Just a few days ago it was announced that New Caledonia international star Georges Gope-Fenepej has penned a one-year deal with newly-promoted club Troyes AC in Ligue 1, France’s top tier.
It’s the second Pacific player that manages to sign for a professional club after the Nations Cup, with the first being Solomon Islands’ Benjamin Totori, who will ply his trade in the Australian A-League with New Zealand franchise Wellington Phoenix.
But many ask if things can go even further. Will Gope-Fenepej be able to affirm his abilities in one of Europe’s biggest leagues?
Certainly the guy has plenty of talent to show. His performances at last year’s Pacific Games and in the most recent edition of the OFC Nations Cup allowed him to make a name for himself around all the continent. But Europe is a totally different stage from Oceania and many others local stars didn’t have the best outcomes they wanted in their brief experience on the global stage, as it happened to Georges’s brother John, who played for Bolton Wanderers in England and for Nantes and Creteil in France, collecting only a hanfdul of presences over three years.
However Georges’s credentials for this huge chance in Europe seem more hopeful to make him a consistent player in France. Since now, of the few Caledonians who played professional, only Christian Karembeu and Antoine Kombouaré were successful. There are no reason whereby he couldn’t be the third.
Gope-Fenepej is a striker who plays mainly as a deep-lying forward. Technically he is miles ahead his fellow Caledonians teammates and probably all the others attacking players from the Pacific Islands. His touch is very precise and soft, which allows him to have a much better accuracy when trying to shoot, especially from close range where he rarely fails to strike down with his right foot, or passing the ball.
Georges’s powerful physicality also allows him to be dangerous on air, and this is why he can play also as a target man. His rugby player-like body, as for many other Oceanian players, strenghtens his means to free himself from the opponent defenders, despite he feels more comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Therefore Waddle, that’s his nickname among New Caledonia fans, has the rare ability of combining both technical and physical skills. Reaching this kind of high level of football despite being grown up only in Oceania points out how much innate talent he must have.
However Georges’s biggest limits are athletic. He’s not very fast and the completely different pace of a competition like the Ligue 1, compared to the Oceanian’s, could prove a very tough challenge to take on.
Consequently he could probaby expose his best if playing as a second striker. Between midfield and attack he can find more space than in a stationary position and could create chances for his team with passes or move more freely with less pressure. On the other hand he could be a good option upfront with his killer instinct, as forwards don’t necessarily need a great amount of speed for scoring goals. But there he wouldn’t find the space he requires to maximize his team’s profit with his technical skills. Much will depend on Troyes’s way of playing attacking football.
Notwithstanding his lack of speed he’s sure to last the whole game on the pitch as New Caledonia humid climate and Oceanian lofty temperatures generally imply high resistance and hard efforts.
Thus Troyes have a great tool in Gope-Fenepej. Their fans can’t expect too much from him immediatly as he need to adapt to a completely different level of the game, but after that he’ll be capable of showcasing his abilities in the right circumstances.
International career and data
Georges Gope-Fenepej started to obtain a reputation in the continent after his bursting performance in the 2011 South Pacific Games won by New Caledonia where he scored 7 goals in 5 matches, despite not playing in his team’s demolitions over Guam (9-0) and American Samoa (8-0), against which he could have certainly added even more to his tally.
But his definitive explosion occurred in June’s Nations Cup, particularly in the unpredictable 2-0 win in the semifinal against Oceania powehouse New Zealand, where he sealed the success with a delicious 93th minute goal.
Now he counts 9 goals in 11 appereances with his national team, but he doesn’t seem to stop right now.
AsianOceanianfootball takes a look at the top five uncapped Oceanian players abroad who could have played in the upcoming edition of continent’s top competition.
Marama Vahirua – AS Monaco – Age: 32
Papeete-born Marama Vahirua’s presence in the tournament could have given a major boost to Tahiti’s hopes of reaching Nations Cup semifinals and subsequently the third round of OFC qualifiers for 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The 32-year-old, who is now plying his trade in France’s second-tier with AS Monaco, is a full Tahitian citizen and despite having represented France at U-21 level, is still eligible to wear the Pacific nation’s shirt. With 309 matches and 69 goals in Ligue 1 with clubs such as Nantes, Nice Lorient and Nancy, Vahirua would have certainly been the most experienced striker of the competition and one of the biggest threats for the opponent defenders. He was awarded the Oceania Footballer of the Year’s trophy in 2005.
Frédéric Piquionne – West Ham United – Age: 33
West Ham United’s Frédéric Piquionne is by far the best footballer New Caledonia has ever produced after 1998 World Cup winner Christian Karembeu. The former Lyon and Saint-Etienne striker counts a cap for France national team in a friendly against Austria in 2007, but it’s unlikely to play again with Les Bleus and technically would have been eligible for his native country after new FIFA permissions of changing alliance if the matches played are only friendlies, as happened with USA’s Jermaine Jones, a former member of Germany national team. A powerful and strong striker, Piquionne has scored 83 league goals in his flourishing European career.
Wesley Lautoa – FC Lorient – Age: 25
New Caledonia have a solid and promising defender in Lorient’s Wesley Lautoa. The 24-year-old centre back was born in France in Epernay but holds New Caledonian passport thanks to his family’s heritage and is regarded as one of the most hopeful continent’s defender in Europe, with All Whites England-based Tommy Smith and Winston Reid. A muscular injury prevented him from playing regularly with his Ligue 1 outfit in his first six months at the club, after moving from second division team Sedan Ardennes in January.
Adrian Mariappa – Watford – Age: 25
Watford captain Adrian Mariappa almost joined Fiji national team for the previous Nations Cup but in the end he decided not to take up the place. The Jamaica international, who made his debut with the Reggae Boyz in a friendly match against Guyana in May, has still a chance to play for his father’s native country but now it seems highly unlikely he will join the team as his international career has just begun. Mariappa has Premier League experience on his shoulders having played 19 matches with Watford in the 2006-07 season, and was close to a return to England’s top flight competition after attracting interest from clubs with the likes of Wigan Athletic and Newcastle. He was voted Watford’s player of the 2011-12 season.
Brad McDonald – Central Coast Mariners – Age: 22
Talented left-back Brad McDonald represents one of Papua New Guinea’s stars of the future. The Kudjip-born defender plays in Australia for A-League Premiership winners and AFC Champions League team Central Coast Mariners, but he’s yet to debut with Graham Arnold’s side as he faces a hard challenge in fighting with the league’s most accomplished left-back Joshua Rose. McDonald made a name for himself in Australia’s top division after a stellar season with axed North Queensland Fury in 2010-11, which allowed him to sign a contract with the New South Wales franchise.
By Christian Rizzitelli
For those who follow Asian football the name of Aleksandar Duric has all but to sound familiar. The Singapore international veteran, who has over than 19 seasons of football on his shoulders, is actually the most prolific goalscorer of the world and one of the most feared strikers in the whole Southeast Asian region.
When did you start playing football and how did you manage to play in Singapore?
I started playing in the street with my friends like every kid in Yugoslavia, when I was 7. We played football everywhere, in the street, at school, all the time! Football is life for the country where I come from. My dad was a football player too but never played professional, only at amateur level. I was playing in West Adelaide in 1998 when I got a call from a Singapore team [Tanjong Pagar United] to come and play here, so I first went to the country in 1999.
What helped you most in becoming a professional footballer?
I became a professional player because of my love for this sport. I had a very difficult life when I was young as there was the war in my country, that I left with no money or future. But despite that nodoby really ever helped me with any contract with clubs, I work hard and train all the time and I think I’m a true professional footballer.
Which advice can you give all young boys in Singapore who dream of playing football?
They have only to work hard and never give up. Obviously they must love football because the passion is necessary, then they have to keep believing in themselves.
Are you generally satisfied of your career?
Not really, I’m sad that I didn’t have a shot to play in Europe. I think I could have had more success and more recognition for my achievements if I had played in Europe, but I am still happy for what I have achieved here and where I am now in my career.
What are your thoughts about football in Singapore? And about the S.League?
When I first came to Singapore I was very happy to play in the S.League, there were many talented players and the stardard of football was very high.
Unfortunately over the years this level has started going down because of the lack of support from sponsors, fans, and the football federation. The S.League is a very well organized competition but at the moment there are no enough money and support from government, we lost a lot of fans too recently.
Where should Singapore’s football improve most?
We should try to promote the game more to our youth here, it’s not so easy these days to make good footballers in Singapore as kids are not very keen on sports right now. We need to change it as they’re our future, they must dream of playing professional football.
Do you think there are some players in your country ready to play in Europe?
We have some really promising youngsters but the problem is that all boys must go to the army for two years and losing this amount of training is a huge trouble. But I hope to see one day some Singapore players trying they luck in Europe because I believe we have same good young talents, for example Hariss Harun.
Which is your best highlight with the national team?
My best highlight was when I started playing for Singapore national team in 2007, when I was 37 years old. I scored two goals in my first game, which was against Tajikistan. But of course one of my best moments was beating Malaysia at the World Cup qualifiers.
After hanging up your boots, what would you like to do?
I’d like to stay in football maybe as a coach or technical director. I want to try to find other players like me in Singapore in the next few years, it would be nice if I could coach kids to improve their football skills, they’re our future.
In 1506 the Portuguese sailor Tristão da Cunha sought a little volcanic archipelago made up of only four islands, dispersed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, between South America and Africa.
Because of the scarce geography’s knowledge of that time, Da Cunha was probably unaware to have just discovered the remotest islands of the whole Earth.
Infact these little isles, which subsequently were named “Tristan Da Cunha” in the honor of the Lusitanian mariner by Englishmen, are 2816 km away from South Africa, 3360 km from Argentina and 2430 km from Saint Helena, their closest islands. And between them, there’s only the immense, colossal Ocean.
But Tristão da Cunha could have never imagined that, in this semi-desert island, one day it would have been established the remotest national football team of the planet.
It seems incredible, but football has managed to arrive even there.
The name Tristan da Cunha represents both the archipelago’s name and its biggest island.
All the inhabitants are concentrated there, mostly in the capital, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
Tristan Da Cunha is under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, who provides school teachers, doctors and material goods.
It’s rummy to notice that in the island there are only eight surnames, of Scottish, English, American, Dutch and Italian heritage.
Most practiced activies are lobsters’ fishing and agriculture, despite the greatest introits come from the exportations of local stamps, required in the whole world.
Football, inhabitants’ true passion
The first sports played on the island were cricket and golf, whose court is considered the worst in the world. But it’s football that broke locals’ hearts.
Initial stories about football are found in a book written in 1926 by Rose Rogers, an Anglican missionary, who lived in Tristan da Cunha for three years with his husband.
Infact Rose says: “Tristan lads became immensely keen on football, and..would have liked a season to last all year round.”
“The games were very strenuous, and there was a good deal of cheerful noise about them.”
Rev. Henry Rogers was probably the one who introduced the game on the island. The first games didn’t have a precise number of players on the pitches, which were usually destined to cattles.
But around 1940 there was a turn that changed completely the world game in Tristan da Cunha. Infact for the first time, they should have faced a foreign team, made up of South Africans and American fishers. This was the first time where the island selected a squad similar to a national team.
Afterwards the team played against opponents from apparently unattainable countries, even from Norway. Unfortunately there is no information about these matches’ results.
But Tristan’s isolation made it difficult for them to find regular teams to take on apart of them. This only until 2005, when a resident, Leon Glass, decided to set up a proper football team, which should have been used to play against vessels’ mariners with a bit of continuity.
Leon Glass managed to find a sponsor for the team’s shirts, whose official colours are blue and white, the fishing’ company Ovenstone Agencies, and created the local club, which serves as a true national team of the island, the TDCFC, Tristan da Cunha Football Club. Their home pitch is the ‘American Fence’, another cattle field.
“I asked a few of the local lads who had enjoyed having kickabouts with visiting Navy teams if they would be interested in forming a team. They all agreed, though they said they would love to play in a proper kit,” revealad Leon Glass.
“I then contacted our local fishing company, Ovenstone Agencies, to ask if they would be interested in sponsoring our kit. They agreed, and paid for the full kit and printing.”
Until now the national team’s results have been more than acceptable: in 2008 they hammered 10-5 the International Salvage XI, a selection composed of two ships’ crews, and less than a year ago, they demolished 9-0 the RFA Black Rovers.
But Glass calls for more opponents for the next years: “TDCFC haven’t played many games lately as we have no-one to play against,” he added.
“Maybe, in the next few months, a few Navy ships will pass and give us a game.”
It would be amazing if Tristan da Cunha would join an official confederation, in order to seal their success in football, but before it’d be more useful is someone took a piece of chalk to draw midifield and penalty box’s lines, as they’re non-existent at the moment.
However the arrival of football in Tristan da Cunha is clearly another victory of the world game, who has already arrived where men can’t. What’s next impossible challenge for the round ball? Only time will reveal us, for now we can only say well done to Tristan da Cunha, for making the impossible, real.
Major source for the article: http://patmcguinness.blogspot.it/2010/11/tristan-da-cunha-fc-out-on-their-own.html
This is Nukunonu’s Hemoana Stadium, the only sport venue in Tokelau, a small island near Samoa with a population of just 1,411 people.
Its local community is very keen on developing a sport culture in the homeland, in particular on Rugby League, by far Oceania’s most popular sport, Netball and Football.
Perhaps it won’t be like playing in San Siro or Camp Nou, but for Tokelauans this is more than satisfying.
The Philippines have confirmed they have lined-up a friendly match against three-times ASEAN champions Indonesia in Manila on June 5.
Both the teams will use this match as a preparation for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup, which will be played between November and December in Thailand and Malaysia.
This is the third friendly Philippines will play in June, after they will face current regional champions Malaysia on June 1 in Kuala Lumpur and Thailand on June 8, despite the match against the War Elephans has yet to be confirmed.
“I expect some fantastic games, but these are build-up matches for the AFF Suzuki Cup later in the year,” Azkals’ coach Michael Weiss told after the confirmation of the game.
“This is to study our opponents, we need to make a test here and there to try to do something and also to win because we will be with the strongest team.”
The team will start training with a group made up of mainly home-based players in Bacolod from May 21, but more overseas stars will be added to the team after European leagues will come to an end.
20-year-old centre-back Rohit Chand is by far Nepal‘s most promising talent in many years. He made headlines in his country when teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers showed interest in him after his sensational performance in the 1-1 draw against Jordan with the national team on the road to the 2014 World Cup.
1) When did you start playing football and how have you become a professional footballer so quickly in Nepal?
I started playing football at the age of 12. I used to play football in my home town Surkhet (a small town in Nepal). At the age of 13 I was selected in ANFA ACADEMY, the only football academy for youth players in the country. My tour in Iran with the U-16 national team in 2008 was the turning point of my career. At the age of 16 I was called up to the senior national team even though I hadn’t played any games both at club and U-19 team’s level. Getting a chance to serve my country helped me to start my professional football career quickly in Nepal.
2) Which are the biggest differences between playing in India and in Nepal?
I think the Nepal football league is still like at amateur level while the I-League is more like a semi-professional league. The I-League is far more better than the Nepalese one in both financial aspects and infrastructures.
3) Are you satisfied with your improvements as a footballer since playing in the I-League?
Of course I am well satisfied. I got good pitches, experienced coaches and more facilities to improve my football skills then in Nepal. Definitely I grabbed more improvements while playing in the I-league.
4) Do you think there are other Nepalese players who could play in the I-League?
Yes, I think there are some players in Nepal who have the deserving quality to play in the I-League. For example Sandip Rai, Bharat Khawas, Kiran Chemzong and Biraj Maharjan could all play in India’s top flight.
5) What can you reveal us about Lille, Rangers, Kettering Town, Tottenham and Arsenal’s interests in you?
If I got a chance for trials I would be very happy! Past is past…eheh.
6) Where would you like to play abroad?
My target is to play in Europe top fight’s clubs.
7) Why was Nepal’s AFC Challenge Cup campaign so disappointing?
Yeah it was quite disappointing for me and my country as well, probably because we had lack of friendly matches and because we didn’t have enough time to prepare well for the competition.
8) What are your best memories about former national team coach Graham Roberts?
Coach Graham Roberts is a fantastic person. He’s the best coach I’ve ever trained under. I will always remember his motivating speeches and his determination towards team’s work. Not only me but all the Nepalese people love him.
9) What has been your highlight of the season so far?
I think the hattrick against Pune Fc was the highlight of the season so far in the I-league for me.
10) What are your impressions about the current state of football in Nepal?
I think Nepalese football needs a grassroots level’s development. Nepal football is still lacking professionalism in coaches, players, marketing and technologies. It is in a developing phase.
11) What’s your aim of the season and of the career?
If possible I would like to play European football because my ultimate target is to play in Europe.
12) Who has been the best player you’ve played with until now? And the best you’ve played against?
Nepal international right-back Biraj Maharjan is the best player I have played with, and Maldives’ Ali Ashfaq is the best I have played against.
By Christian Rizzitelli
Two years after the World Cup – How much New Zealand football has progressed since 2010 South Africa’s heroics
All football fans around the world remember how amazing New Zealand’s achievements were at the last World Cup in South Africa. Especially for the world game’s supporters in the country, those moments seem like they happened yesterday.
But the reality is that we’re in April 2012, almost two years from those unforgettable heroics. Since then, how much has football progressed in New Zealand at any level?
The All Whites
Our obvious first analysis is to try to understand how the All Whites’ have managed to make a respectable name for themselves in this time.
The first datum that comes under eye is their FIFA ranking position: 130. Certainly it doesn’t reflect correctly their real worths and abilities, but if they’re classified under teams like Lichteinstein, Burundi, Namibia, Luxembourg and Saint Kitts & Nevis (with all the due respect to them), and considering that before the World Cup they were 82th, some questions need to be asked.
The first problem is isolation. New Zealand’s geographical collocation doesn’t encourage many big national teams to go there to play a friendly match. On the other hand it’s difficult for the All Whites to fly whole days to play somewhere else.
And this is the answer to their wretched ranking position: since the last World Cup, New Zealand has only played six matches, drawing twice and losing the leftovers.
This problem existed before the World Cup and will always exist, but there was the hope that they could have played some more games after shining in South Africa.
The second issue are their results after the WC:
New Zealand-Honduras 1-1 47’Wood (North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, 9/10/10)
New Zealand-Paraguay 0-2 (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 12/10/10)
China-New Zealand 1-1 53’McGlinchey (Wuhan Sports Center Stadium, Wuhan, 25/3/11)
Mexico-New Zealand 3-0 (Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver, 1/6/11)
Australia-New Zealand 3-0 (Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, 5/6/11)
New Zealand-Jamaica 2-3 55’Wood 89’Killen (Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland, 29/2/12)
Four losses in six matches, only four goals scored, nine goals conceded in the last three encounters.
These numbers just show how poor have been the All Whites’ outcomes in these two years.
A premise is needed: it’s the first time in history that New Zealand arranges friendlies against oppositions like Paraguay at home, and we have to consider they were used to play against opponents with the likes of Tahiti, Vanuatu and Fiji. But winning games helps to build confidence and respect, so Ricki Herbert’s have to learn how to do it.
Consequently the next question is: why did New Zealand lose so many games?
After watching all these matches, we have to admit that opponents like Paraguay, Australia and Mexico (even if they were on dope when playing) are really too strong for them. These games overall served as experience for players, the result is a minor matter and shouldn’t be a worry.
The Jamaica game was a good experience too, despite the loss in a match where a young All Whites side deserved to win, as a preparation for the next play-off against the 4th CONCACAF team in the road to Brazil 2014.
And the draws to China and Honduras are acceptable as they’re on the same level of New Zealand.
We can definitely say that the results are miserable, but their usefulness has been huge.
A generational change
In two years the number of players under Ricki Herbert’s radar has significantly changed. Youngsters like Kosta Barbarouses, Marco Rojas, Michael Boxall and Michael Fitzgerald have all been introduced to the team, while some pundits (ex. Simon Elliott, Ivan Vicelich) are on their way to hanging up their national team boots.
Despite the scarce achievements, this new All Whites side has a considerable amount of talent and is a much better competitive crew, probably the best kiwis senior national team ever.
Comparing the 2012 All Whites with the 2010 WC heroes, these are the most important aspects to point out:
-Only seven players were based in Europe in 2010, while now there are eleven, only considering the ones who make regularly the All Whites squad (plus Cameron Howieson, who has become a first team member at Burnley at just 17)
-Four players are playing in the MLS (Boxall at Whitecaps, Boyens and Keat at LA Galaxy and Gleeson at Timbers), while just two were the US-based kiwis two years ago (Boyens at Red Bull New York and Elliott, who was even unattached in the tournament)
-There are ten u23 players currently involved in the All Whites, while there were six in South Africa (which was a considerable number anyway).
The tactical revolution
We all remember that the All Whites in South Africa seemed more to play rugby than football: they were extremely physical, they played long balls, they used more frequently their heads than their feet, they only thought to defend.
Infact they had the lowest percent of ball possession among all the teams in the tournament.
But it was an understandable approach to the game, considering that they were the underdogs of the group one of the humblest team of the competition.
Now they’ve started a new style of playing football. We can definitely say they’ve started to play football!
Their tactical system has totally changed. Ricki Herbert’s formation is a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 (in South Africa it was more a 5-4-1 or 7-2-1), and players’ characteristics are extremely different.
The wingers are quick, sfiwt and techinically skilled. For example against Jamaica, Herbert put Marco Rojas (5 ft 6 in, 20 years old) and Kosta Barbarouses (5 ft 7 in, 22 years old) on the wings, while the powerful Chris Wood (20 years old) was the only main striker in the team.
At the last World Cup, the three forwards (just on paper, because they defended for the whole games) were usually Shane Smeltz, Rory Fallon and Chris Killen. Smeltz was the smallest of them, with a height of 6 ft 1 in.
Players like Dan Keat in central midfield help team to build goalscoring attempts, while defenders like Winston Reid, who has immensely improved in this season, Tottenham’s Ryan Nelsen and Tommy Smith offer a good protection in defence.
The keeper will be no more a trouble for years, with the talented Jake Gleeson growing up fastly in the MLS and with Scott Basalaj catching the eye of several teams in the UK.
Youth teams’ coaches don’t have to focus on results, but on players’ development. But necessarily for New Zealand’s circumstances, results are a good index of progress, just because facing Oceania teams force them to win with a considerable margin.
The U17 showed how good has become youth football system in the country. Their performance at the U17 World Cup in Mexico was outstanding (with the exception of the heavy loss to Japan in the knockout stage), specially for their passing game on the pitch and their individual skills. It’s not a surprise if players like Cameron Howieson at Burnely have already made their debut in professional competitions, or others like Tim Payne at Blackburn Rovers have been signed by European teams.
These considerable improvements have been the consequence of a reasoned and very well organized planning, with the introduction of élite academies, like the Chelsea-linked APFA (Asian Pacific Football Academy), which are extremely prepared at youngsters’ growth.
Basic skills development for players aged twenty has already been done and the Young All Whites performance at the last U20 World Cup proved they were still suffering the rugby’s influence that football has always had in New Zealand.
Chris Milicich’s side was similar to the 2010 All Whites squad, with a team that thought more to defend than other, made up of massive, physical players.
The results in Colombia were huge, specially the 1-1 draw with Uruguay, but it will be difficult to see some of these young kiwis playing professional football in the future, apart from some whizkid like Marco Rojas and Cameron Lindsay.
The Oly-Whites can be be judged only after the Olympic Games in London, but the signals are not very promising after the qualification tournament held in Taupo in March, which saw them winning three of the four games played against the Pacific Islands narrowly.
The case is the same for the Young All Whites: the players have exceed the time of their best technical improvements and have been developed mostly on the physical dowries.
A little eye out of the pitch
The interest in football has generally grown in the country. The world game has become the most popular sport for boys under 15, and has officially become women’s national sport, with some Ferns playing at the biggest level in Europe (ex. Ria Percival playing the UEFA Champions League semifinal with his team FFC Frankfurt in Germany).
However the attendances have not been so exciting as expected, in particular for the Wellington Phoenix, the only professional franchise in the country.
There’s also the issue concerning the TV broadcasting rights, with Sky NZ that every time doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about paying for the All Whites’ matches.
To increase New Zealand football popularity the biggest step to take would be joining the Asian Football Confederation, with soccer-mad coutries like Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia who would be excited about the idea of facing an undefeated World Cup squad.
Despite the senior results on the pitch have been poor, New Zealand is trying to make the next, decisive step to become a real football team, in all his difficult circumstances for rugby’s influence on youth development.
The path is the right one, and in the future more talents will emerge in the country, with some good promising signs shown by the U17 side.
It’s hard to forecast where the country will be for Brazil 2014, but if they manage to further grow focussing on the technical and tactical aspects of the game, building international experience on the players’ shoulders with more friendly games to come and creating the right atmosphere for another crucial match like Bahrain in 2009, it won’t be utopia to see the All Whites in their second consecutive World Cup.
For the Azkals fans today was another day to remember. We can definitely say that a new era has begun.
The Philippines made history today after they celebrated their progress to the next stage of the AFC Challenge Cup with a crucial 2-1 win over Tajikistan thanks to goals from Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado. This is the first time in history that the Azkals have overcome the first round of the competition, proving once again how far the country has developed in recent times. But the best is yet to come, and the 2015 Asian Cup is not too far away.
In the semifinal they’ll be facing Turkmenistan, a team that has showed an impressive form so far, winning all the encounters conceding just a goal, in the first match against the Maldives. But for this Azkals side the Green Men are all but a beatable opponent, despite they were demolished 5-0 when the teams last met in 2009.
But things could have gone even better for the Azkals, because the team they’ve sent to Nepal, the host country of the Challenge Cup, is not the best available for their coach Michael Weiss. Infact there’s a huge number of half-Filipino players currently playing at decent level in Europe, but many of them weren’t allowed to leave for Nepal by their clubs, and others have not decided which country they should represent at international level yet.
This is the formation that German coach Michael Weiss could field against Turkmenistan, and in the eventual final:
Martinez Sabio Gier Cagara
J.Younghusband Mulders J.Guirado A.Guirado
But in the best of the hypothesis, Weiss could line up a team such as this:
Schrock Lucena Woodland Cagara
J.Younghusband Mulders Reed A.Guirado
Here the additions of the second squad:
Stefan Schrock (1986) – right back/ right midfielder playing for Greuther Furth, leaders of the 2.Bundesliga. Current Azkal
Jerry Lucena (1980) – centre back/ holding midfielder playing for AGF Aarhus in the Danish Superliga. Current Azkal
Luke Woodland (1995) – extremely promising centre back playing for Bolton Wanderers Reserves and England national u18 team. Not called up yet
Adam Reed (1991) – central midfielder currently playing for Leyton Orient on loan from Sunderland. Not called up yet
Iain Ramsay (1988) – left winger/ second striker playing for Adelaide United in the A-League. Not called up yet
This second team is clearly much stronger than the first, and it won’t be a dream for Azkals fans to see them all together fighting for the pride of the country one day. There could be another star, Jonathan de Guzman, but the Villareal midfielder seems more likely to choose Canada over the Philippines.
Surely, it could have been much easier to fight North Korea, by far the strongest team of the competition, with so many Europe-based players. But the current Azkals team has already players with great and respectable skills, and it’s not impossible for them to win the trophy. Just look at what India did in 2008, or Tajikistan in 2006.
The masterpiece would be even bigger. And all the Azkals’ fans must believe in their side, they can make it.
By Christian Rizzitelli
Verso la fine di maggio, l’Inter di Claudio Ranieri partirà per l’Indonesia con destinazione Jakarta per disputare una serie di amichevoli contro delle selezioni locali, come ultimo appuntamento della stagione. E’ un’occasione irripetibile per i tantissimi sostenitori della Beneamata di nazionalità indonesiana, perchè per la prima volta potranno confrontarsi da vicino con i loro beniamini. Ma l’Inter, che avversari si troverà di fronte? E il popolo nerazzurro, che cosa deve aspettarsi da questa strana ma avvincente tournèe?
Indonesia, una nazione che vive per il calcio, ma…
Da diversi anni a questa parte il calcio ha seminato tutti gli altri sport per popolarità e passione tra il popolo indonesiano. Si potrebbe benissimo dire che l’Indonesia è un paese che vive per il calcio, e in certi casi lo dimostra anche troppo platealmente (è sovente vedere incidenti sugli spalti tra le tifoserie). Ma ciò nonostante, il Team Garuda (così la nazionale viene soprannominato dai supporters) e i vari club non hanno mai ottenuto risultati degni di nota, nè sembrano sulla strada giusta per provare a strappare qualche successo. Infatti tra questioni politiche (addirittura esistono due campionati di prima divisione con due federazioni totalmente distaccate l’una dall’altra!), mancanza di strutture adeguate, soldi spesi male e completa inesistenza di progetti a lungo termine su basi solide, l’Indonesia continua a sprecare il proprio patrimonio umano collezionando delusioni. Ultime in ordine cronologico la sconfitta in finale contro gli acerrimi rivali della Malesia nei SEA Games (competizione giocata in casa, fra l’altro) e l’en plein di 5 ko su 5 partite nel terzo turno di qualificazione ai Mondiali in Brasile.
Gli avversari: la nazionale e la selezione Best XI
Nella sua tournèe l’Inter giocherà due partite: la prima contro la nazionale indonesiana (non si è ancora ben capito se la nazionale maggiore, o under 23), la seconda contro una selezione dei migliori calciatori del campionato (sarebbe più corretto dire “campionati”) locale.
Sono entrambe due partite semplici sulla carta, anche se l’atmosfera dello stadio in cui disputeranno gli incontri, il Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, impianto da 88,000 posti capace di creare un’atmosfera incredibile in ogni circostanza, può sempre risultare una fattore a favore degli uomini Aji Santoso.
L’avversario più ostico dei due è sicuramente la selezione dei migliori undici del campionato, che comprenderà diversi giocatori stranieri, soprattutto africani, australiani ed europei a fine carriera.
Andik Vermansyah: il Messi indonesiano
L’unico giocatore che potrebbe creare problemi all’Inter è il giovane Andik Vermansyah, conosciuto in patria come il Messi d’Indonesia.
L’accostamento, sebbene molto azzardato, rispecchia notevolmente la considerazione che i media locali e gli appassionati del calcio indonesiano hanno sul ragazzo classe ’91.
E’ il classico giocatore molto stile-sudamericano, rapido con la palla tra i piedi, veloce in accelerazione, minuto fisicamente, brevilineo e molto tecnico con entrambi i piedi.
Nell’ultima sessione di mercato, che a breve si concluderà, è stato oggetto d’interesse di squadre come Benfica, Porto, Los Angeles Galaxy e Novara. Potrebbe trattarsi del primo, vero, espatriato calciatore indonesiano in Europa (l’altra speranza è il 18enne Arthur Irawan, attualmente nella Cantera dell’Espanyol), anche se il suo status di extracomunitario è un ostacolo difficile da superare che lo costringe a rimanere al Persebaya Surabaya. E viene anche da sorridere se pensiamo che il miglior talento del paese da bambino vendeva ghiaccio per le strade per potersi permettere di realizzare il suo sogno.
Una terra fertile per il marketing
L’Indonesia è una terra molto fertile per il marketing delle migliori società calcistiche europee. Rare amichevoli del genere vengono viste come eventi nazionali per poter dimostrare all’Europa il proprio valore e per permettere ai fans di osservare da vicino e dal vivo i loro idoli. Ma come l’Indonesia, anche altri paesi dell’ASEAN (il Sudest asiatico) calzano a pennello sotto quest’aspetto, come Thailandia e Malesia. Organizzare più spesso eventi del genere porterebbe benefici da ambo le parti. Che sia l’inizio di una lunga serie?
A cura di Christian Rizzitelli