Posts tagged ‘Champions’

Hockey India League Heading in The Right Direction.

The second Hero Hockey India League has reached the semi-final stage with the same four teams from 2013 facing off to challenge for the title today in Ranchi. Uttar Pradesh Wizards will play Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors will meet defending Champions Ranchi Rhinos; their third meeting in successive games, Punjab having won the first two.

Most players and coaches have stated that the second edition has seen a much closer competition, and the addition of Kalinga Lancers meant the competition could be played on a straight home and away basis, a move welcomed by all.

As great a showpiece as the tournament has been and Star sports has invested heavily in their coverage using 22 cameras as opposed to the standard six normally used, to try and give sports fans a more inclusive experience, taking them into the heart of the action, deficiencies in the development of young Indian players has been evident.

German goalkeeper Nikolas Jacobi, playing for the Delhi Waveriders stated that the problem lay in the young players being taught the basics in terms of positional play and structures in attack and defence that many other nations instil in their children at a very young age. Terry Walsh the recently appointed coach of India agreed with these comments, and has said that he will be working on trying to improve the standard of coaching in the development stages so that time does not have to be spent on these issues when the international squad meets.

The Hockey India League, has been a great opportunity for many young Indian players to step up and show what they are capable of, as well as learn from top players and coaches from around the world. Some have however shown that they may still be slightly overawed by the company in which they find themselves.

Olympic Gold Medal winning coach Barry Dancer in charge of the table topping Jaypee Punjab Warriors has said that he would like to see more foreign players made available so that the HIL product can continue to improve. At present each team has ten foreigners in their squad with only five allowed on the pitch at any one time. He has also stated that he would like to see another team introduced.

Were that to happen one would hope that recruitment for that team was looked at carefully. Kalinga Lancers performance was remarkable when one considers that apart from their overseas recruits none of their Indian players had played at international level for two years. All of the current players or those on the verge of international status had been taken by the other franchises. A new franchise would need to have access to some established talent in order to be competitive.

Barry Dancer talked about recruiting from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, but how about also looking to Asia, and picking some South Korean (maybe soon Korean) players or Japanese, and help hockey develop and gain an audience in this region? Then there is the horny issue of allowing Pakistan players to play.

In 2013 Mumbai Magicians recruited a number of Pakistan players but due to issues of unrest back home in Pakistan and tensions at the border it was decided that it was best they did not play. Politically things have stabilised in recent times and it is very sad that talented players from Pakistan, who will help boost the crowds and also offer so much in terms of their ability, are not being seen in such a competition. The game as a whole would benefit so much from their participation.

It is hard to justify why they have not been welcomed back when former Pakistan players are involved in the commentary teams on television, as have their counterparts in the cricket coverage in India. Why should current players suffer?

The Hero Hockey India League has been a great advertisement for the game of Hockey. It has grown from 2013 in so many ways, but still has room to improve. Video referrals are one area that both players and coaches would like to see implemented from the start of the competition, and not just from the semi finals. With such a system working at most international tournaments it is only fair to expect it in a premier competition such as this.

The great thing is rivalries are being established within the league and Hockey is returning to the consciousness of the Indian people. This league is part of the plan to restore India to the top ranks of World Hockey, it will not happen in the short term but the country is moving in the right direction.

February 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Underpinning The Top Level

The new year is well under way and football fans have a great deal to look forward to with a World Cup in Brazil. Closer to home they have the new National Premier Leagues to look forward to. A competition that is going to link the top semi-professional leagues around the country.

It is important to remember why this league has come about, it has been forced upon the game in Australia because those running the game at the time Australia was bidding to be accepted into the Asian Football Confederation promised a second tier competition to the A-League by 2013. Hence the unwillingness to listen to the concerns of clubs around the country and the “we’ll adapt as we go approach.” Building something on shifting sands is never a wise decision.

It is interesting to note that the NPL should come into being in 2014, the same year that the Australian Rugby Union will be launching the National Rugby Championship. Although created for very differing reasons, both sports realise that the second tier competition is lacking and that without it the elite teams suffer.

Let us go back to the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. Australia was on top of the world in sport, maybe not in football just yet but that was just around the corner. Sports science was the buzz word and anyone that worked in the field in Australia was much in demand as the rest of the world clamoured to match a nation that punched well above its weight.

Australia looked to keep one step ahead of the rest of the world as key personnel headed overseas and started running international programs for other nations. One of the innovations was to hive off talented youngsters and keep them in a controlled environment, control their training, eating habits and game time, the idea being that at the end a supremely fine tuned athlete would emerge. Very similar to some Eastern Bloc regimes just without the steroids. Many of these selected athletes were not to perform with the clubs from which they had been plucked, as the fear was if they played amongst lesser talented individuals their standard would drop back to theirs.

The major downside of these controlled environments, apart from some young players getting ahead of themselves, is that you are unable to gauge how the finely tuned athlete will perform when the chips are down, or in a an overly physical environment. Do they have the inner strength the physical toughness, not just the muscle, to get the team across the line.

It was baseball coach Yogi Berra who coined the phrase ‘Baseball is 90% mental the other half is physical.’ With time the word ‘baseball’ was replaced by the word ‘sport.’ The funny thing is that 90% of coaches along with their athletes spend 100 percent of their time working on the physical and tactical sides  of their sport. The reason being that mental edge cannot be taught. Some people have it, some people don’t and it has nothing to do with lifestyles.

In the era mentioned, when Australia was at the top in rugby union and cricket, players played for their clubs, if they were lucky they were picked for their state side. They were not guaranteed a long term place in the side, they had to perform on a regular basis in order to earn that right. If they couldn’t cut it they were back playing with their clubs. What is more important in both of these sports when there were no test matches international players would be playing at their clubs, that in turn helped aspiring players learn what was required to make it to the next level. Nowadays in cricket they hardly ever play for their states teams let alone their clubs. 

The problem with the academy system is you have as a club committed to a player, you may be able to create this magnificent specimen of an athlete, -as this is how all sports people are classed now – but how do you know that athlete can perform? The only way is to throw them in the mix, but then many coaches are loathe to do that at the highest level because their job could be on the line if the athlete fails and the team loses.

Australian rugby has realised this predicament, and that is why they have created the National Rugby Championship. This will give those fringe players, as well as the academy players a chance to show what they can do in a real game situation, without harming the integrity of the Super 15 sides.

Australia were superb in this Summer’s Ashes but that victory covered over a great number of cracks in the game and the talent pool. One of the things that the rest of the world admired about Australian cricket of yesteryear was how they seemed able to pluck players at random from the Sheffield Shield competition and these players were able to perform at Test level. That is no longer the case.

Football has to accept that with the dawn of the professional era in Australia, the gulf between the A-League and the new NPL players is widening. It is already bigger than it has ever been. Ex Socceroo and A-League coach John Kosmina spoke out about this in 2011, and stated that the FFA needed to invest money at this level. The NPL will see negligible investment from the FFA. The points system is also going to be detrimental to the development of quality players capable of making that step up to the next level; the players points system penalises players as they get older, as they are worth more points and teams can only field a side with a set number of points.

The points system is a protectionist move to ensure that the young players who they have had in their development programs – and in some cases whose parents have spent thousands of dollars in the hope that their son will make it to the big time – get to play senior football. The State League competition, or NPL as it is now, is not and never should be a development league! If you turn this competition into a development league you will end up starving the A-League of genuine talent. That is unless you want the A-League to be a development league for overseas clubs?

As rugby has realised the second tier needs to be highly competitive and in that environment the cream will rise to the surface. One problem Football faces, being governed by FIFA rules, is getting around how fringe A-League players on full professional contracts can compete in a separate competition, run by a different body without terminating those contracts. FIFA have advised Not The Footy Show previously that there is no such thing as dual registration, so that is not an option.

There is no doubt that Football needs an improved second tier competition and to have it linked nationally is definitely a great move, however as touched on before, geography and costs should not play such a big part in the play-off series to decide who Australia’s champions will be. By bowing to these influences you are tampering with the integrity of the competition as well as hampering the natural evolution of teams and players. Essentially by giving in to such constraints the FFA opens itself up for accusations of skewing the competition in order to get what they want out of it.

Respected Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger several years ago threw down a challenge to any coach who could identify a 13 year old and guarantee that they would play at the highest level when they reached adulthood. There are too many variables to be able to guarantee such things, yet the FFA and its development pathway seem hellbent on proving the likes of Wenger wrong.

Skill and preparation will get a player so far, as rugby has discovered. However the reality is that sport is 100% mental, a player’s thoughts influence his actions, and then those actions influence their thoughts. Ultimately it is in most cases the mental side that separates successful athletes from those who do not reach their full potential. The cold reality is unless you place an athlete in a real competitive environment you will never find out how good he is and whether he can cut the mustard.

Two sports taking very different approaches to underpinning their top competition, it will be interesting to compare rugby and football’s development over the next few years and how the Super 15 franchises and the A-League Franchises compare in terms of onfield performance and standards. As for Cricket, let us see which path they chose to go down in the future for Australia will no doubt have to re-visit the way it is doing things away from the Big Bash League.

 

January 10, 2014 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

Turning Ten

The Chinese Super League is the same age as the Hyundai A-League, both competitions celebrate their tenth anniversary in 2014. Obviously both nations have very different population bases on which to call upon in terms of support and playing personnel, but there are some comparisons worth looking at.

The A-League is made up of ten teams, the Chinese Super League has sixteen teams. The average attendance in the A-League for 2013 was 12,707. In the CSL it was 18,571. In the A-League fifty percent of the teams failed to achieve an average gate of 10,000, and only one averaged over 20,000, that was Melbourne Victory with 23,789. In the CSL two teams averaged under 10,000. six averaged over 20,000 with Champions Guangzhou Evergrande averaging 40,428.

In both leagues there is a limit on the number of overseas players per club. In the A-League there is a maximum of five players – although Western Sydney Wanderers have been allowed more – from outside Australia and in the Wellington Phoenix’s case outside of New Zealand. In the CSL although there are also five per team one slot is for a player from one of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation)  countries. A rule that may well benefit Australia. In China a team can only use a maximum of four foreign players on the field each game, in Australia its five. The aim in China is to promote native player improvement and to conform to rules regarding international club competitions in the AFC, such as the Asian Champions League.

When it comes to the Asian Champions League both countries started off with two spots, in 2009 China’s allocation was increased to four while Australia remained at two. That was until 2012 when both countries were given three spots, this changed again in 2013 with Australia given one automatic spot and one play off spot, while China kept its three automatic places.

Australia has had one team make the final, Adelaide United in 2008 where they lost to Gamba Osaka from Japan. China too has only had one team make the final since the start of the Chinese Super League, Guangzhou Evergrande who won in 2013 beating FC Seoul from South Korea.

The two leagues stack up in many respects but one where the gap is very real is when it comes to recruitment and player contracts. Salaries in Chinese football when compared to other Chinese sports leagues are much higher. As a result, numerous quality young players from Serbia, Brazil, Honduras, and other Latin American regions are signed as the foreign players in the Chinese league. These players are then sold on by the Chinese clubs to top clubs in Europe and South America. For example Guangzhou Evergrande recently sold Lucas Barrios to Spartak Moscow for EUR7million. Dario Conca also left the club this year to sign for Fluminese, the transfer fee has not been disclosed but is believed to be in the region of USD5million. When he was signed by Guangzhou it is worth mentioning that the deal saw him become the third highest paid player in the world behind only Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

This is where the A-League cannot possibly be compared. Rather than signing up and coming talent that they can sell back to clubs overseas they have opted to try and pull punters through the turnstiles with ageing stars of yesteryear, who are well past their use by date and who once they stop playing in Australia are unlikely to play again.

Interestingly both countries opted for a franchise model when setting up their league competitions, but this is where the real difference comes into play. In China, probably because of the population base they opted for a corporate franchise model, one that saw corporations with plenty of capital owning the clubs. In Australia they opted for private owners who wanted to become involved in the game for a myriad of reasons. None it would appear have utilised the pulling power of the game to the maximum, virtually all the clubs are still losing money, ten years into the league. Sadly the the word on the street is that one owner is again considering walking away at the end of the 2013/14 season as he can no longer sustain the losses at the club he owns as his primary business interests suffer.

Population undoubtedly plays a big part in attracting ownership such as the kind the clubs enjoy in China, but with corporate dollars behind them they can attract top players who in turn attract the crowds and then can recoup money on that investment when they sell the players on.

Many will say that Australia has a unique problem in that football has to compete with three other codes of football, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules. China however also has a number of sports vying for pole position in terms of popularity, and Badminton, Basketball and table tennis are the sport’s main rivals, while sports such as tennis, volleyball and boxing are all on the rise with success being achieved on the world stage.

It is interesting to compare the two leagues as they approach their tenth birthdays together, and one cannot help feeling that the reason success appears to be coming quicker in China is because they have grasped the fact that football is and always will be about the collective and not the individual.

January 3, 2014 at 9:26 am 1 comment

Who are the Champions?

There are many people in Australia who do not like the finals format used in sport around the country, there are others who simply find the ever changing formats hard to follow.

There is definitely a place for finals, but one has to ask whether there is merit in having half the teams in the competition in the finals  series, as this can only be interpreted as rewarding mediocrity.

If there was confusion before, there is likely to be more in football circles with the proposed format of the National Premier Leagues Finals. The NPL is a restructure of the game at semi-professional level to satisfy promises made to the Asian Football Confederation by the Football Federation of Australia. The NPL is to be the official second tier competition to the Hyundai A-League.

Western Australia will commence its NPL competition in early March 2013. The team that wins the home and away league season will be crowned Premiers, but the team that wins the expanded finals series contested between the top six teams will be crowned the Champions.

The Champions are the recognised overall winners, as in most Australian competitions. Yet in a strange twist the Champions will not be the team playing off for the title of NPL Champions of Australia, as waiting for the results of the finals series will apparently take too long in order to arrange flights and accommodation. IT could however also mean that the Premiers if they progressed in both competitions would be faced with a dilemma as to which final to play in? Sounds like a well thought through situation that will really enhance the game.

So the State Champions will not play for the National Championship, the Premiers will and they could in fact be crowned Champions of Australia but not Champions in their own state. If that makes sense and is indeed the best outcome for the game, can someone explain how.

It will be interesting to hear the AFC’s view on this as the FFA insisted that the Grand Final winners were the Champions of the A-league and they must be recognised as that and not the Premier’s Plate winners. They were the team to be rewarded  with a place in the Asian Champions League, – although two teams were in fact given places –  yet now the very rules they fought so hard for, they are changing themselves.

Of course should the Premier team win and in time have the opportunity of being promoted to the A-League, and let us not forget this is why the NPL has been created, to satisfy AFC that Australia has a second tier and there is promotion and relegation, even if that may not eventuate immediately. There could be legal issues which would follow, as a team that was not the ‘champion’ under the competition rules has prevented one who is from gaining that opportunity to play in the A-League. The wording of the competition rules is going to have to be looked at very carefully from the beginning, and not changed when someone challenges them.

Sadly once again we see an example of something not being thought through and the game opening itself up for legal challenges. If more people with an understanding of the game were involved in these decisions it may be extremely beneficial.

November 26, 2013 at 8:16 am 1 comment

Keeping your Winnings

Its Melbourne Cup day and not only will the winning horse, jockey and owner being going home with a nice cash prize as well as being a part of history, but thousands of punters will be rushing to pick up their winnings from various betting outlets.

In both cases it is the being involved the taking part that is the driving force, but if you win you want the rewards due to you.

Not The Footy Show was therefore surprised to hear that one sporting body in Western Australia is not giving its competition winners the cash prize that comes with being crowned Champions. The winning team has been given some cash and the rest is being held as a credit for next season. This has apparently ben the case for the past few years.

As we are talking about sums of several thousand dollars surely the clubs would rather have that money sitting in their bank account earning interest rather than the administrators?

It seems a bizarre set of circumstances. Were all the teams in the competition aware that these would be the terms if they won the competition?

Imagine if the various betting outlets held back some of the winnings from the lucky punters, as credit for next year, or if the Victoria Racing Club said the same to the winning owner, jockey and trainer?

A very strange situation and even more strange that the clubs accept these terms.

November 5, 2013 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

A Long Wait

There are many sporting teams who have never managed to reach the summit and claim that elusive title, but when one that has been competing for decades finally achieves that goal its worth sharing.

Mangaung in South Africa – formerly known as Free State – finally became national netball champions after over 50 years in the competition. They came from behind last weekend to beat favourites Gauteng 39-36.

The last time Free State won the title was when Southern Free State were champions in 1961 and then backed up to win again in 1962.

What made this victory all the more special is that Mangaung have played in six finals in the last ten years and on each occasion ended up on the losing side. Gauteng were going for their fourth successive title.

So congratulations to Mangaung enjoy the moment; we certainly hope it will not be another 50 years before your next title. 

August 21, 2013 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

Smith is the Best On Side.

On Saturday evening returning flanker George Smith won his 10th Brett Robinson Player’s Player award at the University of Canberra Brumbies end of season Presentation Night.

In what was definitely his final season with the Brumbies, Smith extended his already massive record of winning the award to 10. The last occasion he won being in 2010. George Smith is also the club’s most capped player with 142 appearances.

Smith left the University of Canberra Brumbies after the 2010 Super Rugby season and headed to France where he played with Toulon before moving to Japan to link with Suntory. He also enjoyed a short-term stint with iconic Parisian outfit, Stade Francais in 2012

This season Smith rejoined the Brumbies after representing Suntory in the Japanese league where he helped the club claiming the it’s fifth title. He then was an inspired recruitment by coach Jake White. Smith’s experience helped guide the Brumbies to the Super Rugby final where they were beaten by defending Champions the Chiefs.

The success of Smith and his recruitment by former Springbok coach Jake White was an issue not lost on many in South Africa. As Springbok coach White frequently bemoaned the work done by Smith at the breakdown, and questioned whether at times he in fact was infringing on the laws of the game. In South Africa flankers are often referred to as ‘fetchers’ and when White was asked why the 33 year old was so successful by a South African journalist he smiled and replied, ‘because he fetches.’

It would appear it is great when you have a player like Smith playing for you, not quite the same when he is playing for the opposition. The same is no doubt said about Richie McCaw and also David Pocock when fit.

Smith was an inspired selection by White as a replacement for the injured Pocock and his tenth award is testament to a truly great player.

August 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Some Stars Rather Than All

As the three big name players, Ono, del Piero and Heskey, withdraw from the Foxtel A-League All Stars to meet Manchester United one has to now ask questions as to whether this exercise although appearing a good one is something that should be binned in the future.

The All Stars were voted on by the fans and then based on the votes a panel of wise heads in football selected the final team. It was good to see who the public thought were the best players in the A-League and as the votes came in debate raged as it always does with any team selection; Some selections coming as a surprise to many supposed experts.

The problem with the modern day internet voting is it can so easily be influenced by a few to give a desired result. For example a fan forum could get behind one particular player at an A-League club and push all its members to vote for that player. He may well then poll well enough to be in the team, even if he was not the best player in the League.

The person one has to feel sorry for is the coach who has to try and mould these players into a team at short notice, as well as have them play good attractive football. No easy task in such a small time frame.

There is no doubt that this game will have a great deal of appeal to many fans who have not had the chance to see Manchester United play in England and support from afar. It is fantastic to see them back in Australia, but one can’t help feeling that a game against the Olyroos or the A-League Champions and/or Premiers would have had more appeal. Fans support a team, not individual players. However saying that, most fans are always pleased to see players from their club receive selection in such teams and for national honours.

With players selected having retired, been transferred and injured it has made the selection process a bit of a farce. Now that the three biggest names in the team have all withdrawn from the team and the game, its credibility is coming under even closer scrutiny.

The All Star team was a great idea that had plenty of merit, it is a shame that circumstances have meant it has not panned out the way everyone would have hoped.  Will that mean the idea will or should be shelved? Time will tell.

July 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

Tradition Loses Appeal

Wrestling will have to wait until the end of the year to find out if it maintains its place at the Summer Olympic Games. At present it faces being dropped, and unless it can state a very strong case along with seven other sports as to why it should still have a place in the 2020 Games, it will be gone.

Since the announcement in February some very high profile supporters have stepped forward including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was quoted as saying “The removal of traditional sports that have been central from the beginning and were in the programme of the Olympic Games in the times of Ancient Greece… is unjustified.”

Two former Olympic Champions Bulgarian Valentin Iordanov now his country’s wrestling federation chief and  Russia’s Sagid Murtazaliev returned their medals to the IOC as a form of protest should the sport that has featured in every modern Olympic Games since 1896 – with the exception of 1900- be dropped.

Nenad  Lalovic President of the International Federation of Wrestling (FILA) saw this as a ‘golden opportunity’ for the sport. “We are very grateful to improve our sport at every level and to help strengthen the Olympic movement. FILA has already begun a number of innovative initiatives to modernise the governance, presentation and promotion of our sport.” he said after a meeting with IOC head Jacques Rogge earlier this year.

One such change has seen the sport already talking to sporting goods manufacturers to produce a new singlet that will look different for Greco-roman events. They are to be applauded for including women in the sport. and athletes in this decision process.

One of the key reasons the sport finds itself in this predicament is that spectators often found the sport unwatchable as they did not understand the rules. Some of the blame for this must lie with the television commentators for not being able to put the rules across and excite the viewers. Lalovic is hoping that soon, spectators will leave events fully understanding the rules. If he can achieve that he will undoubtedly grow the sport’s popularity.

One sport not waiting to find itself in the same situation following the Games after Rio in 2016 is Fencing. Suggestions have been made for the protective tip to be removed from the foil so that the thrust will penetrate the opponent’s padding should he or she fail to parry.

In this fast-food world it would appear that spectators are no longer happy to take time to learn the rules. They need to understand the sport immediately or they will move on. Traditional sports such as these that are steeped in history as much as tactics face massive changes to satisfy consumer demand and maintain their olympic status. Hopefully at some stage someone will realise that without tradition, the Games will lose a great deal of meaning and will simply become another sporting event in an already packed schedule.

The sports vying for inclusion are: Baseball and softball a combined bid, roller sports, sport climbing (Indoor climbing), squash, Wakeboarding, and martial arts Karate and Wushu.

 

June 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

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