Posts Tagged ‘Futbol’

ARSENAL AND BARCELONA: SIMILAR STYLE OF PLAY, TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHIES

Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog

 

 

 

 

Arsenal-vs-Barcelona

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.

RACISM, REACTIONS, AND THE NEED FOR CONTROLLED EMOTIONS IN SPORTS

Monday, February 10th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog

 

 

 

 

 

(Image via footbasket.com)

(Image via footbasket.com)

This past week, a lot of us who watch sports with the enthusiasm of addicts witnessed what went down with Marcus Smart during the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game, where he was shown to shove a fan after he tumbled into the crowd after trying to block a shot. There have been several blogs, comments, and discussions about what caused a 20-year-old NCAA player to push a fan after being in close proximity with him. The overriding conclusions that have been put out there are that the Texas Tech fan, namely Jeff Orr, used a racial slur towards Marcus Smart, prompting him to do what he did out of disgust and annoyance at what was said.

A tearful Mario Bolatelli (Image via SportingNews.com)

A tearful Mario Bolatelli
(Image via SportingNews.com)

Also, within this very interesting week in sports, in the Serie A in Italy, we witnessed Mario Bolatelli break down in tears during the AC Milan vs. Napoli game, where AC Milan lost. At some point during the game, Bolatelli was subbed and was subsequently taunted by the notorious Italian fans that were making monkey gestures and noises. Whether or not this is the reason why Mario broke down on the sidelines is debatable. There are reports that he shed tears due to the sheer level of racism he had to endure and has had to endure his whole career, being an African who only knows Italy as him home. There are other reports that he shed tears because he was disappointed with his play and wasn’t too happy that his team was losing.

These two situations remind me of two other Soccer players, Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng, who while playing in Spain and Italy respectively, both walked off the field due to incessant racial abuse from the fans in two different games. In the case of Kevin Prince Boateng, the game had to be abandoned because his teammates walked off with him.

These scenarios always bring about the question of what is the right reaction from multi-million dollar athletes (with the exception of Marcus Smart, of course, who is still a collegiate athlete) who are subjected to such abuses. Are they meant to just sit there and take it and carry on with the task of what they are paid to do, which is to simply play the game? Or, are the regulatory bodies in various sports meant to intervene and ensure that there are hospitable environments in stadiums and arenas across the world, so that super star athletes do not have to endure the whims of fans who decide to be ignorant?

In my opinion, the onus remains with the athlete in reference to how he controls his emotions. At the end of the day, it is a game we are talking about. Somebody calling you the “N word” or a “bloody African monkey” cannot warrant a justifiable reaction out of you, especially when the prospect of your actions can affect the overall harmony of any team. Case in point, Marcus Smart (the outstanding player for Oklahoma State) has now been suspended for 3 games. Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng were heavily fined for their actions. The reasons being that there are overwhelming precedence’s for how an athlete is meant to behave, especially during game time. Any violation of that leads to consequences. A fan or group of fans provoking you does not unfortunately override that precedence.

Amateur and Professional Athletes, regardless of their background, need to come to the realization that these remarks, as horrific as they are, cannot and should not affect them in any way, because it is never personal. Why would you allow your emotions to go haywire because some overweight coward decides to be ignorant towards you? A coward that will never earn the kind of money you are earning. A coward that may never achieve in life what you have achieved as an athlete.

The need for targeted emotions and controlled reactions towards fans in sports is necessary because it all becomes too distracting when an inconsequential moron like Jeff Orr gets notable mention because he successfully pushed Marcus Smart’s buttons.

The irony is that the hearts and minds of people like that and those fans in Europe will probably never change. The only change I will ask of professional athletes the world over is to actually stop giving a damn and just play the game to the best of their ability, entertain us all, and go home with your fat salaries.

 

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.

 

The NFL vs. EPL

Monday, January 27th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog

 

 

 

 

 

EPL vs NFL

 

A few years ago, I came across a CNN documentary that compared the National Football League and the English Premier League. Two football leagues but two totally different sports.  The critical issues they were comparing are the differences that teams in these top flight leagues have when it comes to financial troubles.

In light of the recent discussions surrounding Richard Sherman and the possibilities and potential of added sponsorships due to his newly discovered popularity and how best to manage and play this game in the media world, I decided to expatiate on this documentary and see how indeed players and clubs earn sustainable money in sports.

According to this documentary, NFL teams have several factors that save them from ever going into liquidation, and those two factors are a Salary Cap and a Salary Floor. This means that there is a minimum and maximum amount of money that any player can ever make in terms of wages on an annual basis, regardless of the talent of that athlete or what team that athlete plays for. For example, when you look at some of the annual salaries of NFL players (Richard Sherman for example), you might be somewhat surprised that as of 2012, it was $456,000.00. You would think it’s more considering the lifestyle that some of these individuals have and just overall perception of their earnings, but for a 3rd player coming out of the 5th round draft, that salary is quite consistent. Secondly, all the teams in the National Football League (NFL) receive equitable distribution of television revenue. This is partly because there is not a monopoly to every single game by one media conglomerate. Where you begin to see the difference in terms of franchise earnings is when it comes to game day and season ticket revenues, merchandising sales, and sponsorships. The structure of the NFL is so corporate that each player is graded like any employee you would find in the banking industry, and it cuts across all teams. These factors allow the league to properly regulate and structure their finances in such a way that they can never go into debt.

Now, on the other side of “The Pond” in the English Premier League, there is no salary cap or salary floor, meaning that any team depending on their financial buoyancy can pay as much or as little to any player as they please. According to Forbes Magazine, the top 5 earners in the English Premier League and their club salaries are:

1)     Robin Van Persie (Manchester United) – $19m

2)     Yaya Toure  (Manchester City)- $18.2

3)     Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – $18.1m

4)     Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – $17.4m

5)     Fernando Torres (Chelsea) – $17m

Ironically, in these same teams, you have players that earn $1M and less a year. Such disparities are quite ridiculous. So, what does this translate to? It basically means that players will naturally gravitate towards teams that can pay them the exorbitant amounts that they seek. This is why you have the same teams winning season in and season out, because they are the only teams with the cash flows backed by wealthy owners to pay these wages, hence attracting the best and the brightest from the world to the EPL and stripping off other leagues locally, continentally, and globally of adequately developing their own football teams.

Sky Sports, which is part of the media conglomerate BSB (British Sky Broadcasting, backed by 21st Century Fox), had exclusive live UK rights to the Premier League until the 2007/08 season when an EU Competition ruling forced the Premier League to share live TV matches among more than one broadcaster. That brought down their exclusivity dominance from 100 percent to 75%. They however, due to lack of proper regulation, do not equitably distribute the revenues generated from the advertisements during the games to all the teams in the Premiership. What they have been doing since the inception of their relationship with English football is allocating 60 percent of TV revenues to the likes of Manchester United (who have consistently raked in between 7-15% over the last 20 years), Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and recently Manchester City. The effect this has is that it has caused other minnow teams like Sunderland, Portsmouth, Hull, Blackburn, and Stoke to struggle significantly when it comes to these revenues, especially when players leave for bigger teams, for bigger wages.

The lack of an organized somewhat “socialist” structure in the Premier League ensures that we continually see a monopoly amongst those who retain the title (After all since 1996, only 4 different teams; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal have been crowned champions of England), whereas in the NFL in that same span of time, 10 different teams (New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers) have won the Super Bowl.

One may argue that the capitalist nature of America allows players to receive endorsements that are absolutely astronomical from different corporations, so they are not necessarily motivated by one particular club. Perfect example, Michael Jordan in his prime (The 1995-96 season) was one of the lowest paid first team salary earners in the NBA, but grossed $60 million annually in endorsements from Coca Cola, Nike, Hanes, Ball Park Hot Dogs, McDonald’s, Wheaties, Chevy Blazer, and Gatorade. Such endorsements can easily make any professional athlete forget their wages and simply focus on their love for the game. This can never be the case in the UK, because the salary wages to endorsement ratio is the complete opposite of the Michael Jordan example.

The question being asked is… “do you think the English Premier League needs to reconstitute the way they do business to avoid disasters that happened with the likes of certain clubs such as Leeds United, Newcastle United, and Portsmouth F.C, that had to file for bankruptcy?” Can the EPL learn from the NFL and avoid being at the whim of wealthy mercenary type owners who don’t understand football (I can’t bring myself to call it soccer, I just can’t) and who burden big teams with insurmountable debts? Can corporations in Europe begin to focus more on splurging out on more players in endorsement deals so that way the players can focus on their ability to market themselves to make that big money while having a team focus at the center of what they do when it comes to “the beautiful game”? After all, for a cup competition that boasts to be the biggest in the world, comprised of 25 leagues, with an average representation of 3 teams from each league, with a 22-man squad per team, bringing that total to 1,650 players, there are literally only 5 names that are recognized from a brand perspective when it comes to sponsorship and marketing on a global scale.

The fear with the soon to be passed “Financial Fair Play” policy which stipulates that all teams in Europe spend only what they earn will show that the English Premier League is the most expensive and lucrative sports league in the world, but at the same time, the most irresponsible when it comes to good corporate governance.

The National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) all learned the hard way in the late 80’s and early 90’s, where several teams went into administration simultaneously, that some entire seasons were suspended in order to rectify an impending problem. We have even seen recently some leagues having lock down seasons due to the inability to arrive at a consensus when it comes to equitable salaries.

Should the EPL wait for such to happen before they introduce Salary Caps, Salary Floors, and Equitable distribution of television revenue? Can’t teams focus on ticket, jersey, and merchandise revenues for significant incomes? At what point will leagues in Europe learn from the NFL to avoid their teams slipping into administration.

What better way can we educate young athletes on the intricacies of these payment structures before allowing super-agents to take advantage of them?

For those of us who love sports, spreading the word on these details with enough objectivity and accuracy is one of several ways.

 

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.