Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’


Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog






During the first games of the Round of 16 Tournament of the UEFA Champions League, we saw two clubs; Arsenal and Barcelona (two clubs with a history of being purists when it comes to the execution of the Total Football strategy, otherwise known as “Jogo Bonito”- The Beautiful Game) getting completely hammered in the first legs of their games. Barcelona lost 4-0 to Paris St. German (PSG) and Arsenal lost 5-1 to Bayern Munich.

Now, both Bayern Munich and PSG are leaders in their respective leagues in Germany and France and their results from the first set of games not only proved how good they are but it also showed how impossible it would be for any team to recover from those first two heavy defeats to progress beyond this round, given the aggregate formula used in European Football.

So come games 2 and Mission Impossible. Sport writers and pundits had already written off Barca and PSG coming into these games with insurmountable odds. What happened next completely defines the philosophies of both clubs.

Arsenal Football Club located in London, England is one of the oldest clubs in England, having joined the English Football Association in 1893. Since 1996, Arsene Wenger has been managing the club and is responsible for bringing the Jogo Bonito Total Football style to Arsenal. Such style focuses on dominating possession during a football game, intricate passing in all directions, and capitalizing on the point of maximum opportunity to score goals. This style over the last 20 years has seen Arsenal rank among the most successful clubs in England and Europe.

Barcelona Football Club, located in the Catolonia region in Spain have been a global powerhouse in Sports for decades, but more so over the last 10-12 years when the initial foundation work of Legendary Coach John Cryuff grew exponentially under Frank Rijkaard and succeeding coaches. The Barcelona system has been so successful that not only because has it seen them dominate Spain and Europe, but it has also ensured that regardless of whoever is at the helm of affairs, the winning formula and mentality continues. Barcelona, very much like Arsenal, also rely heavily on dominating the possession game, intricate passing, and the capitalization of scoring when the opportunity is created, versus when the opportunity randomly presents itself.

So here you have two powerhouses of European football who mirror each other in terms of their style of play and how they are coached.  And here you have two powerhouses of European football going into their second games of the round of 16 after having suffered “insurmountable” losses in their first games. How both teams responded has completely redefined their genetic makeup.

Arsenal came into this game after having lost 3-1 to Liverpool FC only a few days prior. Spirits were low and the general attitude for Game 2 was just to make the score line respectable. Barcelona on the other hand, led by the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, and Iniesta, had a hint of belief over accomplishing mission impossible. Their two games leading up to the rematch with PSG saw them thrash Sporting Gijon 6-1 and Celta Vigo 5-1. This meant that they were going into their showdown with PSG having scored 11 goals over two matches. They needed a miraculous 5 unanswered to progress to the next round.

So come match day and the ensuing series of events, Arsenal travelled to Germany to take on Bayern Munich and Barcelona hosted PSG at home.

The Arsenal v Bayern Munich game saw a deflated and demoralized team who started well by scoring first, but then capitulated once The Bavarians equalized. Arsenal got absolutely thumped by the exact same score line to the first game, 5-1. After a while the players looked like all they wanted to do was go home.

However, the Barcelona v PSG game saw a Barcelona team come out from the very beginning looking to shoot their shot against all odds. They didn’t particularly play well and some players (including Messi) looked out of sorts. But the deep-seeded philosophy/belief was evident that night, especially in the opening minutes. Barcelona need to score 5 answered goals in order to progress to the next round.

The plan was in motion and Barcelona were getting closer and closer. They had scored 3 answered and were feeling the impossible was inevitable. It wasn’t until Edson Cavani scored a wonder goal for PSG that brought things back down to Earth. PSG felt that they were in the clear and it appeared to the Barca players that this mountain they needed to climb only got much higher. So at this point, Barca now needed 3 answered goals. 8 minutes were remaining and only divine intervention could get Barca through, and divine intervention manifested itself in the form of Neymar. First it was a free kick…GOAL. Then a penalty…GOAL. Then at the death of it all, a sublime pass again from Neymar to Sergio Roberto slides the ball into the net…GOAL.

The unimaginable had happened. Barcelona, through sheer grit and determination pulled off an impossible comeback.

What Barcelona did was solidify their philosophy as a team that will never give up, which is ironically the final ingredient that defines Jogo Bonito. An ingredient missing with Arsenal when it was required.

Two teams who share similar philosophies but two teams who will forever define greatness differently. We can blame the coach and the execution of the game strategy etc, but at the end of the day history always vindicates those that pursue greatness.

Well done to Barca….and on to the next one in this legendary story.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

by Nwaji Jibunoh









At the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina, there was an absent figure that was highly regarded at the time as one of the greatest soccer players after Pele.  His name was Johan Cryuff; the man who invented and executed total football and showcased his skills on the grandest stage throughout the 70’s.  Cryuff had played for his country; The Netherlands in the previous tournament in 1974 and reached the final game losing to Germany.

Everyone was expecting this prolific player to return 4 years later and catapult La Orange (that’s the nickname for the Dutch national team) into super stardom.  At the last minute, their talisman pulled out of the tournament to the shock and awe of the world.  There were all sorts of speculation as to why he dropped out, but it wasn’t until 2008 when he finally spoke out indicating that he and his family had been the victims of an attempted kidnap plot.  He stated that experience and the demands from the assailants with regard to his profession had such a profound effect on him that he decided to exit the world stage of soccer to the disappoint of millions of fans, the expense of several marketing magnates, and a dent in the reputation of the beautiful game.

Criminal elements have always found their way into sports.  Johan Cryuff is one of the first examples of such a high profile case where an organized crime syndicate ultimately affected a decision made by a professional athlete creating the beginning of football scandals influenced by Organized Crime.

Yesterday, Europol in a very bizarre and interesting press conference stated that there are currently almost 700 games whose outcomes where determined as a result of Match Fixing.  Now, match fixing is not new to the World of Soccer.  After all, all you have to do is go back to Olympique Marseille in the French League in 1994 and AC Milan and Juventus from the Italian top flight in 2006 to see evidence of the influence of criminal elements in soccer and their very long reach.  But, this particular situation currently being investigated by Europol showcases a new depth to how bad this scandal has become.  We are talking about 680 games, 15 countries, 425 referees in a span of less than 3 years.  Absolute MADNESS!!!!

In as much as the details are not public right now as the investigations are ongoing, it does spur the question of the integrity of the sport.  For majority of individuals who aspire to be professionals in this sport, it will always be more than just a game.  It is first and foremost a way out of one’s current socioeconomic situation.  In developing countries, this is more apparent than anything else.  So for every young lad from a South American or African ghetto looking to one day make it big in world football, there are countless Europeans already enrolling in youth development programs honing their craft at a very early age.  So even before one can conceptualize it, the disparity already exists.  Some make it through the cracks, others won’t.  What this now creates is a recipe for match fixing.  How so?  Check it; the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Didier Drogba earn on average 200,000  Pounds Sterling per week ($320,000 USD).  These guys play for the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Drogba who left Chelsea in May 2012.  All these clubs are well funded with billionaire owners.  Now, these clubs will as a result of their schedules play the likes of Accrington Stanley, Real Zaragoza, Reading FC, and Debrecen.  These are clubs that you will probably never hear of on ESPN.  The average salary from these clubs that I have just mentioned is in the ball park of 1000-3000 Pounds Sterling per week ($1600 – $4800).  Any mafiaso, crime agent, etc can easily go to any member of the aforementioned teams as a result of such ridiculous earning disparities and say “I will give $20,000 in cash if you miss a few shots and another $40,000 if you allow Messi to breeze right by you”.  No matter your level of competitive spirit, honesty, and integrity, your morals will be questioned especially when you have responsibilities and even worse when you know the man they are asking you to NOT defend makes 40 times what you’re making.

The lack of having an effective salary cap and salary floor structure in FIFA regulated leagues along with a regimented punitive system to prevent overt betting is partly the cause of this problem, and as Europol begins to release the names of the clubs, players, games, referees, and countries involved in this fiasco, I am sure somebody may want to hire Olivia Pope to fix this Scandal.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.