The Evening in Berlin

Buildup: 2006 FIFA World Cup Final !!!!! France Vs Italy, The Grand Finale at the Olympia Stadium, Berlin. According to FIFA, 1.5 Billion individuals globally watched the finals. If you look back to 2006, the world population at that time as per official figures were 6.6 Billion. So, mathematically, 1 in 6 person around the world watched the game. Crazy Crazy Numbers!!! We all know, what a global sport football is and the FIFA World Cup finals is the highest viewed event across the world.

Plot : My initial days of following football revolved around Germany, and since the 2006 World Cup was hosted by Germany, they were the clear favorites and why not. A team having Jens Lehmann at back (Arsenal Invincible), Philipp Lahm (Slowly becoming the best LB in the world), captained by Michael Ballack and led the line by Miroslav Klose ( FIFA Golden Boot winner). They were my favorites as well. A special version of the famous song ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ (Bamboo Version) by Shakira lifted the mood and atmosphere ever further. For the finals, I had my full support for France, the reason being they had a player named Zinedine Ziddane, who was also the Captain and he was one of the finest attacking midfielder of that generation.

Summary: The finals started as per the promise and the scoring was opened by Zidane himself in the 7th minute with the help of a precise but controversial penalty, conceded by Marco Materazzi. The Olympia erupted and rightfully so. It took 12 minutes for Italy to equalize, through Materazzi’s goal courtesy of a beautiful header assisted by the dead ball specialist Andrea Pirlo. Both teams had their fair share of chances and Italy hit the crossbar twice courtesy of a brilliant Luca Toni’s hit and a Gatusso’s scrocher. France were denied a possible second penalty when Florent Malouda went down in the box. France were a better side throughout the 90 minutes because of the higher number of shots on goal. They were denied time and again by Gigi Buffon’s heroics at the other end of the pitch and the scoreline read 1:1 at the end of 90 minutes. Three minutes of added time read the LED, and then there will be Additional extra Time. At the end of stoppage time, Gigi Buffon made a potentially game saving save when he tipped a Zidane bullet header over the cross bar courtesy of a Thierry Henry pass. 30 minutes Extra Time and then we will possibly have the winner. At the end of 105 minutes ( HT of AET) the scoreline still read 1:1. France made a couple of bold substitutions. Frank Ribery made way for David Trazeguet ( Golden Goal scorer against Italy in the Euro 2000 final) and Thierry Henry made way for Slyvian Wiltord. The time read 110′. 10 minutes to go for the final whistle.

Zidane Sending Off: Football is an intense game, a game of nerves, a game of character, of mentality. Few words were exchanged between Zidane and Materazzi after Marco was seen tugging at Zidane’s jersey before Zidane began to walk away from him. Moments later, he stopped, turned around and head butted Materazzi’s chest, knocking him to the ground. The crowd was numb, I was numb, the players in shock, everyone rushed towards Marco and surrounded him. Zidane knew, he made a mistake, a mistake that will cost his team the World Cup, a mistake that will hurt him forever. I am literally in tears as I type this. The images are flashing back. The memories are still fresh like yesterday’s. The drama which unfolded in the pitch was not spotted by the referee Horacio Elizondo, but was spotted by the 4th official Luis Medina Cantelejo. After consulting, Zidane was given a red card in the 110th minute. He became the 4th player to be red-carded in a World Cup final and the 1st to be sent off in extra time. France were down to 10 man, and had 10 minutes to find a winner, else there would be penalties. France did manage to survive and the game as expected went to penalties.

Penalty: Italy won the penalty shootout, eventually winning the 2006 World Cup, courtesy of goals from Andrea Pirlo, Marco Materazzi, Daniel De Rossi, Alexando Del Piero and Fabio Grosso. Fabian Barthez was not able to save any of it.

Reactions: Zidane later apologized but he added that he did not regret his offence. Over a year after the incident, Materazzi confirmed that his words to Zidane were: ” I prefer the whore that is your sister” to Zidane’s reply of “If you want my shirt, I will give it you afterwords”

It’s rightfully said, “Attack wins you matches and defense wins you tournaments“. But, Italy did not win the final because of the defense, they won it because of Zidane. They won it because they won the mind game.

Signing off !!!!!





The King of Rome

Francesco Totti bid an emotional farewell to Roma after a remarkable 25 season career with his hometown club, AS Roma. Yes, you read it correct 25 years, one club. In the days where it’s so difficult to find loyalty, he was full of it and has set examples in every field, not just in football to be specific.

In the era, where people run for money, switch trades and move into different teams without giving it a second thought, Totti was an exception. He started his career with the Roma’s youth team he made his debut in the senior team at a age of 16. Within 2 years, he had already established himself in the first team by playing as a second striker. At a slender age of 22 (1998), he became the youngest ever Seria A club captain. Such was his talent that, he could play as a left winger, right winger, Attacking midfielder, second striker and as a lone striker, that was virtually anywhere across the front line. Going forward 20 years, he played his last ever season for AS Roma and his stats read, 619 appearances and 250 goals holding several records to his name.

One of my favorite quote from the Batman, “You Either Die A Hero, Or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain” and Totti proved to be an exception to that statement. He lived, and instead of becoming the villain, he became the “King Of Rome”



We all are Arsene Wenger’s men

The Buildup:

Yes, Yes , Yes I am not sure about you, but I am still buzzing from yesterday’s win. If you have not heard it yet, Arsenal have won the FA Cup against Chelsea courtesy of Goals from the Super Alexis Sanchez and the dynamic Aaron Ramsey. The football we played in the first half was orgasmic and breathtaking that many of us could have taken the eyes out of the screen. I recall, after the start whistle, we had close to a 100 passes before 10 minutes and scored one goal (amidst the confusion) and came close to score one more as well. Simply the old time Arsenal flashed into our minds. The first half ended in similar fashion and it was lit thought with the same intensity. We could have score 3 or maybe 4, and they could have scored one or two as well before the HT. But the scoreline read 1:0 in favor of Arsenal. The moment of the first half for me was, Rob Holding schooling the dirty Diego Costa.

The Interval:

I was frustrated, had we converted those half chances and scored at-least one more, there would have a cushion and some breathing space in the 2nd half, but it was not the case. The lead was slender and we all know, how good Chelsea are in the counters especially with Pedro and hazard in their ranks who are pacy players and have a eye to goal.

The Second Half:

We were 45 minutes away from winning the 3rd FA cup in 4 years and 13th overall (The competition highest) and we had to give it all. As anticipated, Chelsea came all guns blazing and came close to score as well but our defense stood tool lead by our captain Per Mertasacker and blocked off all the potential attacks even before reaching to Ospina. There were ticks everywhere, you could hardly find any misplaced pass, wrong move or not finding spaces. In short, we were bossing all around the park and the boys were pretty up for the challenge that beckoned. There were few nervous moments where Chelsea came close to scoring but could not test Ospina much throughout the opening 20 minutes of the second half. Per, Nacho and the young and inexperienced Rob Holding were growing into the game. Had we played with the same intensity of beautiful football throughout the season, we would have been termed as worthy champions, but you know it was not the case either. In the 73rd minute, if I recall correctly, there was a gap between Rob an Per and the dirty yet prolific Costa materialized. The scoreboard of famous Wembly stadium read 1:1 and there were hardly 20 minutes to go including extra time. Mr. Wenger had to do something, and do something real quick and immediately after 2 minutes, Welback was substituted with fan favorite, Olivier Giroud. I didn’t take the move very well because Welback was having a very good game keeping Cahill and Luiz on their toes. It took Giroud two minutes to prove me wrong. He assisted Aaron Ramsey (Arsene’s Golden Boy) with his first pass of the game. The stadium erupted, the yellow ribbon were prominent. Just like back in 2014, the partnership of Rambo and Giroud gave us a lead with close to 10 minutes to go. We were 10 minutes away from winning a silver ware in a dreadful season where we missed out of the UEFA Champions League and transfer uncertainties of our two best players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Many of us became hopeful and got behind the team, because finishing the season on a high after a lackluster campaign is welcomed by all. The end was near, with hardly few minutes to go in the stoppage time, and then, we would be crowned champions, worthy champions. The final whistle blew, the Wembly erupted once again and this time it was endless and was going to echo everywhere. The night was sorted, history was created. Arsenal were FA Cup winners 2016-17, the most by any club in football history. The feelings of the fans would be something unparalleled tonight. To end the season on a high is always awesome and to do that against the EPL Champions was phenomenal.

The Ending:

I will be looking forward to the new season with new hope and the same excitement, and possibly a change. Arsene Wenger respectfully resigning from the post and taking up a more higher post in Arsenal hierarchy and passing on his legacy, which will be unmatched to a new manager. A change is required and looks like a change is evident. No matter what, we are Arsenal fans who are proud when we win and loyal when we lose.

Signing off with this, until next time.