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Finding perfection in Football

It has been a busy summer in the world of football much to the delight of the fans this year. Starting with Real Madrid- Atletico Madrid reaching the Champions league finals, Argentina losing in a big tournament final yet again and now Portugal reaching the finals of the European cup. The trail of events appears to be perfectly normal, but going by the different strategies of play it makes you wonder what a perfect victory is?

Both the Champions league finalist Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid played unattractive football throughout the season, just managed to win against its opponents and then fought it out on penalties after 120 minutes of football couldn’t part them.

Argentina who should be applauded for their consistency in the past 3 years in big tournaments lost to Chile on penalties yet again. It was almost like a cruel rerun of the previous year. The difference being – Leo Messi missed his penalty, leading to the entire blame being placed on his shoulders yet again.

Moving to the Euro, Portugal has had an extremely blessed run up to the final. Failing to win any of their group stage matches, yet qualifying for the next round, Portugal’s first win in normal time came in their sixth match against Wales in the semi finals.

These instances make one wonder about “Perfection in football”, what is it? Is it one player who plays beautifully and wins its team matches single-handedly, or is it a well synced team that works as a well oiled unit or is perfection just winning? According to Italian World Cup winning Captain Fabio Cannavaro “the most enjoyable thing in football is marking and a perfect match ends at 0-0.” For his teammate Gianluca Zambrotta, “a perfect football match ends 1-0. That margin is more than enough to move forward.”

Football has been around for centuries. It has seen the rise and fall of many teams, Behind each team there is a footballing philosophy be it Total football of the Dutch, Joga Bonito of Brazil, Italian Catenaccio Spanish Tiki taka or the Dirty aggressive style of 2010’s Netherlands. All styles have had its highs and lows, winning its team the highest accolades at times and throwing them out of tournaments mercilessly on others. So then how do we figure out which one is perfect?

Spain enjoyed six year dominance over the footballing world courtesy their tika taka style of play. Some found it lacklustre and boring while others regarded it as an apex of one touch passing and applauded the clinically results it produced without fail with the team performing like one unit. Was tiki taka perfection?

An Italian is taught how to defend even before they are taught the ABC. Defending comes naturally to them, relying on long balls and counter attacks for goals. The Catenaccio style has been fruitful to the Italians and over time they have been successful in evolving it according to the need of the hour so is Catenaccio the answer to the question?

Joga Bonito would seem like the perfect philosophy. Both charming and mesmerising, it has been synonymous to Brazil. The awe-inspiring philosophy relied on attacking football, beautiful football. Seeing Brazil play the unattractive football they play today and lose miserably many believe Joga Bonito was perfection and desperately want the team to go back to it.

Diego Maradona won the world cup single-handedly in 1986. The same is expected out of Lionel Messi but even if that were to happen keeping his recent decision of retirement aside would that be a perfect win for Argentina? Wouldn’t it be perfect if the entire team performed?

Portugal reaching the finals of the Euro has surprised many, not because no one expected them to reach the finals but because of their failure to win any match in normal time until the semi-finals. Portugal has played poor football. The team is reliant on just one big name, no part of their game shows sparks of brilliance or promise and they seem to lack concrete game plan. They have looked average throughout the tournament unable to win matches yet they are going to contest the finals.

Portugal are far from perfect but what makes football perhaps the biggest and most exciting game in the world, is this unpredictability. You never know what will happen in a game of football. A red card, an own goal, or a wonder goal from 40-yards out. It keeps the teams, players, and fans constantly on their toes.

There is no such thing as perfect and trying to find is an impossible task. How football should be played is subjective, how people prefer watching it is also subjective. At the end of it, all that matters after lifting a trophy is that, you won it be it by playing beautifully or by showcasing its unattractive boring side.

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The Australian open also known as the ‘Happy slam’  was rocked by  allegations of a widespread match fixing racket.  With BBC and Buzzfeed News publishing a report exposing evidence of widespread speculation of match fixing the atmosphere at the Australian has been anything but cheerful.

An average fan may not be aware that Tennis is the most gambled on sport in the world. It allows mid-match bets and the scope for match fixing is immense. Fixing a match in tennis easy, as it deals only with a single player and doesn’t necessarily mean losing a match, but could mean taking money to drop a set or double fault.

Although none of the players were named, the report alleges that all of them have been ranked in the Top 50 and have won a grand slam in single or doubles tournament. What is disturbing, is that the report also states that the sport’s governing bodies have been aware of the suspicious activities involving numerous players, and have been anything but enthusiastic in addressing the problem. These  players have been flagged as suspicious time and again to the Tennis Integrity Unit, but no action has been taken.

The report draws from the August 2007 Poland open match between Nikolai Davydenko, ranked four and Martin Vassallo Arguello ranked 87th.   Davydenko was the overwhelming favorite, yet during the match and hours before it started more than $5 million was bet on his opponent. Seemingly cruising to victory, Davydenko retired early in the third set, raising speculations of fixing. Investigations did take place and although both the players were cleared of any charges by the Association of Tennis Professionals (A.T.P), the new report reveals that Davydenko had refused to cooperate in the investigation and his opponent was found to have extensive contacts with the members of an Italian gambling syndicate.

Lack of transparency in the governing bodies is another obstacle the game is facing. The above is not the only instance of the governing body remaining silent.  In 2013 Marian Cilic withdrew from Wimbledon stating a knee injury when the actual reason was a failed drug test in the previous tournament. Why was he allowed to cite an injury for a withdrawal when a failed drug test was the real reason? Andre Agassi failed a drug test due to the consumption of crystal meth in 1997, the public got to know about it in 2009, that too by reading his autobiography. If the governing bodies themselves indulge in such shady activities, who gives us the guarantee that our beloved sport is clean or at least attempts are being made to clean the muck.

Those close to the sport are not surprised, rumors of fixing have been doing the rounds for quite some time now. In an interview with the BBC, a player, who featured in several tour matches last year and is now a coach said “This (Match fixing) is like a secret on the tour that everybody knows, but we don’t talk about it.”

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic are the only grand slam winners in the past decade. If any of these players are involved in match-fixing, it would  be a calamitous blow to tennis. But the very fact that some of them have come forward and demanded names gives us solace that they might not be involved.

Andy Roddick tweeted: “In the age of leaks and social media, I don’t think secrets exist.” We certainly hope this secret is revealed, for no one wants tennis going down the controversial path football, cycling and cricket went. 


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This ‘Secret’ In Tennis Is Something That ‘Everybody Knows But No One Talks About’

EU denies refuge to refugees.


The image of a Syrian toddler washed dead on a Turkish beach was an eye opener for the world of the magnitude of the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. Four years back since it began, the war between Syria, Iraq and Libya has killed innocent people, destroyed cities, violated human rights and forced many to flee from their homes.

This conflict has its repercussions in Europe. More than 19 million people are being forced to migrate and most of them head to Europe. They arrive in a dinghy in Greece and then trek across the Balkan Peninsula to reach EU’s Schengen zone in search for a better life. But is the European Union supportive of this migration? The answer is- not much. The rich countries of the EU have employed policies which are making the journey of these refugees more dangerous. Hungary has erected a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia, in an effort to prevent refugees from crossing into Europe. Austria has introduced checks along its internal border with the rest of Europe to search for refugees and other immigrants being smuggled into the country.  With the rare exception of Germany, that has welcomed refugees with open arms, each country is trying to push the burden on someone else. UK wants France to keep refugees away from them, France wants Italy to keep refugees away from them and Italy like Greece, wants the rest of Europe to take its refugees. While all of them want Turkey to house the refugees.

Taking in large numbers of refugees’ means having to alter the vision of what your town and city looks like. It also means having to widen the definition of your community’s culture. Is this the reason why the rich countries refuse to let in the refugees? Do they feel threatened by the large Muslim population entering the predominant Christian sphere of Europe? Do they fear this change? If Yes then the question arises that, is this insecurity big enough to forget humanity? Is it big enough to let people rot in the back of trucks? What these rich countries fail to realise is that if nobody tries to solve this crisis, it will only deteriorate with time.

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