Santa’s Sack - AFR Voice Ep. 19

This week’s show sees us a man down - and before you ask, no we haven’t sacked Ben for overseeing a series of poor pod performances (he’ll be back next week), but we will be discussing the goings on of a weekend of boardroom-based carnage in the Premier League. Where did it all go wrong for Andre Villas-Boas and Steve Clarke? Will they be stuck on the managerial merry-go-round for long? And with the January transfer window fast approaching, who’s next to join them?

Then it’s off to Europe’s top table, where we’ll be taking a look at the Champions League draw – the tasty looking match against Man City that Barcelona didn’t want, the prospect of two home games for Didier Drogba, and an Arsenal team looking to make sure we don’t get a sixth straight final that includes either Pep Guardiola or Bayern Munich.

We’re also stopping off in La Liga, where Atletico Madrid are doing everything they can to disrupt the established balance of power, Barcelona have broken yet another record, and Cristiano Ronaldo has now got something that not many players in world football can boast – his own museum.

This week’s feature interview sees us chat to journalist, broadcaster and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague about his new book, simply titled “Messi”. We’ll be talking about how he went about writing a book on the world’s best player, how he managed to speak to Messi’s friends, family and coaches to build a true picture of the man, and what makes the Argentine arguably the greatest player of all time.

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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.

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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Solid as a Rock - AFR Voice Ep. 15

It’s been a big week of football for a number of European nations, and perhaps none more so than UEFA’s newest member, Gibraltar. After finally having their national team recognised in the International arena, they’ve taken on Slovakia in their first ever game, and only gone and got a draw. We’ll be taking a look at the nation that can currently fit its entire population into their (technically) home stadium, and talk to a good friend of the show and Gibraltarian Stuart Dalmedo about what having an internationally recognised team means, and what his chances are of breaking into the squad.

With qualification campaigns around the world gradually coming to an end, we’ll be taking a look at all of those teams from Europe and Africa who have booked their places in Brazil, those who didn’t quite make it, and we’ll be taking a quick peek at the sort of kits that will be on display next Summer.

We’ll also be discussing a tournament a bit further down the line – Qatar 2022. With a recent Amnesty International report giving evidence that migrant workers’ rights and welfare are a real issue there, and with world footballing governing bodies seemingly turning a blind eye, what is the solution to the latest, and by far the most serious, issue surrounding the World Cup scheduled for nine years’ time?

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We’re Surrounded by Playoffs - AFR Voice Ep. 14

The game in America has been bubbling with high-stakes games and news stories of late, so we dialed up Andrew Wiebe, from MLSsoccer.com and the ExtraTime Radio Show, to get his views on some eye-catching surprises in the first set of Playoff games, discover whether he thinks David Beckham’s Miami franchise can give the MLS a foothold in the South East, and question what the USMNT can expect to achieve in Brazil.

Elsewhere, we get out our calculators to try and assess a truly astonishing outlay of cash by a UK sports channel to secure Champions League rights, and we round up a tournament stage that has considerably less cash thrown at it – the humble and endlessly amiable first round of the FA Cup.

All that plus we lick our lips at some rather tasty World Cup qualifying playoff matches set to be served up this week. Forget the headline-hugging teams Portugal, France or Sweden - we’re pushing all of our chips on Iceland to provide a result to remember. Whatever the case, we just can’t wait to finally get up our World Cup 2014 wall chart.

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Afghanistan United - AFR Voice Ep.13 

This week our feature interview is with May Jeong, a freelance journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She’ll be talking to us about the resurgence of the Afghan national team, and how recent victories against Pakistan and in the South Asian Championship have helped to bring the nation together. She’ll also be telling us how far football in the country has come in the last few years, and how we can start to get excited about the Afghan Premier League.

We’ll also be taking a look at the highs and lows of the men between the sticks this week – a striker’s performance for Asmir Begovic, an adolescent performance in Ligue 1, and a knockout performance for Hugo Lloris.

Then it’s off Stateside to look at David Beckham’s designs on bringing a football team back to Miami, before getting very confused by pitch markings during this week’s round of MLS play-offs.

And before we finish, there’s also time for a quick look at why Jurgen Klopp’s contract extension is good news for fans of heavy metal, and after the roaring success of the inaugural AFR Book Club©, prepare to feast your ears on another literary marvel – the fictional works of Steve Bruce.

Thanks to London-based French journalist Olivier Sclavo for his #whereisfootball snap of Deptford Park on Instagram - you can feel free lay claim to our cover art for the next week monsieur.

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.

Man On A Mongolian Mission - AFR Voice Ep. 12

This week, we explore the outpost of the Mongolian Premier League and meet the young English manager aiming to put the nation on the football map, Paul Watson. We hear about the challenges of working in sub-zero temperatures, the hunt to find undiscovered talent, and how such an extraordinary opportunity transpired.

Elsewhere, we profile the upcoming MLS playoffs and give our take on the short list for the Ballon d’Or – will Messi achieve an incredible 5-year winning streak or can Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who is in the form of his life, pull off a surprise and snaffle the top prize? 

Talking of the giant Swede, we leaf through his book, as well as the autobiographies of Sir Alex Ferguson and ‘Arry Redknapp for the inaugural outing of AFR Voice Book Club. The Literary event of the year. 

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AFR Voice Ep. 11 - Rossi’s Recovery

After two major knee injuries and the best part of two years on the sidelines, Giuseppe Rossi is back playing - and he’s back in the goals too. This week we’ll be talking to AFR writer William Giles about the striker’s resurgence, which was illustrated in emphatic fashion by a superb hatrick for Fiorentina against Juventus at the weekend, as well as chatting about how far La Viola can go in Serie A this season.

We’ll also be taking time to enjoy one of the finer parts of the game – exquisite goals. With the lion’s share of the weekend’s finest strikes being scored in either Paris or South London, we’ll be debating which was our favourite, as well as this week’s most memorable “goal” in the Bundesliga. 

Then it’s time to talk play-offs. We’ll be looking at the draw for the European World Cup showdowns to be played next month, before trying to get our heads round the permutations that could influence the make-up of the MLS play-offs this weekend (plus why Tim Cahill doesn’t mess about when it comes to getting on the scoresheet). 

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AFR Voice Ep.10 - Colombia come in from the cold

After an almighty glut of crucial World Cup fixtures, we’ve a whole new set of countries to welcome to a rather large party in Brazil next summer. More ecstatic than most will be Colombia. After 16 years in World Cup exile, they are finally back in the hunt to get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy. To get a taste of the euphoria and unbridled optimism we rustled up the dialling code for Colombia to speak to Bogota-based football journalist Peter Karl, editor of cracking football blog The Third Kit. You can also read his article on the long-awaited qualification here.

The globe-trotting didn’t stop there - we picked out the highlights of the European section of qualifying, which saw England and Spain happily dusting off their speedos for Rio, Bosnia-Herzgovina achieving a place in their first ever World Cup, and Iceland grabbing a well-earned qualifying play-off place. Elsewhere we toasted a sensational result for Ghana against Egypt in the final stages of the African qualifying stages and shook our heads at the magnificent mess that Mexico has got itself into. We’ll explain how only time-travel can save them against a humiliating play-off loss to New Zealand.

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