Street Dreaming in Senegal

Whether it’s a city park, a dirt lot or a fenced-in turf field, children across the world spend day after day chasing the same dream to be the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But while the quality of the pitch might change from region to region, and while some footballs might be more tattered than others, the same expression of joy is always apparent as kids momentarily transform into their idols once they step onto their local pitch.

Filmmakers Lea Amiel and Nicolas Libersalle recently visited Dakar, the capital of Senegal, to capture an artistic look at a few moments in the lives of the next Iniesta and Didier Drogba. Fair to say they found what they were looking for.

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Through Ryu’s Lens: Anything you can do…

There’s only one person more disappointed that Zlatan won’t be in Brazil than Zlatan, and that is Ryu Voelkel. The big man deceives, acting and performing in a way that makes him seem to be more than just that. Camera in hand, Ryu was in Stockholm to witness a  battle between two greats.

Just when Portugal were comfortable, Ibrahimovic put them on the back foot. Just when Sweden were full of hope, Ronaldo silenced the stadium. The Swede did all he could, but could only watch as his counterpart did more.

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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.9 - Belgian Waffle

This week’s show sees us take a look at Sam Allardyce picking up where Spain left off in the tactical genius department, Zlatan raising his hands to the lasers in France’s Classique, Roma continuing their perfect start to the Serie A season, and asking the big question: if Jose Mourinho really can smell goals, then what do they actually smell like?

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When the Swedes invaded (and embraced) Dublin

By Anthony Lopopolo, writing from Dublin

The Swedes were everywhere. You could hardly tell that this was Dublin, not Stockholm. They wore the blue and yellow, but they also wore green. The pubs here flew Swedish flags, beacons for the weary travelers looking for a pint. The reason for the occasion, the World Cup qualifier, was always big: Ireland had to win the game against Sweden.

But the people of these two countries greeted each other before the match like old friends, not adversaries. One country simply stood in the way of the other. This wasn’t Bucharest, where riot police had to use tear gas before the game between Hungary and Romania. This wasn’t Belgrade, where Serbia and Croatia played against each other after years of fighting against one another. No, this was celebratory. This was fun.

Some looked upset: About 5,000 Swedes took over the city, after all, and only after the work day ended did the Irish truly reclaim their city. They were hospitable, but the time did come to shut the visitors up.

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Fat Tuesday and the Paradox of the Post-Season

John Ray reviews yesterday’s matches

It’s a funny paradox: when the season ends there’s just more and more football. I was looking forward to a brief moment of stasis after the weekend’s full slate of friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, and U21 action, but the Americas would just not listen. There were fewer matches, but the ones that occurred had moments of brilliance and absurdity. Let me help you separate the meat from the bone. 

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The Age of the Super Strikers

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As Leo Messi continued to defy defenders, goalkeepers, logic or even the basic laws of the universe in the concluding scenes of this year by overcoming Gerd Muller’s record for the number of goals scored in a single calendar year, in a tantalising feat of self determination, an interesting situation arose. People celebrated the achievement then almost immediately questioned exactly what they were rejoicing.

For until the topic of ‘most goals scored in a calendar year’ had found itself at the heart of modern football’s overbearing gaze in late 2012, nobody had actually realised that the former German and Bayern Munich star had indeed managed such a feat.

Something’s not right here. Gerd Muller was no stranger to the World stage. In fact, he won fourteen trophies with Bayern Munich as well as conquering both the European Championships and the World Cup, so just how did nobody notice when he scored 85 goals in one calendar year?

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Soothing Europe’s debt woes: oil millions and inflated wages

By Darshan Joshi

Football is ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania. These accusations aren’t necessarily baseless – while FIFA and it’s regional tributaries do give back, they do so somewhat disproportionately to their behemoth fiscal inflows (see here). It can be argued though, that once in a while, football contributes to economic improvement in a side effect capacity. World Cups and European Championships tend to, like the Olympics, engage workforces in bruising multi-year structural endeavours; upheavals of transportation systems and the erections of stadiums spring to mind, followed by bouts of anticipatory and in-tournament tourism.

Hotels pay taxes, as do the sole proprietors and brewers whose quarterly earnings are handsomely bloated by FIFA and/or UEFA action. Of course, these are merely the side effects of football’s competitive brainchildren. If domestic fiscal policy is aided by the right to host these events, football’s pockets are aided and then given a soothing massage by the gold-plated hands of a platitude of hulking multinationals.

On a microcosmic footballing level, we have clubs and players, also ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania (at least there is a consistency in this sport). Many of these are privately owned, usually by a variety of tycoon (oil tycoons, sport tycoons, cyberspace tycoons, Wall Street tycoons, even chicken-farm tycoons – let’s call them the 1%). Once more, the reasons behind the neoteric ‘let’s-buy-a-football-club’ revolution are of the rapacious sort. There is money in football, and lots of it.

There is no money in Europe, though. Economies are shadowed by the doom of grotesque debt-to-GDP ratios, high unemployment, rising taxes and rousing interest rates. The future is murky.

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Your Share of Summer Transfer News for Sunday

Because we all like to have a laugh at the absurd transfer rumours coming out of the British press, let’s get those aside first. Here are the rumours for the 30th of May, 2010.

Absurdities: Jose, Cesc, Kaka, and Lamps all part of the ridiculousness!

Barcelona will step up their £50m pursuit of Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas if they can offload midfielder Yaya Toure. [News of the World]

But Mourinho is threatening to spark a debate in Spain by naming Fabregas as one of his transfer targets for Real. [Sunday Express]

Alright then. I know you’re all sick of hearing about Cesc, so let’s move past that.

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