The Outsider

A spectator to the game yet an integral part of it. His involvement lasts a few moments but this brevity belies its very decisiveness. He dons the robes of the hero and the villain at a blink of an eye. A lone wolf, left to the turbulence of events unfurling ahead of him. He is a narcissist. An anomaly. He bears the brunt of his colleagues’ shortcomings. Or inversely, he is considered their Achilles Heel. He is alone. He is tasked to prevent the natural, beautiful conclusion of the game: a goal. He is solitary. He is the outsider.

On the opposite end of the field, the attacking players are showered with the praise and prestige. Their gloved teammate however, places his physical integrity on the line to keep the scores intact; a trivial matter when viewed with potential costs in mind. Rarely can he count on someone to assist. The blame he is burdened entire. An anomaly of psychology can only explain the inner workings of a goalkeeper’s mind.

The romanticism of the above lines notwithstanding. The goalkeeper has a rather unique function in football. Designed to prevent the ball from crossing the goal-line, he has been afforded a few aberrations within the Laws of the Game to do the same. Any extension of his body can be used to handle the ball within the confines of the 18 yard box. His clothing remain differently colored and he has been awarded the squad number ‘1’ by default. And most importantly, he has been provided with extra protection by the referee when in possession of the football.

There are certain traits valuable to any goalkeeper: an advanced ability to read the game and position oneself accordingly, an acute sense of anticipation and agility to complement these mental capabilities. From the above statement, one can infer the importance of psychology the typical goalkeeper. He may not do much during the match: collecting wayward passes from the opposition, taking goal-kicks or redistributing the ball. But in those split-seconds of magic: a blistering drive from outside the box, a curler from the edge of the box or perhaps a wonderfully threaded pass that wreaks havoc within the defense. What happens next defines the goalkeeper and is an acid test of his ability. A test only a few can pass unscathed.

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Mario Gomez-20 Million for That Hair? Yes, Sir!

mario gomez

Transfer season is upon and the incessant churning of the rumour mills are already at it’s peak. Holding true to tradition, transfer sagas involving a wantaway star, a recently triumphant club, and a host of suitors are in full swing. One that has carried on for the past two years has finally come to end with Neymar making a move to Barcelona. Definitely did not see that one coming.

The latest transfer story to bestow our favourite football forums and websites is the alleged end of Mario Gomez’s four year tryst with the Bavarians. Yes, the striker with a hairstyle as impressive as his goalscoring record, looks set to move to another club. All for a mere 20 million euros.

The recently crowned German and European Champions, Bayern Munich, is now under the managerial dominion of Pep Guardiola. Along with him comes his philosophy of hard pressing, possession based football of which Gomez is likely not to be a part of. Old Pep does have a history of selling major players - His first activities as the coach of Barcelona were the sales of Deco and Ronaldinho. What followed after was the creation of arguably the most dominating team the world has witnessed since the heydays of bitter rivals, Real Madrid. With Bayern Munich decimating Pep’s previous team in the Champions League semi-final, the ‘superclub’ titled seems to have relayed into the hands of the Bavarians.

Of course, this will be of little concern to Mario Gomez come the dawn of the new season. Fiorentina are reportedly the frontrunners to bag the German to spear head their attack, with Jovetic likely to leave. It would be a great boost for the Tuscany-based club if it falls through, having secured a Europa Leage spot with an impressive season finish of 4th. This would also make him the second German striker to join an Italian team after Klose’s arrival at Lazio the previous year.

Until then, Mario Gomez enjoys his vacation polishing his impressive trophy cabinet.

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Champions of Europe

Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.

When F.C Bayern Munich lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy on May 26th, the pain from the crushing defeat 12 months back would have been foremost in their mind. They had finally conquered their demons, and they had done it in style.

Right from the start of the Champions League in September ’12, Bayern looked like a side determined to go all the way. They had been in two finals in the last three years, and had lost on both occasions. The loss in the 2011-2012 season’s final to Chelsea was especially painful, as they had thoroughly deserved to win, with consistent performances throughout the tournament and in the final. When the final kick of the ball etched Chelsea’s name on the trophy, the players from the German club sank to the ground, distraught.

Robben scores the last goal

Come the 2012 – 2013 season, the wounds were still fresh but the players were raring to go, with Jupp Heynckes at the helm. Having wrapped up their domestic season in record time, Bayern poured all their resources and focus into the Champions League. They topped their group and were drawn against Arsenal in the first round of the knockout stages. Comfortable wins against Arsenal and Italian champions Juventus put Bayern into the semifinals and established them as one of the favorites for the title. However, there was a huge hurdle in their path to the finals, the semi final clash against Spanish giants Barcelona, who had won two Champions League titles in the past four years, and had their sights set on another one. The match was a difficult one to call, but Barcelona, with their talisman Lionel Messi, were favorites to progress to the final in London. What followed in the next fortnight will go into history books and football fans’ hearts as one of the great upsets in footballing history. The upset lie, not in the result, but in the manner in which Bayern Munich triumphed over Barcelona.

In the first leg in the Allianz arena, Munich, Bayern displayed counter attacking football at it’s finest, and won the game 4-0. The Spanish side were reeling, but they knew that they were not out of it yet. If there was any side that was capable of overcoming such a deficit, it was F.C Barcelona. When Bayern walked into Nou Camp, Barcelona, on  May 1st , everyone knew it was still game on. Barcelona would throw everything at them.

What followed was one of the most dominant displays of football by an opposing side at the Nou Camp. Barcelona were drubbed 3-0 in front of 90,000 of their own fans. On aggregate Bayern had beaten Barcelona 7-0, one of the biggest losses in the club’s history. This put Bayern in a great position, when they walked out on 25th May, in front of 90,000 screaming fans, at the Wembley Stadium in London. They were facing their domestic rivals, Borussia Dortmund, who had defied all odds, beating giants like Real Madrid, to make the final in London. Bayern, though quietly confident, knew that their opponents were no pushovers and could beat any side on their day.

The first half saw both Bayern and Dortmund get many chances, but neither side was able to score, with both goal keepers in tremendous form.  Bayern winger Arjen Robben, who had missed a penalty in the 2012 final, was again responsible for squandering chances in front of goal.

The second half kicked off in similar fashion, with both sides unable to break the deadlock. With the relentless pace at which both the sides were attacking, it was, however, only a matter of time before one of the goal keepers caved. In the 60th minute, Bayern play maker Ribery flicked the ball onto the path of Robben who took the ball past the keeper and crossed it to striker Mandzukic to score. Bayern were up 1-0. Their joy was shortlived though, as just 8 minutes later, Dortmund got a penalty, courtesy Dante’s kick on Dortmund forward Reus. Iikey Gundogan stepped up and made it 1-1.

With the score level, and only one minute left on the clock, the game looked set to go into extra time. Cue Arjen Robben. The winger got the ball amidst a crowd of Dortmund players just inside the penalty box, sidestepped one defender, and tucked the ball into the corner of the net. His celebration was befitting of a man who had just won back twelve months. It was redemption for Robben, who had gone from villain to hero in the space of a few seconds. Bayern played out the remaining few minutes and the pure delight could be seen on the faces of the players as they celebrated at the stroke of the final whistle. They ran around Wembley stadium, celebrating as champions, their bitter disappointment a year ago, but a distant memory.


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Michael Owen calls it a day

The two Argentine defenders, with twenty years of experience between them, didn’t know what hit them. He was past both of them in the blink of an eye. He let fly from the edge of the box, and as always, the ball nestled in the corner of the net. England’s manager Sven Errikksen, therefore, was not exaggerating when he called Michael Owen a “killer”, a clean killer.”

After 17 years of terrorizing defenses, the prolific striker has decided to call it a day. Michael Owen, on Tuesday, announced on his personal website that he will be retiring at the end of the ongoing Premier League season. He will be drawing the curtain on a career decked with  three League  cup medals, one  F. A.cup victory , one UEFA cup and one Premier League trophy.

Michael Owen calls it a day

Owen started his career at Anfield, when he signed for Liverpool at the age of 17. Liverpool managed to pry him from the grasp of Manchester United and Chelsea, who were also vying for the talented youngster’s signature. Owen went on to become a legend in Merceyside, finishing as Liverpool’s top scorer for eight consecutive seasons, from 1997 to 2004, even as he was fighting constant knee and hamstring injuries. He also won English hearts when he scored that amazing goal against Argentina in the ’98 world cup, at the ripe age of 18. In 2001, he led Liverpool to a treble which won him the coveted Baland’or. Liverpool’s fall from grace at the end of the 2004 season, when Owen was at his peak, led to fears among fans that the club was not good enough for Owen.

It was a year later that the inevitable happened. Owen moved to Real Madrid for a hefty 8 million pounds. Owen enjoyed a good run in Spain, even though he was playing second fiddle to Brazilian superstar Ronaldo. Towards the end of his tenure, however,  he was plagued  with injuries and bad form. Eventually, the arrival of big players like Robinho meant that Owen was surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu. He was sold to Newcastle United in  2005 .

Injuries continued to haunt him, and he was forced to sit out the majority of the 05-06  season. He returned after this long layoff to become captain of the club, but soon moved to Liverpool’s arch rivals Manchester United, amidst much controversy in 2009. The highlight of his short stay at Manchester came when he scored an injury time winner in The Manchester Derby. The goal was vintage Michael Owen. Even though that was his only league goal for that season, Michael Owen will not forget his time at Manchester United, as it was here that he won the premier League medal that had eluded him for so long.

Owen moved to Stoke City in  2012  and continues to play there, as of March 19th, 2013, when he announced , ” I now feel that it is the right time to bring down the curtain on my career. I have been very fortunate that my career has taken me on a journey like I have dreamt of.”

His 124  goals in the Premier League  and  40 goals for England, including a hat-trick against Germany,  will remain in the hearts of football fans for many years to come.

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