Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barcelona - The Rijkaard Years

Frank Rijkaard is a world-renowned football player and coach known for his no-nonsense, aggressive style of play. His tenure as manager of FC Barcelona (familiarly known by its fans simply as Barça) was marked by successes and controversy.

The period in which Rijkaard was brought into FC Barcelona was one of turmoil for the club. The past few years had been very disappointing, accentuated by players and managers coming and going, including the betrayal of vice-captain Luis Figo, who left the team to join their rivals Real Madrid. Newly elected FC Barcelona's new president Joan Laporta desperately wanted to turn things around for the team and began by bringing in Dutchman Rijkaard as manager in 2003. Rijkaard's appointment came as a surprise to FC Barcelona's fans due to his inexperience and tarnished reputation.

Rijkaard had made a name for himself as a player for AC Milan years earlier. Although he had played for other teams before and after, it was during his tenure as a player for AC Milan that he was most known. Rijkaard was known for his aggressive style and hot-headed temperament, which brought him many victories and controversy, respectively.

By the time he sat in Barça's manager's chair, however, he had his temper under control. He had already done two years at the Netherlands national football team, leading them to the Euro 2000 semi-finals, and two years managing Sparta Rotterdam, where he did not fare so well. This so-so performance seemed to light a fire under the young manager, as he came into FC Barcelona with a new purpose. Rijkaard was now known simply as a no-nonsense manager with little flash. He let his and his players' actions speak for themselves on and off the field. They were just out to win the match in the most impressive manner possible.

Though he got off to a slow start (losing to archrivals Real Madrid in December 2003), Rijkaard soon turned the team around. FC Barcelona finished the 03-04 season as La Liga runners-up before Rijkaard brought in new players to round out the team. The addition of the new roster allowed the club to go to win La Liga for two consecutive years in 04-05 and 05-06.

Rijkaard was the first Barca coach to ever win twice at Santiago Barnebeu, their rival's stomping grounds. He was also nominated for UEFA's Team of the Year in 2005 and honored in 2006 for his contributions to the European Cup. He also managed the team to a victory in the 2005-06 Champions League, which made him only the fifth person ever to win the European Cup both as a manager and a player.

After these victories, however, came a drought. The following two years were not so great for the team, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the Semi-Final of the '07-'08 UEFA Champions League. There was much speculation after this about Rijkaard leaving the club, due to them not winning a trophy for two years. Finally, on May 8, 2008, it was announced that Frank Rijkaard would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

Rijkaard has now been replaced with Barca B coach Josep Guardiola. Many players have left the team and have been replaced with good prospects. What this means for the future of the team has yet to be seen. With the fickle nature of football club presidents and fans, it remains to be seen how Guardiola will measure up to his predecessors.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brazilian Ronaldinho is Now an AC Milan Player

The 28-year-old Brazilian footballer Ronaldo de Assis Moreira better known as Ronaldinho Gaucho has recently become part of the Italian Serie A leading team Inter Milan.

Ronaldinho's professional career began to blossom at a very young age as by 18 he participated in his first senior international event in the Copa Libertadores and only one year later was an important part of the Brazilian national team. Short after he transferred to the French Paris Saint-Germain FC during the 2001-2002 season. His time with the French squad was very brief as he soon began to search for new options among which were Manchester United and FC Barcelona. This period is remembered in the football history as one when these two clubs basically declared war to each other in order to obtain Ronaldnho's services.

By 2003 the Spaniard giant of FC Barcelona paid the sum of £21 million for the Brazilian magician whose skills were just unbelievable as his seniority continue to grow on the football field. Despite having the opportunity to sign for the English team of Manchester Ronaldinho opted otherwise as many of his countrymen including Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo had done previously. Without knowing what the future will hold for him the Brazilian began his successful career bringing to the club the Liga title in 2004 and the FIFA World Player of the Year award. In 2006 with Ronaldinho leading his team he managed to have Barcelona crowned as the Liga Champions and only two weeks later the club becomes the Champion League winners after beating Arsenal.

Unfortunately for the young player the 2007-08 season was a dark time for him as he was constantly injured and was not able to live to the standards the club and the fans wanted of him. Barcelona president Laporta began his pursuit to transfer the Brazilian player to either Manchester City or the Italian AC Milan as both teams had persistently assured their interest in acquiring the player.

Less than 24 hours ago the Associazione Calcio Milan or AC Milan paid the amount of £21 million for a three-year deal for the Brazilian player. Now that Ronladinho is part of the Italian leader of the Serie A tournament he will be able to participate in the coming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games an option which had previously been blocked by the FC Barcelona.

Now, it seems things are getting better for Ronaldinho as he feels more than at home in Italy especially after the incredible warm welcome he received at the San Siro Stadium where he stated "I am very happy, after so much time I am eventually here. I am overjoyed to have arrived at [AC] Milan and hope to be able to give everyone so much to cheer about.

If the predictions are not off track we are certain to expect a lot from this exceptional footballer as it seems he feels he now can show the football world he is still a great player and his struggle with the FC Barcelona group has finally come to end.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Great Sporting Venues from Across the Globe

Right throughout the world there are some incredible stadia and venues that have become synonymous with a particular sport; these same places have seen world class performances, memorable matches and incident packed excitement for thousands of spectators.

Recently modernised, Wembley Stadium is often referred to as 'The Home of Football', reflecting the game's English origins. It now has a capacity of 90,000 which makes it the second largest stadium in Europe, behind Barcelona's Camp Nou. This hugely impressive structure with its sliding roof design came at a cost of almost £800 million, making it the most expensive stadium development anywhere in the world.

Wembley has hosted many famous football moments throughout the years, including the 1966 Word Cup final which saw England land the coveted trophy for the first time. 1977 saw a very different set of circumstances which are still talked about today as Scotland supporters invaded the Wembley pitch and destroyed one set of the goalposts on live UK television.

When you mention snooker, one venue in particular always springs to mind: the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. This venue has played host to the Word Snooker Championships since 1977 and is widely regarded by professional players and fans alike as the best anywhere in the world. It has witnessed some truly remarkable tension and excitement over the years, with particular highlights including Cliff Thorburn's televised maximum 147 break in 1983 and Dennis Taylor's black ball triumph over the legendary Steve Davis in 1985, which upset all the odds and had a nation glued to its screens. History continues to be made at The Crucible and the 2008 championships saw two maximum 147 breaks for the first time ever in the latter stages of a ranking event, made by Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter.

There can be few more thrilling sights in world sport than watching a Formula One car racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. The deafening roar as the drivers skilfully negotiate their way past the beautiful harbour, through the long sweeping tunnel and past the majestic hotels and casinos that line the streets is a truly remarkable sound. The Monaco Grand Prix is an awesome spectacle in a truly stunning setting.

Without doubt one of the most famous locations in the world of golf is the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA. Since 1934 it's been home to the prestigious Masters tournament and the much sought after green jacket that comes with the title of Masters Champion. The lush green surroundings make this a remarkably scenic venue for one of the major events in world golf and the course has borne witness to some stunning climaxes. 1986, for example, saw a truly memorable moment in Master's history with the 'Golden Bear' himself, Jack Nicklaus pipping Greg Norman by one shot for the title some 23 years after he'd first claimed the trophy back in 1963. And who can forget Scotland's Sandy Lyle (the first Briton to wear the coveted Green Jacket) after his stunning approach from a bunker found the 18th green and led to his winning birdie in 1988?

More recently, Tiger Woods has become almost synonymous with the Georgia course, winning the US Masters 4 times, including a runaway twelve shot winning margin in 1997, which made him the youngest ever winner, as well as holding the record for the lowest winning score.

But whether its golf at Augusta, rugby at Twickenham, horse racing at Aintree or any other sport at any other venue, every one has a story to tell of triumph and hard luck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The History of Manchester United

Manchester United are arguably the best club in the world, but this multi-million pound club started as Newton Heath L&YR F.C. in 1878, as the works team for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Health.

They played on a small, dilapidated field on North Road, near the future site of the Manchester Piccadilly railway station for fifteen years, and then in 1983 they moved to play on Bank Street in a nearby town called Clayton. In 1902 this ground was closed as Manchester United were nearly kicked out of the football league due to debts of two thousand and five hundred pounds, but thankfully just before the club could be shut down they received a large investment from J.H.Davies, the managing director of Manchester breweries.

Manchester United's first major signing was of Charlie Roberts of Grimsby Town for £750 in April 1904, they believe that this signing helped Manchester United to third in the very next season. In the 1905-1906 season Manchester United were finally promoted to the First Division, where two years later they emerged as champions for the very first time.

On the 19th of February Manchester United played their first game in the still standing Old Trafford stadium, their first game was looking an ease, beating Liverpool 3-0 at half time only to lose 4-3, they went on that season to win no silver wear, and in the next ten years the club started declining in the ranks until 1922 when they were relegated back down to Division Two.

Three seasons before world war two, Manchester United were promoted, then relegated, then promoted once again, providing them with a spot in division one once the war was finally over.

In the season of 1956-57, Manchester United became the first season to compete in the European Cup, and it was in this competition that Manchester United recorded their biggest win to date, beating a Belgium team 10-0 before being knocked out in the semi finals by Real Madrid.

Tragedy struck the next season as a plane crash killed 8 of Manchester United's players on a trip to the Germany for a European match. Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan where the players killed that day, these players will never be forgotten.

In the early 70s Manchester United changed the badge to the badge we know off today. Soon after that, in 1986, the introduction of Sir Alex Ferguson was happening as he took over the manager's position.

Sir Alex Ferguson didn't have much success at Manchester united until the year of 1998 where his team secured the best season in the history of English Football, completing the treble of the Premier League, the FA cup and the Champions League.

Manchester United seemed ordinary until the season of 2006-07 when they won the Premier League, scraping past Chelsea. This gave Manchester United and their young guns of Rooney and Ronaldo confidence to rule the scenes in the next season as Manchester United completed the double, winning the Premier League and the European Cup.

You can read the latest Manchester United news about Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the rest of the players on the team every day by visiting the Manchester United Report.