By Avijit Das Patnaik.
2016 – Best year for fans
No sooner does the UEFA Champions League final ends the 2015-16 football season (on May 28th), fans globally will be treated to Euro Nations Tournament 2016 and Copa America Centenary event 2016. For hard-core fans of the beautiful game they want every season, every month, every weekend and every day to be like this!
Year 2016 is also special for the underdogs. Bangkok went blue as Leicester City lifted the English Premier League title shocking the football world, the betting market (from 5000:1 odds) and pleasing all neutrals. As long as their immediate rivals weren’t winning the title, most fans of the Big five (Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester twins) were rooting for Leicester City. So were their Bangkok based owners and the Thai nation.
More joke than praise
Sevilla won the Europa League cup 2015-16 for third consecutive time. Strangely, they win the Europa League Cup to play in Champions League main draw, the following season, only to (almost strategically!) finish third, get knocked out in group stages, join the Europa League main draw and win the UEFA second tier competition again!! This joke garnered more mileage for Unai Emery’s team than praises for the five time winners – all in last ten years, more than any other team has won it historically.
With this weekend’s Copa Del Rey 2015-16 win, FC Barcelona has now won 90 trophies – most by any club in Europe’s top flight. Fans also think officials of La Liga and UEFA favour them more and hence call Barcelona as ‘Uefalona’. However the difference between Barcelona and rest of the teams is that, the Catalans always maximize any helping hand from the referee. Others struggle to do that too!
Lionel Messi’s greatness is questioned every month. It will be tested again in June as he leads Argentina in the upcoming Copa America 2016. The minimal expectation from him is to lift the trophy – anything less and there will be questions if he can only perform with his world-beating club mates. Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile will be hailed as Ballon D’Or candidate as long as he scores four goals in Euro Nations 2016 event, irrespective of how Portugal fares.
Three Lions, Millions of followers
The most popular European football nation, for some time now, is England – buoyed by Asia’s massive following of EPL. Here’s wishing they do well for the sake of football. If they win the event, the likes of Smalling, Sterling, Vardy and Kane will be candidates for Knighthood! Serious.
Liverpool hoodwink blue rivals
Liverpool are becoming masters of hood-winking their Premier league rivals. After making the deep blues (Chelsea) break the bank for Fernando Torres in 2011, they got the sky blues (Manchester City) to spend fortune for Raheem Sterling in 2015. Later, they got James Milner from City for free. Milner had a hand in 21 of Liverpool’s goals this season, had more game time and influence than what Raheem could dream to do for City. Liverpool also haven’t lost to any of the blue rivals this season in regular time (in all competitions) – be it against Chelsea, Manchester City or their Merseyside blue rivals Everton!
Tweet world – funniest ones!
- When Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace, twitter was filled with “CHE 1-2 CRY” (Read: Chelsea want to cry)
- “Retweet if you are the older than the team Manchester United lost to” – refer to the red devils loss to FC Midtjylland or whatever!
- “How hard is it to win against 11?” – Alvaro Arbeloa’s epic tweet taunting Gerard Pique and Barcelona at the time the Catalan defender was taking jabs at the Madrid aristocrats.
Things that make footballers tick
As Gerard Pique’s tweets vs Real Madrid got boorish, his on field form massively improved. As Liverpool Joe Allen’s beard and locks increased, his on field form improved! As Suarez stopped biting human flesh, his form soared to phenomenal levels.
When referee Andre Marriner snatched the match ball away from Southampton’s hat-trick hero Sadio Mane, it was as bad a call as any fan could imagine on a football field. The change in Mane’s sea of emotions was there for all to see and feel. Later it came out Marriner was playing a prank on Sadio Mane!
Tweet world – Maximum ones!
Christian Benteke’s overhead bicycle kick goal in September against Manchester United was special enough to clock 35000 tweets per minute. This still was lower than Louis Van Gaal’s epic fall or Gabriel Paulista and Diego Costa’s altercation. Topping them all was Eden Hazard’s brilliant 83rd minute equalizer vs Tottenham, earlier this month, which gave 49000 tweets per minute. But all those numbers paled when, ten minutes later, the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge. Leicester City were EPL champions and twitter world was rocking at 187,000 tweets per minute!
No football season is complete without an epic Zlatan Ibrahimovic quote. In November, the Swede scored a brace in 2-2 draw at Denmark to take his country through to the Euro 2016 finals. After the game he said “It was great to do this here in Denmark. With the idea that this was supposed to be my retirement, I’ve now pushed their whole country into retirement”!
Oral sex-pension of the year
Sergi Aurier is very popular player amongst the coloured public of PSG. His popularity with Zlatan and his Paris St Germain manager, Laurent Blanc, though, took a dip, after he hurled homophobic insults in an online video. The Ivory Coast right back was suspended for few weeks from February to March. In that video he had suggested that Zlatan was engaged in oral sex with Blanc. We are awaiting a Zlatanism quote to get back at Aurier soon!
Bundesliga fun fact
The Bundesliga is the only elite league in Europe where each club comes from a different city. This is unlike Spain, Italy or England where multiple club teams can come from one city. Anyways there is no point making another club team in Munich. Bayern Munich will buy them next day!
Don’t mistake for me Argentina
In 1978 WC, they didn’t select Diego Maradona. In 2006 WC, Lionel Messi wasn’t involved in key games. Now Paulo Dybala finds himself out of Argentina’s Copa America squad. The highly rated Argentine’s 21 number Jersey, 22 years age and 23 goals (this season) wasn’t enough. Instead Argentina will field Gonzalo Higuain on the back of his 38 goals astounding season. Higuain though was the worst player on pitch, missing open chances, when Argentina lost to Germany in 2010 WC quarters, lost to Germany in 2014 WC finals and lost to Chile in 2015 Copa America finals.
Ps: await Part 2 – 2015-16 Managers season review.