Your Dance Sucks

If you play soccer or you are a fan of the sport, you will understand the joy that comes when the ball is in the net. Some of the scorers skid on their knees over the field while others break into a dance as a way of celebration.

Dancing is my preference when I score. My dancing style is to sway, and wiggle my trunk and elbows. Since you can only dance if you score, I try so hard to score. I might get three goals on a good day, and that is three opportunities every Saturday to show my celebration dance.

Don't stop to wonder why a man at age fifty-six would waste away his life and risk bodily injuries playing soccer. There is no way I can explain it; just know that I do, every Saturday morning, and if my knees permit (because it is the knees that are the problem) I intend to continue for the foreseeable future.

On this particular Saturday morning, the game did come to an end, but as usual too fast for my liking. I took possession of my sweater which I had left on a side table and began to walk among the other sweat-soaked players towards the exit sign of the indoor soccer arena.

Upfront, Alex and Pedro were sitting down on the Astroturf, taking off their soccer boots, stuffing them into duffel bags and putting their heads, their arms in their street clothes.

'You saw my four goals today and my dance?' I shouted as I approached them.

'Yes, we did! How many goals did you score last year? ' Alex responded.

'We lost count of the number of goals you scored,' added Pedro.

'You are a really scoring machine,' said Alex, 'but the problem is that you don't play defense, and that is why other players don't like you. Mix up your game, play defense sometimes. '

'You know,' I began to say, 'as long as my mother loves me, I don't care who hates ——-' a sentence which was interrupted by, 'Your celebration dance sucks.' I turned, and it was Mike speaking.

Mike is a short thirty-something; he could be younger or older, but estimating the age of a short man is like reading the oracle. In any case, Mike is one of those short-statured men who for some reason think that in order to mask their lack of height their voice must tear down walls; their shoulders are in constant elevation, and their entire muscle system humped and knotted.

Anyway, Mike had walked by, and on his way out of the soccer arena, very near the exit door, he decided to turn back. With a smirk on his face and two cold, unmoving eyes he said, 'You know what? Your goal celebration dance sucks. '

Silence came upon Pedro, Alex and me. Holy crap! How does one begin to respond? Is this an insult or banter? Some people, like my brother Vince, have the gift of quickly decoding this vital difference in a comment, but I don't. Vince reacts like a viper when he decides who to bite back or who to spare.

Though Mike and I have played pick-up soccer together for a couple of years, our contacts have been largely limited to when I chip a little on his ankles or pry the ball out from between his feet. On many occasions he has briefly stood, glaring in my face, both eyes in full beam; but in the end has backed down, with an understanding that what I have done is within the limits of a clean game.

What kind of response would 'Your celebration dance sucks,' deserve? Similar cynical comments are plentiful everywhere. It could have been an uncle or an aunt saying your soccer shoes suck, your ideas suck, your degrees sucks, your wealth sucks, your hair sucks, or your stories suck.

On a plain, tit-for-tat level, the comment deserves a 'Shut up, you short idiot' response. But it happened that on that day, in that moment, I was not at a shallow level of mind. I happened to be at a deeper level, which prompted me to brood over the comment. 'Where is this fellow coming from?'

Is his comment, the longest sentence he has said to me in two years, an overture for a better relationship in the future? If it is, then hurling an insult at him would destroy such a budding intent.

But what if his comment is an outright decision to ridicule me, a way to project an imaginary dominance of a diminutive physique? Then a kindhearted 'turn the other cheek' response could actually embolden him further. Did he need to be confronted, an eye for an eye, while we wait for Judgment Day?

Throwing one insulting word to counter another insulting word is easy; what is hard is to tell what is in the heart of the men and women who throw insulting words around, and whether, as my seventeen-year-old son said, they deserve a compassionate response.

Some highly emotional people have reacted forcefully to mere banter, only to recognize their folly shortly afterwards. They apologize profusely, but the harm has been done; they have let their guard down, exposing the childishness lurking inside every adult man.

Misinterpretation of a comment is a common mistake many people make. My late uncle Ralph, though everybody in the village said he was a kind man with a good heart, prospered on benign mockery, and was always on the edge between praise and criticism; he lived to be one hundred and four years old.

Without a doubt, the world unfortunately is filled with people who are out to destroy others with venomous words. How do you recognize those people so that you can respond adequately, because if you don't they will walk all over you all the time?

If you are the recipient of a negative comment, asking for clarification may help gain insight into the heart of a detractor. However, enemies always muddy up their original intent during clarification.

While negative comments spur some men into creative energy, they may devastate a child, a young adult and even adults who lack confidence or self-awareness.

But that very Saturday I was immaculate in my mood and would not allow anybody to steal my joy. After a thoughtful, brief moment, and with a broad smile, I looked Mike in the face and answered, 'I will come up with a new and a better dance next week.' A response which soothed his disturbed little soul.

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Soccer Cleats Spikes – Metal Or Plastic

In football, stability is the most important element of great performance. There is always a need to ensure that the feet are firm underneath if at all you are to be able to throw, kick, catch or twist. This means that every player who values performance should invest in the best pair of soccer cleats. With a good pair, you can be sure of impressive traction in all kinds of fields and conditions. It is for this reason that there are specific soccer cleats designed for different grounds and making the right choice remains most paramount.

Apart from the way the spikes are arranged on the sole, it is also important to consider what they are made of. The two major choices you will find in the market when buying are plastic and metal spikes. You really cannot forget to take into consideration what kind of spikes your soccer cleats come with because they can have serious effects on your performance at the end of the day.

Metal spikes

Metallic spikes have for a long time featured on shoes designed for rugby, soccer, golf, baseball and football. They come in different shapes depending on the sport in question and they also come in varying patterns and lengths. Most are made from steel to offer durability and strength at the same time. Soccer cleats that have metal spikes will usually have them replaceable, so you can detach and replace when they bend or wear out without necessarily replacing your pair completely.

Even though they offer more durability and effectiveness, especially for turf sports, models featuring the metal spikes can be quite expensive. Because they dig deeper, they offer more stability compared to plastic spikes, but they can be loud and cumbersome when used on surfaces other than grass and dirt. They are suitable for adult players who are looking for a long time serving and excellent performance in competitive leagues.

Plastic spikes

These spikes are usually designed shorter in length to prevent breakage considering that plastic is prone to such especially with the pressures that come with the game. The shape of the spikes may vary from one sport to another and they are usually molded onto the soccer cleats soles. Because of their elastic nature, the plastic spikes easily bend when under pressure and may not be as durable as their metal counterparts. They are not replaceable and damages to them could mean replacing the entire pair. They are, however lightweight and quite comfortable even when walking on other surfaces. They are quiet and nondescript, but they are most suitable for younger players who may need to increase shoe size every once in a while.

When buying soccer cleats, it is important to check with your coach because most leagues ban metal spikes. This is because they tend to be more dangerous when it comes to injuries during play. If you are limited to plastic spikes, it would be nice to choose a plastic type that will not break as fast so you can still enjoy your pair for a long period of time.

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7 Tips for Buying The Best Soccer Shoes

Footwear is of utmost importance as far as playing soccer game goes. So, you have to have a quality pair of boots or cleats. In this guide, we will help you understand the types of soccer cleats and the surfaces they are suitable for.

Firm ground

When people talk about soccer shoes, they mean soccer shoes designed for firm grounds. Typically, these cleats are versatile and can be used on solid surfaces. Moreover, the outside of these boots is known as the bladed bottom or the molded bottom. Generally, these boots are made of a thermoplastic urethane or polyurethane.

Hard/Multi ground

As the name suggest, hard ground boots are used on solid/hard surfaces, such as artificial turf or clay. Other types of surfaces that these cleats can work for include grounds that are poorly manicured or grounds that are used a lot. The bottom of hard ground cleats has a lot of studs for even distribution of the player’s weight. This will prevent the player from having knee, ankle, heel and foot problems.

Sizing

If you don’t know how to figure out your size, you can use an easy method. Usually, it’s a good idea to measure your feet in centimeters and then look for the right size on a shoe website. Then based on your size and desired features, you can go for the right pair of cleats.

Length

The size of the soccer shoes is determined like other shoes, but the majority of these shoes are designed to fit more tightly than your typical sneakers. So, if you want to determine your size, you can use the size of your regular shoes. Make sure your soccer shoes fit you but don’t touch your toes. If you have this type of shoes, you will be able to give better performance. For synthetic cleats, the recommended gap is ¼ inch at a minimum.

Width

Width is an area that needs attention because of the narrow design of soccer cleats. The boots should fit your feet in a way that the feet won’t slide around while you are playing. Although soccer shoes are not made in different widths, some models are wider than others. Keep in mind that leather boots tend to stretch based on the width of your feet.

Material

The shoe material can change the way you will feel with the shoes on. Generally, all leathers shoes stretch with time, and high quality cleats take the shape of your feet. The shoes should fit snugly the first time you put them on.

Proper Fit

When buying new cleats for soccer, make sure you try them on. This will help you know if they fit you perfectly. Make sure you don’t feel any discomfort while walking in the shoes. Your toes should be able to reach the front part of the shoes.

So, these are some useful points that you should take into account when investing in a good quality pair of soccer cleats. Hopefully, you will be able to pick the right pair now.

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Hair Trends: Trendy Hairstyles For Men In 2015

While many men are not considered to be fashion enthusiasts, there are some that are. If you are a man and you are interested in knowing men hair trends for 2015, here they are:

Texture

This trend is aimed at helping you to have a masculine and sophisticated look. You need to moisturize and condition your freshly washed hair. To create the texture you need to use a hair product and then hold and control the hair using a matte finish.

You should avoid brushing or blow drying your hair in order to avoid creating volumes in areas that you don’t want. For a great look you should style your hair using your hands.

Shoulder-length hair

Many men have been having long hair over the past few months and this trend is expected to go on until 2015. According to hair stylists and grooming experts, men are able to maintain their hair in good condition for a long time since they don’t fiddle with it like women.

If you decide to go for long hair, you should ensure that you visit your barber regularly for regular trims. You should also keep the hair clean and regularly use a great conditioner.

City slicker

This style requires you to have a good hair cut. The sides and backs of the hair need to be shorter than the front. You can comb the hair or style it using your fingers. For a perfect look, you should wear a modern suit.

Top knot

This is where you tie your hair at the back. To achieve the style you only need to brush your hair at the back with your fingers and then tie it into a ponytail or top knot. While this style can suit almost everyone, it looks great on a rugged man with a beard.

Hair band

Since the 2014 world cup, many men have been spotted wearing hair bands. All you need to do is to hold your hair using a hair band. For ideal results, you should match the style with a granddad top and jeans.

Conclusion

These are some of the hairstyles for men that are expected to be popular in 2015. If you are a fashion enthusiast you now know the styles that you should go for. For ideal results, you should ensure that you get the style done by a professional. You should also ensure that you maintain the hair in good condition by applying all the necessary products.

Soccer Uniforms: Amazingly Perfect

Soccer is considered as the world's largest playing sporting event. It is played in almost every corner of the world. Every day, we witness players playing and practicing this game in order to groom their skills. The most important part of this game is its uniforms. These are available in a comprehensive range of designs and shades in order to meet the diverse requirements of the buyers.

The soccer uniforms manufacturers are striving hard to make their collections impressive and fascinating. They are doing this as the preferences of the teams and clubs have been changed due to a drastic change in the fashion trends. The world is adapting new fashion trends and players are no exception to this. The manufacturers are using advanced graphic designing techniques to make their collections appealing in shades.

Nowadays, the customized uniforms are highly demanded these days. These are the collections that are manufactured on demand. The designers create these collections as per the specification of the teams and the clubs. At this joke, every team wants uniforms that can offer them a unique identity. To ensure this, the soccer uniforms manufacturers are crafting their collections in a wide array of designs and color patterns. Gone of the days, when teams used to wear only conventional colors. Nowadays, it is the desire of every team to make a fashion statement on the ground.

To attain this purpose, the designers are using latest computer tools in order to create collections in a comprehensive range of patterns. The customization is associated with providing certain specific attributes. These attributes are associated with the name and logo of the team. In short, these attributes play a crucial role in providing identity to the teams. The manufacturers are offering their collections with notable features like team logo, team name, player name & logo.

The soccer uniforms manufacturers and suppliers are using sublimation printing technology in order to give high-definition prints to their collections. This is a digital printing technique in which the computer aided designs get directly imprinted on the fabric using the industrial pressure and heating technique. This helps in offering amazing printed designs.

The game of soccer involves lots of physical activities. The players have to run, jump, play and dribble in order to win the game. So, soccer uniforms manufacturers are using skin friendly polyester fabric in order to offer full flexibility to the players. This fabric has the property to absorb the sweat and can also withstanding tough playing conditions.

The teams and clubs can get these from the leading soccer uniforms manufacturers and suppliers. In this, you can get the products at competitive rates.

Lionel Messi the Successor of Diego Maradona

Lionel Messi was born in Rosario city on June 24, 1987. He started playing football at the age of five for Grandoli, a club coached by his father. Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys in 1995. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Every month Messi required treatment for the illness that cost over 500 Pounds. River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did not have enough money to pay for his treatment. FC Barcelona was made aware of Messi talent. After watching him play, Barcelona signed him and offer to pay for the medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain.

Messi is a player with exceptional quality. He is highly creative, and has the skills to take on defenders with ease. He is a versatile left-footed player who can play either in the middle or on either wing, or even as a center forward. Messi makes up for the lack of height with his speed and agility. His sudden changes in pace make him a true problem for the defenders. In addition, his accurate powerful shot make him truly unique in free kick and corner situations. He has drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, and indeed Maradona himself named Messi his "successor".

In club football, Messi made his debut against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, becoming the third-youngest player ever to play for FC Barcelona and the youngest club player who played in La Liga at that time (a record broken by team mate Bojan Krkic in September 2007). He scored his first senior goal against Albacete Balompié on May 1, 2005. Messi was 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old at that time, becoming the youngest player to ever score in a La Liga game for FC Barcelona until 2007 when Bojan Krkic broke this record.

Messi won the Under 20 World Cup in Holland with Argentina. He was crowned the leading goalscorer and voted best player in the tournament. Aged 18 years, he had become one of the hottest properties in the world game. Shortly after, he made his first full international appearance in a friendly against Hungary. In 2005, José Pekerman called Messi up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut on August 17, 2005 against Hungary. He was sent off in the 63rd minute, just 40 seconds after he came in as a substitute. The referee found Messi to have elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. He left the pitch disappointed and in tears.

Since then, Lionel Messi has developed into a more complete and mature player. There are still many years left in his career. Everyone is waiting for him to emulate Diego Maradona success by guiding Argentina to win the World Cup again.

Sports and Hobbies in Kenya

Kenya is a land of acclaimed of numerous sportsmen who rule race tracks both locally and internationally, with an abundance of creative hobbies to pursue in spare time.

Sports and hobbies in Kenya are embedded in the country’s culture and are used to promote the highly social lifestyles and collectivist nature of the populace. By investing in sports as a culture (shown through the number of gold medals she has won), Kenya has also cemented its reputation as a home of sports champions. The Kenyan national anthem is a frequent tune at international sporting events as sports men and women receive accolades for their sporting achievements.

Notable Kenyan sportsmen

Kenya has nurtured real sports talent that includes sportsmen and women with domestic and international status who have won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals:

  • Great Marathoner Catherine Ndereba
  • Long-distance runner Paul Tergat
  • Long-distance track runner Tegla Loroupe
  • Gold medalist Ezekiel Kemboi
  • Current 800m Olympic world record holder David Rudisha
  • 800m Olympic gold medalist and winner of the Golden League Jackpot Pamela Jelimo
  • Olympic gold holder, Samwel Wanjiru (deceased)
  • Safari Rally driver Ian Duncan
  • Rugby’s Humphrey Kayange

Major sports in Kenya

There are assortments of major sports that Kenyans are engaged in from childhood, through school years up to professional level:

Track & Field

Kenya is known worldwide for its achievements in track and field, including short and long-distance track and field, road and walking races, cross country and marathons.

Most annual marathons held in Kenya are for social causes, including:

  • Lewa Marathon
  • Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon
  • Safaricom Marathon
  • Kass International Marathon
  • Kisumu World AIDS Marathon
  • Sotokoto Safari Marathon

Kenya Sevens Rugby Team

In 2012, Kenya Sevens Team finished fourth in 2012’s IRB World Sevens Series and had a good start in 2013, with a second place win after England, contesting at Wellington Sevens, New Zealand, which is their best performance yet. The Safari Sevens Rugby Tournament and Safaricom Sevens are some of the local rugby events.

Kenya National Football, the Harambee Stars

Formerly a force to reckon with, the team is presently a shadow of its former self. Internal management conflicts, misconduct among funs and poor pay for players have contributed to poor performance of the team in national and regional games. However, local sports teams such as Gor Mahia and AFC Leopard have a massive fan base and are targeted to change football in Kenya.

Common Hobbies

Most Kenyans have individual hobbies based on their interests and where they live. Rural folks are laid back while urban folks are more actively involved in their hobbies. There are hobbies common across ages, gender, social status and regions in Kenya that include:

  • Attending major events such as festivals, fashion shows, sport matches, political and religious rallies
  • Going to theatres and movie cinemas
  • Reading
  • Watching home movies and listening to music
  • Watching local television and radio channels
  • Travelling and touring
  • Karaoke (there’s a growing karaoke culture in urban Kenya)

Most young people consider logging into social media as a hobby, checking their accounts at least thrice a day. With almost every Kenyan having a mobile phone, their spare time is spent in mobile messaging, browsing the internet and socializing through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

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The Art of Defence

Defence is an art that the best coaches in the world consider more important than any other aspect of the game. Covering positions, making timely tackles and even springing the offside trap well is key to stopping teams from scoring. After all, what good is a team that can’t defend a 2 or 3 goal lead even.

It was the Italians who decided to take it upon themselves to make defence an art-form, moving away from the physical aspect of defending and bringing in technical prowess. Until the Italians brought finesse into the picture, defending was all about out-muscling the opposition and crunching tackles.

It was the capability to constrict space and restrict movement that led to the rise of the Catenaccio style of play.

HELENIO HERRERA

Not many may remember his name but Helenio Herrera was a French-Argentine player and, later, manager who was one of the biggest names in football coaching during the mid-20th century. Having played for teams like RC Casablanca and Stade Francais, Herrera retired from club football in 1945.

Herrera took up coaching and moved to Spain, where he became the team manager for Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, CD Malaga and even the likes of FC Barcelona. It was after his stint for Barcelona, in 1960, that Herrera moved to Inter Milan.

THE RISE OF THE CATENACCIO

It was during his stay at Inter Milan that Herrera decided to modify the way his team defended. He shifted to a 5-3-2 formation to improve his counter attacking style of play. A firm believer in hard work and strong work ethics, Herrera was known as the pioneer of psychological motivational techniques including team pep-talks.

Herrera also introduced the no-smoking & -drinking policy as well as controlling the diet of his players to make them true professionals. Herrera was also known to suspend a player for telling the media, during a press conference, «We came to play in Rome» instead of «We came to win in Rome».

A hard man, Herrera was slightly defensive in his playing style although his form of the Catenaccio was not as defensive as some the future mutations of the formation, when applied by Italian architects.

One of Herrera’s full-backs, the great Giacinto Facchetti, was testimony to the attacking style of Herrera’s Catenaccio that prevailed in that Inter Milan team. The team was built around the defence, with its main role being to absorb the pressure from the opposition before launching lightning-quick counter attacks.

Using his wing backs to overlap the midfield, Herrera completely transformed the way the world looked at attacking football. Not giving away too much at the back, the team became famous for squeezing out 1-0 wins, leading to the nickname Verrou, meaning «Door Bolt».

HERRERA’S LEGACY

Known as «Herrera’s Inter», the team would go on to win the 1963, 65 & 66 league titles, the 1964 & 65 European Champions Cup as well as the Intercontinental cup in both those seasons. Herrera also became the first coach to go on and coach three separate national teams, ending his career with a 48.57% winning record.

In his 908 games as a manager, which included teams like Inter Milan, AS Roma, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and CF Os Belenenses, Herrera lost just 241 games while drawing 226. In his 12-club coaching career, Herrera ended with a negative goal difference only three times – with Real Valladolid (-21), AS Roma (-1) and Rimini (-22). Each team was too weak at the time although Herrera did transform Roma into a championship winning team, getting the 1969 Italian Cup with a sub-standard line-up and his famous Catenaccio style of football.

THE «DOOR BOLT»

Unlike popular conception, the Catenaccio was not built to shut out opposition. The entire concept of play was to allow the opposition to attack, relentlessly even, before suddenly attacking on the counter. The team would play with five at the back, in a «V-shaped» formation, with the Libero or sweeper at the centre. As the opponents entered the «V», their attack would be narrowed down, restricting movement and space.

Once the ball changed possession, the defending team had a wingback on either side, already ahead of the advancing opposition’s midfield. That meant that the team could now push out, rapidly, by playing the ball out to these wingbacks, who would have loads of space to exploit.

EARLY MUTATIONS

While the Catenaccio was, itself, a mutation of the 5-4-1 system invented by Karl Rappan for the Swiss national team, the formation underwent a lot of transformation itself. Teams reverted to the original «Rappan-style» by playing the sweeper just in front of the goalkeeper and stationing a flat back-four in front.

Nereo Rocco, coach of Calcio Padova in the 1950s, was another who exploited the system. With three-flat defenders who man-marked the opposition, Rocco would play a playmaker in the middle, just ahead of the defence, alongside two wingers. While these three weren’t the actual midfield, Rocco’s style would use the sweeper behind the central defence as well, to double-team the stronger players.

The midfield would be in front of these three, with a solitary striker up front, leading to a 1-3-3-3 formation.

While Herrera also focussed on man-marking with four of his defenders, his defence was flexible in that it swung from right or left to make it a flat line on most times. This meant that four defenders, aid by the midfield, would effectively man-mark the opposition, which had already been herded through the middle. That left the remaining fifth defender – always a wingback, free to make runs on the counter.

ENFORCED DOWNFALL

Catenaccio had become the flavour of the month, in the 60s and 70s, catching the fancy of every coach on the world scene. However, it was one man who’s style of play brought Catenaccio to its knees – Rinus Michels.

When faced with the tight man-marking of the Catenaccio, Michels decided to remove the whole concept of playing footballers in fixed positions. He removed the boundaries that separated attackers, midfielders and defenders, teaching all his players to play in all positions. As attackers fell back to the midfield, or even defence, their man-markers were unable to leave their posts and follow in pursuit.

The fact that Michels had the crop of players that he did, to implement such a technique, was the only reason Total Football became a reality.

Catenaccio was no longer the primary choice anywhere as Total Football, or replicas of it, began dismantling defences with their speed and movement. Mediocre coaches, who followed rather than researched, were left with no choice but to fall to the wayside.

CATENACCIO MODIFICATIONS

Coaches who preached the Herrera principle looked to counter Total Football with a modification to the Catenaccio’s man-marking formula. The answer was quite simple, in theory – Zona Mista.

The Zona Mista was a concept that incorporated man-marking and zone-marking into one strong defensive strategy. While the concept still used the four man defence with the roaming sweeper, the difference was in the way the midfield and the fullbacks supported the defence.

The two central defenders, in the heart of the defence, would play zone-marking. The midfield would have a defensive midfielder, who was required to help out the defence by falling back. A central midfielder would play in front of the defensive midfielder while a winger (usually on the right flank), would support in attack.

Two strikers would play up front, one on the wide left, with one in the centre. The position of the wide striker was determined by the position of the winger – both being on opposite flanks. The winger would act as an additional striker while the wide striker would float in to make it a two-pronged attack.

When defending, the wide striker would come in to cover for the central midfielder as the latter would drop into a defensive position.

ZONA MISTA IN REAL LIFE

Italy – 1982

The most famous application of this formation was in the 1982 FIFA World Cup when Italy went into the tournament with this brand new style of football. Gaetano Scirea played the role of the sweeper to perfection while the attacking left back was a young 18-year old, who would later go on to become one of the greatest defenders of all time – Giuseppe Bergomi.

Gabriele Oriali played as the defensive midfielder, just in front of Fulvio Collovati and the man who stopped a young Diego Maradona – Claudio Gentile. Marco Tardelli played as the central midfielder while Bruno Conti was the creative genius behind Italy’s Zona Mista success.

While Antonio Cabrini played at the front wide position, it was Paolo Rossi who came into the main striker’s position.

Italy’s success led to an increased use of the Zona Mista although the application remained mostly in the Italian leagues. Teams, in Europe, found it hard to beat this fantastic combination of man- and zone-marking, keeping the Italians ahead of the rest. However, there was always the need of a great striker to take care of the few chances that this format would create – something that most teams lacked.

Italy – 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004

More recently, Cesare Maldini employed the Catenaccio form of play in Italy’s 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign. Needless to say, Italy played defensively, without creating too many waves, eventually getting kicked out in the Round of 16, through penalties. His successor, Giovanni Trapattoni, also employed the same tactics in the 2002 FIFA World Cup as well as in the 2004 European Championships.

In both cases, Italy failed to make any significant progress although Trapattoni would go on to prove his critics wrong by leading Portuguese side, Benfica to the league title.

Dino Zoff, whose team successfully used the Zona Mista in 1982, was the Italian coach in Euro 2000 when Italy went in with the same tactics. This time, Zoff managed to take the team to the finals of the tournament, losing to France through a Golden Goal.

Greece – 2004

Greece used the same format under Otto Rehhagel, at the 2004 European Championships, and successfully so. Greece won the title with numerous 1-0 wins through the knockout stages, all thanks to a heavily defensive style of play.

BAD PUBLICITY

The Catenaccio was often on the receiving end of criticism from the rest of Europe primarily due to the boring style of football that it promoted. The Italians were said to have made the game «unattractive» however practitioners of this form of football always had results to further their faith in the system.

In most cases, the reason behind the criticism was said to be the inability of most teams to break down such defences, especially in crucial European ties, leading to a loss or a draw that they could ill-afford.

THE MODERN DAY SCENARIO

Catenaccio is a dormant formation today. With both man-marking and the sweeper position going out of style, what with the faster pace and television coming into the picture, teams are rarely known to implement such a format today.

You may see the odd variation of this formation when weaker teams go up against stronger opposition however the success of the Catenaccio or the Zona Mista is largely dependent on the quality of the defenders and the wingbacks.

The more physical format of the Catenaccio finds few followers even in the technical format of the Italian league while other formations, such as the 4-1-2-1-2 (midfield diamond) and even the 4-3-2-1 (Christmas tree) formations can be attributed, albeit loosely, to the Catenaccio.

Teams that go down a man or more, are also known to exhibit similar playing patterns although the true form of Catenaccio remains buried under a pile of demands for attacking play.

MISUSE OF THE TERM

In today’s scenario, you often find commentators, even some pundits, refer to the Italian game as the Catenaccio style of football. The latest example was the game between Barcelona and Inter Milan, at Camp Nou, during the second leg of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Unfortunately, Jose Mourinho’s tactics were nothing like the Catenaccio style, albeit defensive. Down to ten men, Inter simply held a lower midfield to aid their defence, nothing more. They did was what needed and even Barcelona, with all their firepower, couldn’t break through. It has to be said that while Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing, there was absolutely no connection with the Catenaccio style of defence.

Commentators, especially Englishman, are known to refer to the Italian defensive style of football as Catenaccio, irrespective of whether the team follows the format or not. Catenaccio has become synonymous with defensive play although few understand the true meaning of the term, sadly, even the pundits make mistakes.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Italy were down to 10-men while playing Australia in the Round of 16. They defended heavily until a winner came in the form of a Francesco Totti penalty, late in the game. An English newspaper, «The Guardian», famously wrote, «The timidity of Italy’s approach had made it seem that Helenio Herrera, the high priest of Catenaccio, had taken possession of the soul of Marcello Lippi.»

What the reporter failed to notice was that 10-men Italy were playing in a 4-3-2 formation which was just a man short of the regular 4-4-2 that they had started with – Daniele De Rossi, the midfielder who was dismissed.

THE FINAL WORD

Like all good things, Catenaccio also had to come to an end. With its end, like with everything else, rose many new formats that are, till date, being practiced by coaches around the world. While the Catenaccio may have been laid to rest with the modern day television’s demand for exciting football, coaches will always fall back to their learning of this system when struggling with their backs against the wall.

Until the next time a British commentator mentions «Catenaccio» in the wrong place, Happy Defending!!!

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West Indies Cricket – A Resurgence?

In years to come the last fortnight could well be seen as the moment that West Indian cricket began its rise to regain its former position as one of the pre-eminent sides in the world. And make no mistake world cricket needs a successful and vibrant West Indies team.

Firstly, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indian Players Association (WIPA) have finally come to a mutual agreement that will see a first choice squad being selected for the forthcoming tour to Australia. Moreover, the last two weeks has seen an unheralded Trinidad and Tobago side take on and beat all comers in the inaugural T20 Champions League tournament in India.

Even if the side, which has been excellently led by Daren Ganga, fails to repeat its earlier success against New South Wales in the Final today, it is Trinidad and Tobago who will be remembered for lighting up the competition. The team’s togetherness, team spirit and refusal to give up lost causes has made them stars. What makes this all the more remarkable is the fact that Dwayne Bravo and Dinesh Ramdin aside, none of the players are considered first choice picks for the West Indies team.

All this suggests that the state of West Indian cricket may not be as terminal as many observers feared. If the spirit and quality shown by Trinidad and Tobago can be replicated by the West Indies Test and limited overs sides then there should be a steep upward curve in their ranking in all forms of the game. This is not to say that West Indian cricket is cured – the WICB still badly needs a restructure and needs to change its style and attitude to the players. Former players such as Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd and Sir Vivian Richards should be given prominent roles in the WICB so that the Board and the team unite in the interests of West Indian cricket. The board needs to recognise that the players need to get access to the riches available to them in English County Cricket and more so in the Indian Premier League. In return the players need to show the same fight and desire that their illustrious predecessors had when wearing the famous maroon cap.

All this won’t happen overnight – indeed it may never happen. But hopefully it is the start of a long road to former glories However, now that the impasse with the WICB has been bridged, at least the team can concentrate on preparing for the difficult assignment that awaits them in Australia where the first of a three test series starts in Brisbane on 26th November. Before then the selectors have an interesting task in picking the squad with several Trinidad and Tobago players making a good case for selection as well as Kemar Roach and Darren Sammy from the WICB XI that played in the Champions Trophy.

The first major decision the selectors have to make is who should captain the side. I think we can safely ignore the claims of Floyd Reifer who captained the WICB XI during the dispute between the board and WIPA. This probably leaves two options – Chris Gayle and Ganga. The laconic Gayle, who led the side before the dispute, had overseen an improvement in fortunes with a drawn series in New Zealand preceding the home triumph over England. He also led the team to the semi-finals of the World T20 and stated this week his desire to be reinstated as captain. «If I am asked to do the job I will be committed,» Gayle told Reuters. «It is always an honour to captain the West Indies. I am always committed to do it. Support-wise the players have been really good and it shouldn’t be a problem. Once I am asked to do it then, definitely.»

However, Ganga has impressed many observers with the way he has led Trinidad and Tobago. The raw ingredients of togetherness, willingness to fight for each other and the knack of someone being prepared to stick their hand up when something special is required are just what the West Indies needs. Although Ganga only averages 25.71 from 48 tests and has only scored three centuries, his fearless and vibrant captaincy makes this an interesting conundrum for the selectors. Ganga’s ability to unify individuals and make the collective stronger than the sum of its parts should win the day. If so he could bat in the middle order rather than in his usual opening role.

Gayle, along with Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are obvious picks for the selectors. Trinidad and Tobago’s Lendl Simmons and 19 year old Adrian Barath should join them in the squad. The former has shown sporadically over the last year the quality needed at international level and now needs to become more consistent. Barath is an exciting prospect who already averages 46.05 in his first class career and could become the long term opening partner to Gayle at both Test and limited overs level. If the selectors want to pick a seventh batsman then Australian born Brendan Nash would appear to be the most likely.

Dwayne Bravo, who has the potential to become the World’s outstanding all-rounder now that Andrew Flintoff has retired and Jacques Kallis continues to get older is a shoo-in, as is Ramdin as wicketkeeper. Kieron Pollard has shown during the Champions League that he has temperament required for the big stage so could be a shrewd pick as cover for Bravo.

This brings us to the bowlers. Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards should both enjoy bowling on the bouncy Australian wickets. So should the extremely fast Roach who impressed against Bangladesh and during the Champions Trophy. Ravi Rampaul, Daren Powell and Sammy will all be in contention too. In the spin department, there is not as much strength in depth and Gayle will probably have to provide support to Sulieman Benn, who did reasonably well against England when they toured the Caribbean.

So, the Test squad could end up as follows:

Daren Ganga (C), Chris Gayle, Adrian Barath, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Dinesh Ramdin, Chadwick Walton, Sulieman Benn, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Darren Sammy

There is no doubt that a tour to Australia is probably the toughest assignment of all, but with Ganga at the helm and a group of talented players in the squad the West Indies should at least be able to compete with Ricky Ponting’s side. The raw ingredients are there to cause a few surprises even if Australia will likely win the series. Cricket fans around the world hope that this is the start of a new dawn in Caribbean cricket.

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