Saturday, July 30, 2011

Club focus - New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls, who play at Harrison Park in New Jersey were one of the ten clubs who formed the MLS in 1996. They also hold the unpleasent record of being the only MLS club not to have won a major trophy, all this despite boasting some big name players over the years of the calibre of Donadoni, Matthaus, Djorkaeff and er, Juan Pablo Angel. At the moment their star player is Thierry Henry, which is probably one of the reasons that they have been included in the Emirates Cup. As well as some famous old players they have also had some famous foreign coaches, such as Carlos Quieroz, Carlos Alberto Parreira and the controversial ex-Rangers and Celtic player Mo Johnston. They have also been coached by two of the biggest names in US 'soccer', Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena, both of whom have had more success with the national team. Their current coach is Sven Goran Erikkson's ex-right hand man, Hans Backe.

New York Red Bull haven't always been New York Red Bulls, in fact they started out life as New York / New Jersey Metro Stars:

However, they probably rightly thought that was a bit of a mouthful and between 1998 and 2005 they were simply known as Metro Stars.

In 2005 soft drink firm / super brand Red Bull bought out the club. Unlike in Austria where Red Bull bought out Salzburg the deal went well with the fans off the pitch, but still hasn't seen the trophies come into the cabinet. Nevertheless, it feels like it's only a matter of time before New York Red Bulls start to achieve a similar success to Red Bull Salzburg and the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Arsenal badge evolution

Arsenal were formed as Dial Square in 1886 and the first crest the club adopted were when they were still Woolwich Arsenal was based on the coat of arms of Woolwich, with the three 'posts' in the middle representing the cannons of the artillery based in Woolwich. It was a motif that would remain apart of the crest up until the present day.

In 1922-23 Arsenal started to use a crest that was similar to today's after first introducing the single cannon as the emblem in 1922. It was a west facing cannon, which appeared to be based on the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse in Woolwich even though the Gunners had left Woolwich in 1913.

The next change to the badge came in 1949 with the marksman's motto being included on the badge.

This was the badge that Arsenal more or less stuck with until 2001 when it was tidied up a bit and then again in 2002 when they had to change it due to copyright problems. The only one occasion when Arsenal used a different badge was the 'Art Deco' badge that they used for the 1952 FA Cup final, which they won.

In 2002 Arsenal changed their badge, but it wasn't the usual upgrade that teams tinker with it was due to the fact that as the badge was composed of so many different elements they couldn't copyright it. The main change was that the motto went and the cannon became East facing rather than West.

This season Arsenal have made another change to celebrate their 125th anniversary. The 15 laurels on the left are taken from the 15 sixpence pieces that the 15 original members paid to set up the club and on the right are 15 oak leaves as the members met at the Royal Oak Pub.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Club focus - Paris Saint-Germain

PSG are one of the richest, most prestigious and well supported teams in France despite only being formed in 1970. They were formed from a merger between Paris FC and Stade Saint Germain with the original idea being for Paris to once again have a top team that could challenge at the top of French football. The idea certainly worked as PSG reached League 1 in 1974 and have been there ever since. They are now the second most supported team in France after Marseilles and like L'OM have unlike any other French club won a European trophy - the Cup Winner's Cup in 1996. Over the years the dislike between Marseilles and PSG has grown and grown and now the fixture between the two clubs is French Classic.

PSG's golden era was the 1990s when they had a massive cash injection from television company Canal+. This coincided with success after success at home and in Europe including two appearances in the Cup Winner's Cup Final and a semi-final appearance in the Champions League. However, later on Canal + sold out and since falling to 9th in 2004 they have been more of a mid table team despite their huge support base. They have recently received a big cash injection from the Middle East and could soon be back amongst the honours.

Boca Juniors shirt history

The first game that I will be at on Sunday sees Boca Juniors take on Paris Saint Germain. I have always wanted to go and see Boca Juniors and I can't see me getting over to Argentina any time in the near future, so I am going to have to make do with seeing them in North London. On my travels I have met plenty of Boca fans, but funnily enough they have all been Russian or Ukrainian. I am a bit disappointed that Martin Palermo has now retired, but I am still looking forward to it.

Obviously to do justice to the club history of Boca Juniors I'd probably have to write a book, so here's a quick history of their kit and colours instead.

When Boca were formed in 1905 they originally played in pink, but obviously came round to thinking that this was a bad idea and changed to a light blue colour later in the year. They didn't stick with this shirt for very long either and for the 3rd time in a year decided to change the shirt colour, this time to black and white stripes.

The following year they played another club who also wore black and white stripes and it was decided that the loser would have to change the colour of their shirts. Boca lost and decided that they would play in the colours of the flag of the next boat that came into port. The boat in question was the Swedish liner 'Drotting Sophia' and Boca have worn blue and yellow ever since.

From 1907 - 1913 Boca wore blue with a yellow sash, which was later revived for the centenary year in 2005. Shown below in the rather weird computer graphic.

From 1913 Boca wore the yellow panel on blue for the first time which has more or less been the shirt of choice since as worn by a rather young Diego Maradona below. Obviously in the early 80s rather than in the original 1913 shirt of course.

Since 1913 there have been very few variants from this strip. In 1996-7 Boca introduced a white stripe above and below the yellow panel:

and in 1998-99 they wore a shirt that featured more yellow than usual.

Boca have been pretty conservative in their experiments with shirt design, but they have experimented a little in the Copa Mercosur with the wearing a blue shirt with pinstripes in 1998 and a grey number for the 2000-2001 tournament.

The only other variant has been the special edition released for the 105th anniversary in 2010 which resembled the Swedish flag where the famous blue and yellow shirt originally came from.

Emirates Cup 2011

It doesn't look like I will get the chance to go to a match until next week, but it should be a good one or two next Sunday, as I have tickets for the Emirates Cup where I'll see Boca Juniors v Paris Saint Germain and Arsenal v Red Bulls New York.

It was the subbuteo style advertisement that made me notice this event and with tickets only a few more quid than what I paid for Cambridge v Mansfield last season it was pretty good value for money. I have wanted to go to the Emirates for a while, but the tickets usually do cost a fortune.

One question though is why is Martin Palermo shown as the Boca representative in the advert? He mighy be a Boca goal scoring legend, but he has already hung up his boots.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ely and Deeping - still no win for the Robins

Ely continued their pre-season preparations today against Deeping Rangers of the United Counties League. Ely continued to play well, but were again unable to get a win in a friendly match. Let's just hope their luck starts to change when it matters.

Last season Deeping finished in a similar position in the UCL to Ely in the ECL. So, it should at least on paper have been an evenly challenged affair. However, Deeping are more used to finishing higher in their league and have spent a bit of cash over the summer. Ely have stuck with what they had last year with the addition of Kenny Smith and Austen Diaper, who is making a big step up from Long Stanton, there were also several Ely players missing today due to one reason or another.

That said the teams were evenly matched. There were few chances in the first half an hour with both keepers having saves to make, but neither of them being overly worried. Rangers took the lead though on 32 minutes after a comedy of errors in the Ely defence let them through. The rest of the first half continued in much the same vain and at half time it was Ely 0 Deeping 1.

Ely cae out firing on all cylinders in the second half and were unlucky not to be on equal terms on 53 minutes when the Deeping goalkeeper pulled off an amazing save the rebound fell for Diaper, but he hit the post.

After more to and fro-ing between the teams Ely finally got an equaliser on 69 minutes when Tom Beech latched on to some sloppy defending to round the keeper and put the ball in the back of the net.

The equaliser seemed to be the tonic that Ely needed as they started to dominate the game. On 78 minutes Beech was pushed over in the area and he put the penalty away in emphatic fashion to make it Ely 2 Deeping 1.

It looked like Ely were going to win the game, but it wasn't to be when on 87 minutes one of the Deeping midfielders decided to have a shot from a good 40 yards out. It looked to me like it was going hopelessly wide and it must have looked the same to Lee Pacey in the Ely goal who didn't move. However, somehow the ball went into the bottom corner of the goal to make the final score 2-2.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The pre-season continues

Last night Ely City took on Biggleswade Town in a friendly at the Unwin and although the result didn't go Ely's way there were plenty of encouraging signs.

Biggleswade have been holding their own in the level above Ely, so the defeat didn't really come as a shock and it took Biggleswade only 7 minutes to go ahead. Their centre forward was a brilliant and the slightest error in the Ely defence saw him smash the ball into the back of the net. Ely also had their chances in the opening minutes with Tom Beech coming close on 20 minutes and Chadders also forcing a decent save from the keeper on 24. However, Biggleswade really were a cut above Ely and they always seemed to have an extra man wherever Ely were and when their tricky centre forward came close again on the half hour mark with a lovely turn that he whipped just wide of Pacey it was his third quality chance and other circumstances he might have had a hat-trick.

Ely did battle on though and the last quarter of an hour of the first half they showed great determination. Brady Stone showed his versatilty as an attacking midfielder, Dave Wilson got the ball moving well up front and the team as a whole looked determined despite it being a friendly match, although at times new right back Kenny Smith looked a bit determined. That said he looks like a good prospect for the new season.

Ely's determination continued throughout the match, but with only 4 minutes of the second half played the Waders were awarded a very soft penalty. Greygoose who was a half time sub for Pacey in the Ely goal, who doesn't look the biggest of keepers, almost got down to the shot, but couldn't keep the penalty out.

After going 2-0 up Biggleswade really began to ring the changes and Ely started to dominate. The Robins had the ball in the back of the net twice, but both times the linesman gave an off-side decision. They also had a really good shout for a penalty when a Biggleswade defender bltantly handled the ball, but it wasn't to be.

Both teams after a number of changes started to flounder in the last quarter of an hour and the game finally finished 2-0 to the Waders.

Biggleswade were a cut above Ely, but Ely can take out plenty of positives from the game. As mentioned before Brady looks like he can play anywhere, as long as his knee holds out; Dave Wilson looks like he is really at the top of his game; Greygoose looks like a keeper for the future and Kenny Smith looks like a useful signing at right back. This coupled with the team spirit that Alan Allsop has fostered at the club should bode well for the next season. Let's just hope it can continue.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Club Focus - Biggleswade Town

On Tuesday night Ely City take on Southern League Division 1 Central side Biggleswade Town.

Biggleswade were formed in 1874 and started off playing mainly friendly matches at their Fairfield Road Ground, which they shared with a local cricket team. In 1902 they became founder members of the Biggleswade and District League, which they were also the first champions of.

In 1920 the club joined the Northamptonshire League, despite being based in Bedfordshire. However, the league was l to become the United Counties League in 1934 and today takes in clubs from several counties, although the majority are in Northamptonshire. in 1945 they joined the Spatan League before returning to the United Counties League in 1951. They also had a short stint betweeen 1955 and 1963 in the Eastern Counties League where they broke the record for the biggest victory when they beat Newmarket Town 12-0. A record which still stands today. In 1963 they returned to the UCL mainly because of the extra travel costs of playing teams mainly from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex in the ECL.

In 1980 Biggleswade joined the newly formed Southern Midlands League. They started out in the Premier League, but were relegated in 1983 before gaining promotion again in 1987. In 1997 the Spartan League and the Southern Midland League joined together, Biggleswade joined the Premier Division North. They bobbed around the divisions but were mainly in the Premier.

In 2006 the club left Fairfield Road and groundshared with Bedford United & Valerio. The season after they moved into the swanky Carlesberg Stadium on Langford Road and it seemed to do the trick with them beating Luton Town 3-2 in the final of the Bedfordshire Senior Cup and the year after they gained promotion to the Southern League Midlands Division.

The return of football - Ely City 1 King's Lynn Town 1

Yesterday saw the start of the pre-season football at Ely City as the Robins took on the Linnets at the Unwin. Despite all of the pre-season rumours about players leaving and players coming in Ely had a familiar line up with 2 of the changes being Brady Stone who returned from an unsuccessful season at King's Lynn and Tom Pell who seems to turn up at Ely from time to time. The only other change was the right back who had a good game and whose name I don't know.

Both sides performed well, although it was a rather typical first pre-season game in many ways. Ely went ahead when a well worked move was finished off by Wilson on 19 minutes and could have had 3 or 4 before Lynn equalised on the half hour mark after an uncharacteristic slip up by Adam Murray allowed Jack Defty to get his name where you will often find it, on the scoresheet.

Not much more happened until the hour mark when Lynn were awarded a penalty, but Defty wasn't to get a second as Lee Pacey did well to save the shot.

Both teams looked capable of some skillful stuff, but it was a pre-season friendly after all and the game finished 1-1, which was probably a fair result.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Football in Berlin

There are a multitude of teams in Berlin, so to catalogue them all would be a very time consuming job. Apart from the bigger clubs like Union, Hertha and Tennis Borussia there are many smaller clubs, some of whom show the cosmopolitan feel of the city with their ethnic backgrounds, such as Turkiyemspor and Croatia Berlin. However from the ethnic teams one name stands out: the name of Makkabi Berlin.

TuS Makkabi Berlin were formed in 1970, but can trace their origins back to Bar-Kochba Berlin who were formed in 1898. In the 1920s Bar-Kochba had a moderate level of success and between 1925 and 1927 won 3 consecutive lower league championships. In 1929 they merged with another Jewish soceity, Hakoah. Unfortunately with anti-Semitism on the uprise the club were excluded in 1933 and in 1938 all Jewish soceities were banned in in Germany. Since 1970 the club has operated with a keen group and is now one of the biggest Makkabi soceities in the world. They now play in the regional leagues.

1898 was a long time ago, but the oldest team in Berlin are BFC Alemannia 90 Wacker who were formed 8 years earlier in 1890. When they were first formed they went under the name of the name of Berliner Thor und Fussball Club. Thor being the German word for cricket and unusually for a German team apart from playing cricket they also played rugby. By 1900 they were clearly a football club, as they became founder members of the German Football Association (DFB). Their major success came in 1924 when they won the Oberliga Berlin Brandenburg.

The other part of the present day club is made up of SC Wacker who were formed in 1904 and who had tasted the relative heights of 2 Bundesliga Nord. However by 1994 they were in the lower divisions and facing bankruptcy when they decided on a joint venture. Nowadays the club plays in the 7th tier in the Landesliga Berlin.

Another club who have fallen on hard times are the wonderfully named Tennis Borussia Berlin. Who apart from having a great name wear purple, so they can't be bad in my books. They currently play in the 5th tier in the Oberliga-Nord after getting relegated at the end of 2010 to 2011 season. The club were formed in 1904 and strangely enough were originally a tennis / ping-pong club. By the 1950s they were the biggest club in Berlin and in 1963 they were invited to become founder members of the Bundesliga. It was about this time that their fierce rivalry with Hertha began to take root. Most of the 70s saw them bobbling between the top 2 divisions and from one financial crisis to another and by the 80s they were in the third tier. In 1997-8 a group of rich sponsors brought the club back to the 2 Bundesliga and things looked to be back on the up. In typical Tennis Borussia style though things went wrong and the sponsors left the club in a financial hole in 2000. On day they will be back though and with a wealthy middle clas fan base they may be able to find a backer.

A team that definitely can't be called middle class are 1 FC Union Berlin. Union have always been the working class club of Berlin. They tasted their greatest success in the inter war years and in 1923 reached the Championship Final where they lost 3-0 to Hamburg. Union have always been victims of politics though and the reorganisation of football under the Third Reich in 1933 saw them end up as a middling club. The after the war there were 2 Unions, one in the West and one in the East. Both teams had a decent level of support and both suffered at the hands of politicians. The Western side did well until the erection of the wall in 1961 and the Eastern side, who went under many name changes, were always up against it having to compete against the Stasi sponsored Dynamo. They did manage to win the East German Cup in 1968 and now play in 2 Bundesliga, where they don't have to worry much about Dynamo.

Berliner FC Dynamo currently play in the 5th tier of German football. In the cold war years they didn't enjoy the popularity of nationalist feelings in opressed nations like the Dynamos of Zagreb and Kiev, but felt the unpopularity of being the secret police team like their namesakes in Moscow. The club was really formed in 1954 when some of Dynamo Dresden's players were told to go and form a club in Berlin. They achieved a moderate level of success by winning the East German Cup in 1959, but in 1963 were relegated. However, in 1966 they won the support of the Stasi chief, Erich Miekle and funnily enough things started to get better for them and they were champions for 10 years in a row between 1979 and 1988. When the cold war thawed out they dropped the Dynamo name due to the negative connotations, but in 1999 with a generation who couldn't remember Communism starting to attend matches the Dynamo name was reinstated.

The biggest club in Berlin by far are Hertha. They were promoted back to the Bundesliga at the end of last season after a season away when Berlin was not represented in the top tier of German football. The team that play in the massive Olympic Stadium come from humble begginings though. They get the name from a steamboat and ome of their earliest victories that caused widespread celebration was when they beat Southend in a friendly in 1910. This had more to do with the esteem that English football was held in than anything else though. Like other Berlin clubs their progress was hampered by a reorganisation under the Third Reich in 1933 and then later in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected and they were banned from playing in the East, which led to a whole load of travel problems. In 1963 like bitter rivals Tennis they were elected to the Bundesliga. Hertha were the reigning champions so it would have been a traversty if they hadn't. However, their place at the top table was short-lived. In 1965 they were relegated not because they were performing badly, but because they had bribed players to come and live in Berlin, which was a depressing place to be at the time. They got back to the Bundesliga in 1969, but then in 1971 they were embroiled in a match fixing scandal.

The 70s were good to Hertha in general though and they reached the UEFA Cup Semis in 1979 and also did well in the leagues and the cup. They spent most of the 80s in the 2nd division and then started to yo-yo a bit. In the 90s when the wall came down their popularity grew. 11,000 fans from East Germany attended the first game after the wall came down against SG Wattenscheid. It was a bitter sweet moment for many though, as supporting Hertha had been a form of protest for many in the East and at the same game some of the ex-Communist officials were invited.

Most of the 90s and 00s saw the club perform well with regular forays into Europe. They were nearly relegated in 2004 and then spent last season in the 2nd division before gaining instant promotion.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Berlin Wall

What's left of it, around by Potsdamer Platz.

The Reichstag

Germany's parliament building.

Brandenburg Gates

The former city gates to Berlin and probably the most famous of German landmarks.

Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust memorial was built by Peter Eisenmann, who claims it has no symbolism, although it is to mark the genocide of the Jewish people during the war. It was built between 2003 and 2004 and was opened in 2005 to mark the 50th anniverssary of the end of the war.

Fernsehturm Tower

The Television tower that was built by the GDR in the period 1965-1969. It has the weird quality of looking very small and very big at the same time.

Potsdamer Platz and Archineering

I was mainly in Berlin for a visit to Sony. The land around where the Sony and Daimler buildings are was where the Berlin Wall was and was for a long time a flat piece of land. Thanks to the innovative work of the architects Murphy/ Jahn and a lot of investment from mainly Sony, but also Daimler the area is now a state of the art business centre.

Berlin photos

I didn't see that much of Berlin as I was there for work and only there for a couple of days, but I still managed to see a few places.

The close season starts to come to an end

... I'm not sure if that sentence really makes sense, but with no football tournament this year, it's been a quiet off season and I have swapped the usual weekend trips of the football season to such soccer hot beds as Cambridge, Peterborough and er, Thetford for places like Cromer, Hunstanton and Lowestoft (although I wouldn't mind visiting Lowestoft for a football game some time in the future.)

One highlight of the period was a work trip to Berlin. Some photos of that to be uploaded in a minute.

Next weekend I am off to Cirencester for a wedding, but after that the pre-season friendlies will be well and truly underway.