All posts by Angel Morales

Celebratory Fireworks in Iraq

Anti-Government Protests are growing worldwide, with one such nation expressing their right to refuse by creating celebrations for the Iraq World Cup Qualifying Match. Thousands of protestors gathered in crowds at the Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, an epicentre for political demonstrations. to watch the biggest soccer match of the year, even after government officials implemented new secret crackdowns for violent actions earlier in the year.

The Iraq National Football Team played two matches against Iran in November. The 1st was held in Basra and the 2nd in Bahrain. Both towns saw their respective anti-government protests similar to those in Baghdad, indicating a significant transition in the middle east to dethrone Princes and Leaders. After the International Soccer Federation lifted their thirty-year ban on matches being held in Iraq, they determined that no games would be played in the country for the 2019 Season. This was another reason that saw increased protests across Iraq.

However, the anti-government protestors didn’t take this win and turn it into a horrendous event filled with death. Instead, the skies of Iraq lite up in fireworks after the first goal was scored in eleven minutes. For the remainder of the game, these protestors danced, chanted their favourite soccer songs and beat drums like thunder itself. Several demonstrators were thrilled with the turn out after the security crackdown, for they feared that most would choose to stay home. The Iraqi people showed their governments that they wouldn’t falter their ways of life and stand up for their rights.

The Iran Debacle

The first protest in Iraq began when a terrorist event left 320 Dead and more than two thousand wounded. It’s considered the most significant terrorist attack in Iraq’s history. It would quickly be revealed that the culprits were Iranian, which prompted deadly protests with thousand outraged at the significant threats facing their country. Since then, these protests have also become about fundamental human rights, lack of essential services, widespread corruption and a minimal job force.

The government has proposed various options for constitutional and economic reform, but all propositions have been rejected. There have been official callings for political leadership to step down, including the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Protestors are also demanding that Iraq stop engaging with Iran entirely. Since the proposal rejections, authorities have begun arresting and attacking demonstrators. It would be long till their protests turn violent like in Paris and Hong Kong.

Derby Sacks Keogh

This week the management of Derby County FC announced that they terminate the contract of their injured captain with immediate effect. This is all the results of a night of too much boozing which seriously went wrong and left the captain with an injury that very well might signal the end of his playing career.

On the 24th of September, the team from Derby County was out for a night of team bonding. This led to excessive drinking. Later on that night, the car which that was driven by Derby forward Mason Bennett crashed in the car in front of him, being driven by Rams midfielder, Tom Lawrence. Lawrence lost control over the Range Rover and crashed into a lamp pole. Keogh, who was seated in the back of the car, sustained a knee injury when he damaged his knee ligaments.

He was left unconscious in the car as both Bennett and Lawrence fled the scene. They only returned 45 minutes later and was then arrested. Both these players admitted guilt to driving under the influence. During their court case mid-October, their driving licenses were suspended for two years, they were fined the value of six weeks’ wages, and they have to complete 180 hours of community service.

Keoghs Ending Journey

The 33-year-old captain joined the club in 2012 when a contract valued at £1 million were signed. During this period, he appeared more than 350 times for the club on the field. He was also part of the driving force to get the club to the play-off finals for the Championship.

This contract comes to an end in June next year. The injury which Keogh sustained is estimated to take him out of play for the next 12-24 months. In response to this, the club offered that he stays until his contract run out, but at a far lesser rate than the roughly £25 000 which he got paid per week. The captain wasn’t happy with this offer and felt that the club’s attitude towards him and the contract were unacceptable. Hence he declined their offer.

The Club’s Response

In response to this, the club management announced this week that Keogh’s contract is terminated with immediate effect. They stated that the club wouldn’t tolerate his behaviour on the night of the accident. They are firmly set against any player behaving in such a way that it impacts any member of the team negatively. His behaviour also reflected negatively on the club.

Thus he was sacked for his improper conduct. Keogh has now 14 days to appeal their decision. The injured player has to decide on what his available options are at this stage where he is facing a long road of recovery and rehabilitation. At this stage, it is also expected that the Professional Footballers’ Association might get involved.

Racism in Soccer Increasing

Authorities are being accused of not doing enough, but they are at wits end about the racist behaviour which appears to be entirely out of their control. Merely days after a match was halted twice in Bulgaria due to racist slants and monkey noises from the crowds aimed at players of the opposing English team, the team of Haringey Borough walked off the field. The team was up against Yeovil Town when the goalkeeper for Haringey, Valery Douglas Pajetat was spat at.

Recently a European 2020 qualifier game was paused twice due to the crowds mocking some of the players in the English team with racist chants, monkey noises and Nazi salutes in Bulgaria. The qualifier was between England and Bulgaria, and even though the UEFA guidelines weren’t followed thoroughly, twice announcements had to be made to ask the crowds to comply with this regulation.

Another instance of racism took place in the FA Cup tournament when the Haringey team decided to walk off the field in support of their goalkeeper, Valery Douglas Pajetat. An object has hit Pajetat flung towards him from the crowd, and someone also spat on him. The team that was leading at this stage with 1-0 was driven off the field by their manager Tom Loizou during the 64th minute of the game.

Racism Out of Control

According to Darren Lewis, a sports journalist, this action taken by Haringey is a new standard in this sporting arena. He stated that for a long time, players believed that they couldn’t do anything from their side to stop the racism and that they merely have to deal with it. Walking off the field in protest is a new development. It does seem though that the control of the crowds is mostly not possible.

This week Serbia’s team was punished by UEFA for the racist behaviour of their supporters. In September the team was up against Portugal when the Belgrade Stadion Rajko Mitic was the place where the Serbian fans were guilty of racism. Now the team has been punished with a $37 000 fine, and they are forced to display #EqualGame banners at the stadium. They are also forced to play their next two home games without a crowd. Whether this will be an effective solution is still to be determined, but it surely is indicative of the authorities grasping in the air to seem practical.

For Haringey and Yeovil, another outcome was decided upon. The game is rescheduled to take place during this week, and only better behaviour can be expected. This is not the first time that games have been brought to a sudden halt. During last season Wymeswold Reserves left the field due to abuse towards one of their players by Cosby United Development and Padiham FC also evacuated the area due to racist insults from the crowds during a match against Congleton Town.

Teams Dominating Europe’s Leagues

Europe is the playground of some excellent football at the moment. The race to the top is on between the leagues, and they don’t disappoint. Although the most popular leagues often fill the leading positions, this year all teams are truly competing for a place in the Champions League of next season. Here are some of the current standings according to the league rankings of UEFA.

Real Madrid – La Liga

Regardless of a somewhat rocky start to the season, Real Madrid is occupying the first place in the rankings. We have to remind ourselves that they did indeed win all eight of the games played until now. This team has been referred to as the worst team that Real Madrid has ever seen and hence occupying the current number one position is an excellent reason for Los Blancos to smile.

Liverpool – Premier League

Liverpool has been dominating the Premier League the entire season until now. Jurgen Klopp’s influence seems to be paying off well with the Reds winning all eight games played thus far and it is clear that they are hungry for that league title.

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Bundesliga

For a change, the Bundesliga isn’t dominated by Bayern Munich, and indeed thus far it is the men of Marco Rose’s team surprising the league with great success thus far. Will they be able to stay at the top? We don’t know but then again nobody expected to see them at the top in the first place. Hence they might surprise the Bundesliga even more.

Juventus – Serie A

This is not an unfamiliar position for Juventus, yet reaching the top of Serie A didn’t come easy this season thus far for Juventus. Currently, they are locked in a feud to the top position alongside Inter. It seems that this rival from Italy has been reborn under the guidance of Antonio Conte. Maybe Juventus takes their ninth consecutive league title, and perhaps this honour belongs to someone else this season.

Paris Saint-Germain – Ligue 1

They haven’t been putting on an extraordinarily brave battle this season thus far, yet they made it to the top. This is, however, a position that is under serious threat with many teams battling to shift into first place. Thus they are truly aware of the fact that they won’t be able to slack one little bit for the remainder of the season to make it to their third consecutive win of the league title and their seventh during eight seasons.

Lokomotiv Moscow – Premier Liga

Lokomotiv was falling short during the previous season and this time around they are adamant about going that one step further. Lokomotiv is in a position where four teams all share the same point count, yet they have a goal difference and hence the spot as the leader of the pack. The man behind this goal count, Grzegorz Krychowiak, midfielder to West Bromwich Albion.

Goodbye to Schweinsteiger

It was with shock that supporters of this Major League Soccer club received the news when Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from football this week. He posted on his social media that he will be retiring about an hour before the club announced their return to Soldier Field. This is truly a sad day not only for the club which was placed onto the map due to the performance of this great player but for the world of soccer as a whole. During his career, the 35-year-old German played mostly for Bayern Munich, before moving on to Manchester United for a short stint and then he joined the MLS club, Chicago Fire in 2017.

His Career

While playing most of his career at the European giants on the field, Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger has won seven German Cups and eight Bundesliga titles as well as the 2013 Champions League titles. Schweinsteiger scored 45 goals during his more than 300 appearances between 2002 and 2015 for Bayern Munich. He also represented his country 121 times on the field and scored 24 goals for Germany, a team which he also captained from 2014 until he left for Manchester United.

At Manchester United, he played 18 teams for the club and won the League Cup as well as the FA Cup before moving to Major League Soccer when he joined the Chicago Fires. At the Fires, Schweinsteiger represented the club 85 times and scored eight goals.

Saying Farewell

Schweinsteiger stated that it is tough for him to say goodbye since he is still very much active. He however also stated that he is looking forward to new challenges in the future and that he will always remain committed to the sport. His announcement was met with Bayern Munich sharing in his nostalgia when they posted a video sharing the highlights of his career from his early days onwards. Joe Mansueto, the owner and chairman of Chicago Fire, stated that Schweinsteiger managed to place his club on the world map. He was also applauded for being an excellent teammate and a great leader with brilliant skills, and he was an exemplary influence on the team.

A Low-Key Retirement

Schweinsteiger kept his retirement plans very low-key, and Fire’s coach Veljko Paunovic was informed only a few hours before the team took on Orlando City in their final season match. The German only shared the news after the game was over with his teammates. Paunovic stated that the star has always sustained a high level of professionalism on and off the field and that he made a significant impact as the influencer on the younger players in the club. Now he has the tremendously difficult task to find a replacement player for such an excellent star, and it is an almost impossible task.

Schweinsteiger stays in Chicago with his wife and former tennis star Ana Ivanovic. They have two sons who were both born in the city. Schweinsteiger earned an annual salary of $5.6 million which made him the fifth highest-paid player in Major League Soccer.

Jamie Vardy Exceeding Renaldo

For a long time, Christiano Ronaldo has been one of the top goal scorers in the Premier League, but this weekend he was forced to move down one in the rankings by no other than a former amateur footballer, Jamie Vardy. To top it all off, Vardy managed his record amount of goals in fewer games than what Ronaldo could do it in.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jamie Vardy was running out on the field for the Stockbridge Park Steels. They are a football club in the seventh division in English soccer. Since those days, the 32-year-old striker came a long way. Vardy started playing for the Stocksbridge Park Steels when he was 16 years old. Here he spent three years before he moved on to H.C. Halifax Town. In this Northern Premier League club, Vardy scored 25 goals and won the Player’s Player of the Year award of the club. Then he spent some time at Fleetwood Town before moving on to Leicester City in 2012. His non-league transfer fee was a record-setting £1 million. Money well spent since he played a vital role in the club winning the Championship in 2014. Now Vardy has placed Leicester City once again in the limelight.

Setting a New Record

On Sunday the 29th of September, Leicester City was up against Newcastle United. Vardy scored two of the five goals in their 5-0 victory. With these two goals, he surpassed Ronaldo’s record of Premier League goals. Vardy’s first goal was a finish from the inside of the box and the second goal was a header. These two goals tallied his total amount of goals in the English top division to 85 goals, just one more than Ronaldo’s total of 84. In addition to this, one must also note that Vardy entered the Premier League is already 27 years old. Vardy managed to achieve his record in a total of 183 games compared to the five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or who needed 196 games to make his record. Vardy’s number of goals also placed him on par with Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard, the duo from Chelsea. He is also one ahead of Carlos Tevez, the former Manchester United and Man City striker.

A Gamble Which Worked Out Well

When Leicester City paid the transfer fee for Vardy which was considered to be a record high at the time, they took a gamble on him. This became a gamble that brought on high returns. During his first two seasons, Vardy managed to score 20 goals for his club. During the 2015-2016 season though, he came into his full potential under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri, and he scored 24 goals for Leicester City. This achievement helped them in getting promoted to the Premier League. His excellent performance meant that it was no surprise that he won Player of the Season award for that year.

Fifa Sanctions Coming

In the aftermath of the very glitzy “The Best Awards” hosted in Milan at the Teatro Alla Scala. This is an event where the top footballers, as well as coaches, get recognized. FIFA is threatening to sanction some of the national federations. Their reason for concern is how voting polls are managed.

FIFA expressed their concern about the voting process and found the integrity of the voting process questionable. They stated that they deem the entire process as being unfair and quite misleading. The voting process is following a structure where the winners of both the best men’s player as well as the best coach are selected by a global jury which consists of many voters. These voters are represented by one coach per team, as well as the captains of all these teams. Each territory which is represented by a national organization also has one specialist journalist on the voting jury.

All fans who are registered on FIFA.com can cast their vote. Concerns had risen only mere days before the ceremony when captain Juan Barrera from the team of Nicaragua made an announcement on his social media about the fact that he hasn’t cast his vote. His vote seems to be cast by Manuel Rosas, and Barrera’s names were wrongfully submitted. FENIFUT soon reacted with an apology also on their social media platforms, stating that they apologize for the misunderstanding and that it was an administrative error which caused confusion and annoyance.

More Unrecorded Votes

Shortly after this occurred, it came to light that the votes cast by Shawky Gharib, coach to the Egyptian team and team captain Ahmed Elmohamady were never taken into account. The reason for this was apparently because their votes were signed in capital letters, which is against the voting rules set by FIFA. These two who represent the Egyptian Football Association voted for Mohammad Salah, their fellow countryman and forwarded to Liverpool. FIFA stated that this vote went unrecorded because the EFA’s forms didn’t carry the mandatory signature of the general secretary of their federation. According to FIFA they also made contact twice with the EFA to obtain the necessary forms before the cut-off date of the 21st of August. This didn’t happen though, and their votes weren’t counted.

FIFA stated that these and a number more votes will be investigated and if it is evident that the set-out rules of the federation weren’t followed in the voting process, they will apply sanctions to these national federations as needed. The winners of the prestigious event were Lionel Messi as the best player, and Megan Rapinoe received the award as a best female player. Jurgen Klopp won the best manager award, and Jill Ellis received the distinction as the best female coach.

Manchester City Fails

During the past weekend, Norwich City had a glorious moment of victory over the world leaders, Manchester City, when the novices took them on in what was believed an impossible mission on their home territory. A final score of 3-2 in Norwich’s favour left the fans in disbelief for a while before the celebration of this historic victory took off. Now Norwich City manager, Daniel Farke warns his team to remain humble.

Farke is entirely aware of the challenges which still lies ahead for his team, and he doesn’t want them to lose their focus now. Next, they are up against Burnley and then follows more severe competition against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa as well as Bournemouth. The additional pressure on the team to perform again as they did against Man City is another concerning factor to the manager. Farke doesn’t want the expectations of the team to shift in any manner now after their victory and is stopping the notion in its tread both outside and inside of his club.

Having a Fair Chance

Farke stated that they are fully aware of all the challenges which are still lying ahead of them. He also mentioned that they are still the underdogs in the league and just only winning one major game is in no way indicative of them winning the title of Premier League. His team needs to remain humble at all times, remembering that they were only recently promoted into the league. Even though he is glad for his team and wants them to savour the moment of their victory, they shouldn’t ponder too long on celebrating and then slack on preparing for their next clash. Each game offers the opportunity to greatness, but each game also delivers its challenges.

Stay Humble but Confident

Even though Farke is pressing his team to remain humble, he does want them to transform the confidence which winning such an epic game in front of a home crowd, to their advantage. He wants his team to play a game where they are confident in themselves and their ability, but never overconfident. Each game is different, each game delivers new challenges, and to be able to adapt quickly, the lads need to have both feet on the ground.

Farke also stated that the club is playing against a couple of big clubs early on in the season. That is another influencing factor to their quality of play. For now, however, he is more concerned to be prepared for every game which is on the roster and to ensure that every single player is delivering a peak and consistent performance, than with who they are competing against. Farke is also evident in the fact that he wants his team to enjoy every game which they play. That is the positive and humble attitude which he is trying to instil in his side.

Premier League Deal Leads to Arrests

Suspicion regarding the transfer of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbian striker, to Newcastle United lead to several raids in the cities of Monaco, London and Belgium this week. Two people were arrested during these raids, including an agent. The police suspected that money-laundering took place already during 2015 when Mitrovic moved from Anderlecht in a transfer to St James Park for the amount of £13 million.

The investigation started already early on during the year. Initially, the headquarters of Belgian FA was raided. During this week further raids were done of which four were done in Monaco, one was done in London and two in Belgium. The entire investigation is done in collaboration with the Belgian anti-corruption judge as well as Belgian tax officials and police. The assistance of British revenue officers and customs and the Metropolitan Police was also given in the probe.

Anderlecht under Suspicion

Although the details are still a bit uncertain at this stage, it seems that there are more transfers from Anderlecht which came under suspicion. At this stage, the assignments for Romelu Lukaku in 2011 to Chelsea as well as the transfer which took place during the previous season when Leander Dedoncker moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers are also under suspicion. Currently, Youri Tielemans is playing for Leicester City, but his transfer to Monaco during 2017, is also being investigated. The investigations into these transfers are linked to suspected bribe money which has been paid to officials at Anderlecht who assisted in facilitating the assignments of these players. These investigations into the activities and various parties involved with Anderlecht, could not be coming at a worse time for the club. Currently, they are experiencing an intense low in performance on the field and is only rated at number 13 within their league due to only being able to achieve one victory from six games played.

Arrested Parties

At the moment, the main focus in the investigation seems to be Christophe Henrotay. The agent is one of the parties arrested during one of the raids which took place in Monaco. It appears that his extradition back to Belgium is being arranged, while several assets including a Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche, boat and apartments have been taken. Henrotay is not only the agent of Thibaut Courtois but is also linked to Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. Carrasco was supposed to make a high profile move during the summer season, yet the move never materialized. He is also linked as the agent to Kevin Mirallas and Dieumerci Mbokani as well being a consultant to Daniel van Buyten. Another arrest which was made in Belgium is an associate of Henrotay, Christopher Cheniaux.

Even though this investigation is unrelated to the 2018 scandal which shook the Belgian football world when financial fraud, as well as match-fixing, was investigated, it does reflect badly once again on the local Belgium soccer scene.

Chelsea Making an Offer to Aussie Sam Kerr

The 25-year old Australian striker has made some dangerous waves in the world of football over the past couple of years. She has not only inspired young talent with her skills and abilities but also became the face identified with both Perth Glory as well as the Matildas. Currently, she is playing in the United States in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Chicago Red Stars, where she is still contracted to play six more season games. After that, she will return to Perth, where she is recruited to the Football Federation Australia as a marquee player. Currently, she has no contracts binding her to either Perth Glory or the W-League.

The Lure of European Soccer

About two years ago, the French club, Paris Saint-Germain, showed some serious interest in the Australian and at that stage, even Kerr herself thought that maybe this is the end of her return to W-League. Now the interest in Kerr and her brilliant career came from the English giant, Chelsea. Chelsea made Kerr an offer of $1 million over two years. Playing for Chelsea is however much more than getting better pay, for Kerr. This could mean achieving a higher level of success for the striker. Europe is still the core around which the world of soccer rotates, globally. Playing for Chelsea would mean that Kerr would now have the opportunity to become part of the European soccer scene, to play in the English Women’s Super League and to be part of the Champions League, where she will be able to compete against the best teams in Europe.

A Great Loss for Australian Soccer

One person who is all too aware of this offer to Kerr and the effect which it would have on Australian soccer, to see her go, is Tony Pignata, CEO of Perth Glory. Even though he thinks that it is brilliant that such an outstanding player is offered such a great opportunity, it would be a loss for them. Kerr has made a massive impression in the world of football in Australia and contributed significantly to the much higher level of exposure which not only the Matildas but also Perth Glory has been receiving over the past couple of years. He also mentioned that they are waiting for her to finish off her season in the US, but they have been in conversation with her manager already, regarding returning to Perth Glory. Pignata considers Kerr to be one of the best soccer players in the world, and although he wishes her only the best, it would be almost impossible to replace her in his team. Currently, they can’t do much more except to hope that she will decide to return and remain part of the group, although this is probably not the best move she could make to enhance her career. Following the European route remains the possibility of an entirely new level of exposure for her.