Football Entertainment: Soccer Saturday Bingo

Soccer Saturday is a football institution in the UK and Ireland and has been ever since its inception in 1992. Broadcast on Sky Sports, the premise of the program is simple in that there is a host and four studio guests that review the Saturday afternoon football matches that play as they happen. There are also roving reporters at many of the other matches around the country and these are visited throughout the afternoon.

While the premise would make the program sound boring, the fact that it has been on air for 22 years is down to the on screen chemistry of the host, Jeff Stelling, and the studio guests makes the program watchable each and every week. The studio guests are currently former Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, former Arsenal defender Paul Merson, ex Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and Celtic and Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas.

As a result of the on screen chemistry between the five in the Soccer Saturday studio as well as their familiarity with each other as well as the passion of these football men appearing while watching the matches we are often treated to a display of football analysis that is usually reserved for time spent in the pub with your mates, except on prime time TV!

The nature of the program, as well as the occasion faux pas from the studio guests, has led to many spin offs for people to join in at home. The most famous of this is the Soccer Saturday drinking game where shots of beer or Jagermeister are to be drunk at times of different things happening during the program.

However, for those of us that do not want to spend our Saturday afternoon’s getting heavily drunk we have come up with a bingo version of the game that allows you to play the same game without being unable to function for Saturday evening!

To play, just print off this bingo card from Butlers Bingo or write down the below situations and hand them out to all of the people playing the game. The winner is the first person to get all of their situations to appear on screen.

  • A goal is scored
  • A sending off
  •  Half time
  • Chris Kamara is talking
  • Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (i.e.”he’s hit the beans on toast”!)
  • Swindon Town appear on the vidiprinter
  • Dundee appear on the vidiprinter
  • Phil Thompson says ‘Stevie Gerrard’
  • Jeff makes an ‘A Trialist’ joke
  • Your team scores two goals
  • Jeff calls Kenny Deucher ‘The Good Doctor’
  • Hartlepool score a goal
  • A pundit shouts off camera
  • LeTiss is mentioned in connection with a takeaway
  • Chris Kamara says “it’s unbelievable Jeff”
  • Jeff mentions “dancing in the streets of TNS
  • Jeff says “its Doom and Gloom at…”
  • The team ‘Keith’ is referred to as just being one guy
  • Brighton & Hove, or Daggers & Redbridge are jokingly referred to as two different teams playing the same oppo
  • When Arbroath striker Kevin Webster scores and Stelling says “ohh, Sally will be pleased”
  • Something bad happens to Craig Bellamy (injury, og, booked, arrested for assault etc.)
  • Northampton Town appear on the vidiprinter.
  • Jeff sings “I feel good” when James Brown scores for Hartlepool

These are just a taste of the situations that occur during Soccer Saturday, and feel free to add more of your own making to spice up for your Soccer Saturday bingo session! Once you’ve played this, jump online to play free games at any bingo site. You can win big and use it to spice up your Soccer Saturday fun!

Would you prefer to just play football instead of sitting at home? So basically you want to be a professional footballer? Click here!

 

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Carles Puyol: The Lionheart ends his time at Barcelona after a faultless career

There was a grand sense of occasion at the Nou Camp on Tuesday afternoon as a herd of reporters, plus most of the Barcelona squad, had packed into a press conference to hear the words of one man. It was testament to Carles Puyol, who addressed the room, that he commanded such importance as he announced that in the summer he would be ending his time with Barcelona.

Puyol’s announcement comes 2 years into the 4 year extension he signed in December 2012, though that period has been hindered by knee trouble, the surgery he had on his right knee last summer left the defender considering retirement.

He has played on but only sporadically, managing just 12 appearances this season and the Spaniard, at the age of 35, has given in to his deteriorating fitness. Media outlet Marca, prior to Tuesday’s conference, Tweeted Puyol’s explanation “I am tired after so many injury problems and operations. The club will rescind my contract”.

“After two recent surgeries, it has become harder for me to recover the level that I demand of myself and that I need to be at to play here” said Puyol who, during his time with Barcelona, has suffered 36 injuries, 8 of which have been problems with his knees.

There will be few surprised over the decision but for Barcelona this news will be seismic. It is Puyol who has defined the recent history of the club, from making his début under Luis Van Gaal in 1999 to captaining the side from 2004, through the Champions League wins under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola.

The 14 trophies won under the latter, Puyol lifted them all and he went on to lift another La Liga title, and another Copa Del Rey under Tito Vilanova. In total he has won 21 trophies with the Catalan club and also won the European Championship of 2008 and the World Cup with Spain.

With the Seleccion he captained the wonderful generation of players that finally ended the seemingly indefinite wait for a trophy at international level, leading the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, with whom he had graduated from Barca’s La Masia academy, later joined by Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets who also received their scholarship at the famed talent school.

Puyol had emerged into the team that still contained a Pep Guardiola who was in the process of winding down his career, the manager who went on to tap onto the outrageous brilliance possessed by a group of players that remarkably blossomed at the same time. The magical passing carousel, as Sir Alex Ferguson famously referred to it, between Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets was as hypnotising for club as it was country but it was facilitated by the long-haired centre-half wearing the armband behind them.

Comfortable and assured on the ball, personifying the model blend of defensive organisation, resilience and grace when in possession, it was Puyol who was the cornerstone of a group of players who translated their collective talents seamlessly from club to the national stage in a period of dominance that is likely to remain unparalleled.

The 593 appearances he has for Barcelona complimented by the 100 caps for Spain, the defender was a consummate professional, a leader that led by example against any pressures that threatened to undermine the talents of his generation.

“Puyol is the key, not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up” said Xavi, the only player to make more appearances than Puyol for Barcelona with 709. “If he sees you relax at all, he’s suddenly at your side demanding more.”

He will leave the Nou Camp in the summer with Victor Valdes, the goalkeeper who also came through La Masia to join Puyol in the first team from 2002. The 32 year old, whose contract runs out at the end of the year, will pursue a new challenge and his departure alongside Puyol’s will represent a change in era, especially at the back where they played together for the past 12 years.

It will inevitably force manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino into the transfer market for a goalkeeper and, finally, for a new central defender after the Argentine remained adamant he would not sign one last summer.

Instead, Martino waited for the return of Puyol and his troubled knees that, according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague, would leave him crying in tortuous pain, a startling image for a man who embodied such steel at the heart of Barca’s success.

Martino has therefore had to rely on Javier Mascherano to leave his usual central midfield station to partner Gerard Pique, or even to use the 23 year old Marc Bartra who has impressed enough to earn a new contract though is not the talismanic figure that will be required to inherit Puyol’s shoes.

Vincent Del Bosque too has continued to wait patiently for Puyol as he begins to name his squad for Spain’s forthcoming World Cup defence in Brazil, despite the ailing body and the dilapidated knees, there is no argument to suggest he will be easy to replace.

Puyol, who reaches 36 in April, won’t be in Brazil, he will start a short hiatus before he reassesses his future. “I need to rest at the end of the season and then we will see” said the defender at his conference, and it was significant that he would not announce his retirement yet would leave Barcelona, weakening them further as Martino continues to be the subject of unrest over his rotation policy, and the stale style of football that has crept in under his guidance.

The club’s hierarchy has been unsettled by the resignation of president Sandro Rosell amid a dispute over the transfer fee for Neymar and it may be a result of a current lack of discernible direction at the club and the “entorno” that surrounds the Nou Camp that Puyol hasn’t been convinced to continue in a coaching capacity.

There does seem to be something severely wasteful about the defender winding his career down in the backwaters of the Major League Soccer in America when he could be preaching his wisdom in a coaching capacity in Catalonia.

Tarzan however, as he is more affectionately known, has earned the right to make his own decision and it was startling just how many listened. He is after all, the man who stepped in to stop Dani Alves and Thiago from celebrating excessively as he thought it disrespectful to the opposition.

He was the one who led everybody into the ice-bath after a training session at Barcelona, he was one of the greatest defenders to ever play in La Liga. It is undoubted, given the character Puyol is, that he will remain driven and completely focused until the curtain falls on his final season.

“There are three months of the season left and I will not give up. I will help the team” he said, aiming for one last La Liga title and maybe one last Copa Del Rey. Such success will be the perfect send-off to the perfect centre-half.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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La Liga: This season’s title race promises the most dramatic conclusion in years

The gap in competition was made evident in Europe again this week as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid took major steps towards a passage into the last 8 of the Champions League. A 0-2 lead will be taken back to the Nou Camp as Manchester City were beaten on Tuesday night while 24 hours later, Diego Costa gave Atletico a valuable 0-1 lead against AC Milan, an away goal to cherish as they seek a way into their first quarter-final of Europe’s premier competition for the first time in 17 years.

The spread of competition in La Liga maybe undermined by a woeful disparity in television revenue distribution but with English and Italian opposition being slain on the continent, there was further evidence that the Spanish domestic summit remains extremely high.

Perhaps rivalled only by Germany who boast little on the same parity of Bayern Munich, the ferociously gifted machine that took their own first-leg lead away from England on Wednesday night.

Chelsea, guided by the nous and the fiery drive of Jose Mourinho, may pose some threat to Munich’s European crown but with Real Madrid facing Schalke, the German side who sit 4th in the Bundesliga and 19 points adrift of Bayern’s runaway lead, in the next glut of last-16 matches next week, it is likely that La Liga will still boast 3 representatives when the competition moves into its last 8. Those 3 clubs are locked in battle for their own domestic crown, all on 60 points after 24 games played and all with identical records, Barcelona’s goal-difference posting them top.

With Juventus leading Serie A by a margin of 9 points over Roma and Paris St Germain and Monaco leading the way in a top-heavy French League dominated by obscene levels of cash, the excitement of Spain’s title run-in is matched only by England where Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and league leaders Chelsea are separated by just 4 points.

It is Liverpool’s inclusion that is particularly intriguing, having taken advantage of Manchester United’s turbulent introduction to life after Sir Alex Ferguson not only to become favourites for a return to Champions League after a four year absence, but to also give themselves a legitimate chance of winning a title they last won 23 years ago.

A slightly shorter period separates Atletico Madrid from their last league win, 17 years to be precise, and their involvement in this year’s Spanish title race is arguably more welcome than Liverpool’s over in the Premier League.

It is approaching a decade since the El Clasico hegemony was last broken as a result of an outrageously top-heavy distribution of television rights which posts the £140 million income of Real Madrid and Barcelona almost 100% ahead of the next two biggest-earning teams, Valencia and Atletico.

The latter’s residency at the top this year has satisfied some complaints about Spain’s lack of competition for the big two, though it should not deflect attention away from a system that is desperately in need of reform. The majority of clubs remain crippled by debts, mainly money owed to the Spanish government to the tune of a total in the region of £700 million and almost half the league has struggled to land sponsorship.

Atletico’s emergence has convinced some that the chasm can be breached, though it has been a meticulous project, led by Diego Simeone since his appointment in 2011, financed by a reported debt of 120 million Euros. While Atletico, winners of the Europa League and the Copa Del Rey in recent years, have brought a discernible threat to Barca and Real’s dominance on the field, they are still finding it hard to compete with them off it.

A summer spending spree of £21 million, on deals with a clear eye on the future in Toby Alderweireld, Joshua Guilavogui and Leo Baptistao, was dwarfed by Real Madrid’s £80 million capture of Gareth Bale as well as £26 million deals for Isco and Asier Illaramendi while Barcelona signed Neymar for £50 million, a fee later reported to be more in the region of £90 million.

Atletico did pull off a huge summer coup in David Villa in a £4 million deal that weighed heavily in clauses and instalments as well as wages and there was no escaping the fact the Spaniard had become a cast-off from a side Atletico were planning to rival.

What Simeone’s team have lacked in significant investment they have made up for in rugged determination and fortitude, becoming a perfect representation of the doggedness and industry that typified their Argentine coach during his playing days. Diego Costa, who scored his 26th goal in 28 games in the San Siro on Wednesday, has led the line powerfully alongside Villa whose 11 league goals and experience have proved invaluable.

Arda Turan, Gabi and Tiago have worked tirelessly in midfield to allow Koke, whose 9 assists are bettered only by Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas, to pull the strings. Of course, a solid defence always helps and Atletico’s is the best in the league, conceding just 16 goals. The back four of Felipe Luis, Miranda, Diego Godin and Juanfran, complimented by the superb talent of Thibaut Courtois in goal, have kept 12 clean sheets in total, a tally equalled only by Barcelona.

There is a fear, exacerbated by the way he saw his team brushed aside in the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey by Real, that Simeone may again fall short due to a lack of genuine strength in depth, though a January loan of Wolfsburg’s Diego Ribas, who was excellent in his last spell at the Calderon two years ago, may have the galvanising effect that is needed, especially in attack where they have sometimes looked short of ideas in the face of teams willing to just sit and stifle.

It is a similar problem that faces the other two, though Real Madrid, who possess the phenomenal Cristiano Ronaldo, are packed with the fire-power required to deal with any concerted defensive effort, as are Barcelona who have Lionel Messi.

The duo’s scoring rivalry has not been as intense as recent seasons but both occupy impressive numbers all the same. Ronaldo’s 22 league goals from 21 games is typically outstanding though Messi’s 13 from 15, in a season hampered by injury and destabilising accusations of tax-fraud, is equally marked.

Even though in Carlo Ancelotti and Gerardo “Tata” Martino the big 2 have managers yet to experience success in Spain, their star players have both been there, done it and with both motivated by a vehement desire to outdo each other, faith will be rightfully installed in them to drive them over the line.

Just as vital however will be the supporting cast, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi who make-up the wonderfully gifted spine of Barcelona, and Madrid’s Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, who have both shown discernible improvement during the transition from Jose Mourinho to Ancelotti.

Luka Modric has developed into one of the league’s prized assets and has formed a fearsome midfield together with Xabi Alonso, while Gareth Bale has settled into La Liga life very well indeed even if without the headlines, scoring 9 goals and registering as many assists. The emergence of Jese Rodriguez has also been promising, the 20 year old winger helping himself to 5 goals and 4 assists in 15 appearances, only 3 of which have been starts.

Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona’s 15 goal right winger, has cut a totally difference force from the troubled one that laboured on the periphery of matches last year, while Pedro has managed 13 from the opposite flank. It is perhaps due to the more direct style in operation under Martino, one that utilises more long balls and faster counter-attacking, one that saw them cede possession for the first time in five years at Rayo Vallecano earlier in the year.

A defence that lumbers on in the absence of a yet-to-be-replaced Carles Puyol has managed well enough, though Valencia and Sofiane Feghouli showed what could be done if pressure is applied on Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, earning a recent shock 2-3 victory in the Nou Camp.

That weekend, Atletico went top, a perfect tribute to the late Luis Aragones, the coach who led them to their last title triumph, but a week later, top-spot was back in the hands of Barcelona after Simeone saw his side lose for the just the 2nd time this season, away at relegation-threatened Almeria.

Real meanwhile, who last held the summit on the 25th January, are the only side in consistent form having not lost since the end of October. It is an ominous run of just 4 points dropped from the past 14 games that will be put under intense scrutiny when they travel across the capital to face rivals Atletico in the first week of March.

Atletico won the season’s first derby, a 0-1 victory in the Bernebau, the first time they had beaten their more illustrious neighbours in the league since 1999. It was the moment that cemented Atletico as genuine title contenders, though Real Madrid and Barcelona, like always, are also in that group. Who makes the most irresistible case? It is too tight to say. Though none of them dare blink next.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Football: What does it mean and how us fans shape our lives around it

There comes a time where we must all grow up. Young boys stop playing with little action figures and move on to games consoles, young girls stop wearing their mothers make-up and start wearing their own. We all go to secondary school, reach an age where an interest in the opposite sex grows and we watch more shows created for an older fanbase, as opposed to the kid’s TV we used to enjoy.

We can change our minds so easily when we grow up. We outgrow almost everything from our childhood, be it a show, a board game or an obsession with our favourite teddy or toy that never left our side. Even hobbies find their way of slowly drifting from our routines and finding their place in our memories, never to be forgotten.

One thing that seldom changes, however, is relationships. Some even grow stronger. Childhood friends become school friends, school friends become work friends, maybe even partners. Having an affinity with something rarely changes, and it’s the same with football.

Football can shape the childhood of children so easily. We watch and become transfixed by one player, one team or just the sport in general. For children in football mad families, it is inevitable that they will watch football from early. As a young boy in an Arsenal mad family there was no other team I was ever going to watch, and when I did watch I was hooked by Thierry Henry.

He was my first idol, the first player I fell in love with. And even today, the sight of Thierry Henry or the mere mention of his name buckles me up and takes me down the greatest evocative road I’ve ever journeyed on. Reliving the moments that lit up my childhood, experiencing those moments again. Just fantastic.

To this day, as an 18-year old, I will admit that if it come down to going on a date with a beautiful female or going to watch the Arsenal, I’d pick Arsenal. She may be upset by that so I’d invite her along. If she says no then that’s her problem, not mine. However strong that may sound, football has played a part in my life so huge that living without it would be fairly difficult. It’s an escape, and the same for many other people.

People shape their lives around football. Socially and professionally, everything is built around football. Unfortunately though, not for me, professionally speaking. I work when most Arsenal games are on, and as an 18-year old I’m sadly unable to dictate when I work.

Money comes first when you’re building for a future. Needs must. But it’s not the same for others. People book days off from work to go to games. Even if they’re just going to watch it down the pub with some friends, football comes first.

It’s a strange connection, as people who don’t love football are unable to comprehend the feeling felt by fans when a goal is scored, a pass is misplaced or the ball is controlled. All these footballers are really are just normal people who can kick a ball better than the rest of us, but it’s not as simple as that.

As kids we idolise these men and treat them as superheroes and when we grow up we just sit back and watch in awe. They become parts of our lives and on the back of interviews and performances we end up feeling like we know them.

It even influences the way we use social media, particularly on Twitter. Many people you’ll find on there use it solely to air views and discuss football. There’s something about mixing social media and watching football that results in a narcissistic belief that our views are superior to others. Opinions in the world vary, but on social media the passion we hold for our clubs exudes into 140 characters and any objection comes across as disparagement. So, naturally, we bite back.

Peronally speaking as a reserved individual, football provides a platform for conversation. With not many interests other than the beautiful game finding a middle ground is difficult, and relating to people is rare. With all this in mind, football is the most important thing in my life and it’s played a huge part in the development of me as a person. It’s taught me many different emotions and even a few swear words along the way. Like millions of my fellow humans, I don’t know where I’d be without football.

Football elicits emotion that is not comparable to anything in life. Loyalty to your club is not a choice, it is an obligation; something that is very much permanent; like a birthmark, or a mole – something we cannot remove from ourselves. No matter how frustrating we may consider our connection with a football club to be, there is no doubt that however illogical perserverance through frustration sounds, it would sound even more illogical to contemplate removing your loyalty.

So loving football isn’t necessarily a choice, it’s a requirement. And it’s fun to be part of a community that’s so widespread yet united as one. It’s a wonderful feeling. And that’s why football will always come first.

 

Written by Ryan Goodenough

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Personal Feature: Three top players I wish I had seen in their prime

Football has long played a huge part in the lives of many people, and football players have left many memories for those who have witnessed their talents. Memories that can be passed on and kept alive for future generations.

Having been born in 1995, I’d perhaps be considered part of the last generation to have witnessed the greatest players from 2000 onwards, and I would consider myself fortunate enough to be at the age where I am able to pass on some wonderful memories. There’s nothing like football to make you feel old.

Being a kid and growing up learning about football is a truly mesmerising experience. Your eyes open to a world full of professionals who have mastered their craft, transfixed by skill, technique and innate ability combined with the rewards for hard work. Past or present, some footballers have lit up the world more than any player of their generation can dream of. It’s due to the learning of football that I’m writing this.

I have learnt a lot from other people, books, videos, documentaries, and because of that learning I am familiar with some of the greatest players to ever play without ever being alive to see them at their best.

So, as to not digress any further, here are  players that I wish I had seen play

 

3 – PELE

Probably the greatest goalscorer of all the time, the Brazilian scored over 1000 goals for Santos and grabbed 77 goals in his 92 games for his country. Pretty impressive. He is also the only player to ever win the World Cup three times.

During his international career, he helped create Brazil’s synonymy with the beautiful game, taking them to a new level alongside some great teammates. He could dribble at pace, score goals, had skill and a great mind, as proven with his famous ‘runaround move’ around the Uruguayan ‘keeper in the 1970 World Cup.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele was given the nickname “O Rei do Futebol” (the King of Football) and will go down as perhaps the greatest Brazilian footballer ever.

 

2 – EUSEBIO

Alongside Pele, The Black Panther as he was known, took goalscoring to a new level, and the pair were perhaps the Ronaldo and Messi of their time. Two players above everyone else, scoring goals for fun. With so much power and athleticism he became an unstoppable force in Benfica’s quest to dominate Europe, and was a similar feature in Portugal’s National Team too.

After his recent passing, many players who have had the pleasure of facing him spoke fondly. A gentleman in the game, a player who was almost impossible to stop, one of the best ever – many things were said, and all positive. Born in Mozambique, he was signed by Benfica after rejecting a trial from their rivals, Sporting. They missed out on one of the greatest players ever.

He had pace, a powerful shot, strength and many other attributes that propelled him to excellence. Admittedly, I’m not the most knowledgable when it comes to Eusebio, but he’s a player that I’ve enjoyed watching back. If only I could’ve seen him first hand.

 

1 – GARRINCHA

“When he was out there, the pitch was a circus ring, the ball a tamed animal, the match a party invitation. Garrincha nurtured his pet, the ball, and together they created such mischief that people almost died laughing. He jumped over it, it gambolled around him, hid itself away, skipped off and made him run after it. And on the way, his opponents ran into each other.”

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer, puts it perfectly. Garrincha played football to entertain; to enjoy himself; for the fun of it. He was not worried about the money, the occassion or the opposition: he would take on any right-back in the world, and beat him. He cared only for football and women.

Give him the ball and he would provide many people with pure joy. While Pele may stand as the greatest Brazilian player ever, Garrincha will always be the most adored. His Botafogo and Brazil team-mate Amarildo, who replaced Pele in the 1962 World Cup after his injury, states that Garrincha is the only player who is loved by every one. Fans of rivals love him like the fans of Botafogo; he belonged to Brazil.

With a turbulent lifestyle and bent legs, Garrincha’s talent was outstanding. However, that turbulent lifestyle ultimately cost him. After retiring from football, he was no longer able to sweat out the alcohol he was drinking and it took its toll, leading to his death. It’s his incredible story that drew my interest in him. Learning of his life and watching old clips of him has been great fun, although it would have been more fun to have seen him live.

Taking on a defender then turning back to take him on again is something not done in today’s era, but done all the time by Garrincha. He was an entertainer, rightly nicknamed Alegria do Povo and undoubtedly a joy to watch. Just a shame I never had the opportunity.

 

Some other names:

Personally speaking, I couldn’t simply pick just 3. That would be far too difficult, but after much deliberation I decided I had to.

However there were some others in the running:
Marco van Basten, a player I fell in love with during Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial. You could see the class with every touch of the ball, even flicking it over the head of one defender (Steve Bould if I remember correctly) and unleashing a sweet left-foot volley which was saved by Mart Poom.

As an Arsenal fan there are many players I wish I’d have had the pleasure of watching. Liam Brady, Charlie George, Paul Davis and Bob Wilson to name a few, and as a follower of the Brazilian National Team Socrates and Zico spring to mind as well. Puskas is another who has intrigued me. Many great players have graced football pitches over the years, and many have left memories in the minds of fans. Memories to be cherished and passed on.

Divulging into the history of the sport is a pleasure for many young fans, and maybe in 30 years time another teenager will be sitting there wishing they could’ve witnessed the brilliance of Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho or whoever, but one thing’s for certain – players come and go, but great players remain.

Thank you for reading.

 

Written by Ryan Goodenough

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Real Madrid: A Memorable Day At The Stadium Tour

Football fans who are visiting Madrid absolutely must visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Should you not be able to make that visit, then at least take some of your visit time to take a stadium tour of the most impressive football stadium in the world. You’ll be standing on top of the world when you visit this stadium.

No visit to Madrid is complete without this fantastic stadium tour. Whether you’re a football fan or not, young and old alike will appreciate and enjoy learning more about the historical facts of this venue.

 

Pricing For The Stadium

Inexpensively priced for adults and even less for children who are under 14, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the stadium and dream for a moment about the Champions League Final in which you’re the key player. Let yourself sit back and picture your life as a championship player.

Children will enjoy the fantasy and you’ll feel the energy of the crowd as you make that winning goal. If you’re wondering about other possible discounts, you’ll also get a steep discount if you’re a member of the fan club. Well worth the time and effort. Young and old alike will appreciate this visit.

 

Plenty To Enjoy On Your Visit

Tours are available year round between 10:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday. Sunday has reduced hours. On match days it may be a bit more difficult to gain access to the changing area but it is still possible.

Visitors are given free reign to peruse the Trophy Room which is interactive. Children love interactive tools and exhibits so plan to spend some time simply interacting with all that they have to offer on your visit to the Trophy room. With a lot of great exhibitions including tributes to many legendary figures.

You’ll appreciate and enjoy the finer details of this stadium. Take a stroll around the pitch and up into the gods via the top of the stadium. Make sure to snap some fabulous photos for your own collection. Sit down and picture yourself coaching in Madrid and impersonate Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti.

Feel the power as you picture them emerging from the tunnels. One day, you can say to your grandchildren “I was there” and of course tell them all about your fabulous trip and how you stood in the stadium in that very spot.

Don’t forget to visit the press rooms and practice interviewing your friends before you move on to the rest of your trip. For a brief moment you can say you were there, at the best football club in the world. Be sure to grab some video of it to share with friends and family.

Have The Most Amazing Time

Now that you’ve taken the trip, think about your stay and let others know your reviews:

Both soccer and Madrid fans will say it’s one of the most amazing stadium tours available. the trophy room is put together very nicely and you’ll be able to appreciate the history behind the club. Even someone who doesn’t follow the game can enjoy this as much as you. This is a definite highlight of the stay.

Even if your favorite team isn’t Real Madrid, you’ll enjoy and appreciate the museum and feel the history of soccer in the tour. You’ll never regret the time you took to take this tour.

One of the most amazing tours in Madrid and even more unique when you enjoy a trip to the Bernabeu. Enjoy and appreciate the views as you walk along the Stadium and revel in the breathtaking tour.

 

Other Great Tours To Enjoy While You’re In Madrid

 

The Prado Museum Tour

Housing one of the largest art and sculpture collections in the world, this museum houses paintings by the likes of Tintoretto, Goya and El Greco. Picasso and Rubens are also showcased. reasonably priced and if you go during the last few hours of the day, your entry fee is free.

Make this your afternoon or evening closing sight for any day.

 

Retiro Park (Also Known As Parque del Retiro)

Known as the lungs of Madrid, this park is very close to the Prado. Ideal for a combined visit. Set on over 320 acres and completely enclosed with Palaces as well as museums and lakes with boating and beautiful gardens to walk through. Something is always going on as you take a moment to stroll around and enjoy local musicians who are entertaining the crowds.

You’ll enjoy stalls with plenty to see and do. You’ll enjoy taking a leisurely stroll through the park and learning more about Spain’s military history.

If you enjoy Charlton Heston, you’ll like visiting the El Cid’s sword that is on display from the movie El Cid he starred in.

Royal Palace of Madrid

No trip to Madrid would be complete without a visit to the Royal Palace. With over 2000 opulently decorated rooms you’ll get a taste of the luxury from bygone eras. Take along your passport as there is an entry fee however, it is free if you’re from EU.

These special free hours are during winter months from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm and in summer months from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. You won’t be sorry you took the time to visit this palace.

Picture your life living here and living in such opulence.

 

Amy Rice writes for www.spanishkicks.com when not writing I enjoy spending time with my daughter, going to the gym and playing adventure golf.

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Special Feature: How Poker Can Improve Your Football Game

Most players focus on physical fitness when training for football, but that only gets you so far. In order to be the best player you can be, you have to get your head in the game as well.

There are plenty of creative ways to train your mind for football, but playing poker is probably one of the most obscure ones you’ll come across. Nevertheless, it could enhance your skills in more ways than one.

Let’s take a look at how poker can improve your football game.

 

Reading Your Opponents

Poker is a game of strategy much like football is. It requires the ability to read other people you are playing against and identify their strengths and weaknesses. When you’re on the football field, you need to be able to see similar strength and weaknesses so you can adjust your strategy and ultimately score a goal. A little time at the poker table could be just what you need.

You can learn from a person’s body language and his playing style in a poker game. Subtle twitches can indicate hesitance and a lack of confidence worth tapping into. If you can pick up on those signs in a soccer game, you will be able to dodge other players and successfully get the ball to someone else on your team. Your mind will be in the game then.

 

Maintaining Your Aggression

In order to intimidate your opponents in football or in poker, you need to be a bit aggressive. That doesn’t mean you have to start punching people in the face. It just means that you have to exude enough confidence to make people start questioning themselves.

If you can learn to be confident when you play poker, you can take that same mindset into a football game. Make the other players feel like you are superior to them. Make them shudder at the idea of playing against you. Then you will have an easier time scoring a goal.

 

Holding Your Bluff

You don’t always have to have a good hand to win in poker. You can make other people think you have something you don’t. In football, you can make people think you’re going to move one direction when you have other plans entirely.

This isn’t bluffing, so to speak, but it is a matter of manipulation. If you can begin reading players in poker, you can start to see what you can do to make them fold under pressure.

In soccer, you can use those reading abilities to psyche the other players out on the field. Adjust your body language, speed, and sight to indicate a move that contradicts your true plans. You can get through a game much easier after that.

 

Keeping Your Focus

Concentration is a large component of poker and football alike. If you cannot focus on you opponents and the game as a whole, you could be caught off guard. It is difficult to practice concentration on the playing field because you have to move your body and your mind at the same time.

With poker, you can use your brain alone. Once you get your mind trained to pay attention, you can get your body to follow suit.

 

Planning Your Strategy

Poker may seem like a game that happens one card at a time, but it actually involves a complex set of moves. Much like a chess player, a poker player has to think about his moves and his opponent’s future moves before deciding how to act in a hand. Should he check, wait for a bet, and then raise? Should he bet strongly from the start to weed out the potential for luck?

Both activities require the ability to think three steps ahead of the other player. You can improve your chances of strategizing on the fly after playing poker.

 

Releasing Your Stress

At the end of the day, poker doesn’t have to be serious and intense. It can just be a fun game to play with your buddies. If you’re stressed out from work, school, sports, and more, you may simply want to let loose from time to time. Poker is a great way to step away from reality and take the pressure off yourself for a while. Learn to use it to your advantage.

Whether you’re preparing for the World Series of Poker or the FIFA World Cup, you can benefit from the skills listed above. Tune into your true capabilities, and you will be unstoppable on the field.

 
Author bio: Curt D Peterson is an avid gamer, who also loves writing. He has for years played in poker tournaments around the world and made a living off it. He has also ghost written a number of articles that have been featured in reputed journals.

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Athletic Bilbao: Ernesto Valverde leading the Los Leones renaissance with embers of Bielsa

Ernesto Valverde, who had just left Valencia after a doing a good job at the Mestalla in the second half of last season, was Barcelona’s first-choice to take over from Tito Vilanova. He eventually lost out on the Nou Camp to Tata Martino as Valverde headed to Bilbao to replace Marcelo Bielsa as the Basque club began a new era.

Out went the coach who had created an innovative, high-pressing, wonderfully talented side that reached two Copa Del Rey finals and a Europa League final in 3 eccentric seasons and so did the San Mames, the stadium that had stood since 1913 and served Bilbao for 99 years.

On Sunday evening, the renovated ground was scene of the ultimate test of Valverde’s reign so far. Bilbao were sat fifth after losing just 4 of their opening 15 games and they were unbeaten at their new stadium. Barcelona’s visit however promised to be the sternest examination of that record, rolling into town on the back of a run that had seen them take 40 points from the opening 42 on offer.

As a Tweet from the club late on Sunday night pronounced, the unbeaten home record remained intact as the Catalans departed; Iker Muniain’s goal meant Bilbao had become the first La Liga side to beat Martino’s Barca.

Barcelona were oddly subdued, registering just 2 shots on target in a sluggish display that will raise questions over the uncertain direction in which Martino is taking them. There is no doubt the direction Valverde is taking Bilbao however, fourth in the table and showing signs that resemble the better parts of the Bielsa era. Intent pressing and organisation off the ball and intelligent movement on it, linked together by technical brilliance and fluidity.

“They knew how to press us” said Martino. The identity of the scorer was significant too in Muniain, a 20 year old whose form had dipped under latter-day Bielsa but now rediscovering some of what made him one of the most exciting prospects in Europe. His winner was his 3rd of a season that has also produced 2 assists.

It hasn’t been the most drastic transitions from the Bielsa era that just seemed to fizzle out of momentum after the Argentine had certified himself as one of Europe’s most coveted coaches following the golden year of 2012.

Javi Martinez sewed the seeds to the eventual end with his acrimonious exit to Bayern Munich whilst Fernando Llorente fell out with his coach before going through the motions in his final season. His form reflected that of a club who had just seemed to relinquish all momentum and were in need of an urgent overhaul as they limped to a 12th place finish.

Among 6 players to leave the club, to Juventus went Llorente whilst long-serving centre-half Fernando Amorebieta left for Fulham, both on free transfers, and Valverde was handed £13 million to refurbish his squad. The vast majority of that, £7 million, was used on Benat Exteberria from Real Betis, whilst Mikel Rico and Kike Sola also arrived. Defenders Mikel Balenziaga and Xabier Etxeita came in from Real Valladolid and Elche respectively, as well as the usual intake from their famed Cantera in the Basque country.

Of the 5 arrivals, only Rico and Benat have made over 10 appearances as Valverde has utilised the players he inherited from Bielsa. Pressing, ambition, cohesion, inter-changing, they are all traits that were present under the Chilean, Valverde has merely continued that blueprint with largely the same group of players, though has proven himself to be a better man-manager in his early days.

Ander Herrera, subject of transfer window deadline interest from Manchester United, was dropped but recovered to produce an outstanding display in the win over Barcelona, making 5 tackles to suffocate Andres Iniesta and Xavi despite playing in an advanced role. It is this commitment and work-rate that Valverde seems to be drawing from his players, led on Sunday in attack by the tireless Gaizka Toquero, the embodiment of Bilbao’s determination and the pride borne out of their Basque-only playing policy.

The defence, marshalled expertly by captain Carlos Gurpegi alongside Aymeric Laporte, remained solid despite the feebleness of which Barcelona attacked. There was no Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes or Dani Alves whereas Iniesta and Xavi were taken off to be replaced by Sergi Roberto and Pedro.

“I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw them go,” said Gurpegi as Athletic were encouraged further. It was an admission from Martino that Bilbao had reduced Barcelona, so used to controlling possession with the hypnotic link-up between their midfield, to a desperate, direct throw of the dice.

They perhaps got a huge slice of luck as Ander Iturraspe escaped with just a yellow as he stumbled over Neymar with the Brazilian clean through on goal, but Bilbao deserved it. It may have even been argued, despite the best efforts of Martino, that they were the better team. As Valverde’s fate took him to Bilbao rather than Catalonia in the summer, that is a huge testament to the effect he has had.

It is a new manager, a new stadium, but still the same old loveable Athletic Club.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Youssef El Arabi: Granada’s man of the hour showing his chance at the top is deserved

“This one is to take home” said Youssef El Arabi after Granada’s win over Malaga. It was a ruthless second half hat-trick, taking advantage of defensive errors and some creative player from his strike partner Yacine Brahami, who set up 2 of the goals, to make it 3 wins out of 4 for El Grana.

He would not only be taking home the match ball however, but the plaudits from everybody taking notice of the 26 year old striker who moved on to his 6th goal of the season, alerting Premier League clubs, rumoured to be Norwich City and Stoke, to his availability.

Stoke have been here before in the days of Tony Pulis, scouting El Arabi as he led the line for Caen in Ligue 1 in 2011, where he scored 17 goals and claimed 5 assists as he helped the northern France outfit establish themselves in the top league after their preceding promotion. El Arabi also got them there too, hitting 11 goals in 34 games and making 8 assists in Ligue 2.

Born in Caen to Moroccan parents, El Arabi started out playing for local amateur side of USON Mondeville after a background in futsal. He had worked himself up to the captaincy of France’s under-21 futsal side before he was noticed by Mondeville who later sold him to Caen for a nominal fee in 2008.

El Arabi was a late bloomer, not turning professional until the age of 22 and after a slow start to life at the Stade Malherbe de Caen, he made only a handful of appearances as the club were relegated to Ligue 2. The drop in league became a catalyst for the young striker’s career, emerging from the shadow of Steve Stavandin to take the mantle of Caen’s goalscorer, finding the net enough to get them promoted and also draw attention from the Royal Federation of Moroccan Football.

After taking advice from Eric Gerets and accepting that France may have had too much talent in the way of his development, he pledged his international career, like Maroaune Chamakh before him, to the land of his parentage. “I also felt I’d have more playing chances with Morocco than in the French team, given the crop of great talents in there” he said.

With his background in futsal becoming increasingly clear in his development, he showed evidence of a composed, technically gifted, versatile footballer comfortable in an array of positions. Possessing a gifted touch and a blistering turn of pace, it made him a coveted force in Ligue 1 with Sevilla and Genoa beginning to take an interest.

“Having played futsal, I think that makes it easier for me to beat my man. It has helped me develop my technique and given me a better turn of pace”, he said at the time, going on to add, “My experience of futsal has enabled me to adapt quicker to the rigours of Ligue 1 whilst keeping my touch in front of goal.” His quality became too much for Genoa to ignore and they seemed set to get their man for 6.5 million Euros in the summer of 2011.

El Arabi however rejected bids from Spain and Italy in favour of a move to Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia, a transfer L’Equipe said was motivated by money, calling it a “shocking move for £6m and more cash than he could dream”. Though money alone was not enough to keep the 24 year old there as his time in the east was short-lived, lasting just a year with the Blue Waves but again he was prolific, hitting 16 goals in 27 games.

The following summer, having established himself in Morocco’s national side, he moved back to Europe with Granada on a four year deal for a fee of 4.5 million Euros.

After his first year in Spain, in which he scored 8 goals as Granada finished in 15th place, El Arabi is now firing for Lucas Alcarez with his side sitting tenth in the Primera after 14 games. Though he has only struck in 3 of his 12 appearances so far, the opener on the first day of the season against Osasuna and a double in the home win over Athletic Bilbao as well as his Malaga hat-trick, he is clearly their top scorer.

In fact, the spouting nature of his scoring is reflective of his playing style, lurking as the lone front-man in Alcaraz’s 4-2-3-1, he sees little of the ball (he’s made only 123 passes so far this season) but when he is provided with it, his finishing is unerring, as Malaga found out a fortnight ago. He has managed 14 shots on target and found the net with 6 of them, he has clearly not lost the finishing touch he showed during his proliferate time in France.

Despite Granada’s current respectable league position, the weekend’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona will have reiterated the scarcity of resources that will probably see them keep glimpsing over their shoulders at the threat of relegation. They are, after all, a club that spent just £4 million in the summer and have been forced to swell a 16 man squad with 9 loan signings.

If the form drops and Granada do fall away, they always have El Arabi, the quiet, predatory Moroccan, waiting silently to make his unforgiving mark.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Ballon D’Or 2013: Why Ronaldo has to win this year’s award

It is somewhat remarkable that there still remains a grand possibility that Cristiano Ronaldo may not be competing at next summer’s World Cup. On Tuesday night, he leads his Portuguese team to Stockholm to do battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden, defending the slender 1-0 lead given to them last week in Lisbon by, of course, who else but Ronaldo?

His diving header after cutting across Jonas Olsson was his 28th competitive goal of this season and his 63rd since the turn of the calender year. It is an astonishing goal-scoring record that renders it preposterous that the world stage could be robbed of his brilliance next summer. His attendance however would mean the absence of the mercurial Ibrahimovic who has chalked up a modest 42 since the beginning of 2013. An easy dilemma this is not.

Both captain their national teams and both are wonderful players boasting prolific scoring records, but to many that is where the similarities end. The Swede is a mixture of audacious athleticism, stunning technique and predatory instinct, allowing him to remain on the periphery of matches for vast periods before striking a majestic dagger into vulnerable defences.

Observers in England, swayed by many one-off matches where he has struggled to leave his mark, are quick to shrug him off as the stereotypical flair-but-no-substance continental footballer.

“He’d definitely struggle on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke, he’s good but when he has it up him he’s nowhere”, tiresome assessments that are drowned out by 280 career goals, league titles in Italy (six of them), Holland, Spain and France. Plus, most famously, by that volley against England in the friendly just over a year ago.

“Ibrahimovic is my player, he is my captain and he is my No1,” said Sweden’s coach Erik Hamren after voting for his man in the Ballon D’Or. In the race for that award however, Ronaldo may have the more viable claim for exaltation. It may have been a trophy-less year for Real Madrid but Ronaldo has continued to evolve into a relentless goal-scoring machine.

His career tally stands at a mammoth 348 and is the quickest player ever to reach 100 goals for Madrid, his own blend of physical power, electric pace and unique technical brilliance that occasionally heave back the boundaries of possibility make him unrelenting. If he misses with his first four chances he’ll ram home the fifth, refusing to go away until he wins or at least scores trying to do it.

It is FIFA’s Ballon D’Or, an award that Ronaldo last won in 2008, that is still motivating Ronaldo after having to watch Lionel Messi, the Argentine with whom he shares a footballing zenith, claim the honour over the past four years.

Though with his Barcelona rival hampered by injuries and by his own remarkable standards, a subdued year on an individual front, this may represent Ronaldo’s best chance of claiming the award for the second time. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has done his best to voice whose camp he is in, making a comical reference to Ronaldo’s fondness for vanity, answered by the Portuguese in the only way he knows, with ten goals in his last five games.

FIFA’s prime individual honour may bypass them both with Franck Ribery also making a valid argument after being Bayern Munich’s perpetual winger in their march to the treble in Germany. “I do not know if I will win, however I think I deserve it,” he said. “Before I was a good player, now I think I’m the best.”

Despite his effusive self-belief and his wife’s future planning, “she has already prepared the space above the fireplace in the living room” he says, it may be hard to believe that the scoring feats of Ronaldo, or even Messi on 45 since the new year, will be overlooked in favour of Ribery’s sparkling, yet not stand-out, role in Bayern’s success.

Fellow nominees Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer all played vital parts in their journey under Jupp Heynckes, highlighting the importance of the Bavarian’s team dynamic in contrast to the individual quests made by Messi and Ronaldo.

The proliferation of Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie, Edinson Cavani and Rademel Falcao also see them nominated alongside the usual suspects of Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, though it looks increasingly likely, as the remnant flames of the tension between Ronaldo and Blatter continue to flicker, that the vote will be between Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery despite Hamren’s best efforts to show his support for Ibrahimovic.

The Swede can achieve his own personal victory on Tuesday night though not even missing out on the World Cup, though it would be a desperate shame, can remove Ronaldo from the pinnacle of his game. Zurich in January should mark the time he receives FIFA’s glass ball to recognise that.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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