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Chinese football's governing body has turned to military drills in its latest attempt to fulfil President Xi Jinping's goal to make the country a great football power by the turn of the century.

Over the weekend, more than 50 of the country's top under-25 players were taken to a military base in the coastal province of Shandong where they swapped sportswear for camouflage and buzzcuts.

State television channel CCTV showed the players — many who regularly star in China's top tier Super League — receiving instructions from military trainers and having their heads shaved.

They were also shown sitting in a classroom wearing fatigues while they watched a broadcast of China's national team play out a scoreless draw with India.

According to the CCTV report, the squad will commence new solider training, ideological education and special forces drills.

In a shock move, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced the intensive camp at the beginning of October, declaring the players would be pulled out of their regular club commitments until December 28.

The decision means top tier clubs will be missing some of their best players at the business end of both the Chinese Super League season and for the CFA Cup final.

In announcing the move, the CFA said the two-and-a-half-month camp would "better improve training for outstanding young players and strengthen the reserve talent pool" for the national team.

The players are expected to do military training during the first month of the camp and focus on football for the second.

That's a longer period of military drills than used for previous football camps, with state media declaring "It shows the determination of the Chinese Football Association, which must overhaul the spirit of the national squad".

But some fans decried the move online.

Some said it reflected the death of Chinese football, while many others questioned how military drills and training camps would be better for the players' development than competitive matches.

"You can't take 55 players away from the league and expect it not to affect the sport's integrity," said Shanghai-based football writer Cameron Wilson on The Chinese Football Podcast.

The CFA's policy towards young players has changed several times in recent years with many fans blaming the heavy hand of state sports administrators for the unpredictable rule changes.

The regulations have forced top tier clubs to field minimum numbers of under-23 players at the expense of foreign recruits.

The latest measure to bolster young talent through intensive training was preceded by yet another rule change that relaxed the rules.

Speculation is swirling that the purpose of the camp is to create one or two national development teams that would play week to week in either China's domestic league or even in an eastern European club competition.

China's government is trying to rapidly improve the performance of the men's national team, which has only made the World Cup finals once and is seen as a perennial underperformer despite an increasingly lucrative domestic league.

A government blueprint released in 2015 set a goal to have 50 million people playing the sport within a decade and for China to be a top international team by 2050.

But long-suffering fans have had little to celebrate since the release of the plan.

China's scoreless draw with minnows India over the weekend came after a draw with Bahrain last week and a loss to Qatar, and speculation is mounting that national coach Marcello Lippi — who was brought in with much fanfare in 2016 — will likely leave the role after January's Asian Cup.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-15/chinese-footballs-bizarre-military-camp-outrages-fans/10376526

 

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Former referee Luca Marelli claims the ‘voluntary’ part of rules on handball will be scrapped in the next IFAB meeting in March.

The matter was already discussed in November’s meeting of the International Football Association Board.

It has caused controversy in Serie A, particularly over the last few weeks, with different interpretations of handball even using VAR technology.

“As emerged in November’s meeting, the IFAB are reflecting on the possibility of eliminating the concept of voluntary handball, because there needs to be more clarity,” former referee Marelli told Radio CRC. “Objectively, nobody can understand anything at the moment. We’ve got to reset everything and start again from the basics. “It will be discussed in March, certainly, as the protocol for VAR is showing some huge problems.” Marelli also had his say on the failure to interrupt Inter v Napoli after three warnings for racist abuse aimed at Kalidou Koulibaly. “The referee isn’t the issue here. UEFA’s statement said there was an error in applying the protocol, but it doesn’t say who failed to apply it. The problem there is the referee had to follow the orders of the security chief.”

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Things have changed in football since the 50s.  Here is a short 2016 interview with Freddie Glidden a Hearts legend from the Hearts team of the late 50s that won the Scottish League Cup, FA Cup and League when he was the captain. Freddie passed away this week at the age of 91.

This is a short article with a short video included - watch and listen to the video.

https://www.heartsfc.co.uk/news/article/freddie-we-were-just-the-best-team-going

The team didn't all train together during the week! Some of them only saw each other on the match day! And that was at the best team in Scotland at the time!

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Athletic Bilbao Is Flush With Cash and Facing Relegation

BILBAO, Spain — Europe’s midseason soccer transfer window is open this month. For teams battling relegation, and potential financial ruin, it brings a last, vital chance to strengthen a leaky defense or fortify a goal-shy forward line ahead of the second half of the season.

Among those teams is Athletic Bilbao, which is in 17th place in La Liga, the 20-team Spanish league, and already on its second manager this season.

Financially, Athletic, a century-old power on Spain’s northern coast, has little in common with the clubs that find themselves in a similarly grim position. The team is flush with cash, with about 200 million euros, or about $228 million, in reserves, and has access to another 90 million euros that — if deployed to lure talent from soccer’s global marketplace — would probably go a long way toward firing it up the league standings and out of danger. But unlike almost every other team in the market, Bilbao cannot spend those millions on just anyone.

Athletic is a throwback. Tradition dictates that it can only field players who were born in the Basque Country — territory that includes seven provinces that stretch from northern Spain into France — or who moved to the region in their youth and learned to play soccer here.

That purity has been a point of pride for the 121-year-old club. Athletic Bilbao has long celebrated that it has never been relegated from Spain’s top league, a feat it shares with only Barcelona and Real Madrid. But it is only one slot away from relegation position in La Liga, and its purity presents obvious difficulties when it comes to recruitment. Lately it has placed the team in a financial vise, transforming it into something of a unicorn in a sport in which nearly every other club is desperate for cash. Bilbao, with its flush coffers and narrowed options, has become soccer’s poor little loaded club.

“We don’t really need the money,” Josu Urrutia, a stocky, 50-year-old former Bilbao midfielder, said in an interview last month, shortly before he ended a seven-year run as Athletic’s president.

His replacement, Aitor Elizegi, though critical of some of Urrutia’s decisions, was quick to confirm that the team’s commitment to Basque-only players would not be changed.

Athletic can in some ways blame its recent success for its current fate. In the last eight years, the team has played six seasons in the second-tier Europa League (reaching the final once) and one in the Champions League. In 2012 and again in 2015, it reached the final of the Spanish cup.

The success of those largely homegrown squads quickly drew interest from bigger clubs, in Spain and abroad, and led to tough decisions for a conveyor belt of young, talented players. When the club’s management had any say, the answer to any inquiries to negotiate a multimillion-euro sale was a simple one: no.

Athletic, at least under Urrutia, never negotiated, whatever the price. Players would leave only if their buyout clause — a fee that would trigger a sale — was met, and Athletic’s management hoped it never would be.

Urrutia, sitting in an austere drawing room full of lacquered furniture on the ground floor of a mansion built in 1900 and bestowed to the club by one of the city’s historic trading families, described how the club lost defensive midfielder Javi Martínez to the German giant Bayern Munich a year into his presidency in 2011. This all happened after he tried to ignore Jupp Heynckes, then Bayern’s manager, who had coached Urrutia, a tough tackling midfielder during two spells at Athletic, and Bayern’s top two officials, Karl Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness.

“Jupp says, ‘We consider Javi is a player for the future, and 40 seems a lot; we are ready to pay 22 or 23,” Urrutia recalled. “We said: Perfect. So we don’t have to worry ourselves about it.”

In the end, Bayern paid the full 40 million euro buyout fee for Martínez, a sum that broke Germany’s transfer record.

Since then, the team has lost other players in a similar fashion. Ander Herrera, another defensive midfielder, joined Manchester United in 2014. Defender Aymeric Laporte became Manchester City’s costliest acquisition when he joined for 65 million euros. Most recently, Chelsea made Kepa Arrizabalaga the most expensive goalkeeper in the world after paying his full 80 million euro release clause.

All those deals, regardless of the fee, frustrated Urrutia. He wished all of Athletic’s players shared his values. Urrutia came through the club’s youth system and never wore another jersey in a two-decade career. The club, he said, tries to instill loyalty from the moment players enter the system.

Athletic officials like to play the guilt card and remind players that the Basque-only policy was probably the reason they were able to have a professional career in the first place — that the club could have picked other, better athletes if it had the option of shopping on the global market.

“It’s as though you’ve left the family business started by your granddad,” Urrutia said.

Urrutia and others explain that if players who came before the current ones had decided to leave, the club might have been forced to change its mission. If that had happened, Basque players might not have gotten their chance. The players should live these values, they said.

Money plays a role as well. Athletic now pays some of the highest salaries in Spain, far more than teams of an equivalent standard, Urrutia said. He said the average annual salary of a first-team player was four million euros.

When faced with replacing a departing player, the club always gives first preference to products formed at its Lezama academy, a world-class facility six miles outside Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque region. In each of the last five seasons, at least two academy players have graduated to the first-team roster.

“We give them opportunities to play for the first team even when they’re too young because we need them,” Urrutia said.

Some players, so committed to the club’s philosophy, like midfielder Iker Muniain, 26, who has had offers to leave, have shunned the opportunity to play elsewhere. Just before Christmas, Muniain, an attacker who has been with the club for more than a decade and scored Monday, signed a new contract and asked that it have no buyout clause. “I’m pleased to do it,” he said. “We’ve had cases in which colleagues have left and people have felt sad and touched. This is a way for me to demonstrate my loyalty to the club.”

Occasionally, the team does have to turn to the transfer market. The options are limited to players born in the Basque region or those who trained here during their formative years. That allows sellers to take advantage of Athletic’s limitations.

This season, the team agreed to pay Paris St.-Germain a fee that could eventually reach 24 million euros for defender Yuri Berchiche, a defender who joined the French team from Real Sociedad for about eight million euros less just a year earlier.

“They know, and they try to squeeze us because they know that there are not so many possibilities for us,” Urrutia said. “We don’t have so many options in the transfer market.”

Athletic can afford this because only four teams last season received more money from Spanish television rights, which, for now, is determined by how often a team’s matches are shown. But a new distribution model aimed at reducing inequalities between teams is narrowing that gap. In the past, the biggest teams could get as much as 12 times more than others. That ratio is down to about 3.5.

Though the change is generally considered to be a positive one, it disproportionately affects Athletic because far smaller teams can now trawl the world for talent they could not afford before, boosting their squads, while Athletic remains committed to its local-only policy and other quirks that make it unique.

Its headquarters bear little resemblance to those of most teams. No brash logos, no video screens showing loops of historic success, no shop hawking memorabilia. Like the club, it is a throwback.

There are small if understated markers, like the modernist painting hanging on a wall inside a ground floor reception room. It depicts a great flood that has overwhelmed an entire city. The only visible structure is an arch resembling one from Athletic’s former stadium that was delicately moved to its training ground. It is a symbol, club officials say, that the team’s past will always be a part of its present and future, whether it risks relegation or fights for titles.

“We know the challenge: It’s a solitary challenge,” Urrutia said. “This is a voyage full of difficulties. There could be a tsunami, but at the end, we really believe in the strength of our boat and want to keep going.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/sports/soccer/athletic-bilbao-relegation.html

 

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Sad day for the Santalab's.

They set up the app MyGameGuru to help everyone but due lack of support it was killed off today.

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17 hours ago, Paul01 said:

Sad day for the Santalab's.

They set up the app MyGameGuru to help everyone but due lack of support it was killed off today.

What was myGameGuru?

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2 minutes ago, Unlimited said:

What was myGameGuru?

App to cover grassroots games for times and locations. You could have multiple teams for multiple kids 

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This River Plate fan got a tattoo to celebrate winning the copa lib final.

Not just any tattoo either, a QR code that when scanned opened a YouTube video of the highlights. What could go wrong?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/47906720

Boca Junior fans then decided that they’d report this video (enmasse) for copyrighting purposes forcing YouTube to delete the video. With the video now deleted, the QR code is useless :lol:

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This VAR thing seems to be working out well. Can’t believe the game has functioned without it.

A VAR disaster of epic proportion has sent the final of the African Champions League final into total chaos to cause one of the most unbelievable conclusions to a football match you will ever see.

The CAF Champions League final second-leg clash between Tunisian club side EL Tunis and Moroccan rivals Wydad Casablanca was called to an abrupt end after only 61 minutes when the referee refused to look at the VAR after an incorrect offside decision denied the visitors a vital equaliser.

Wydad's players left the pitch and refused to play on in protest as widespread reports revealed the VAR system was not working even before the match.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad came down to the pitch in an attempt to settle the situation but it only added more fuel to the fire as fans invaded the pitch while players and officials faced off in heated scenes.

 

With no one able to come to a resolution nearly an hour and a half after Wydad players first stormed off the pitch, El Tunis was crowned victors 2-1 on aggregate after the referee called an abrupt end to the match deeming Wydad to have forfeit the match. 

Commentators struggled to piece together the wild scenes to their audience. 

“So El Karti scored the goal, now this goal was onside. All of these fans inside the stadium saw that it was actually a goal that should have been allowed,” the commentator said.

“Now the problem is, VAR has got a technical issue, and despite the fact that everyone has seen these images, when you actually go to the transmission van, it’s not actually ratified by CAF to use those images for verification.

“So it can’t give you the final decision on a goal or not if it isn’t going through the proper rules and regulations which is video assistant referee. It basically means that the images you can see there are not valid which means that it’s a catch 22 situation and the Tunisian coach has insisted, ’We will not play on until we see VAR show us that was a goal that should have been allowed’.”

“We are just caught in between a couple of conflicting situations that are preventing this game from being continued, it’s been like that for the last hour now. You are still watching a match that has been suspended after the 61st minute. So we do have 30 minutes left to play, whether it can be played now or it needs to be replayed tomorrow or the day after, that’s a very good question. And one I cannot answer right now.”

It is another black mark on VAR after issues with the technology played a major role in Melbourne Victory's controversial A-League grand final win against Newcastle in 2018. 

https://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/sydney-fc-left-fuming-after-var-controversy

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3 hours ago, marron said:

I wonder if the ARs had that stupid instruction to not flag because VAR will decide.  

But wasn't it the opposite,  flag up for offside but was actually onside?

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