Sunday, May 29, 2005

Relegation Scraps

As Q has already detailed in an earlier post, the final day of the English premiership was enthralling.. at the wrong end of the table, that is. Well, today was the day of reckoning for all those hopeful of staying in Spain and Italy's premier divisons. In Italy, on the final day of the season, a ridiculous amount of teams (six!) were in contention for the remaining two relegation spots, with the only certainity for the drop being bottom of the table Atalanta. In Spain it was a more straightforward affair between Levante and Real Mallorca, with Numancia and Albacete having secured their participation in next season's Segunda Liga a few rounds earlier.

With the dust settling at around 10pm UK time, the following had resulted: Levante are trounced 4-1 by Villareal and Mallorca escape after a 1-1 draw with Champions League hopefuls Betis (who bagged the fourth spot on the same day following Seville's loss to Malaga). In Italy, after much calculation, Parma have to playoff against Bologna to decide who joins Brescia and Atalanta in Serie B next year.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Each of the three top leagues* (The Premiership, Serie A and La Primera Liga) has a different method of deciding a tie on points in crucial areas of the table such as relegation and european qualification spots.

The English decide it on goal difference.
The Spaniards decide it on head-to-head record.
The Italians decide it by a playoff.

Each system has its merits, the Premiership puts emphasis on scoring goals (and equally stopping the other teams from scoring) during the course of the season, while La Liga is all about beating your main rivals on aggregate over the two ties. The Italians, I believe, have the most interesting system. Imagine (however unlikely) that the final day of the season ended with Juventus and AC Milan in deadlock, Real Madrid having caught up with Barcelona and Man Utd/Arsenal having chipped away at Chelsea's lead until they were level on points. How would you rather it was decided? I honestly prefer the playoff, another opportunity to see both teams in action with the entire season's worth of effort at stake. It would make for one hell of a game.

Oh, and Diego Forlan is this season's Pichichi (Spanish league top scorer). After Sam Eto'o missed a penalty against Villareal in the penultimate round of the season (the same match Forlan scored a hat-trick), he again hit the crossbar on Barca's final day nil all draw, while Forlan scored twice (once in the 90th minute) to overhaul the Cameroonian's one goal lead and end up with 25 goals compared to 24 for Eto'o. I always knew he had it in him. Good on you, Diego.

* fans of the Bundesliga: I do enjoy the league immensely. I find it generates quite a bit of drama and contains a lot of quality players, but it just isn't on the same level as the top three leagues. If its any consolation, I think your league is better than Le Championnat and the Dutch Eredivisie.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Istanbul, May 25th 2005

Wow. Just.. wow.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Mickey Mouse League?

Let's be honest now, the Scots don't have much of a league. Outside the Old Firm there are hardly any other teams worth mentioning. Dundee and Dundee United? Hibs and Hearts? Fun little teams that won't really make it anywhere anytime soon.

The events of the final day of the season were quite dramatic, however. Seeing that the Old Firm derby is played four times per season, the title is often wrapped up with 3 or 4 games to go. Not this time around. After both teams beat each other twice this campaign, Celtic were headed into the final day with a two point advantage and an away game against Motherwell. Rangers were to travel to the beautiful city of Edinburgh to play Hibernian. Things went as planned for Rangers, with Nacho Novo finally breaking the deadlock in the 59th minute to secure a 1-0 win for the away team. Celtic looked like cruising towards the title when Chris Sutton scored their goal in the 29th minute, but their dominance didn't pay off as they wasted chance after chance.

And then the unthinkable happened. Motherwell's Scott McDonald (who?!) scored two goals in the last two minutes of the game to virtually gift the title to Rangers. Celtic were crushed as they let the title slip from their grasp in the dying moments, and the club's future was pitched into turmoil. Manager Martin O'Neill will shortly announce his resignation, ending a successful era with the club that saw them dominate the domestic scene, as well as reaching the UEFA Cup final two years ago only to lose the game to Jose Mourinho's Porto on the silver goal rule. Their opponents that night would then go on to win the Champions League the following year.

Sure there might only be two teams in contention for the title in Scotland. And yes, the Old Firm have never progressed beyond the group stages of the Champions League (even though Celtic beat Inter Milan to win the old European Cup back in the day). And maybe Dunfermline v. Partick Thistle isn't really a game you'd be marking down on your calendar any time soon.

But you can't say those Haggis-eating, skirt-wearing gingerheads can't produce dramatic finales.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cup Final: Man United Point of View

I just had a feeling it was going to be one of those days. That game pretty much summed up our whole season: beautiful flowing football coupled with explosive young talent at times, but no ability to finish whatsoever. I have never seen such a one-sided game between those two sides since that glorious 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford just over four years ago. And even then, we were still riding what remained of that wonderful wave of confidence initiated by the treble of 98/99. Since those days Arsenal have grown in strength and stature, and every game became a titanic struggle between the two superpowers of English football. The emergence of Chelsea this season and the respective problems both clubs ran into (Arsenal's complete loss of confidence after the 2-0 defeat that ended their unbeaten streak, United's early season loss of Rio and subsequent losses of key players such as Van Nistelrooy) meant that this season's cup final was the last chance for both teams to salvage something from a year of underachievement.

Following the uncertainty surrounding the future of Manchester United after the Glazer takeover, the fans desperately needed something to cheer about. The end of season capitulation that cost us automatic qualification for the Champions League next season (and meant a second successive third place finish) was very disappointing. The team seemed to step up for the big games, but just didn't play as well when faced with weaker opposition. Our loss of so many valuable points against the (with all due respect) "small fry" of the premiership opened up an insurmountable gap between us and the league leaders.

But boy did the team show up for the cup final. They put on such a dominant display that it beggared belief it was Arsenal, of all teams, on the other side of the pitch. Keano was at his magnificent best, completely controlling the midfield. The defense handled everything thrown their way, and Roy Carrol was completely untested in goal (thank God for that). Rooney sparkled, and then when he tired Cristiano took the game into his own hands. The introduction of Giggsy for Fletcher (who had performed quite well, definitely improving of late) injected more pace into the squad and we found ourselves ripping the Gunners' rearguard into shreds. Arsenal had no answers, as they struggled to involve a Bergkamp employed in the awkward position of lone striker. Henry's absence was visible, as Reyes and Pires couldn't support the front man adequately and were kept in check by our lightning quick defense and well organized holding midfield players. I could go on for a while, but let's just cut to the chase, shall we? When it counted the most, we absolutely failed. Free headers in the box, chance after chance wasted when it surely would've been easier to score. Rooney's brilliance was thwarted by an impressive Lehmann (sure, the shots were right at him most of the time, but for him to be there required excellent positional sense). Van Nistelrooy, for all of his excellent center forward play in holding up the ball and involving the wide players, just did not look sharp enough in front of goal.

And when, in the closing minutes, that header was cleared off the line and onto the underside of the crossbar by good ol' dependable Freddie Ljunberg, you just had a feeling that it wasn't going to be our day. I even whispered it to one of my friends that if the game went to penalties, we stood no chance. Luck just wasn't on our side, and our finishing had let us down one too many times. A glimmer of hope was sighted when Tim Howard was seen warming up on screen, but those hopes were dashed faster than you can say "tourette's" as the American sat back down on the bench. The LAST person I wanted in goal for those penalties was the abysmal Carrol. The good news is, he hasn't been offered a new contract and we'll finally be waving goodbye to the latest on the list of many catastrophic 'keepers that have plagued the club since The Big Dane left in 1999.

So what now? Well, another season has ended with even more disappointment. Congratulations to Arsenal for surviving the onslaught by the skin of their teeth and siezing the opportunity when presented to them. Five penalties converted is an impressive feat, especially in a tension-filled FA Cup final. We can be proud of our performance however, for the best team has lost this game. We can also look forward to a young squad filled to the brim with potential, and the return of Van Nistelrooy with all his goalscoring exploits next season. Long term implications aside, we can also look forward to the money Glazer has brought in for summer expenditure.. the purchase of a new goalkeeper and a midfield successor for Keane being the highest priorities at the moment. Its definitely a good time to be a Manchester United fan, I can almost sense the formation of another all-conquering team at the hands of the everpresent Sir Alex Ferguson.

So let's put all of this behind us.. forget about the shares and the plc, forget about the Glazers and the Coolmore Mafia, forget about the millions of dollars/pounds/yen/euros exchanging hands at the expense of the club. Let's just look forward to next season.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Manchester United Fracas

I was hoping a United Fan would discuss his or her takeover fears, but since no one’s done it, I guess I’ll have to provide my outsider’s point of view.

If you haven’t been paying attention to any of the news of the last week, then let me bring you up to speed: Malcom Glazer (American Palm Beach Billionaire and owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American Football franchise) has been buying up shares in Manchester United and he’s finally become the major owner of the club. Starting off with a 3.17% ownership in United in March 2003, Glazer (through his “Red Football” vehicle) slowly started buying up whatever shares he could get his little leprechaun (he kinda looks like one) hands on, reaching 28.1% till about last week. His only obstacle were the Irish Tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier, who through their company “Cubic Expression” owned a 28.7% share in United. The fans have not taken too lightly to Glazers attempted takeover and have demonstrated hoping to brew up a shit-storm. With the help of the Manchester United supporters’ trust “Shareholders United” the fans bought up around 2% of the club, but it did them no good, the damage had already been done – Glazer was in charge.

So what is the big deal exactly? Last week, Glazer, with the backing of a couple of banks made an offer to buy up Cubic Expression’s shares (Total money used for this purchase: £790m – Glazer is putting up £267m of his own cash – He has assumed £ 265m of debt along with £ 275m of preference shares)… All it took was one phone call and an offer of 300 pence per share to secure their majority stake and that was it, Glazer made his way to the 75% and growing ownership stake needed to take the company private.

Manchester United became a publicly limited company in 1991, giving its greedy directors a chance to make some cash off the club. For the most part, the company did well as a PLC, being one of the first premier clubs to float their shares on the London Stock Exchange, giving them more money that the other clubs. When Cubic Expression came along, their money was seen as a long-term investment and that the fans had nothing to fear, and for the longest time the fans didn’t. Now that Glazer owns the major stake in the club, he plans to take the club private, dump all the money he borrowed from the banks onto the Club’s debt free balance sheet and then “Maximise the club’s profits.”

I would just like to take a moment and point out the real winners of this whole fracas: JP McManus and John Magnier: who are enjoying between £ 80-90 million pounds in profit from this deal… Since they started buying up United shares in 2001, the weighted average of their purchased shares is around 190 pence, and with an offer of 300 pence from Glazer, you can’t really blame them for selling… After all, Manchester United is a publicly quoted company, and people can buy and sell their shares as they please. Just to put everything in perspective for you, without the Leprauchaun’s meddling the normal price per share would have been somewhere between 200 and 220 pence per share.

Now that we’ve established who the winners are, lets bring to light the scariest part of this whole deal: Why the hell is an American, with no interest in football buying a club. To put it simply: Manchester United is the number one selling sports brand in the world, they have topped the wealthiest clubs list for many years, sold out stadiums, a 75 million strong global fan base, a chain of merchandising superstores all over the world, ohh, and his son Joel is a huge “soccer” fan.

Here are the fans’ fears: Glazer is putting at least £ 300m of debt onto United’s balance sheet – this is bringing back memories of Leeds United’s overly ambitious plans and the debt that crippled them. With that much money owed from this takeover not forgetting getting Glazer’s stake up to 28.1% - United is looking at interest payments of £ 25-30 million a year, and you don’t need me to tell you that’s a pretty serious amount of cash to cough up in interest.

So how’s Glazer going to get MUFC back on track? Well you can be sure ticket prices are going to rise, prawn sandwiches and other snacks will cost a lot more, and I wouldn’t be that surprised to see some more in your face merchandising to hit the racks as well. But the Glazer’s aren’t looking to hit the English fans for that much; there are other options to make money. The club is looking to secure more lucrative sponsorships, hopefully negotiate their own TV rights and break into the North American and Asian Markets.

Analysts have already started to draw up possibilities: There’s talk of selling rights to Old Trafford or part of it to a corporate sponsor (Ahmed – remember how you were laughing at me about the Emirates Stadium? Payback amigo, payback). There’s also talk of selling Old Trafford and then leasing it back, and they’ve even considered a Securitisation deal, allowing them to borrow against future gate revenues. Selling the “Old Trafford” name is the easiest and least painful to swallow, selling the stadium isn’t the right way to go about this by keeping the fans pleased, while borrowing against future gate revenues is risky considering threats from the fans to boycott games. Another viable solution is for Glazer and United to break into the North American and Asian Markets. Football has tried to storm the American shores for many years starting off with Pele, the Kaiser, and George Best with the NASL, but there’s been no “real” support since then and you can expect the gringos to stick to their own sports. You’d hope that Glazer with his knowledge of the American sports market, could do something, but we’ll have to wait and see. Merchandising in the Asian market seems like a hopeless cause, how are you going to convince someone to pay £ 35 for a jersey, when he can buy a fake for one-tenth that amount? And even more importantly, how are you going to regulate it?

I believe Glazer’s eyes are set firmly on TV rights. Currently, the premiership TV rights have another 2 years to run its contract with every team getting a slice of the pie. If Glazer could negotiate his own rights, there’s a whole lot more money to be made there, of if he could negotiate his TV rights in Asia and North America, that could be the solution to his debt worries. But breaking away from the premier league’s “group TV rights” could pose a problem and could lead to the formation of the European Super League that keeps on coming up every season… Who knows what’ll happen, we need to wait and see what MUFC’s new owners have in store.

Currently: the Glazers have already announced their first mistake – keeping David Gill onboard. I don’t like him (I don’t need to like him since I’m not a United fan), he doesn’t have that same cunning attitude that Kenyon had, and he just doesn’t respond to the media as well as his money hungry predecessor. I feel as though Manchester United look like they could possibly go through a period of mismanagement and failure like Barcelona did from 2000 – 2003 when Gaspart was at the helm. Glazer has also announced that his son Joel will be involved in the running of the club, good luck with trying to get a word in with 75 thousand fans at the stadium calling for your head.

What is their track record? Glazer took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from laughing stocks to super bowl champions in 2003, and then what? Tampa look deflated right now and everyone’s pointing the finger at someone else… United’s already had the winning track record, what could Glazer possibly bring to the table? Think about this 36% (approx £ 61.2m) of United’s total revenue comes from Match-day revenue, what will happen when the fans boycott the stadium and gate receipts seriously start dipping? 37% (approx £ 62.5m) of revenues come from media revenues – can Glazer get more? The remaining 27% (approx £ 45.3m) of revenues come from commercial sources, like the Vodafone sponsorship, financial services (you can buy a man u credit card), etc. Now consider this: Employee expenses represented 45% (£ 76.9m) of total revenue, that’s more than any one of the “business lines” of the club. What’s going to happen when you’ve got cases like Rio Ferdinand right now demanding (through his money hungry bastard agent) that £70,000 a week isn’t enough and he needs £ 120,000 a week… How’s that going to affect United’s take on restructuring their financial position? This does not bode well for MUFC…

Let’s wait and see what does happen, this could the evolution of professional football unfolding right in front of us. Either way, I agree with United fans, Glazer is killing the spirit of the game by giving off a feeling that his intentions are focused mainly on squeezing more money out of the club than winning trophies. At the same token, he’s invested a ton of money into this project and it’s hard to believe that he’s not interested in winning trophies, after all, more trophies mean more money. Being a fan involves spending nights dreaming of championships, sweating over a player’s fitness, lamenting the team’s losses and celebrating their victories, but most importantly it means playing the football you love to see. How can team play the football you love when it’s being taken over by money hungry villains? The beautiful game is loosing its lustre…

Tell us what you think about this? Let’s hear what the United Fans have to say, what the other fans have to say…

NOTE: numbers and information have been taken from the Guardian, SkySports, ESPN Soccernet, CNNFI, and the wealth of useless knowledge I keep stored in my head.


Wot a run, eyh? Lemme tel yeh, thears a vibe aboout, ahlryt. Eyh?

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Today was the last day of the premiership season, and it was a roller coaster end to the season on the wrong side!

Day started with West Bromwich Albion in last place, with 31 points, Southampton with 32, Crystal Palace and Norwich at 33 points.

By the way, WBA were last place at Christmas, and historically, the team at the bottom of the table by Christmas has always been relegated!

In one afternoon, all four teams were in the coveted 17th place at one point or another during the game! So it was nailbiting stuff!

By halftime, Norwich looked out for sure, and with the game ending 6-0 to Fulham, that was a pathetic end to their adventure!

Southamton were up 1-0 againt Manchester United after only 10 mins, and it looked like they were safe. But Manchester came back and scored two, to end 27 years of premiership football for Southampton! Its a shame such a great stadium as St. Mary's is not used for premiership football! Best stadium Ive been to in England!

Crystal Palace looked to be safe with 20 mins to go, after leading 2-1 against Charlton, only to see their dreams of another year in the premiership shattered with 8 mins remaining!

But the miracle of miracles has to be WBA's promotion!! Bryan Robson has taken a team that was destined to be relegated according to history, and achieved the impossible, keeping them in the top flight for at least one more year! I was really happy for them, and watching their celebration at the end, its great to see a team surviving after a tough fight and their crowd, which is one of the best in the premiership! This is a pic of the crazy celebrations after the final whistle and after getting the Crystal Palace game score!

Dont u just love football?!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

World Cup 2006 predictions.....

Its early, but its NEVER too early ot start making predictions on footie!

World Cup 2006 (FIFA bastards didnt give me a ticket! But thats another whole post!) is knocking on the doors!

So, three questions -

  • Who do you support?
  • Who do you think will win?
  • Rational reasons for your pick (no "because they kick ass" answers!)
Best thing about these blogs is that you can always check back on them, so lets see your footie expertise and analysis in action!


Ok so this is our maiden post… What is Qadam? We thought of setting up a football forum, so football fans like you and me can discuss any aspect of the beautiful game...

You want to talk about your team and all their glory? Perhaps discuss Berlusconi's pressure on the Serie A? Perez and his Pepsi Sponsored Galicticos? How about the offsides rule? whatever you damn well please …

We’re a bunch of contributing writers from all four corners of the globe, and we support a number of teams all over the planet.. I must point out that none of us are real sports writers, we’re merely fans that love the game, so don't quote us on anything, unless it totally makes sense to you and you're ready to defend it and maybe name your firstborn Qadam..

We've started out small, with a couple of writers, but I'm sure with time we'll evolve and include more contributors, different ideas and cool little nifty things..

So look out for news, opinions, views, and insults regarding the best leagues in Europe, the Americas, Asia and wherever else…