' - an unusual one.

His six years since that wonder strike against Uruguay have been injury-plagued too, the same curse which muffled Owen's progress. While still playing for top teams in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich who have been winning trophies, James has seemed a bit-part player, missing out on big finals and seeing limited playing time.

A promising start in Bavaria gave way to the same cycle of injury and substitutions, coinciding it seemed with another departure of Ancelotti at the helm.

For the world's most exciting young player of 2014, that has been a disappointment. 

For the Colombian national team, James was never going to lose his place, and helped Los Cafeteros to third place in the 2016 Copa America, their best finish since 2001. 

They stumbled over the line to qualify for Russia and James' marriage to goalkeeper David Ospina's sister broke up, but with a soccer-mad nation fired up once again, James travelled to the World Cup keen to forget his troubles and to repeat the joy of 2014.

What was kept quiet from the press and public however was that Colombia's star was carrying an injury.
He came on as a substitute in their opener against Japan and was subbed in their final group stage game against Senegal but the camp insisted it was only a minor calf strain. 

Only in their second outing, a glorious 3-0 win over Poland in which he starred, did the 2014 hero shine for 90 minutes but he was ruled out before long. As his nation fought England to a gruelling penalty shootout in the second round and lost, their best player sat on the sidelines, clearly devastated not to be involved.

So will 2014 be James' start and finish as a football legend? Aged 29 he is now at his seventh club, a stark contrast to Messi's one-club career. And yet experience in several countries - Colombia, Argentina, France, Portugal, Spain and Germany will surely stand him in good stead for England.

Also in his favour is his Italian coach at Everton, who has made a point of taking him to Germany and now to England. Ancelotti is still a big name in coaching and his acquisition of Allan and Rodriguez shows he means business. 

Everton are a top ten team but not expected to be in the Champions League positions, an expectation they are eager to change.

To ease James' cultural transition from sunny Madrid to rainy Merseyside, there is also his compatriot and national teammate Yerry Mina at Goodison Park.

James is an honest and hardworking player who is never short of enthusiasm. May he prosper in the Premier League. The Golden Boot winner of 2014 deserves a spell of success at club level at long last.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Premier League launches campaign to ‘Boot Out Piracy’ in Hong Kong

Premier League launches campaign to 'Boot Out Piracy' in Hong Kong

Boot out Piracy

Yesterday, the Premier League launched its first anti-piracy media campaign in Hong Kong. The 'Boot Out Piracy' advertising campaign aims to raise awareness of the compromised viewing quality and risks faced by fans watching matches via illegal streams. It will highlight the dangers illegal streams pose to fans, as well as the poor viewing experience. 

Not only do fans face delays, broken links, and pop-up ads, by accessing illegal streams, they expose themselves to the threat of malicious malware and ransomware, which often lead to data theft and fraud.   'Boot Out Piracy' will run across digital platforms with campaign imagery featuring of some of the Premier League’s top players, including Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min, Liverpool FC’s Mohammed Salah, and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling. 

Managers, such as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard, also feature in a campaign that will also launch in Malaysia and Indonesia ahead of the start of the 2020/21 Season. According to a representative survey of more than 1,000 people in Hong Kong: 71% of those trying to watch football via illicit means had experienced disruption or unreliability most if not all of the time More than a quarter (26%) of those who had watched pirated material had stopped due to getting a virus or malware on their device. 
Boot out Piracy

The campaign launches 18 months after the Premier League opened its first Asia-Pacific office in Singapore, established primarily to fight piracy and support broadcast partners in the region. The League and its clubs have millions of passionate fans in Asia, and the Premier League works with broadcast partners, including Now TV in Hong Kong, to make all 380 matches per season available to viewers across the region. 

Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb said: “We want Premier League fans to watch our matches in the best possible way, not ruined by time-lags, glitches or viruses and malicious malware. There is a hidden cost to watching football through pirate services and this campaign reminds fans it is not worth compromising broadcast quality or the risk of becoming a victim of data theft or fraud. 

“Football fans in Hong Kong are among the world’s most passionate, we want them to watch Premier League action safely and enjoy the best viewing experience via our official broadcast partner channels.” Mr. Derek Choi, Head of Pay TV, PCCW Media Group, said, "Now TV attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights and respects originality and creativity. Being Hong Kong’s home of sports, Now TV strives to deliver the best viewing experience to our customers, with minimal time lags and delays. We also provide live matches in 4K, reaffirming our dedication to bringing the best broadcast quality to our passionate fans."

The Premier League's anti-piracy efforts in Asia have already been extensive and include blocking action against illegal apps and websites in Singapore and Indonesia, blocking illegal websites in Malaysia, and working with law enforcement authorities to bring a criminal action against suppliers of illicit streaming devices and website operators across the region, including in Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam

The League is also a member of the Coalition Against Piracy which represents the creative industries across the region. The campaign was developed with creative agency DDB Worldwide.

Reds expand partnership with HollyFrontier, parent company of Petro-Canada Lubricants and Sonneborn

Reds expand partnership with HollyFrontier

eds expand partnership with HollyFrontier

Liverpool Football Club has renewed and expanded its partnership with Petro-Canada Lubricants to include parent company HollyFrontier, an independent petroleum refiner that produces products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and specialty lubricant products. 

HollyFrontier, along with its commercial brands, including Sonneborn and Petro-Canada Lubricants, will become an Official Global Partner and the Official Oil & Lubricants Partner of LFC in a new multi-year partnership. The exclusive agreement will see the brand leverage unique assets to engage with its customers and distributors across the globe such as access to player and Legend appearances, exclusive marketing assets - and when COVID-19 restrictions permit, events at Anfield’s world-class facilities allowing premium experiences to key stakeholders. 

 As part of the renewed relationship, HollyFrontier will make use of prominent match day visibility at Anfield and on LFC digital channels to strengthen brand awareness in key global markets.     Commenting on the renewal, Matt Scammell, Commercial Director, Liverpool Football Club said: “We are extremely pleased to broaden our relationship with HollyFrontier along with their Petro-Canada Lubricants and Sonneborn brands. “We are delighted to partner with a global business that shares our values of ambition and commitment and we look forward to strengthening our partnership further and achieving great things.” 

 Bruce Lerner, President, HollyFrontier Lubricants and Specialties said: “We are proud to partner with an organisation that shares our commitment to excellence. As World and European champions, Liverpool FC is a global leader in its field and shares HollyFrontier Lubricants and Specialties’ performance ready ethos.”

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hong Kong 2019-2020 Season Set for Completion as Training Resumes

Hong Kong 2019-2020 Season Set for Completion

The Hong Kong 2019-2020 season is set for completion as training resumes across different venues in Hong Kong. With all players and staff passing Covid tests, the season should be completed once the final games resume in two weeks' time.

The Hong Kong 2019-2020 season is set for completion as training resumes across different venues in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong 2019-2020 season is set for completion as training resumes across different venues in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong 2019-2020 season

© Soccerphile.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Messi-Ronaldo rivalry in Italy? Would be interesting

Messi-Ronaldo rivalry in Italy?

Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi, is often compared to Diego Maradona, who is seen as the best player from Argentina and the best player in world football history. 

Messi and Ronaldo

In 1984, Maradona took a chance as he moved from Barcelona to Naples and there he showcased his supreme footballing skills. He won the Serie A title with Napoli in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989 - the only big titles in the club's history to this day.

I was not lazy and looked for the position of Maradona's previous and following clubs in 1984 in the UEFA Team Rankings. Barcelona was in 2nd place and Napoli? Can you imagine they shared 83-86 places with Dinamo Moscow, Utrecht and Vejle! 

If we look at the 2020 UEFA rankings, we will see that Barcelona is in 3rd place, and AZ Alkmaar and Spartak Moscow are in 83rd place. Is it possible Messi could arrive at these clubs or others that are higher in the ranking - Napoli or Milan, Galatasaray or Qarabağ, etc? The answer is obvious - never! Nowadays, when money decides a lot, even discussing this seems from the realm of fantasy. 

Against the background of talk about Messi's departure from Barcelona, Argentina's president Alberto Fernandez has called on the 33-year-old to return to his homeland and end his career with Newell's Old Boys. But if a parting does occur, I personally would like to see Messi at one of the clubs that have not won the league title in their countries for quite some time. For example, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham in England, Inter in Italy, Borussia Dortmund in Germany... 

Messi playing for Argentina.

Even signs of fate indicate a move to Inter - Messi never scored in his 4 matches against the Nerazzurri, the most difficult opponent in his football life. If you can't play successfully against them, then you have to play for them! Although Inter is active in Messi's transfer, he is unlikely to choose the Serie A club. Although after Spain and after a two-season break, it would be interesting again to see the rivalry between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus – now in Italy. 

Messi scores for Barca

But if Messi leaves Barcelona, in all probability, he will choose Manchester City. They said that in 2008, when the Citizens were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group, they tried back then to implement his transfer. 

Then since 2013, in almost every year, there were rumours about Manchester City's interest in Messi, about their transfer attempts. And since 2016, when Pep Guardiola, his favourite coach, took the manager's position at City, it was clear that a Messi move to England was a matter of time. Perhaps this time has already come. 

It was under Guardiola that he was comfortable playing and he was at the peak of his career. The two icons enjoyed more than 200 matches together, most of which were on a winning record. Besides Guardiola in Manchester City, awaiting Messi are also Sergio Agüero and Nicolás Otamendi, his friends from the Argentina national team.

Messi scored 6 goals in 6 matches against Manchester City in the past. Time will tell whether the Argentinian forward will begin to score for the Citizens in the future. 

Rasim Movsumzadeh - Ballon d’Or Award juror