Writing in the Media Portfolio By Ben Simpson
GOLFS FRENCH REVOLUTION The story of how French golf has awaken from a lull with an unlikely
What Dubuisson has done is instil a belief within his fellow countrymen. His success has had the most immediate impact on the fate of French golf. Alexander Levy confirmed the impact Dubuisson had had in recent months saying "Victor's performanc-
unity of French golf. A unity come France’s first major that is like no other at this champion and Europe’s time. Similar celebrations next Ryder Cup star. were made to celebrate Levy’s win recently. It’s an ambient intimacy between compatriots which has made each win so special and inspiring. French golf’s excit-
es over the last few months are helping all the French players and inspiring them to try to do the same”. Levy’s quote came in the immediate aftermath of his own maiden victory on the Tour, a dominating performance in the prestigious Volvo China Open.
ing upturn has been inspired by a perennial loner. A man who avoids the spotlight.
catalyst leading the revolt. Without a major winner for over a century, the term 'French golf' brings up sour memories of 1997 and one of sport’s most devastating collapses. The 18th hole saw sight to Jean van De Velde’s spectacular fall from grace. A quadruple bogey ending his and France’s hopes of a major championship. French golf had made little noise ever since.
compliments. It was fitting that Dubuisson’s first moment in the lights of American golf was so similar to that of Ballesteros. Seve famously dispelled the doubters by scrambling from a car park to clinch The Masters on the 17th hole. Dubuisson was to make his name by swiping the ball from a cactus on not one, but two occasions. Fitting then, Dubuisson translates to ‘from the bush’. Indeed, he came from the wilderness to be the most talked about man in golf. It was a sign that Dubuisson has a penchant for the The man behind the uprise spectacular, that he thrives as challenges get more diffiIt was time for one of golf’s cult – something we'd come most mysterious characters to see in the months that folto break onto the scene. Vic- lowed. tor Dubuisson was about to be the elixir that rejuvenated It was one of great coming out parties that golf has ever French golf. Dubuisson’s breakthrough had echoes of seen. Dubuisson is a man that of ‘Seve’. The compari- draped in mystique, he typisons with Europe’s greatest cally has a je ne sais quoi about him. It’s an aura atgolfer are the biggest of tached to the likes of Mickel-
son, an aura that leads people to expect the special. He is the quintessence of continental European golf. Cavalier in both senses of the word – daring in approach but gentlemanly in his conduct. The enigmatic Dubuisson bears a compelling resemblance to Charles D’Artagnan – the protégé of The Three Musketeers, famed for his prodigious talents and brains. It is journeymen Frenchmen Gregory Havret, Thomas Levet and Raphael Jacquelin who have played the role of The Three Musketeers, treating Dubuisson like an apprentice and a son, another uncanny likeness. The tutelage of these have seen Dubuisson mature into the leading light of French golf.
Dubuisson cuts a lonely picture most of the time as he meanders around the golf course. The scene on 18th green of the Turkish Airlines Open is the picture though that tells you a thousand words. Champagne celebrations to celebrate his first victory .It’s this that shows the
It’s a spotlight that is becoming increasingly unavoidable. He is the new poster boy of European golf as France look to lead Europe into the battle with the Americans at Gleneagles before it hosts the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2018. Charles D’Artagnan was a leader amongst the musketeers. Dubuisson must play the character once more in leading Europe into The Ryder Cup. He already has the moustache, now we will see whether he has the talent to play the leading role and be-
REDEMPTION FOR EMERY
For Unai Emery this was redemption. This was as good as it will ever get. This was a ground that he was forced out of. He was back, he'd broken in the back door and ransacked his exemployers. Sevilla were the club heading for the final. It could have been a quite different story though.
was no greater celebration than that of Emery's though. It was in no way choreographed. It was, for him, pure emotion. To understand Emery's celebration is to understand his frustration at the way he exited Valencia seasons ago. Emery had the impossible job of managing expectations at a time of transition which saw Villa, Silva and Mata all leave. The three’s ability has seen them become stars of European’s great heavyweights. Emery had maintained Valencia were riddled with debt and false promises and Emery was the man who took the brunt of frustration. He was blameless though, in fact, he performed miracles to see Valencia qualify for the Champions League again. The board manipulated the fans discontent to force the Basque tactician out of the club. Emery rightfully then felt betrayed. He was dignified though in his departure. He left the club compliments and well wishes but the sight of him celebrating on the Mestalla touchline was a clear release of pent up anger, and frustration.
Sevilla went into the second leg of the Europa League semi-final with a two-goal advantage. It was a lead that was to dissipate inside of half an hour. The Mestalla was packed to the rafters and a vocal home support roared Valencia to a third that would send them through. It was supposed to be Valencia’s biggest moment since 10 years previous when they won their sixth La Liga title. This was not to be there night, this was to be Sevilla's and Emery's. With every minute that passed, Sevilla grew desperate and Valencia grew nervous. It was in the final minute that Valencia's nerves finally got the better of them. The ball was aimlessly launched into the box by Sevilla and Valencia were slow to react. Stephane Mbia was the man who would head Sevilla into the Europa league Emery now leads Sevilla to their third European final. A man relegated with QPR just a year final of the decade having won the previous two ago. This was a some story for him as well. and defending the title. They have also secured th th The goal silenced the Valencia support to sud- a 5 place finish while Valencia cling on to 8 . den silence. You could hear a pin drop amongst Valencia will not play European football next season whilst Sevilla may have the chance to their supporters within the muffled sounds of Andalucian ecstacy. Sevilla's travelling support defend the Europa League once more. Emery says he holds no grudges but the pictures tell a were a picture of unbridled joy. Their sozzled fans erupted into scenes of uncontrollable out- different story. Why shouldn't he though? It is bursts of emotion. The Valencia fans relentless he who has had the last laugh though. whistling game was replaced by an explosion of cheers from the travelling supporters. There
THE MAGIC OF MOURINHO
Jose Mourinho- simply the best. It's what one banner reads down at Stamford Bridge. If the Portuguese managers first spell in charge at Chelsea was anything to go by, we knew we had something special on our hands. 'The Special one' has duly delivered. Cold and frigid with the press, Mourinho's demeanour could easily be mistaken for surliness. Not so though. Mourinho's games are calculated and deliberate and the execution has seen Chelsea become the most feared team in England once more. For all of Manchester City and Liverpool's attacking flair, Chelsea stand alone in their credentials as big game winners. Mourinho has meticulously crafted game plans for each of Chelsea's clashes with title contenders, they have won on every occasion – home or away.
sive from Mourinho. Over the months, Chelsea were soon to be back to where they were in the first spell of Jose Mourinho, an 'us against them' culture was very quickly reestablished. A perhaps strange, but genius stroke by the Portuguese manager. It allows Mourinho to criticise the referees, the press and the opposition. It detracts focus away from his team’s performance, its strength and weaknesses. Mourinho's tactical tweaks then go unnoticed and Chelsea become harder to beat.
they want to, it’s a relationship that is rarely seen in modern football between players and its coach. For all of Chelsea's success at defending away at England's elite clubs, it’s of note they beat the four aforementioned clubs at Stamford Bridge, attacking mentality this time the order of the day. A sign then that in his first season returning at Chelsea, Mourinho's side have shown they can do everything. Minor blips may cost them the title but an unprecedented European success could mean this is Chelsea's greatest ever season, eclipsing their previous European title. A third consecutive It is of course more than Mourinho's European trophy and first with Mourmasterful psychological warfare that has etched Chelsea back to the top of inho would surely rank as Chelsea’s English football. The Chelsea manager greatest ever achievement. Chelsea was restricted at Real Madrid, it was a have longed for a European trophy under Mourinho and Wednesday night clash of two great heavyweights and could see them step ever closer to the Mourinho could not win this one. At Chelsea though, even under the eye of dream being realised. Atletico offer stern resistance but Chelsea will beRoman Abramovich, Mourinho has lieve that on a Champions League freedom to play football the way he night at Stamford Bridge anything is likes. There is no greater person in world football at coaching his team to possible. Mourinho will expect nothing defend. Chelsea's clean sheets include less. games against Manchester City, ManMourinho's return was one met with chester United, Arsenal and Liverpool contrasting opinions. Adored by Chel- all away from home. Unquestionably sea fans of course, Mourinho was the four elite clubs in the Premier more respected now than his previous League. Chelsea have been revered spell. The press and public saw him for much for this in recent days, an incredthe tactical mastermind he was. He ible feat led by captain John Terry and was underestimated for the psychohis predecessor in-waiting, Gary Cahill. logical mastermind that he is though. Chelsea's defensive stalwarts are not Mourinho's first order at Chelsea? To the sole measure of Mourinho's work though. His side runs for him because be hated. There was no charm offen-
BOLIVIAN FOOTBALL RISING TO HEIGHTS OF ITS ALTITUDE The story of Bolivia’s unlikely rise to the top of South American football Bolivia is by no means the birthplace of South American football. The whipping boys for many years if you will. One thing Bolivian football has always had though is passion. This passion is obvious no more than in the enclosing of the Estadio Hernando Siles – home of Club Bolivar, Bolivia's most successful club. The ground is a tempestuous cauldron erected well above sea level, an intimidating location that leaves opposition grasping for air. The thin air at altitude has seen stories of footballing infamy before – none more so than Bolivia's 6-1 defeat over an Argentina side featuring Lionel Messi. Bolivian clubs though have continued to struggle when it comes to South America's premier competition, the best of the best, the Copa Libertadores. Club Bolivar and league counterparts The Strongest may be about to write another most unlikely tale.
likely one. A cultural clash, one South America is not about to let go. South American football persists with its identity, perhaps failing to progress, but remains loyal to its roots. Certain countries play in certain ways, it will always be the case. One Spaniard though is one of the great reasons for the upturn in Bolivian football. His great strength? His adaptabilty. The man is Xabier Azkagorta. An experienced coach from the Basque region of Spain, Azkagorta led Bolivia to their first World Cup of the modern era, an unlikely achievement at any time. He is now back to once more defy logic and perhaps see a Bolivian side win a first ever Copa Libertadores title. His success seems obvious to see. The Basque region is the most fiery and passionate of any in Europe and is as rhythmic and raucous as that in Bolivia. For Azkagorta then, he has found an unlikely home from home. He The passage from Europe to South America has never been a has added countrymen such as Juanmi Callejon (brother of Na-
poli's Jose) and Capdevilla, adding quality to the frantic, hardworking Bolivian core. At the altitude in La Paz even South America's finest players fade under the incessant pressure, ears ringing and head pounding from the altitude and support. Mexican champions Club Leon were the latest to face such a fate. A hot and humid Tuesday night saw the Bolivian's overpower the Mexicans in every aspect. They were resilient in defence and composed in attack to squeeze through on away goals. It was another of instance of winning ugly – one of football's most beautiful sights. are the wonderfully and perhaps aptly named The Strongest. They too are looking to become a part of of Bolivia's fairytale ascent to the top of South American football. No such intercontinental links in their side but a fierce and determined Bolivian core provides the balance for their technically gifted players to shine. The Strongest's
Not too far away from Bolivar are the wonderfully and perhaps aptly named The Strongest. They too are looking to become a part of of Bolivia's fairytale ascent to the top of South American football. No such intercontinental links in their side but a fierce and determined Bolivian core provides the balance for their technically gifted players to shine. The Strongest's tireless approach at similarly dizzy altitudes leads teams incapable of lasting the full 90 minutes. The defence, like Bolivar's, is direct and uncompromising – old-school in many ways. It shows a clash of two great cultures and approaches which is why Brazilian clubs seem to have
so many problems combating the laughing stock. Bolivar were emrobust and physical nature of Bo- barrassed just two years previous to this campaign, an 8-0 loss to livia's elite. eventual champions Santos, NeyBolivia is an unfashionable footmar the star in a coming of age balling country to root for. Direct performance. Inside Bolivia's cavand calculated in the approach ernous stadiums, the fans are across all of the top division swarming in, expecting the imteams. Over in Europe such appossible now. Xabier Azgakorta proach is paying dividends contihas been the catalyst of an unnentally for the likes of Chelsea likely revival and for Bolivia, the and Atletico. Bolivia may not prodizzying heights of La Paz may vide you with the South Amerisoon be matched by the success can flair so often fondly thought of their most famous club sides. of, but exemplifies how defence wins football matches in today’s modern football culture. It would be a true understog story, Bolivian sides are simply regarded as the minnows of South American football, for some time even a
A look back at- Villarreal 2004-06 “I didn’t kill anyone. All I did was miss a penalty.” What else would you expect from the enigma that is Juan Roman Riquelme. He had shone throughout the season as Villarreal reached an unprecedented Champions League semi-final. A small club in the region of Valencia, they had long been overshadowed by their rivals, yet the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini breathed new ambition into the team from the Castellon province. With just over 50,000 incumbents – that's less than Wigan – Pellegrini managed to push his side towards the top of Spanish football. The 2004/05 season was the breakthrough season that thrust them into the footballing spotlight and into elite European competition. Pellegrini had been appointed having had an interesting time in South America. He had been a 'one club man' at Universidad de Chile but soon followed the protocol of management in Chile by journeying to a number of different clubs. He eventually found himself at South American giants San Lorenzo where more success led him to River Plate, a move that put him on
the path to his venture into Eu- football's great innovators but rope. his personality conflicts opinThis takes us to the beginning ion. The Argentine likes to do things his own way, and likes of Pellegrini's impressive stint others to do things his way. It's in Spanish football, and back to Villarreal's impressive cou- why he has found such sucple of years challenging at the cess at boyhood club Boca top of Spanish and European Juniors. The club is tailored to Riquelme's every wish and the football. Pellegrini's first season saw him inherit a talented fans are in awe of their prodigal son. Riquelme encapsusquad featuring experienced and reliable stalwarts such as lates Argentine football and the Rodolfo Arrabuena, Josico, Ja- modern development of the vi Venta and Quique Alvarez. midfielder. It was Riquelme's They had a certain swag about style that redefined the playthem though. Villarreal had as- maker, his vision and creativity sembled a team of journeyman was something the world had and misfits to somehow create not seen. one of Europe's great powerhouses. Spearheading the attack was the most lethal striker in Europe. The 04-05 season saw him score 25 goals to win the Pichici trophy awarded to Spain's top goalscorer. It was none other than Manchester United flop Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan was subject to ridicule during his time at England for his failure to find the net but a move to Spain would reinvigorate him. It was the masterful enganche Riquelme who was to breathe life into Forlan. Riquelme's career has been a strange one. His ability has seen him recognized as one of
He and Forlan were the catalysts for Pellegrini's side to excel in La Liga in the 04-05 season but the duos inconsistency caused problems in the campaign following. El Submarino Amarillo would slump to a 7th place finish but not disappear deep into an abyss as their affectionate nickname suggests. There was a resurgence in Europe's premier club competition and the little club from Valencia were no longer just making shockwaves in Spain, but the world.
The group stage would see the attackers that are so heralded fail to make an impact. The Spanish side would score just 3 goals in 6 games. They were though carried through by a defence that conceded just one goal. 5 clean sheets for the Spanish minnows was an astonishing achievement. It was made possible by unwavering desire to succeed. The progression then saw Forlan and Riquleme come to the fore, each scoring at the fortress that was Ibrox to win through on away goals. Internazionale were the next to fall victim to a brave rearguard performance from one of Spain’s smaller clubs. The side had once more won through on pride and grit. Pellegrini assembled a side that would do anything for the shirt and had helped create an intimate bond between the club and its fans
that carried them to far exceed their potential. The road was finally to end by the slightest of margins. Riquelme was a lick of paint away from the greatest of endings. It's the first line of this story, that quote from Riquelme that tells the tale then. It's the only way he could recall it. Villarreal were just one penalty away from the most unprecedented of final appearances. The sight of Riquelme shrugging his shoulders is of great regularity but this admittedly hurt him. Not even he though instantly understood the enormity of the occasion. Riquelme could have had the chance to carry his side to a European final against a club who gave up on him - Barcelona. It’s an era that seems forgotten in the celebration of the birth of a Barcelona side who redefined an era. The Villarreal side still
should be remembered fondly as one of the European cups most unlikely of rises. Pellegrini excelled with a shoestring budget, something we'd see again at Malaga. He now has unlimited riches in his hands at Manchester City and is continuing to succeed. It was to be the beginning of Diego Forlan's superb career, one that was resuscitated by the magic of Juan Roman Riquelme. And it was more than anything, a chance to see Riquleme at his best on the European stage. For such a glistening career, there was never the showcase for him to gain the plaudits he should in Europe. He was though, at his peak, an enchanting footballer and the masterful displays that led Villarreal to unprecedented victories should not easily be forgotten.
THE TWO EXCOBARS– AN HONEST POTRAYAL OF COLOMBIA’S DARKEST HOURS The incredible story of Colombian’s football drug-fuelled infamy has never been told to this extent before. ‘The Two Escobars’ is a devastating and heart-breaking story that covered the death of a footballing legend as he fought for the rebirth of his nation through the countries great love, football. The insatiable and ruthless reign across of Colombia by Pablo Escobar is wonderfully compared in parallel to the footballing great, Andres Escobar, to allow for a compelling chronological recall of events. Colombia was a country destroyed by cocaine and corruption, teetering on complete meltdown. Pablo Escobar was a drug-lord, a murderer and in many ways a saviour – it reads strangely but such was the case. Andres Escobar meanwhile was a Colombian legend and would captain the national side on the biggest stage of all – a World Cup in America - with the hope of restoring the countries pride and integrity. The two’s stories and views were polarising but the documentary manages to find a mutual ground. It shows that in Colombia's darkest hours, even the most different of people were the same. The documentary recalls how Colombia’s 1994 World Cup dream was to end in shame and despair, a blockbuster finish to one of the frankest and most eye-opening documentaries of recent years.
The documentary is riddled with remarkable unseen footage with shatteringly honest and heart-breaking interviews beside them. The true mark of this utterly masterful piece of documentary lies with Zimbalist’s ability to perfectly capture a documentary as told by the Colombian nation. It is made with archived footage and the use of
almost exclusively Spanish commentary is deliberate, this could have been speculative and extravagant but this was neither – it was honest. Of course it was honest though, and of course it was excellent – it’s just another masterful piece to add to the ESPN 30 for 30 series, a set of series that have redefined the standard of filmmaking of sports documentaries. You don’t have to like football to watch and enjoy this documentary, just human. The interviews with Andres Escobar’s fiancé encapsulate the emotions, genuine tears and confusion 16 years to the events that shattered Colombia. You don’t need to watch this documentary to find out about what happened those years in Colombia, you need to watch this documentary to understand them, it is superb in that respect. The documentary perfectly provides a balanced, informative and emotional account of one of the most renowned periods of South American history.
“You don’t have to like football to watch and enjoy this documentary, just human. “ The documentaries significance is greatly enhanced as Colombia go to this year’s World Cup as one the most fancied sides. Expectation has not been at such heights since 1994. The campaign for many will come as closure to one of the most destructive periods of South American history. The fact remains that this generation is one inspired and funded by the events explained in this documentary. Colombia's golden generation come off the back of the events of 16 years ago which is what makes this documentary so fascinating once again. It is simply a must watch.
Directors: Jeff and Michael Zimbalist Year: 2010 Available on YouTube
JB COMPLETES WONDER COMEBACK Sunday evening at Quail Hollow was the sight of another heartwarming story on the PGA Tour. This time it was JB Holmes, a man who has endured the most difficult of journeys, to be back in the winner’s circle. Holmes already had two PGA Tour wins to his name but nothing would have compared to this. Holmes' career was an impressive one up until 2008. He had two wins, both at the Waste Management Phoneix Open and had impressed in the Ryder Cup. 2011 saw JB's whole outlook change though.
he has been a mark of consistency in recent months on tour which had cemented his PGA Tour card for the next season. Holmes need not worry about such any more. The win means he is exempt for the next two years. The Kentucky man needed just 8 Fed-Ex Cup points to book his place in the upcoming Players Championship, he earned 500 for his win.
JB's to lose though and even a 50 foot two-putt wasn't about to stop the latest fairy-tale win. As deserved a winner as there can be, Holmes was quick to pay tribute to his Christian heritage. It’s his spirituality and grounding that has seen him come through times of great turmoil.
Holmes' win is just the latest on a year of shocks on the PGA Tour. Steven Holmes' win was not at a Bowditch's fight against canter though. Rory Mcil- depression, Matt Jones' clutch chip-in and Matt Kuroy, Phil Mickelson and char's win at the 5th time of Justin Rose were prime candidates to challenge on asking have all been great Holmes was to undergo Sunday afternoon. It was stories but JB’s is special in its own right. It’s the two brain surgeries but seasoned pro Jim Furyk completion of a journey for would fightback to comwho was to put the presthe Kentucky native. pete on the PGA Tour in sure on JB though. A final 2012. It was then though day 65 meant Furyk would that Holmes' resilience have the clubhouse lead would be tested as he suf- and with Holmes needing fered from ankle and elto negotiate the treacherbow injuries. His character ous final 3 hole stretch, the shone through though and pressure was on. It was
THE YOUNG GUNS TAKING THE PGA TOUR BY STORM 2014 has seen an explosion of young American talent on the PGA Tour. Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Harris English are amongst those who have made a mockery of the idea that you don’t win in tour early twenties. The thinking is that these guys are next bracket of America’s great golfing hopes. The question has to be asked whether golfers are just starting to peak earlier. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer all gave us exhibitions just a few weeks ago at Augusta National, defying the restrictions by their age. It was their nouse that saw them outthink golf’s most difficult golf course but also the three players are extraordinary examples of where commitments in the gym mean they can carry on playing to such a standard. It was none other than Tiger Woods who changed the face of golf forever. Gary Player had previously noticed how he could gain an edge on his competitors by dedicating himself to the gym. Distance and durability simply meant he started every round with an edge on his competitors. It was Tiger though who took this to the extreme. He became obsessed with a strict regime that saw him push his limits routinely. At Tiger’s young age, it was a measure of his success. In his twenties, Tiger could challenge himself in the
gym and then play 18 holes like no other. Woods now may never win another major and his back has by all accounts given up on him. His dedicated gym work lifted Tiger to heights that no player had yet seen and he was hitting the ball further than ever seen before. Age meant that his body could no longer last and Tiger’s decline has been a story that has dominated golf in recent years. No sportsman had ever changed the face of a sport to such an extent that Tiger Woods did. He was the most marketable and special athlete in the world and braced to become golfs first ever billionaire.American golf is enjoying a period of revolution like no other it has previously seen at this time though. Tiger Woods' injury struggles are coincidentally coming as a new wave of American talent are breaking through. The door has been left wide open by the absence of the world’s greatest ever golfer and it’s a generation of young American's who grew up adoring the man that are looking to replace him at the top of American golf. No one fits the profile of being America's next great golfer than Jordan Spieth. Spieth broke through when holing a bunker shot to win his first ever tournament to make him exempt for the season and just a year on he was at it again. Spieth though this time was holing a bunker shot in golf’s
most famous tournament, The Masters. His superb scrambling skills had seen him take an outright Masters lead and put him on the brink of a fairy-tale win. He would sadly fall down the stretch and could only admire Bubba Watson's driving exhibition. This was confirmation if it was needed that Spieth is primed to be golfs next big thing. Spieth's breakthrough has come at a time where American golf was in dire need of resuscitation. Phil Mickelson is another who seems to finally be losing some of the magic that has wondered the public over the years. It is good then that Spieth is not alone. Aside him are a wave of stars who have enjoyed different journeys to the top. Patrick Reed has made one of the biggest impressions on the golfing year. If not the most fashionable, he is certainly the most self-assured. It was this selfassurance that saw him Monday qualify a remarkable six times in 2012 launching him into the spotlight. 2014 has seen him win twice and put him aside Spieth as one of America's great young stars. Harris English is another great prospect who has already won on the PGA Tour. The University of Georgia alum is amongst the many proving that American golf is in the safest of hands and that the young guys can play. The pressures of college golf which is now televised and use of sport
MORE THAN BUBBA GOLF Bubba Watson is no ordinary golfer. He has never had a golf lesson. He carries a pink driver. He is now a multiple Masters champions. And it is that Bubba will now be remembered for. The list of multiple Masters champions holds no anomalies. It is the cream of the crop who have donned the green jacket on more than one occasion. Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Snead and on. Woods and Mickelson of the modern era. Bubba is ready and deserving of securing his place amongst these golfing echelons.
position. It may be a mistake or it may an unthinkable shot, Bubba keeps you guessing like no other on the golf course. He is one the great characters we have ever seen. Fitting then that Bubba's first Masters title came on the back of arguably the greatest shot ever witnessed. Out of position, in the rough, behind a tree. No problem. Over the water to within 8 foot for his first ever Major title and the most prestigious of them all. It was the most emotional of wins for Bubba. His tears on the 18th green were as genuine as they came.
Bubba was never out of the running. He outdrove the field by a massive difference. He is like no other that has ever been. Bubba’s attitude to golf is different, he challenges himself on the golf course and tries things that no other would dream of. He has branded his game 'Bubba golf', a phenomenon that is not hard to understand. Bubba has over one million followers on Twitter, he has released his own music video – Bubba is a social media wizard. It’s hard then to separate Bubba's golf from his social media exploits but two Masters titles makes it a little easier. Bubba is an eccentric and his golf is matching of his personality. Many say there are few things that can get you off your seat when watching golf, Bubba can do so with any shot from any
It took Bubba another two years until his next win, an emotional one too. The win at the Northern trust Open was not a reminder of his ability but rather that he had a win within him. His talent is freakish and has never been in questions but throughout the tourna-
ment people had said that Bubba has forgotten how to win. He might like to do it the hard way but he held his nerve. Bubba went into The Masters knowing that he could win. He’s a player who believes he can make any shot if you can visualise it. The doubters were out again after he shot 83 the tournament preceding. Watson put this down to allergies but in the scrutinized world of golf this wasn’t going to appease many. Bubba would offer the most emphatic of responses to those criticising him once more. Bubba was to make a mockery of the Par 5’s all week long and had seemed to somehow be hitting the ball further than ever. His back nine was flawless and it ended up being a procession for the most stylish of Masters champions. It showed that Bubba was more than an entertainer, he was a true champion. If his first victory was one spurred by fearlessness and emotion, this was one won by composure and skill. Of course his heart could be seen at the end but Bubba proved his worth as what he truly is, a great golfer. It just so happens he is an even greater human being.
CHILE NOT JUST MAKING UP THE NUMBERS IN BRAZIL Chile had been given the moniker of perennial dark horses leading up to this years World Cup in Brazil. Their exciting brand of football carried them a historic upturn in form to make a second successive World Cup. Their journey was not without its struggles. Much like the reign of the man who revitalised Chilean football, Marcelo Bielsa, it was a campaign of great highlights and lowpoints. Claudio Borghi was the man in charge when Chile began their World Cup campaign, his failures have been well documented. Jorge Sampoli then breathed new life into the Chile side. A man who is very much a disciple of Bielsa, Sampaoli implemented similar ideas. A frantic 3-5-2 formation tasked with wearing sides down. It's this intensity that will give Chile the chance of causing upsets as the World Cup approaches ever closer. The hot and humid temperatures of Cuaiba is where Chile's group opposition may come undone. One of the 'groups of deat' Chile have the proposition of Netherlands and defending champions Spain to contend
with. Australia are the weakest side but cannot be dismissed. Chile though overran world champions Spain previous to the World Cup draw eventually drawing 3-3. It was a dominating performance by La Roja and they were only denied a win by a late fortuitous equaliser. The game was an indictment of what Spain no longer are though. Vidal was too energetic and ran through Xavi and Iniesta in midfield. The frenetic style was too much for Spain's aging side to deal with. It was like watching Barcelona's decline all over again.
marred by rifts and discontent. It's a Dutch generation full of ability, but lacking in character. The Chileans will then know they have what it takes to progress. Previous World Cups have seen the nation come together and Ivan Zamorano's rendition of the national anthem in 1998 remains one of the World Cup's most enduring images.
Chile's side is based around a dedicated work ethos but they are not short of talent and will not be frightened at the prospect of facing any nation. Alexis Sanchez had his best season something Chile will be accus- for Barcelona under the tutelage of Gerardo Martino but tomed to and it will suit their approach perfectly. Sampaoli is even so is an altogether different proposition when his counknown for his strict insistence try counts on him. It is the same on player fitness and expects nothing but centaur-like running for Eduardo Vargas who recaptures the form that saw him asfrom those operating down the cend Universidad de Chile to wings. Fellow group opposition unseen height under Sampaoli. Netherlands are, like Spain, vulnerable. They had another Chile boast one of the hungriest immaculate qualifying camyoung squads going to Brazil paign, ruthlessly disposing of but its their ambition and belief European football's minnows. that gives them a chance. SamThe struggle in international paoli has installed a philosophy that means the players no they tournaments is something the Dutch cannot avoid though. Re- can match any side in the world. In Brazil don't count cent tournaments have been them out to do just that.
The temperatures are something Chile will be accustomed to and it will suit their approach perfectly. Sampaoli is known for his strict insistence on player fitness and expects nothing but centaurlike running from those operating down the wings. Fellow group opposition Netherlands are, like Spain, vulnerable. They had another immaculate qualifying campaign, ruthlessly disposing of European football's minnows. The struggle in international tournaments is something the Dutch cannot avoid though. Recent tournaments have been marred by rifts and discontent. It's a Dutch generation full of ability, but lacking in character. The Chileans will then know they have what it takes to progress. Previous World Cups have seen the nation come together and Ivan Zamorano's rendition of the national anthem in 1998 remains one of the World Cup's most enduring images.
Chile's side is based around a dedicated work ethos but they are not short of talent and will not be frightened at the prospect of facing any nation. Alexis Sanchez had his best season for Barcelona under the tutelage of Gerardo Martino but even so is an altogether different proposition when his country counts on him. It is the same for Eduardo Vargas who recaptures the form
that saw him ascend Universidad de Chile to unseen height under Sampaoli. Chile boast one of the hungriest young squads going to Brazil but its their ambition and belief that gives them a chance. Sampaoli has installed a philosophy that means the players no they can match any side in the world. In Brazil don't count them out to do just that.
SWING CHANGES PAYING DIVIDENDS FOR TWO OF GOLFS ELITE The game of golf is becoming more technical than ever. Each aspect is obsessed over and each player has a team of experts behind them. Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler were two of the most talented young golfers in the world when they both decided to change their swings, decisions that seem to finally be justified.
Rickie Fowler’s introduction to the world of golf was not a quiet one. It couldn’t be. It was his brightly coloured attire that would first set Rickie into the spotlight but his golf was making even more noise. Fowler was challeng-
ing in tournaments and looked set for a career as bright as his fluorescent apparel. 2013 was not the year he hoped for though. With his career stunted, Fowler was to turn to Butch Harmon, responsible for engineering some of the great swings that are seen in golf. Harmon was seen as integral to both Phil Mickelson
Harmon was given much credit for helping Woods draw the ball and Mickelson fade it in order to manoeuvre the ball around Augusta’s famous fairways and over its unforgiving trees. Fowler took centre stage on moving day at Augusta to showcase the success that the swing changes are having on his game. At 25, Fowler has his best years to come. He has just one win to his name but has now a maturity at experience rarely seen at his age. The next few years will be decisive in justifying his decision and though a Sunday charge never materialised at The Masters, he was there to witness his best friend Bubba Watson capture his second, a true master of the course. He will now be looking to emulate his great pal in the years that come.
and Tiger Woods’ success so it should have been no surprise when a third round 67 meant Fowler was in contention at the Masters come Fowler is not the only one who has had swing probSunday. lems. Martin Kaymer had the world of golf at his feet. He
To win the Masters a golfer must be able to hit a high draw and Kaymer very much preferred to fade the ball. Kaymer's decision was a reminder of just how heralded the Masters is across the world. He had seen compatriot Bernhard Langer win the Masters on two occasions and inspire his generation of German golf. Langer is by far Germany's greatest golfer and he was and remains Kaymer's idol. It was a brave decision by Kaymer, why not wait? Why not let things take their course? It's not the German way. Kaymer wanted to perfect the mechanics of his swing completely tailored to the game needed to win Augusta National. A much maligned decision, but this was Kaymer's dream. The former world number one's game was quick to go downhill and his remarkable start to his career was a distant memory. Kaymer's last win came in 2011, his 19th professional win. A three year drought does not tell the whole story of his struggles, his game has been a shadow of what it used to be. The 29 year old has come to an age where most golfers are defined, his finest years should be ahead
of him but perhaps finally there is justification. Kaymer may have been highly scrutinized but he was following his childhood dream to, like Langer, wear the green jacket. It was Bernhard Langer,
mysteries, Kaymer had the chance to dominate at the top of the golfing pyramid. If Kaymer can ever don the green jacket, he for one will feel that the long journey will be a worthwhile one.
even at the grand age of 56, who was the top ranked German at this year’s edition of the Masters. A tie for 8th another landmark achievement in his career. Under the radar though, Kaymer recorded a 31st placed finish, his best ever at Augusta National and has followed it by challenging at Quail Hollow just a few weeks on. The German seems to have finally engineered his swing into one that can competitively compete on tour once again but perhaps more important give him a shot of winning a green jacket. It's a change that to many seems like one of the games great
For two of golfs young players then, swing changes have enhanced their opportunity of winning the most sought after major of them all. Rickie Fowler and Martin Kaymer’s ability to draw the ball now means that both should be expected to be at the more familiar sight of the top of leaderboards. For one, or both, the leaderboard may be that shadowing the hallowed 18th green of Augusta National.
Mes que un club – The end of an era 'More than a club' is the slogan of FC Barcelona. For the last decade there has been no more fitting description. Barcelona have redefined the way football ought to be played and done so whilst succeeding. Stylish and successfully – the greatest European side that the world has ever seen. Barcelona continued to succeed by churning prodigious talents out of the famed La Masia academy on a regular basis. They had become the footprint of success. Everyone wanted to be them, no one wanted to play them. They say all good things have to end but in this case it seemed impossible.
surely cruising towards another European final. The rest is an all too familiar tale as Chelsea defended for their lives and won through. And just like that, the aura of invincibility seemed to disintegrate. Barcelona were no longer to be quite so feared.
Bayern Munich were to replace Barcelona as Europe's most feared team but people still viewed Barcelona as a unique club, aside from the chasing pack. It was not till this year that Barcelona were to look a shadow of themselves. An aging Xavi, a disenchanted Messi and a porous defence means this season will surely be a troBarcelona always had one phyless one, a fate almost main foe throughout their alien to the Catalan club in prolonged period of success. recent years. Chelsea were the side who Time then perhaps to mourn just wouldn't go away. The a loss and celebrate a generside who Lionel Messi just ation. Barcelona will be back couldn't score against. It again and as successful, seemed certain Barcelona they have Messi after all. would win the latest battle in Never though will a club inthe war of the two European spire in quite the same way heavyweights. Two up and a and change the face of footman up at their home, the ball. Barcelona will be reCamp Nou, Barcelona were membered as fondly as the
'total football' of the Dutch. Barcelona's slick passing and flawless execution saw them become the best attacking side maybe ever to have played the game. Legends of the game such as Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry would pass through, leaving their mark but never missed. It is then perhaps two of their most underrated players declines and ultimately departures that will read the last rights to this era. Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol, in many ways, were Barcelona. Puyol was unfashionable and unliked but provided the steel the Barca team needed. Xavi was adored but still stood in the shadows to the greats that he would pass the ball to. Integral pieces in the Catalan clubs greatest ever era were Catalans in every sense. The football neutrals will rue that Barcelona could not capture that final European trophy, it was though apt that Atletico Madrid were the ones to deny them.
The polar opposite of Barcelona in many ways, Atletico outfought an aging Barcelona side in not just two games, but the entire season. Atletico's side is a fresh set of hungry young players who play football more robustly and directly. It was this robust and direct style that has signalled the end of the great Barcelona side of yesteryear. Barcelona’s eventual collapse was to be overshadowed by one of football’s great tragedies. Barcelona and football lost Tito Vilanova, a great inspiration. Vilanova had the unenviable task of replacing Pep Guardiola but did so with ease and grace. He would lead Barcelona to further success but was to be debilitated when diagnosed with cancer.
Vilanova continued to lead Barcelona before stepping down when suffering a relapse. ‘Tito’ was an inspiration both in football and life. When news broke of the passing of Vilanova, it left Cataluyna and the football world stunned. Cancer had taken one of Barcelona’s greatest and bravest sons too early. The era that Vilanova was such an integral part of has redefined European football forever and the Catalan giants will now set to rebuild with spirit of Vilanova in their hearts. If Vilanova had not been taken so cruelly he may have been able to resurrect the Barcelona side to the heights that it was so accustomed. His great loss leaves football mourning what could
have been, and what he could have done. Vilanova's memory will forever be a part of Barcelona and his spirit will define them over the coming years. Though his loss is a tragedy, he is immortal at the Camp Nou. The tributes have been a reminder that, aside from football, Barcelona are like no other. Mes que un club, indeed.
SCANDINAVIA PRIMED FOR FIRST MAJOR With a second place at Augusta, this year’s first major saw Jonas Blixt the latest Scandinavian to threaten to break the duck. The likes of Jesper Parnevik and Peter Hanson promised so much, but never delivered the elusive major title. Why now then does it seem that Scandinavia is on the brink more than ever? It's as simple as three reasons; Henrik Stenson, Jonas Blixt and Thorbjorn Olesen. Henrik Stenson has been threatening to take the world number one title off Tiger Woods for some time now, a fate that seems almost inevitable. He is in esteemed company with fellow countryman Jonas Blixt. Blixt has exploded onto the scene in majors, putting himself in contention on each and every occasion. Henrik Stenson dominated the world of golf in 2013. Stenson became the first
man ever to win the European and American money list titles. An astonishing measure of his dedication and consistency. Though Stenson has failed to replicate his sensational form in majors thus far, his quality is there for everyone to see. For some time it was the driver that held Stenson back, often wayward off the tee, errant shots would see his chances implode. The Swede’s mastery with his 3 wood has seen little need to use it though. Stenson fits the mould of the modern golfer in that he dedicates much time to work in the gym, his strength meaning that distance puts him ahead of his ageing rivals. He has the confidence and nerve that a major champion must possess and he has admitted that it is very much his next goal.
Jonas Blixt is Sweden's number 2 golfer but he may be the most likely of the two to first win a major title. He has two Top 5’s in three appearances and is yet to miss a major cut. There’s no worries about Blixt getting it done though, he already has two PGA Tour wins. Blixt is one of those players who thrives on difficult golf courses which is exactly what is needed to win a major. There is no greater modern day example than Angel Cabrera. Two majors to his name but never a regular pGA Tour win, some players just do not get swept up in the hype of majors. Blixt is one of these. Not only is he not intimidated but he freely admits relishing the mental challenge that the worlds best designed courses offer.
To go alongside his tough mental attitude, Blixt is one of the finest scramblers on the tour and holds a steady and aggressive putting stroke necessary to beat off golfs elite. It would be no surprise to see him once more challenging in the three majors remaining this year. The third Scandinavian with a major in his sights is a more dubious case. If Thorbjorn Olesen bursting onto the scene was surprising, his failure to carry such on has been just as unexpected. Olesen threw himself into the spotlight with one of the most scintillating Masters debuts ever seen. He began in ordinary fashion with a Thursday 78. His response though was emphatic. Many would fail to miss the cut after such a torrid first experience of Augusta National but not so for
Olesen who responded with a 67. He would finish in the Top 10 in his first ever experience of golfs finest major. The young Dane fearlessly took the course apart in ways only previously seen before by the legends of the game. 12 months on though, Olesen could not recapture such form and failed to make the cut. What he does have on his side though is time and in an abundance. Few make the impression he has in their entire career so at the age of 24 there is no reason to panic. His major performances at such a tender age has put the golfing world on alert that he is one to watch in the coming years. Indeed, any of the three could be the first Scandinavian to capture a major. All three will also be in the hunt to compete in this year’s Ry-
der Cup as continental European golf continues its great ascent. All three Scandinavians will look to book their place on the European team when the Ryder Cup returns to Gleneagles in September.
'No silverware but we don't care' It's a strange song that reverberates around the KC Stadium every other Saturday. It’s an ode to their lack of silverware. Hull City are a club proud of their heritage despite their lack of considerable success on the pitch. Hull City's fortunes may be about to change though. In a few weeks they head to Wembley in search of their first ever major title. It would be fitting that one of England's most traditional clubs would be the team to win the FA Cup, the oldest and most prestigious cup competition in the world. No more fitting does the song embracing the clubs relative lack of success become more apt. Hull may win their first ever major trophy but it’s the fans resistance do a proposed name change that is Hull's greatest victory this season.
ble product. The response from the Yorkshire supporters was as emphatic as they come. 'Since 1904' is the battle cry of the City support – an ode to their tradition. Home games have seen a wave of protest from the supporters despite their on-field success. It's a reminder and an example that in the modern day culture of football, supporters are still the heartbeat of a club. The supporters have seen their club rise through the division, 'their' club it will remain long after Allam has gone. It’s a club that in the past decade has played in all four of England’s top divisions. When Vincent Tan changed the Cardiff City colours to red, there was uproar but the support seemed to ultimately surrender when success was achieved. Not so for Hull though. It shows the Egyptian owner Assam Allam fans can still make their mark, has bankrolled the clubs recent even in a time where money seems to rule football. uprise but the change in fortunes on the pitch has not sat- The club who don black and isfied one of the most hardamber stripes are one of Engened and stubborn set of sup- land's most recognisable clubs porters in England. Allam inand the past year has shown tended to change the clubs they should be one of Engname to 'Hull City Tigers' to land's most treasured. Hull City make the club a more marketa- may be on the brink of a histor-
ic season but it is their protests that the season will be remembered for far beyond any FA Cup win. It has shown a fan based obsessive with heritage and tradition that many clubs have failed to keep in such esteem. Hull have shown that for all of the riches in modern football, the fans are still the heart of a club. It is the Yorkshire's clubs refusal to be sell outs that have set a great precedent for the English game, a reminder that in a game where your fate and tradition is continually threatened by the promises of success, that there is more. There is still one more fight for Hull fans this season as they look to roar their side home to an FA Cup victory, a chance to celebrate a wonderful season.
FAIRYTALE WIN FOR STEVEN BOWDITCH Sunday evening saw Steven Bowditch claim his first ever PGA tour win. Entry to The Masters. A dream was realised but it had been a long and arduous road for the Aussie. Bowditch’s long battle with depression has seen breakdowns and disqualifications on the golf course, suicide attempts off of it. Now he will tee off at Augusta in just two weeks’ time. A remarkable story of his fight with depression, success though is no quick medicine. Bowditch speaks of his best golf coming at times of his worst struggles. Bowditch is rare, in that, his depression came public. An incredible talent that many saw as Australia’s next great sporting star, his career was stunted by expectation and depression. Bowditch’s bravery to make his depression public - inspiring others struggling with depression - remains his greatest win. It is very rare that athletes announce their depression publicly, instead enduring a battle tormented in loneliness, impossible of explaining. Bowditch then should be applauded, even exemplified as a way of combating depression in sport and in life. The Australian’s win comes as a timely reminder of what can be done to battle depression, but also re-
minds us not to be ignorant of he was judged, not supported. what little we know about the There are only snap judgements sportsmen we so often scrutinize. in the world of professional sport, we have little else. If anything The struggle to win on the PGA then, Bowditch’s fine win and Tour has been no clearer than in brave fight against depression is previous weeks. Matt Kuchar, a solace for many, but perhaps seasoned professional has remore strictly is should be a repeatedly buckled with a win in minder of the responsibility and sight. With everything that sensitivity we all require. Bowditch has gone through, it makes his fairy-tale win even Depression is a taboo in the more special. The Australian jour- sporting world simply because neyman had one or two moments many do not know about, many cannot recognise, many cannot where he jittered, he composed himself though to brush off some understand it. Bowditch may not yet have defeated depression in of golfs elite. It was a brave and its entirety - its unpredictable, unnerveless performance, a testaexplainable and debilitating nament to the Aussie who has endured so much in his career and ture are not simply curable. What he has done is gave hope to thoulife. Bowditch's win thrusts the issue of depression back into the sands alike, shown strength in his fight and perhaps most importantpublic spotlight and his willingly, he has nudged one of sport’s ness to tackle it can inspire. greatest taboo’s into the spotlight Awareness is much of the battle once more. Depression is someagainst depression and it is thing that the more we read and something Bowditch has been hear about, the more we are likely keen to reiterate. The nature of to help people. Such wins as the press means that athletes are Bowditch’s, or admissions as scrutinized in times where perfor- Clarke Carlisle’s do not serve to mances seem not to match their publicise depression in sport, but instead use their sport and power potential. Those watching can never get a true insight into what to help fight depression. Awarehappens behind the scenes with ness will help save people’s lives which is why Bowditch’s win will the pressures of professional serve as the greatest on the PGA sport. When Steven Bowditch Tour this season. had a string of disqualifications,
THE STAR FROM HOLYWOOD Holywood, Northern Ireland doesn’t quite have the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It is though the home to one of sports great young stars. Rory Mcilroy has been destined for fame since he was a prodigious young talent. Expectation has been something that Mcilroy has grown up with. He has never quite faced such intense pressure and scrutiny. Mcilroy was last a victor in 2012. In fact he wasn't – he won as recently as December denying Adam Scott with the Australian playing his best golf. It's a win that goes ignored in America and quite deliberately. There's a pressure to create a story. At the age of 25, a former world number one and two-time major champion, Rory Mcilroy's greatness should remain the story.
Mcilroy’s breakthrough rivalled that of Tiger Woods. Assured in victory, Mcilroy’s first European tour victory saw him topple Justin Rose and in his first PGA Tour victory he eased past Phil Mickelson with a final day 62. If anyone needed any confirmation that Mcilroy was golfs next big thing, this was it. A Sunday 62 to win on the PGA Tour is sight rarely seen, it is something never seen by a player at the age of 20. Whilst Mcilroy’s success was attracting enough attention, it was his confidence that assured spectators that the boy wonders was set for
greatness. Mcilroy’s nerveless displays were taking golfs fiercest courses apart bit by bit. Mcilroy was to become undone eventually by one of golf’s great course. Augusta national’s teeth bit back on the final day of the Masters with Mcilroy four ahead. It was not about to let a 20 year old stroll in the back door and take the green jacket. Mcilroy collapsed into the back of the field in his front nine, the first sign that he was in fact capable of such.
Mcilroy’s response was as emphatic as they came and he was soon to be a multiple major champion before the age of 22, a remarkable feat at any age. Mcilroy’s wins were both by 8 shots, he was streets ahead of the opposition despite playing courses for the first time.
All of a sudden, the wins were to dry up and Mcilroy began to struggle. Why the decline? Some said his Nike deal, others his very public relationship with tennis star with Caroline Wozniacki. It seems simple to say Rory was just struggling to cope with the pressure. He was expected to become one of golf’s greatest ever and still is. The fearless 20 year old that burst on the scene was suddenly subjected to unseen pressures. For a young kid then, Rory’s decline was a sign he was human.
His worst moment came at the Honda Classic, 7 over and struggling, Rory was to withdraw citing a toothache. He was subjected to criticism and ridicule. He admits his mistake now. It was fitting then that Rory’s resurgence back onto the PGA Tour came at the scene of his lowest moment in golf. Mcilroy destroyed the field on the opening 3 days, outdriving each competitor to a ridiculous degree. It was an exhibition of golf that one would expect to see on one of Rory’s advertising campaigns. His exemplary play was to suffer on day 4 and his 4 over par round would see him slip into the field. The tournament seemed lost when Rory dug deep to produce a shot that gave him a putt to win. Mcilroy’s distance off the tee made a mockery of Par 5’s all week and this was no exception. Rory was to launch a fairway wood over 250 yards, over water, to within 15 foot of the hole. It was a reminder of Mcilroy’s genius when the pressure is off, when he has nothing to lose. Mcilroy would narrowly miss the putt and lose out in a four man play off. It was another example of how hard it is to win when taking a lead into Sunday. Mcilroy’s class was clear for everyone to see over the weekend though, he reminded the watching public that he has every shot in his repertoire.
Mcilroy’s victory a few months earlier was a precursor to such performance. Adam Scott had a triple crown in his sights but Mcilroy beat him down the line. Scott had the opportunity to surpass his Masters victory by winning all three of Australia’s events. Scott jittered and Mcilroy was ready to take the opportunity. A long putt clinched victory and ended Mcilroy’s winless streak. Mcilroy is now back to his best, driving the ball better and further than ever before and every competitor he comes up against. The boy from County Down is primed once more to dominate in the public sight. Mcilroy’s first win may take time but it will be the dawn of a new era of golf. The boy wonder from Northern Ireland will win multiple more majors but it is a case
of patience. Mcilroy looked set to be prepared for Tiger-like domichallenge at Quail Hollow this nance when the boy wonder week before a disastrous second comes of age. round saw him drop into the field but he remained positive about his game, a testament to his mental strength. He will be the favourite for this year’s US Open and will be in Europe's side that look to defend the Ryder Cup, events that could be defining in Rory's search to rekindle his form that makes him golf's most prodigious talent. People may be looking to create a story about Mcilroy’s failure to win on the PGA Tour but there isn’t one here. He’ll win again soon and when he does win the world of golf should be very afraid. The years of struggle have come at a good time for Mcilroy and will serve a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted. Golf should
BIELSA BACK IN EUROPE FOR ANOTHER ADVENTURE Marcelo Bielsa has for so long wondered football hipsters with his obsessive and compulsive methods. His nickname is simply 'El Loco' Bielsa'. Used affectionately, it encapsulates his style though. He has alienated some of the world’s best footballers such are the extremities of his methods. He can be seen on the training pitch calculating pitch dimensions step-by-step for the purpose of a mere training exercise. Bielsa is fanatical in his dedication to the task at hand, and in every sense strives for perfection. In the recent days its emerged that next season such can be seen at Marseille, the most successful club in France. If you’re familiar with Bielsa’s methods, you know how exciting a move this is.
his procedures, chooses to play football the way he does. Bielsa has created an expansive, expressive brand of football which has earned him countless plaudits. His meticulous methods have allowed him to pick apart some of the greatest teams in international football and has made him one of the world’s most sought after managers. Bielsa though is not content to accept any job. He is strict in his demands and requires a working ethos that he believes can match his own.
side and their limited resources depleted and exhausted which saw the end of him there. He was highly respected for his reign but the doubters will now say that Bielsa is not cut out for club management.
There will be many who will disagree though. Bielsa himself has made such an impression that his style of football has seen disciples labelled 'Bielsistas'. Jorge Sampaoli, who eventually succeeded Bielsa in Chile, is one of these. It is a brand of footMarseille is the club that have ball that leaves only three defenders but requires extenfinally tempted Bielsa to try sive video research to implehis hand in Europe once ment. It requires the team more. His Athletic Club team press and attack as a team had a fairytale cup season and play passes into the which saw them reach two space as opposed to directly finals only to be cruelly deto the player. It was revolunied at the final hurdle on tionary in changing the forboth occasions. It was specutunes of a Chilean national It's strange that for Bielsa, lated that Bielsa's rigorous team who had missed three someone who is so through in regime had left the Basque straight World Cups.
Bielsa was born in the province of Rosario, an area steeped in football tradition and the birthplace of Lionel Messi. It’s an area though that also has much political significance in Argentina and it was that looked likely to be Bielsa's calling. It appeared the natural progression with his family background but Bielsa is not, to coin Jose Mourinho 'one of the bottle' – he is special. His football career was unspectacular despite appearing for the club he fanatically supported Newells.
a PE teacher and his dedication meant that he would climb the career path quickly soon landing himself the head coach role at Newell's Old Boys. It was a testament to Bielsa that, with such an unspectacular background, his rise was so sudden. He impressed and inspired the people around him and was looked up to.
Bielsa's imprint can be seen throughout the footballing world and it is fitting that the best club side of the century, Barcelona, were a side who When his career ended at 25, ultimately played the Bielsa many would have disapway. Pep Guardiola was a peared down a footballing student straight from the abyss. Not so Bielsa though. school of Bielsa, as was his He pursued his calling first as successor, Gerardo Martino.
Guardiola is amongst many of football's most respected names to have praised El Loco labelling him 'the best coach on the planet' but his success on the European stage remains a challenge he has not yet conquered.
The American’s taking a new path to the top of golf Peter Uihlein took an unlikely path to the winners circle. The American had a spectacular amateur career that peaked with him being the Number 1 Amateur in the world and a 4 and 0 victor at the 2009 Walker Cup. He was the latest in a long line of American’s to take the amateur game by storm. Uihlein’s dominance in the amateur game saw him challenge himself across the Atlantic in Europe and at PGA Tour events around the country. He had gained everything he could at Oklahoma State University. One of the hottest properties in American sport but such is the way of American amateur sport, he was not making money. He played in three majors in 2011 while still an amateur.
to suit the American’s game. His first win, in Portugal, was on a short golf course that demands accuracy and a confident putting stroke. He further announced himself to the golfing world with a 60, 1 shot off becoming the first to ever shoot the magic ‘59’ on the European Tour.
This year’s Madeira Islands Open comes around with Uihlein choosing not to defend. The American though has made some impact on the European Tour since and has begun to appear more frequently in America. The decision to go to Europe was one that surprised. The boy from Massacheutus decided to forgo his final semester to chase his dreams.
Alongside Peter Uihlein was It was a tied 48th at the Brit- a fellow American, Brooks Koepka. Koepka had a less ish Open that was perhaps the precursor to his surpris- sensational amateur career but his talent was unquesing career decision. It’s on links golf courses that Uihlein tionable. It was these two seems so at home. The Eu- young American’s who were ropean golf courses seemed to invent a new path to suc-
ceed in golf. Uihlein and Koepka’s success on the European Tour seems to have inspired American’s to take the gamble. It’s not just been a career decision but a life decision. Uihlein and Koepka were in their early twenties and went for it. Like any other American going backtracking around Europe, the two were full of curiosity and would wander from country to country. The only difference was that these two were playing golf in between. Koepka’s path was a more steady one, the first win had relieved him of the pressure. Uihlein felt the expectation of being a former World number one amateur on his shoulders. He admits that much now. For both, the journey has seen parallel success.
Uihlein is known to have the leading role in the duo but Koepka’s four Challenge Tour wins have thrust him into the eyes of the savants of the American game. Koepka also gave himself a chance to win on the PGA Tour on a breakout year. He held the lead going into the final round of the Frys.com Open. For Koepka, on this occasion, nerves were to get the better of him. His wins have shown he knows how
chance to compete on the PGA Tour. Koepka clinched exemption to the Tour by Monday qualifying after just failing to succeed after fulfilling sponsor exemptions. It’s the route Patrick reed took, a confident and fearless approach to landing on the big time.
The successful journey of the two has seen more take the route. This seasons European Tour has seen John Hahn, Daniel Im and most impressively Connor Arendell challenging on the final day of tournaments. American’s seem to have seen that there is now a different road to succeed in the world The pairs decision had of golf. It’s a long and advenlargely raised eyebrows in turous journey but all three America, experts believing it look set to be a mainstay on best their golfers are reared the European Tour in the by their coaches on their coming seasons. For the European Tour, it could spark a revival. Europe’s greatest players have been migrating west to richer pastures in America leaving the Tour largely disintegrated for 6 months of the year. It would then be fitting if it is a wave of young American’s who help to revive it. In a stage of the season where the stars of Europe’s game compete on the other side of the Atlantic, these apprentices of the game are reinvigorating European fields and providcourses. The young two ing fans with a new reason to get it done though. High were shown to be wise to watch. It’s where stars of scoring or low scoring, heads on young shoulders. the game are often born, the Koepka has been able to put They were improving their himself in contention. He has golf by playing in an environ- difference in the next years played in tournaments span- ment where they avoided the being that they may be American. ning across the depths of stress and scrutiny of QEurope and into Asia and School in America. When Africa, like Uihlein. For the both have visited America to two roommates then, it’s play, they have shown the been quite an experience improvements of all aspects and has given them the of their game.
The ‘underdogs’ in Group E that could make the World Cup In the world of international football it is not hard to spot a supposed ‘underdog’ yes? Small population countrycheck, obscure nationcheck, no more than 3 recognizable players- check. There is no greater evidence of such phenomenon than in Group E where Iceland and Albania may well battle for a place in next year’s World Cup, or at least an opportunity. Many may know Gylfi Sigurðsson, perhaps Aaron Gunnarsson or Kolbein Sigþórsson and almost certainly question what Eidur Gudjohnsen is up to these days but apart from that the Icelandic team will offer a fairly unkown quantity to many. However, Iceland’s dream of a World Cup berth could be significantly more realistic come the end of their game against Slovenia on Friday night. Slovenia have faltered in their qualifying campaign despite surprising Russia to perform admirably in the 2010 World Cup. Slovenia’s qualifying campaign could well have had hope yet had they not
thrown away a lead to eventually lose to Iceland at home last time round. It was Gylfi Sigurðsson on that occasion who once again inspired his nation with two absolutely superb goals, the first of which was a free-kick you may well have seen doing the rounds across the internet. Sigurðsson has shown terrific ability in both domestic and international football and in particular a penchant for the spectacular. Sigurðsson has not quite performed as he may as liked at Tottenham in his first season but like so many has stepped his game up when playing for the national team.under the guidance of Swedish coach Lars Lagerback. The Swede has been instrumental in Iceland’s rise on the international football stage, which with his track record is not surprising. Lagerback resigned after failing to guide Sweden to qualification for the 2010 World Cup, but he had previously led his country to five successive competitions in his 11 year reign. Lagerback’s appointment in Iceland has shown to be an ex-
cellent one, his vast knowledge of Nordic football allowing him to track players vying their trade throughout Sweden and Norway in particular. The appointment was a particular key one in the history of Icelandic football with it coming in the same year that a talented young crop of players excelled at U-21 level, amongst them Kolbein Sigþórsson, Aaron Gunnarsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Alfreð Finnbogason and of course Gylfi Sigurðsson. These 5 players were all in the squad that travelled to Denmark for the U-21 European Championships and performed admirably, missing out on a semi-final berth in a tiebreaker between three teams. These 5 also started when Iceland defeated Slovenia in the Slovenian capital in March highlighting the smooth transition that Lagerback has managed to execute in integrating this talented crop into his squad for the qualification campaign.
Iceland’s stiffest competition for second place may well not come from the side who went into this group as ‘top seeds’ Norway, but rather Albania whose standing on the national stage continues to grow. The very evidently flawed FIFA seeding system meant that Group E plotted Norway and Slovenia as the team to come out of Pot 1 and 2, though on another day it could have been France and Spain but this is something that Albania and Iceland haven’t hesitated to take advantage of. Like Iceland, the Albanians have 3 wins and two defeats from 5 games in the qualifying process so far and face their biggest game yet as they face Norway, whom they beat in Oslo last time out. Albania’s team has endured a different path than Iceland, no such success on youth football, and no real stand out players. Similarly to Iceland however, they do have a stand-out coach. His track record may make him appear to many as a journeyman manager, nothing particularly stand-out about
achievements to date. Gianni Di Biasi- the 56 year-old Italian coach has been instrumental at giving Albania hope of rising out of their footballing abyss. It is ironic that Switzerland who have beaten Albania to the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri lie above them, but Di Biasi seems hopeful to prevent this. The Italian seems to tactically revel is the underdog status, the lack of expectancy of his side when looking to beat teams. Two 1-0 wins against Slovenia and Norway thrust Albania in contention and a repeat of such result would seemingly make it a two-way battle for second between Albania and Iceland. It seems the Italian has a clear direction, a hope for his side. More recently he has given young players the opportunity but it is Di Biasi’s ability to convince players to play for him that may well have set Albanian football up for a brighter future. It is something that Albania have failed to do before but his ambition may see this trend buck. Many players
have impressed though, such as Edgar Cani, who has already netted four times in ten appearances since Di Biasi brought him into contention and Migjen Basha finally cleared to play for Albania after complications having represented Switzerland at U-21 level. Albania and Iceland both face decisive games tonight in their World Cup qualification dreams. Dreams sparked by a favourable draw but inspired by two managers. Iceland may well have a golden generation on their hands, but for Albania a new era also seemingly dawns- the two ‘underdogs’ have the chance to propel themselves into the worldwide footballing spotlight in Brazil next year. As first seen on www.intriguefutbol.wordpress.com