Sunday, April 4, 2021

Kitchee Academy Recognized as AFC’s One-Star Academy

Kitchee Academy

Kitchee Academy
Kitchee Academy

Kitchee announced today that Kitchee Academy have been recognized as the first Elite Youth Academy in Hong Kong by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on 23 March 2021. 

Mr. Ken Ng, Founder of the Kitchee Academy, said, "To be recognized by AFC and accredited in its Elite Youth Scheme is a great honour. It is a fantastic impetus for us to redouble our efforts to develop future Hong Kong Team players. At the same time, it is humbling to note that we only achieved a One-Star rating in the 3-Star rating scheme, meaning that we have a lot of room to improve. I challenge our Kitchee colleagues to take this opportunity to consider thoroughly how we can improve our work in youth development."

Kitchee prepared the application to the HKFA and AFC in January 2021. The AFC Youth Panel assessed the Kitchee submission in 20 performance categories such as staffing, plans, sport sciences, facilities, philosophies, and others. 

Under the Elite Youth Scheme, AFC only awarded three elite academies with a 3-Star rating, including Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (South Korea), Aspire Academy (Qatar) and PVF Football Academy (Vietnam). As a result of Kitchee’s accreditation, the HKFA was also qualified as a full member of the AFC Elite Youth Scheme.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Great Football Conspiracy

Book Review: The Great Football Conspiracy

The Great Football Conspiracy
The Great Football Conspiracy

The Great Football Conspiracy by Jonathan Last is a light-hearted football novel inspired by the Da Vinci Code.

It begins suitably enough with the founding of football in a masonic-style ceremony in the Freemasons' Tavern in 1863.

Forward to the present day and ex-coach Frank Tuttle stumbles upon a legend about the Halves - two big secrets of football, and a hidden group called the Custodians who guard them. By completing the quest, aka the Campaign, to find them, one may truly understand the sport and more importantly derail an imminent corporate takeover of the F.A. which will destroy football as we know it.

The new order sounds chilling and not a million miles from reality: 90% corporate seating, ad breaks during games as in American sports, three kits per season and no relegation for the big sides for starters.

Sadly some fans are on board with the changes, as one explains:

"Bigger clubs get more worldwide support...It's inevitable they will get richer and richer and eventually suck in all the idiots who support the crap teams. Then all the loser clubs will go bankrupt and finally, it'll be only the big boys left. That's what I'm looking forward to and I can't wait."

Along with his mates and a disgruntled F.A., employee, Tuttle careers around London, stopping off at the Emirates, Craven Cottage, and other sacred soccer sites in search of the truth, hoping to spike the guns of the deadly new plan for football.

Unlike many self-published scribes, Last can actually write fluently and peppers his tale with an obvious footballing knowledge:

"The earliest I can remember is Man United dominating everything, so naturally I liked them. But then Arsenal had their 'Invincibles' side, so I switched to them. But I got sick of waiting for them to win the league again, so I moved to Chelsea. But then Man City came onto the scene in a big way, and of course, you've got Liverpool now, so-"

A proofreader would have picked up on 'Mollineux', 'Acre Lane' instead of Long Acre, and it could also have done with more football jokes and being at least 50 pages shorter.

But all in all, it is a fun and refreshing read and welcome addition to the meagre genre of comedy football books - Dominic Holland's The Ripple Effect springs to mind, when it is a subject ripe for humour, as films like Eleven Men Against Eleven, Mike Bassett England Manager, Rudo y Cursi and Shaolin Soccer have shown.

Buy The Great Football Conspiracy from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

© Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Interview with Rasim Movsumzadeh

Interview with Rasim Movsumzadeh Ballon d'Or and FIFA Awards Juror

Interview with Rasim Movsumzadeh
Rasim Movsumzadeh with Franck Ribery

You are well-known writer and journalist, how did your writing career start and did you always want to be involved in the sports media industry?

I visited the stadium for the first time at the age of 6 with my uncle and watched a football match live. I still remember those feelings when I first saw the green field of the stadium. My eyes twinkled at what I saw. Everything on the TV was black and white. In the late 1980s, I started collecting football books, programmes, etc. There was interesting information, facts, figures and also I started making football statistics and I had the idea to share them with other fans. So, my first article was published in a sports newspaper at the age of 15 - then I was still in high school. It's hard to convey those feelings. It was back in the USSR.

By the way, 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of my work as a football journalist. I liked that my name was published in the newspaper. Then I started writing regularly about football.

So my adventure continued. Since then, my articles have published in various countries, in the popular Kicker Magazine, etc. I was also one of the authors of the famous The European Football Yearbook.

I like more to write research and historical articles with facts and figures... "Before the World Cup in leading media, you can read various analytical articles on this tournament. However, we are sure that you will not see this anywhere else. Professional journalist Rasim Movsumzadeh analyzed face-to-face rivalries of the head coaches of all 32 participants of the World Cup and presented the results of these matches" - this is how the Turkish Futbol Extra Magazine announced my research article on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Of course, it's nice to get such feedback from readers, for example, from Marco Von Ah, a former press officer of the Swiss national football team: "I like very much the style of your writing. You bring on your regrets, though, you do not accuse, you do not scream out "scandal", but you show a lot of understanding for a very difficult situation to cope with. Very sad that you belong to a very rare species in the world of modern journalism. Very good that you keep going your way."

Rasim Movsumzadeh
Gianni Infantino and Rasim Movsumzadeh

You are a juror the Ballon d'Or Award. How does a person get selected to become a juror for the top individual award in football?

Of course, the main criterion is international recognition as a journalist and one person from each country is awarded this honor.

France Football selects the best journalists for the Ballon d'Or, and journalists choose the best players.

Ivica Osim, who won 1 point in the 1968 Ballon d'Or poll as a footballer, then represented Yugoslavia as a member of the jury in 1992 and 1993.

Although I did not compete for the Ballon d'Or as a player, I am a member of the award jury since 2000. At that time, the Ballon d'Or was still presented to the best player in Europe. That's why South American players like Pelé and Diego Maradona could not win this award.

Finally, since 2007, the Ballon d'Or has been awarded to the best player in the world. For a while, it was even a FIFA award and was named the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010-2015.

But now there are two different awards, both the Ballon d'Or and The Best FIFA Football Awards are available. By the way, I have participated in various awards ceremonies, for example, of the UEFA, AFC, etc. Also, I was a president of the jury at the Golden Foot Award in 2014, won by Andrés Iniesta. I would like to emphasize the successful work of the AFC, led by Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, in holding the AFC Annual Awards. For example, I attended a 2019 event in Hong Kong, where it was held in an unforgettable fairy tale atmosphere.

Rasim Movsumzadeh
Rasim Movsumzadeh

The fact about Ivica Osim was also very interesting. How do you know that?

Yes, I have a lot of interesting facts and information about the history of the Ballon d'Or. I can also be considered a big fan of this award.

I even have a copy of the Ballon d'Or Award. I have also been collecting the Ballon d'Or issues of France Football. It would be interesting to hold an exhibition of these magazines.

Who knows, maybe in the future at some university, it will be lucky to hold a seminar about the history of the Ballon d'Or, the most popular award in the most popular sport.

When selecting the best player in the world, what are some of the criteria that you look for?

Is it factors like the number of goals or consistent performance over a season? Selection criteria required from the jury when voting for awards usually include individual and team performances in the calendar year or the season; talent and sportsmanship of the player; the player's overall career.

An important point regarding the voting: you should cast your vote with total impartiality. Of course, in the election process, the player's personal and team achievements during the year or season come to the fore. His role in the success of his team, as well. Of course, the player's scoring ability is also noteworthy. Also, the players who are most mentioned in the media during the voting period may win.

In short, everything is important: statistics, goals, stability, titles, promotion. But let's not forget, "Football loves numbers, but doesn't obey them." These are my words, I always say it.

However, it is especially difficult for goalkeepers to become the best in the world. Therefore, in recent years, in addition to the Ballon d'Or, France Football Magazine has established The Yashin Trophy, and FIFA has established The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award.

In your opinion, who is the greatest player of all time and which team is the greatest team of all time?

I participated in the election of the France Football for the Ballon d'Or Dream Team in 2020. We selected the best players in different positions and determined the best team for all time.

It is true that Lionel Messi won 792 points, the most than other players in all positions, but he did it without strong competition in the best right-winger position. Unlike him, Pele and Diego Maradona won 655 and 602 points respectively in fierce competition among themselves for the best attacking midfielder position.

But let's not forget the fact that Pelé is a three-time World Cup winner and it is the factor that makes he superior to everyone.

Of course, perhaps thanks to the technologies that will be discovered in the future, it will be possible to objectively determine which of the footballers who played in different periods is better.

As an example of the successful application of technology in football, I can recall that England's famous third goal against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final (4-2) has caused the biggest controversy in football since then, but Sky's Monday Night Football team in 2016 used statistical data from Opta, plus the Sky Pad touchscreen and virtual reality from EA Sports and they confirmed that then Azerbaijani linesman Tofiq Bahramov made the right decision, the ball to cross the line.

As for the greatest team of all time, for someone is Real Madrid of 1956-1960 or 2016-2018, for some is Santos of 1962-1963, for others is Ajax or Bayern Munich of the 1970s, someone can choose AC Milan of 1989-1990 or even Galatasaray of 2000, some can choose Barcelona of 2009, which won 6 trophies a year, and even Bayern Munich of 2020-2021.

As for the national teams, Brazil of 1970 or Spain of 2008-2012, which won two consecutive European Championship and one World Cup title, can be considered "the greatest".

But I would choose a team of a country that is relatively small in terms of both territory and population, has achieved historic success at a time when money was not the main criterion in football. Of course, this is Hungary of 1950-1954 - by the way, "Magnificent Magyars" didn't lose 30 consecutive matches at that time, and this achievement was a world record until 1993.

Thank you

Interview with


Monday, March 15, 2021

Wilder Sacking Makes No Sense


"Everybody knows Chris has done a fabulous job, but managers have to get on with owners." - Neil Warnock.

Last week Sheffield United, bottom of the Premier League, fired their manager Chris Wilder to universal dismay. Yesterday without Wilder the team was hammered 5-0 by Leicester City.

There was no bounce back as often happens when a losing manager leaves. The Blades were blunted. Their players looked utterly shipwrecked without their leader, half-heartedly playing as if relegation could not come soon enough for them.

Seen from beyond Bramall Lane Wilder's sacking makes no sense. A personality clash or fundamental disagreement with the Saudi owner Prince Abdullah must have led to the separation but there only ten games to go, the club is still in the F.A. Cup. and relegation seems certain anyway.

The club needs to start planning for next season and unusually for a relegation-bound manager, Wilder had the blessing of his owner for the following campaign.

He had refreshingly admitted they were heading for Championship football and Abdullah had jetted into Yorkshire only last month to reassure the press his manager's job was safe and that he was the right man to lead them back to the Premier League.

But a month later they had fallen out for good, ostensibly because Wilder had attached conditions to his continued employment - an improved training ground, guaranteed signings and the lack of a technical director, requests which the owner did not agree to.

Wilder in happier days
Wilder in happier days

Abdullah was wrong - the club clearly needed additional investment in order to get back into the top flight and Wilder was worth trusting.

The status quo was not worth it - there is little point in being the top flight only to get thrashed every match. The club needed more money to advance.

So if Wilder left on a point of principle then he can hold his head high but that does not help the players or fans.

Abdullah on the other hand just seems another arriviste owner who does not understand the game deep down, a classic example of new money clashing with old knowledge in football.

Wilder was as old school as they come, emblematic of an almost lost world of English football. Born in Sheffield, he began at Bramall Lane as a ballboy before graduating to fan, player and finally manager, so his devotion to the club was utterly unquestionable.

As manager he had brought the Blades up from the third tier to the Premier League and won the 2019 LMA Manager of the Year award, voted for by the coaches of the 92 professional clubs.

He was popular in the game at large, with the Bramall Lane fans and as yesterday's collective breakdown against Leicester proved, crucially with the players too.

If keeping the owner on board is a key part of the job as well, then in that sense Wilder failed as a football manager. But if the ultimate aim of a football team is to win games, then is hard to see how firing the Blades' best coach in 30 years will help them.

His impromptu departure is a textbook example of a seemingly permanent fault line in football: An owner and a manager who are just not on the same wavelength.

Sheffield United will go down this season in more ways than one.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, March 8, 2021

Klopp at Rock Bottom


On the day Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard's Rangers toasted their first Scottish Premiership crown since 2011, current Anfield saint Jurgen Klopp cut a haggard figure. 

His opposite number Scott Parker, sans blouson, looked full of the joys of Spring after Fulham had come away with all three points, but Klopp kept his puffer jacket zipped up tightly with a cap helping to shield as much of his stress as he could from the world outside.

Jurgen Klopp at a loss

The reigning champions have now chalked up six straight home league defeats, the stuff of relegation. Only last-placed Sheffield United have lost four of the last five. 

Whispers have inevitably begun about Klopp himself, formally universally eulogised as the Anfield messiah for having ended their long wait for the title.

Liverpool's collective on-field ennui was plain to see yesterday. The gegenpressing which Klopp had imported from Germany had vanished. Fulham, a club in the bottom three, were graciously afforded the time and space in their first third to plan their attacks.

Second season syndrome is as much as affliction of champions relaxing after scaling a peak as it is of new boys up from the Championship struggling to maintain their honeymoon beyond one campaign, but something deeper is amiss with Liverpool right now.

After the Fulham defeat Klopp admitted the players do not have "the mentality we are used to", but offered no explanation.

How can a coach as talented as he be failing to motivate so many players match after match? That is the question. 

Scrutinize the suspects and you are still searching for answers. The loss of first-choice centre-backs Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk, though arguably enough to cost them a repeat title, cannot be blamed alone for this malaise.

While the defence is porous, the forward line is not firing either and so there has been a collective dip in confidence, plain for all to see.

Klopp's mother dying in January and him being unable to fly to her funeral cannot have helped either, but away from home Liverpool have won five out of eight in 2021, which is curious.

A lack of home fans has not stopped them advancing in the Champions League or stopped seven clubs outperforming them in the Premier League.

Could he have bought or rotated better? Yes, as could every coach. The only satisfying answer to the conundrum 'What is wrong with Liverpool?' is a don't know and that the culprit is an ill-defined cocktail of factors which when have combined to poison the Anfield well of confidence.

As for replacing King Klopp with Stevie G, it will happen sooner or later. The prodigal son is a parable which sits quite comfortably with a club in love with its own mythologies.

Liverpool were awash with legends when I was growing up. The red machine was apparently invincible and the glow of greatness was rekindled last season. But the Reds were down in the second tier from 1954-'62 and were transformed into a super club by Bill Shankly, their rugged Scottish manager from 1959 to 1973.

Storied traditions have to begin somewhere. Shankly attributed the transformation to a little Scottish striker he signed in 1961. Ian St John, who died last week aged 82, netted 118 goals in 425 games including the winner in Liverpool's first F.A. Cup final win in 1965.

In the 1980s 'Saint' became a TV fixture as one of the first players to cross over into screen journalism and presenting. His chirpy enthusiasm was apparent even last year while cancer was claiming him, when he made an emotional visit to Melwood.

Liverpool could do with some of the Saint's blessings right now.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Reds deliver lesson with a difference with Joie

Reds deliver lesson with a difference with Joie


Children from two local schools received a special surprise when they started their school day, only to find out their lessons had been taken over by Liverpool FC first team stars. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many children are currently having to learn remotely from home via lessons that are being delivered virtually by their teachers. Logging on to start their virtual history lesson, year six children from Whitefield Primary School were surprised to realise they had a new teacher - Mr A Robertson. 

The lessons were organised as part of the latest edition of Kop Kids, which is presented by club partner Joie. To help deliver the sessions, the players were supported by coaches from the club’s official charity, LFC Foundation. Supporters should also keep an eye out for video number two. Joie has also donated iPads to both schools to support with lessons inside the classroom, as well as teaming up with the club’s official mascot, Mighty Red, to deliver a bi-weekly Instagram quiz to encourage families to come together and take part. 

To help support parents teaching their children at home, Joie, the LFC Foundation and Mighty Red have provided these additional resources: 

Joie Managing Director, David Welsh, said: “These are tough times for kids – they have had their lives put on hold without any say in the matter. Schools are closed, extra-curricular activities are on hold and they are all missing their friends as well as having to get to grips with learning on line. 

It was our privilege to be able to give some of the kids at Whitefield Primary and St Marie’s Primary, a bit of a treat – they certainly deserve it.” As part of the club’s community response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the LFC Foundation and the Red Neighbours programme have been working together to support the local community during these unprecedented and difficult times. 

The Foundation has been delivering over 50 virtual sessions per week, providing young people, adults and families with the chance to still get active, connect with others and still be a part of the Foundation. From confidence-building sessions such as Step Up, to virtual football skills sessions.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

No Blues for Everton


Proposed New Stadium
Proposed New Stadium

The blue half of Liverpool has had a good week.

Last Saturday Everton won the Merseyside derby 2-0, their first win at Anfield in 22 years. Then this Tuesday Liverpool City Council approved its plans for a new arena on the waterfront, ending years of stadium project false starts.

Bramley-Moore Dock stadium has a projected capacity of 52,888 and could be open for business in 2024 providing the housing minister Robert Jenrick, as expected, rubber stamps the application.

Goodison Park, the Blues' home since 1892, has 39,414 seats but with its notable poles and lack of cantilevers on the Bullens Road side it seems quaintly outmoded. 

Unable to expand on a classic residential site in Walton - St Luke's church famously sticks out in one of the corners, the club have been searching for a new site for a quarter of a century.

A number of plans and sites have fallen through, which left some Evertonians wondering if there was some curse on their club, watching jealously while Anfield modernized and expanded and other clubs moved to new and shining homes.

What the stadium could look like

The Bramley-Moore site is on the Mersey estuary and being a disused industrial site, offered space to build.

This will be the first European stadium built by American architects MEIS, who have built baseball and NFL arena before but also have the contract to build a new 52,500 home for Roma in Serie A.

There had a planning objection from English Heritage, worried about damage to the Liverpool waterfront's UNESCO World Heritage status, but the council decided the £500 million scheme and subdued design of brick, glass and steel would not ruin the built environment.

Goodison Park has earned its spurs as one of football's most historic arenas. It has hosted more top flight games than any other English stadium, six World Cup games including a semi-final, the F.A. Cup Final and several internationals including England's first defeat to a non-British nation (the Republic of Ireland in 1949) and was bombed in WWII.

Portuguese legend Eusebio called it "the best stadium in my life" after scoring six goals there en route to the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, February 21, 2021

補充兵源迎接亞冠 傑志簽入羅拔圖及謝家強

Sean Tse Ka Keung

傑志今日宣佈,球會已經簽下兩位經驗豐富的後防球員羅拔圖 (Roberto Orlando Affonso Júnior)和謝家強(Sean Tse Ka Keung). 羅拔圖原籍巴西,於2007年來港,曾效力晨曦、東方龍獅及富力R&F,可出任中堅及防守中場,他於2016年3月取得香港特別行政區護照,正式入籍香港,至今已代表香港隊上陣22場入1球。 

Roberto Orlando Affonso Junior




Sunday, February 14, 2021

Historic auction to take place to bid farewell to Melwood

Historic auction to take place to bid farewell to Melwood


Liverpool FC supporters are being given the opportunity to own a piece of Reds history as the club bids a final farewell to its famous training ground in a special online memorabilia auction.

The unique event, which will be held on 2 March 2021, will see more than 360 items from the last seventy years the club spent at Melwood go under the hammer and be auctioned off to fans.

A special selection of items from the sale will be auctioned specifically to raise funds for the club's official charity, LFC Foundation.

The monies raised, together with a Club donation from all the auction proceeds, will provide much needed food and support the ongoing work around physical and mental wellbeing in the local community, particularly during the COVID-19 response.

The driving force behind this unique occasion was the development of the new AXA Training Centre, which for the first time brings the club's first team and academy players together under one roof.

This hugely significant project saw the 1950s-2020 era at Melwood come to an end, during which time the likes of former players, Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush and Sir Kenny Dalglish, passed through the doors.

Some of the most interesting items that will be up for auction include: the whiteboard used by first team boss Jurgen Klopp to demonstrate his vital team selections and formation; the Champions Wall that was visible inside the main reception area displaying the club's illustrious trophy tally; and the press conference desk and backdrop that was used for every media briefing, where exclusive news from the club was shared with its supporters around the world.

Former player, Ian Callaghan said: "What a momentous occasion this is as we say a final goodbye to the beloved Melwood and look forward to a new era and what our future holds at the new AXA Training Centre. Melwood will always hold a special place in my heart, it was our home for over seven decades and saw us through some of the biggest moments in our club's history - from the ultimate highs to the challenges and tests we have faced together over the years. This is such a unique opportunity for supporters, allowing them to bid for their own piece of Liverpool FC history that they can keep forever."

Stephen Done, Liverpool FC curator, said: "This auction is a very special event to mark the end of an important era. The last fifty years have been a huge part of Liverpool Football Club's rich history, with so many memories and incredible moments to share. And not forgetting all the incredible players that have passed through those doors at the famous training ground during this era.

Without their tremendous talent and contribution to the club, we wouldn't have such prestigious memorabilia and fantastic memories.

"The items on offer in the auction are both unique and diverse - from the world-famous Champions Wall that greeted you as you entered the main reception area to the all-important press conference desk that saw news from the club shared to supporters around the globe."

The auction will be hosted by Graham Budd Auctions, which hosted the club's last auction back in 2018 when hundreds of items from the old Main Stand went under the hammer.

Supporters wishing to take part in the online auction must register their interest now at

For more information on the auction and access, please visit:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Jurgen Klopp stars in Liverpool Chinese New Year Video

Jurgen Klopp stars in Liverpool FC's Chinese New Year Video 高普主演利物浦賀年短片 向紅軍球迷拜年

Liverpool FC launched its 2021 Chinese New Year video today to send season greetings to Red fans across the Greater China region. First team boss Jurgen Klopp stars in the video, telling a moving story of a Chinese Kop and he also appears at the end to send his greetings to the fans.


The video, with voice acting from Klopp, is mainly made of animations. The protagonist of the story is a loyal LFC fan from China who has supported the club for many years, accompanying the Reds through ups and downs in his own way, until the Premier League trophy finally arrived after many years of waiting. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended everything and the Anfield Stadium is still empty, Klopp encouraged the fans to keep their faith because "at the end of the storm, there is a golden sky."

At the end of the video, Klopp says "You'll Never Walk Alone" in Chinese to send greetings on behalf of Liverpool FC amid the ongoing pandemic across the world – also wishing all LFC fans a happy Chinese New Year and a prosperous Year of the Ox! 

利物浦今天發布全新賀年短片,向一眾大中華地區的紅軍球迷拜年。該短片由一隊教練高普講述一個來自中國紅軍球迷的動人故事,更於片尾親身粉墨登場向球迷拜年,相信紅軍球迷定必有共鳴。 賀年短片主要以動畫形式呈現,並由高普娓娓道來。故事主角是一名來自中國的忠實利物浦球迷,多年來一直對球隊不離不棄,用自己的方式陪著紅軍走過高山低谷,年復一年終於等到英超冠軍的來臨。雖然新冠疫情的到來令一切停擺,晏菲路球場至現時仍然空空如也,但高普勉勵球迷要繼續心懷希望,因為「在風暴的盡頭,那一定是金色的天空」。 最後高普用中文勉勵紅軍球迷「永不獨行」(You'll Never Walk Alone),代表利物浦祝願大家在全球疫情持續下新年快樂,牛年大吉。

Sunday, January 31, 2021

AFC Champions League 2021 and AFC Cup 2021 – Official Draw Result

AFC Champions League 2021

AFC Champions League 2021

AFC Champions League 2021 and AFC Cup 2021 - Official Draw Result

[Hong Kong, 27 Jan 2021] The official draw ceremonies for the AFC Champions League 2021 (ACL) and AFC Cup 2021 (ACC) were held this afternoon.

After the draw, Kitchee has been drawn to Group J in the ACL and will face the teams of Shandong Luneng (CHN), Port FC (THA) and the Winner of PO 2 (Cerezo Osaka (JPN)/Melbourne City FC (AUS) /Shan United FC (MYA)). ACL Group J will be played from 21 April to 7 May. 

Eastern Long Lions (Hong Kong) and Lee Man (Hong Kong) will participate in Group J in ACC 2021. The opponent will be Tainan City FC (Chinese Taipei) and Athletic 220 FC (MNG). ACC Group J will be played from 14 to 20 May.

Match fixtures and venues for the ACL 2021 and ACC 2021 will be announced by the AFC.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Palmeiras bag the Copa


It was an all-Brazilian affair, won in the end by a late, late goal from Breno Lopes.

At the end of a long hot season, Palmeiras became champions of South America for the second time and advance to the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar. Portuguese coach Abel Ferreira bagged the biggest continental prize after less than three months in the job.


434 days separated this Copa Libertadores final from the last thanks to the Pandemic and the winners would only have barely a week before taking the field in the Middle East and a probable clash with Bayern Munich.

Boca Juniors and River Plate fell in the semis, so there would be no Superclásico final in Rio. This instead was a Clássico de Saudade (Nostalgia Derby) of two of Sao Paulo state's great sides, 76km apart, although both have bigger beefs with city rivals Corinthians.

There were almost no fans inside anyway thanks to Covid, but the Maracana's sweeping curves glowed majestically in the afternoon sun.

How I wished I were there in sultry Rio sipping a cool Brahma instead of sat here in England drinking hot chocolate to keep the cold at bay. 

That said, it did not take long for the myth of the Beautiful Game Brazil sold the world to evaporate.

After ten minutes two Santos players, Lucas Verissimo and Marinho made flying lunges from the Bruce Lee school of tackling. Players writhed on the deck or surrounded the referee. Before long the goalkeepers were rolling on the ground for treatment, or rather a respite.

It was not lyrical football to a samba beat, rather clash and pain to discordant noise.

Oh dear is it going to be one of those unwatchable matches the Mexican league specialises in, I wondered? Thankfully no, the frustrated fouls petered out and a football duel commenced. Both sides mercifully entered the dressing rooms with only a yellow card apiece.

Despite the internet, we Europeans still do not watch as much South American football as we should. We know more about their national teams than club sides, but hopefully that will change as the FIFA Club World Championship grows. Terrestrial coverage would help too.

So when we do watch it, we revert to our comfortable stereotypes of Brazil being a synonym for flair or skill and get our eyes opened when an all-Brazilian clash is a slug-fest instead. The other thing we ignore is how different the CONMEBOL calendars are to ours and how much air travel is involved.

After playing fifty plus games already this season, it would have been no wonder if both sides wilted in the heat today. 

Those factors plus the Latin football traditions meant a slower rhythm than in our equivalent - the UEFA Champions League final, and more space in midfield thanks to a welcome lack of gegenpressing.

Chances were slim in the first half with neither side on top.

Palmeiras' Raphael Vega scuffed a shot a yard wide from a tight angle in the 36th, the first and only attempt of the 45 and not a great one at that. On the other flank Rony made a high-speed raid and thumped the ball across the box against the goalkeeper.

Santos pushed forward more but Palmeiras remained solid, biding their time perhaps. Marinho looked the most likely gamechanger from Santos, with wing back Felipe Jonatan a willing lieutenant.

Just after the hour mark Raphael Vega dipped a free kick onto the roof of the Santos net to hint of Palmeiras remembering their lines.

With 15 minutes to go the field was very open and the tempo slow so the window for goals was open but a lack of quality touches from the forwards was limiting chances. 

Palmeiras seemed to want to play on the counter but could have supported their isolated striker Luiz Adriano better. 

Santos sparked into life in the 77th minute as Diego Pituca let rip from outside the box, Weverton could only parry and Jonatan rifled the rebound just wide.

In the 96th minute, hell briefly broke loose. Cuca, the Santos manager wearing a Virgin & Child t-shirt, was shown a red card for trying to pick up the ball as it crossed the touchline, possibly to waste time, and was bundled over by Palmerias' Marcos Rocha.

After a multi-player argument, the sending-off stood and the game exploded.

Cuca barely had time to join the Santos fans in the stands as from the restart Rony launched a diagonal long ball to the edge of the box and substitute Breno Lopes rose to power a header into the opposite corner of the Santos net.

1-0. A goal in the blink of an eye deep into injury time. A red card and drama at the death. Tears of joy and grief flowed.


It was a real Brazilian football match in the end.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Qatar on the right track


Things are looking up for Qatar 2022.

FIFA's most controversial World Cup hosts have not had it easy. But with two years to go, they seem to be on course.

The cards are beginning to fall into place. The fourth of eight World Cup stadia has just been finished and the Gulf state's neighbours have just ended a three-year blockade which had shut Qatar's land border with the United Arab Emirates and stopped flights and shipping between the two countries.

With the country set to host FIFA's Club World Cup again next month, PR for the 2022 tournament will get another boost. While the idea of a winter World Cup still appals many traditionalists, most fans would die for a top-quality football tournament to enjoy right now to take their minds off this bleak virus-plagued winter.

The venues of Ahmed Bin-Ali (40,000), Al-Bayt (60,000), Al-Janoub (40,000) and Education City (40,000) are now complete and ready for football, with work progressing well on the remaining stadia. 

Bin-Ali & Education City are the venues for next month's Club World Cup, featuring Bayern Munich (Germany), Ulsan Hyundai (Korea), UANL Tigres (Mexico), Al Ahly (Egypt) and Al Dusail from Qatar, as well as the winners of South America's Copa Libertadores  - either Palmeiras or Santos (both Brazil).

The Club World Cup kicks off on the 1st of February with the final on the 11th.

World Cup 2022
World Cup 2022

The showpiece venue for the World Cup in two years' time is the 80,000 seat Lusail stadium, designed by Foster & Partners, which is yet to be finished.

With regional relations now being gradually restored there is hope that travel to the finals will be hassle-free for the million or so fans expected.

FIFA is cautiously optimistic its most controversial hosting decision will not be made any worse. 

Its showpiece event being hosted by an international pariah would not be a good look. That said, outside opprobrium did not stop them going to Fascist Italy in 1934 or the military junta of Argentina in 1978, the last time an authoritarian regime was in charge. 

Qatar is no democracy either but its immense wealth and high standard of living paper over the cracks. 

It is not a volatile nation like Iraq or Yemen are right now yet its location in the Middle East is inevitably a cause of worry in the West, concerns confirmed by the three-year blockade which is thankfully now easing.

The UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia had imposed an embargo on the World Cup hosts in June 2017 because of Qatar's alleged links to terrorism. Time and again, the finger was pointed at the little state for harbouring individuals funding radical causes in the region.

This was complicated because although Qatar has admitted wealthy backers of banned groups are living within its borders it has also pledged international cooperation to fight extremism a number of times and now agreed to a Kuwaiti/USA brokered deal to normalise relations with its neighbours.

World Cup 2022

Other reasons for the blockade are probably political - Qatar shares a gas field with Iran, which annoyed Saudi Arabia, and has a military tie-up with Turkey, which angered the UAE because those nations backed opposing sides in the Libyan conflict.

Perhaps the small and wealthy nation has never really wanted to immerse itself in the fiery politics of the Middle East for good reason, but that policy has been exploited by some rich men with bad intentions.

Relations with its big neighbour Saudi Arabia appear to be healing now, with both nations' leaders embracing and Doha's international news network Al-Jazeera striking a notably softer tone in its reporting of the kingdom.

Fingers crossed, the World Cup will be hassle and trouble-free. With Covid-19 still the major challenge worldwide for football, FIFA could do without any additional headaches down the line.

Given the scale of recovery from pandemic required, the extra five and a half months FIFA & Qatar will have the year after next to organise the World Cup suddenly looks like a blessing in disguise.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Liverpool FC x Nike Chinese New Year 21 Top

Liverpool FC x Nike Chinese New Year Make Your Own Fortune

Liverpool FC x Nike Chinese New Year

To celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year, Liverpool FC & Nike present the limited-edition top "Make Your Own Fortune", with design elements taking inspiration from traditional Chinese Knots that are used as symbols of good luck during the New Year celebrations.

The top also features Dri-FIT technology to help keep you dry and comfortable.

The top is available to pre-order online from Monday 18 January.

Liverpool FC x Nike Chinese New Year.

Liverpool FC x Nike Chinese New Year

Friday, January 22, 2021

Euros Still in Doubt


The delayed UEFA European Championship could be hosted by a single country or may not happen at all this summer as Covid-19 continues to grip the world.

Euro 2020

UEFA's plan for a multinational tournament and 24 teams has already been delayed by a year but the rejigged tournament looks increasingly threatened as European nations wilt under the third and worst wave of the pandemic.

Northern Ireland has just extended its national lockdown until the 5th of March, coincidentally UEFA's deadline for deciding on the fate of their showpiece tournament. 

As it stands it is slated to begin on the 11th of June in Rome and end a month later in London, but should other nations follow Ulster's suit and extend their lockdowns into the Spring, the prospect of Euro 2020  happening this summer grows smaller.

And yet, domestic leagues plow on and the Champions League and Europa League were concluded last year, behind closed doors of course. 

The multi-country hosting was the "romantic" brainchild of former UEFA President Michel Platini in 2012, expanding the number of finalists to 24 to boot, but the French legend was banned from football three years later for corruption. Nine years since the hosting decision, UEFA is still having to live with the disgraced Platini's vision, or monster.

Michel Platini

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has told German newspapers that UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin is currently mulling over whether to award the whole tournament to a single host nation instead of the 12 planned.

Ceferin said UEFA were assessing the options of playing in nine or ten countries as well as just one as well as in stadia a third or a half-full.

England, as the major host with seven matches including both semis and the final at Wembley, may be in pole position to host the whole show but other nearby venues would be required too as the finals comprise 51 games in total. Ten were used in France for the 24-team Euro 2016

Glasgow's Hampden Park is due to host three group matches, while Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which narrowly missed the cut, could be brought back into the fold too.

That said, Great Britain is statistically the least safe place in Europe right now to hold the finals as it boasts the continent's highest death and infection rates.

If the worst happens and the Euros cannot go ahead in June they could be played in summer 2022, two years late, but with winter 2022 taken up by the Qatar World Cup, footballers would have a packed calendar. The fact the World Cup is not being played in summer however does leave that window uniquely open.

This week, the Tokyo Olympics, like the Euros delayed since last year, has had to deny press rumours their tournament is on the brink of cancellation or postponement. 

The Olympics are slated to start two weeks after the Euros finish but a Japanese minister admitted it was touch and go and the head of World Athletics Sebastian Coe has said the games might go ahead but behind closed doors. 

In his New Year's message, Ceferin was ever the politician: "I am 99.9% sure we will have the European Championship in all twelve cities as planned," he said.

Today those words seem extremely doubtful.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Young Reds can learn to play the Liverpool way with launch of new platform

Young Reds can learn to play the Liverpool way

Liverpool FC has launched a brand-new online platform to help young footballers master the skills necessary to play the Liverpool way.

Developed by coaches at LFC, this is an unparalleled opportunity for young players to benefit from the leading academy expertise of one of the world's most successful clubs. Whether they are starting out in the game or want to supplement other forms of training they may be undertaking.

Young Reds can learn to play the Liverpool way

Through world-class academy training methods, elite technical insights and inspiring content from the Reds' first team heroes, LFC's new eAcademy provides youngsters with the unique opportunity to develop their individual skills and techniques.

So, for players hoping to learn how to shoot like Mo Salah, dribble like Sadio Mane, pass like Thiago or strike a ball like Trent Alexander-Arnold, the eAcademy will show them how to do it.

Designed to be easily accessible to young fans around the world, the platform provides access to professional skills development videos and LFC coach demonstrations to break each technique down in to the most important aspects to focus on.

For added aspirational value and to help push young players closer towards their goals, eAcademy includes LFC match footage to inspire and motivate, whilst identifying examples of the techniques deemed to be the most important by our coaches. And young Reds can also get pointers from the first team boss himself with Jurgen Klopp endorsing which skills to focus on, giving an authentic insight into the areas most valued at LFC.

Jurgen Klopp, said: "The eAcademy gives users a unique insight into the skills we value when playing the Liverpool way. It's a great platform to help young players learn the techniques they need to advance their skills and become a better footballer. The LFC eAcademy will show you how to master the most important skills and techniques."

Reds captain, Jordan Henderson, said: "Developing your skills to become the best footballer you can be is about hard work, dedication and commitment. You need to spend hours and hours practicing and mastering techniques as a young player.

The LFC eAcademy will support and guide young footballers to make sure they are working on the areas that will help them the most."

eAcademy is the ideal way for parents and guardians to help their children learn to play the Liverpool Way and improve their game performance from home.

LFC Academy graduate and first team player, Trent Alexander-Arnold, said: "I didn't only rely on my training with my coaches to improve my game, I had to work hard and practice on my own to make sure I was going to achieve my goals. I'd have loved to have something like this when I was growing up.

The eAcademy is a fantastic platform to show young players how to play the Liverpool way."

The perfect gift for any young player and Liverpool FC fan, LFC eAcademy is available for the one-off cost of £50 for 12 months, providing access to the full programme and masterclass content.

LFC eAcademy is available to access via:

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Liverpool FC scoops win at the ISC International Sports Awards 2020

Liverpool FC scoops win at the ISC International Sports Awards 2020

Liverpool FC has been recognised as a leader in sports innovation at the ISC International Sports Awards 2020 for the launch of its eAcademy platform. Beating off tough competition within the category, the Reds took home the accolade for innovation, with judges impressed by the new platform. LFC eAcademy launched last month and has been designed to help young footballers master the skills necessary to play The Liverpool Way.

Liverpool FC scoops win at the ISC International Sports Awards 2020

Developed by coaches at LFC, this is an unparalleled opportunity for young players to benefit from the leading academy expertise of one of the world's most successful clubs.

Through world-class academy training methods, elite technical insights and inspiring content from the Reds' first team heroes, LFC's new eAcademy provides youngsters with the unique opportunity to develop their individual skills and techniques.

Celebrating exceptional success in the sports industry, the International Sports Awards recognise the achievements of individuals, groups and companies with honour and recognition on an annual basis.

Overall, seven categories saw seven outstanding winners recognised for demonstrating the best creativity, innovation and solutions in 2020.

The awards will be presented to the winners during ISC Virtual Week 2020, which takes place December 7-11, 2020.

Commenting on the award win, Dan White, Vice President, LFC International Academies, said: "The eAcademy has been created to help young players learn the techniques and skills they need to become better footballers.

To achieve this, we required a unique platform that would inspire, support and guide the user, whether they were starting out in the game or using the eAcademy to supplement other forms of training.

"We're thrilled to have been named the winner of the innovation award at the ISC International Sports Awards 2020.

It's fantastic for the eAcademy to be recognised for its approach to skills development, the insight given to the user and also the innovative approach taken."

The perfect gift for any young player and Liverpool FC fan. Register at and access the full programme of masterclass content.

Saturday, January 9, 2021



Dejan Damjanovic

傑志今日正式宣佈,在韓職效力多年的前鋒丹恩奴域(Dejan Damjanovic) 將轉往香港繼續其足球生涯,他早前已動筆簽約,落實加盟傑志,預計他將於本月尾至下月初抵港,隔離檢疫後再正式報到。




Sunday, January 3, 2021

Feeling the New Year Blues


I do not support Chelsea, but I am feeling blue.

Roman Abramovich, showing no sign of fatigue, had let his oligarch millions flow in the summer and a box of delights duly arrived at Stamford Bridge.

The building blocks for a serious title assault were in place: I was sure Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz would score a sack of goals. At the back, England's Ben Chilwell looked a shrewd signing alongside the wise old head of Thiago Silva, while in Edouard Mendy they had found a safe pair of hands after their prolonged problems with Kepa.

As far as I could see, those purchases, added to their existing arsenal of Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic, all led by a local hero in Frank Lampard, meant the West Londoners were if not a racing cert for the title then a good bet at least.

I also thought Liverpool would stay hungover from last year's glory, Manchester City needed an injection of new ideas and signings and Arsenal and Manchester United would continue their travails under newish managers to recapture their prowess. If anyone could challenge Chelsea I thought it would be in the form of a gallant run by Tottenham, as there is life in the old dog Mourinho.

But I was wrong again, which is why I never bet on football. After 16 matches, Chelsea lie sixth in the league seven points short of the points leaders Liverpool and Man United. 

Losses at Everton, Wolves and a surprisingly rampant Arsenal have shown a weakness away from home and they certainly do not look title material.

They have come undone, or at least failed to fire on all their undoubtedly capable cylinders. Lampard has been at pains to dampen expectations, insisting his collective are short on the experience needed to land the big prize.

Chelsea feeling blue

But to blame it on their youth? Wasn't Alan Hansen's notorious phrase 'You can't win anything with kids' disproved by Ajax's 1995 Champions League win (average age under 24)?

What is noticeable looking at the table as a whole as we enter 2021 is how many games the champions and league leaders have drawn - Liverpool have tied six compared to United's three. 

It is also clear that no side is consistent; Man U's four wins out of the last five and Sheffield United's four losses are the exceptions.

Spurs are third but with only one win in five. Everton had a flying start thanks to some great summer buys but then went on a run of only one win in seven before recovering to fifth as the new year began, before losing again. It is impossible to find a horse that will maintain an even gallop right now. 

Maybe I got them confused with the blue shirts of Everton and Leicester, both above Chelsea in the table. Every year the season's serpentine twists and turns convince me, even more, I should never be a betting man.

Who foresaw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team's resurgence or indeed Arsenal's recent renewal only a few games ago? The Gunners looked down for the count in the bottom half of the table. 

How did these men change losing streaks into winning runs? How did they inject all-round confidence into dressing rooms apparently losing hope? One game they are slow to react and second to the ball, the next they are raring to go and first to the fight. What are they doing that Lampard is not?

It was a mixture of motivation and new faces in both sides which saw them turn their corners. Solskjaer and Mikel Arteta found new armaments in their managerial toolboxes, as all good coaches do. They made changes because repeating the same process expecting a different result is the classic definition of madness. All managers need time to bear fruit, but only deserve it if they use those hours wisely.

Once again, the importance of psychology rears its head, particularly at this stage of the season when impatient or nervous directors tend to go for the nuclear option and fire their beleaguered managers instead of relying on them to pull an iron out of the fire.

Can it be taught? If education in mental skills, as opposed to physical ones, counts for anything, then Graham Potter of Brighton should be a much-coveted manager.

Potter has a degree in social sciences and a master's in leadership and emotional intelligence. His methods at Ostersund were legendary. We could all do with a mental health boost right now amid this pandemic and positive thinking is useful in all walks of life.

And yet Brighton are hovering right above the drop zone. Perhaps Potter's wizardry is not potent enough to make up for his club's financial weaknesses.

Despite all the joy of the unpredictable Premier League, one imagines the end of season table will tell a familiar story of the richest clubs at the top and the poorest at the bottom. 

But it looks like the winners will be wearing red.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile