LATEST PICK-UP: Panini South Africa 2010 World Cup Collection

The first instalment of ‘Latest Pick-Up’ comes with an explosion of personal nostalgia alongside a huge bang with an (almost) complete collection of the Panini stickers from the 2010 World Cup.

This tournament occurred during my high school years meaning most of my time was spent away from studying and focused on the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Steven Gerrard, Sergio Busquets, Rafael Marquez and of course Siphiwe Tshabalala take to the pitches of South Africa. A tournament full of emotions with England being mediocre as always, Spain winning the biggest tournament in the world through an extra time goal from Andres Iniesta and the annoyance of just how frequent people decided to blow into those fucking Vuvuzelas. Away from the pitch, the purists were collecting Panini stickers but for me, I’ve arrived late to the party. As always, I started the collection for the tournament but failed to keep it up throughout hence why I have decided to return to it and finally complete it.

Alongside the world coming together to watch what happened on the pitch, we collected the stickers and listened to K’Naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag’ (in association with Coca-Cola of course) whilst kicking a ball around at our local pitch and then went home and played the video game (which you can read about here). It’s how we live through the World Cup.

After weeks searching through the depths of the wonderful E-Bay, I finally came across a seller offering 500 stickers, four unopened packets and an album for a reasonable price so of course, I jumped at the chance.

Maybe one day I’ll eventually stick them all into the album but until then, the pile will sit on my desk as I bask in its glory.

 

[ Fashion x Football ] : Live Breathe Futbol release new collection

Our friends over at LBF have just released some new gear which does not fail to impress. Like always, LBF are keeping us fresh on and off the pitch.

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The collection features the tagline “Relegate Winter” due to the release of four new beanie hats, long sleeve t-shirts, a crewneck jumper and a fantastic hooded sweatshirt.

The collection starts with these two long sleeve pocketed t-shirts with one being a beautiful crunchberry colour and the other in union blue.

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Then came the crewneck jumper which has the excellent logo design on the front and comes in a lovely blue colour. An tribute to the companies roots as “PHILA” (as in Philadelphia) is printed below the main design.

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The brand have released four beautiful hats, two being bobble hats and the other two simple beanies. Two simplistic colour ways on the simple beanies, one maroon and one black where the other two see a more wild approach. The two wilder ones being striped red, black and white and the other green, dark green and white.

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Our favourite piece from the collection is the hooded sweatshirt. The brands name, ‘Live Breathe Futbol’, printed down each arm with the logo on the front creates a sublime piece, one definitely worth copping.

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You can shop the new collection here. Do it, join the #LBFSquad and live the futbol lifestyle.

Stay woke on this brand, this collection isn’t the only thing. Bigger things coming.

 

#FOOTBALLISPERMANENT

 

 

 

[ Retro Gaming ] : 2010 South Africa World Cup

Games that accompany major international tournaments always add to the buzz surrounding the tournament. In 2010, I was 13 years old and at school. With the World Cup being in Africa, the games kicked off ten minutes after school finished (normally) meaning me and my mates pedalled the fastest we possibly could to catch them. What made it more exciting was playing the Fifa World Cup game after following the matches themselves. It added something to the experience of such a renowned and loved event like the World Cup. We could embark on our own journey through the tournament either with a whole team or a player that we created ourselves. It made us feel so much more involved with the global tournament than just simply spectating.

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The game features a tribal and Safari-like design obviously to portray the South African World Cup. The World Cup tournament feature is something I loved because you could take over smaller countries and attempt to topple the footballing giants, which offered intensity and excitement.

Now, looking back, the squads were something I was mostly interested in. I decided to look through the best national teams in the world’s squads and see who was highest rated and who was in the squad itself – Nostalgia at insane levels!

First up, I looked into England and ‘mediocre’ instantly jumped to mind. Aaron Lennon out wide and Emile Heskey upfront. Glen Johnson at right back with Rob Green in net albeit accompanied by John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. England’s team on the game is like real life: average.

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Next, Germany’s starting XI. Rene Adler was a solid goalkeeper in the line-up, being the highest rated. Miroslav Klose, the eventual all-time leading World Cup goalscorer, led the line with a young Mesut Ozil playing in behind. Michael Ballack was a player who also sat in the middle of midfield.

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Brazil is five-time champions of this prestigious tournament so I was obviously going to dive into their squad. Julio Cesar, with an 89 overall, was between the sticks with Lucio and Juan in centre-back. No sign of Thiago Silva yet in the starting XI according to this game. Kaka, Luis Fabiano and Robinho in attack with Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato on the bench alongside Dani Alves. A talented team despite their exit in the quarter-finals to the Netherlands.

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The Netherlands went all the way to the final, beating Uruguay and Brazil on their way, with a fairly strong team (especially in comparison to now). Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Rafael Van Der Vaart all in the starting line up.

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The final team I decided to have a peak at was one of the best international sides football has seen, Spain. Champions of Europe in 2008, eventual champions of the 2010 World Cup and then the European Championships in 2012, this team dominated world football for years and is looked at as one of the strongest teams the game has seen.

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A young Sergio Busquets was included in the squad but wasn’t the highest rated. He then showed incredible form in the years following (as you already know). Fernando Torres and David Villa led the line in this game. An incredible team.

Now, looking past the teams and into actual gameplay itself, the graphics on this game were seen as stupendous back in 2010 and still today, they are good. The inclusion of confetti on the walk out (and the fact it stays on the side of the pitch) adds a little something. The addition of manager cuts is also a nice factor. Marcello Lippi is spot on. Below are a few shots from gameplay showing you what the game looked like.

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Football video games give fans a sense of being involved on-pitch and let them live their dreams of winning titles. This game was something I loved playing alongside watching the games because it added something extra.

Football is a lifestyle. #FOOTBALLISPERMANENT

[ Interview ] : Nathan Carr, The Home Of Caribbean Football

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One of the goals of this website is to shine a light on aspects of football that don’t get the recognition they may deserve. This is the first interview, a Q&A session, on the site. We conducted this over email and the answers provided have given us a beautiful insight into Caribbean football, increasing our knowledge and hopefully yours, too.

One of the main things we want to achieve with this site is to a spotlight onto certain football cultures that aren’t mainstream. Why does the Caribbean offer something special which people can get on board with?

I think part of Caribbean football’s allure is that it’s a bit of an exotic mystery. I’ve been following it for nearly five years and there is still an awful lot to discover. It’s kind of within its own little world but there are some fascinating stories attached which are so interesting to learn about. I love following these smaller islands like Montserrat, Anguilla and Sint Maarten, exploring the social and human side of football in these places and bringing stories to life. I dedicate a lot of my spare time to Caribbean football because I’m passionate about it, I want it to grow and for more people to take it seriously. It’s not for everyone, sure. But the Caribbean is a fascinating, vibrant and often misunderstood part of the planet. I personally believe that Caribbean football can become a real power in the future. If you’re reading this, then why not try to catch a game sometime and you never know, you might just get hooked just as I did as a 15-year-old. 

Montserrat Nation Team
Montserrat National Team

Is there any bright talent coming from the Caribbean that we could expect to see in some of the bigger leagues in years to come?

There are several up-and-coming teenagers who are still playing in their respective countries and surely it won’t be too long before they earn a professional contract abroad. Below is merely a selection.

Alex Marshall | 18 | Jamaica. A left-footed winger/attacking midfielder. One of the biggest stars of schoolboy football in Jamaica. Recently went on trial at German club St Pauli.

Keston Julien | 17 | Trinidad & Tobago. A left-back. Very impressive at last year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship and recently went on trial at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.

Jabari Mitchell | 19 | Trinidad & Tobago. An attack-minded central midfielder. Captain of the national U-20 team and recently went on trial at Boavista in Portugal.

Javorn Stevens | 18 | Antigua & Barbuda. A striker. Captain of the national U-20 team and already capped at senior level. Very highly thought of in Antigua & Barbuda.

Nyrone Winter | 17 | Saint Lucia. A winger who can also play up front. Has won the Saint Lucian Junior Footballer of the Year award on two occasions. Currently on a two-week stint in England where he’s going to be training with both Preston North End and Bradford City.

Ronaldo Damus | 16 | Haiti. A striker. Made his senior debut against Costa Rica on Friday night. First came onto the scene at last year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship.

Mackenson Cadet | 16 | Turks & Caicos Islands. Highly rated midfielder who plays for the National Academy in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Went on trial at Nottingham Forest in 2015.

St George's College's Alex Marshall (right) receives the FLOW Super Cup Golden Boot from FLOW's head of marketing and products Carlo Redwood at the final at the National Stadium.
St George’s College’s Alex Marshall (right) receives the FLOW Super Cup Golden Boot from FLOW’s head of marketing and products Carlo Redwood at the final at the National Stadium.

There is plenty of good if a little raw, talent in the Caribbean but there aren’t always the structures in place to maximise that talent. There aren’t always the opportunities for talented youngsters to show what they can do on a bigger stage. That is beginning to change slowly but surely. If you haven’t already, feel free to check out CaribYoungStars, a project profiling the brightest young talent in Caribbean football that I inaugurated last year.

In your opinion, who would you say is the best talent to come from the Caribbean?

It’s too hard to narrow it down to specifically one player. You can’t ignore Lilian Thuram who comes from Guadeloupe. Then there’s Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids who both come from Suriname. Raheem Sterling comes from Jamaica. Trinidad & Tobago’s Dwight Yorke has to rank up there purely for what he achieved at Manchester United. His compatriot, Russell ‘Little Magician’ Latapy, was arguably more gifted but never truly fulfilled his potential in Europe. Bermuda’s Clyde Best deserves a mention as does Haiti’s Emmanuel Sanon. Curacao’s Ergilio Hato was an unbelievably good goalkeeper in the 1940s/50s and could have easily starred in Europe but he turned down the likes of Real Madrid and Ajax to stay locally with his family. The fact is that the Caribbean has contributed significantly to world football whether directly or indirectly because the diaspora is so vast. Yet, unfortunately, the region doesn’t always receive the recognition it warrants. 

Suriname duo, Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf battle it out playing for two of the world's greatest clubs
The duo of Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf, who were both born in Suriname, battle it out playing for two of the world’s greatest clubs

What are the views on football in the Caribbean? Of course, you have places such as Brazil and Argentina where it is basically a religion.

Football is generally very popular but has always had to battle against the colonial legacy of cricket and also track + field which is firmly ingrained in many sporting cultures across the islands. In the Anglophone Caribbean, cricket probably edges football in terms of popularity. But that’s not to say that in places such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago football isn’t taken seriously because it is. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, baseball tends to be the number one sport because of past American influences on Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. There are many Dominican baseball stars who play in the United States, for example. In the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, football ranks as the number one sport. I think that many Caribbean people look at football as an art form, a way of expressing themselves. I believe there is a culture, though, which lends heavy focus to the individual and how the individual entertains the crowd with the ball over the collective context of the team, which has its positives and negatives. Scrimmage (small-sided football using reduced space) is widely played across the islands, particularly in Jamaica. Caribbean fans in general are very passionate and demanding – mistakes tend to be scrutinised and immediate success is the goal. The passion definitely shines through, though.

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Out of the international teams, which team offers the highest quality football and has the better chance of causing an upset against some of the bigger international teams?

The traditional top four is Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Cuba – the only Caribbean countries to have gone to the World Cup finals. Out of those Trinidad & Tobago are currently playing the best football and will be the Caribbean’s only representative at the Hexagonal which begins in November later this year. But what we have seen in recent times is the growth of other nations such as Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Martinique, Antigua & Barbuda, Curacao, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Suriname, Grenada, Guyana and the Dominican Republic who are challenging the upper bracket of Caribbean international teams. I think Curacao have a very interesting project going on and they’ve been assisted by the expertise of Patrick Kluivert, whose mother comes from the island. Saint Kitts & Nevis are a rising force and the head coach Jacques Passy is doing a stellar job there. There is always scope for an upset or for the underdog to triumph; we’ve seen that time and time again in football. As former Trinidad & Tobago manager Leo Beenhakker once said: “In football, 2 and 2 is almost never 4. Most of the time it is 3 or 5.”

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Now, I want to get your thoughts on Jack Warner and co and their involvement in Caribbean football and Trinidad and Tobago itself. How have they and their actions influenced the game in these places?

We have to remember that Jack Warner presided over Caribbean football for 28 years. He called the shots for nearly three decades. So the decisions that he made have undeniably had a direct influence on the Caribbean game and how it is today. Warner causes division in his native Trinidad & Tobago – some people believe he changed things for the better and others believe he changed things for the worse. For me, some of Warner’s traits are a microcosm of what is wrong in Caribbean football administration. This doesn’t apply to everybody but I feel a lot of the time people at the top are only looking after themselves. They are taking care of their ego and making selfish decisions instead of making decisions on behalf of the betterment of football. Caribbean football administrators need to realise and appreciate that they are in a privileged position of authority and responsibility. With this comes power which shouldn’t be abused for personal gain. Caribbean football needs leadership. Not dictatorship. They are two very different things.

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A very interesting look into Caribbean football and what a new watcher can expect. It also gives us aspects to look out for. Thanks to Nathan Carr of The Home Of Caribbean Football for answering our questions. You can check his site out here: thehomeofcaribbeanfootball.com 

[XI Focus] : African XI – Restricted Nations

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An XI purely from Africa but with a stipulation: each nation can only be used once. So no partnership of Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba up front, no Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba in the same team. A tough one but a good one.

This is a team which will most likely cause disagreements throughout due to the country restrictions. One player from each country but of course, not every country will be used. The formation we have decided on is 3-4-3, an attacking formation but we thought, why not be daring when this team won’t be playing against anyone?

Goalkeeper: Bruce Grobbelaar [Zimbabwe] Huty20408 0026
A 32-time capped Zimbabwe international, this South African born goalkeeper makes it between the sticks for TCD’s African XI. Forget the match fixing allegations of 1994, this keeper was solid between the sticks for Liverpool most notably but featured for 17 clubs in total and was a part of 19 (he didn’t feature for Oxford United or Sheffield Wednesday). A three time FA Cup winner along with one European Cup, his place is cemented in net.

Centre-Back: Mehdi Benatia [Morocco] 5801387064_a5e453c35b_b_68704
A solid centre half, once of AS Roma but now on loan at Juventus from parent club FC Bayern. He made 80 appearances for Udinese before moving to Roma where he made 30. A two time Bundesliga winner alongside a DFB Pokal, Benatia is a good defender. A Moroccan international, he ticks another nation off the list.

Centre-Back: Lucas Radebe [South Africa] 

lucas radebe of south africa employs evasive actionWinning the National Soccer League twice with Kaiser Chiefs in the consecutive years of 1991 and 1992 then moving onto Leeds United where he was a Champions League semi-finalist and won Player of the Year in 1998. He recieved a FIFA Fair Play award for his contribution to ridding the game of racism. A notable achievement was when a Leeds brewery asked for name suggestions for a new beer, ‘Radebeer’ was voted favourite showing their admiration for the South African.

Centre-Back: Chancel Mbemba [Congo] 870891
An inclusion that most people will be like ‘what the fuck?’ but one I feel, as a Newcastle fan and due to the restrictions, is a fair one. Sami Kuffour misses out due to the nation restrictions but Mbemba is one who is an adequate replacement. A very solid defender from the Congo, no-one knows his age but I know that he is an excellent defender. The man turned up with a tuxedo on for his first home game at Newcastle…suave.

Winger: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang [Gabon] Aubameyang-Gabon-e1464536914647
He once wore £2,500 crystalised boots when warming up at Saint Ettiene and scored 29 goals in 54 goals before moving to Borussia Dortmund where he has netted 56 goals in 95 (and counting). A front flip celebrator, the pacey attacker was the African Footballer of the Year in 2015 alongside BVB’s top goalscorer two years running (2014-2016).

Central Midfielder: Michael Essien [Ghana] 20130829-michael-essien
The Bison. On-field forcefulness and prowess gave him this nickname and he has been one of the best midfielders to come from Africa in football. Essien has won the Premier League twice whilst playing for Chelsea along with a Champions League win in 2012. In terms of individual honours, he was included in the African Cup of Nations ‘Team of All Tournaments’ and was BBC African Player of the Year in 2006.

Central Midfielder: Seydou Keita [Mali] 1991262_full-lndStarting his career in Marseille, the Mali international was mostly known for his stints at Lens, Sevilla and FC Barcelona. During his first season at Barcelona, the Catalan club won the treble. Keita scored a hat-trick over Zaragoza in 2009 and made more appearances than any outfield player in 2010-11 for Barcelona. A three time La Liga winner, two time Champions League winner and two third place positions in the AFCON, Keita is an inclusion based on my personal preference but also because he has done a lot in football. A hero of mine.

Winger: Jay-Jay Okocha [Nigeria] Nigeria v Bulgaria1998 Fifa World Cup‘He’s so good they named him twice’ was a chant sang during his time at Bolton Wanderers. Okocha was a very skillful player and adopted the step-over, making it his own before a certain Cristiano Ronaldo came along. When playing for Eintract Frankfurt, he scored a goal that had Oliver Khan diving about all over the place due to his twists and turns. When at Fenerbache, he scored 30 goals in 62 appearances and many of them came from set pieces. This was something he became known for at the Turkish club. PSG signed him for £14m and he became the most expensive African player at the time. He won Nigerian Footballer of the Year 6 times between 1995 and 2005 and won the AFCON with Nigeria in 1994.

Striker: George Weah [Liberia] 2456349_xbig-lnd
A player everyone knew would be included. Probably the greatest talent to come out of Africa, the AS Monaco, Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan legend is one of the first names on the team sheet. He combined physical attributes with technique, skill and finishing ability to become one of the best players in the world. Despite the controversy of him breaking Jorge Costa’s nose in the tunnel over racism allegations, he won the FIFA Fair Play Award the same year but that wasn’t the most notable award. Weah grabbed the FIFA World Player of the Year Award in 1995 and the Ballon D’Or the same year. He was the first native African to win these awards.

Striker: Didier Drogba [Ivory Coast] didier-drogba-ivory-coast-football-team
Of course the Ivorian is included, how could we leave him out? A Premier League, and football-in-general. legend. Hated by many, admired by most throughout his time playing for Chelsea. No-one can deny how influential he was as a striker for Chelsea with his prowess being huge upfront. He score over 150 goals for Chelsea where he played for ten years after moving from Marseille where he scored 32 in 55. Not only has he scored this many at club level, he scored 63 in 104 for Ivory Coast. A four time Premier League champion and a massive role in Chelsea’s Champions League glory of 2012 scoring the winning penalty, he leads the line for this XI or it would be a ‘fucking disgrace’ eh, Didier?

Striker: Samuel Eto’o [Cameroon] samuel-etoo-cameroon_hzkodrmyk2ly10o5b9f29u7flSamuel Eto’o is one of the most profilic strikers in the game’s history when in his prime. 129 goals in 201 appearances at Barcelona and a further 53 in 101 at Inter, he is one of the best strikers the game has seen. He was 1/3 of one of the best trios in history which featured himself, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry who score over 100 goals together in a single campaign. Eto’o has won La Liga three times, the Champions League three times, a Scudetto, the AFCON twice, an Olympic Gold Medal and the African Player of the Year four times. He is also Cameroon’s top goalscorer.

Manager: Stephen Keshi default
The rule doesn’t apply here. The Nigerian won the AFCON both as a manager and a player and was given African Manager of the Year in 2013. We were deeply saddened by the news of his passing, our thoughts are with his family and friends. Rest In Peace.

Home Kit: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 15, Mark Fish (C) in action during the match between South Africa (3) and Malawi (0) at FNB Stadium on June 15, 1996 in Johannesburg, South Africa Photo by Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

1998 World Cup AFP PHOTO South Africa (L-R standing) Doctor Khumalo, Mark Fish, Philemon Masinga, Andre Arendse, Sizwe Motaung, Neil Tovey (L-R front row) Mark Williams, John Moshoeu , Lucas Radebe, Innocent Buthelezi, Eric Tinkler AFP/Walter DHLADHLA Afrique du Sud (de G D debout) Doctor Khumalo, Mark Fish, Philemon Masinga, Andre Arendse, Sizwe Motaung, Neil Tovey (de G D accroupis) Mark Williams, John Moshoeu , Lucas Radebe, Innocent Buthelezi, Eric Tinkler AFP/Walter DHLADHLA
The kit worn by South Africa on their return to the African Cup of Nations following their 34 year ban from the tournament and a non-qualifying campaign the tournament before they were crowned champions in 1996. A beautiful gold, black and green kit worn with pride by the nation and Nelson Mandela himself.

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The kit worn in Nigeria’s first ever World Cup in 1994. They topped their group of Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece before being knocked out in the quarters by a Roberto Baggio double. A very beautiful kit whether it be with green shorts or not.

A very tough task deciding this XI, especially with the nation restrictions in place. This team is a solid team with a lot of attacking firepower. Maybe the tactic is to outscore opponents rather than keep them out? Well with that defence and Essien and Keita holding, anything is possible. Let us know who we should include, who we shouldn’t have included and any complaints you have in the comments below.

[football.is.permanent]

 

 

 

[China] : Slowly becoming a big time player in global football?

[ China fans supporting their national side ]
China seems to be crawling its way onto the map within global football and is creating a stamp for Asia on the game (despite Japan already doing this with multiple World Cup appearances and the J League). One thing surrounding China, with reference to the beautiful game, is that the origins of our game are argued to originally came from the country over 1000 years ago. Early stages of football have been linked to China and dated back to the BC era. Back then, it was called ‘cuju’ or kickball in English. This is clear evidence of it being a big time player but not everyone believes they started the game and it was in fact the English. “Football’s coming home” and all that from the English create a debate between the two and an even wider debate sparked when the Germans took that song to try and make it their own. Now, the Chinese Super League seems to be attracting some incredible talent from Europe’s best leagues but this comes down to one thing; the financial capabilities of this global superpower. How is China’s game “crawling onto the map” as I say?

It seems as though there is significant reforms being made on China’s game from bottom to top. First of all, the President of the communist state Xi Jingping is a massive football fan and has been active in changing the game in China. Xi has made it clear, from when he became President, that he wants World Cup football from the national side and eventually for them to win the prestigious trophy. He wants world dominance from the national side by 2030. With this ideology, Xi placed football on the national curriculum which means schools have to teach the game within school as law. 5000 have been specialised in football, all with the aim of developing China’s younger players to mold a better future for the nation side (one of Xi’s aims with these reforms). The state have brought in foreign coaches from countries all around the world to help the reformation of the Chinese football system including former Serbian footballer Rade Kokovic. He said, “number One: from today’s session is passing because we feel passing is an essential part of football games.”

He then went on to say, “And the second thing is mentality. We want to keep them sharp, keep them mentally focused, concentrated all the time, so they don’t make unnecessary mistakes.”

Two of the teams training with foreign coaches are based in Shanghai and this movement is supposedly set to spread across more cities within the country with foreign coaches going to other schools/academies. Schools inside Shanghai (280 approximately) have joined leagues with City officials setting up youth training camps in 16 districts to train 3000 students. Due to a pre-season tour of China, Juventus have opened a J Academy within China. This highlights that global superpowers within the game are becoming intrigued by the game in Asia and are making further investments into it. There is expectations of 20000 football themed schools to be open by 2017. Substantial movements are being fashioned by the government to improve the game within this global giant.

[ Xi Jingping tries some skills ]
Looking further up than school level in football and focusing on the national team, there is improvements albeit them being small. Within the FIFA rankings, China placed 97th in 2014 behind Caribbean island Antigua and Barbuda (population: 89,000) and just ahead of Faroe Islands (population 49,000). Comparing the size of these two countries to China, who have a population of 1.357billion (as of 2013) and make up around 37% of the world’s population alongside India, something is clearly wrong somewhere when they cannot find 11 talented enough players to be rivaling these countries. However, they have moved up the rankings to 84th in 2015 and again moved up to 81st in 2016. This is showing small but significant improvements being made within the national team.

Alain Perrin was appointed manager of the team in 2014 (despite the wishes for Marcello Lippi who led Guangzhou Evergrande to domestic and Asian Cup victories) and under his leadership they continued through the qualification process for the 2015 Asian Cup. They qualified under Perrin as the best third placed team. During the tournament, China went from strength to strength with three wins out of three in the group stages with a notable 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan who attempted to rival them for the top spot of their group. Their group stage game against North Korea packed 25,000 of the reds into Australia’s capital stadium which is a surprising amount in all honesty. Before these victories, the national team were branded embarrassing and a laughingstock among fans based on their failures before hand. They never came close to any of the the World Cup tournaments since 2002 and their group stage qualification in the 2015 Asian Cup was actually the first time the team had not been knocked out in the group stages in 11 years. However, they were knocked out in the quarter finals by the rapid growing team Australia with the result being 2-0 to the Socceroos.

[ Chinese ultras ]
From May 2015, China put a limitation on their players that they had to wear Nike football boots due to the sports giant sponsoring the national side. This, interestingly, had a negative effect on the players and they fell behind Hong Kong in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Alain Perrin was eventually sacked due to this under performance and Gao Hongbo returned. Now, something remarkable in their history occurred within the qualification process. They needed two wins from their final games; they were playing the Maldives and Qatar. They beat the Maldives 4-0 whilst Qatar beat Hong Kong 2-0 allowing Team Dragon to go above Hong Kong into second. They needed results to go their away after beating Qatar and North Korea’s shocking loss to the Philippines allowed them to miraculously qualify for the next round.

[ Asian Cup victories ]
These improvements on the national side show something must be working with their recent reforms because they are slowly and steadily climbing the FIFA World Rankings whilst performing like never before.

It isn’t just the national side which is being affected by the growth of Chinese football. The Chinese Super League is attracting some of the globes greatest talents from European’s top leagues. Despite Didier Drogba moving to Shanghai Shenua in 2012, the more recent moves have been causing waves through the global game. If you look at the time Drogba moved to the league, he was 34 years old. This is a player at the end of his career. Now, more recent transfers include Alex Texiera, Ramires and Gael Kakuta. All of these players within their twenties which suggests they aren’t moving to these Chinese clubs to retire thus causing the CSL to be a ‘retirement league’. Texiera moved from Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning for £39.4m despite him being rumoured to be joining Liverpool FC. This is most likely down to financial aspects due to the economy of China being one the strongest and the investment into the league being monumental. However, as a footballer, something about the league has to attract you. Ramires left Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning for £25m, Ezeqiuel Lavezzi left PSG to Guangzhou Evergrande for £23m and is the highest paid player on the planet (reportedly) earning £400,000 a week. Alongside these, Gervinho left Roma and Gael Kakuta (24 years of age) joined Hebei China Fortune FC alongside the ex Arsenal player. Stephane M’Bia also joined Hebei from Sevilla. Jackson Martinez is one of the biggest names to move to China also following his dismal career at Atletico Madrid. However, the player still offers something but just didn’t succeed in Madrid. Martinez was wanted by many European clubs but chose to join the CSL for £42m. This is just a selection of the talent who have moved from huge European clubs, competing in European competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, to join a Chinese club. If that doesn’t scream growth of the game in China then I do not know what would. Even earlier than these, Paulinho was brought to Guangzhou from Tottenham at the age of 26. Even more evidence of China not being a ‘retirement league’.

[ Jacskon Martinez for Guangzhou ]
Chinese businessmen have influence across global football, not just within their home country. China Media Company own 13% of Manchester City which they acquired for £265m. Wang Jianlin owns 20% of Atletico Madrid and 56% of Espanyol is Chinese owned. French club Sochaux is Hong Kong owned also. A Chinese company also owns a percentage of Jorge Mendes’ company and tried to bring Jose Mourinho to the league but couldn’t. That’s huge movements for a small league! This is evidence of China influencing global football substantially and becoming a big time player.

Brazil national side manager, after seeing 22 of his Brazilian players join the Chinese game, called it “the new El Durado” and after research into this phrase, I take one thing; El Durado was claimed as a city at first, a kingdom next and then an empire. China is becoming a big time player in global football and you better believe it.