A Dispatch From The Milan Derby

Il Derby della Madonnina is not what it once was. It is still about the pride of Milan, but it is no longer the hottest city in world football. 

Still, AC Milan and Inter share a lot of history, and the rivalry never dies. They have played each other almost 300 times over the past 100 years. The latest match wasn’t a classic, a Nigel de Jong header winning the game for the Rossoneri, but you could still see the passion in the stands. [Photos and Words by Anthony Lopopolo, sent our way while sipping on an espresso]

No challenge too big for Clarence Seedorf

By Anthony Lopopolo

In the gym was Clarence Seedorf, arms still bulging, abs still firm, and yet old enough to be the father of the kids around him. Just off Rio de Janeiro, his favourite city, the 37-year-old would teach the things he learned over the course of his 22-year career. He’d ask them questions. He encouraged them to think for themselves. It was a two-way conversation off the field; orders and lectures saved for the field. They’d talk about positioning, footwork, little details, shaping the body to receive the ball, opening up, preparing for it, moving this way instead of that. 

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Remembering Eusebio - AFR Voice Ep.22

In a week that has seen football lose one of its all-time greats, we’ll be taking a look at the dazzling career and life of the one and only Eusebio, including some of the tributes that have been paid to the man who scored more than a goal a game for his club side Benfica, and lit up the 1966 World Cup by becoming the tournament’s top scorer.

We’ll also be taking a look at the steps being taken by Real Madrid to banish far-right ultras from the Bernabeu, and get stuck right into AFR’s exceptionally well put together “Best Of Football Writing 2013”. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s a compilation of some of last year’s finest pieces of writing about the beautiful game from across the web, and you can check it out right here.

We’ve also got our first feature interview of 2014, which sees us talking to Serie A expert and author of “20 Great Italian Games” Giancarlo Rinaldi about the weekend’s top of the table clash between Juventus and Roma, Fiorentina’s bid for a Champions League spot, and of course, just what does the rest of the season hold for Queen of the South in the Scottish Championship?

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Gunnar Be Interesting - AFR Voice Ep. 21

It’s a New Year, and with it comes a fresh new show to get 2014 rolling. This week we’ll be delving into some of the Premier League action from the festive season (as there didn’t seem to be a ball kicked anywhere else in Europe), as well as discuss the prospects of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the newest kid on the English top flight’s managerial block, as he dons some leather gloves, hoists his trousers up, and takes the reigns at Cardiff City.

At this time of year it only seems fitting that we also discuss something that has become quintessentially linked with January 1st, and we don’t mean New Year’s resolutions or optimistic gym sign-ups. We’re talking about the January transfer window which has been wrenched WIDE OPEN, and has already started to force the rumour mill into overdrive.

We’ll also be taking a look at Serie A, which returns from Winter hibernation this weekend with a tasty top of the table clash, and play with that hot potato that is the issue of the Winter break (or distinct lack of one on British shores).

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Through Ryu’s Lens: Milan falls in the Milan Derby

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Will Brazil be ready? - AFR Voice Ep.17

With the world’s eyes turning to Brazil for this week’s World Cup draw, we’ll be discussing whether the country will in fact be ready to host 32 teams once next Summer comes round. After a series of missed deadlines, a tragic disaster at the stadium that’s due to host the opening match of the tournament, and the country attempting to construct more stadiums than it needs to, how much of a realistic possibility is it that everything won’t be completed in time?

Moving back across the Atlantic, we’ll also be profiling Fulham’s new boss (and his somewhat animalistic instincts), take a look at what has been dubbed the Football League’s “Black Monday”, and also check in on Serie A to see why the wheels are starting to come off for Roma, and how 12,000 school children have been putting Juventus’ ultras to shame.

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Lille in the Limelight - AFR Voice Ep. 16

The show has cast a spotlight on a huge collection of leagues this season – La Liga, Serie A, MLS and even the top tiers in Afghanistan and Mongolia. This week, we finally uncork our coverage of Ligue 1 by getting a full lowdown from French football expert, AFR contributor and French Football Weekly editor Andrew Gibney. We’ll find out the latest on the hooliganism that recently blighted the league, salivate over Zlatan, hail the unexpected brilliance of Lille and try to make sense of the zero to hero national team.

The show’s main debate circles around an increasingly beleaguered Jose Mourinho – is ‘The Special One’ no longer special? Read AFR writer Nicol Hay’s fantastic article to find the spark of the discussion. We’ll also be profiling the dramatic rise of 21-year-old Basel centre-back Fabian Schär – from Swiss banker to one of the most promising defenders in Europe in the space of three years. And if you want to hear all about a very unlikely candidate for the most competitive league on the planet, this is the show to tune in to.

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Giuseppe Rossi’s Resurgence in Florence

By Will Giles

Some goals are so majestic in their execution, so unfathomably brilliant, that they develop a cult following of people liable to get a bit emotional whenever they recall them - think of that Zidane volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen, or Dennis Bergkamp taking possibly the greatest first touch of all time before scoring against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Others inspire devotion due to their significance - such was the magnitude of David Beckham scoring the most Beckham-esque free kick in the last minute against Greece that a generation of England fans are probably still unable to articulate just how much they love that goal.

There are also those that may be nothing more than a scuffed shot that bobbled past a defender on the line. However, what these goals lack in breathtaking glamour, they make up for in the personal redemption they provide, meaning more to the individual scorer than any wonderstrike or 90th minute equaliser ever could. For a goal of this type, read Giuseppe Rossi’s bobbling, side-footed finish against Catania, a strike that completed his comeback from the death of a parent and 14 months of injury and torment.

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Progress made, but a long path remains

Given the massive amount of attention paid to the impact of social issues on football in recent years, and the fine lens placed on those incidents which place a black mark on the sport, one couldn’t be faulted for assuming that as a sport, football is fighting a losing battle with its defects. Discrimination seems rampant, corruption is obvious, and the personal struggles of footballers are often treated as the insignificant concerns of privileged-athletes.

Whether it’s Italian Ultras embracing fascism, or footballers losing battles with depression, heart-wrenching stories dominate the headlines. And yet, while the wealth of negativity can seem overwhelming, football has never before been so progressive or inclusive. It may seem irreconcilable, but progress is being made on a variety of fronts. Footballers are raising awareness about their struggles with depression, football associations across the world are embracing more punitive punishments for incidents of racism, and gay athletes are increasingly being accepted as simply athletes by their teammates.

Nevertheless, there remains plenty of room for progress, as demonstrated by a recent survey conducted by Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, in which 50 Serie A players were questioned on their views in regards to a variety of topics. The most significant conclusions from the survey?

  • On Depression: 58% of players surveyed responded that depression remained a significant issue in football, while just under a quarter of respondents claimed to have suffered depression during the course of their career.
  • On Homosexuality: 34% of those surveyed believed that openly gay players would be treated differently, to the detriment of their career, while only 3 respondents confirmed that they had played alongside gay players.
  • On Race: 36% of respondents said that they had heard racist remarks come from Serie A teammates, while just 2 of the total number of players surveyed believed that being black made a career more difficult.

Those are worrying results, but when taken in the context of where the sport was two decades ago, or even just a decade ago, fairly hopeful numbers. Perhaps change and exclusivity aren’t arriving as quickly as we’d like, but studies such as these shouldn’t be seen as the result of a rigid sport, but rather, as evidence that progress is being made. It’s on us, as fans, to ensure that we don’t let these issues rest, and that we continue to demand the best from our sport. [Posted by Maxi] 

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