The Supremo at the Helm of Affairs: AIFF President

Indian football was looking forward to a rapturous change of fortunes towards the end of 2020 with the presidential election around the corner. But several circumstances have forced AIFF to take a step back and rethink the future. Mr. Praful Patel has been at the helm of affairs since 2012. Indian football has certainly undergone several developments since his arrival. Some may say that the launch of the Indian Super League in 2013 was a major milestone which brought a transition in the sport.

The 2020 U17 Women’s World Cup, set to be held in India, was postponed due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic which is sweeping across the globe. With uncertainty over the tournament’s rescheduling, it is highly unlikely that AIFF will opt to hold elections and undergo a change in leadership before the event is completed. It has to be noted that Patel played a key role in India landing hosting rights for the 2020 Women’s U17 World Cup as the head of the Local Organising Committee. He is also a current member of the FIFA Council.

He may have been instrumental in India getting the hosting rights. But the fact of the matter is that he comes from a political background. How can a country look to develop Football through a Federation when the President is utilising his power and status instead of the football knowledge and understanding to have a structure in place. Leave alone Europe, but other strong Footballing nations in Asia such as South Korea and Japan have a clear rationale and objective behind electing a president.

Why does Football in our country have a weak foundation for a structured football pyramid? The people who run the AIFF are clueless about the requirements for a huge country like India to develop Football. AIFF has been at the mercy of FSDL since the ISL came into the scene and would continue to slaughter the I-League into a more inferior league in the coming years. Can we think of one professional club which has made profits by the end of the season ? Are there any development pathways in place to create opportunities for talented players to reach the professional level?

These are the questions which AIFF are accountable for and should have the right people in charge to take Football forward. It is just like Arsenal under Arsene Wenger towards the end of this reign. There was a slow and steady decline which created an absolute mess within the club with a shambolic transfer policy and make it extremely difficult for Unai Emery and now Mikel Arteta.

Mr. Patel is ineligible to contest for the new elections whenever it happens according to the National Sports Code which states that he president of a national sports federation can hold office for a maximum of three terms. Due to non-finalization of its constitution in terms of order dated 10th November 2017 passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India, AIFF is not in a position to conduct the ensuing election, even though the four years term of the Executive Committee ended on 21st December, 2020.

With all the chaos surrounding the AIFF, FIFA has made its stance very clear. there is a distinct possibility of FIFA banning the Indian football body if it fails to manage its affairs independently and gets influenced by a third party, like the government (or the court). A FIFA spokesperson said that the world body is “in contact with the AIFF in relation to the upcoming electoral process” and “expects all its member associations to fulfill their obligations in line with article 14 of the FIFA Statutes.” 

The most interesting part is that Mr. Patel is a FIFA Council Member. So even if the AIFF does not manage it’s elections independently, Mr. Patel is expected to remain at the helm of affairs until there is a clear verdict from the Supreme Court. Indian Football has a long way to go before it can really contest at the global level. If we all want Indian football to grow, let’s just hope that the AIFF is run professionally by a group of committee members who have the know how and insight about the challenges hindering Football in the country. Football fans would have a ray of hope when they see a new face and committee take up the presidential role in the near future.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and AIFF President Praful Patel after FIFA Council meeting in Kolkata.

The Conglomeration of the Football World : WFS Live

The entertainment factor that drives live sport has seeped into the mental landscape of fans with the evolution of modern technology. Football is one such a game which requires clubs, federations and professional organizations’ to think deep and bring out the best source of entertainment for the fans to ensure sustained engagement. I was lucky to witness one of the awaited global events in this calendar year. The World Football Summit is one such event which engages the football community of the world to exchange ideas and put their best foot forward in developing the sport.

The 5 day WFS Live event hosted from 23rd to 27th November made it a quite enriching experience with loads of insights from club owners, football agents, professional players, business owners in different segments etc. was just the right platform to network with professionals and grow as an individual. The football summit has been a revelation right since it’s inception in 2016. It has brought in a total of 284 clubs, 72 leagues and federations, and 1956 companies across the world. It has grown from strength to strength with each passing year.

Football does not just revolve around the performance of the team on the pitch. There are multiple domains revolving around the beautiful game to make it grow exponentially. The role of sponsorship, fan engagement, digital technology, analytical softwares and football agencies have created a plethora of opportunities for aspiring professionals to experience their passion for Football.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has impact different entities in the football ecosystem. The summit gave a real insight into how organization’s have revised their business strategy to remain competitive and sustainable in the market. The first 2 days of the summit opened up opportunities to network with football professionals worldwide. It was more interesting to understand the perspective of clubs in trying to implement a feasible business strategy during these unprecedented times. Professional clubs may seem to be always growing with increasing fan following and brand awareness. But the truth is, even the biggest clubs in the top leagues of Europe have had to furlough staff in order to remain active in the transfer market and create a business opportunity when the action is taking place behind closed doors.

Some known faces who shared their inputs during this 5 day summit include Manchester United player Juan Mata, FC Nordsjaelland defender Johan Djourou and renowned football agent Mino Raiola to name a few. They shared their experience of contributing back to the society and giving back the much needed support to young underprivileged children to make a positive impact through Football. Another important topic which came out of the discussions was the importance of understanding the nature of fans and adapting to the market in terms of providing suitable content to the fans, using user friendly technology and also promoting innovation as a primary tool to ensure the growth of football within the local community.

I was overwhelmed to see an Indian representation during the summit. The outside world looks at India as a land of opportunities to invest and create a sustainable business model. The football world sees the Indian Super League flourish with more number of business houses investing in clubs to get the best out of them. But there are several other investment channels lying dormant without any active player. This gives a clear signal for foreign investors to consider India as the next big opportunity in the Asian Football market.

It is true that a synergy of like minded people working towards a common goal can reach unthinkable milestones with dedicated time and effort towards it. The World Football Summit is one such organization which gives professionals like me the latest insight into all that is happening around the world of Football. Be it from a business perspective, performance of players or the latest trends and challenges moving forward. I truly recommend anyone passionate about football, to attend the summit and add value to themselves in order to fulfill their career objectives in the football industry.

As the new year approaches us in a months’ time, let us unfold new opportunities and get the best insight from the leading experts who have successfully managed sports entities and clubs professionally. I am sure that the summit will only get bigger and better with such constructive discussions and exchange of ideas. It will definitely create many leaders in football industry who have a passion to spread the beautiful game and engage maximum number of people to join the football community.

The World Football Summit has created a unique platform for football professionals to learn as well as share their experiences to the global football community with an objective to promote innovation and shape the future of the beautiful game.

The Indian Football Spectacle begins : ISL Season 7 Review

The festive period in India has just kicked off with the fireworks and lights during Diwali. It is that time of the year when every family submerges itself in celebration and happiness. For the football loving fans in India, this must be the most anticipated period. There has been a very big hype over the launch of this season’s Indian Super League. This season holds special significance in the way Indian Football shapes up in the future. The entry of 2 historic rivals which has created a social boundary and hatred for years together has augmented the brand value of the Indian Super League.

The clash between the strong football hubs of India such as Goa, Kerala and Kolkata will rekindle the interest among fans and create an engagement that has never been seen before. The commercial interests in the ISL have made it one of the most viewed leagues across the globe. The last 7 months were hard to come through and put a plan in place to restart competitive football. The fact that many known faces in the football world will be gracing the league this season will make it even more exciting to watch. East Bengal’s acquisition of former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler is a sight to behold. I am sure he must have done a thorough research about the Kolkata derby and what it means for the fans and the players.

The All India Football Federation has been subject to major criticism in not implementing a concise plan to restart football at different levels of the football pyramid. The top tier professional league in India has been given the go ahead to be played behind closed doors. It will definitely be a spectacle for all football fanatics in India who have started following the ISL because of better broadcasting.

As fans , what can we expect from this edition of the ISL? There are several hot topics which can be explored. The Kolkata derby definitely is an eye catcher. The rise of new franchises such as Jamshedpur FC who have a new coach and have brought in new players to strengthen their squad. The opportunity given to young players to prove their mettle is another important aspect which we as fans would be hoping for. Every year we see young talent emerging from the IPL. Why can’t we see that in the ISL?

We all know that ISL gives a huge platform to the youngsters on the rise. The football extravaganza in India will grow by leaps and bounds once the ISL focuses on achieving specific objectives which contribute to Indian football. Fans are the ones who invest money in watching beautiful Football. This season marks the beginning of a new era for Indian Football as the two iconic clubs have stepped into the top tier league and others may follow suit if they find suitable commercial investors.

Whatever happens this season, it is more important for us to understand the gravity of the situation Indian football currently is in. Teams such as Mumbai City FC will be a good watch under Sergio Lobero. We all know how successful he was during his tenure in FC Goa. Every season has been a topsy turvy affair for teams. We saw Chennaiyin FC’s incredible run last season all the way to the final. The likes of Anirudh Thapa have been into the thick of the action which has made them tick.

Kerala Blasters will certainly miss Ogbeche who was signed by Mumbai City FC. The Manjapadda’s will look to have another good season with talented player Sahal Abdul Samad hoping to make a big impact this season. Every season gives an opportunity for us to see new talent. This season will be no different. Players such as Vikram Partap Singh who performed exceedingly well for Indian Arrows will be looked at closely by scouts this season. More teams will be encouraged to field more young players this season to see how they perform.

The ISL has definitely made a big impact on Indian football. The real question lies as to how the federation makes the most of this league in terms of identifying talent for the future of the national team, how it is able to learn how to conduct a league with the right resources. This is something which AIFF has not been able to do due to the lack of broadcasting partners. We as fans need to be glad that football is back. That’s the most important thing. Let’s hope that there are many positives and learning outcomes from this season. This is how we can improve as a footballing nation and make rapid strides towards getting the golden era back.

Let’s football once again with ISL season 7 which brings a new dimension for fans with the inclusion of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

The Dismal state of the Mighty Manchester United

Every football fan who has been following the modern game for several years would definitely know the club that once dominated English Football under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United has come down a long way from where they were under Sir Alex with a horrendous transfer policy which has made things go from bad to worse. Last night’s Champions League defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir is enough evidence to suggest that there needs to be an imminent change before things go out of control.

A Club of False Promises :

There was a time when every United fan has been optimistic towards the start of the season with the acquisition of top quality signings. This made them genuine title challengers every year. For many recent transfer windows, there has been an ongoing array of promises as well as rumours flying out of the club about getting quality players. This window was predominantly debated by Jadon Sancho’s potential move to United. A successful transfer would have definitely increased their title ambitions. The executive board directed by Ed Woodward have made a complete mockery of the club’s transfer policy. They never really executed what they were saying .The rumours used to come from authentic club sources kept the fans under a false illusion.

Lack of Leadership :

A battle on a football pitch can never be won without the constant churping of a leader who drives the team when the going gets tough. The current squad does not have enough leaders to really unite the team and take them forward. When United signed Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, there was a real sense of optimism as he was the creative force which made them tick. It is said that every position on the pitch needs a leader. David De Gea’s performances as a goalkeeper have dipped drastically. There is no command in goal. The defense looks shaky with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer does not know his best midfield combination after 100 games in charge at the club. The strikers go missing from game to game as they don’t get enough service to score goals in the final third. The lack of Leadership has made the team vulnerable even against the worst Premier League team.

No Gameplan and Tactics:

Football is all about executing a structured game plan which can be altered based on the situation. When you look at a team, as a viewer you can understand their playing style. But with Manchester United, even an analyst can’t figure out what they are trying to do. There is no identity and defined tactics which Ole has executed during his tenure. Playing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the middle of the pitch has also been a head scratcher for the former Manchester United player. The fans have lamented over United’s dismal performances this season. With no wins in 4 home matches this season, the club really needs a whirlwind to turn things around.

Illogical Summer Signings:

The summer transfer window was a window to forget if you are a United fan. Anyone who follows United’s games would know that the team needs a solid centerhalf who can dominate and be influential on the pitch. The signing of Donny Van De Beek from Ajax made no sense for most of the pundits in the football world. He has chosen to play for United to get enough game time and take the next step in his career. But Ole has predominantly kept him on the bench. With 5 midfielders already in their ranks, Van de Beek was just an addition instead of a real acquisition. The signing of Edinson Cavani was not a big surprise as the Uruguayan wanted a move away from PSG. Other players such as Alex Telles and Facundo Pellestri have hardly got a taste of first team football. All the deadwood in the team has not been thrown away. Their summer signings should have been made with the intention of getting them to play first team football to actually make a difference.

Lack of Managerial Experience:

Football at the elite level requires managers who know how to handle player egos, disputes, assess team performance and build a well defined identity within the team. The current crop of players are super talented but as a team , they are bang average. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer needs to take all the criticism fired at him by the media. He has a brief managerial experience with Cardiff and Molde before taking over the hot seat at Manchester United. The United job comes with a huge set of expectations which adds to the pressure to perform. After Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, the managerial position has seen several faces coming in and going out. This has seriously jolted the progress of a mighty club like Manchester United.

A look ahead to the Future:

United’s short term future looks bleak. There is no certainty over how the team will perform on a given matchday. The players have looked really out of sorts since the start of the new season. Everyone is expecting United to challenge for the top 4. A change in management is around the corner with Mauricio Pocchetino eager to get back into top flight football. The squad needs to be revamped through the January transfer window. The team is languishing at 15th position in the league table. Some more poor results will see them sliding further down the table. We have never seen United so poor in football activities on and off the pitch. It is an uphill mountain which they need to climb to truly get back to where they belong.

Let’s hope to see a revival before it becomes too late to save the sinking ship. The change has to be seamless during this unpredictable season. It is a risk worth taking at a time when the club is unable to find feasible solutions. It will be interesting to see what transpires within the club from now until the end of the season.

United fans all around the world would be completely dejected after their stunning loss to Istanbul Basaksehir in the UEFA Champions League

Modern Football : The Unreal Deal

What do you want to see when you come to watch a football match in a packed stadium as a football fan? You want to see desire, hunger, passion, aggression and all the other adjectives that would relate to a football team that wants to win at any cost. This would form the natural DNA of all the players. But in today’s modern era of Football, the game has not only evolved through technology, but just the way the game is played these days is just unreal and loses the true nature of the sport. This review has come from several pundits and experts who have seen the type of football played these days.

Just yesterday, I watched the game between Manchester United and Arsenal. Two of the biggest rivals in English Football. It was a cagey affair which resulted in the Gunners dominating the game from start to finish at Old Trafford. A sight which we have not seen too often in several years. Sky sports pundit Roy Keane was spot on when he said after the game that he does not see any leaders in Manchester United. The lack of desire and hunger to get the ball back itself shows the DNA of the team. They looked a spineless bunch of boys playing against men who knew what they were doing and executed it to perfection.

Today’s football lacks the type of aggression we used to witness towards the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That was an era in which football was a game of life and death. Fans could never dissociate themselves from the action on the pitch. All that mattered to them was to see their team win to cap of a brilliant weekend. The connect between the fans and the players clearly showed that the players performed on the pitch for the fans. The amount of banter and hatred between rival fans was crazy due to the history associated with them.

We all have been watching the English Premier League among the most elite professional leagues in the world. The fans all across the world would know how intense and ugly it can get between teams that fight for every single point. The relegation battle becomes a dog fight every season and every single point matters for teams at the bottom of the table. Tackles flying left, right and center was the most common trend seen in elite football.

Today’s football is influenced heavily by social media. The amount of show boating and skills to attract the attention is one of the most common features of modern football. The era of top flight football with icons such as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira was a sight to behold. The bust up at the tunnel sparked off the great rivalry between the two giants of English Football – Manchester United and Arsenal. Football fans were so close to the players. In today’s era, players are surrounded by a group of bodyguards. So meeting our favourite players is a distant dream.

The unreal football that we see today comes down to the change in rules based on FIFA’s approval to use technology in the top tier leagues of the world. The introduction of VAR at the elite level has caused player’s to think twice before committing any challenge and be cautious of their arms inside the penalty box. The slightest of contact is enough for a player to claim a penalty. Whereas, in earlier days, a rough tackle also never got a caution from the referee.

Football is meant to be a contact sport with several key factors which influence the outcome of the game. This Premier League season has already shown so many goals through penalties. Teams cannot gauge the way football is played these days. For players, it has become a tool of luxury to go with their training regime. For fans around the world, it has become a case of either make sense of what’s going on or don’t follow football for years together until we don’t see the real deal. The mentality of players and coaches has changed drastically. They use of modern day technology has made clubs look at things in detail which can influence player performance. Young players of today’s football would have not got accustomed to the brutality and spirit with which the game was played in previous years.

We as football fans can only hope that the amount of controversies in modern football reduce and with passage of time, professional football will become more entertaining to watch without compromising the passion, aggression and spirit with which the beautiful game is played. Let’s come out of this illusion of witnessing football that brings all the key ingredients that create a football match. Most of the top level managers have already raised concerns over the way football is approached in today’s world. The attitude, commitment and desire of the players has changed with the access to other external luxuries. It’s high time that football is played with an intensity that makes fans go into a frenzy. An experience of the olden days of football will go a long way in bringing back the real deal.

Modern football has not evolved but degraded with the approach of players and coaches at the elite level.

How can Financial disruption help Football ?

A world without precious resources is non-existent. Among the many available resources, money plays a huge role in driving the economy forward. We all agree that football is one such major sport which is globally recognised. The popularity among the global mass is unscaleable and presents a huge opportunity for the world to drive the sport forward. But in the present period, we have seen disruptive forces overpower firms and organizations which are not adapting to the changing scenarios.

When we consider India as a developing nation in terms of football, we need to ensure that the basic football ecosystem in India is economically sound. The foreign investors are always in the look out for good opportunities to invest in Indian football. Be it in the infrastructure, clubs , kits and technology. The entire gamet of football operations are in a standstill at the moment due to the ongoing pandemic.

Nobody knows how long will it take for Football to resume at the youth level. The disruptive forces which are considered to be game changers is the modern technology used in Football. Be it performance analysis, improving training methodologies, scouting etc. technology is the key to take football clubs to the next level. The COVID-19 pandemic has given a huge lesson to firms which are devoid of digitisation and use of technology to drive the industry forward.

Clubs and academies in India are in a nascent stage to implement the available technology. There have been some developments in the process of player evaluation and profiling. But the real opportunity for them lies in understanding which disruptive force will give them maximum benefit. Brands such as Olocip have come into existence after identifying the void in the industry. Their technological insight to football clubs is a real eye opener for top European clubs.

The influx of commercial investment into football is certainly a big opportunity for the club’s to flourish. Provided, the investment is allocated to specific areas to get the desired result. This has happened in Indian football 7 years back when we saw the Indian Super League emerge to become the top tier league in India. What has been the impact of a close ended commercial league for the last 7 years? Have they resulted in widespread viewership all across India to become the top league in India? Some would say yes. But the truth is that we as football fans are driven by the entertainment that the game produces week in week out.

AIFF president Praful Patel recently stated the Indian football will have a healthy ecosystem to develop only if it is economically strong. If that is the case, why haven’t we seen major investments to set up quality infrastructure at the grassroots level. My time in the UK made me realize the difference in the training facilities at the lowest level. The investment on quality equipments and training is the most basic thing to ensure football development. We as Indian football fans can’t be optimistic about any positive development if the financial investment is not channelized efficiently.

The Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) entered the Indian Football ecosystem with the objective of causing a major financial disruption that would ensure growth of Indian Football. However, the objective is far from being fulfilled. The emergence of concepts such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence have given a different perspective to Indian clubs who are willing to incorporate changes in their operations. A measured approach is the key when we talk about financial disruption. AIFF’s strategic plan to develop the standard of Indian Football has not yet seen the results because of the lack of football minds coming together.

People who actually know how a football ecosystem should work in a developing country like India. A strong financial backing will be required when the concept is clear. This is how any financial disruption model will give the desired results in the years to come. Let’s hope that Indian Football gets the right personnel at the helm of affairs to guide India towards a powerhouse and utilize the financial disruption for the betterment of Football.

Financial disruption can create a healthy ecosystem if it takes all the entities associated with Football to grow alongwith the growth of the entire ecosystem.

AIFF scraps Youth League this season : Road ahead for young Indian players

If there was any sign to improve the system of football in India, it had to come down through grassroots development of youth in inculcating a strong football culture. The lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the young players all over India away from the ground for almost eternity. The urge to come back to the ground is understandable. One thing which keeps them pumped up everyday is definitely to play football. The All India Football Federation decided to cancel the youth leagues for this year due to the impact of the pandemic.

This being the case, I was pondering over a question lingering in my mind. Why has the AIFF not kept the youth league as the no. 1 priority when it comes to conducting national leagues? Why did they prioritize the ISL for hosting the league? There are certainly commercial interests linked to the senior league which has made them feel that the fans should get to see the ISL. Football will never improve if the priority is not given to the new generation of football talent .

The Youth League was setup by the AIFF with the objective of fostering talent that has the potential to break through to the next level. The new academies which applied for accreditation with AIFF also stands cancelled and all of them who applied for the accreditation will get their money back. The academies would have to wait until June of next year for the accreditation process to start.

This means that the players will have to stay an entire season without competitive matches that is crucial for their development as a young player. We all know how getting game time is crucial for young players who do not have the right exposure to play. We all know how difficult it has been to cope up without football during this pandemic. It is more frustrating for young players who are desperate to go onto the pitch.

There are players who call me every second day to know whether there is any update from the AIFF to start the youth league. Given the current scenario, I know how tough it is for them to live without Football at a young age where every minute is precious for their development. The Youth league in any country plays a pivotal role in developing talent and churning them into professional players through a structured pathway. The priority in this case should have been given to the youth league.

Mr. Sunando Dhar, the CEO of the I-League expressed his opinion on the Executive Committee’s decision to cancel the youth league this season. The federation is planning to kickstart a Under 20 national league for players who missed out on this year’s tournament due to the pandemic. We can expect more players to get the opportunity to compete and show their talent once we come out of this pandemic.

I recently saw an online video of Techtro Swades United FC conducting a trial for young players. The enthusiasm and passion of the young players towards football was clearly visible while playing the match. That shows that Football will not go anywhere. It is here to stay and many academies have started their training in small groups. The national tournament might have been scrapped for this season but the players have to feel rejuvenated and focus on improving their game.

Whatever happens in the near future should benefit the young football talent and give them the incentive to work harder during this lockdown. This will enable them to come back stronger with full vigour once the youth league resumes next season. The total football population is slowly increasing every year which only means that the national competitions are paramount for them to improve. Let’s hope that our talented youth stay focused towards their goal and stay mentally and physically ready to compete next year.

The young Indian players need to remain focused in any situation to reach their final goal. This is a time for them to reflect on their game.

Is Loyalty hard to come in Football Clubs? : The Ozil Saga

Anyone in the world who follows football would know how difficult it is for clubs to deal with players on a huge wage bill. The player’s quality is often the reason behind the club’s decision to offer a lucrative contract. This is exactly the case with Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. A player who had set the world on fire with his incredible creativity was lured by Real Madrid in 2010. The 5 time German Player of the Year winner is a talent which makes us feel that he would definitely fit into any team. Well, at the moment, a normal back spasm or illness is not the case for him being omitted from Arsenal’s Europe League or Premier League squad for the 2020-21 season. There are certain things which a coach demands from every player that fits into the philosophy of the club. And Mesut Ozil certainly does not fulfill that criteria.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has openly accepted the claim that he has failed to get the best out of Ozil. Anyone who follows Arsenal closely would know that the midfield lacks a creative spark that is capable of unlocking any defense. Ozil is a player who has caught the attention of many coaches and pundits throughout his career. A player who gets paid 350,000 £ per week is not even on the bench. We all see him training regularly at London Colney. His situation at the club is much more grim than what we can imagine.

A football club expects players to abide by the terms and conditions of a contract. Be it attending zoom sessions during lockdown, regularity in training, for promotional events, community events etc. A football player’s luxurious life with 7 to 8 sports cars and a big mansion in London does is just what we know as football fans. But deep within, the player goes through so many emotions and rides several challenges to make a comeback into the first 11.

To be honest, Ozil is one of my favourite creative players who requires the right support system to operate in the attacking third of the pitch. Arsenal signed him from Real Madrid back in 2013 for £ 42 million. Many would say that this is a steal. His first 3 years at the club were staggering as his influence on the team was huge to take Arsenal back to where they belong i.e. the top of the Premier League. Former manager Arsene Wenger was thoroughly impressed by what he saw from Ozil on a daily basis. With the passage of time, his loyalty to the club is not paying any dividends.

Recently when he was axed from Arsenal’s Premier League squad for the whole season, he expressed his opinion of feeling disappointed in not being included in the squad. On his day, he can certainly make a big difference to the games outcome. There is no denial of that. On the flipside, many pundits believe that he often becomes a passenger during the game due to his inefficient work rate. The Premier League demands incredible athleticism and speed to recover into a defensive shape. But Ozil has often been criticised of not tracking back enough, not giving his 100 percent commitment on the pitch, not fighting for the ball after the team loses possession etc.

These are some of the factors which Mikel Arteta might have taken into consideration before making a decision about Ozil. Even during these tough times personally, he has been regular to training, enjoying his time at Arsenal and loving life in London. The club are set to terminate his contract by paying off the remainder of his wages and allowing him to leave before his contract expires at the end of the season. Arsenal have seen him as a liability which will not turn into an asset in the near future. Arteta answered the media in a diplomatic way by saying that he chooses players who are in a better condition to perform on a given matchday. This in turn implies that his feeling about Ozil is still the same.

Ozil last played for Arsenal back in March 2020 in a league match against West Ham. Since then , he has been basking under the British heat in the stands under an umbrella or chilling at home playing FIFA 20 with his friends. Football is not a charity anymore. The current situation with Ozil is expected to continue till the manager feels that he is worthy enough and fit to start playing matches once more for Arsenal. His role at the club has become that of a social media handler who tweetswith the famous “Ya Gunner Ya” tagline everytime Arsenal are performing well.

Only time will tell how does Ozil’s situation at Arsenal pan out. The fans have also had enough of the growing deadwood at the club. They feel that Ozil has given a lot of wonderful memories to them in crucial matches. But he has lacked the spark when it is really required against big teams. Just when Ozil refused. 12.5 % wage cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing a financial distress, it became more like a war between Ozil and the club. He has been stubborn in his decisions which he feels are ethically right. How does the club perceive it? Every action that Ozil does on or off the pitch has a million eyeballs glued to their phones. Even when Arsenal won against Rapid Vienna in the opening fixture of the Europa League, Ozil expressed his support for his teammates which meant that he still owes a lot to the club until his contract expires in June next year.

Ozil is convinced that his omission from the team is due to the club’s commercial interests in China. Soon after he was seen speaking out in support of the Uighur Muslim minority in China, all the livestreaming of Arsenal’s matches in China got cancelled. This has a huge financial implication for Arsenal which has led to this rift with Ozil at the club. Let’s hope to see Ozil fight his way into the team for one final time before he bids adieu to Arsenal at the end of the season.

Mesut Ozil’s treatment at Arsenal is an example of how commercial interests can influence the club to take harsh decisions and waste a huge talent in world football.

Life of a Football Scout: Patience and Perseverance

Everytime a football player performs well, any type of appreciation goes to the coach who works his socks off. The reason behind a player’s success is not always seen in detail. A player who becomes a sensation within 3 to 4 matches after entering the elite level often grabs the attention of the media. The only reason why a player stands proud of his achievements at the elite level is because he was spotted by someone at a very young age who often gets unnoticed. That someone is none other than a football scout who tries to get maximum insight about a player’s potential with a set of fixed parameters. In today’s competitive football industry, the players have to be at the top of their game to make it to the professional level. In such a scenario, a scout’s role becomes crucial in facilitating a player’s development.

Ideally, a scout would spot a player at a young age and build his report with intrinsic detail. What catches me off guard is the fact that they do not get take credit for a player’s success. The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA) based in UK believes that the football pyramid is incomplete without the role of scouts. Any professional club always looks for young emerging talent which could make a big difference to their season’s outcome. The scout’s life is more to do with the persistence of finding the ideal player who would be the right fit for a particular club. At a young age, it is difficult to say whether a player is going to really make it.

But for a scout, with years of experience under his or her belt, they can make a good judgement about the future of a young player. They go under the radar just like how an agent is percieved by local fans. The fact that scouts are in huge demand at professional football clubs is what makes their job so crucial in the industry. Imagine a young Lionel Messi playing in the streets of Rosario without being identified by anyone to go to the next level. The entire world would not have witnessed the magician at work week in week out at Barcelona.

There have been many players at the elite level who had abundance of talent to really make a difference. But their talent withered away with the passage of time. Not enough opportunities and performances put jolted their professional career. This is where temperament plays a huge role in a player’s growth. Scouts identify a potential talent based on 5 parameters which are rather subjective. The psychological aspect of a player is imperative for him or her to make a smooth transition from the amateur level to the professional level. A scout requires dedicated patience to identify a talent and then ensure that he or she gets the right platform to showcase their talent.

Scouts who work at the top end of the spectrum look for players who are a complete package with a lot of versatility. The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA) gives the best opportunity for future scouts to make a difference in the industry and also helps them in networking with clubs. With over 250 registered scouts just in UK, they aim to form a huge global community of scouts to understand the experiences of one another at different levels of the football pyramid.

A scout’s day to day activities can be daunting especially when they cross geographical boundaries and explore different communities who play football. Their sole objective is to identify a potential talent. But there are so many factors which creates a subjective opinion in their mind about the player. The facilities, upbringing, age group, anthropometric characteristics etc. are some of the key factors which influence a scout’s decision. No matter whether it’s sunshine or rain, they have to remain focused on the job in hand. This comes naturally with experience and brings out the best from them.

Their strong willingness to learn about the game through their individual experiences makes them reliable for any club or academy. The future crop of young players who could become the next Messi or Ronaldo have scouts behind them as a strong support system who can facilitate their growth. Football is not just about the performance on the pitch. It is about making sacrifices to go to the next level. Just like players and coaches, scouts also need to be ready to make sacrifices to follow their true passion i.e. Football.

I recently completed the level 1 talent identification course conducted by PFSA and realized that a scout’s role is much more than just identifying talent. A scout needs to have a flexible approach to understand a player completely. Decisions in scouting based only upon emotions, is a thing of the past. Utilising all forms of intelligence has become a crucial aspect of the job. First of all, a scout needs to know whether a player’s positional play is good, if he is talented and able to perform, and that involves watching the game completely differently. Second, the scout needs to back his findings when reporting to the decision makers in dealing with transfers. This does not only requires a scout who has the ability to transfer his knowledge, but also the stakeholders in the buying process of a player need to have insights into how the scouting has been done. Let’s hope to see many more extraordinary talents at the highest level through effective scouting.

Scouts are an embodiment of concentration on the touchline which requires a lot of patience and dedication while doing the job.

It’s not over until it’s over : Football Thrillers

People who follow modern day football would know for a fact that football matches can’t be predicted easily as there are many factors which swing the tide in favour of one team. Yesterday night, the Premier League witnessed one of the most remarkable comebacks when West Ham United came back from 3 goals down against Tottenham Hostpur to secure a point in North London. Everything seemed to be so comfortable for Spurs till the 82nd minute. The final 10 minutes including stoppage time just proved why Premier League is the best league in the world.

Throughout the second half, the hammers put constant pressure on Spurs to which the latter finally succumbed. They were shaky at the back which meant that West Ham were only growing in confidence. A well glanced header from Balbuena have the visitors a glimmer of hope. 2 minutes later , Davinson Sanchez stuck out a leg awkwardly in an attempt to clear the ball. He ended up heading it towards the goal to make it 3-2 in favour of Spurs. The pressure was only mounting and stoppage time produced an absolute screamer from Manuel Lanzini to make it 3-3.

In the post match interview, Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho summed up just how he felt after this weird contest. He said that what we just witnessed is football. Until the final whistle, nothing can be taken lightly. We as football fans often expect to get entertained by goals, assists and high scoring thrillers. There are some moments which make us realize that only football can make us realise and experience such moments.

One similar moment which everyone would remember is Troy Deeney’s extraordinary goal in the last few minutes against Leicester City in the Championship playoff final.The entire crowd went ballistic and entered the pitch. The fans, players and the coaching staff could not believe their eyes as just moments earlier Anthony Knockaert failed to score from the spot at the other end. This is the reason why everyone watching the game is anxious till the final whistle blows. Especially in games with a tight scoreline.

ESPN FC pundits felt that surrendering a 3 goal lead within minutes is unacceptable. Elite teams should know how to manage and see out the game. Any lapse in concentration can prove to be fatal especially in today’s modern football. The Premier League gameweek produced some more thrillers with the Merseyside Derby. The controversy surrounding VAR has not been resolved. Sadio Mane was deemed to be offside after his right elbow seemed to be in line with the last defender. Replays suggested that Mane was clearly on side. Henderson seemed to have taken all 3 points for Liverpool from Goodison Park.

Tottenham would consider themselves really unfortunate not to have killed the game. This was just an example of how football can be cruel and heartbreaking for the players and the fans when everything seems to be under control. Some moments during the match are uncontrollable. A brilliant strike from 40 yards would take away all the dominance which the stronger team had during the match. If Spurs are to finish in the top 4 this season, it is important for them to pick up points against mid table teams like West Ham United. Football thrillers are just the answer to why football is the most popular game all over the world. The passion, emotions and adrenaline is fuelled by thrilling finishes which keep the fans engaged. Imagine if this pulsating draw between Spurs and West Ham was played in a packed stadium. The West Ham fans would have gone absolutely crazy after the full time whistle.

Analysts who have studied both the teams in depth would have still predicted Spurs to win. The sense of complacency creeps in when the opposition is not trying hard enough to score. In this case, Tottenham were put to the ultimate defensive test. West Ham were putting in crosses from both the wings for large periods of the second half. Every second ball and aerial duel was dominated by West Ham. Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez had their work cut out dealing with crosses. The hammers could have gone on to score within 70 minutes after Pablo Fornals missed a sitter from 4 yards. That could have certainly been a wake up call for Spurs if the first goal had come a bit earlier.

As they protected a 3-0 lead till the 82nd minute, the whole team was confident to see the game out. But this match gave them an important lesson if staying focused till the final whistle as a comedy of errors would only rub salt in their wounds. This premier league season has been really unpredictable as we have witnessed high scoring thrillers. Chelsea once again failed to register a win after being held to a 3-3 draw by Southampton at Stamford Bridge. Could we have ever imagined Everton to lead the table with 5 games played followed by Aston Villa in second place? Let’s hope that the weekends just keep getting better with more thrillers to keep the global football fans engaged during this pandemic.

Manuel Lanzini produced an absolute screamer in stoppage time to complete a sensational comeback for West Ham against Tottenham in a pulsating 3-3 draw in North London.