The much awaited Serie A season finally began at the weekend, couple of weeks later than originally scheduled due to a player’s strike and the subsequent international break. It was the champions AC Milan who kicked off the new campaign but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Rome based Lazio.
Elsewhere, there was enthusiasm and a massive sense of joy in Turin as Juventus welcomed Parma to their newly inaugurated stadium for the first game of the season.
A season of massive disappointment for the Turin giant’s last campaign resulted in what was a summer of inclement change, full of transfer activity inwards and outwards of the club. Last season was every bit as disappointing as the one before it, despite the radical changes that had been made in the upper echelons of the Juventus management. The fabled Agnelli name returned to Juventus last summer with the arrival of Andrea Agnelli as the chairman who appointed Beppe Marotta as the Director of Sport.
But it was far from a rosy story for the ‘Old Lady’ who endured another year of pain and despair failing from Scudetto contenders to Champions League hopefuls to Europa League seekers to eventually missing out on Europe altogether. However, this summer was Beppe Marotta’s shot at salvation, to correct all that had been wronged at Juventus all this while and to cover up the numerous chinks in the Old Lady’s footballing armor. What Marotta had failed in doing last year was to set up a base for Juventus’ future endeavors and after having been back to square one, that is what he set out to do once again in this season’s ‘mercato’. His task was simple, find solutions to the incredibly evident flaws in the team and to buy world class players to take Juventus to the next level and try to challenge the Milan twins and Napoli for the Champions League places.
Nearly two decades ago, at a time when Man United were still struggling for a long awaited league triumph that had deserted the Reds for well over quarter of a century, an army of young kids, more ubiquitously known as the Class of ’92 were being groomed, kids who would go on and define how English Football was going to be seen in the coming decades as they swept aside all and sundry in the league and even in continental football, helping United conquer 12 league titles in 18 years to go along with 2 Champions League triumphs.
But looking at in hindsight, the way of the Fergie’s Fledglings, as they were(and still are) famously known amongst the United faithful, was not the easiest or devoid of critics, it was towards the end of 1995 summer tansfer window that Alan Hansen made his egregious rant against United’s youth-oriented team after their opening day defeat to Aston Villa.
More than 25 years ago an up and coming Scottish manager, who had achieved the unthinkable by tearing apart the Old Firm domination in Scotland, was appointed Manchester United’s manager to wake United up from its slumber and get the club a League title that it had failed to garner since 1967 under Sir Matt Busby. The expectations surrounding the arrival of the young Scot were immense, for he was going to bring United back to its glory pedestal, but even the most ardent of ‘mancs’ would not have forseen the impact Sir Alex was going to have on the club and its functioning winning 12 domestic league titles and in the process overshadowing the bitter rivals Liverpool.
Today, quarter of a century later, time that has seen analog watches being replaced by digital stopwatches for training drills, from the times of unnamed shirts turned to an era of proper merchandising at the club, from a mid table club to the forefront of the battles for European trophies, Sir Alex has seen it all and been through it, being the only constant in numerous transitions that the club has gone through over the years, still putting out one top bunch of players after another for United each passing year. The colour of his hair may have changed but the hunger and passion for more has’nt, today he stands synonymous with the club itself, its greatest protagonist.
Phagwara based football club JCT FC(prev. JCT Mills), for long the face of football in the Northern parts of India, was disbanded yesterday, confirming rumours that had been going around the Indian footballing circles for the past few weeks. The news landed a bitter blow on the face of Indian Football and the trend is worrying, for two India’s leading clubs JCT and Mahindra United have both disbanded within the last one year citing a lack of popularity of the domestic clubs and televsion coverage of football in the country.
JCT, winners of the inaugaral National Football League(now the I-League) in the 1996-97 season, have been home to some of India’s leading stars- Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, I.M. Vijayan, Renedy Singh and Jo-Paul Ancheri amongst others. JCT had for long been fighting a lone battle to increase football popularity in these parts of the country and give the people up north their go-to club, becoming the first non-Kolkata club to win the IFA Shield in the process along with that inaugaral NFL title. Despite the flourish that they once had, the last couple of years for them had been much less successful, often been dogged by debts and insufficient finances. The team’s relegation in the last I-League season acted as the final nail in the coffin, pulling them beyond the point of no return resulting in the club’s professional football team being disbanded, though their works at the grass roots and their much famed youth academy would still function. Read the rest of this entry