Jamal Bhuyan: The Danish captain of Bangladesh football

2019 is an exciting time to be a football fan in Bangladesh. Bangladesh made it to the second round of qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification. This tremendous feat came after winning the two-legged tie against Laos at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on the 13th of June, spearheaded by our talismanic captain Jamal Bhuyan.

Although Bangladesh is still a long way from securing their place for Qatar 2022, the Danish-born midfielder has been a revelation for team Bangladesh and Bangladesh football as a whole since his debut in 2013. And it’s time we finally give this man the limelight he deserves.

Not your average Bangladeshi upbringing

The story of our captain begins in the Danish town of Glostrup where he was born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents. He was involved in football from a very young age. At the age of 15, Jamal was playing for the Danish outfit Brøndby IF. After scoring against Denmark’s most prestigious club, F.C. Copenhagen (FCK), he was offered a place in the FCK’s youth academy.

After playing for a number of Danish sides, he moved to play in Philippines and China, before finally signing for Sheik Jamal in 2014, becoming the highest paid footballer in the country. As of 2017, he is playing for the Bangladeshi club Saif Sporting Club.

Leaving Denmark to represent Bangladesh

Being eligible to play for Denmark and Bangladesh, Jamal ended up choosing Bangladesh out of love for his father’s country. A country where he’s never been to. Jamal Bhuyan had a tough choice ahead of him. Keep playing for Denmark and F.C. Copenhagen where he would be catapulted into footballing glory. Or, come to Bangladesh and try to revive its bleak footballing scenario from dust and ashes. Jamal chose the latter.

Jamal Bhuyan chose country over personal glory.

He debuted for the Bangladesh national team, leaving the Danish luxury behind, in 2013 against Nepal in the 2013 SAF games. He became the first non-resident player to represent the national side.

Jamal Bhuyan was named the best defensive midfielder in South Asia in 2018 and remains so till this day, arguably.

He was also part of the commentary team as a guest commentator for Barcelona’s last La Liga match against Eibar last May. All in all, it’s safe to say that Jamal is truly making a mark in world football in our colours.

Future of Bangladesh football  

It is quite disappointing to admit that football in Bangladesh has been brushed aside with the rise of cricket. Gone are the days when Dhaka would split down the middle whenever there was an Abahani vs. Mohammedan match. Match attendance in stadiums are dwindling and lack of proper funding, talent scouting and football academies have been weighing down the progress of Bangladesh football.  

The story of one Jamal Bhuyan 2

But with the recent upturn in form, football in the country has been promising lately. With team Bangladesh going through to the second round of WC qualifier, the overall ranking has also gone up from 188th to 183rd.

Our love for cricket overshadows our footballing heroes

Cricketers are our superstars. We idolize the likes of Mashrafe, Shakib-Al-Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. And they deserve every last bit of our love and respect. But on a different frontline, a whole different bunch of heroes are fighting with blood, sweat and dedication to uphold Bangladesh’s name in the world stage. And if nothing else, they at least deserve our love and support as much as our cricketers.

Bangladesh has never lacked football fans and it’s quite evident with the huge fan following of numerous European clubs all over the country and whenever the World Cup rolls around the corner. So it’s time we develop and support our domestic football scene. And with Jamal Bhuyan at the helm, it seems like the time is now.       

Here’s to Jamal and the boys, for the next match and all the matches to come, we’ll roar with you.

Hamza Choudhury, the Bengali starlet of Leicester City

Bangladesh is home to a huge number of football lovers. Football mania goes into full swing during the world cup season. And we all know how crazy the supporters can get.

There’s a huge portion of football fanatics who follow the clubs of their choice week-in-week-out. The English Premier League is arguably the best league for any professional footballer to play. And it is here we find a certain young English-Bengali starlet by the name of Hamza Choudhury. 

This is the story of Hamza Dewan Choudhury’s.

Origin and profile

Hamza Chowdhury, the Bengali starlet of Leicester City

Hamza Dewan Choudhury is an English professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Leicester City. He was born on the 1st of October 1997, to a Grenadian father and a Bengali mother.

“Both my parents are Bangladeshi and I have been brought up in an Asian family. But I have Caribbean blood in me as my dad is from Grenada”.

Hamza stated regarding is ethnicity

Hamza began his career at the Leicester City Academy and was reportedly monitored by a number of European clubs. After a two-season loan spell with Burton Albion, he has broken into the Leicester City team in the 2018-19 seasons.

Read more: The story of one Jamal Bhuyan of Bangladesh

Next-Gen English talent?

Hamza Chowdhury, the Bengali starlet of Leicester City

Apart from his iconic hairdo and distinct ethnicity; he stands out amongst his Leicester teammates as part of England’s crop of exciting young footballers.

Only 21, he is part England’s new generation of footballing superstars; alongside Dortmund superstar Jaden Sancho, Chelsea’s Cullum Hudson Odoi and Manchester United recent summer signing Aaron Wan-Basaka.

Although currently playing for Leicester, he is constantly in the sight of premier league heavy-weights Chelsea and Man United.

If Hamza hones his skills and continues to improve his fitness and performance, it is likely he will be appearing for a top-flight club. He is currently playing for England U-21 team and hasn’t made his international debut yet.

Role model for the subcontinental diaspora in England

Hamza Chowdhury, the Bengali starlet of Leicester City

The sub-continental community of England and Greater Britain is one of its biggest, in term of both population and diversity.

Immigrants from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka among other communities have gradually seeped into most aspects of British life. Professional football is one of the few aspects British citizen originating from the Sub-Continent have failed to break through significantly. Some players of subcontinental origin have featured in the lower leagues and even Premier League; although the numbers are still far and few in between.

Though it is too early to predict the future of young Hamza Chowdhury’s football career, he’s certainly on the right track in representing the Sub-continent, especially Bangladesh in arguably the most competitive league in the world. 

So as the new season of the English Premier League is waiting to explode onto the footballing landscape, do keep an eye on the prodigious talent of our very own Hamza Chowdhury and his exploits with Leicester City.

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Liverpool vs. Barcelona: Magical night at Anfield 

What a night for European football!

The stage was set. FC Barcelona was 3-0 up from the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semis, thrashing a formidable Liverpool. Liverpool was to miss out on key players the likes of Mohammad Salah and Roberto Firmino in the 2nd leg of the tie against an in-form Messi and Barcelona at Anfield.

To say that Liverpool faced a steep uphill battle was an understatement. Liverpool needed to score a minimum of 4 goals. Where just one goal from Barcelona would see them almost surely through to the UCL finals. Liverpool made one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League till date winning 4-0 at Anfield.

Overcoming the favorites in the tournament

Liverpool scored two goals each from Divok Origi and substitute Georginio Wijnaldum. And a solid performance from the Liverpool midfield and backline organized by Virgil Van Dijk has seen them through to back to back Champions League finals.

Barcelona was the favorites for this seasons Champion’s league title. And with Messi having one of his best seasons, it seemed like a matter of time before Barcelona would score in the first half at Anfield to launch them into their first Champions League Final since the 2014-15 season.

The Anfield factor

Leading up to the 2nd leg, Liverpool were on the back foot owing to two of their key forwards; Mo Salah and Firmino. Both being ruled out due to injuries. Some of the pressure was released when Origi had them one goal up in the first ten minutes of the game.

By the end of the first half, Liverpool had lost their left-back Andy Robertson, through another injury. The second half of the game had seen Anfield coming back to life as the crowd chants and cheers erupted with Gini Wijnaldum coming on for the injured Robertson to score two quick goals in succession. Origi scored his second through a cheeky corner to make it 4-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate which eventually sealed their way to the finals yet again.

The scenes at Anfield by the end were absolutely incredible. Liverpool won their semi-finals tie and are now touted to be the favorites for the Champions League trophy.            

Reds sign Alisson Becker – will big money make a difference?

Alisson Becker has been a target for premier league clubs for the entire summer transfer window and the Brazilian stopper had been strongly linked to a transfer to Chelsea among other clubs. AS Roma seemed unwilling to let go of their first-choice keeper but it seems like his former Roma teammate Mohammed Salah has persuaded him to decide otherwise. Even though AS Roma was adamant to retain Becker while all the other European clubs were trying to poach him, what suddenly made the Serie A club to decide otherwise and allow him to head for Anfield? And was it right for the Merseysiders to make a splurge of such proportions behind e stopper in this transfer window?

Roma’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson looks on after being defeated by Liverpool at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match AS Roma vs Liverpool FC at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on May 2, 2018. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s world record fee

The decision to sell Alisson has raised questions about A.S. Roma’s lack of ambition but the Director of Football at A.S. Roma, Monchi, admitted that the hefty sum Liverpool offered was too good to turn down. Liverpool offered to pay a whopping 72.5 million euros and this makes Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. This beats the previous record of 53 million euros paid by Juventus for Gianluigi Buffon back in 2001 and the 40 million Manchester City forked out for Allison’s compatriot Ederson to sign him from the Portuguese outfit Benfica last year. “When a very substantial offer comes in you have to consider it,” said Monchi, when explaining Roma’s decision to sell the goalkeeper. “We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to speak to Liverpool.” Alisson will also become one of the highest earners at the Merseyside outfit with a salary of around £5 million a-year.

Liverpool desperate to end the trophy drought

Desperate or not, almost everyone in the footballing community has called out for Loris Karius to be replaced since his 2018 Champion’s League final debacle against Real Madrid. Even though Karius entered Liverpool after being named of Bundesliga’s top keepers, his two years in the English game has been error ridden. In a domestic league as competitive as the Premier League, it is almost impossible to win titles without consistent world class performance between the sticks. That much has been obvious from the way David de Gea single handedly kept winning matches with Manchester United like and has arguably been United’s best player in the past couple seasons. Karius however has failed to deliver in that department. Pepe Reina’s saves in the 2012 League Cup final and the 2006 FA Cup final proved pivotal for the Red’s when they won both trophies via the dreaded penalty shootout. But The 25-year-old’s unconvincing performances left Klopp deliberating between Simon Mignolet or Karius.

Klopp eager to learn from past mistakes

A flashback to the 2016 Europa League final would probably remind most that their then left back Alberto Moreno’s blunders cost them the chance to play in Europe’s premier competition. Daniel Sturridge’s curling strike put Liverpool in front and they seemed set to qualify but Moreno made two crucial blunders which let Sevilla bag the game 3-1 and qualify instead. Many expected that to be the Spaniard’s last game in a Liverpool shirt. Klopp, however, remained adamant that he should be the Reds’ first choice left back and would improve under his influence. That, unsurprisingly, did not happen, as James Milner became the main left-back for the 2016/17 season. One would suspect that Klopp would not like to make the same mistakes he made in his first full season at Anfield.

Bringing the Reds’ defense up to the mark

It is undeniable Borussia Dortmund has worked wonders during his time at Anfield and has transformed the Reds from a mere top 8 club to possible title challengers. But even though he has turned his attacking lineup into one of the most dynamic one in the Premier League, their defense has not been performing at the same level. Finishing fourth after conceding 38 goals in as many matches, even after signing Virgil van Dijk for a world-record £75 million in December was a clear display of room for improvement. Alisson on the other hand has made 66 saves from shots inside the penalty area in Serie A in 2017/18 season and 46 saves in the 2017/18 Champions League while playing a key role in their run to the semi-finals. Klopp has also purchased Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer transfer window, possibly making the midfield even stronger and it was vital that he makes some effort to improve the defense to support an exciting forward line. After all, Alisson has proven to be worthy of performing at the biggest stage, keeping clean sheets in five of his six home games played in the 2017-18 Champions League for A.S. Roma, conceding goals in only one match, in May against Liverpool. Liverpool fans will certainly be keen to see how much the South American stopper can improve their chances of winning a first ever title since the beginning of the Premier League era.

6 Places to Watch The FIFA World Cup 2018 Final

The conclusion to one of the best FIFA World Cups is upon us. It’s been a rollercoaster of a tournament, seeing the defending champs Germany getting knocked out in the group stages thanks to losses to Mexico and South Korea, and favorites Argentina and Brazil getting knocked out in the second round and the quarter finals, respectively. The final today is between 1998 World Cup champions France and Croatia, who are playing in the finals for the first time in the short history of the independent nation. Whoever wins, history is sure to be made. There are multiple places in Dhaka where you can witness history with your friends and watch the final on a big screen. Here are 6 places you could consider watching the final of the world cup.

Arena Café & Lounge

Address: Ring Tower (4th Floor), 6/A Ring Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka.

If massive screens are your only priority, then look no further than the 150-inch behemoth at Arena Café & Lounge. Arena offers the biggest screen in the city that’s not a movie theater, and it certainly has better food than most theaters. The only downside is that their seating capacity is a measly 60, meaning that you better call for a reservation right now if you want to watch the final on their giant screen.

Pizza Hut

Address: Multiple Locations

Even though the quality of their food has gotten abysmal in the recent years, Pizza Hut still boasts one of the better environments in the city, alongside a fairly big screen. It’s the perfect place to grab a slice of pizza with a large party of mates and watch the game. There are way too many Pizza Hut’s showing the final, so I suggest you hit up their facebook page to find out which Pizza Hut outlets showing the final is closest to you.

138 East

Address: House 10, Road 138, Gulshan 1, Dhaka.

One of the rising stars in the restaurant game, 138 East has also offered world cup viewing during this entire season, and the final is no exception. This is probably the best place for you to go if you want to have good food with your friends as you watch the game. It doesn’t boast a ridiculous screen to show the game on, but the TV at the restaurant does a decent job of showing the game in HD. Perfect if you’re more interested in the food and the environment, but still want to keep up to date with the game.

Tastebud

Address: House 52, Road 12/A, Block H, Banani, Banani Model Town, Dhaka.

Tastebud has been one of the favorite places for every sweet tooth in the capital. The fantastic desserts are enough of a reason to go to this place. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they were showing the world cup on their rather large 75-inch HD TV.

The White Canary Café

Address: 40/8 North Avenue, Gulshan 2, Dhaka.

The only place on this list that mandatorily requires a reservation to even watch the game, The White Canary Café is surely one of the fanciest entries on the list. For all of its exclusivity, however, they will be showing the game on a projector instead of an actual screen. They are also offering a pizza for free for every two bought, while also organizing a contest of sorts for correct predictors of the final score and the man of the match, with the winners of the contest winning free desserts.

Blaze: Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden

Address: Airport Road, Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.

Easily the most expensive place on this list, Blaze is for those who are either rolling in money, or have saved up for the special event that is the final of the world cup. Situated at the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden, Blaze boasts a giant LED screen to show the final, while having some seriously exclusive and delicious food. Reservation is not mandatory but would make your life much easier, as seats could vanish in an instant if all the rich people in Dhaka showed up to watch the game and have exquisite food. Easily the most exclusive place in the list, the only real drawback to watching it here would be the strain on your wallet. If that’s not an issue for you, then by all means, live it up.

There are many places in the city to watch the final and have food. Now you guys have fun visiting one of these places, while I go buy some fried street food to watch the game at home on my PC. No, I’m not jealous at all.

France’s beauty lost on the world

When France came into the tournament with one of the youngest teams, loaded with attacking weapons across the pitch, it was expected that Les Bleus would blow opponents away before exiting the tournament against one of the more experienced and stronger sides in the latter stages.

However, Didier Deschamps’s team made their intentions clear when they began the tournament with 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Australia and Peru respectively. They were not going to be the team that attacked relentlessly and scored the most goals at the tournament, despite arguably having the best personnel to do so with.

France looked laboured in those two games but a 4-3 thriller against Argentina in the round of 16 may have given birth to hopes that they would finally unleash their wealth of attacking talent for the remainder of the tournament. However, keen observers would have noticed that France did not really play with the objective of scoring four goals; it was simply the need of the hour.

A constant midfield three of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi should have indicated France’s intentions. If further clarification was needed, then Antoine Griezmann’s berating of his teammates for foraying too far up the pitch when France restored the lead against Argentina underscored perfectly how they intended to play.

Despite building a solid team which offers opponents few chances and instead breaks out on breath-taking counterattacks that have seen the world stand up and take note of one Kylian Mbappe, the French have come under a barrage of criticism for what is being described as ‘negative football’ following a 1-0 win over Belgium, the highest scoring team in the tournament, on Tuesday night.

That is quite an unfair statement to make.

When going up against some of the best teams on the planet, France have opted for the wise decision to use their weapons as effectively as possible while sacrificing nothing for the sake of flair.

They deploy Kylian Mbappe as a one-man counterattack, urge Griezmann to drop deep and find the killer ball, force Paul Pogba to restrain his forward runs and instead spread the play and ensure that their backline of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane are as untroubled as possible. All of this plays perfectly into their hands and frees arguably their greatest weapon, N’Golo Kante, to do what he does best and destroy the other team’s game-plan with his incessant, dogged and almost irritating style of play.

Yet, nobody can accuse France of being toothless in attack. They look threatening whenever they get into the opponent’s half and the 1-0 scoreline should serve only to flatter Belgium, not reflect poorly on the finalists. Les Bleus may not have hogged possession, but they could easily have scored three if not for the profligacy of Olivier Giroud. On the other hand, Belgium, for all their passing and attacking intent, barely made a dent.

Deschamps has constructed perhaps the perfect strategy to lift his nation’s second World Cup, but audiences appear unimpressed.

Despite praising Uruguay relentlessly for their dominant defensive display against Portugal at this World Cup and fawning over the Italians, who have made it a habit of wearing down their opponents with the patented Catenaccio style of play for decades now, fans want France to attack, enthral and win all at the same time.

It is not often a perfect mix.

The only other country that has this much pressure to not only win, but to also put on a show while doing so, are Brazil. They have paid the price since their last triumph in 2002 for overlooking pragmatism in their quest for ‘joga bonito‘; ‘the beautiful game’. Against Belgium, the Selecao completely abandoned any notions of a midfield and allowed Romelu Lukaku time and space on the ball, which led to their punishing 2-1 loss. The game itself was a masterpiece for neutrals across the world, but losers Brazil certainly did not win any fans. Given the fallout from that game, which saw the entire world side with a Belgium team that executed its plans to perfection against an attack-minded Brazil while withstanding a barrage of shots, France seem to be left with two options.

They can either play their game and possibly win the World Cup while having to contend with displeased neutrals. Or they can switch to an all-guns-blazing approach, lose the final and ‘win hearts’.

Our cricket team are especially good at the latter, but ask anyone — aside from Eden Hazard: would they rather be defeated and win hearts or be criticised and win a World Cup.

You already know the answer.

The end of an era – Ronaldo to Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 105-million-euro move to Juventus after nine glorious trophy-laden years at Real Madrid rightfully sent shockwaves around the footballing world, with most discussions now moving on to assessing the implications of the transfer.

The Portuguese superstar underlined his unyielding love to the club he grew up supporting in his farewell letter while media speculation swirls that the reason for his leaving was mostly down to the Madrid giants not reciprocating that feeling in full.

The 33-year-old came to Real Madrid when they were staring down the barrel of Barcelona’s all-conquering gun and turned them into Europe’s most dominant force in recent history by virtue of 451 goals in 438 games that yielded 16 trophies — including four Champions League titles that he nearly single-handedly won as he finished as the competition’s top scorer six times over the past six years.

Overall, he netted an incredible 105 goals in Europe’s elite competitions since donning the storied white strip of Los Blancos, with 60 coming in the knockout stages — 20 in the last 16, 23 in the quarterfinals, 13 in semifinals and 4 in finals.

Those incredible performances also saw him claim the Ballon d’Or four times, with another — which would take him past Lionel Messi’s tally of five — possibly arriving this December.

When Ronaldo left Manchester United as one of the two best players in the world, fans accepted the decision knowing of his childhood love affair with Real that made the move an eventuality.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United lines up a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on May 10, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

However, having won everything there is to have won and written his name in the annals of Real Madrid history, where he is now on a pedestal equal to if not above the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ronaldo’s move to Juventus leaves far more questions than answers.

The foremost among them being: why did he leave?

The Madrid press believe it had little to do with issues on the field. Yes, Ronaldo started the season slowly and that may have cost Real Madrid La Liga, but he more than made up for it with his yet-again astounding performances in the Champions League.

Real president Florentino Perez’s reported refusal to honour a bumper contract agreement made last year strained their relationship, with the agreed terms having never materialised.

However, the chief reason for the move is thought to be the tax case against Ronaldo. Although he has already been handed a hefty fine and a suspended sentence, the Portuguese is said to have been more than mildly annoyed by the fact that the club had not gathered around him as Barcelona did with Messi. He had expected Perez to wield his influence to make the case go away or at least reach a quick resolution. Instead, the breaking point was reportedly reached when Spanish authorities raided Ronaldo’s boat while his son was on board.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

​”There are thousands of boats in Formentera and police with cameras boarded the smallest one, Cristiano Ronaldo’s one. Are we murderers or what?” the Portugal captain asked.

Career-wise, the move is certainly an interesting one. In the slower pace of Serie A, Ronaldo can prolong his career as he pushes into his mid-thirties. The system at Juventus should also serve him well and will no doubt be geared even more towards the striker than ever before.

What is of even more interest will be to see how Real Madrid fare.

They have lost a man who scored 33 percent of the club’s 1378 goals over the past last nine seasons and provided 119 assists. They have lost the man who has scored over 44 percent of their goals in the Champions League in their winning season.

There is every assurance that Perez, with 105 million and the other hundreds of millions at his disposal, will make a marquee signing or two or even three. However, the market is not in Real or Perez’s favour.

Paris Saint-Germain will be unwilling to let go of either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe if they are to be seen as a European giant, while Tottenham already inked a six-year deal local lad Harry Kane merely weeks ago.

Mohamed Salah could be tempted and Liverpool may not resist, while Eden Hazard is another possible signing. Robert Lewandowski, whose powers are on the wane, could also arrive. However, even the three of them combined may be unable to fill the giant void left behind by Ronaldo, especially in the Champions League where most teams have an embarrassment of riches.

With Juventus having shattered their wage structure to accommodate him, Ronaldo’s future is already secured and, more importantly, assured. What lies in store for the aristocracy of Madrid remains to be seen.

Takeaways from the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final- what the world is talking about

It was neither Gareth Bale’s double, nor Real Madrid’s hat trick of winning Europe’s premier competition that became the most talked about incidents from the 2018 UEFA Champion’s League final. Since the showpiece in Kiev, the most talked about incident has probably been Mohammed Salah’s injury in the hands of Sergio Ramos and the unfortunate shenanigans of Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius. While my Facebook news feed was blowing up with emotional statuses about Mo Salah’s world cup chances, there was the disappointing conclusion that he might not win the Ballon d’Or this year like many had hoped. Thus, the hopes of ending the ending the two-man-show Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo has been running for the past couple years have basically gone up in smokes. But apart from quite possibly missing out from the most prestigious individual award of the footballing world, the fact that Salah might not make it to Egypt’s World Cup squad is devastating for Egypt. The African side has only qualified for the World Cup finals for the third time and naturally they were putting high hopes on their star player who played a pivotal role in their world cup qualifier campaign.

The foul play that caused Mohammed Salah’s shoulder dislocation was nothing but controversial. People were mostly unanimous in the opinion that Sergio Ramos intentionally dragged him to the ground along with him. There were some who admitted seeing the video replay that it was Salah who was grabbing tight to Ramos’ arm which naturally caused him to go down along with him but for the most part, people were furious at the Spain international. Even when fans of Real Madrid were asked how they felt about the Salah injury, many of them expressed their sympathies. Dibbo Pradip Roy is such a fan and he adamantly opined, “The tackle wasn’t intentional and the replay clearly shows that. As a supporter of the opposing side, I have to admit that his absence might have helped us because Liverpool had much of the possession in the first half. As a fan of the game though, I feel sorry for Mohammed Salah. He is certainly an amazing player and the momentum totally shifted due to his injury. The game would have been more competitive and entertaining if he was on the pitch the whole time. In the end, we all want a good game of football, don’t we?”

The Real Madrid defender is no stranger to foul play. He has had many controversial moments (I’m not going to deny enjoying all the drama that goes on in La Liga. It is sort of my guilty pleasure.). I especially remember the time he infamously physically confronted Lionel Messi and his then Spanish teammates Carlos Puyol and Xavi Hernadez of Barcelona during a 2010 El Clasico showdown in which Real Madrid lost 5-0. Sergio Ramos has many red cards in his record due to his generally abrasive style of play but they have hardly ever caused such devastation that might be waiting for Egypt if Mohammed Salah does not recover in time to make it to the final 23-man world cup squad bound for Russia. The nations have until 4th of June to submit their final squad lists to FIFA authorities. Things are looking up now for Egypt though as the Egyptian Football Association has announced that Salah will be fit to play in the World Cup group stages. Egypt’s opening match is on 15th June against Uruguay and the second is against host nation Russia. Even if Salah does not recover in time for those two matches, he is sure to play in Egypt’s final group match against Saudi Arabia on 25th. A post on EFA’s Facebook page stated that he will not miss more than three weeks of World Cup action. As a Manchester United fan, I have never been one to feel sympathy for the Liverpool forward, but as a supporter of the underdogs in international competitions, I was certainly looking forward to seeing him in action in Russia as nothing but a well-wisher.

KIEV, UKRAINE – MAY 26: Loris Karius of Liverpool looks dejected following his sides defeat in the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

To highlight the dissatisfaction and widespread loathing towards the Madrid skipper after the final in Kiev, someone has actually started a petition calling for him to be “punished” and he has basically become Public Enemy No.1. The petition has reached over 217k signatures in less than a day and those did not belong only to Liverpool fans. An Egyptian lawyer has even filed a lawsuit for €1 billion against Sergio Ramos. The lawsuit is unlikely to ever reach the court but it goes proves how furious his countrymen were even though the Champions League final does not affect them directly.

For Liverpool fans, there wasn’t just the disappointment caused by Mo Salah’s injury, but to add salt to the wound, goalkeeping errors by Loris Karius messed up the entire game. Adding to the ultimate heartache of reaching the UEFA Champions League final for the first time in 13 years and with aspirations for a repetition the 2005 final in Turkey. But instead of a crucial match winning phantom goal, they were distressed by multiple goalkeeping errors by Loris Karius, by virtue of whom, Karim Benzema scored Madrid’s opening goal. Though, in the first half of the game he made a brilliant save when Christiano Ronaldo took a close range from inside the box which Karius deflected but Benzema immediately tapped in, only to be ruled offside by the linesman. Later Benzema got extremely lucky when Karius made the goalkeeping error of the decade. The situation was so utterly ridiculous that even one of the commentators could not help saying, “Unbelievable! Karim Benzema with a goal! Liverpool can’t believe it.” It was sheer dumb luck on Benzema’s part, but it served the purpose of completely demoralizing Karius.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane made it even for the Merseysiders and it seemed like they again were on the right track with Mane making another attempt by hitting the crossbar. But Gareth Bale came on as a substitute for Isco in the 60th minute and executed a magnificent bicycle kick to put the defending champions in the lead. The Welshman’s second strike was owing to another blunder by Loris Karius who barely made an attempt to stop the ball or so it seemed. This gaffe made him prone to a particular meme on the internet comparing Karius to a candy bar called “Butterfinger”. The immediate reaction by Liverpool fans were understandably furious but Karius was visibly in tears after the game. He had to be hauled to his feet after the final whistle by goalkeeping coach John Achterberg. As he made his way to the stands to apologize to the travelling fans, he could barely contain the flood of tears. The scene was heartbreaking for many Liverpool fans and they later took to the social media with consoling messages and Liverpool’s age old slogan, “You will never walk alone”. On the other hand, not all Liverpool fans were that forgiving. Twitter flooded with anguished messages like, “You deserve to walk alone from Kiev to Anfield” and “Karius out”. One Liverpool fan went as far as to even call him a Nazi on Twitter. It’s safe to say that he wasn’t mellowed by Karius’ tearful display of apology.

Loris Karius put up a public apology on his Instagram account where he wrote, “Haven’t really slept until now. The scenes are still running through my head again and again. I’m infinitely sorry to my teammates, for you fans, and for all the staff, I know that I messed it up with the two mistakes and let you all down. As I said I’d just like to turn back the time but that’s not possible”. Some fans accepted the apology but could not quite forgive him and asked him to never wear the team’s jersey again. Some were entirely forgiving and were standing behind him 100% and encouraged him to come back stronger next time, if there even is a next time for him at the Merseyside outfit. Liverpool fan Samin Yasar expressed pretty much the same opinion when he said,” I forgive him but this should be the last time he wears the (Liverpool) shirt. I am not particularly sad because of losing because the road to the finals was great and I am glad we reached it.” The media has dubbed Karius the “worst transfer mistake for Klopp” ever since the 5 time European champion’s unfortunate day. It was a day that also marks Jurgen Klopp’s sixth straight defeat in a cup final. His last win in the finals of a tournament came in 2012 when Klopp’s side Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in a 5-2 win in the German Cup final. He later went on to lose two finals to Bayern Munich, namely, both the 2013 Champion’s League (when it was an all-German final) and the 2014 German Cup finals. Klopp’s latest defeat has shed plenty of the limelight on his losing streak and has become a matter of discourse among most football fans who has been following his career for most part of this decade.

Real Madrid fans weren’t completely free of petulance though. As per Cristiano Ronaldo’s ill-mannered tradition at the end of each season, he again threw doubts over his future at Santiago Bernabeu.  Ronaldo declared “it was very nice to be at Real Madrid” following his club’s third straight Champions League title. Cristiano Ronaldo played hardly any role in their Champion’s League final win against Liverpool and instead of congratulating and celebrating the sensational strike by Gareth Bale, he decided to drop a bombshell and made headlines in all the local newspapers. The timing of Ronaldo’s remarks caused bewilderment and anger among the rest of the dressing room and as well as fans, with many feeling it was not the right time to air his grievances. “He does it at the end of every season”, Real Madrid fan Jubair said. ”He raises questions about his future at the end of every season just to raise his market value and salary and then makes it clear that he isn’t going to leave. But saying this just to get the limelight after winning the Champion’s League was a bit selfish. Maybe he did not think it through but he definitely should have.” he went on to add. Even Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was vexed at Ronaldo for his ill-timed statements but Ronaldo later said that he isn’t going anywhere during the squad’s victory parade.

Mo Salah – breaker of the Ballon d’Or duopoly?

Kaka. That explosive Brazilian was the last person to win the Ballon d’Or. The last person to pose a significant threat to a still-developing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Since winning football’s most prestigious award in 2007, the man became the most expensive signing in world football, had his career decimated by injuries and retired. During the 10 years when all that was transpiring and after his career concluded, nobody else has won the Ballon d’Or although some have come close.

Andres Iniesta — who recently received an apology from France Football, the organisation responsible for handing out the Ballon d’Or, for never having one bestowed on him — had perhaps one of the best shouts in 2010; scoring the winning goal in the World Cup, where he put on one virtuoso performance after another. He was also one of the lynchpins of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side of years past and had La Liga and a Champions league semifinal to his name to boot.

The closest contender to him at that point was thought to be Wesley Sneijder, a World Cup finalist and some would say the only creative outlet in Jose Mourinho’s Catenaccio-inspired Inter Milan side which went on the win the famed treble that year.

Yet, it was none other than Messi who won it for the 47 goals and 11 assists that he had picked up over 53 appearances. The biggest cog in the Barcelona machine despite not having scored a single goal as Argentina crashed out of the World Cup.

Fair or unfair, the reality that he won the 2010 Ballon d’Or reiterated the grim fact that performances alone were simply not going to be enough to win the award. In fact, many of the Ballon D’or’s critics would argue there has never been a consistent criterion to the award- which makes it all the harder to win.

It is then a testament to Ronaldo and Messi that there have not been any obvious choices aside from them — barring Franck Ribery in 2012.

Despite years of waiting there has not been a name who can contend with two of football’s greatest based not only on impact, but also on the jaw-dropping numbers that those two have put up on a yearly basis.

Enter Mohamed Salah.

His 43 goals in 47 appearances put him above both Ronaldo (42 goals in 40 apps) and Lionel Messi (40 goals in 50 apps) but, more importantly, the Egyptian has been doing it all for a Liverpool side punching well above their weight in Europe and, what’s more, he has been doing it from the start of the season.

After all, those are the differences to be considered between Messi and Ronaldo aren’t they?

Where Messi hit the ground running and sealed a potentially undefeated La Liga title for Barca by Christmas, Ronaldo only picked up in January and, in the process of proving that rumours of his decline were greatly exaggerated, scored by the bucket load and led Real Madrid, almost single-handedly, into the Champions League semifinals with a goal in each and every match of the campaign save the first leg at the Allianz Arena, tipping the scales of the Ballon d’Or in his favour.

In the meantime, Salah has done both. Not only has he been a driving force behind Liverpool’s run to the Champions League semifinal, he has also been the centerpiece of Liverpool’s run into the top four of the Premier League.

The only thing that may throw a spanner into the works, of course, is the World Cup. Egypt will have a tough time making it out of a group featuring hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. If they do, they will have to face either Spain or Portugal, both sides that should, on paper, defeat Egypt.

However, should Salah either make it to the quarterfinals of world football’s showpiece event or if Ronaldo and Messi fail to make it deep into the tournament, the choice should be simplified.

Salah does not deserve to be judged by his team’s failures. He does not play for one of the best sides in club football nor does he represent a country in good standing in world football. He is a one-man show for Egypt and their qualification to the World Cup is a success in itself, bolstered by the fact that he was his nation’s top goal-scorer in qualifying.

His heroics for Liverpool have given them a season no fan could have fathomed at the start of the season. So while the debate rages between Ronaldo and Messi, Salah has every chance to break the duopoly that has gripped world football for a decade and it is possible that despite a potentially disappointing World Cup campaign, he will. And it would be deserved.

The diligent Frenchman: legacy of Arsene Wenger

It all started in the fall of 1996 when a fairly unknown French gentleman took the helm of the football club at Highbury, North London. One newspaper famously wrote the words,”Arsene who?”

Now, 22 years later, as he is about to let go of the reins, there is not a fan of the game who does not know the Arsenal manager. Deserving so, because this is the man who gave English football the Arsenal team of 2003-04 which earned the nickname “The Invincibles”. I was born the same year Wenger took the job so some of my earliest memories of watching football was this season in which Arsenal earned the title by remaining unbeaten for 38 matches in the league. Those were probably the best of the Highbury days.

When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996, he was a man ahead of is time. As fate would have it, he leaves now after 22 years of reign as a man out of step with the game. For Arsenal fans at least, it is a bittersweet moment. Many fans and experts would suggest that the appropriate time to step down was five years ago. Some would say it is a harsh assessment for a man who has given his club so much, but the it is hard to imagine that deep down the 68-year doesn’t know it as well. It’s true that he was the architect of both the bad and the good and was the mastermind behind both 1998 Double winning team and the 2004 “Invincibles” but statistics and trophy tallies don’t quite capture his influence because the qualities which made their beautiful fluid play has been absent from their game for the best part of the past decade. It was barely the shadow of the teams which brought out the flair and steel, determination and the breathtaking brilliance of the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.

Despite Wenger’s legacy being tarnished in the recent years and despite being someone who supports a rival team, I feel it necessary to profess my respect and admiration for him. The former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has been leading the praises by calling the Frenchman “without doubt one of the greatest Premier League managers.” ‘

Indeed that is how many football fans feel as well.

When asked about how he felt about the retiring Frenchman, Bobby, a local Manchester United fan said, “Just like Sir Alex, he was a legend to his club, and deserving of being in the top 5 world’s greatest managers. Personally I’d say he was number 2 to Fergie”. He went on to add, “It was sad the way his fans called for him to go. Very sad”. Wenger himself said that the lack of “unity” among Arsenal supporters was “hurtful” to witness and says fatigue did not motivate his decision to leave. Many Arsenal supporters have been calling him out to resign for years. In recent months, some fans have even opted to boycott the home matches to send a sign of discontent with their club’s lack of success in recent years.

With the whole football community now looking back on his career with all of his achievements and failures, I cannot help reminiscing the days of intense but fantastic rivalry between Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger which are the stuff of legends. Both built fiercely competitive teams, which remain arguably the best the Premier League has ever produced. But while Sir Alex timed his United exit to perfection in 2013 after guiding the club to a 20th league title, Wenger might have stayed on too long. They say you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.

Today is the last time Wenger plays at Old Trafford, the last time he walks out of that low tunnel into football’s most magnificent theater. His last trip to Old Trafford, which is the ground where so many of his career defining moments took place apart from Highbury and The Emirates, will certainly offer some emotional triggers. A place of such great battles- and with it, there may come the realization for Wenger that this is the beginning of the end.