Goalscorers don’t sit on benches and neither should Huntelaar

By Mohamed Moallim

It’s reached the point where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is no longer frustrated; this summer will be his fourth successive tournament with Oranje, under a third different manager, but Huntelaar’s situation remains the same. If not for Robin van Persie he would be the undisputed Dutch ‘number nine’.
Huntelaar or Van Persie intensified during the build up to Euro 2012. It turned into a debate that divided the nation. The former came out on top in every newspaper poll; however the opinion that mattered belonged to then manager Bert van Marwijk, his decision was already made, opting for Van Persie, off the back of a breathless season in England even if Huntelaar matched him stride for stride in Germany.
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It was a second chance. Van Persie led the line in South Africa but finished with one goal same as Huntelaar despite starting every game. “Of course I’m angry and disappointed,” Huntelaar said after learning of the news from Van Marwijk after a training session days before the tournament. He had every right, one reason supporters backed him was because of his record, Huntelaar scored 15 goals in his last 17 games prior to Euro 2012. Van Persie managed the same amount in his last 26 games spanning three years.
No stranger to adversity, his mental toughness was forged at PSV, opportunities were limited but it didn’t stop him from learning from the clubs finest: Van Nistelrooy, Luc Nilis and Mateja Kežman. It paid dividends. The last decade seen him morph into a modern predator turned all-rounder (part-playmaker, part-finisher) – adding distinctive traits of the three: Van Nistelrooy’s finishing, Nilis’ ingenuity and Kežman’s fearlessness – every game he cuts an impassive figure, mind focused, void of distraction and feeling every fibre geared for a single purpose. Once that mission is done the child in him escapes but just as quickly his mask goes back up and the cycle starts again.
To say goals is an obsession would be an understatement. It’s compulsive. His one addiction “when you hear it [ball hitting the net] you spend the whole of the next week longing to hear it again,” Huntelaar told UEFA.com. “It’s like the elixir of life.” 
Louis van Gaal, current Oranje boss, described him as the best inside the penalty area “bar none”. But Huntelaar is much more. His all-round game – awareness, vision, movement and link-up play – stands out greater than it has done before. Huntelaar’s natural game centres around an innate ability to score just about every type of goal, often in the most unlikely of situations, whether creating for himself or finishing a team effort – it can be ugly or laced with finesse – his ambidexterity makes it easier as well as being acrobatic and dominant in the air.
The city of Gelsenkirchen, after a two year odyssey in southern Europe, has reinvigorated him. In the bright lights of the Bundesliga [first Dutchman to win the ‘kicker Torjägerkanone’ – top scorer in 2011-12] he’s showing the form that first brought him to widespread attention at Heerenveen then Ajax eight years ago: a ruthless goal-scoring machine that drew comparisons with premier Dutch marksmen of yesteryear including Marco van Basten, who in spite of growing pressure resisted calling him up for a place in his World Cup 2006 squad.
Instead ‘De Hunter’, that summer, went to the U21 European Championships in Portugal where he spearheaded the Dutch to their first title. A few months later Huntelaar made his international debut in Dublin scoring a brace. It would be another seven games before adding to his tally. He’s never looked back since.
His time with Real Madrid and AC Milan respectively is often looked back on as a failure, but in reality he was a victim of circumstance. Huntelaar arrived in Madrid as Bernd Schuster, the manager that wanted him, was leaving. His successor Juande Ramos saw him as an unwanted €27M welcome present. But when push came to shove, true to form, Huntelaar proved his worth in goals: eight in his first five appearances. Florentino Pérez’s return in the summer of 2009 ended a brief six-month stay.
It was no different in Milan the following campaign; manager Leonardo preferring Marco Borriello and Filippo Inzaghi instead, however there were glimpses most notably a stupendous brace in injury time away to Catania and penultimate goal away to Cagliari a fantastic left-footed drive from 20+ yards out, another example faith in him would be rewarded, exactly what Schalke has done.
Felix Magath gave him a platform as well as a supporting cast, Huub Stevens and Jens Keller as well, the latter describing him as “class” (no pun intended). His recent goal against Hertha BSC was his 275th at club level; since his return from a knee injury that robbed him four months of this season, he’s scored 10 times from 13 games played. ‘HunTORlaar’: a befitting moniker.
Another is ‘Hunter der Nation’. Huntelaar, to his credit, at one stage – despite never being considered first choice in six years as an international – was close to breaking Oranje’s all-time goals record held by Patrick Kluivert which Van Persie subsequently broke. However, if we look at goal-to-minute ratio, only the legendary Faas Wilkes (one every 99) betters Huntelaar (one every 101). Van Persie, in comparison, one every 143. But the Manchester United striker ability and dynamism is unquestionable. Van Persie – now skipper – barring an injury should start in their World Cup opener against Spain [June 13]. “No, it doesn’t bother me,” Huntelaar recently told Sp!ts. “Of course I have ambitions, but it is what it is.” 
Van Gaal, not one to admit, subscribes to Johan Cruyff’s ‘conflict model’:  an individual should be encouraged to prove his manager wrong. There’s a player at his disposal – in what could be his last major tournament – determined (who can grab a goal out of nowhere). And that bodes well for Oranje.

 This piece was written by Mohamed Moallim, our resident Dutch expert. Follow him on twitter @jouracule. Comments below please.

Goalscorers don’t sit on benches and neither should Huntelaar

By Mohamed Moallim

It’s reached the point where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is no longer frustrated; this summer will be his fourth successive tournament with Oranje, under a third different manager, but Huntelaar’s situation remains the same. If not for Robin van Persie he would be the undisputed Dutch ‘number nine’.

Huntelaar or Van Persie intensified during the build up to Euro 2012. It turned into a debate that divided the nation. The former came out on top in every newspaper poll; however the opinion that mattered belonged to then manager Bert van Marwijk, his decision was already made, opting for Van Persie, off the back of a breathless season in England even if Huntelaar matched him stride for stride in Germany.

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From the factories of Pakistan to the Champions League Final

"The handiwork of the east, as many Sialkotis boast, isn’t easily rivaled. Now, the Forward Sports Factory produces over 18,000 footballs a day, including those used in Major League Soccer, the Bundesliga in Germany, and the European Champions League."

Whether it’s watching a Premier League match or trekking outdoors for a lazy pick-up game over the weekend, it’s tempting to take those small things that make football possible for granted. Sure, we appreciate an athlete’s dedication and the financial complexities that underline the sport, but the finer details are easy to overlook.

Case in point: over at Roads and KingdomsOmar Wairach recently journeyed to Sialkot, a city in the north-east of Pakistani that produces roughly 60 million footballs each year, making up 70% of the world’s total. It’s a complicated story, involving political rivalries and changing social realities, but it’s one you should be sure to check out. [Posted by Maxi 

"Following Die Löwen"

Travel with AFR and photographer Mixen as he follows his beloved TSV 1860 München around Germany

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This is 1.FC Union Berlin

If you want to see a club in its element, this is how it’s done. Taking an old fashioned European Football Weekend, brothers Jason and Kai took to Berlin to experience the supporter culture at FC Union Berlin.

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Lifting Cups and Groups of Death - AFR Voice Ep.18

In the last week, football in the US has received its fair share of drama – the national team was drawn in a ‘Group of death’ for the 2014 World Cup and we witnessed one of the most dramatic MLS Cup finals in recent memory. Who better to provide analysis (starting 24 minutes into the show) than former USMNT international and Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad? Jimmy, who you can enjoy plenty more of on the brilliant KICKTV, told us about the unique experience of playing at a World Cup, as well as identifying the secrets of Sporting Kansas City’s recent successes on and off the field.

That exclusive interview is accompanied by our very own debrief of the highly anticipated World Cup draw, including a look at the chances of the big boys – Brazil, Spain, Holland and Argentina. And, lest we forget, the official ball of the tournament was announced last week – we give our take on the ‘Brazuca’ and reminisce on our favourite World Cup balls.

All that plus a Bundesliga round-up, news of a goalkeeper joining WWE and our outrage that Zlatan has been snubbed for the Ballon d’Or shortlist.

Keep an ear out for next week’s Christmas Show Special, featuring a hint of cheap champagne, questionable festive jumpers and acclaimed journalist Guillem Balague, who will be discussing his new book, ‘Messi’ – an in-depth and illuminating study of the life of… well, the clue is in the name!

This week the #whereisfootball project takes us to the hills and mountainsn of Bhutan, where Yeji Hyun caught these breathtaking shots.

Remember, you can get in touch with the team by emailing afrvoice@gmail.com, or on Twitter @AFRvoice. You can also find us on iTunes here.

AFR Voice ep.4 - Mesut’s Manic Monday

As the fax machines power down, the covers get put back on the helipads, and the transfer window slams shut (for another 119 days at least), this week’s AFR Voice is here to sift through all of the contracts, loan deals and botched bids, and somehow try to make sense of what is becoming quite possibly one of the strangest days in the modern game. Just be sure to watch out for any deal-scuppering imposters in the Manchester area.

This week we’ll also be talking to journalist and Bundesliga expert Archie Rhind-Tutt about Mesut Özil’s big money move to Arsenal, what fans at The Emirates can expect to see from their record signing, and how the first few weeks of the Bundesliga have panned out.

Then we’ll be taking a look at a surprisingly competitive European Super Cup, as the Pep vs. Jose saga begins a new chapter, as well as discussing why the future looks bright for Phillip Cocu’s PSV side, and maybe not so bright for Man City’s expansion projects down under.

Top effort from @nikhak who took our favourite #whereisfootball photo of the week at Columbus Crew Stadium, meaning it now adorns the pod’s cover art for the next seven days.

Don’t forget to get in touch – tweet us at @AFRvoice or fire some electronic mail our way at afrvoice@gmail.com. You can also find us on iTunes here.

Through Ryu’s Lens: Pep.

Ryu Voelkel hopped on a train for 8 hours. The destination: Freiburg. Why? Because it’s a beautiful little city known for exemplary sustainable urbanism, but more importantly Bayern Munich were in town. While Bayern are a force, Germany’s biggest and most stylish arrival has been Pep Guardiola. And Pep was the man (usually) in focus for Ryu throughout the match. It ended 1-1, but we’re obviously the real winners here. Warning: photos may inspire you to spend your savings on a 10,000 euro suit.

[You can interact with Ryu on twitter @Toksuede and find more on his FlickrPosted by Eric]

Leverkusen welcomes a new Son

By Ross Dunbar

“With his open nature, Sonny is the face of HSV and our organisation,” admits Hamburg Chairman Carl E. Jarchow, back in 2012. Commercially, and on the park, the South Korean international was the ‘Poster Boy’ of the club and commanded promising opinions of his playing qualities, and his reputation.

Particularly for a club like Hamburg SV, boasting a great pedigree in Europe and supported by a far-stretching fanbase in Germany. Whilst the title-winning impact of Shinji Kagawa gripped the Japanese audience, and moreover, created a ripple-effect across Germany, Hamburg – a club who traditionally have explored nearby Denmark for rich talent – opened the door to South Korea, nurturing the country’s brightest talent since Park Ji-Sung.

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Julian Draxler: From golden boy to Mr. Schalke

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