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ISL Musings: A wild opening ride sets tone for a promising, unpredictable season



Ivan Kaliuzhnyi celebrating goal

ISL Musings is back with our analysis of everything that has happened in Indian football’s top division (It is that, right?) now that the first “week” of the Indian Super League is finished.

Kerala Blasters’ wild opening ride

A lot of love, 50,000 cheering fans, and three goals. The Kerala Blasters’ first night against East Bengal was the best they could have hoped for. The toasts of an entire state were made in honour of the two Ivans, Kalyuzhnyi and Vukomanovic. Then, they began the second game against ATK Mohun Bagan with a vigour and calibre that (perhaps) had never been witnessed at the Kaloor stadium before. The one-touch passing was quick, the movement off the ball was delectable, and Kalyuzhnyi’s goal was chef’s kiss.

The situation then abruptly deteriorated. Over the course of the following hour, Bagan scored five of the most straightforward goals you will ever see, effortlessly tearing past the Blasters’ defence. The maximum crowd found it difficult to watch the Blasters’ ridiculous ignorance in their defence even as they generated (and wasted) opportunities at the opposite end. The conclusion to what had appeared to be a fantastic ten-day celebration was sobering, and Vukomanovic will be hoping the wake-up call came at the perfect moment.

ATK Mohun Bagan’s wild opening ride, just in reverse

Which Blasters game? That was what Juan Ferrando needed.

ATK Mohun Bagan had a very bad preseason, losing in the AFC Cup and exiting the Durand Cup group round. Then, they lost their opening match at home against Chennaiyin despite controlling the majority of the numbers (possession, shots, xG, etc.)… boring. A five goal riot was just what the doctor prescribed after all that. Dimi Petratos scored his hat trick from what seemed to be a total of six yards out thanks to the Blasters’ inexperienced defence, but those goals still needed to be scored. They were incredibly unselfish in the last third, quick off the break, and fluid in their passing.

With so much going on off the field, including Mohun Bagan supporters demanding that the word “ATK” be completely removed from the club’s name, the management referring to it as a “merger” (the club themselves put quotation marks around the word), and the ensuing unrest in India’s oldest fandom, this victory should be extremely beneficial for Ferrando’s team.

ATL Mohun Bagan's celebrating against kerala
ATL Mohun Bagan’s Joni Kauko celebrates after scoring against Kerala Blasters.

Oh, East Bengal

In East Bengal’s first two games, Stephen Constantine began Sumeet Passi as a right winger first before switching him to a right back. That statement’s inexplicability perfectly captures the terrible start that has now become standard for the legendary Kolkata club.

There have been signs that Stephen Constantine might have what it takes to prevent a repeat of the previous recent trends, which included a worse middle and end. They appeared to be playing defence adequately throughout the first half of their first game against the Blasters. They displayed a strong offensive in the second part of their second game against Goa. Unlike the previous two occasions, this side has something: fight, goals, victories, and proper quality. One of the season’s most intriguing subplots will centre on Constantine’s ability to unlock all of it.

Hyderabad are still the team to beat

Manolo Marquez is an excellent manager. Wow, Bartholomew Ogbeche is a player.

In their opening match, the reigning champions struggled late against Mumbai City but still controlled a big amount of the 3-3 tie. They easily defeated NorthEast United in their second game. They are playing the same calibre of football that helped them win the entire thing the last time out and have accepted the losses of Juanan and Ashish Rai in stride.

Oh, and make sure to keep an eye on Hallicharan Narzary’s goal total; he appears more sharp than ever.

Hyderabad FC players celebrate after scoring against NorthEast United
Hyderabad FC players celebrate after scoring against NorthEast United.

Watch out for Mumbai, though

Greg Stewart is first and foremost an ISL cheat code. Having Alberto Noguera, Ahmed Jahouh, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Apuia, and a firing Lallianzuala Chhangte around him afterwards is well… how championship teams are created. The City Football Group is used to spending a lot of money to construct championship-winning teams, and based on the results of the first two games, they wouldn’t be expecting anything less from Des Buckingham and his team than the Cup.

What are Bengaluru and Chennai like? The first two games for the two past ISL champions resulted in victories and draws (against each other). Although the previous two seasons were depressing for both of them, this one starts off with some positives. Chennaiyin appear to be a much more youthful team, with the ability to play excellent defence and score goals (no one scored less goals than them in the last two seasons). Anirudh Thapa appears fired up, Julius Ducker is a game-changer in the middle, and the right-side duo of Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and Jiteshwor Singh is electrifying. Kwame Karikari and Petar Sliskovic also appear dangerous. Thomas Bradric’s current focus will be to prevent the goal-scoring slump of the past from returning.

Bengaluru, on the other hand, appears to have regained their most valuable quality: fight. The team’s attitude has changed, with the Durand Cup victory serving as an early catalyst. But there are still problems; they are still as dull as they always have been, and even though Sivasakthi is showing a lot of promise and Roy Krishna is doing Roy Krishna things, it may be difficult to score goals. Bengaluru fans will be hoping Simon Grayson turns his attention further up the field as soon as possible when he perfects his defensive adjustments.

Jamshedpur and Odisha look unpredictable

Both clubs appear to be capable of tallying any number of goals. Additionally, they appear to be capable of giving up a tonne of goals each time they are attacked. This season offers a lot of potential for both the defending league shield holders and the serial underachievers since they have strong managers and appear to have assembled good squads, but there also seems to be that something missing. In either case, the neutral will continue to hope that neither Aidy Boothroyd nor Josep Gombau would believe that improving their defences should entail eliminating the frantic anarchy of their assaults.

The Refereeing. Again.

If NorthEast United’s last-second equaliser against Bengaluru in their first game hadn’t been so mysteriously (and for them, soul-crushingly) thrown out last Saturday, would things have gone better given how dreadful it appeared in their defeat to Hyderabad?

Two aspects were brought into sharper perspective by that game: the value of momentum, a significant intangible, and the ongoing need for referee reform in football. Just in that one game in Bengaluru, there was a red card that wasn’t given, two penalties that were both wrongly awarded, and this goal that was disallowed. The Musings would run out of topics to write about if we searched every game for significant errors. This has been the case season after season. Every team is impacted, and it’s so prevalent that bias claims from fans may be easily refuted by supporters of the other club.

Yes, referee abuse is unquestionably (inexcusably) wrong, yes, human error is a significant (excuseable) contributing component, and yes, more has to be done. These can all be true simultaneously, and they actually are. The question of whether anyone will take action in response is very different.


Luis Rubiales FIFA Ban: Three-Year Prohibition by FIFA




Luis Rubiales delivering a speech at a press conference

The global governing body of football, FIFA, delivered a strong message on Monday as it issued the Luis Rubiales FIFA ban, prohibiting former Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales from all activities related to the sport for a period of three years. This consequential decision comes in the wake of a controversy that emerged during the Women’s World Cup earlier this year. Reports revealed that Rubiales was found guilty of gross misconduct, specifically for an incident that overshadowed Spain’s victory at the World Cup trophy ceremony in Sydney.

The Controversial Incident

A disciplinary committee was promptly assembled to investigate the disturbing incident, yet the specifics of the verdict have not been disclosed to the public. Rubiales faced severe charges related to what FIFA described as a violation of the “basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.” The episode in question pertains to an incident where Rubiales forcibly kissed a Spanish player on the lips during the trophy ceremony, tainting what should have been a moment of triumph for the nation’s football team.

Misconduct and Resignation

The aftermath of the incident was marked by Rubiales’s initial defiance and refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing, leading to a prolonged period of controversy. However, mounting pressure from various quarters, including the Spanish government and the national team players, eventually forced Rubiales to resign from his esteemed position within the Spanish football hierarchy. The incident not only tarnished Rubiales’s reputation but also cast a shadow over the accomplishments of the national team.

Ban and Appeal

While the FIFA ban on Luis Rubiales has been imposed for a duration of three years, Rubiales still has the option to contest the verdict. FIFA has granted him a window of ten days to request a review of the decision, following which he can file an appeal with the governing body. It remains to be seen how Rubiales will proceed in light of this substantial ban.

Luis Rubiales wearing a black blazer at an event

The Response and Controversy

Despite facing widespread backlash, Rubiales has garnered some support, notably from his mother, Angeles Bejar. In a bold demonstration of solidarity, she initiated a hunger strike to protest what she described as “the inhumane and bloody hunt” against her son. While some may sympathize with Rubiales, the gravity of the incident and the subsequent ban imposed by FIFA underscore the importance of maintaining integrity and respect within the world of professional sports.

In conclusion, FIFA’s decisive action against Luis Rubiales serves as a reminder that no individual, regardless of their position, is above the fundamental values of respect and sportsmanship that form the bedrock of football’s global community. As the sport continues to evolve, the need for upholding ethical standards remains paramount, ensuring that the spirit of fair play and camaraderie endures for generations to come.

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Rubiales Scandal: Soccer’s Integrity Unveiled




Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso

Exploring the Rubiales Scandal and Its Implications
In the world of soccer, where triumphs and controversies intertwine, the recent incident involving the president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, has ignited a fiery debate. Reports from Spanish media suggest that Rubiales might resign from his position after five years of leading the body. The controversy stems from an episode where he kissed a player during a celebration and his subsequent actions during a significant match. This article delves into the details of the incident, the potential repercussions, and the broader implications for both Rubiales and the soccer community.

The Kiss that Stirred Controversy
The Spanish soccer federation president found himself in hot water due to an unexpected gesture. Following Spain’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final, Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy and medal ceremony. This gesture, intended to be celebratory, quickly became the center of attention and sparked a wave of discussions.
The incident prompted FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, to intervene. FIFA’s disciplinary committee initiated an inquiry to determine whether Rubiales’ actions violated the organization’s code of conduct and brought the sport and FIFA into disrepute. The core issue here is whether Rubiales’ behavior aligns with the principles of decency expected from a soccer official.

Amidst the uproar, reports surfaced indicating that Rubiales might step down from his role as the president of the Spanish soccer federation. The speculation has fueled further debates about whether resignation is an appropriate response to the controversy. If Rubiales indeed resigns, it would mark the end of his five-year tenure at the helm of the organization.The incident has drawn mixed reactions from both the public and the players. While some view the kiss as a harmless expression of celebration, others see it as an inappropriate breach of professional boundaries. Player Jenni Hermoso expressed discomfort with the kiss, and the national players’ union, once led by Rubiales, called for accountability regarding his actions.
FIFA issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to upholding the integrity of all individuals associated with the sport. The organization condemned any behavior that contradicts this commitment. While FIFA did not specify the exact acts under investigation, their emphasis on maintaining the sport’s reputation is clear.
Beyond the kiss, Rubiales’ conduct during the match drew attention. He was seen making a gesture by grabbing his crotch as a victory celebration. This action further added to the controversy, raising questions about appropriate behavior for a soccer official, especially in the presence of dignitaries.
The FIFA disciplinary panel has the authority to impose various sanctions on individuals found in violation of its code of conduct. These sanctions can range from warnings and fines to suspensions from soccer-related activities. The severity of the punishment will depend on the outcome of the investigation and the panel’s assessment of the situation.
Luis Rubiales holds the position of vice president at UEFA, the governing body for soccer in Europe. This role carries both prestige and responsibilities. The controversy has yet to garner a response from UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, leaving the soccer community curious about the organization’s stance on the issue.
Rubiales is currently spearheading a bid to host the men’s World Cup in 2030, a joint effort involving Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and possibly Ukraine. However, his involvement in the Rubiales Scandal has raised concerns about the bid’s viability and the image projected to potential supporters.
The incident has wider implications for both the Spanish soccer federation and the broader soccer landscape. It highlights the importance of maintaining professionalism and ethical conduct within the sport’s leadership. The outcome of this controversy could set a precedent for addressing similar situations in the future.
As the Spanish soccer federation holds an emergency meeting to address the situation, the soccer community awaits a decision. The meeting’s outcome will not only impact Rubiales’ future but also shape the federation’s trajectory. The controversies surrounding this incident underscore the need for open discussions about behavior expectations and consequences.
The Rubiales Scandal serves as a reminder that even in the world of sports, actions can have far-reaching consequences. The incident involving the kiss and subsequent gestures has ignited discussions about leadership, professionalism, and the image projected by soccer officials. As FIFA investigates the matter, the soccer community anticipates the outcome and the potential shifts it may bring.

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Vlahovic Double Helps Juventus beat Salernitana 3-0.



Dusan Vlahovic

Juventus beat Salernitana 3-0 in Serie A on Tuesday, with striker Dusan Vlahovic scoring two goals and setting up another to lift the visitors to 10th in the table.

Vlahovic, a Serb who has been injured a lot this season but played in the league for the first time since October, found his old form again in this match.

Hans Nicolussi gave Juventus a penalty kick when he sent Manuel Locatelli off in the 26th minute. Vlahovic converted the penalty.

Vlahovic almost scored a second goal in the 37th minute, but his shot from the edge of the box from an acute angle went just past the post.

At the end of the first half, Filip Kostic made it 2-0 when he tapped the ball in from close range after Vlahovic’s initial shot had bounced into his path.

In the last seconds before the halftime break, Locatelli ran into the penalty area unchallenged and gave Juventus a chance to score a third goal. However, Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa reacted quickly to prevent Locatelli from lobbing the ball over him.

80 seconds into the second half, Vlahovic scored his second goal when he ran through the penalty area and shot the ball flat into the right corner.

In the 51st minute, Junior Zambia hit a cross that reached almost everyone in the box, but Salernitana striker Boulaye Dia could not stretch far enough to put the ball in the open net.

“The team responded well and we played a good first half. But after taking a 3-0 lead, we got a little too comfortable and allowed too many shots on goal. We did not move enough and stayed in the same places, and the players know we have to do better,” Allegri said.

“In the first 10 minutes we played the ball too often down the right side. We need to improve the passing game, become more supple and keep things simple.”

Angel Di Maria hit the crossbar after 53 minutes and Moise Kean hit the post just before the end of the game, preventing Juve from adding to their tally.

The win moved Juventus to 26 points after 21 games, while Salernitana dropped to 21 points and 16th place.

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