Sunday, 31 October 2010

Has the Premier League Already been Decided?

Is this already inevitable for another year?  Image Credit Flickr User sonyds
By Matt Scott 
Chelsea are holding strong at the top of the table, 5 points clear of Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, who at this stage of the season seem to be the only realistic title contenders.

However 5 points could prove to be too much, even at this early stage of the season. This is because many Premier League sides, especially those who are struggling at the bottom end of the table, go into games against title challengers expecting to lose. Their attitude is that taking a point away from one of the current top four sides is a bonus, especially if they are playing them at home.

But credit where credit is due. This is down to Chelsea’s performances this season. A 6-0 thrashing of West Brom on the opening day at Stamford Bridge, followed by another 6-0 hammering, this time away at Wigan. Chelsea have been scoring goals for fun, two against Stoke at home, three away to West Ham, four at home to Blackpool. Their only set back has been a 0-0 against Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Chelsea v Arsenal, Feb 7th 2010.In the wake of the media bitzkrieg over Terry's alleged affair with Vanessa Perroncel, fans at Stamford ridge show their support for their captain.
Their style of play and goal scoring finesse has rattled the other teams in the League. Giving them the mental edge, convincing the opposition the game is lost before they step on the pitch, it’s just a matter of damage limitation. Because of this you see teams changing formation when they play Chelsea, often to a 4-5-1, with a defensive focus. They invite Chelsea onto them, defend for their lives and hope to spring on the counter. This is not, what many deem, exciting football for the neutral to watch.

Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United centre back gives a thumbs up at their match against West Brom, Oct 16
Manchester United, who some bookmakers listed as favourites for the League before the season kicked off, have had an all together different start to the season. They have been uncharacteristically shaky and seem nervous. After a bright start to the season, a comfortable 3-0 win over, newly promoted, Newcastle United at Old Trafford, things started to go wrong. United let a 2-1 lead slip in the 89th minute against Fulham, giving Chelsea a vital two point advantage at an early stage of the season.

Then, two weeks later, two injury time goals, one from Cahill and the other from Arteta erased a 3-1 lead at Goodison Park against Everton. Chelsea were now four points ahead and the United team looked even more uncertain on the ball.

After a vital 3-2 win over Liverpool, the team travelled to the Reebok Stadium to play Bolton. Sir Alex’s side were 2-1 down with less than 25 minutes left to play, so they began throwing everything forward and luckily, Michael Owen managed to find the back of the net, with only 10 minutes remaining. The majority of fans argue that Manchester United should have gone on to win the game.

Finally and most recently, a 2-0 home advantage at half time against West Brom was over turned by two goals in 5 minutes from the visiting side. United unable to score a third in the last 35 minutes of the game, in fact, they were extremely lucky not to lose the game in the end,  with West Brom going close on several occasion.

As these teams came from behind, wiping out leads to take unexpected points, other squads were watching, thinking that if a that team could do it, why couldn’t they.

The combination of this, increasingly inconsistent defending and unexpected errors have snowballed and increased the pressure on Manchester United in a vicious and ongoing circle. This is seriously damaging the clubs title challenge and if they are to stand any chance of gaining on Chelsea it needs to be resolved, fast.

Yet, one good thing to come out of this is that, for the neutrals, Manchester United games are now the more likely games to impress and entertain. It’s doubtful that Sir Alex will see it that way though.

Image Credits
Chelsea Badge - Flickr User TheTruthAbout
Terry V Arsenal - Wikimedia
Rio Ferdinand West Brom
Javier Hernandez -
Man United Logo

Friday, 29 October 2010

Maradona Turns 50: 50 Facts for Diego's Birthday

Everyone at the World in Sport wishes Diego Maradona a very happy 50th Birthday.  

To help celebrate this occasion we would like to present you with fify facts and quotes about the famous (and infamous in equal measure) Argentinean soccer player.

 Happy birthday Maradona!

1 - Diego Armando Maradona was born on 30 October 1960, three days after Muhammad Ali won his first professional boxing fight.

2 - There has always been a rivalry between Maradona and Pele.  Talking about Pele’s award for ‘Best Ever Player, Diego said "Pele should go back to the museum."

3 - Maradona’s first name has its origins in Greek and Hebrew despite being used largely in Italian and Spanish these days.  It means either a supplanter or a teacher.

4 - Maradona has two children – legally.  In a slightly ambivalent attitude towards fatherhood he once said: "My legitimate kids are Dalma and Giannina. The rest are a product of my money and mistakes."

5 - Maradona’s middle name is Armando – it means man in the army.  Perhaps if we take it as a metaphor for his soccer career, it is quite appropriate.

6 - He represented his country, Argentina 91 times (though to his opponents it must have seemed much more than that).

7 - During that time he scored 34 goals for Argentina.

8 - He represented Argentina in four World Cups, 82, 86, 90 and 94.

9 - He played for Boca Juniors, being instrumental in their rise to the League Championship in 1982 before he moved to Barcelona.

10 - In 1985 he left Barcelona for Napoli where he contributed greatly to their winning two Series A titles – their only such title to date.

11 - Maradona was skipper for Argentina sixteen times – this is the world record for the most appearances as skipper for a country in tat tournament.

12 - Maradona was only 15 when he started his professional career, making his debut for Argentinos Juniors on March

13 - He has really been in 5 World Cups.  He represented Argentina in their youth squad in 1979, winning the Youth World Cup in Japan.  The team won 3-1 against the Soviet Union.

14 - At 16 he made his international debut.  This was at the Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.  The match was against Hungary

15 - Che Guevara is one of his heroes.  He has a tattoo of the revolutionary on his right arm. He is also best mates with Fidel Castro. 

16 - Diego was a consistent target for dirty tricks in his international career.  During the 1986 World Cup in Mexico alone there were 53 fouls against him.

17 - 1986 was a good year for Maradona.  He captained his country to World Cup victory against West Germany, beating them three goals to two in the final.

18 - The same tournament gave England fans his most notorious moment.  In an infamous moment he scored against the English team in the quarter final – using his hand.  After the incident, which he would not live down in the English press for many a year, he said: “The goal was scored a little bit by the hand of God, a little by the head of Maradona.”

19 - After smashing a photographer’s camera for being intrusive, Diego said "I did it with the hand of reason."

20 - Maradona had a problem in the USA at the 1994 World Cup.  He played only two games ad scored only a single goal (against Greece).  The reason?  He failed a dope test and was sent home with his tail between his legs. In 1991 Maradona also left Napoli after he had failed a test for cocaine.

21 - Maradona and Claudia Villafane married on November 7 1989.  They were married for fifteen years, divorcing in 2004.

22 - He left owing Napoli a little bit of money to the Italian tax man.  Officials said in 2009 that Maradona owed them €37 million. However, more than half of this is interest on the original debt.

23 - Despite their rivalry, when Maradona became a chat show host on Argentinian television in 2004, Pele was his very first guest.

24 - Maradona became manager of the Argentina’s international squad two years ago, in October 2008.

25 - The next month saw his team get off to a great start – beating Scotland 1-0 on 19 November.

26 - It hasn’t always been a bed of roses since then.  During the World Cup qualifiers the team lost by an astounding six goals to one against Bolivia. 

27 - Despite this terrible defeat the team managed to get through to the tournament.  To his critics (who were legion) Maradona retorted. "To those who did not believe: now suck my d**k - I'm sorry ladies for my words - and keep on sucking it. I am either white or black. I will never be grey in my life. You treated me as you did. Now keep on sucking d**ks. I am grateful to my players and to the Argentinean people. I thank no one but them. The rest, keep on sucking d**ks.”  Not one for revenge then.

28 - FIFA weren’t terribly happy about this foul mouthed outburst.  They slapped a two month ban on him.

29 - Maradona got his own verbal revenge against FIFA when he complained vociferously about the new ball to be used in the 2010 World Cup tournament in South Africa. "I would ask all Fifa directors to stop talking about me and to start working on having a proper football. This ball is useless. It's impossible to control."

30 - Back in 1998 he said, about the World Cup of that year. "The players have all got square feet. They are like Robocops, they have more need of lubricant than massage. I don't believe the tournament could be worse."

31 - He will stick by his players.  When Lionel Messi failed to score a single goal in the 2010 tournament he said. “Anyone saying he didn't have a great World Cup is an idiot.

32 - Yet some will stick the knife in.  A former team  mate, Valdano, said of him.  “He is someone many people want to emulate, a controversial figure, loved, hated, who stirs great upheaval, especially in Argentina... Stressing his personal life is a mistake. Maradona has no peers inside the pitch, but he has turned his life into a show, and is now living a personal ordeal that should not be imitated.”

33 - Such is his following back home, the Argentine Football Association asked FIFA to put his famous No 10 shirt in to retirement, in his honor.  Unsurprisingly, FIFA said, “No, niet, non”.

34 - Maradona has a stadium named after him – the team Argentinos Juniors honored him by naming their ground Estadio Diego Armando Maradona.

35 - Politics are something upon which Maradona has been more than willing to comment.  After the 1986 Hand of God incident he said about England: “It was as if we had beaten a country, more than just a football team."  The two countries had been at war for real only four years previously.

36 - Maradona has had his own personal problems with drugs.  Interviewed in 1996 he said: "I was, I am and I always will be a drug addict. A person who gets involved in drugs has to fight it every day."

37 - The new millennium came and FIFA in their wisdom decided to award a player of the century title.  They couldn’t make their minds up and in the end awarded it to Maradona and Pele jointly.  Maradona said: "The people voted for me. Now they want me to share the prize with Pele. I'm not going to share the prize with anybody."

38 - In 1990 he was held in such high esteem that when asked which players he was putting on the pitch the Argentinean Manager Carlos Billardo famously replied: “Maradona – and ten others.”

39 - Although Maradona has not done a Cantona and acted in movies he was the subject of a documentary by the Serbian Filmmaker Kusturica.  It made its world premier at Cannes in 2008.

40 - Sir Bobby Robson said of the player in 1986: "With Maradona, Arsenal could have won the World Cup." Bob Wilson said of Maradona: “a flawed genius who has now become a genius who is flawed.”

41 - FIFA have called his 1986 goal against England the Goal of the Century.  No, not the Hand of God goal – the one which happened four minutes afters when he dribbled past desultory defenders to put one past England goalie Peter Shilton.  That made the score 2-0.

42 - In 2006 at the World Cup in Germany Maradona fell out of his pram about Pele – again.  He refused to go to the tournament’s opening ceremony, saying "I'm not here to look at bloody Pele walking around."

43 - Pele got his own back.  This year, reflecting on Maradona’s tenure as Manager of the Argentinean National Squad, Pele said: “But it isn't Maradona's fault. It is the fault of whoever put him in charge.”

44 - Maradona’s average goal-per-game in domestic club competitions is 0.526

45 - After only Batistuta and Crespo he is the third highest goal scorer for Argentina – ever.

46 - Ever since 1986, it is common for Argentines abroad to hear Maradona's name as a token of recognition, even in remote places.

47 - Psychologists have even got in to the scramble to say things about the famous player.  Pyschologist Gustavo Bernstein has said: “Maradona is our maximum term of reference. No one embodies our essence better. No one bears our emblem more nobly. To no other, in the last twenty years, have we offered up so much passion. Argentina is Maradona, Maradona is Argentina.”

48 - Maradona’s fans are famous for being the ultimate devotees.  In 1998 they started the Church of Maradona in Argentina.  So this 2- October this year is actually 50 DD (Despues de Diego or After Diego).

49 - For all his ups and downs, Maradona remains one of the best player the world has ever seen.

50 - There is little doubt that everyone wishes him another very happy fifty years!

    Thursday, 28 October 2010

    Push Pull

    If this film doesn't leave you exhausted then nothing will. 

    It is a glimpse of the cyclist and all round athlete called Pete Billington. All of the outdoor shots were taken out of the back/top of a four door jeep wrangler going up Mount Tamalpais. Everything else took place on a stage in a controlled studio environment that was lit using 2 soft boxes.  It gives a glimpse of just how hard the training regime is for a cyclist and how fit they have to be to compete.

    The film was created by Landis Fields, Zac Wollons, Punn Wiantrakoon, and Brian Berringer and directed and Edited by Landis Fields. The project required 2 locations.   The entire film was shot on 2 canon 7D's (mostly at 60p for "slow-mo" flexibility later on while editing) and 1 Canon 5D at 30p which was conformed to a 24 frame timeline. All cameras were equipped with different lenses that fit the needs of each shot.

    In case you are wondering, the music is by A Perfect Circle - Outsider (Apocalypse Remix).

    The Runner - Exploit Yourself

    Who said life at the city was placid? Inspired by Nike, this30 second piece of CGI magic was produced by Spec and directed by Carl Enrik Rinsch.

    The idea was to show off the nerve and spark and freshness of the city with the strength and power of modern sport competition, all in a whole 3d environment.  They certainly did that - it gives a whole new meaning to the word free-running.  ‘Exploit Yourself’ talks about pushing your limits just for the sake of it.

    There will be one or two parkour people who would like to get their hands on bionic robot legs like those, though we are not sure about the whole body transplant that seems to be the ultimate goal here for our urban runner.

    The Taylor Report and its Effect on Football

    Image Credit Wikimedia

      By Billy Adams

    The Taylor report was the final report written in January 1990 by the Rt Hon Lord Justice Taylor about his inquiry after the Hillsborough stadium disaster which claimed 96 lives and caused over 700 injuries.  The report deals with many subjects such as, the cause of the disaster, how to prevent future disasters and hooligans which to be very clear was not the cause of this disaster.   

    The effect this report has had on football and other sports over the last twenty years is immense. The big effect is that all major sports grounds must be all seater stadiums, is means that the old fashioned football terraces had to be abolished by 1994. One reason for this was so that a game could never oversell again and also that each fan had a bit of room to move. By taking such actions it would also cut down on hooligans who as a general rule were in the terraces largely due to the fact that they were the cheapest area in the stadium.

    It’s clear to see that hooliganism has died down long since the 80’s and this could be linked to decline of standing areas. There are little or no acts of hooliganism in modern domestic football, with the exemption of major rival games such as the example recently shown at West Ham v Millwall in 2009.

    Other notable areas that are blooming since the 90’s also include major sponsorship of football although this could be more down to the forming of the EPL. Football has also became more corporate and most stadiums now offer directors boxes. Reasons for this could again linked to the decline of hooliganism, as football of late has very little negativity by comparison making it favourable for advertising.  For example a company who sponsor a stadium such as Fly Emirates (Arsenal’s Emirates stadium) would rather have their name mentioned in a headline such as, “Arsenal win in flying style at the Emirates” as opposed to one such as “Fight breaks out at the Emirates”.

    A copy of the Taylor report can be found HERE

    Is Wayne Rooney Still a Role Model?

      By Billy Adams

    Back in March Wayne Rooney was interviewed by the Guardian newspaper in the UK.  “The England squad must be better role models”, said the Manchester United star.  He went on to add. "It is difficult as a footballer because you know people look up to you. You are role models whether you like it or not.” He also added, not without irony now that footballers had to “try to do things well for kids to see.”

    The Guardian article was written well before the England striker’s latest scandal, but it does show that he is aware of the fact that he is a role model, as are his fellow England team mates.   Yet how far has he strayed from his own ideals?  Is he still an acceptable role model for our children?

    Wayne Rooney is (or perhaps was) a role model to many people, for various reasons around the globe. Should he have taken more care with his actions due to the fact he is such a major role model, or should he just live life how he wants to?

    The public are not really asking for anything much from him or other any other sports stars for that matter, just professionalism. When a player such as Rooney is in the news many people tend to follow it.  This number would of course include the easily impressionable members of society, like children.

    When children see their idols in the press and on the TV, they pay attention so if their idol is encouraging a positive action like telling them to work hard at school they may be inclined to do so. But on the downside they can also see how their role models can make bad decisions, those actions can affect them just as much.

    Fame by association?  Image Credit Flickr User Gene Hunt
    At times it can be quite worrying how little privacy our nation’s stars get, and it could be argued that sooner or later they are bound to get caught doing something immorally indefensible as many people have judged Rooney’s recent contract actions to be. However while this show that they are only human after all, does a huge salary mean that sports people like Rooney have to be beyond reproach at all time?

    With a world so fixated on its celebrities, social networking has become a major pratfall for the famous with sites such as Twitter and Facebook feeding the world a never ending stream of tittle tattle and gossip.

    It may be that a good role model is a thing of the past or at the very least a much harder thing to come by.    

    Top Picture Credit Flickr User Malias
    Image Credit Rooney and Ronaldo

    Wednesday, 27 October 2010

    Adam Collin – Penalty King: Made for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy?

    By Matt Scott
    Adam Collin, Carlisle United’s shot-stopper, has had to wait a long time for his big break but when it arrived he grabbed it and held onto it, like all good goalkeepers should.

    Collin began his career as a youngster at Blackburn Rovers before moving to Newcastle United on a professional contract in 2002. During his 4-year stay on Tyneside, Collin had loan spells at both Doncaster and Oldham but neither of those produced a professional debut. Whilst at Newcastle he did manage to make several appearances on the bench but was too far down the pecking order to have a realistic chance of making a senior debut.

    After being released, Collin returned to Doncaster for a brief spell in 2004. Failing to make the grade at Doncaster, Collin signed for Workington A.F.C, who at that time, were in the Unibond Premier. He was initially signed as cover but forced himself into the first team fold. During his 5-year spell he helped the club achieve promotion to the Blue Square North after producing, what he is now renowned for, a string of penalty shoot-out saves in the play-off final against Farsley Celtic. These sort of displays began to catch the eye of Carlisle United scouts in 2008.

    Collin then began training with Carlisle United late December 2008 on a weekly basis. The Carlisle staff believed that Collin had done enough by the end of the 08/09 season to merit a deal and he signed a contract with them. Collin found himself in a familiar position, as he started the season as second choice.

    After working hard in training and patiently waiting Collin was given his chance the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, (knockout competition, open to clubs from Npower League One and Npower League Two) against Morecambe. After 90 minutes the match finished 2-2, so went to penalties. For the second time in his career, Adam Collin took the plaudits, after two good penalty saves provided Carlisle with the victory.

    Despite his impressive showing, Collin returned to the bench for the following league game and had to wait until the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy for his second appearance. Even though he conceded two goals he was still a standout performer in the eventual 4-2 victory in the second round. There was to be another start for Collin in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before he was given his chance in the league. His first league appearance then came in an away trip to MK Dons. Ending 4-3 to Carlisle. Even though 3 goals had been put past him, Collin impressed enough to establish himself as Carlisle United’s dependable Number 1 for the rest of the season.

    Fast forward a few months and Carlisle have reached the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area Final, in which they played Leeds United, who were favourites. With the final result being a 4-4 draw across two legs the match, once again went to penalties. After, what can only be described as, a brilliant showcase of penalty saves from Collin, the Cumbrian side emerged victorious and confirmed their first trip to the new Wembley stadium.

    Disappointingly Carlisle lost the final 4-1 to Southampton but Adam Collin, as usual gave as good as a performance as he could, only improving his reputation further, leading to him being named ‘Wembley Man Of The Match’.

    The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy provided a springboard that Collin was able to use to relaunch his career. However, even he may not have thought it would have led to speculation linking him with a move to Portsmouth and other Championship clubs. This then subsequently resulted in him earning a pay rise and contract extension as well as becoming a fans favourite at Brunton Park.

    The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is in full swing already this year and would you believe it, Carlisle’s first game against Port Vale went to penalties, with Collin adding two more penalty saves to his collection. Giving Carlisle a vital victory against Micky Adams high flying league two side.

    Carlisle’s next Johnstone’s Paint Trophy meeting is on November the 9th against Crewe at home. Don’t be surprised if it goes to penalties and you see Adam Collin take centre stage again.

    Martin O’Neill Reported To Be Making Management Comeback In Saudi Arabia

    Should I stay or should I go?  Image - Wikimedia

    By Matt Scott
    Martin O’Neill is reportedly about to sign a, tax-free, £4.5 million two-year contract at Saudi club, Al Hilal.

    Sven Goran Eriksson was reported to be their original target, but after he opted to join Leicester City, who the former Aston Villa manager was also linked with, O’Neill became their new preferred choice.

    Al Hilal representatives have revealed that, ‘a contract is almost signed and a announcement will be imminent’. The appointment of O’Neill would be another step in the right direction as, ‘the club are committed to being the biggest in the region’. O’Neill has been told that he can bring his own staff across to help him work with the likes of Lee Young-Pyo, who previously played in the Premier League for Tottenham, and Brazilian international Thiago Neves.

    Many would be forgiven for thinking that O’Neill, who worked wonders at Villa Park, would bide his time in England. He has been repeatedly linked as a potential replacement for, the under pressure, Roy Hodgson at Liverpool. O’Neill was also linked with the Middlesborough job before Tony Mowbray was announced as the manager today.

    Rather surprisingly, this would be the O’Neill’s first managerial post abroad but the challenge and lucrative pay packet offered could prove enough to lure O’Neill to Saudi Arabia.

    John O’Shea Must Think He’s Dreaming

    By Matt Scott
    The Sun recently revealed that Republic of Ireland international John O’Shea has signed a new £16.5million contract.

    Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to tie down the remaining Manchester United players whose contracts are running out. This news comes off the back of Wayne Rooney’s new, reported, £250,000 a week contract. Patrice Evra, who has been an ever present in the United side this season, has also just recently signed a new long term £100,000 a week contract.

    29-year-old O’Shea, who won’t argue against the fact that he isn’t as integral to the team as Evra or Rooney, will no doubt be delighted with his £80,000 a week deal. O’Shea, who defines the term versatile, has played all across the back four and midfield as well as a brief appearance as an emergency goalkeeper during his 12 year career at Old Trafford.

    John O'Shea, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick - Image Credit Wikimedia

    The new contracts that are being offered to players are a statement of intent from the club, to let that fans know that they can still compete on a financial level with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. David Gill, the Manchester United Chief executive said, ‘we have a policy that wages should be 50per cent or less of our turnover. We believe that we can do that and still retain and attract the starts that we need. This is a sensible model.’

    It has also been suggested that Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who is yet to justify his hefty price tag, will be offered a new deal. This may come as a surprise to some fans that have seen much speculation linking Anderson with move away from Manchester. The likes of Portuguese Giants Porto and Greek side Panathinaikos have been mentioned as potential destinations.

    Tuesday, 26 October 2010

    100 Greatest Sports Stars - Number 94 - Alexander Popov

    Once upon a time there was a little boy who was afraid of water.  His father, concerned that this hydrophobia might impact on to other aspects of his son’s life insisted that he went to the local swimming pool and learned how to swim.  The rest is history.  The frightened little boy grew up to be Alexander Popov, widely recognized to be one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time.  As such he makes it in at number 94 on our list of the world’s 100 greatest sports stars ever.

    The fateful day with the pool happened in 1979 when Popov was eight years old.  He started out by becoming expert at the backstroke and stuck with it till 1990 when he became part of Gennadi Touretski’s squad, urged on by the then Head Coach of the USSR National Team Glep Petrov.  Standing high at two meters, Popov was always going to be a formidable opponent but it was this change of event that was to prove his making.  If you prefer visual facts, try this video.

    The change to freestyle paid dividends sooner than the young Popov expected.  He won the gold medal in both the 50 and 100m freestyle in the Barcelona Summer Olympics of 1992.  The following Olympics in 1996 at Atlanta saw him repeat those victories.  This was quite a big deal as he was the first person to do so since Johnny Weissmuller (who played Tarzan in the movies) did so in the 1920s.

    The victory celebrations were to be short lived however.  After returning to Moscow from Atlanta he was stabbed in the abdomen in a street dispute.  He was lucky to live – the knife went right through an artery, skimmed a kidney and even damaged the pleura (the membrane encasing the lungs).  He had to spend three months recovering from this but was back to form the following year when in the 1997 European Championships he defended both titles – and kept them.  Here are some facts about his style.

    Barcelona proved to be a special place for Alexander Popov.  Returning for the 2003 Barcelona World Championships he again dominated the freestyle events winning both the 50 and 100m – again.

    The Athens Summer Olympics of 2004 proved to be a turning point. By this time he was thirty two and this is past peak age for a world class swimmer.  He was the oldest competitor in the pool for his events and failed to make it in to the finals of either the 50 or 100m freestyle.

    Yet all was not lost – like many an athlete Popov had made plans for when his time ran out as a competitor.

    He was elected to the International Olympic Committee as a full member in 1999 and he also is the athlete’s representative on the IOC Sport for All Commission.  This was by direct election so you can imagine the esteem in which Popov is held by his colleagues.

    In the UK they have OBEs and Knighthoods.  Being Russian, Popov was honored by his own country in 1996 when he received the Russian Medal of Honor.

    The same year he was also declared the Russian Athlete of the Year and European Sports Press Union Athlete of the Year.

    As a record holder he held a title for 10 years – the long course men’s 50 meter freestyle which he gained in 1998.  It was 21.64 seconds and was only beaten by 0.08 by Australia’s Eamon Sullivan.

    He made an appearance at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics presenting flowers to volunteers.  However, he has no plans to stay away from sports.

    He has already been named as one of the Evaluation Commission for the 2016 Summer Olympics which will be held in Rio, Brazil.

    So, there is number 94 on our list of the 100 Greatest sports stars of all time.  Keep coming back to World in Sport for more!
     Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov, Alexander Popov, Александр Владимирович Попов

    Monday, 25 October 2010

    Konchesky: Even in a Poor Liverpool Side he Sticks Out as an Under Performer

    "Hodgson may not admit it but Konchesky is quite possibly a panic buy."
    By Matt Scott
    It would be unfair to assume that Paul Konchesky lacks the ability to hold his own in, what used to be, a top four club's defence, especially given that he has two England caps to his name. However, given his displays in a Liverpool shirt so far this season there are many fans that feel that he is far from deserving a place in the first XI.

    When speculation began surfacing that Roy Hodgson was considering a swoop for his former Fulham compatriot, Liverpool forums began to fill with very sceptical messages. Then, on transfer deadline day, the official announcement was released that Liverpool had signed the bald headed left back and the forums started to flood with comments questioning Hodgson's decision to sign him.

    The fans knew the squad needed a new left back, with last season’s regular left back, Insua, being shipped out on loan to Turkish side Galatasaray, Daniel Agger was being played out of position as a make-shift full back and Fabio Aurelio, who was Liverpool's 08/09 regular left back, has been plagued with injuries the past couple of seasons.

    Hodgson may not admit it but Konchesky is quite possibly a panic buy. The only positives from the transfer are the fact that Konchesky is English. This will no doubt please Premier League chief Richard Scudamore, as it satisfies his new 'home-grown' squad regulations.

    Secondly, Hodgson also has a previous working relationship with him, meaning he has a good idea of what Konchesky can bring to the squad but it seems that his ability has been underestimated.  At least that is what it looks like at the moment.

    Arguably £3.5 Million and a couple of youth players is not a large amount of money to pay for a full back in this day and age. Despite this, many Liverpool supporters still feel a better alternative could have been found for that amount of money. Even Robbie Fowler who said, 'why oh why are we being linked with the likes of Konchesky, Luke Young, and Salcido?' hasn't been impressed with his former club's purchases in the transfer market.

    Fowler's decision to question the quality of Salcido (above) in his comment may prove to have been premature as the Fulham new boy, signed as Konchesky's replacement, is becoming a Craven Cottage favourite. The 30-year-old Mexican, who gave some solid performances at the World Cup in Africa, has impressed fans at Fulham due to his high work-rate and willingness to get forward. Salcido, who is only one year older than Konchesky, has made 81 appearances for Mexico, scoring six goals.

    He has also played in 29 Champions League Games as well as winning two Dutch titles in his time at PSV. Just to top it off, Fulham only paid PSV £1.6 million for their man, less than half what Liverpool paid for Konchesky. All these reasons combined and the player’s form so far this season, seem to indicate that Salcido would have been the better option for Liverpool.

    Fabio Aurelio can't be far from full fitness and many Liverpool supporters will be thinking that it will not be long before he replaces Konchesky if his poor run of form continues.

    He has looked out of place and somewhat overwhelmed, none more so than during the away trip to Manchester United, which ended in a 3-2 defeat. Even in the 2-1 win at Blackburn, Konchesky was guilty of being caught out of position and failing to clear his lines properly.

    Obviously, the performances of the rest of Liverpool squad have not lightened the workload for the defenders.

    Regardless of that, if Konchesky does not improve he may lose his place on the Liverpool team sheet and instead, find it next to the words: 'worst signing of the season'.

    Matt Scott is the author of the Reality Football blog - and you can contact him on Twitter - @mattscott49

    Sunday, 24 October 2010

    50th Anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s First Professional Fight

    October 29 1960 was a turning point in the boxing career of a young man who at that time was known by the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.  On the evening of that day he took part in the first professional fight of his career.

    Today we know him as Muhammad Ali and it is fifty years since that fight, from which the boxer went on to astonish the world.

    Even fifty years ago he was not an unknown.  Although he was only eighteen years old he had already represented his country in the Summer Olympics of the same year, held in Rome.  He had made his international name there, winning a gold medal in the light heavyweight division.

    The time was ripe for him to turn professional.  With an outstanding amateur record of only five losses against 100 wins it was time to make some money.  Serious money.  Ali’s first ever trainer had been a police officer, Joe E. Martin who had encountered the young Cassius incandescent over the theft of his bicycle.

    It was not without irony then that his first professional fight would be against another police officer.

    In fact Tunney Hunsaker (left in 1978) was more than that – he was the Police Chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia.  A Journeyman boxer he had fought in excess of thirty bouts.  Ten years older than Cassius Clay he lost in the sixth round to the young challenger.

    The match took place at the Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky and Hunsaker lost with a unanimous six round decision.   This decision was not taken lightly but it was obvious that Hunsaker could no longer persevere with the fight: both his eyes were swollen shut.

    Hunsaker would often reminisce about this match in later years.  “Clay was as fast as lightning (was he the first to say this we wonder?) ... I tried every trick I knew to throw at him off balance but he was just too good”.  Ali himself takes his hat off to Hunsaker in his autobiography The Greatest, admitting that the Chief delivered one of the hardest body blows he ever experienced before or after the match.

    In a 1992 interview, Hunsaker revealed some of the brassier aspects of his teenage opponent.  "He sure was a brassy young boy when I fought him. He drove to the Louisville fairgrounds in a brand-new pink Cadillac”.   Yet the thing he remembered most about the bout was the fact that Ali was so big and so fast. 

    Hunsaker’s own boxing career would come crashing to an end only a year  later.  In April of that year he fought Joe “Shotgun” Sheldon to ten rounds before Sheldon delivered a crashing blow.  Suffering a head injury and being in a nine day coma he decided that enough was enough – in fact had to have two brain operations and he suffered from the physical effects of this last bout for the rest of his life.  He died in 2005 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Mohammed Ali never forgot the man who was the human embodiment of a turning point in his life.  He and Tunney Hunsaker became good friends and stayed in touch with each other until Hunsaker’s death in 2005.  Ali was even the surprise guest at Hunsaker’s police retirement party back in Fayetteville.

    Friday, 22 October 2010

    Wayne Rooney Gets Back on the Old Trafford Bus

    What do you do just before you sign a five year contract for £41.6m?  Apologise rather sheepishly if you are a certain Wayne Rooney who today did both.  He bowed his head and said sorry for causing offence to the fans, hurting the players’ feelings and causing Sir Alex his most recent press headache.

    Then he was sent to the naughty step.  Well, not really but following this week’s events which would rival many a northern soap opera for their sheer ups and downs (hesitation, rancour, soul searching followed ultimately by compromise and resolution) Rooney should perhaps spend a minute or two there.

    As U-turns go this was a fairly major one and now he is back on the Old Trafford Bus he can expect to earn £160K a week with incentives of probably another £40 or so at least.  We don’t expect he will be receiving Child Benefit for the kids when it becomes mean tested in a few years but if it was behaviour tested his mum would still be getting it.

    At least Rooney, then, has something to celebrate on his 25th birthday on Sunday.  You can just imagine the metaphorical birthday feast.  Colleen forcing a smile, her parents clenching their fists and a group of fans like Tiny Tim (or at least a very fed up one) at the butcher boys window.   Not heard that one?  The police had to be called on Thursday to remove angry fans from outside chez Wayne.  To say he has one or two bridges to rebuild is to put it lightly.

    Ian Holloway, the Manger of Blackpool certainly had something to say about football's authorities for allowing Wayne Rooney to manufacture his exit from the club.

    If his contract is extended to 2015 you can only hope that the bruised feelings and hurt he has caused this week can heal before that.

    Image Credit Flickr User dullhunk

    100 Greatest Sports Stars - Number 95 - Heather McKay

    Australia, it cannot be doubted, has produced many world class sports stars, per capita possibly more than any other country in the world. That and the little green god aside we have to take our hats off to number 95 on our lists of the 100 greatest sports stars ever – possibly the greatest sportswoman that Australia has ever produced. Yet why, we wonder, have so few people ever heard of the incomparable Heather McKay?

    It could be the fact that her sport was squash (she is not retired): for whatever reasons the sport has not joined the likes of golf and tennis in the megabucks or for that matter mega interest stakes. It could be, also (and we say this shamefully) that in an oft overlooked sport the female players are generally ignored even more than the male. Whatever the case, it remains that Heather McKay has one of the most outstanding sports records that you will ever hear about.

    Domination isn’t quite the word for what she represented in the squash world. She was the ultimate squash player of the 60s and 70s and won 16 British Open titles in a row between 62 and 77. She also won the World Open title when it began in 1979. During this period she was never defeated. Not once. Never. Hats off to Heather! How many other sports stars have that sort of record? Yes, we couldn’t either.

    What was more she also played racquetball and field hockey at top levels. Born in 1941 McKay was defeated only twice in her career (once in 60 and again in 62). When she retired in 1981 she had not been beaten since that day in 1962. Her first British Open came at the age of 21 and then there was almost a generation of comfortable wins. In 1968 she won the final against Bev Johnson (also an Australian) without conceding a single point.

    Retiring at the age of 40 from top-level squash she has remained active in the Masters Level events, winning two over-45 and two over-50 World Championships. To cap it all she was a member of the Australian Women’s Hockey Team and won the American (Amateur) Racquetball Championship in 1979. Moreover she won the professional version of that title three times (80, 81 and 84) as well as winning the Canadian Racquetball Championship five times.

    Some amazing facts about an amazing sportswoman. Although little known outside of her arena, are you surprised any longer to find here on this top 100 sports stars list?

    Wikio Shopping

    Thursday, 21 October 2010

    Terry loves a bit of Roo

    Chelsea captain John Terry has said that he would welcome want away striker Wayne Rooney with open arms at Stamford Bridge, Rooney has said that he wants to win trophies and that is exactly what Chelsea did last season winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup.

    Rooney has said he was impressed with United's vision for the future, stating the lack of ability to lure top quality players to the club.

    Rooney would certainly fit the bill at Chelsea, having won trophies last season with top quality international players they have at the club.

    The Chelsea defender said, "Wayne is the best young players in the world. I am no different to any other player in saying that."

    "You obviously have to respect Manchester United and Wayne, but who knows what's going to happen."

    "We've got a great squad of players and he would add to that and strengthen the squad. He is the best player in the world for me."

    Carragher defends Roy Hodgson

    Jamie Carragher defends his boss
    Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has thrown his full support behind under-fire boss Roy Hodgson, the Reds have made a dissapointing start to the season with the team slipping down to it's lowest ever position in the league table. Currently sitting second from bottom.

    But Carragher has said he has full confidence in his boss and recalls Liverpool not winning a game in twelve matches under former manager Gerard Houllier. 

    "It is very early days in the season and there is a lot of time to go," he said.
    "It hasn't always been rosy playing for Liverpool. Last season wasn't great and I remember going 12 games without a win under Gerard Houllier, so it has not always been plain sailing.

    Jamie Carragher added, "It is a little rocky patch we are going through at the moment but as long as the players, manager and supporters all stick together it won't be a problem.

    "The spirit in the dressing room is fine but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out if you win games it is a lot better.

    "The manager is the boss and we should be trying to impress him, not the other way around."
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