A look back before stepping forward

By Zack Goldman and Maxi Rodriguez

The Premier League season is upon us.

At long last, the world’s most popular circus of sport has returned, pitching a tent in our front yards and living rooms for the next nine months.

There will be passion, drama and genius painted on the pitch and the terraces, across the screens of our televisions and the pages of our dailies.

Premiership football will again return to Anfield, to Goodison, to Eastlands…

But let us not forget where it’s already been this summer.

From Los Angeles, to Sydney, to North Ferriby, the Premier League has traveled — and traveled in style.

Sold-out six-figure crowds abroad and domestic late-night television audiences turned out and tuned in to catch a glimpse of new signings and old friends, easing back into the whirlpool of club football after a summer spent in the deep end of the World Cup.

Overseas supporters, marooned a few flights and a few worlds away from their favorite clubs, could previously only root from afar and dream of watching their heroes play live.

This July, those dreams, for many, became reality.

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City Slickers - AFR Voice - Ep. 40

After 10 months of highs and lows, twists and turns, head butts and slips, it’s over (well in the Premier League at least). Join us this week as we talk through Man City’s title win, Liverpool coming up just short, the continued emergence of yet another Belgian superstar, and all our favourite moments from what has been yet another superbly entertaining season in the English top flight.

Premier League aside, there have been some rather interesting developments elsewhere lower down the pyramid in football’s spiritual home. We’ll be taking a look at The FA’s idea to create a league for Premier League B-teams with the premise of helping to develop the nation’s young players. However, without consulting lower leagues and supporters before making the proposals, the governing body have opened themselves up to protest, and ridicule from their own members.

Elsewhere, the pod crew throw any pretensions of neutrality to one side as World Cup excitement builds, going through Roy Hodgson’s England World Cup squad with a finer toothcomb than passport control at Rio airport; as well as looking at a familiar, goal-hungry face in Germany’s provisional 30-man squad, and some more predictable omissions from the hosts’ roster.

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Remembering May 11

By Zack Goldman

Yesterday was a day of celebration in the Barclays Premier League, but it could, and should, have been so much more.

Manchester City won their second league title in three years with a 2-0 victory over West Ham United, who supplied a challenge con brio but sans any real threat to the champions.

As the clock hit 90, Eastlands drank in the sweet spirit of victory and a wave of sky blue spilled onto the pitch. City fans in replica shirts and silly hats cheered, hugged, took selfies, and attempted to shower their heroes with well-intentioned, but ultimately unwanted kisses.

Those sorts of scenes are always beautiful moments that encapsulate football at its most electrifying, with the distance between fan and hero collapsed and the impenitent thrill of victory on show.

But, this day, for many of us, the moment had a secondary significance—and one that should have been noted far more than it was.

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A Hazard In His Own Right

By Kristian Heneage

It was a proud moment for Thorgan Hazard. The younger sibling of Chelsea winger Eden, he had finally made his way out from the all encompassing shadow of his brother. 

"He is no longer Eden’s brother,” Zulte Waregem coach Franck Dury said in January. “He is Thorgan Hazard in his own right.” 

Dury’s evlaution was correct. Hazard has been sensational since his arrival at Zulte Waregem and recently capped off a golden boot winning season with 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games. The brothers are both currently on the books of Chelsea, yet for Thorgan, it required a trip back home to his native Belgium in order to shine. 

When Eden arrived at Chelsea’s Cobham training complex in Surrey, England, there was not just a sizable price tag trailing him. Agents, advisors, medical staff, and Chelsea TV staff all swarmed him as they celebrated another prized capture. Yet tucked somewhere quietly at the back, was his younger sibling. 

"I knew very well that I was passing through," he said, reminiscing on a month spent at the training ground. 30 or so days split between training sessions with the first and reserve team. On the surface it seemed a move aimed at helping Eden acclimatize to new surroundings. Chelsea had previously struck a similar deal for the Musonda brothers (Lamisha, Tika and Charley). 

The idea that he is only there because of Eden, and that the will never match his brother’s level has all been heard before. Even opponents have told him: "You’ll never be as good as Eden." Yet Thorgan remains unflustered: "We are not the first brothers in professional football. People often try to compare us, I understand, but we are not the same players. Everyone manages his career the way he wants. Eden exploded quickly, I play at my own pace, I hope it works."

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United Rebuild - AFR Voice Ep. 38

On last week’s show the rumours of David Moyes’ departure from Manchester United were building dramatically. Seven days on and the Premier League Champions (at least for a few more weeks) have undergone some seismic changes. We speak to ESPN FC journalist and self-confessed United fan Mark Lomas to get his opinion on the rather ungraceful sacking of Moyes, the very romantic appointment of Ryan Giggs as caretaker manager and the very entertaining prospect of Louis van Gaal taking over next season.

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Unlock The Game

Before kickoff, you can find the best in the world here, perfecting every detail of their game. Every freekick. Every dribble. They’ll be ready to counter any attack, and they’ll know where to where to move to find that extra inch of space.

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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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