Football Matters Part II: Beyond the pale, the money game and the mercenaries

Author’s Note: This is the second installment of the ‘Football Matters’ series, you can read the first part ‘Two colors inside and the divisions outside’ here.

Football and mercenaries, two terms that sound unrelated and should actually be unrelated, but aren’t. The ever increasing money revolution across various parts of Europe that has seen more and more clubs being taken over by business oligarchs has seen modern football take a new meaning, where money defines how it’s run, not as a sport but more as a business.

There are two iterations valid in most cases today: Footballers = mercenaries or mercenaries = footballers, in either case money is the common denominator, not loyalty or love for the game or the club you play for. There was a time, not too long ago, when loyal and one-club men used to dominate Football all around the world. Longevity used to be a factor and the players would love to play it out at the club they loved, to be called legends at the club which to them was be-all and end-all, for money wasn’t as important as staying true to your roots and staying with the club that you’ve loved all so much, for they were as much a part of a club’s legacy as the club was definitive in making their own identity.

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Football Matters Part I: Two colors inside and the divisions outside

Football matters, indeed it does, to you, to me and to millions of other fans around the world and to the players who play it day in day out. And what’s also certain is that there are football matters that continue to haunt the very basis of modern football, none more so than the one in question here.

Football, without doubt, is the most watched and followed around sport in the world in this day and age. There are kids around the world who would sacrifice their studies just to have a few extra hours of playing it and then there would be ‘adults’ who would refuse to get going with their normal lives should their favorite team lose a match. Yup, football is a common denominator that strings millions of distinct individuals from around the world. For some it’s passion to be following the sport, for some others it is a religion that they live by and for a distinct few it is a matter of even more- for whom football is a feeling that can’t be explained but they spend their lives explaining it.

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The Indian connection in Norway: Harmeet Singh

Far away from the ‘land of the five rivers’ that is Punjab, a 20 year old boy from ethnic Punjabi background born and bred in the freezy territories of Oslo, is rising to the very perch of Norwegian football in the picturesque lands of the Valerenga neighborhood of Oslo. Harmeet Singh is the name and being a central midfielder is his trade. While Rosenborg still exert their dominant reputation on Norwegian football and while Ole Solskjaer’s Molde has actually run away with the Tippeligaen, Norway’s premier club competition, this Norwegian footballer has been creating waves not just across his ‘homeland’ but is also on the scouting agendas of some of the ‘bigger’ clubs in Europe.

Singh, alongside fellow countryman Mohammed Fellah and Havard Nielsen, have established themselves as the shining light of a club that for so long has been consigned into the shadows of Rosenborg in Norway, but a club that has now started to challenge for greater honours, Valerenga with Harmeet Singh in full flow finished 2nd in 2010 and are currently sixth with a game in hand, winning which they’d rise to 2nd again in the incumbent Tippeligaen season of 2011.
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David de Gea: Oh he’s gotten United with life in Manchester lately

Last season’s end brought to an end the career of one of the best goalkeepers in United’s history, van der Sar went away to cool his heels in the calm realms of the Netherlands, away from the scrutiny of the Premier League. In his place, anointed was a young Spanish prodigy with limited match experience and whose age was only as much as the number of years that his predecessor had spent at the top level in European football.

The task while being obviously difficult in itself trying to follow up a legendary figure like van der Sar in the club’s history was added to by the unmatched hype and the continuous, and at most times, unwarranted scrutiny from sections of the media for both his on field and off field behaviour. The question of whether Manchester United goalie David De Gea was good enough, at the start of the season divided opinion due to some high profile gaffes that United hadn’t been accustomed to in the seasons gone by.

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Fergie at 25: A journey of belief, character and the hairdryer!

A quarter of a century, a mighty long time period by any scale or measure that humans would ever design. Back then it was a sorry story for the club from Manchester that Sir Alex was going to correct. Back in those days Liverpool FC were the undisputed top dogs of English football and the only one’s who could challenge them were rivals Everton, a totalitarian Merseyside affair. Footballing success at the time looked tough for Sir Alex and United, never mind success in Europe or achieving knighthood for footballing affairs.

Fast forward to the present day, 25 years gone by, Man Utd are undeniably the most successful club in the land, arguably the most supported club in the world and one of the world’s most valuable ‘brands’. And how times change, the real contenders for United are their city rivals Man City while the Merseysiders settle for lesser matters.

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Campeones Ole Ole Ole: Solskjaer in a new footballing Molde

The baby faced assassin they call him, a poacher was what they saw in him as a player, loyalty and selflessness is what characterized him and a Man United legend is what he shall always be.  Solskjaer had a long and successful spell at United winning a plethora of trophies and giving the fans a horde of unforgettable moments. Ole Solskjaer undeniably would forever be a part of United folklore, for he was the man who scored the winner on that epic night at the Camp Nou as Man Utd scripted perhaps the most unlikely comeback ever seen in modern football.

That night has since defined how Solskjaer would remembered at United, perhaps unfairly, because that one goal has overshadowed pretty much all else he did in the United shirt. It was a long and romantic playing journey that he had with the club but one cold night it ended, Ole finally surrendered to his crocked knee and his time at United was up, the era of Ole super show had ended at the Theatre of Dreams. “I can’t play any more” he said to Sir Alex but the wily Scot wasn’t letting go of his pupil so easily,  “Don’t worry, you were fantastic, you had a great career, why don’t you join my coaching staff?” the Scot retorted. Ole had been appointed as a part of Sir Alex’s staff merely seconds after his intention to retire was made known to Fergie. A new era for Solskjaer was about to dawn…

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