Archive for July, 2008

Nike: What Ruud Knows

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Two bigs news in Nike’s “What [...] Knows” series (substitute the [...] part with the player’s first name for cool effect).

Firstly, Nike has tagged the “What [...] Knows” playlist with an appropriate name, sparing us the weird use of [...] for each segment. From here on out, this marketing campaign will be referred to as “What the Pros Know“.

Secondly, it seems that when we presented What Wayne Knows and What William Knows, we mistakenly assumed that Rooney’s was episode nº1. There was actually a van Nistelrooy episode just before that, so without further ado, here’s what Real Madrid and Netherlands striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy has to say. Or in other words: “Inside the mind of a goal-scoring legend“.

High rez version here.

Dortmund 1-3 Juventus: Amauri & Iaquinta Whet the Bianconeri’s Appetite, Champions League Teams Beware!

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Milan have Ronaldinho, Inter have Mourinho, Roma have squat (for now at least), and Juve have pre-season form. That and Amauri, the tall & skilled Brazilian (soon-to-be Italian, hopefully) some Juventini did not even want back in May. I hope JuveAlessio is eating his words now, because the ex-Palermo striker has been absolutely on fire in July pre-season matches. In fact, I’ll even dare say he’s the best money Alessio Secco ever spent, since he took over at Juve. That and Momo Sissoko’s (and hopefully soon, Christian Poulsen).

Not only that, but competition for a spot seems to be doing great things for La Vecchia Signora: Vincenzo Iaquinta (another player thought to be on the verge of leaving) also keeps scoring, while his partnership with Amauri grows better by the minute. Del Piero and Trezeguet ought to watch out, but Juventus supporters should refrain from getting too excited however. Remember what everyone was saying about Ibrahimovic-Suazo last year? And we all know what happened to Suazo…

(From Gazzetta): DORTMUND (Germany), 27 July 2008 – It’s a shame this was only a friendly and not the UEFA Champions League, because Juventus showed in Dortmund today they are in great form and playing well. Extremely well. The 3-1 win over their hosts, Borussia Dortmund, was truly convincing: a victory which displayed a good overall performance and above all the strength of the attack. Amauri (who is fitting in well) opened the scoring, while  Iaquinta’s double sealed the win after the break, leaving Juve manager Claudio Ranieri with a squad-selection problem for future matches: between Amauri, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Trezeguet, who’s going to be left out?

In front of the 50,000 supporters of Westfalenstadion, Juve were particularly strong in the first half. Though still far from optimal fitness compared to their opponents (and despite the heat), the bianconeri started well and conceded very few chances. Ranieri had selected Buffon in goal, behind Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini and Molinaro, with Camoranesi, Sissoko, C.Zanetti and Nedved in midfield behind Amauri and Trezeguet up front. As early as the 4th minute Juve were showing the right approach, with a great left-footed shot from Pavel Nedved, turned behind for a corner by Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller. Amauri’s goal came just a minute later: a great creative move from Camoranesi, who passed to the right for Grygera who immediately put in a low cross to the unmarked striker for an easy tap-in. 1-0 Juventus.

Dortmund reacted immediately with a fierce shot by Kuba in minute 9 (well saved by Gigi Buffon), and some defensive uncertainties by Molinaro left the Juve defense a bit open on the left-wing, but overall Momo Sissoko and Cristiano Zanetti were being real rocks in the center of midfield, controlling the play and giving the home side real problems. After 14 minutes Juve nearly doubled their lead thanks to a killer volley by David Trezeguet (provided by a Molinaro cross), but the ball finished just wide. In minute 22, it was Dortmund’s turn to get a chance to equalise but Florian Kringe was guilty of a shocking miss from a great position. From then on the match seemed to reach a stalling period, as Mellberg and Chiellini closed down everything at the back, while counterattacks from Nedved, Amauri and Trezeguet began to fade.

After the break there were changes on both sides, most notably Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero on for Amauri and Trezeguet. Dortmund ran into problems straight away: after a precision assist from Nedved, Iaquinta beat the keeper with a great chip, but saw his effort scrambled off the line by defenders. Juve’s second however came 6 minutes after the restart, stemming from yet another Nedved cross for Iaquinta, who scored with a comfortable header from the centre of the area. 2-0 Juventus. The German defence was partly at fault but the Bianconeri’s movements at this point were excellent. Dortmund could respond only with long range shots from Buckley which demanded relatively straightforward saves from Buffon.

By then, Juve were in control, closing down all openings (with good performances from Salihamidzic and Legrottaglie) but never giving up on the attack, seizing every chance as it presented itself. Such as in minute 62, when Del Piero found Iaquinta unmarked in front of the keeper, who however managed the save. Or on minute 75, when Christian Poulsen (yes, you have read that correctly!) executed a perfectly weighted aerial pass for Vincenzo Iaquinta, right in the front of the box. The Calabria-born striker instantly controlled the ball and chipped it over the keeper for a spectacular third goal. 3-0 Juventus. A minute later Dortmund won a penalty after a confused move in the Juventus area (Knezevic foul on Santana), which lead to Kruska’s 3-1. Claudio Ranieri and the Bianconeri fans should however be delighted with the team’s hard work: Juventus is on the right track for their return to the UEFA Champions League.


[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 5’ Amauri (J), 51’, 75’ Iaquinta (J), 78’ pen. Kruska (D)
DORTMUND (4-4-2) Weidenfeller – Santana, Subotic, Kovac, Dede (46’ Schmelzer) – Kuba (46’ Klimowicz), Kruska, Hajnal (56’ Gordon), Kringe (46’ Buckley) – Federico (66’ Hillenbrand), Petric (46’ Valdez).Coach: Jürgen Klopp.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2) Buffon (70’ Chimenti) – Grygera (46’ Knezevic), Mellberg (46’ Legrottaglie), Chiellini (46’ Zebina), Molinaro (62’ F.Rossi) – Camoranesi (46’ Marchionni), Sissoko (70’ Poulsen), C.Zanetti (46’ Ekdal), Nedved (62’ Salihamidzic) – Trezeguet (46’ Del Piero), Amauri (46’ Iaquinta).Coach: Claudio Ranieri.


Back from Italy

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Phew! I’m finally back from holiday. These can be really exhausting you know?

Picture this: I had to wake up at 11 everyday (sometimes 12!), walk up to the cafeteria to get food (someone had provided for me), walk back down for an afternoon nap. Then later, walk down to the beach and lie in the sun till evening, sometimes have a swim in the Mediterranean sea, sometimes play a little game of beach volley (those are tiring!) or “Calcetto” (the 5 on 5 Italian version of indoor soccer, even more tiring!!). Then in the evening, more food, hang around at the bar and go to bed late. I’m bushed.

Thank God I am back to the big city to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Calcio, as it prepares for yet another glorious Serie A season. Just like myself, the soccer stars have been working their ass off during the month of July, so we’ll have a look shortly on how their pre-season training and friendly matches are going.

Updates should resume more or less normally over the next few days.

Mario Balotelli’s Eco-Friendly Holiday

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Holidays are a rare commodity for soccer players. In terms of time at the very least, because with seasons ending late May, Summer championships and/or club teams’ exotic tours extending into June, and pre-season training camps starting mid-July, athletes usually have no more than 2-3 weeks in order to don some flip flops and stroll down to the beach (thereby making the fortune of paparazzis and their holiday snapshots). Not that they won’t have plenty of time later in life, when they retire at age 34 with multimillion dollar bank accounts, but I digress…

Anyways, because it’s such a rare commodity (and because they can afford it), soccer stars usually aim quite high when choosing their holiday destinations, opting for super-luxurious resorts or trendy hot spots (like Formentera and Porto Cervo for Serie A players). Predictable and boring, right? Mario Balotelli on the other hand had more exciting plans this Summer. Kudos to him.

[Source: Gazzetta dello Sport (paper edition), July 14, 2008, article by Massimo Arcidiacono. Also available online (in Italian) here]

While his Inter teammates and Serie A colleagues travelled to Formentera and Porto Cervo, “Turbo” Mario Balotelli followed his heart and… WWF. Nope, not the wrestling federation (which changed their name to WWE, to avoid any confusion with the other one), but the actual World Wildlife Fund. Destination Sicily and more specifically the “Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro“, a natural park reserve that also turns into an adventure camp. For Mario, that meant 10 days of excursions into nature and deep sea diving, an experience which the young Inter striker already tested the previous year, with excellent memories.

I liked the idea of spending a vacation out of the ordinary, with boys and girls my age” explains Balotelli. “I went with the WWF last year and enjoyed it a lot, so together with a few friends I met last year we decided to repeat the experience“. The groups are composed by two supervisors and 15-17 year-old kids, “united by their passion of nature and thirst of adventure” says Fabrizio Giacalone, manager of the WWF camps in Sicily. “Mario? He’s just a normal kid, like all the others“. A “normal kid” indeed, although the defenders of Atalanta, Siena, or Fiorentina will surely have a very different opinion. Gazzetta interviewed the young Italo-Ghanaian striker at his return from camp.

Soccer players usually go to Costa Smeralda during the Summer. Mario, your choice went countercurrent to usual trends.
It’s an experience I recommend to all young people my age. I don’t really care what other players are doing, I am Mario and Mario makes his own choices. Countercurrent you say? Probably because the trend is to go places where all other VIPs go, but I would rather stay away from the masses. I prefer uncontaminated, “wild” locations: it’s better to have peace and quiet when you’re holiday, and perhaps have experience something different once in a while. Besides, you’re talking to someone who’s been in the junior scouts when he was little: we played, we learned to respect nature and people, to live in a group and without too many material things. Just like the WWF camp: we couldn’t drink Coke or iced tea when we were there, just water. We carried a bottle in our backpacks which we refilled every time. Plus we couldn’t use TV, playstation, or cell phones.

Did you go with your girlfriend?
No, I went alone. There was a “special” girl there though, but that’s all I’m gonna say.

Ok you’re right, let’s talk about other things. You went to Sicily: what has this land, so full of contradictions, left you with?
It left me with its colors. Blue from the sky and the sea, yellow and green from the vegetation. Also the strong tastes of Sicilian dishes, like walnut granitas, cassatelles and cannolis… mmmmh those are good! And I’ll never forget the night dip in the warm water of Segesta. So warm in fact that I stayed inside for nearly an hour and almost felt sick when I got out. Plus the dives from the tall and rocky coastline, which almost felt easier than going for a walk under the midnoon sun at the “Zingaro”.

We were informed that when it was time to come back, you cancelled your flight home and returned by train with all the other kids. The naturalist experience really left its mark on you huh?
That’s true, I came back by train with the rest of the group. You have to live certain experiences to their fullest, all together. At first you might be a little shy, but after the team acclimatization period (just like in a soccer team) it’s great. And you enjoy it even more after that.

In a month’s time (August 12) you’ll finally be an adult. When you get your driver’s license, will you buy a nice SUV just like the other players and say “Take that, WWF!”?
I don’t know any SUVs, in Sicily I was only a sub (note: in Italian, SUV is pronounced Suv, and sub means scuba-diver).

Good one, 1-0 for Mario. By the way, do you confirm that you’ll choose Italian nationality? You didn’t receive a phone call from Casiraghi or Mourinho while you were in Sicily, by any chance?
I waited for August 12 this Summer for years. I will get Italian nationality because I AM Italian. Italy is the country where I was born, where I studied and where I learned to play soccer. The language I speak is Italian and my family is Italian. It’s only because of a stupid law I was forced to live 18 years as a foreigner in my own country. And no, I did not receive any phone calls while I was in Sicily.

I guess they really did take their cell phones… :)

July Mini-update from Italy

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Howdy all. :)

I’m just dropping by to say hi and to verify you’re all behaving yourselves. I’m currently spending 3 weeks in Southern Italy, in a place called Marina di Camerota (not too far from Naples). Sun is great, sea is great, sex is… well… nothing is ever perfect is it?

Seriously though, I’m having a great time down here, back to checking footy news the traditional “old” way, aka with an actual printed paper between my hands (in this case, none other than Italy’s most famous pink publication: La Gazzetta dello Sport). In fact as you may have noticed, the latest batch of articles on mCalcio originated precisely from the printed edition of La Gazzetta.

Yeah I know, even while I’m on vacation I just can’t stay away from writing and providing you with important news… how kind am I huh? Good thing that I brought my laptop along with me, and that the resort I’m currently staying in (called Touring Club Italiano) has some sort of Wi-Fi service available. That allows me to type and translate the articles offline, then log on and upload everything on the website. At €6.00/hour I really have to pace myself with my internet time anyway.

Yeah I know, €6.00/hour is a pretty scandalous rate, fu**ing thieves. Got no choice though. I’m getting them back by stocking up on sweets during lunch hours (buffet is all included) and bringing the food back to my room. Hah! I just gotta watch out though, not to create an ant colony in my bed or something…

Anyways, one more week and I’m back. :) Be good everyone!