The Art of Defence

Defence is an art that the best coaches in the world consider more important than any other aspect of the game. Covering positions, making timely tackles and even springing the offside trap well is key to stopping teams from scoring. After all, what good is a team that can’t defend a 2 or 3 goal lead even.

It was the Italians who decided to take it upon themselves to make defence an art-form, moving away from the physical aspect of defending and bringing in technical prowess. Until the Italians brought finesse into the picture, defending was all about out-muscling the opposition and crunching tackles.

It was the capability to constrict space and restrict movement that led to the rise of the Catenaccio style of play.

HELENIO HERRERA

Not many may remember his name but Helenio Herrera was a French-Argentine player and, later, manager who was one of the biggest names in football coaching during the mid-20th century. Having played for teams like RC Casablanca and Stade Francais, Herrera retired from club football in 1945.

Herrera took up coaching and moved to Spain, where he became the team manager for Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, CD Malaga and even the likes of FC Barcelona. It was after his stint for Barcelona, in 1960, that Herrera moved to Inter Milan.

THE RISE OF THE CATENACCIO

It was during his stay at Inter Milan that Herrera decided to modify the way his team defended. He shifted to a 5-3-2 formation to improve his counter attacking style of play. A firm believer in hard work and strong work ethics, Herrera was known as the pioneer of psychological motivational techniques including team pep-talks.

Herrera also introduced the no-smoking & -drinking policy as well as controlling the diet of his players to make them true professionals. Herrera was also known to suspend a player for telling the media, during a press conference, “We came to play in Rome” instead of “We came to win in Rome”.

A hard man, Herrera was slightly defensive in his playing style although his form of the Catenaccio was not as defensive as some the future mutations of the formation, when applied by Italian architects.

One of Herrera’s full-backs, the great Giacinto Facchetti, was testimony to the attacking style of Herrera’s Catenaccio that prevailed in that Inter Milan team. The team was built around the defence, with its main role being to absorb the pressure from the opposition before launching lightning-quick counter attacks.

Using his wing backs to overlap the midfield, Herrera completely transformed the way the world looked at attacking football. Not giving away too much at the back, the team became famous for squeezing out 1-0 wins, leading to the nickname Verrou, meaning “Door Bolt”.

HERRERA’S LEGACY

Known as “Herrera’s Inter”, the team would go on to win the 1963, 65 & 66 league titles, the 1964 & 65 European Champions Cup as well as the Intercontinental cup in both those seasons. Herrera also became the first coach to go on and coach three separate national teams, ending his career with a 48.57% winning record.

In his 908 games as a manager, which included teams like Inter Milan, AS Roma, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and CF Os Belenenses, Herrera lost just 241 games while drawing 226. In his 12-club coaching career, Herrera ended with a negative goal difference only three times – with Real Valladolid (-21), AS Roma (-1) and Rimini (-22). Each team was too weak at the time although Herrera did transform Roma into a championship winning team, getting the 1969 Italian Cup with a sub-standard line-up and his famous Catenaccio style of football.

THE “DOOR BOLT”

Unlike popular conception, the Catenaccio was not built to shut out opposition. The entire concept of play was to allow the opposition to attack, relentlessly even, before suddenly attacking on the counter. The team would play with five at the back, in a “V-shaped” formation, with the Libero or sweeper at the centre. As the opponents entered the “V”, their attack would be narrowed down, restricting movement and space.

Once the ball changed possession, the defending team had a wingback on either side, already ahead of the advancing opposition’s midfield. That meant that the team could now push out, rapidly, by playing the ball out to these wingbacks, who would have loads of space to exploit.

EARLY MUTATIONS

While the Catenaccio was, itself, a mutation of the 5-4-1 system invented by Karl Rappan for the Swiss national team, the formation underwent a lot of transformation itself. Teams reverted to the original “Rappan-style” by playing the sweeper just in front of the goalkeeper and stationing a flat back-four in front.

Nereo Rocco, coach of Calcio Padova in the 1950s, was another who exploited the system. With three-flat defenders who man-marked the opposition, Rocco would play a playmaker in the middle, just ahead of the defence, alongside two wingers. While these three weren’t the actual midfield, Rocco’s style would use the sweeper behind the central defence as well, to double-team the stronger players.

The midfield would be in front of these three, with a solitary striker up front, leading to a 1-3-3-3 formation.

While Herrera also focussed on man-marking with four of his defenders, his defence was flexible in that it swung from right or left to make it a flat line on most times. This meant that four defenders, aid by the midfield, would effectively man-mark the opposition, which had already been herded through the middle. That left the remaining fifth defender – always a wingback, free to make runs on the counter.

ENFORCED DOWNFALL

Catenaccio had become the flavour of the month, in the 60s and 70s, catching the fancy of every coach on the world scene. However, it was one man who’s style of play brought Catenaccio to its knees – Rinus Michels.

When faced with the tight man-marking of the Catenaccio, Michels decided to remove the whole concept of playing footballers in fixed positions. He removed the boundaries that separated attackers, midfielders and defenders, teaching all his players to play in all positions. As attackers fell back to the midfield, or even defence, their man-markers were unable to leave their posts and follow in pursuit.

The fact that Michels had the crop of players that he did, to implement such a technique, was the only reason Total Football became a reality.

Catenaccio was no longer the primary choice anywhere as Total Football, or replicas of it, began dismantling defences with their speed and movement. Mediocre coaches, who followed rather than researched, were left with no choice but to fall to the wayside.

CATENACCIO MODIFICATIONS

Coaches who preached the Herrera principle looked to counter Total Football with a modification to the Catenaccio’s man-marking formula. The answer was quite simple, in theory – Zona Mista.

The Zona Mista was a concept that incorporated man-marking and zone-marking into one strong defensive strategy. While the concept still used the four man defence with the roaming sweeper, the difference was in the way the midfield and the fullbacks supported the defence.

The two central defenders, in the heart of the defence, would play zone-marking. The midfield would have a defensive midfielder, who was required to help out the defence by falling back. A central midfielder would play in front of the defensive midfielder while a winger (usually on the right flank), would support in attack.

Two strikers would play up front, one on the wide left, with one in the centre. The position of the wide striker was determined by the position of the winger – both being on opposite flanks. The winger would act as an additional striker while the wide striker would float in to make it a two-pronged attack.

When defending, the wide striker would come in to cover for the central midfielder as the latter would drop into a defensive position.

ZONA MISTA IN REAL LIFE

Italy – 1982

The most famous application of this formation was in the 1982 FIFA World Cup when Italy went into the tournament with this brand new style of football. Gaetano Scirea played the role of the sweeper to perfection while the attacking left back was a young 18-year old, who would later go on to become one of the greatest defenders of all time – Giuseppe Bergomi.

Gabriele Oriali played as the defensive midfielder, just in front of Fulvio Collovati and the man who stopped a young Diego Maradona – Claudio Gentile. Marco Tardelli played as the central midfielder while Bruno Conti was the creative genius behind Italy’s Zona Mista success.

While Antonio Cabrini played at the front wide position, it was Paolo Rossi who came into the main striker’s position.

Italy’s success led to an increased use of the Zona Mista although the application remained mostly in the Italian leagues. Teams, in Europe, found it hard to beat this fantastic combination of man- and zone-marking, keeping the Italians ahead of the rest. However, there was always the need of a great striker to take care of the few chances that this format would create – something that most teams lacked.

Italy – 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004

More recently, Cesare Maldini employed the Catenaccio form of play in Italy’s 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign. Needless to say, Italy played defensively, without creating too many waves, eventually getting kicked out in the Round of 16, through penalties. His successor, Giovanni Trapattoni, also employed the same tactics in the 2002 FIFA World Cup as well as in the 2004 European Championships.

In both cases, Italy failed to make any significant progress although Trapattoni would go on to prove his critics wrong by leading Portuguese side, Benfica to the league title.

Dino Zoff, whose team successfully used the Zona Mista in 1982, was the Italian coach in Euro 2000 when Italy went in with the same tactics. This time, Zoff managed to take the team to the finals of the tournament, losing to France through a Golden Goal.

Greece – 2004

Greece used the same format under Otto Rehhagel, at the 2004 European Championships, and successfully so. Greece won the title with numerous 1-0 wins through the knockout stages, all thanks to a heavily defensive style of play.

BAD PUBLICITY

The Catenaccio was often on the receiving end of criticism from the rest of Europe primarily due to the boring style of football that it promoted. The Italians were said to have made the game “unattractive” however practitioners of this form of football always had results to further their faith in the system.

In most cases, the reason behind the criticism was said to be the inability of most teams to break down such defences, especially in crucial European ties, leading to a loss or a draw that they could ill-afford.

THE MODERN DAY SCENARIO

Catenaccio is a dormant formation today. With both man-marking and the sweeper position going out of style, what with the faster pace and television coming into the picture, teams are rarely known to implement such a format today.

You may see the odd variation of this formation when weaker teams go up against stronger opposition however the success of the Catenaccio or the Zona Mista is largely dependent on the quality of the defenders and the wingbacks.

The more physical format of the Catenaccio finds few followers even in the technical format of the Italian league while other formations, such as the 4-1-2-1-2 (midfield diamond) and even the 4-3-2-1 (Christmas tree) formations can be attributed, albeit loosely, to the Catenaccio.

Teams that go down a man or more, are also known to exhibit similar playing patterns although the true form of Catenaccio remains buried under a pile of demands for attacking play.

MISUSE OF THE TERM

In today’s scenario, you often find commentators, even some pundits, refer to the Italian game as the Catenaccio style of football. The latest example was the game between Barcelona and Inter Milan, at Camp Nou, during the second leg of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Unfortunately, Jose Mourinho’s tactics were nothing like the Catenaccio style, albeit defensive. Down to ten men, Inter simply held a lower midfield to aid their defence, nothing more. They did was what needed and even Barcelona, with all their firepower, couldn’t break through. It has to be said that while Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing, there was absolutely no connection with the Catenaccio style of defence.

Commentators, especially Englishman, are known to refer to the Italian defensive style of football as Catenaccio, irrespective of whether the team follows the format or not. Catenaccio has become synonymous with defensive play although few understand the true meaning of the term, sadly, even the pundits make mistakes.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Italy were down to 10-men while playing Australia in the Round of 16. They defended heavily until a winner came in the form of a Francesco Totti penalty, late in the game. An English newspaper, “The Guardian”, famously wrote, “The timidity of Italy’s approach had made it seem that Helenio Herrera, the high priest of Catenaccio, had taken possession of the soul of Marcello Lippi.”

What the reporter failed to notice was that 10-men Italy were playing in a 4-3-2 formation which was just a man short of the regular 4-4-2 that they had started with – Daniele De Rossi, the midfielder who was dismissed.

THE FINAL WORD

Like all good things, Catenaccio also had to come to an end. With its end, like with everything else, rose many new formats that are, till date, being practiced by coaches around the world. While the Catenaccio may have been laid to rest with the modern day television’s demand for exciting football, coaches will always fall back to their learning of this system when struggling with their backs against the wall.

Until the next time a British commentator mentions “Catenaccio” in the wrong place, Happy Defending!!!

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Soccer Transfer News Update – Hleb Joins Barca Ronaldinho Signs For Ac Milan

The football transfer market came to live once again this week with Spanish giants Barca announcing the capture of Arsenal’s Midfielder Alexander Hleb and the release of Brazilian Ronaldinho to Ac Milan of Italy.

The Release of Ronaldinho is interesting because of the simple fact that his transfer means the end of an era at fc Barca and most importantly it makes the return to football of one of the greatest talents and personality in the game after a long time out due to injury, thirdly it leaves my dearest club ( yes I am a gunner fan ) Arsenal and we the fans wondering whats going on with our dear club , fourthly it ends Ac Milan’s interest in Arsenal’s Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor and also leaves Manchester City Fc ruing their miss after a long and interesting struggle for the signature of ever smiling Ronaldinho.

The capture of Ronaldinho by Ac Milan despite the fact that he has not seen action for a very long time due to injury confirms the fact that he is one of the best players to have ever played the game of football.

Ronaldinho 28, still look very young and on his way to greatness in the game of football ( Americans call it soccer ). Barcelona spotted and signed the then 23 year old from French giants PSG five years back. He was supposedly the number 2 to David Beckham before the Briton decided to join Barca’s Arch rivals Real Madrid.

He joined Barca at a time when things was tough as they have just managed to qualify for the Uefa cup after finished 6 in the La Liga that year. He joined new coach Frank Rijkaard in the job of the transformation of the clubs dwinding fortunes.

Of course he succeeded in his mission as Barca finished second place behind Real Madrid the following season and went on to win back to back titles and the Uefa champions League beating Arsenal in the final a year after.

His feat did not go unnoticed as he was courted by Real Madrid and Fifa could also not ignore his brilliance as he was name the FIFA world footballer of the year.

But ever since things have gone from good to bad and from bad to worst for the Brazilian but now he has a great chance to start a revival of sort with Ac Milan.

As for Dear Arsenal, the news of the departure of Alexander Hleb adds to the growing list of the departees after Ac Milan had earlier stolen Mathieu Flamini right under our nose and the departure of Brazilian Gilberto Silva to Greece .

Although Hleb’s transfer to Barca does not seem to surprise any one as it is very obvious but whats a surprise is why does the players who almost won the league for Arsenal in a breath taking way suddenly hate the club. It doesn’t even end there as it is very possible that Emmanuel Adebayor may be also on his way out of the Emirates as he has declared his intention to join some other clubs if Arsenal can not agree to his ridiculous and selfish demands although one wonders if Milan who are the clear favorites to sign the Togolese will still be interested after the capture of Ronaldinho.

The capture of Ronaldinho leaves Adebayor hoping Barca will regnite their interest in him. But Unfortunately media reports has it that Barca have decide to abandon their pursuit of the Togolese preferring to sign Tottenham hotspur’s Dimitav Berbatov instead. Barca’s interest in Berbatov will sure be a thing of concern for Manchester United’s Manager Sir Alex as he was also hoping to add the tall striker to his striking force.

With Gilberto also gone and Adebayor one leg in one leg out, it does confirms Arsene Wenger’s concern earlier in the summer when he said his greatest concern was not to buy new players but to keep the ones he already has. It does also looks as though as he is losing the battle to keep his players as the players seem to look elsewhere for other challenges in their careers.

As for Manchester City FC and their new Manager Mark Hughes who were hoping to lure Ronaldinho to the eastland stadium are now shocked to know Ronladinho prefers to sign for Milan for a reason that is very obvious- Champions League football. Even though Milan will not be contesting in the Champions League this term but then they have a greater chance to qualify in the future than does Manchester City who can only struggle and hope for Uefa cup appearance.

Now that Ronaldinho has signed for Ac Milan, it will be interesting to know who Manchester City and their ever ambitious manager Mark Hughes will be signing with the £25 million that was rejected by Ronaldinho and Barca.

The transfer of Hleb and Ronaldinho to Barca and Ac Milan respectively could lead to a large scale moment of players from one club to another as it looks as though Milan and Barca mean business after the bad season the last time out. Hleb’s transfer leaves Arsene Wenger with the headache of looking for a replacement for Hleb even though he has got Nasri and as for Manchester City it will be difficult to attract the kind of players who will get them breaking into the big four in the English Premiership in the coming season though they are ambitious but I still do not believe they will be attractive enough to get players of the capacity of Ronaldinho at least not for this season.

All football fans are invited to join one of the best and fastest growing football forum on the internet.

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London 2012 Olympics: Taiwan – Report An Olympic Land: 1960-2012

The Power of the X Chromosome: Chi Cheng

If 1968 was the year that put Taiwan back on the sporting map, Chi Cheng was the face that place it there. In that Olympian year, she was one of the world’s three top hurdles by earning bronze in the women’s 80-meter hurdles during the track-and-field competition in the Mexican metropolis –staged at 7,349 feet above sea level. The event was dominated by Eastern Europe and the States.

After securing her country’s second Olympian medal and becoming the first Asian woman in history to accomplish that feat, she gained a special status in her homeland and her name was immortalized on national stamps by the island’s rule. Indeed, it was an important success for the small nation that had not won a medal since 1960. Women’s sport was relatively rare among Asian states during this period (with the exception of Japan).

Over a sporting career that spanned more than seven years, she won a number of international medals inside and outside Taiwan and her “biggest fans” were boys and girls in those wonderful years. From the beginning, she easily broken the national records.

Due to her perseverance,discipline,talent,and patriotism, this California-based sprinter received high praises from internationasl experts and Olympian journalists. By 1971,they crowned Chi Cheng as the “Best Athlete of the world” (surpassing Edson do Nascimento, the top-class footballer from Brazil).

Unequivocally, Chi Cheng was one of the two most popular women on the island, alongside former First Lady Soong May-ling (or Madame Chiang-Kai-shek), an American-oriented woman who had won important financial aid to her country during the early decades of the Cold War.

In Asia, Africa, Latin America, only 15 countries have had world record holders— among them China, Cuba, Brazil, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Iran, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, Uganda, and Taiwan. On July 12, 1970, Chi Cheng, a born-hurdler, confirmed her international stature by breaking the women’s 200-meter record in the Federal Republic of Germany, with a time of 22.44 seconds, becoming the first sprinter from Asia to do so (up to now) and reviving flashes of Taiwanese’s brilliant past.

Throughouther his athletic career, this track star produced six national/continental records in different events at home and abroad. Incredibly, she set four international records in the space of 17 days -No other sportswoman from that continent had ever established 4 regional marks in less than three weeks. On July 12, 1970, she enhanced her growing fame when she had a new Asian record of 12.93 seconds in the women’s 100m hurdles, becoming one of the Planet’s top hurdlers at that year. In the same day, she generated a new mark in the 200 meter-dash. Less than a week after, by Jul. 18, Chi Cheng followed that with other historic record in the 100 meter-dash with a time of 11.22 seconds (which still unbroken). Nearly two weeks after, by the end of July, she caused a plash by establishing another record in the 400m race with a mark of 52.56 seconds. Besides all that, the world record holder also had regional marks in the long jump and 80m hurdles. On the other side, she also was part of the country’s 4×100-meter team.

By the end of 1972, the nation’s second greatest athlete was the highest hope for a medal in the Games of the 20th Olympiad in Munich ( Federal Republic of Germany). Chi Cheng had been named as one of the members of the country’s Olympic national team. Soon afterwards, she, however, did not take part in West Germany. Around this time, the world record holder announced her retirement from sports after some injuries. For a brief time afterward, by 1975, in the International Year of the Woman, Chi Cheng was widely regarded as one of the world’s most prominent sportswomen, alongside Martina Navratilova, Liudmila Tourischeva, Shane Gould and other world-class champs.

Dark Horses

After Chi Cheng’s Olympian experience on the Latin American continent, the Asian republic has produced high-profile Hollywood figures such as Ang Lee and Tsai Ming-liang, or Nobel Prizes as Lee Yuan-tseh and Daniel C. Tsui, but it can not produce world titles and global records in spite of being one of the most powerful economies on Earth and one of the Continent’s major liberal democracies.

Gone are the days when the country’s athletes established world records. Fortunately, however, there is an important athletic potential that should receive major attention -for example: The national youth side gave Taiwan a shock win over the USSR (now Russia) at the 1989 Women’s Volleyball Junior World Cup in Lima, on Peru’s Pacific coast).

Country Background. Education: A Key To Taiwan

The entire Asian country is little bigger than Maryland (U.S.). It is located between East and South China seas. Its capital is Taipei, one of the most modern and spectacular cities in the continent. Twenty-five million people live on the island.

Owing to its status as an unrecognized country by United Nations since the early 1970s, the Asian republic has had many hurdles as a member of the global community. On the international stage, it is only recognized by 23 states from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Pacific. Traditionally, the island has a rocky relationship with the Chinese mainland.

Under an ambicious and multi-billion educational project backed by its Constitution (“Expenditures of educational programs, scientific studies and cultural services shall not be, in respect of the Central Government, less than 15 percent of the national budget…”), this East Asian country paved the way for a prosperous society. Following over two decades of troubles, the project began to pay off as Taiwan to become one of the most influential and dynamic economies in Far East after having been one of Asia’s poverty-ridden countries throughout the 1950s.

Unequivocally, the building of its education system has been one of Taiwan’s biggest success stories. In fact, its educational program and economic model has inspired most of the republics of the Third World and other regions on Earth, from Botswana and Mauritius to Chile and Thailand.

Since the year 2000, it is a democracy (one of the world’s newest democracies) following a period of authoritarian regimes. On the other side, women’s rights on Taiwan are among the most advanced in the West Pacific.

Taiwan At The 1960 Italy Summer Games

For the 1960 Games, the national contingent arrived in Rome to begin its participation, but the delegation was the center of controversy when was forced to compete under the banner of Formosa (a name designed by Portugal’s explorers in 1544) instead of the “Republic of China”. Since then, this changed of name was subjected to worldwide criticism. During the Parade of Nations of the Games of the XVII Olympiad, the country’s Olympic Committee also protested.

After a good performance in the early 1960s, the national delegation made a trip to Japan to take part in the 1964 Games. On that occasion, its ill-equipped team did not win medals. From 1964 through 1968, it participated under the banner of Taiwan. Then, by 1972, the anti-Marxist state appeared as the Republic of China (ROC). Since 1984, nonetheless, it competes with the name of Chinese Taipei after an agreementing between Beijing, the island and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), marking the end of Taiwan’s isolation in the global sports arena.

Upon snaring a bronze in the world’s greatest sporting event in the United Mexican States four years earlier, the island’s sporting officials sent a 22-person delegation to Munich’72, participating in ten disciplines: aquatics (3 entries), archery (1), athletics (8), boxing (1), cycling (1), judo (4), sailing (1), shooting (1), weightlifting (1), and wrestling (1). Expectations weren’t high for the nation’s Olympian squad after Chi Cheng’s retirement.

Swimmer Hu Tung-hsiung was one of the 39 entries, among them Mark Spitz of the States, from 27 countries -from Singapore and Colombia to the Philippines and East Germany/German Democratic Republic (GDR)-who competed in the 200m butterfly. Before taking part in the multi-sport event, most of Taiwan’s sportsmen and women had attended the 1970 Continental Games in Southeast Asian nation of Thailand, where was one of the 12 top contingents.

Yang Chuan-Kwang: Breaking Stereotypes In The 20th Century

By the beginning of the 1960s, Taiwan produced a great champion in a time when the island –shapped like a tobacco leaf-was just one of the poverty-stricken countries on the Planet (with per capita GDP equal to most of Africa’s black republics) and also among Asia’s most unstable nations. His name: Yang Chuan-kwang, who represented most Taiwanese’s hopes for an Olympic medal in those years.

By 1963, this sportsman was focus of the attention of the world press: he was one of the first individuals from Asia to establish a world record with 8,089 points in the men’s decathlon, breaking the stereotypes of what makes a great decathlete.

Throughout most of his athletic career, Yang Chuan-kwang set several international records on the island and foreign soil, but he reached his peak as Chinese-Taipei’s decathlon champion when, on September 6, 1960, he won the nation’s first Olympian medal (and first medal in track) upon finishing second in the world’s greatest sporting event on Italian soil, after an epic showdown with America’s Rafer Johnson (who won the James Sullivan Memorial Trophy that year). That day, the audience had all eyes on Taiwanese Yang Chuan-kwang. In fact, his popularity throughout the 1960s added to Taiwan’s international fame. On the other hand, he was one of UCLA’s top athletes.

Historically, Yang Chuan-kwang was considered by several experts and sportswriters to be the island’s greatest native-born athlete. Furthermore, the islander was one of the first Aboriginal athletes to win an individual Olympic medal, along with Jim Thorpe of America. Curiously enough, the nation’s greatest sportsman was member of the Ami Indigenous tribe, one of Taiwan’s ten major tribes, well-known for its matrilineal society and their unique pottery.

Montreal 1976 Olympics: Stolen Dreams

The island was scheduled to participate in the quadrennial Games at Montreal (Quebec, Canada) in the mid-1970s. From the beginning, it had expressed its interest in competing in North America after being expelled from the 1974 Continental Games in Iran, but by July 1976, the Asian republic had difficulties to attend the Montreal Olympics when Canada’s Premier Pierre Trudeau -Beijing’s Cold War ally-refused to issue visas to the national delegation under the name of “Republic of China”.

Overnight, inexplicably, the Canadian rule defended its position in the face of criticism from Washington’s administration and Taiwan’s Latin American diplomatic partners. Owing to this, on July 17, 1976, the island’s uncontested leader, Chiang Ching-kuo, cancelled the Olympic participation rather than compete with the banner of Taiwan; just when some Taiwanese representatives had already arrived in North America.

Notable athletes lost the opportunity to compete in the multi-sport event in Quebec, such as regional champs: Tan Wwang (1500m), Tai Shih-jan (110m hurdles), Chen Chin-long (triple jump), Chen Ping-huan (javelin throw), Lee Chiu-hsia (800m, 1500, and 3000m), Lin Yet-hsing (100m hurdles and long jump), and Chen Fu-mei (400m hurdles).

Track and field Tai Shih-jan was one of the finest members of the country’s national squad in the Second Athetics Asian Championships, by June 1975, when he was two-time gold medalist by defeating national-class hurdlers from Malaysia, Japan, and Kuwait in the finals.

Throughout the 1970s, Tai Shih-jan was the top Taiwanese in the men’s 110m and 400m hurdles. Meanwhile, Lee Chiu-hsia was the Tournament’s most outstanding female athlete in Korea upon capturing three Asian golds following a hard battle against Masae Namba of Japan in the women’s 800m. Trying to qualify for the 1976 Montreal Games, Taiwan’s would-be star finished the event in 2 minutes and 8 seconds. Upon her wins as one of the greatest middle-distance runners from Asia in 1975, her fame spread beyond the nation. At the time, from 1974 through 1978, she was bitterly disappointing when the Asian Olympic Committee refused to allow athletes from Taiwan to attend the Asian Games in Iran and Thailand.

Lee Chiu-hsia had a great potential of becoming a world champ in athletics. Nevertheless, toward the end of the 1970s, her career was hit again when her dream of competing at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games did not come about. Why? The nation’s sports administrators refused to take part in the multi-sport event with the name of Chinese-Taipei.

A Tortuos Path: Taiwan Faced An International Boycott

In practice, Taiwan is viewed as a “hostile province” by Beijing since 1949 when the government of the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek established the island as the seat of the Republic of China. Under China’s pression, Taiwan’s international status as an Olympian nation was uncertain at the turn of the 1970s. The Asian republic was banned from international sports competitions around the globe, becoming an isolated nation on the sporting map, alongside Rhodesia’s racist regime (present-day Zimbabwe), South Africa’s white minority rule, and the Vietnamese-occupied Cambodia.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the Chinese administration on Taiwan was ousted from the world community of nations when it was replaced by the People’s Republic of China as a member of the United Nations. Throughout the 1970s, over 60 states severed diplomatic ties to Taipei’s rule, including Japan (on September 29, 1971), Thailand (on July 1, 1975), and Washington (on January 1, 1979). Also, the island was on the Kremlin administration’s black-listed of states where the Soviet athletes could not compete, alongside Pinochet’s Chile, Stroessner’s Paraguay and Park Chung Hee’s South Korea.

Unequivocally, the People’s Republic also banned its competitors to visit Taiwan until the early 1990s when two mainland Chinese basketball squads departed for Taipei to play local teams.

Within a span of two decades, the Taiwanese representatives were not allow to attend the Asian Games (Tehran’ 74, Bangkok ’78, New Delhi’ 82, and Seoul ’86). Although three countries –Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand-made common cause with Taipei, by September 1973, the island was excluded from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). It sent its top Olympic leaders to the OCA to argue their case, but they failed. Twenty years earlier, by the beginning of the 1950s, South Africa’s apartheid and Taiwan were considered “pariahs” by the International Table Tennis Federation.

By 1974, in Mexico City, the FIVB -the world volleyball’s governing body- was one of the major sporting organizations to break ties to Taipei after China’s admission. Inexplicably, the island was expelled by a vote of 54 in favor, 18 against, and 3 abstentions. In spite of these hurdles, the country’s sporting officials sent many athletic contingents to Taiwan’s diplomatic partners throughout the world. Within these years, for example, a swimming team -integrated by seven locals and five American-trained athletes- departed for Latin America. During their tour, they astonishingly gained a Buenos Aires meet, upon capturing twenty-two events. A couple of years earlier, the islanders came in third place at an Uruguay meet by bagging nine medals -behind America (40 trophies) and Argentina (15).

In anti-Communist times, the Taiwanese capital hosted the William Jones Basketball Cup; over 50 basketball teams, including Britain, Sweden and Bolivia, were offered an all-expense paid trip o Taipei to attend the international meet. Chinese-Taipei was also one of the first states in Asia to maintain close ties with the Spanish-speaking world. At the time, for example, two national coaches headed for La Paz to train the Bolivian national team for the 1977 Bolivarian Games.

Overcoming Obstacles

In an attempt to isolate the island, the Communist China had boycotted the Games in the space of three decades to protest Taiwan’s Olympic participation. But during Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, it -after an absence of 12 years- and the People’s Republic marched for the first time in the Parade of Nations. Thereafter, Taiwan was a pariah no longer.

By 1984, the Chinese mainland made its Olympian debut and the island its ninth appearance after competing at Los Angeles’32, Berlin ’36 – where the Taiwanese anthem was honored as the world’s best piece- London ’48, Melbourne ’56, Rome’60 (debut with the name Formosa), Tokyo ’64, Mexico ’68, and Munich’72.

In California, its international return this year could not have been better: Surprisingly, Taiwan won its first medal since 1984 as it was medalist in the weightlifting competition with Tsai Wen-yee. Unequivocally, he was the key figure behind Taiwan’s return.

As well as snaring a medal in the weightlifting event, the nation’s baseball got the bronze in the Demonstration Tournment. On this occasion, Kuo Tai Yuan became one of the top baseball players in Southern California.

To prepare for the 1984 Olympiad, Chinese Taipei’s baseball entered many international meets. A year earlier, they finished third at the 1983 Intercontinental Cup,which was held in Belgium, after having participated in the 28th Seoul World Tournament. Around this time, the baseball team departed for the Caribbean to attend a Cuba meet. On the other hand, this baseball-mad nation earned the Junior 1983 Global title – the nucleus of the country’s baseball squad at the 1992 Spain Olympics.

During the Los Angeles XXIII Games, Taiwan’s Olympic team was represented by 59 élite competitors (51 sportsmen and 8 women). On that occasion, there were islanders in more than a dozen disciplines: archery (6 entries), athletics (10), baseball (20), boxing (2), cycling (2), fencing (2), judo (5), modern pentathlon (1), sailing (2), shooting (3), swimming (5), tennis (1), weightlifting (4), and wrestling (2). Likewise, the national delegation was accompanied by thirty sports officials.

Following Taiwan’s participation at Los Angeles’84, the Asian athletes began its return to global sporting events, attending the Men’s Volleyball World Cup in Paris (France), between September and October 1986, where the national side placed 15th by defeating heavily favored Venezuela (runners-up at the South American Cup in Caracas) with a score of 15-5, 12-15, 15-10, and 15-3. Subsequently, the women’s basketball team headed for Moscow – the capital of the Soviet Empire– to attend the Global competition despite a troubled history between the island and the Kremlin. Soon afterwards, the hockey national squad was one of the competitors in the World Cup in Colombia. Likewise, for the first time a Taiwanese was medalist in the Junior IAAF Global Athletics Tournament in Canada when the up-and-coming Hui-Fang Nai got the bronze in the men’s long jump with a mark of 7,77m.

Summer Olympics in South Korea

At the 1988 Seoul Games, many Asian nations won individual medals (for example: Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, and the Islamic republic of Iran), but not Taiwan-one of the most disappointing results in its history. Its once flourishing athletic system had been in decline. Fortunately, however, its fighters, Chin Yu-fang and Chen Jiun-feng, obtained medals, gold and bronze, in the Taekwondo competition, which was introduced as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Olympiad.

In Korea, the baseball squad narrowly missed the bronze when they were one of the four best teams, among eight competitors in the demonstration event. By 1984, they got the bronze in the under-20 World Cup on Canadian soil and climbed even higher at the Senior Global Championship two years later, capturing the silver medal.

On September 25, 1986, the Taiwanese Olympic Committee was readmitted to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), after withdrawing 13 years earlier. Four years on, the sports leaders announced that the rule will allow their athletes to compete in mainland China with the name of “Chinese Taipei”. Shortly afterwards, on September 17, 1990, a 200-member contingent departed for the People’s Republic for the nation’s first attendance of the Asian Games since 1970. Then, there were 186 islanders at the First East Asian Games at Shangai. By 2001, Chinese Taipei’s 106 élite athletes departed for Beijing to attend the World University Games.

Chinese Taipei’s Baseball At The 1992 Barcelona Olympics

By 1992, the international governing organization for baseball ruled that professional players were eligible to participate in the Summer Games on Barcelonese soil. This decision favored to many countries with professional athletes abroad, among them Taiwan. In team sports, for the first time the nation won an official berth in the Olympiad when the baseball national squad won the right to represent Asia in the Barcelona Games in the Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Throughout Taiwan’s national passion, baseball –which was introduced by America- Chinese Taipei had one of its most memorable Olympics when it advanced beyond the first round and gained silver medal in the First Baseball Tournament in the 1992 Games, remembering the golden years of Taiwan’s baseball (1970s).

In Spain, they lose to Cuba (a long-standing competitor in the baseball world) in the gold-medal game-Taiwan’s first medal during Post Cold War (and team sports). Since then,the country’s baseball players majority had played in top clubs in the States. Liao Ming-hsiung was one of the most gifted players of the silver-medal-winning baseball team.

Prior to participating on Spaniard soil, this baseball-mad nation won several trophies, special awards, and medals in the Western Hemisphere, from the United States and Cuba to Canada: the Little League World Series twice in 1990 and 1991 after being runner-up in 1989 and winning the international title for the third time in a row (1986, 1987 and 1988). Aside from that, by the beginning of the 1990s, the islanders obtained a pairs of medals in the Intercontinental championship and the Junior World Cup. Thus, the Taiwanese contingent was regarded as one of the top contenders on Barcelonese soil.

Baseball is at the top of Taiwan’s list of favorite sports, followed by taekwondo. There are more than 720 baseball stadiums on the island. In fact, one of the most notable moments of the country’s baseball occurred in the early 1970s when the Asian republic became the second country to win back-to-back the Little League World Series.

Taiwan: Democracy & Sports

In spite of having one of the top Olympic centers in Far East -Tsoying National Sports Training Center and the Northern National Sports training Center — there was a lack of athletic progress in the Centennial Games staged in Atlanta, U.S. On that occasion, the nation’s sports administrators sent seventy-four islanders -among Taiwan’s largest delegations in the 100-year-history of the Modern Olympic Games– but their sporting squad only earned a silver when, on July 30, 1996, Cheng Jing, a former sportswoman from the People’s Republic, was second in the women’s table tennis singles, the nation’s first individual medal since 1984.

In the XXVIII Summer Games in Australia in 2000, Taiwan’s sport had a good performance after receiving five individual medals (one silver and four bronze)-just at a time when Taiwan abandoned its 50-year-old anti-Communist style one-party state. On this occasion, about 80% of the nation’s total medal count came from female Olympians.

Chinese-Taipei’s 2000 Olympic delegation was represented by a 74-member team with entries in a dozen disciplines: archery, athletics, badminton, diving, cycling, sailing, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwomdo, tennis, and weightlifting. On this occasion, the Asian republic did not take part at the Olympic Baseball Championship for the first time.

Taiwan: A Sleeping Giant in the World of Weightlifting

In Sydney 2000, the Taiwanese delegation won two weightlifting medals in the women’s Olympic tournament. On September 18, once more a sportswoman put the national flag on the Olympic stage as Li Feng-ying was runner-up in the women’s 53-kilogram category after beating Sei Indrayi of Indonesia. The next day, on September 19, the world-class lifter dominated the front-page headlines in Taipei. In the meantime, her fellow countrywoman Yi Hang-kuo earned a bronze in the 75-kilogram category. A few years ago, the women’s national squad made history in the 68th World Weightlifting Cup in Chiangmai, Thailand, when they were second with total of 817 points, behind only China (1,309 points).

The Asian republic took two taekwondo bronze medals in Oceania: Chih-Hsiung Huang, placed third in the men’s 58-kilogram category behind Greece’s Michail Mouroutsis and Gabriel Esparza of Spain (silver), meanwhile Shu Ju-chi was medalist in the women’s event. Aside from that, the island’s table tennis star Jing Chen came away with a bronze in the women’s singles, behind Nan Wang and Ju Li, both players from the People’s Republic. Chen had been medalist foru years ago.

Chun Mo-yen: A New Star In The Taiwanese Sky

At the Games of the 28th Olympiad in Athens, the 2004 national delegation picked up a total of six medals in two disciplines-Taiwan’s best performance in the 108-year-history of the Modern Olympics. On this occasion, sportswomen won two medals.

The island’s sports czars sent a 87-person contingent to Greece and competing in the following disciplines: archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, cycling, judo, rowing, shooting, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, and weightlifting.

Chinese-Taipei’ long dream of winning an Olympian title was realized at the 2004 Athens Olympics by gaining a pairs of individual golds with Chun Mo-yen (men’s flyweight) and Chen Shih-hsian (women’s flyweight), both titles were won in taekwondo competition. In fact, an important milestone in the development of Taiwanese sport. Through two major medals, they also contributed to give the island’s athletes more respect on the Planet. Historically, Taiwan is a powerhouse in taekwondo on Earth, having amassed 73 medals (14 gold, 23 silver, 36 bronze) during the World competitions -behind only South Korea and Spain.

Of the country’s eighty-seven elite competitors at Athens 2004, Chun Mo-yen was one of the favorites to capture a gold after capturing a gold in the 2003 Taekwondo World Cup. It was one of the most memorable moments of his life when the gold medal was placed around his neck, becoming the first male from Taiwan to win that honor. Immediately, there were celebrations on the island. Chun Mo-yen was a respect figure in the group of talented fighters that flourished in the first years of the 21st century. In fact, he is already national hero in his home nation.

The nation’s best previous finish in the Games were silvers at Sydney 2000 (women’s weightlifting), Atlanta 1996 (women’s table tennis) and Barcelona 1992 (men’s baseball).

Like in Azerbaijan (shooter Zemfira Meftakhetdinova), Colombia (weightlifter Maria Isabel Urrutia), Costa Rica (swimmer Claudia Poll) and the former Soviet republic of Estonia (cyclist Erika Salumae), a womam (Chen Shih-hsian) had the distinction of being the first individual from Taiwan to earn the Olympic title, paving the way for new titles.

In 2004, the baseball national side came in 5th in the Olympic Championship, behind Cuba (gold), Australia (silver), Japan (bronze),Canada (fourth) and ahead of Holland (sixth), Greece (seventh) and Italy (last) -having won the right to do so by capturing a berth in the Asian Tournament. The team was represented by star pro players, who had placed second at the 2002 Busan Asian Games after losing to Japan in the finals (4-3). A year ago, the national side obtained a bronze at the 34th Baseball World Cup. In Far East, this land is producing more talent players than any other nation after South Korea. Chinese-Taipei’s professional pitcher Wang Chien-Ming, who played for the New York Yankees, was one of the best players in the early 2000s.

London 2012 Olympics

During Beijing’s bid to host the 2008 Olympics, Taipei’s rule supported the Olympian project with sports exchanges with the Chinese mainland. By 2008, Chinese-Taipei’s sporting administrators sent élite competitors to Beijing. On that occasion there were national delegations in archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, cycling, judo, rowing, sailing, shooting, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, and weightlifting.

Its women’s national side was one of the eight competitors in the Softball Olympic Competition at Fengtai Sports Center, site of the Beijing Olympic softball events. The Asian Republic also gained an Olympian berth in the Baseball Tournament, alongside America, Canada, Cuba, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea (winner),and the host nation. In team sports, however, the women’s basketball team of Chinese-Taipei failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in the Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Chinese-Taipei’s 2008 Olympian squad earned only four bronzes: Chen Wei-ling and Lu Ying-chi (women’s weightlifting), and Chun Mu-yen and Sun Yu-hi (men’s taekwondo). Chun Mu-yen became one of the first national competitors to bag medals in two Olympics. On the other hand, Lai Sheng-jung was named as the flag bearer of the national contingent at the Opening Ceremony.

Two years earlier, the Asian republic had finished 10th in the medal count at the Continental Games in staged Doha (Qatar), ahead of Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s 2012 Olympian squad at London will be represent by elite athletes in more than a dozen disciplines: aquatics, archery, badminton, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, judo, martial arts, rowing, sailing, shooting, table tennis, tennis, track-and-field, weightlifting, and wrestling. By contrast, Chinese-Taipei will not compete in team sports after failing in the Continental pre-Olympics in basketball, field hockey, handball, soccer, and volleyball. Best medal chances are likely to come in disciplines such as archery, badminton, martial arts, and weightlifting.

At last year’s worlds in South Korea -the indisputed capital of taekwondo– Western Europe, the nation won a handful of medals with top-class competitors such as Wei Cheng-yang (taekwondo), Cheng Shao-chieh (badminton),and Huang Shih-hsu (weightlifting). In women’s singles, Taiwan’s would-be star Cheng Shao-chieh lost to China’s badminton player Wang Yihan in the gold-medal match at the BWF World Cup in England in August 2011. In the past months, the athletic delegation also obtained several trophies on home soil and abroad.

The 2012 Olympic delegation also might win medals in judo, shooting and table tennis. On the other side, at the Asian Games in Chinese mainland, a couple of years earlier, the national representatives amassed 67 medals (13 gold, 16 silver, 38 bronze), finishing 7th in the medal count. They were the nucleus of he country’s Olympian squad at the 2012 London Olympics.

In today’s globalised society, Taiwan has not foreign-born athletes on their Olympic delegations, being one of the few industrialized nations without foreign-born athletes on the Olympic stage.

camisetas de futbol baratas 2018

Lionel Messi: A Biography – A Genius of Soccer

From Carlos Gardel and Eva Peron to Maradona and Lionel Messi

“He (Lionel Messi) is the best player in the world by some distance”, Arsne Wenger, the coach of the F.C. Arsenal, has proclaimed of the five-foot-eight-inch tall, Argentine-born football star, “He’s (like) a PlayStation. He can take advantage of every mistake we make”.

As elsewhere in Latin America, much of Argentina’s sporting history has been dominated by football — known simply as soccer in the States– since the 1920s. After Argentina’s military strongman Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, a hated tyrant, declared top priority to win the FIFA Global Cup in the late 1970s, the nation’s footballers invaded the world with a host of global awards and trophies. On June 25, 1978, Mario Kempes and his fellow players lifted the winner’s Cup on home soil upon scoring an overwhelming win against a Peruvian team led by an Argentine-born goalkeeper (6-0) in the semis. Within a year, in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo, the South American contingent,spearheaded by Diego Armando Maradona, was regarded as the best junior team on the Planet at the expense of the former Soviet Union/USSR. Shortly thereafter, Argentina was one of the “huge favorites” in the men’s football tournament prior to joining the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. Three years on, its national side came close to winning the IV Junior Global Championship.

On June 29, 1986, Los Celestes, as the national squad is known around the globe, placed first in the FIFA Cup in the United Mexican States; One of the most memorable matches ever seen in World Cup history was played there as Argentina beat England–Maradona and his team-mates tried to win on the field what their countrymen had lost in the 1982 Anglo-Argentine Falklands War. Already, in 1990, once again Maradona put Argentina in the final of the FIFA Cup on Italian soil. In the space of six years, from 1995 through 2005, the national contingent was four-time winner of the Under-20 World tournament. It was around this time that name Messi appeared on the scene.

Argentine-born Messi,who is dubbed ” the Flea”, is a strong and powerful forward who plays both in FC Barcelona (since 2003) and Argentina’s national squad (2006).Curiously, he has spent his entire career in Spanish club (nearly 10 years), working in a variety of teams (Under-15, U-17, U-19, as well as other squads). Messi has become almost indispensable to his club (known popularly as “Barca”)-he is the backbone of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation. Nevertheless, he loves to play football with the Argentine side, having refused to be a member of the Spanish national team despite his strong links to European nation. As well as being an Argentine-born person, Messi, of Italian background, is a Spaniard citizen since the mid-2000s. From 2005 through 2011, Messi collected over seventy individual awards. Indeed, his success as a sportsman is largely due to his persistence and hard discipline. According to Paris-based magazine France Football, Messi is the world’s top paid footballer. Besides all that, the center forward —a soccer gold medalist in the 2008 Olympics– has gained international stature as a champion for the rights of children.

Although Lionel Andres Messi, known occasionally as “the ghost center forward”,is considered one of the greatest soccer players to have never won a FIFA World Cup (together with Ferenc Puskas from Hungary and Liberia’s George Weah), he is already one of the male athletes most famous on the global sporting map. In the Western Hemisphere, Messi, who is often compared to Maradona, has inspired thousands of young would-be footballers to follow their dreams,especially in poverty-stricken regions. But not only that, because of him more people know about Argentina –which has a long-standing history of man-made disasters— than ever before. On his home soil, his status is only comparable to three national celebrities: Argentina’s postwar First Lady Eva Perón -made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita— Maradona, and Carlos Gardel, nicknamed the “songbird of Buenos Aires” and who helped popularize tango around the world.

Lionel Messi: A Rough Diamond

Lionel Messi’s life changed forever when he was plucked out of the Spanish-speaking republic of Argentina by a talent scout to play for Barca, which is often referred to as one of the top clubs around the globe- it holds hundreds of millions of soccer fans outside its own borders, from Bangladesh and Guinea-Bissau to San Marino and the Feroe islands.

You cannot become a top sportsman (woman) if you don’t achieve notable results, if you are not a hard worker, and before all, if you are not able to overcome the obstacles in your life. In fact, Lionel Messi knows firsthand about this. Like his fellow Argentine Maradona, Messi is small who stands 5 feet 8 inches tallfor the position of forward, but he overcame this with a prodigious ability and exceptional intelligence on the filed, earning the nickname “Flea”. Over his athletic career, he also has defeated other hurdles: numerous injuries, especially during Rikjaard’s direction. Throughout his years as a boy, his country underwent one of the deepest recessions in the Americas. But this wasn’t all. Because of an illness, he almost gave up the sport. By 2008, there were troubles to send Messi to the Summer Games due to his dual citizenship and status as a professional footballer in Barcelona. Against club wishes, however, Messi,the greatest professional footballer of all time, arrived at Beijing with the Argentine squad (as a defending champion). In the Olympic arena, soon afterwards, he and his colleagues were champions, making history in the People’s Republic of China. Currently, Barcelona won’t sell Messi for anything in the world.

Messi bases his success on being able to offer a play based on passion, determination, hard discipline, and an exceptional ability. No player can ever be categorized as invincible in football world, but Messi is probably the most talented man ever to carry a ball. In all his matches, Messi plays as if were a game for the FIFA World Championship.

Rosario: The Birth Of A Footballer

Born in the Argentinian city of Rosario (Santa Fe Province), on June 24 1987 – a year after his country captured the FIFA World Tournament in the Mexican metropolis— Messi is one of the fourth children born to Jorge Horacio Messi and his wife, the former Celia Mara Cucittini. Curiously, he is one of the four most prominent individuals from Rosario, alongside Libertad Lamarque (performer), Valeria Mazza (supermodel),and César Luis Menotti (football coach).

His father had been a factory steel worker. In fact, Messi inherited his football genes from his father, who was coach during a brief period. Meanwhile, Messi’s mother is an admirer of notable people and wanted his children to have famous names. Celia Mara named his son Lionel after her favorite idol Lionel Richie, a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter whose pop chart-topping hits in the 1980s included “Truly”, “You Are”, and “All Night Long”.

Like most of Argentina’s sportsmen as Octavio Dazzan (cycling), David Nalbandian (tennis), and Manu Ginibili (basketball), Lionel reflects the Italian roots of his motherland. His father’s family is from Italy’s city of Ancona who came to the Latin American place during a large-scale European immigration at the turn of the 19th century. This Spanish-trained professional footballer, the high-scoring forward of Barcelona, has two brothers, Rodrigo and Matas, and a sister, Maria Sol. On the other hand, his cousins Maximiliano and Emmanuel Biancucchi are also soccer players.

His sporting life goes back to times when Messi grew up playing football in Rosario, a land famous for their athletic passion and hosted the World Championships for both professional and amateurs, including the Men’s Football World Cup (1978) and Men’s Volleyball Global Tournament (1982);Messi can take credit for that because he has been named official Ambassador for Rosario’s 2019 Pan American bid. Under this Olympic atmosphere, Jorge Horacio Messi made no secret of his ambitions for his son.

Like several Latino champs –among them Edwin Vásquez Cam (shooting) and Nancy López (golf) — Messi was introduced to sport by his father. Before joining the Newell’s Old Boy’s youth side, Lionel -when he was only 5 years old— played in the local team of Grandioli, where his father was coach. On that occasion, the smaller Lionel was a goalie on the football team. At the time, he had a lot of athletic skills, but not the technical skills. Shortly after, while Lionel demonstrated his talent in the under-10 competitions in his homeland and abroad in the middle of the 1990s, the Argentine boy, at the age of 11, was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Since then, prior to begin an athletic career as a junior player in the following years, he had to beat back an illness, whose treatment cost $ 900 a month. But in spite of this problem, his enthusiasm for football was unbelievable.

A Golden Opportunity

Recognizing Messi’s precocious talent, Carles Rexach, a sports administrator, promised him that FC Barcelona would pay his treatment if he decideto play for the famous club.The answer was “yes”, of course. As a consequence of this, Messi and his parents moved permanently to Barcelonese soil, a football-mad place. On that occasion, the youngster was sad to leave his home city. However, the Spaniard place had a special significance to Messi: There, on May 3, 1980, his fellow Argentine Maradona signed a six-year contract with the traditional side.

The travel proved to be a turning point in his life. In the capital and largest city of Spain’s Catalan region — one of Europe’s first class cities— Messi received a scholarship to play football in Barca’s athletic academy, alongside Xabi Alonso, Gerard Piqu, Andrs Iniesta and other boys. The Club’s Youth Academy (one of Western Europe’s major sports academies), was set up with one primary goal in mind: Scans up to 300 young talents and transform some of them into champions. The youth squads have always preoccupied Barcelona’s sports leaders. In recent decades, the Spaniard club sent scouts to Latin America looking for promising youth athletes.

As well as being the nation’s second largest city behind Madrid, Barcelona is a place that is tied closely to the Olympic Movement, physical activity and all of the values that sport represent in the 21st Century. This corner of the planet, host to the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, is an international grandstand with recreational spaces, sports academies, and state-of-the-art Olympian facilities on a par with other sporting cities such as London (UK), Singapore City, Doha (Qatar), Montreal (Canada), Dubai ( United Arab Emirates), and Los Angeles (CA). Additionally, it was home of Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, former Chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and among the world’s most gifted and influential sports administrators.

During a breakout year, after overcoming his illness, Messi, who was about four-foot-seven-inch tall, become one of Barca’s top male players in the Boys’ Division of the Spanish Football Championships. There, he had been outstanding throughout the event, scoring over 35 goals and setting numerous records for his age group. A couple of years later, under the aegis of Spain’s Club, Messi improved rapidly his play and was promoted to the junior team’s starting lineup, competing in the under-19 tournaments.

Encouraged by Frank Rijkaard

As a young teen, he got the first opportunity to used his talent as a member of Barca’s official contingent when he made his first appearance in the friendly against Porto on November 16, 2003. Following his initial impact, scoring 22 goals in the junior competitions, the up-and-coming Messi, by late 2003, was moved up to the reserves of the club: The squad “C”, prior to winning the right to play for Barcelona B side, a second division club. Messi, as a young athlete, acquired enough expertise to participate in senior soccer events, face-to-face with finest professional players from Europe and abroad. It was an excellent school for him, of course.

After watching his athletic performance in the traditional junior contests on Spaniard soil, Frank Rijkaard, Barca’s major coach at the time, put his eyes on Messi –perhaps his most famous pupil–and did not doubt that he would be the next greatest footballer on the Planet —Perhaps a Maradona. Nonetheless,the high-flying coach was not the first to be excited by the potential of Messi. On the other hand, Rijkaard backed up a number of young players, including Carles Puyol and Vctor Valds.

At the age of 17, Messi had a chance to show his athletic potential. Fortunately,he did not disappoint to Barca’s sports officials and soccer fans when he entered the highest level in Spanish championship, by passing many senior footballers and becoming the youngest player in the domestic soccer league. It was one of the greatest moments of Messi’s life on the soccer field.

Encouraged by his coach, Frank Rijkaard, Messi, months later, made his mark with the club by scoring his first senior goal against Albacete Balompi, becoming the youngest footballer from Barcelona to ever score in the domestic football league, among the world’s most competitive sports tournaments. By any standards it is a phenomenal achievement. In fact, Rijkaard made him the focus of the team’s new offfensive scheme. Later on, Messi spoke with gratitude about Rijkaard, “I will never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only sixteen or seventeen”. Without a doubt, he was considered one of the great prospects of the world football.

A Champion In the Netherlands

By the mid-2000s,Messi brought home his country’s fifth junior global title, considered a huge success in the South American republic; It was a history-making day for the Argentinean Football Association (AFA). Messi began his work with his homeland when Argentina’s sports officials called on him to join the 2005 junior World Cup team. Always a heavy favorite with the Dutch fans, the national side, sparked by Messi, came first in the global contest in front of the Amsterdam (Netherlands’ capital) crowd, an international sporting platform to numerous unknown footballers. Thereupon, Messi collected two special awards in Holland: The Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe.

Futbol Club Barcelona: 2005- 2006 Season

The breakthrough season for the team and Messi came in 2005-06. Three of Barcelona’s Spanish titles can be attributed to Messi: Domestic League, Cataluña Cup, and Spanish Supercup— beginning a new period of success for Spain’s most popular club and topping the TV sports rankings in the European nation. On that occasion, Messi also amassed three individual trophies.

On September 27, 2005,before a crowd of several fans and spectators at Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium (among the world’s major football stadia), star youngster Messi made his debut as a local player in the European League Championship (against Italy’s Udinese). He competed with Barca until his injury, six months later. In spite of playing without Messi, however, the club earned the famous Champions League, one of the four big international events on Earth, along with the Olympic Games (Winter and Summer), and the FIFA World Cup.

In the same year, the prolific scorer Messi was named as Europe’s best young player by Tuttosport (a magazine from Italy), gaining the Golden Boy Trophy, by passing several sportsmen such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

Curiously, Spain is home of one of the world’s largest populations of foreign-born athletes(along with France, Canada and the oil-rich Kingdom of Qatar) such as Eulogio Martínez (Paraguay, football), Nina Zhivanevskaya (Russia, swimming), Juan Domingo de la Cruz (Argentina, basketball), Glory Alozie (athletics, Nigeria), and Juan Pérez (Cuba, waterpolo). By the end of 2005, Messi was one of the last athletes to become a Spanish citizen (dual citizenship), making him eligible to play as a Spanish player in the National League.

FIFA 2006 World Cup

Historically, Argentina has the honor of being the third Third World country to capture the global contest after Uruguay (1930 & 1950) and Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002). Due to this tradition and thanks to its world-beating players on European soil, the Argentine football squad had become one of the top favorites to gain the 2006 FIFA Cup, but they finished sixth overall (ahead of three Europeans squads: England, Ukraine and Spain), after losing to host Germany in the quarterfinals. Immediately, Argentina’s soccer fans blamed José Pekerman, national coach, for the defeat against Germany. Why? Incredibly, Messi was excluded to play that game.

Certainly, Messi had dissapointed 2006. Although, he made his long-awaited debut in the World Cup as he led Argentina -two-time winner of the men’s football World Cup (1978 & 1986)– to win its first points following a triumph over Serbia-Montenegro (former Yugoslavia). In Germany, he played three of Argentina’s five football matches.

During the 2006 World Cup, Messi became Argentina’s most youngest footballer to attend the FIFA Cup. The following year,Messi and his fellow Argentine players finished as runner-ups to Brazil in the 2007 America’s Cup on Venezuelan soil.

Spain’s ‘Football War’

Throghout his 2006-07 season, Messi had become a regular player in his European squad, competing on equal terms with senior players and attracting huge numbers of interested fans. It was truly an inspiring moment. However, he withdrew from the Spaniard Football League due to an injury (a game against Real Zaragosa).

With better health and upon spending three months on South American soil, Messi went back to Spain, playing in the match between Barcelona and Racing de Santander. Soon after, he made a hat-trick when his club drawn 3-3 with Real Madrid, a match between the two most popular teams in Spain (better known as “The Clasico”). Since decades ago, these matches have been labelled the “Spain’s Football War”, attracting the largest average audience in the European country and numerous regions around the world, especially in soccer nations. In fact, it is a battle which is being won by Barca’s team in recent years.

Messi’s Hand of God Goal

As he entered his 20s, by 2007, he picked up a total of 14 individual trophies inside and outside Spain, a new personal record over his professional career. But this wasn’t all. Evoking the style of Argentina’s former star Maradona, Messi, was dubbed “Messidona” in the course of an impressive career as a sportsman.

During a never-to-be-forgotten game, on April 18, 2007, the Barcelonese club got two goals from Messi to defeat Getafe CF in the semis of the Copa del Rey; one goal inspired comparisons to Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God ‘goal against England’s squad at the 1986 Mexico City World Tournament — it appeared that Messi may have knocked the ball into the net with his fist. In fact, this was great news both for Barcelona and the whole country. Nobody could imagine this feat. His fellow player Deco said, “It was the best goal I have ever seen in my life”.

2007-2008 Campaign

Over the course of the season,Messi was in the spotlight as he was regarded as the world’s top footballer by experts, sportswriters, coaches, players, and sports administrators. Meanwhile, Messi was elected as one of the 14th Best Male Athletes in 2007 by a total of 422 AIPS (International Sports Press Association) members from 94 countries–ahead of South Africa’s rugby star Bryan Habana and Rafael Nadal, a tennis player from Spain.

After making a record in soccer world —scored five goals over a span of seven days– Messi helped Barcelona to become one of the four leaders in the first class Spaniard championship. He was the answer to their lack of versatility in attacking positions. In fact, he sees Barcelona through the eyes of a lover. Additionally, he scored also two goals in the UEFA Champions League. In beginning 2008, Messi celebrated his 100th match.

In March, the star athlete was forced to drop out of the Champions League because of an injury. Following over a month, he returned to the line-up, competing with Cristiano Ronaldo, considered among the globe’s finest footballers. Under Messi’s guidance, however, the Barcelonese club was eliminated from the European championship, showing the effects of his injury. Certainly, Messi had not a strong performance in this season, winning only two unofficial events (Beckenbauer Cup in Germany and Joan Gamper Trophy). In July of that year, on the other hand, Messi was appointed as the captain for the first time in a friendly match against Scotland’s Dundee United.

Subsequently, the Barcelonese soccer club paid tribute to Messi’s perseverance: Wearing the shirt number ten for the first time (historically given to the leading scorer), the number worn by former stars such as Romario Souza of Brazil, Hugo Sotil of Peru and Maradona, Messi began a new period in Barca, few weeks prior to 2008 the Summer Games.

Messi At the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Argentina earned its first soccer medal in the 1928 Amsterdam Games, after falling to Uruguay’s side in the gold-medal match. Then, the national contingent was asked to replace Uruguay in the 1976 Montreal Games, but it did not accept.

During the Centennial Games in the States, on August 3, 1996, the Argentine team was runner-up to Nigeria (sub-Saharan Africa)-matched its performance in the 1920s. In the 26th Olympiad, the silver medalists were Roberto Ayala, José Chamot, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Sensini and Diego Pablo Simeone, Ariel Ortega, Hernan Crespo, and Claudio López, among others footballers. Over the next years, by 2004, the Spanish-speaking republic placed first in the Athens XXVIII Summer Games upon their victory over Paraguay, a feat never before accomplished by a male squad from Argentina in the men’s soccer Olympic Cup.

Messi was Latin America’s top hope for a medal in the 2008 Olympiad. Nonetheless, there were troubles to send Messi to Beijing: his club did not approve his Olympic participation. After a long-running conflict between the Spaniard club and AFA (Argentinean Football Association), Messi was eligible to represent his nation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won his second major global event following a convincing triumph over Nigeria, one of the most extraordinary results in the history of the Olympic Championship. It was interesting to note that Messi was a great Olympian champ in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Unlike Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) -a long-standing senior player from Brazil– and Maradona, Messi has won an Olympic gold medal after Argentina defeated six countries in the men’s Olympian football championship in the Games of 29th Olympiad in mainland China, becoming the first world-class soccer player to win a trophy in the Modern Olympics since the early 1950s when Ferenc Puskas took the Hungarian team to its first Olympian title in the Finland Summer Games.

The Soccer Tournment included some strong names such as Brazil, Belgium, Holland,and Cote d’Ivoire.There, this Spanish-trained professional player also helped Argentina to win their second straight Olympic title; the nation’s fourth Olympian medal in men’s football. As well as earning the gold in the People’s Republic, Messi was regarded as one of Latin America’s foremost Olympic athletes. Nonetheless, his trophy was overshadowed by the wins of Michael Phelps, Usain Powell of Jamaica ( 3-time Olympic gold medalist ) and other champions.

2008-2009 Season

After being part of the Olympic gold-winning squad in 2008, Messi won the world’s best footballer by FIFA ( the world’s governing body of soccer ).

In beginning 2009, Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Racing de Santander was one of Messi’s most notable matches, scoring both goals in the last 45 minutes. Messi entered the match when its club was defeated (0-1), but he confirmed his international status when he was able to break down a Santander defense. During the game, Spain’s team made its 5,000 goal with Messi.

After making worldwide headlines on Spaniard soil, he was a key player when his club had a convincing 6-2 win over Real Madrid at Santiago de Bernabu Stadium in Spain’s capital city— Without a doubt, one of the greatest games of Messi’s athletic career. As has traditionally been the case, this a match attracted several neutral fans across the globe. Messi’s other important achievement was when Barcelona’s side finished first in the unofficial event Joan Gamper Trophy for the third time in a row. In 2008, he came away with 10 individual awards.

His Play Speaks For Itself

By the time the 2009-10 season, Messi brought about a sporting revolution at Barcelona. Astonishingly, his side won all the championships. For these wins, some experts and sportswriters believe he is better than Maradona and Pele.

Upon claiming five prestigious competitions —the Champions League, the UEFA Supercup, the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey), the National League, and the Spanish Supercup— Messi was able to lead Barcelona side to victory in the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the turn of the 2009, becoming Spain’s most popular person and making Barcelona one of the world’s most successful clubs in football history. Apart from winning these events, he collected over 15 individual awards in the Americas, Persian Gulf, and Western Europe: World Football of the Year, Alfredo Di Stefano Trophy, World Selection, Best Player in the Club World Cup, and Champions Trophy, among other trophies.

In April 2010, one of the most interesting statistics came from Messi when he became Barcelona’s first footballer to score four goals in the Champions League-all against Arsenal F.C. Likewise, he made a name for himself in soccer world as he was Barcelona’s top scorer in the Champions League ( twenty-five goals). Later on, Messi helped the club to capture the Spanish league, as well as winning two special trophies as the Best Player.

Spain: The Best Domestic Football

Not all of Messi’s play was acclaimed in 2010. Despite the optimism following Messi’s strong performance in Western Europe, Argentine side was eliminated by Germany (0-4), allowing it to secure a top five position in the FIFA Global Tournament;one of Messi’s most disapponting results in this period.

The men’s football team of Argentina departed for Africa in the quest of their third Global Cup. From the beginning, Los Celestes entered the 2010 South Africa World Cup as a front-runner to win the title. Prior to being eliminated in the quaterfinals, the South American nation had four wins: Nigeria (1-0), South Korea (4-1), Greece (2-0), and Mexico (3-1). Ironically, the Spanish national team won the Global Cup for the first time.

Although one of the most prominent sportsmen in this Century, Messi has not won a World Cup (2006 & 2010). In sub-Saharan Africa, his production was poor: He did not score a single goal. Up to now, his results pale in comparison with Maradona and Pele.

2010-2011 Season

In September 2010, Messi’s play captivated the audience, from experts and sportswriters to fans, setting new Spanish and European records. For the third consecutive time,the star player became top scorer in the Champions League. It was unbelievable. In the whole event, the sport’s greatest footballer was a “perfect machinery”. Spearheaded by its idol Messi, the Barcelonese club amassed two tournaments – The national tournament and then Champions League for the second successive year, sparking off celebrations in the Spaniard city of Barcelona. In the meantime, he gained the FIFA Ballon d’ Or. These wins have helped construct an excellent relationship between Messi and his fans inside and outside Spain. In his native country, however, there is another atmosphere.

America’s Cup

Argentina’s side was upset by Brazil in the finals of the 2007 South American Cup (there Messi appeared in all six of his nation’s games). Four years later, the traditional event was held in Argentina. There, the host nation entered the regional contest, but it did not even make the semis. On the eve of that event, Argentina was a gold-medal contender well ahead of Brazil and Uruguay.

Unfortunately, Messi could not do anything. In spite of his extraordinary achievements in Western Europe, the amazing Latino player was unable to lead the Argentine side to win the Copa America for the second time, being strongly criticized by Argentina’s football fans.

The local squad had two draws with Bolivia (1-1) and Colombia (0-0) before defeating Costa Rica (3-0) and falling to eventual champion Uruguay (4-5) in the quarter-finals. In his own land,Messi did not score a single goal (except on a penalty) over the course of the Latin American championship. Undeterred, he departed for Spain.

Undoubtedly, some soccer fans don’t understand why Argentina’s national team can not win international tournaments with the world’s most prominent soccer player.

2011-2012 Season

Spearheaded by Messi, the Barcelonese club captured the Spanish Supercup on in August 2011. With 8 goals, Messi was the top scorer in the national contest, ahead of Raúl González Blanco. Within a few weeks, they also won the European Supercup. On December 18, 2011, Barcelona won the Club World Cup by beating Brazil’s Santos (4-0). There, Messi was the tournament’s most valuable athlete. Astonishingly, Messi became the top scorer (236 goals) in Barca’s history on March 31, 2012.

An Advocate for the Rights of Children

Latin America’s remarkable football player Messi is regarded as Argentina’s long-standing advocate for the rights of poor children. By 2007, he created a self-named foundation,whose principal aim is to improve education and health care of the future generation of Argentina’s boys and girls. Recently named UN Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Messi works closely with the international organization, increasing global awareness and providing financial aid to programs for children and mothers on Earth.

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