96 People

In April 1989, 96 people went to watch a football match and never came home. They went there to see their beloved Liverpool — and, today, a quarter of a century later, before one of the club’s biggest games ever, those fans were honored beautifully.

Afterward, led by their captain, Steven Gerrard — the paragon of loyalty in a sporting era that often rewards money-grabbing and title hunger far more than fidelity to a cause — they won the game, 3-2, and set themselves up for their first league title since 1990.

When the game finished, Gerrard had tears in his eyes — and while some of those were no doubt down to a mixture of relief, exhaustion, and the thrill of victory — a lot of them were down to something more.

Gerrard’s cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, died at the stadium in 1989 when he was only 10. While most of the time we can freely admit that sports are just sports — and the narratives we spin are irrationally inflated to feed our obsession with a game — sometimes they are something way more important than that.

Sometimes, sports say a lot about life and help us heal wounds that we once thought never could even begin to heal — and today was one of those times. #JFT96 [Posted by Zack]

Through Ryu’s Lens: Blues in Black

It was a bright and sunny day in London. A rarity for Chelsea faithful. Matchday was made even better when Mourinho’s men stole 3 points in the dying minutes of the match against Everton. Nevertheless, Ryu brought out his camera and turned the lights down low at Stamford Bridge.

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The Old Fabric of England

By Will Baskin-Gerwitz

As football news goes, the press releases and staged media events on Tuesday afternoon off-days don’t register loudly in the mind of the casual fan. Certainly, in the context of Everton’s season — their new Spanish manager and the attacking verve that has put them on the brink of a Champions League place — the threshold for interest by Toffees is still higher. Even if you were to narrow it to news of aesthetics, the update of the club’s badge and the lackluster response is still likely much bigger news than the announcement that the club has signed with its third kit maker in four years.

For me, though, and surely for some other football fans, Roberto Martinez’ tour of a Manchester kit factory with 11 lucky Evertonians is some of the most exciting off-field news of the year. My joy really has little to do with the club and its new five year deal, but rather the sponsor. After being condemned to irrelevance, Umbro is returning to English football.

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Common Sense FC - AFR Voice

We all love a good crisis here on the podcast, so it seems only right that this week’s show that we take a long hard look at the woes of Manchester United. After conceding a 94th minute equaliser against the Premier League’s bottom club, whilst employing tactics that use more crosses than a teacher marking a fiendishly difficult maths test, we’ll be discussing just what is going on at Old Trafford, and why things don’t seem to quite be going to plan for David Moyes.

We’ll also be taking a look at the problem that faces 3 in 5 Premier League footballers within 5 years of their retirement: bankruptcy. How does it happen to stars who seem to be set for life, and what sort of support is in place for those who get into financial trouble? If our rambling on this isn’t enough, then you can also watch an excellent short documentary on the topic right here.

Then it’s off to Brazil, where the likes of Gilberto Silva have started to campaign for an improvement to players’ rights. As the domestic league seems to be in a state of stagnation, we’ll discussing the emergence of the Common Sense FC movement, and what it hopes to achieve in the country that will be hosting this year’s World Cup.

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What happens when the money runs out?

"All I can say is I can relate to people now who are struggling financially, struggling to pay the mortgage, struggling to fill the car up with petrol, struggling to pay the bills and everything that goes with it, because I’ve been in that predicament."

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Zero to Hero: The rise of Nemanja Matic

By Dominic Vieira

Finding the complete centre midfielder, the sort of player demanded by most manages these days, is a blistering headache; just ask David Moyes how successful his search has gone. As several clubs looked to improve their quality in the centre of the park, in particular those sitting at the top of the Premier League, Nemanja Matic was a highly wanted man this winter.

Like with most of Benfica’s signings - Matic, who joined from Chelsea as part of the David Luiz deal and was originally valued at £4m - arrived to the Portuguese capital as an outsider, a player no one had really heard of and someone who the club did not expect to sell for millions. This too was shown by the player being rejected by the club’s ‘Stars Funds,’ a fund through which investors can buy a percentage of a Benfica player’s rights.

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Thought Trails: Expectations, the Media and Moving to MLS

In one week, Toronto FC have managed to sign Jermain Defoe, one of England’s best strikers, and Michael Bradley, arguably America’s best player at the moment. It’s a coup for Toronto, a shock to many, and everyone has something to say. 

Maxi: If you had asked me a few years ago how I felt about MLS offseasons, I would have raised an eyebrow and said something along the lines of, “…M..L..S…offseason..?” For as long as I can remember, MLS offseasons were a time period frequented only by devoted beat writers and the sort of committed fans who created Excel spreadsheets stockpiled with information on the most unknown college soccer player from Blackfoot, Idaho. As the league has grown, so too has interest in that painful period between seasons, and in the last week, we might have experienced one of the most significant periods in MLS history: both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, players of a recognized, international stature, are moving to MLS, and the implications are widespread.

Eric: Implications cause ripples. Implications create thousands of opinions. At this point, it might not even be possible to create an original thought about Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley’s big (or little, depending on your perspective) move. Major League Soccer has, once again, shaken up the generally accepted narrative of how things work in “the world of football”. Globally recognized footballers go to MLS when they want to retire… except, ugh, wait… something just doesn’t make sense. Sure, MLS may be getting better and dozens of world class players may be asking Thierry Henry and David Beckham what it’s like living in cosmopolitan cities and doing what they love for a living… But it can’t be that simple. You know what?

Jermain Defoe doesn’t know what Jermain Defoe is doing, according to me. I may know very, very little about Jermain Defoe’s personal thought process, yet thousands of people who also know very, very little about Jermain Defoe agree with me. As for playing in MLS? It seems like everyone who knows the league well likes this move; therefore, I need to trust the unbiased opinions of people who know very, very little about MLS. That must be the solution here, right?

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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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Luis Suarez: Newsmaker of the year 

By Anthony Lopopolo

A villain makes a story, and Luis Suarez made a lot of them this year. He bit a player on the field – not for the first time! – and months later he travelled to London to accept an award. He got suspended for 10 matches and he still scored more goals than any other player in the Premier League. He thought he could leave Liverpool, only to sign a new contract with them worth £200,000 a week. He is a paradox and he is flawed, and may Luis Suarez never change.

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