FIFA President Sepp Blatter called India a “sleeping giant” when he announced that they would host the under 17 World Cup in 2017, and the hard work has already started to try and identify players who live up to that billing.
Most football fans will tell you that India is the only nation to arrive at a World Cup Finals and never play a game. They arrived in Sweden in 1958 only to be told that it was compulsory to wear boots, so they boarded the plane home and the game has never reached the same heights since. Just two years before India had defeated Australia 4-2 at the Melbourne Olympics before losing to Yugoslavia in the semi finals and then Bulgaria in the play off for a bronze medal.
The issue of footwear had been raised at the Olympics prior to the game with Australia but the then President of FIFA Sir Stanley Rous respected their decision either way, and interestingly the Indians decided to wear boots. The game was not without controversy as the Indonesian referee disallowed two goals and as a result of Bob Bignall the Australian captain being unable to get an intelligible explanation. At that point it was not a FIFA requirement that all match officials had to speak English.
India now faces the task of trying to identify talented youngsters and develop them while at the same time giving them international exposure. To make that task harder the country does not currently have any national youth tournaments and very few states organise any.
One man charged with the task of trying to achieve these goals if the former Technical Director of Football in Australia Dutchman Rob Baan who is working in a similar role in India alongside Scott O’Donell who is the technical director of Academies in India.
Baan is looking to introduce more competitions in India at school, state and academy levels. He is planning a 12 team pre world cup tournament in which Australia will participate in 2016, as a dress rehearsal, and which will also feature two teams from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and South America.
In addition to this he is planning plenty of football for these youngsters to try and bring them up to a competitive level. Baan is aiming for 40 international matches a year, and three trips abroad within that year, with Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East his desired locations.
This tournament is not just about hosting a top event, but also to perform more than adequately. This goal may result in the talked about and previously postponed IMG-R Super League be up and running by the end of the year. This league will be created along the lines of the IPL cricket competition and recently completed Hockey India League. Each Franchise will be allowed ten overseas players and the rest of the squad will be made up of local players. There are moves afoot to try and entice some of the biggest names in World Football to come and play for 5-6 weeks to give the league profile and attract sponsorship.
In three years time one group of youngsters will be privileged to represent India as the host nation in the Under 17 World Cup, but the goal being set is greater than that. It is hoped that the core of this team will help India qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Having not qualified since 1958 and then never having played they have the potential to carve their names in the history books. It will be an interesting journey to see if the giant has indeed awoken.
As the Paralympic Winter Games approach, it is worth noting that Australia will only compete in Alpine skiing at these games as no cross country skiers were selected. Tori Penedergast – who was on the show last week – will become the first female sit skier to compete at a Paralympics.
Snowboarding will be making its Paralympic debut and Australia has three competitors taking part, Trent Milton, Joany Badenhorst and Ben Tudhope. They will no doubt be spurred onto to succeed in memory of Perth Paralympic snowboarder Matthew Robinson who passed away due to a cardiac arrest while being transported in an air ambulance to Australia from Spain with neck and spinal injuries following a race accident in preparation for the Games. .
Robinson had been hospitalised for eight days in Barcelona after being injured on February 12 while competing at the IPC World Cup finals in La Molina, Spain.
One name to remember not only to watch out for but also for quiz night enthusiasts is Jess Gallagher. Gallagher is legally blind, but has represented Australia at the Winter and Summer Paralympics. In skiing, she won a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics. In athletics, she represented Australia at the 2012 London Paralympics but did not medal. She has however won a silver and a bronze medal at the 2011 Christchurch IPC Athletics World Championships in long jump and javelin, respectively. Gallagher was the first Australian woman to win a medal at the Winter Paralympics, and Australia’s second female Winter Paralympian.
Australia is captained by Cameron Rahles-Rahbula who will be attending his fourth games and who was the best performing athlete at the Vancouver Games for Australia. He won two bronze medals in the slalom and the Super G. the 30-year old has also announced that he will retire after these games, so it is hoped he can go out in style with another medal.
Australia is aiming to improve on Vancouver 2010 where it won four medals, one silver and three bronze. Here is wishing all our athletes the best of luck and that they achieve this goal.
This morning we wrote a piece on Danny Vukovic’s move to Japan in the hope that he can force his way into the Socceroos squad for the World Cup. (Vukovic’s Move Causes More Grief For Glory) In that piece we criticised the Perth Glory’s handling of this announcement.
Interestingly the club has still not sent out a Press release confirming the move and how it will work for the player and the club. They instead opted to take to Twitter to respond to our comment that it was reported that Vukovic may have the option to remain with the Japanese club at the end of his five month term.
The club have not confirmed or denied this to be the case although fans and media are expected to read the club’s website where there is no mention either way or as advised on Twitter to listen to the podcast of the CEO talking last night on the radio show “Let’s Talk Football.”
Is this really the way a professional sporting club handles media issues? Just last wednesday they faced a question about communication with their members at their members forum, is this how members are meant to find out about things at the club they invest in? Having to head to the internet or listen to podcasts? Surely the club should be the one driving this communication.
These are very sad days for Perth Glory Football Club, what it stood for, and for those fans who have stuck by the club. It is in a word embarrassing.
On the eve of the third and final test in Cape Town between Australia and the Proteas the ICC delivered its verdict on Australian David Warner’s controversial radio interview in the aftermath of the second Test in Port Elizabeth that Australia lost.
Warner was charged with a level-one breach of the ICC’s rule that demands players and coaches refrain from criticism of or “inappropriate comment” regarding opponents or match officials.
He was duly fined 15 per cent of his match fee – $2880. He could however have been fined up to 50 per cent.
Many believe that the whole issue was a storm in a tea cup, but one has to say that the whole issue showed that the game’s governing body the ICC is a toothless tiger.
A fortnight before this punishment Warner was contracted by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League for USD 880,000. Therefore a fine of $2800 is going to be almost loose change and unlikely to be much oaf a deterrent to prevent him making similar statements; that also applies to other players receiving similar payouts from the IPL. Therefore if the ICC is serious about reducing such outbursts and restoring cricket to be being a game played by gentlemen, or at least players with gentlemanly values, then they should look to suspend players rather than fine them.
If a replacement player comes in and performs it will make it harder for the suspended player to return to the side, and therefore when he does he will think twice before opening his mouth in the future.
One thing that is interesting is David Warner seems to thrive on controversy and one has to wonder whether he does not in fact come out with these statements to fire himself up as he always seems to deliver in the next test. In the recent Ashes series he made unfortunate comments about England’s Jonathan Trott during the first test for which he was criticised. He then scored 83 not out in the second innings of the second test to steer Australia to victory by 218 runs. In South Africa following his fine he blasted a quick fire 135.
Warner has a reputation now for shooting his mouth off, but surprisingly although he has been the subject of disciplinary action from both Cricket Australia and Cricket New South Wales in the past, his fine in South Africa is only the second time he has attracted punishment from the ICC. The other time was when he received a reprimand for dissent after standing his ground and then shaking his head after he was given out leg-before in a one-day Interenational against Sri Lanka at the SCG in January 2013.
They say that sport and politics don’t mix, but as the problems in the Ukraine escalate it would appear that some of the countries top sportsmen cannot help but become involved.
At the height of the fighting on the streets in Kiev former World Pole Vault Champion Sergei Bubka who heads Ukraine’s Olympic Committee desperately urged both sides to lay down their weapons and bring a halt to the violence taking place. Sadly Olympic Gold medallist Bubka who felt that the violence was bringing the country ‘to the brink of catastrophe’ was not best placed to make this plea. A former Ukrainean politician himself he has long been a supporter of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych and has backed strengthening ties with Russia; not a popular view in Kiev.
Another athlete embroiled in the turmoil is recently retired former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko, like Bubka another product of the very successful Soviet sporting system. Yet that is pretty much where the comparisons end. Klitschko quit boxing to become a leader of the Ukraine’s protest movement and is a member of the interim government and will run for the country’s Presidency in the May elections.
It is believed that Vladimir Putin is using his own Heavyweight tactics to try and nip Klitschko’s aspirations in the bud. He has sent former WBA World Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuev the 7ft tall “Beast from the East” to Sevastapol which is the capital of the Ukraine’s pro- Russia stronghold in Crimea to try and sway some votes away from Klitschko. He was joined by former Olympic figure skater Irina Rodina, no doubt hoping to gain the female or possibly male votes.
Ironically Klitschko’s last professional bout was held in Moscow and ringside cheering him on was Vladimir Putin. It would appear that now the two are very much in opposite corners.
However as these sportsmen become embroiled in a fight that will see many innocent people hurt, we should spare a thought for the average Ukrainian. This country has a history of being invaded that goes back to the eleventh century. It also suffered greatly at the start of the last century where control of the city of Kiev changed hands five times in 25 years. Before World War II the population was over 400,000, by the time the fighting stopped it was only 80,000. Out of that loss of life and devastation came the legacy of Dynamo Kiev football club. A story brilliantly told by Andy Dougan in his book “Dynamo.” Let us hope it does not take more tragedy for a sporting legend to arise.