WORLD CUP FOOTBALL: Africa’s day comes as World Cup kicks off – a new sports mania begins in India led by Darjeeling District ?!!
FROM THE TIMES OF INDAI
JOHANNESBURG, AFP, Jun 11, 2010, 07.07am IST: Africa’s long wait finally ends on Friday when the first World Cup on the continent kicks off with the host nation (South Africa) facing Mexico in the opening match (this evening at 5.30 pm IST on ESPN TV Channel – opening ceremonies underway).
South Africa has been brimming with pride and anticipation all week as the Rainbow Nation rides a wave of euphoria not seen since the demise of the apartheid regime and Nelson Mandela’s election 16 years ago.
“There are some moments which define the history of a country. We are on the verge of living one of these moments when the 2010 World Cup gets underway,” said South Africa president Jacob Zuma.
“What an honour, what a privilege for our democracy.”
Thirty-one of the 32 teams are safely in the country – favourites Spain are to arrive on Friday – as billions of people across the planet get set to tune in and cheer on their favourite stars over the month-long football fiesta.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) face Mexico at the 90,000-seat Soccer City stadium in Soweto while France and Uruguay clash in Cape Town in the other Group A fixture.
South Africa are banking on huge home support from a crowd blowing deafening plastic vuvuzela trumpets and the presence of the iconic Mandela to inspire South African captain Aaron Mokoena and his team.
Mandela will be joined by around 20 African heads of state at the opening match, including Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. US Vice President Joe Biden will also be in the crowd.
Shakira, Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys were among the artists who got the festivities underway at a pre-tournament concert in Soweto.
Getting this far has been an achievement in itself for the South African nation, which has overcome a host of difficulties in its six-year journey since being awarded the event.
Many people feared the country would not be ready, with worries over crime, transport infrastructure, accommodation and security.
All that will be put on the backburner at kick-off on Friday, with the chilly Johannesburg weather likely to be the main gripe -forecasters are warning of near-freezing temperatures.
The 63 matches that follow will span the country, from Polokwane in the north-east to Cape Town in the south-west with 10 stadiums being used, culminating in the final at Soccer City on July 11.
The road to all of this began on August 25, 2007 in Oceania when just 60 supporters turned up to watch Samoa play Vanuatu.
Since then, over 20 million fans flocked to stadiums to witness 204 countries whittled down to 32.
Thirty-one of the teams have been here before with Slovakia the newcomer. Minnows New Zealand made it through for the first time since 1982 and North Korea have qualified for the first time since 1966, when England last lifted the trophy.
England are one of the favourites to do it again with Fabio Capello moulding a disciplined team where morale is high, with Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry his lynchpins.
But they are without the injured Rio Ferdinand and a patchy 3-0 victory over South African Premier League side Platinum Stars on Monday was not convincing.
They get their campaign underway against the United States on Sunday with Algeria and Slovenia also in Group C.
Reigning European champions Spain boast a wily manager in Vicente Del Bosque and a galaxy of Barcelona and Real Madrid stars, although an injury worry hangs over star midfielder Andres Iniesta.
It comes as no surprise that the Spaniards have been installed as favourites to lift the trophy.
Spain face Chile, Switzerland and Honduras in a first-round Group H that should not prove overly taxing and finishing first may set up an Iberian showdown against Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal.
Ronaldo and company would represent the first potential banana skin for a country that has so often flattered to deceive at the tournament with fourth the best finish, and that was 60 years ago.
Like Spain, no team from Africa or Asia has ever lifted the World Cup, and appears unlikely to do so here.
But the prospects are brighter in South America with five-time winners Brazil leading the pack. They face North Korea first up on Tuesday, with the Ivory Coast and Portugal also lurking in Group G.
Mighty Argentina are an unpredictable element after only just hauling themselves over the qualifying line with Diego Maradona enduring a see-saw ride as coach that has generated more questions than answers.
They are grouped with 2002 semi-finalists South Korea, Greece and Nigeria.
Whichever nation claims the 30-million-dollar prize and world football bragging rights, South Africa will also undoubtedly be winners, simply for hosting such a spectacle for the first time.
2010 World Cup, brought to you by Mandela – a Larger than Life Legend and Legacy that Africa and the World will remember Forever & Ever ?!!
From The Hindu
Johannesburg, June 10, 2010 (DPA): Would the football World Cup be taking place in Africa this year if it weren’t for Nelson Mandela? FIFA president Joseph Blatter didn’t seem to think so when he read out the name of the winning bidder in Zurich on May 15, 2004.
“You are the true architect of this FIFA World Cup; your presence and commitment made it happen,” Blatter said handing over the trophy to a snowy-haired Mandela after the announcement that South Africa had secured the event on its second attempt.
For Mandela, who had stepped down as President five years earlier but still enjoyed huge influence, FIFA’s decision was a ringing endorsement of his leadership.
Within 10 years of the demise of the racist apartheid regime, the Rainbow Nation, which he had guided to democracy, was being entrusted with hosting the world.
“I feel like a young man of 15,” a delighted Mandela, who was 85 at the time, said.
The African National Congress stalwart had campaigned vigorously for the tournament, believing that the key to reconciling blacks and whites in South Africa lay in forging a common identity — a goal that could be advanced by creating shared moments in sport.
It was a formula he had tested with great success when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup a year after the country’s first democratic elections in 1995.
US director Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film Invictus retraces the story of how Mandela rallied blacks in support of the ultimately victorious home side, the Springboks, as a gesture of goodwill towards rugby-loving whites.
The roles were reversed the following year when the mainly black national football team lifted the African Cup of Nations.
By 2000, thanks to Mandela, South Africa had accumulated enough experience in hosting major sporting tournaments to be able to launch a credible bid for the World Cup.
But, despite Mandela personally canvassing countries for votes, South Africa narrowly lost out to Germany after New Zealand, which had pledged to support South Africa, suddenly abstained from the vote.
“It was a horrible moment,” World Cup local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan recalled in an interview in April. “It felt like a dry river.” Four years later, however South Africa bounced back with a new bid entitled “Africa’s time has come. South Africa is ready.”
This time Mandela was leaving nothing to chance and joined fellow Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and then President Thabo Mbeki in presenting the bid at FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
“It is 28 years since FIFA took its stand against racially divided football and helped to inspire the final story against apartheid,” Mandela said, recalling FIFA’s expulsion of apartheid South Africa from its ranks in 1976, the year of a bloody crackdown on student demonstrators in Soweto township.
In a fitting footnote to the story, Mandela will on Friday attend part of the opening game in the World Cup at Soccer City and deliver a pre-recorded message, according to his nephew.
At 91, his attendance had been in question, but his daughter Zindzi Mandela told SAfm public radio on Thursday: “He’s like an excited child.”
Fly or cake-work for Cup – Siliguri duo set for South Africa trip
BY BIRESWAR BANERJEE
Siliguri, June 10: Sunando Sarkar is flying out to Johannesburg on June 17 to watch the World Cup.
K.B. Gurung has delayed his eye surgery for the quadrennial event.
Biswaranjan Das has a cake modelled like a football stadium on display at his shop. And cricket coaches are keeping themselves free to sit before the television.
For everybody the goal is the same: reach out to the Cup.
“Since 1994, when one of my cousins went to the US to watch World Cup matches, I have been longing to be in some international stadium. After 16 years, my dreams are coming true. I will leave for Mumbai on Monday and take a flight to South Africa on June 17,” said Sarkar.
“I had saved up for the past one year to watch the tournament from the gallery.” Sarkar had booked online tickets of six league matches to be played between June 19 and 24.
The chartered accountant is not alone from Siliguri in his first overseas tour. His friend Mridul Chakraborty, a tour operator, will also be on the same plane with him. “I have booked tickets for two matches to be played between Brazil and Ivory Coast and Mexico and Uruguay at Johannesburg and in Rustenburg on June 20 and 22,”
Mridul, now in Calcutta, said over the phone. “Once we reach there, our sole intention will be to scout for tickets of other matches.”
The two have made the bookings for a Johannesburg hotel where they will stay from June 17 to 23. “We will move to Cape Town and be there from June 24 to 27,” Mridul said.
For retired BSF commandant Gurung, matches are more important than eyes. He has postponed his cataract operation to watch the matches on his home set.
“My doctor asked me to get the cataract operated on my left eye. However, I have told him that as the World Cup starts tomorrow, I cannot take the risk of losing a single match,” said the resident of Shivmandir. “We wait for four years for this and now cannot afford to loose it.”
Jayanta Bhowmik, the coach of Team India cricketer Wriddhiman Saha, said: “I have planned my assignments to remain free during the matches everyday.”
Das’s confectionery shop has prepared an 11-pound cake shaped like a football on a playground. “The cake will be on display during the World Cup and is available for Rs 3,300. In case we find good response, we can make cakes of other designs on the World Cup theme,” said Das.
Why India isn’t Part of the World Cup – because Bengal didn’t have the vision ?!!
From Sify Sports / Goal.com
By Rahul Bali
2010-06-09 17:51:03: Alright! The greatest football extravaganza is upon us and the excitement for it is just going over the top. For a month, say goodbye to all your worldly chores and free yourself by the time the games kick-off to enjoy the greatest spectacle on earth – The 2010 World Cup!
The question that springs to mind is despite the fervent support for the game in the country, why aren’t India part of the World Cup?
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“India? Uh…Eh…Umm…We aren’t good enough man! Simple,” is probably one of the most clichÃ©d responses you would get which in fact projects you as ‘not so cool ignorant’ fellow which is a stark contrast of what the person is trying to portray.
In order to avoid being embarrassed and being put in the dock, better arm yourself with a better answer for which you need to read the following.
Four berths (fifth is also possible if the winner of the fifth round wins the Asia-Oceania play-off) are on offer from the 32 spots at the World Cup for the Asian continent for which the there are various levels of qualification rounds held.
Teams are seeded based on their performance in the previous World Cups or the qualifiers. The top five teams are given a direct bye into the third round where the groups are formed.
Those positioned 6-24 faced the 25-43 ranked nations in a two legged qualifiers. India, ranked 28, had to face a nation ranked higher than itself and was pitted against Lebanon.
October 8, 2007: Following the Nehru Cup triumph in August, hopes were high as the Indian national team travelled to Lebanon following a short camp in Dubai where they defeated Al Nasr 2-1 with Abhishek Yadav being the casualty after suffering a clash of heads.
India started the game and it was the visitors who looked deadly with their attacking play with Bhaichung Bhutia and Climax Lawrence being denied by the woodwork. However, the hard work paid off when Sunil Chhetri put India ahead after some good work by Manju at the half hour mark.
Thereafter, it was Roda Antar who equalised only five minutes later to ensure that India’s joy was short-lived. The second session saw India’s defence and midfield being completely thwarted as the Lebanese added two more to the tally through Mohamad Ghaddar and Mahmoud El Ali.
Coach Bob Houghton introduced Krishnan Ajayan Nair and Mehrajuddin Wadoo but that didn’t stop the flurry of attacks as Ghaddar added another to his tally to end the game with a 4-1 scoreline.
October 30, 2007: The return leg was originally scheduled to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai but had to be shifted to Goa on the 30th due to heavy showers in the southern city.
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The hosts went ahead in the 29th minute through Sunil Chhetri and thereafter missed several chances. After the break, influential midfielder Climax Lawrence had to be substituted due to injury and that disturbed the play. Subrata Paul had no option but to bring down Mohamad Ghaddar in the 75th minute and was sent off as a result. The Lebanese striker converted from the spot beating Sandip Nandy who came on for Samir Naik.
Just two minutes from the stipulated 90 minutes of play, Ghaddar scored another against ten men India to complete his brace. However in the injury time, a curling flag-kick by Steven Dias found its way in.
The Road to Africa ended for India before it began thanks to the 6-3 defeat to Lebanon and so, Indians have no choice but to support an Argentina, or a Spain or one of the 32 teams at the World Cup.
Now isn’t that a better answer though a long one!
World Cup to sell football in ‘cricket-mad’ India – all the Indian Bollywood Acting Stars are there in SA, ‘for the times, they are a-changing’ ?!!
By Abhaya Srivastava (AFP)
NEW DELHI, June 10, 2010: Football is slowly taking off in cricket-mad India and the World Cup is set to give the game another lift in the country of a billion-plus people.
Global football bosses view the South Asian giant as a new frontier; the game is popular in a few pockets in the south and east, but in most of the country is eclipsed by the national obsession with batting and bowling.
There are signs that football is growing in popularity, however, and not just in city parks and the countryside, where kick-arounds can often be glimpsed alongside ubiquitous cricket.
Bill Adams, a former community coach in England, started a training centre in New Delhi 12 years ago with just eight children and now counts about 200 enthusiastic wannabees in his Super Soccer Academy at weekends.
“We never expected the kind of response that we got from children across various age groups,” he says. “There is huge interest among the kids and most of them aspire to be professionals when they grow up.”
Adams is also a regular at various city schools, which have started taking a special interest in the game, viewing it as a more physically demanding activity for students and one involving little or no extra cost.
Football’s growing popularity is reflected in TV viewing figures which have risen steadily in the past few years, according to a recent report by TAM Media Research.
“Among non-cricket sports, football is at number one in India,” says the report. “There are 83 million football viewers in the country and 55 percent of them watch domestic leagues.
“The game has attracted 60 percent more audiences in the last five years and three times the number of advertisers since 2005.”
The numbers are encouraging considering India’s national team is placed a lowly 133 in the international rankings, sandwiched between Fiji and Bermuda.
The team has at least mounted a string of promising performances of late and qualified to play in the Asian Cup in Qatar in 2011 after a gap of 24 years.
The news media report on the national team in major tournaments and follow the English Premier League with interest, although nothing compares to cricket and its biggest stars — revered as celebrities and demi-gods.
The recent signing of (Darjeeling’s) attacker Sunil Chhetri by the Kansas City Wizards in the US Major League Soccer (MLS) has also raised hopes that other players will break through internationally.
“People outside are taking Indian players seriously now,” says Abhishek Yadav, who plays for Mumbai FC in the I-League, India’s top-tier professional league, which was launched in 2007.
“The Indian team has been performing well in the last two to three years. Most of our players have the requisite qualities. It is just that we lack international exposure.”
Asia is a key market for the world’s biggest clubs, with English Premier League sides regularly undertaking summer promotional tours to the far-eastern nations of China, Japan and Singapore.
India also had a taste of European football when Kolkata hosted top German side Bayern Munich in 2008 for a farewell match for former German international goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
In another sign of the potential, Manchester United has opened a branded sports bar in Mumbai.
The game’s bosses at FIFA have repeatedly stressed that football’s future is in the east.
“The time to start is now,” FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said on his first official visit to India in 2008. “I want to wake the sleeping giant.”
A growing economy, burgeoning middle classes with disposable income and leisure time, and increasing numbers of households with televisions all add up to making the underdeveloped Indian market highly promising.
“FIFA and AFC (Asian Football Confederation) are very keen to bring India in the Asian mainstream,” Jaydeep Basu, a noted football critic, told AFP.
“India are placed 19 in Asia and sidelined at the moment. But if they can manage to be among the top-10, they can start playing against countries like Japan and South Korea.
“Once this happens, it will bring a lot of revenue for everyone. More big-pocket sponsors will be willing to pump in money into the game in the form of club, title and FIFA sponsorship.”
India, the land that football forgot – with no match-fixing opportunities that can remain invisible like IPL ?!!
By Sharda Ugra
You know what they say, we are all African anyway. (Just like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ?!!)
So unlike you Socceroos and All Whites, Elephants and Desert Foxes, India’s 2010 World Cup football is going to belong to the ‘brotherhood of man’ school of fandom.
When the first vuvuzela is sounded, our eyes will fill with tears. No, it won’t be because we’ve been unable to wrest an invitation to South Africa’s biggest party unlike some of the overjoyed others.
Yes, we know, we have the second largest population on the planet, a booming economy, millions of software nerds and other smart people, a love of celebration, enough resources. So what’s it with the football? Why is it tough to even be half-way decent in this simplest of team sports? Why can’t India even get close to the World Cup?
A few facts: it did. An invitation to the 1950 World Cup was terminated because the organizers refused to let us to play barefoot.
Like the rest of the planet, we love football. Sure the total fan base may not match cricket, but India’s most steadfast soccer supporters – minus the nouveau Man U-Chelsea-obsessed youth – could easily be twice the combined population of Australia and New Zealand.
Already in parts of Bengal, the external walls of unsuspecting neighbours are being daubed with Kaka, Messi and Cristiano murals.
A district in Kerala (secret chant “just sue us, Nike”) is waiting for the perfect moment to flood its markets with fake team jerseys.
In Goa, bars, shops and homes are tanking up on crates of beer.
These old strongholds of Indian football can even remember when we were counted among our continent’s best football teams, dominating the 1950s, the first Asian squad to make it to the Olympic semi-finals in 1956.
From then on, India have slid or rather, kept diving, like the imagination-less striker does in the penalty box.
India’s oldest footballing heartland, Bengal is just a reflection of our soccer saga: its most loyal fans still turn up even though the clubs’ functioning is trapped by its own tradition.
Standards changed in soccer everywhere, here time stopped.
Grounds were not modernized, neither was talent scouting or the junior programmes. (Young fans from a small town near Kolkata tell the story, in the picture above, ahead of a visit from Bayern Munich last year.)
So, the sons of fans who inherit their father’s memberships today watch the EPL, La Liga and Serie A on TV. Their seasonal, worshipful visits to watch the local club keep shrinking.
Last month, a 48-year-old club owned by an established business house was told that this was to be its last season.
A somnolent national federation has mostly yawned. FIFA handouts were soaked in and an impressive turnover of foreign coaches and indifferent results attached to the national team.
Complicated tasks like remodelling antiquated structures, expanding practice facilities, setting up development programs, even setting up sustained international calendars was far too complicated. No surprises then that India are now ranked No. 133 in the world, 21 in Asia.
From the 1960s onwards, as the world sped past, we fell back on re-cycling India’s most favourite ye olde sporting clichés: bad genes, lack of killer instinct, vegetarianism. (To those excuses, 2010 offers only a two-word response: North Korea.)
Yet, maybe this is the time for Indian football to be hopeful. The national team has had three good years. Under new coach Englishman Bob Houghton, the man with the plan, three titles have been won and India will play the AFC Asian Cup after 26 years.
Goa is now the centre of our club football, the old Bengal clubs challenged. Who knows they could even respond.
Major League Soccer in the States has its first Indian signing, Sunil Chhetri for the Kansas City Wizards.
Rumours abound that there could be a revamp of India’s professional league, inspired by the, what else, the IPL. (Whether this means mandatory money laundering is not yet certain.)
So as teams makes giant strides in South Africa, we will be giving such baby steps a half-chance.
And of course, we’ll be rooting for Brazil, at the top of our one billion voices.