Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi, Franz Beckenbauer, Pele, West Germany, Argentina, Diego Maradona, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Bayern Munich, Alfredo Di Stefano, Zico, Ferenc Puskas, Johan Cruyff, Michael Phelps, 2012 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, AP, London Olympic Games, LeBron James, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong, Gerd Muller, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Eusebio, George Best, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Secretariat, Sergio Martinez, Olimpia de Oro, Circulo de Periodistas, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., WBC, Sebastian Crismanich, soccer, cyclist lance armstrong, babe didrikson, associated press male athlete of the year, sports, male athlete of the year
Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps has been named the 2012 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, the AP has announced.
Phelps, who won six more medals at last summer’s London Olympic Games to bring his career medal haul to 22, including 18 golds, got 40 votes in balloting by 100 U.S. editors and broadcasters to out-poll basketball’s LeBron James, with 37, and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, with 23.
Phelps joins track’s Carl Lewis as the only Olympic-related athlete to win the AP honor twice. Golfer Tiger Woods and cyclist Lance Armstrong have won the award four times each, and basketball’s Michael Jordan is a three-time winner. [December 20]
Comment: The elephant not in this room, of course, is Argentina and FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, whose 91 goals for club and country in all competitions during the calendar year broke the 40-year-old record of 85 set by West Germany and Bayern Munich poacher extraodinaire Gerd Muller.
The AP has been doing this since 1931, and it has rarely looked beyond its own shores, let alone smiled on a soccer player. This is a group of sports editors and sportscasters that in 2000 voted on the best 100 athletes of the 20th Century. The only soccer player was Pele, who was No. 15–six places below female multi-sport standout Babe Didrikson Zaharias. No Alfredo Di Stefano. No Ferenc Puskas. No Eusebio. No George Best. No Franz Beckenbauer. No Johan Cruyff. No Zico. No Michel Platini. No Diego Maradona. No Roberto Baggio. (For the record, at the top of the AP heap was Babe Ruth, followed by Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Muhammed Ali and Wayne Gretzky. The race horse Secretariat came in 81st.)
But before outraged soccer fans here throw up their hands, there’s this story, released a day before the Phelps announcement, by the same Associated Press:
BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Argentine journalists don’t think Lionel Messi is the country’s best athlete for 2012.
Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez was awarded the title of “Olimpia de Oro,” given to the South American country’s top athlete in voting by the Circulo de Periodistas–or association of journalists.
Martinez defeated Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. earlier this year in their WBC title fight.
Barcelona star Messi, who has had a record-breaking year with 90 goals, didn’t even finish second in the voting. That went to Sebastian Crismanich, the taekwondo fighter who won Argentina’s only gold medal in the London Olympics. Messi finished third.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Abby Wambach, AC Milan, Ajax, Alex Ferguson, Alfredo Di Stefano, Andres Iniesta, Bayern Munich, Bruno Bini, Carles Puyol, Cese Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Alves, David Villa, FC Barcelona, Ferenc Puskas, FIFA awards gala, FIFA Ballon d'Or, FIFA Fair Play Award, FIFA World Player of the Year, FIFA/FIFPro Best XI, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerard Pique, Homare Sawa, Honved, Iker Casillas, Johan Cruyff, Jose Mourinho, Kongresshaus, Lionel Messi, Liverpool, Manchester United, Marta, Nemanja Vidic, Neymar, Norio Sasaki, Pele, Pep Guardiola, Pia Sundhage, Pique, Real Madrid, Ronaldo, Santos, Sergio Ramos, tiqui-taca, UEFA Champions League, Wayne Rooney, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Zinedine Zidane, Zurich
Argentine forward Lionel Messi, all of 24, became the first player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times in a row as the world’s top players and coaches were honored at the 2011 FIFA Awards Gala at the Kongresshaus in Zurich.
Messi received the FIFA Ballon d’Or, beating out FC Barcelona teammate Xavi Hernandez of Spain and Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo in voting that involved national team coaches and captains and selected media members. A two-time runner-up, he joins Ronaldo (1996, 1997, 2002) and Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000, 2003) as the award’s only three-time winner.
o Homare Sawa of Japan, Women’s Player of the Year. Marta of Brazil, the winner the previous five years, finished second and the USA’s Abby Wambach third.
o Pep Guardiola of FC Barcelona, Men’s Coach of the Year, ahead of Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson.
o Norio Sasaki of Japan, Women’s Coach of the Year. Pia Sundhage of the U.S. and Bruno Bini of France finished second and third.
o The FIFA/FIFPro Best XI: Iker Casillas; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic; Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso; Messi, Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney.
o Best goal award went to Brazil and Santos forward Neymar, and the Japan Football Association received FIFA’s Fair Play award for its response to the earthquake and tsunami that struck its country in March. [January 9]
Comment: The night may have belonged to Messi, but Guardiola deserves the brightest spotlight.
The Coach of the Year award is as close to a Club of the Year trophy as FIFA can hand out, and Guardiola has played a leading role in creating a club for the ages.
A couple of years into Guardiola’s four-year tenure at the Barcelona wheel, his team had already drawn comparisons with Ferenc Puskas’ Honved of the early 1950s, Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real Madrid of the late ’50s, Pele’s Santos of the early ’60s, Johan Cruyff’s Ajax of the early ’70s, Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich of the mid-’70s, Liverpool of the early ’80s, AC Milan of the late ’80s, and Manchester United of the late ’90s.
On a practical level, Barcelona won five trophies in 2011 and 13 of 16 possible honors since the Catalan powerhouse began to roll three years ago. It is the current FIFA Club World Cup holder, having dismantled Santos, 4-0, in last month’s final, and the UEFA Champions League winner. Its youth academy and scouting system are the model for ambitious clubs worldwide. Its talent serves as the backbone of the Spanish National Team, the reigning world champion.
But on an artistic level, Barcelona is tiqui-taca, that oh-so-pleasing style that features 11 players, each of them comfortable on the ball, nine of the other field players running to provide the ball holder with myriad options, and nothing so ugly as a 40-yard thump into the box that would be described by the British as “speculative.”
Guardiola may have had the horses–Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Cese Fabregas, David Villa, Pique, Carles Puyol, et al.–but he has held to the Barcelona way and gotten everyone on the same page. And to the observer, what they do game by game is so much more appealing than what they’ve done.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Bobby Charlton, Copa del Rey, Cristiano Ronaldo, FC Barcelona, Franz Beckenbauer, La Liga, Lionel Messi, Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham Hotspur
Defending champ FC Barcelona got a first-half goal from reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and beat Shakhtar Donetsk, 1-0, to complete its dismantling of the Ukrainian side by a 6-1 aggregate in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, one day after Real Madrid defeated Tottenham Hotspur, 1-0, and took its two-legged set by an overall 5-0. The bitter Spanish rivals will meet in the semifinals on April 27 and May 3 while Manchester United will take on German upstart Schalke 04 on April 26 and May 4. The two survivors meet in the final May 28 at London’s Wembley Stadium. [April 13]
Comment: This showdown of bitter Spanish rivals is being billed in some quarters as a showdown between the man currently regarded as the world’s greatest player, Messi, and the man he supposedly supplanted, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
It should be fascinating–over an 18-day span, the two sides will meet not only in the Champions League but once each in La Liga and Spain’s Copa del Rey. But as for proving who’s best, that’s a reach. The styles and roles of the stumpy, electrifying 23-year-old Argentine and the flamboyant, mercurial 26-year-old Portuguese are too different to allow for comparison. And they will have little to do with one another on the field: this isn’t the 1970 World Cup, when West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and England’s Bobby Charlton marked one another and ultimately cancelled each other out. The only certainty is that if both players play up to their capabilities, the debate will rage on.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Antarctica, FIFA Executive Committee, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Franz Beckenbauer, Gobi Desert, Jackie Charlton, Johannesburg, Montevideo, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Russia, Saturn, UEFA President Michel Platini, Uruguay
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was on the defensive during ceremonies in Johannesburg to mark the closing of the 2010 World Cup, insisting–and at one point pounding the podium for emphasis–that the controversial selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was intended to develop soccer in those regions and nothing more. [December 13]
Comment: Blatter blithely brushed aside concerns over the searing heat that would await a Qatari World Cup and instead took heat himself for his clumsy remarks regarding how the locals would view alcohol comsumption and homosexual activity by their foreign guests during the monthlong event. Yet heat remains the central issue as the reality of a World Cup in summer in a Persian Gulf state measuring just 6,000 square miles sinks in. Despite the claims by Qatari organizers that their open-air stadiums will be cooled to 81 degrees, one can only recall the 1994 World Cup. The host U.S. was swept by an unseasonable heat wave that June and July, and the image of Ireland coach Jackie Charlton angrily tossing water bottles onto the field for his dehydrated players remains indelible. If Ireland was to qualify for Qatar ’22 and Big Jack was still in charge of the Irish, one of his first questions would concern the training grounds scattered about Qatar and whether they, too, were air conditioned.
Already, German legend Franz Beckenbauer and UEFA President Michel Platini have questioned the wisdom of a World Cup held in the heat of a Middle Eastern desert. It has been suggested that Qatar ’22 be moved to January of that year. That would be unworkable, however, given the power of Europe’s top clubs.
Obviously, FIFA’s M.O. is one of, create a daunting problem now, solve it later. (In U.S. Navy terms, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”) But the more important lesson here should not be missed by nations considering a bid for a future World Cup: Spend a few million and invest a couple of years to submit a bid with nary a blemish, but if the FIFA Executive Committee wants to “grow the game” in Antarctica, the Gobi Desert or Saturn, your bid will politely be given the circular file.
Among the talk out of the December 2 announcements in Zurich was that the 2030 World Cup will go to Uruguay or Uruguay-Argentina to commemorate the centenary of the first World Cup, hosted by Uruguay (or make that Montevideo, at only three stadiums). If there’s any substance to that rumor, wanna bet that Uruguay 2030 runs unopposed?