Sports Talk January 2013

Page 1

EXCLUSIVE: RADAMEL FALCAO

COLUMN: ANDREW STRAUSS

TUITION: WAYNE ROONEY AED 15

Issue 04 January 2013 mesportstalk.com

PLUS GIANTS OF GOLF DESCEND ON ABU DHABI WHY SACHIN TENDULKAR QUIT ONE-DAY CRICKET

WIN

A DREAM TRIP TO THE FA CUP FINAL

SPORTS TALK ALL-SPORTS AWARDS

ATOMIC FLEA BARCELONA’S 91-GOAL ASSASSIN LIONEL MESSI TELLS BOTH MANCHESTER CLUBS TO BUZZ OFF


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STARTING XI

EDITORIAL EDITOR: BEN JACOBS benj@mesportstalk.com

BALOTELLI

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DEPUTY EDITOR: BEN ROSSI benr@mesportstalk.com WEB EDITOR: BARRY COTTER barry@mesportstalk.com SENIOR WRITER: TOBY GREGORY toby@mesportstalk.com

PRE-MATCH TALK

FASHION EDITOR: GIZEM MUTLUAY gizem@mesportstalk.com

Mario manhandles Mancini; Nadal pulls out of the Australian Open

SUBBING EDITOR: AELRED DOYLE CONTRIBUTORS: ANDREW STRAUSS RON ATKINSON, BRYAN ROBSON, SAM PILGER, JOE HARRIS, STEVEN BOND, SHAHZAD SHEIKH DESIGN SENIOR DESIGNER: STEVEN CASTELLUCCIA steven@cpidubai.com PHOTOGRAPHERS: JAY COLINA, ADAM JACOBS

MESSI

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WOODS

34

STRAUSS

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ATKINSON

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AGENCIES: GETTY, SHUTTERSTOCK ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR: KRIS BELL kris@cpidubai.com SALES MANAGER: TIM CALLADINE tim@cpidubai.com

FIRST HALF

Messi snubs both Manchester clubs; Tiger descends on Abu Dhabi

HALF-TIME TALK

Strauss on England’s success in India; Why Big Ron prefers Harry to Rafa

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ROONEY

64

SHEPHERD

66

TRAINING GROUND

Rooney reveals how to beat Man City; Shepherd’s keys to the perfect drive

PHELPS

90

BOND

72

VICKERY

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SECOND HALF

Bond samples MMA madness in Amman; Vickery shares his top South American stars

SHEIKH

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KIT ROOM

OMEGA’s Phelps is one to watch in 2013; Sheikh reviews the latest JCW MINI

84

WIN

A DREAM TRIP TO THE FA CUP FINAL

JANUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

5


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THE GAFFER BEN JACOBS EDITOR

IS MICHEL PLATINI A PAWN OR JUST A HYPOCRITE?

I

t was deliciously ironic that UEFA president Michel Platini was tasked with presenting a keynote speech on ethics in football during December’s Dubai International Sports Conference. “Nothing is more important than integrity,” began the Frenchman, who was capped 72 times by his country. “That is what I am desperately trying to safeguard. Football must be totally transparent. I played the game for many years and never once picked up a red card. My conduct was so impeccable that I became popular with the public. Now, at UEFA, I suddenly get painted as the villain – but doing what’s right doesn’t always win friends.” It all sounds terribly noble from Platini, who relishes billing himself as the humble broker striving to reform FIFA. Yet, within minutes of championing transparency, he proceeded to reiterate his desire for a winter World Cup in Qatar, even implying it is unfeasible at any other time. “My preference would be to move Qatar to November,” conceded the outspoken 57-year-old. “In South Africa, at about five o’clock, you would go out of the hotel and there wouldn’t be a single fan around because it was colder than England! The weather somewhat spoiled the occasion and that’s why I don’t want to stage Qatar 2022 in July. A World Cup doesn’t have to be in the summer. It would be far better for the players and fans in the winter.” Again, at face value, this is a pretty sagacious argument – yet one minor point has been overlooked: Platini voted for Qatar 2022! It is one thing for the 1985 European Cup winner to play Goldilocks (“This country’s too hot, that one’s too cold”), but it seems strange to have voted for a World Cup he patently believes is hopelessly flawed without a date change. However logical it may be, Qatar 2022 categorically won’t be shifted to the winter. Contrary to popular belief, that was never an option in the plans Platini officially endorsed yet is now fiercely criticising. Instead, Qatar will persist with heavily air-conditioned stadia. Project director Jon Sinigaglia told Sports Talk these will be perfectly sufficient to nullify the near-50-degree heat, and also revealed the event’s organisers are getting frustrated by Michel’s relentless attacks. “FIFA rules prevent the Qatar 2022 team from speaking in detail about their aims until after Russia 2018,” he said. “Yet Michel is free to open his mouth at any (and seemingly every) opportunity. The heat is a total non-issue. We bid for a summer World Cup and won, so that’s precisely what we’ll provide.” In truth, the jury is still out as to whether Platini is a hyprocrite, who championed a bid he doesn’t truly believe in, or got bullied into voting for Qatar by the French government. President Nicolas Sarkozy unquestionably used him as a pawn to help secure vital trade deals (including with Qatar Petroleum International), but UEFA’s president is adamant he wasn’t swayed by bias or, far worse, bribed. “The notion any money changed hands is utter nonsense,” insisted an animated Platini. “I once went to a dinner with the heads of government of France and Qatar, but I was never asked about the World Cup. Besides, anyone who knows me knows I vote for who I want. If there was ever a revote, I would pick Qatar again.” Of course, Platini would never admit wrongdoing, but there are plenty of insiders who suspect he isn’t as squeaky clean as he so often publically purports. One thing, however, is for sure: he’d better bring his sunglasses to Qatar, because his calls for a winter World Cup will fall on deaf ears. As temperatures finally plummet, some of the coolest names in sport are due to arrive in the region. This month, we talk to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who are both in town for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship (17-20 January), while between 25 February and 2 March Rory’s other half Caroline Wozniacki, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will headline the Dubai Tennis Championships. We have recruited Sky Sports commentator Annabel Croft to preview next month’s ace event. There is also the Qatar Masters (23-26 January), Dubai Desert Classic (31 January-3 February), Dubai Marathon (25 January) and Dubai World Cup (30 March) to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. January is also famous for staging the third round of the FA Cup, the first chance for lower league minnows to ply their wits against football’s big boys. In light of this, we are giving you the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to May’s final at Wembley by voting on our Sports Talk All-Sports Awards. We also look back on 2012, hearing from Barcelona star Lionel Messi after his record-breaking 91 goals last year, and Sachin Tendulkar, who has retired from one-day cricket. Ex-England Test captain Andrew Strauss pens his first Sports Talk column too following England’s first Test series victory in India since 1985. Enjoy our January issue and I wish you (and your sports team) a successful 2013!

benj@mesportstalk.com @JacobsBen facebook.com/mesportstalk

QATAR 2022 CATEGORICALLY WON’T BE SHIFTED TO THE WINTER. CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, THAT WAS NEVER AN OPTION IN THE PLANS PLATINI OFFICIALLY ENDORSED YET IS NOW FIERCELY CRITICISING.

JANUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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PRE-MATCH TALK

BREAKING NEWS » CONTENTIOUS VIEWS » TOP TWEETS

THIS MONTH… 10 MARIO V MANCINI Mario Balotelli faces an uncertain future after a training ground bust-up with Roberto Mancini 13 RAFAEL NADAL

A stomach bug in Abu Dhabi forces the former world No.1 to pull out of the Australian Open

16 CLIVE AGRAN

Sports Talk’s very own daredevil OAP tries his (wrinkled) hand at paragliding NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2012

SPORTS TALK

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PRE-MATCH TALK MARIO SET TO BE KARTED OUT OF MANCHESTER

M

isfit Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and manager Roberto Mancini got embroiled in a heated training ground fracas in the build-up to City’s FA Cup third round tie with Watford. The fuming City boss was spotted gesticulating wildly as the pair clashed following a heavy tackle from Balotelli on winger Scott Sinclair. It will surely be the Italian’s final actions in a City shirt. He was restrained and hastily led away by goalkeeping coach Massimo Battara. The drama came just days after Balotelli’s former Inter teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed the 22-year-old is City’s best chance of retaining their I TELL @MARIOBALOL Premier League title. ME AND MANCINI “Even though he is not TLY RIC ST R AUDITIONING FO always the easiest player to COME DANCING manage, speak to any of his old coaches, like Jose Mourinho, and they will all tell you when you work with Mario you always have a smile on your face,” said the PSG striker, who might now lobby Nasser Al-Khelaifi to bring Balotelli to France. “He is a special talent. When Mario plays like we all know he can, he will hurt any team in the world. “Manchester City are already quite a way behind Manchester United in the Premier League – but if any player can retain the title for them it is Mario. Of all the class Manchester City have, I would still say he is the most capable.” Ibrahimovic, who scored a stunning overhead kick against England last November,

also revealed how he helped Mancini to nurture Balotelli when the trio were together at the San Siro. “I tried to help Mario because he does sometimes make decisions in the moment, but that is just his personality,’ added the Swede. “I told Roberto this at Inter. He knows, just like I do, that the only way to win Mario over is to love him. That is what he will react best to – and if they can get him playing at his peak then Manchester City still have a big chance.” The problem is Mancini clearly doesn’t love Balotelli, and probably never will do. It is thus more likely Mario will move to AC Milan, who are still keen despite the brawl. Fleetwood Town, the League Two club who almost signed Joey Barton, are also (half-seriously) interested, so if Roberto is feeling particularly spiteful he could end up at the Highbury Stadium on loan instead!

MARIO’S MOMENTS

- Wore an AC Milan shirt while playing for Inter - Broke into a women’s prison - Toured with the Italian mafia - Set his house ablaze with fireworks - Threw darts at various Manchester City teammates - Spent his mum’s shopping kitty on a trampoline

gossip: City could splash out £51 million to replace Balotelli with Napoli forward Edinson Cavani

10

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JANUARY 2013


CLASSIFIEDS

YOUR GUIDE TO SPORT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BASKETBALL MPAC SPORTS The UAE’s No.1 basketball academy Location: Abu Dhabi T: +971 5 0142 9330 E: info@mpacsports.com W: mpacsports.com

BOXING HADDINS GYM Abu Dhabi’s premier fitness centre Location: Zayed Sports City T: +971 5 0800 6492 E: info@haddins.com W:haddins.com

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LE MERIDIEN DUBAI Box on the beach Location: Garhoud T: +971 4 702 2430 Email: info@lemeridien-dubai.com W: lemeridien-dubai.com

CRICKET ICC GLOBAL CRICKET ACADEMY The place new Tendulkars are born Location: Dubai Sports City T: +971 4 448 1355 E: iccgca@dxbsport.com W: iccglobalcricketacademy.com G FORCE CRICKET ACADEMY Grass roots cricket at its best

Location: Karama T: +971 4 396 9994 E: jasapara@emirates.net.ae W: gforcecricketacademy.com MAX TALENT Maximise your talent Location: Dubai Sports City T: +971 4 283 1705 E: info@maxtalent.org W: maxtalent.org YOUNG TALENTS ACADEMY Making cricket cool Location: Mirdif T: +971 5 5107 5277 E: shazad@young-talent.com W: young-talent.com


GOLF ABU DHABI CITY GOLF CLUB Boasts the UAE’s first two-tiered range Location: Al Mushrif T: +971 2 445 9600 E: office@adcitygolf.ae W: adcitygolf.ae

Location: Nad Al Sheba T: +971 5 0284 5061 E: kirkcpfa@gmail.com W: cp-fa.com Samoa celebrate after their shock 26-15 win over New Zealand in the final of December’s Dubai Rugby Sevens

DUBAI FOOTBALL ACADEMY A world-class training facility Location: Sports City T: +971 4 425 1111 E: football@dxbsport.com W: footballacademydubai.com DUPLAYS Play sport. Be social Location: Dubai Media City T: +971 5 5224 0187 E: info.dxb@duplays.com W: duplays.com INSPORTZ Air-conditioned indoor sports facility Location: Al Quoz T: +971 4 347 5833 E: insportz@eim.ae W: insportzclub.com INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL ACADEMY UAE’s largest grass roots football family Location: Al Barsha T: +971 4 454 1683 E: info@ifasport.com W: ifasport.com

FOOTBALL AL AHLI SPORTS CLUB Dubai’s top football club Location: Airport Road T: +971 4 672 122 E: info@al-ahliclub.com W: al-ahliclub.com AL NASR LEISURELAND Appreciate the infinite pleasures of leisure Location: Karama T: +971 4 337 1234 E: alnasrll@eim.ae W: alnasrll.com CARLTON PALMER ACADEMY First-class coaching by ex-pros

ABU DHABI GOLF CLUB Unleash the Tiger in you Location: Sas Al Nakhi T: +971 2 558 8990 E: info@adgolfclub.com W: adgolfclub.com AL AIN EQUESTRIAN, SHOOTING & GOLF CLUB Shoot balls and bullets Location: Al Ain T: +971 3 768 4888 E: info@aesgc.ae W: aesgc.ae AL BADIA GOLF CLUB Golf with a festival atmosphere Location: Festival City T: +971 4 601 0101 E: albadiagolf@ichdfc.ae W: albadiagolfclub.ae AL HAMRA GOLF CLUB Excellent value and an even better course Location: Ras Al Khaimah T: +971 7 244 7474 E: info@alhamragolf.com W: alhamragolf.com ARABIAN RANCHES A true desert challenge Location: Emirates Road T: +971 4 366 3000 E: golfacademy@arabianranchesgolf.ae W: arabianranchesgolfdubai.com

JEBEL ALI CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE The pitches the pros use Location: Jebel Ali T: +971 4 883 0828 E: chris.brown@jaihotels.com W: jebelali-international.com

DOHA GOLF CLUB Qatar’s hidden gem Location: Doha T: +974 4 4960 7777 E: info@dohagolfclub.com W: dohagolfclub.com

MANCHESTER CITY SOCCER SCHOOL Are you the next Aguero? Location: Zayed Sports City T: +971 5 610 9187 E: simon.hewitt@mcfc.co.uk W: mcfc.co.uk

DUBAI CREEK GOLF & YACHT CLUB The wettest track in the UAE Location: Dubai Creek T: +971 4 295 6000 E: info@dubaigolf.com W: dubaigolf.com

MANCHESTER UNITED SOCCER SCHOOL Learn football the United way Location: Airport Road T: +971 2 449 8480 E: muss@manutdsoccerschools.ae W: manutdsoccerschools.ae SOCCER CIRCUS The world’s first football-themed tourist attraction Location: Mirdif T: +971 4 231 6275 E: info@soccercircus.com W: soccercircus.com

THE ELS CLUB Els, Westwood and McIlroy all train here Location: Dubai Sports City T: +971 4 425 1010 E: golf@elsclubdubai.com W: elsclubdubai.com

Location: Jebel Ali T: +971 4 883 6000 E: jagrs@jaihotels.com W: jebelali-international.com JUMEIRAH GOLF ESTATES The Race to Dubai ends here Location: Dubai Sports City T: +971 4 390 3333 Email: info@jumeirahgolfestates.com W: jumeirahgolfestates.com ROYAL GOLF CLUB Bahrain’s premier golf destination Location: Riffa T: +973 1 775 0777 E: golfevents@theroyalgolfclub.com W: theroyalgolfclub.com SAADIYAT BEACH GOLF CLUB One of Gary Player’s finest creations Location: Saadiyat Island T: +971 2 557 8000 E: info@sbgolfclub.ae W: sbgolfclub.ae SHARJAH GOLF & SHOOTING CLUB Where golf is never over-Sharjed Location: Sharjah T: +971 6 548 7777 E: info@golfandshootingshj.com W: golfandshootingshj.com THE ADDRESS MONTGOMERIE Address your golf swing here Location: Emirates Hills T: +971 4 390 5600 Email: info@themontgomerie.ae W: themontgomerie.com THE WAVE MUSCAT A Greg Norman links course that is making waves Location: Muscat T: +968 2 452 4649 E: info@thewavemuscat.com W: thewavemuscat.com TOWER LINKS The most underrated club in the UAE Location: Ras Al Khaimah T: +971 7 227 8555 E: membership@towerlinks.com W: towerlinks.com YAS LINKS The UAE’s top track Location: Yas Island T: +971 2 810 7777 E: info@yaslinks.com W: yaslinks.com

EMIRATES GOLF CLUB Home of the Desert Classic since 1989 Location: Emirates Hills T: +971 4 380 2222 E: info@dubaigolf.com W: dubaigolf.com JEBEL ALI GOLF RESORT & SPA Unique, affordable and enjoyable

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CLASSIFIEDS

SPORTS CALENDAR 5-13 JAN, DARTS: BDO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, FRIMLEY GREEN

27 JAN, CRICKET: FIFTH ODI, INDIA V ENGLAND, DHARAMSALA

11 JAN, CRICKET: FIRST ODI, INDIA V ENGLAND, RAJKOT

31 JAN-3 FEB, GOLF: DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC

14-27 JAN, TENNIS: AUSTRALIAN OPEN, MELBOURNE

31 JAN-17 FEB, CRICKET: WOMEN’S WORLD CUP, INDIA

15 JAN, CRICKET: SECOND ODI, INDIA V ENGLAND, KOCHI

3 FEB, AMERICAN FOOTBALL: SUPERBOWL XLVII, NEW ORLEANS

17-20 JAN, GOLF: ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

3 FEB, RUGBY UNION: ITALY V FRANCE, STADIO OLIMPICO

19 JAN, CRICKET: THIRD ODI, INDIA V ENGLAND, RANCHI

6 FEB, FOOTBALL: ENGLAND V BRAZIL, WEMBLEY

29 JAN-10 FEB, FOOTBALL: AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS, SOUTH AFRICA

9 FEB, CRICKET: FIRST T20I, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, AUKLAND

23 JAN, CRICKET: FOURTH ODI, INDIA V ENGLAND, MOHALI

9-10 FEB, ATHLETICS: UK CHAMPIONSHIPS, SHEFFIELD

23-26 JAN, GOLF: QATAR MASTERS, DOHA

10 FEB, RUGBY UNION: IRELAND V ENGLAND, AVIVA STADIUM

25 JAN, ATHLETICS: DUBAI MARATHON

12 FEB, CRICKET: SECOND T20I, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, HAMILTON

HORSE RIDING HOOFBEATZ Horses and humans in harmony Location: Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club T: +971 5 0181 0401 E: info@hoofbeatz.com W: hoofbeatz.com

ORIENTAL KARATE & KOBUDO CLUB Kicking ass since 1987 Location: Airport Road T: +971 2 445 7375 E: karate@emirates.net.ae W: orientalkarate.com SHOTOKAN KARATE UAE’s first Japanese sports centre Location: Sharjah T: +971 6 554 6160 E: info@shotokanuae.com W: shotokanuae.com

MOTOR SPORTS

MARTIAL ARTS DUBAI AIKIDO CLUB Live the Samurai dream Location: Al Wasl Road T: +971 5 0795 2716 E: aikido.jr@gmail.com W: aikido.ae DUBAI LADIES CLUB Fight in a tranquil ambience Location: Jumeirah Beach T: +971 4 349 9922 E: marhaba@dubailadiesclub.com W: dubailadiesclub.com MUAY THAI War on the shore Location: Sheikh Zayed Road T: +971 5 5311 3503 E: info@muaythai.ae W: muaythai.ae

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FERRARI WORLD Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster Location: Yas Island T: +971 2 496 8001 E: sales@faraleisure.com W: ferrariworldabudhabi.com YAS MARINA CIRCUIT Home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Location: Yas Island T: +971 6 559 9999 E: customerservice@yasmarinacircuit.com W: yasmarinacircuit.com

POLO DUBAI POLO & EQUESTRIAN CLUB The place for camel polo Location: Dubai Studio City T: +971 4 361 8111 E: info@poloclubdubai.com W: poloclubdubai.com DUBAI POLO ACADEMY Learn the world’s oldest team game Location: Arabian Ranches

T: +971 5 0887 9847 E: info@dubaipoloacademy.com W: dubaipoloacademy.com

RUGBY

DUBAI FROGS ‘Oui nide iou’ Location: Umm Nahad T: + 971 5 0452 9596 E: im@aen90.com W: dubai-frogs.com

ARABIAN POTBELLIES True barbarian rugby in the Middle East Location: Jebel Ali T: +971 5 6603 1989 E: francoscott@hotmail.com W: arabianpotbellies.com

DUBAI HURRICANES Cooking up a rugby storm Location: Al Ain Road T: +971 5 0578 1479 E: hurricanepauly@hotmail.com W: dubaihurricanes.com

DUBAI EXILES An ‘exilent’ club Location: Al Ain Road T: +971 5 0459 5693 E: chairman@dubaiexiles.com W: dubaiexiles.com

JEBEL ALI DRAGONS Play with fire Location: Jebel Ali T: +971 5 0657 9827 E: woodtj@emirates.net.ae W: jebelalidragonsrfc.com SHARJAH WANDERERS Over 700 active members Location: Sharjah T: +971 6 566 2105 E: swsc@eim.ae W: sharjahwanderers.com

SAILING ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL SAILING CLUB A cosmopolitan sailing experience Location: Abu Dhabi Corniche T: +971 2 681 5566 E: sailing@adimsc.com W: adimsc.com ABU DHABI SAILING CLUB Your home from home Location: Meena Zayed T: +971 2 673 1111 E: info@the-club.com W: the-club.com


SHTOHT E

Roqueruz Santa C

OF MONTH

Ho ho ho!

Anyone who thinks Father Christmas doesn’t exist clearly hasn’t been to Malaga. They have Santa Claus playing upfront for them every single week... well Santa Cruz (close enough!). It turns out the Paraguyian wasn’t the only one to don some white face fluff for Christmas. Here’s our favourite football Santas...

Andrelew Co

Pa ul e G a s c o i gn

Kevinn Keega JANUARY 2013

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CLASSIFIEDS E: jagrs@jaihotels.com W: jebelali-international.com THE RITZ-CARLTON DUBAI BEACH CLUB Tennis in a five-star environment Location: Ritz Carlton Dubai T: +971 4 399 4000 E: dxbrz.leads@ritzcarlton.com W: ritzcarlton.com

WATERSPORTS AL BOOM DIVING Leading dive operator in the UAE Location: Al Aqah Beach Resort T: +971 4 342 2993 E: abdiving@emirates.net.ae W: alboomdiving.com CLUB MINA 500m private beach and club Location: Le Meridien Mina Seyahi T: +971 4 399 3333 E: club@lemeridien-minaseyahi.com W: lemeridien-minaseyahi.com DUBAI AQUARIUM An underwater zoo Location: Dubai Mall T: +971 4 448 5200 E: enquiries@thedubaiaquarium.com W: thedubaiaquarium.com

DUBAI OFFSHORE SAILING CLUB Internationally acclaimed sailing club Location: Umm Suqeim 1 T: +971 4 394 1669 E: administration@doscuae.com W: dosc.ae

SWIMMING AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SWIM SCHOOLS Get an aquatic education Location: Fairmont Dubai T: +971 4 386 5718 E: swim@aiss.ae W: aiswimschools.com HAMILTON AQUATICS Learn to swim Location: Jumeirah T: +971 5 0250 5216 E: info@hamiltonaquatics.ae W: hamiltonaquatics.ae MUSHRIF PARK Dubai’s largest, oldest park Location: Mirdif T: +971 4 288 3624 E: info@mushrifcentralpark.ae W: mushrifcentralpark.ae STA AL WASL SWIMMING ACADEMY Become a stronger swimmer Location: Al Wasl Club T: +971 4 446 7400 E: swimming@vipeduc.com W: vipeduc.com

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TENNIS CLARK FRANCIS TENNIS An ace academy Location: Garhoud T: +971 5 6719 7042 E: tennis@clarkfrancistennis.com W: clarkfrancistennis.com CLUB JOUMANA Caroline Wozniacki sometimes swings by Location: Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa T: +971 4 814 5555

EMIRATES DIVING ASSOCIATION Inspiring people to care about our oceans since 1995 Location: Dubai Creek T: +971 4 393 9390 E: diving@emiratesdiving.com W: emiratesdiving.com GLOBAL SCUBA DIVE Go on a diving break to Oman Location: Oman T: +968 2 469 2346 E: enquiries@global-scuba.com W: global-scuba.com MONTY’S ROWING SCHOOL Getting fit is just a stroke away Location: Al Boom Tourist Village T: +971 5 0738 0910 E: details@montysrowingschool.com W: montysrowingschool.com

DUBAI WATER SPORT ACADEMY Try your hand at some of Dubai’s wackier water sports Location: Dubai Marina T: +971 5 0478 0114 E: info@bristol-middleeast.com W: bristol-holding.com

NAUTICA 1992 Fish, windsurf, paraglide and kayak Location: Mina Siyahi Beach T: +971 5 0426 2415 E: info@nautica1992.ae W: nautica1992.ae

EASY DIVERS EMIRATES Enjoy an underwater adventure Location: Emirates Hills T: +971 4 447 2247 E: info@easydiversemirates.com W: easydiversemirates.com

7 SEAS DIVERS UAE’s oldest dive centre Location: Khor Fakkan T: +971 9 238 7400 E: bestdive@emirates.net.ae W:7seasdivers.com


In August, Falcao scored a hat-trick as Atletico thrashed Chelsea 4-1 in Monaco to win the UEFA Super Cup

FALCAO NO CASH COW

A

tletico Madrid’s general manager Miguel Angel Gil Marin has told Sports Talk he doesn’t need to sell star striker Radamel Falcao, even though his club have financial problems. Gil Marin has confirmed the Columbian will remain at the Vicente Calderon Stadium this January, despite interest from Chelsea and Manchester City, although he hinted that he could plausibly move to the Premier League in the summer. “I want to make one thing clear,” explained the Spaniard at the Dubai International Sports Conference. “We don’t want or need to make a big profit off Falcao. We would rather he stay at Atletico indefinitely. That said, I can only confirm he won’t be sold in January. May is a different story. We haven’t entertained any offers yet, but there is well-documented interest from England. “At the end of the season I will talk to Radamel and see what he wants to do. We agreed, when he first joined Atletico in 2011, that I would let him move if another offer comes in that is right for him and his family. If he receives a proposal that is seven times more than his current salary, it would be wrong of Atletico to forbid him to leave, but financially speaking we aren’t looking to cash in on him.”

Falcao’s contract with Atletico doesn’t expire until 2015 and the 26-year-old, who has scored 17 goals this season (and got 39 in 2011-2012), claimed, after a seminar with

Barcelona’s Eric Abidal, that he has no desire to leave just yet – but then you wouldn’t expect him to @FALCAO I AM SPEECHLESS! say anything else with his general manager lurking! EL DIEGO – AMAZING! “I am very happy at Atletico,” revealed Falcao, who might be worth about £50 million, but was still utterly star-struck in the presence of Diego Maradona during his short trip to Dubai. “I am flattered by interest from the Premier League, but I believe in the long term vision of manager Diego Simone. [Atletico president] Enrique Cerezo and Miguel Angel have made great efforts to keep me and I owe them my loyalty. Plus, the team are faring extremely well. We are currently second in La Liga, above Real Madrid.” Lucid Falcao, who has 41 caps for his country, was speaking in Spanish and, amusingly, when talking about his allegiance to his club, his interpreter mixed up Atletico with Real Madrid. This prompted mass chortling – but perhaps the translator’s faux pas will prove prophetic! Jose Mourinho is apparently itching to beat his former club Chelsea to Falcao’s signature: perhaps that’s why the ‘Special One’ also agreed to speak at the Dubai International Sports Conference, as a sly means of talking with his target!

gossip: Chelsea are keeping tabs on Atletico’s 21-year-old Spanish midfielder Koke

JANUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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PRE-MATCH TALK

MARIO BALOTELLI

ANDREY ARSHAVIN

NANI

MANCHESTER CITY

ARSENAL

MANCHESTER UNITED

AC Milan look set to take a risk with the petulant yet endearing Italian, but perhaps only on loan for now, given his fisticuffs with Roberto Mancini

The Arsenal midfielder’s form has deteriorated dramatically and he is expected to move back to his native Russia

Arsenal, Juventus and Zenit St Petersburg have all expressed an interest in United’s out of favour (and form) Portuguese winger

MICHU

WESLEY SNEIJDER

SWANSEA CITY

INTER MILAN Inter are trying to force out their top earner after he refused a pay cut – Liverpool and Russian zillionaires Anzhi are both willing to cough up

DAVID VILLA BARCELONA Villa is back from a broken leg and Arsenal are apparently hopeful of landing the 31-year-old Spaniard on loan

JOAO MOUTINHO PORTO Zenit look like getting the Portugal star’s signature after Tottenham refused to pay his £25 million (AED 150m) asking price

WANTED TOP 10 JANUARY TRANSFER TARGETS With Falcao out of the picture, here are 10 other footballers likely to make high-profile moves this January

ISCO

Signed for just £2 million (AED 12m) in the summer, Michu has scored 13 goals in 20 games, enough to tempt Atletico into tabling an offer

ASMIR BEGOVIC STOKE CITY With first-choice keeper David de Gea all over the place, Manchester United might take a punt on the reliable and commanding Bosnian

LOIC REMY

MALAGA

MARSEILLE

Spurs view Isco as the new Luka Modric, and with Malaga in financial bother they just might snare him for peanuts

The versatile striker is being chased by Newcastle and QPR, but won’t be sold for less than £10 million (AED 60m)

@JACOBSBEN

gossip: Cristiano Ronaldo has refused to rule out re-signing for Manchester United

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HAD SIGNED I WISH DEMBA BA T CHELSEA, JUST NO A SE AN SW R FO NDS OF WELSH TO HEAR THOUSA HIS NAME! G GIN SIN FANS


BAH HUMBUG! ILL NADAL PULLS OUT OF ABU DHABI

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he Mubadala World Tennis Championship didn’t exactly go according to plan. World No.1 Novak Djokovic beat plucky Spaniard Nicolas Almagro (6-7, 6-3, 6-4) to clinch the title in Abu Dhabi, but it was Rafael Nadal who made all the headlines without even hitting a single ball. December’s exhibition event was supposed to be the 11-time Grand Slam winner’s long-awaited comeback after six months out with tendonitis in his left knee. Yet on Christmas Day he withdrew due to a (dubious) stomach bug, amidst fears he still isn’t fit enough to return. “I was really excited about playing because I always have a wonderful experience at the event,” said Nadal, who hasn’t swung a racket since his shock defeat to Lucas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon on 28 June. “This is the first time I will miss the tournament. My rehab has gone well, my knee feels good and I was looking forward to competing. “Unfortunately my team of doctors have told me that my body needs to rest in order to fight this virus. I would like to say sorry to all my fans in the United Arab Emirates, but I hope to play and win in Abu Dhabi again next year.” Nadal subsequently pulled out from both Doha’s Qatar Open and, most significantly, the Australian Open, citing both the mystery illness and a general lack of match sharpness. “The safest thing to do is rest,” claimed the Spaniard. “My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well, but this virus has stopped me practising and therefore I am sorry to announce I will not play in Doha or the Australian Open, as initially planned.” It is surely medically impossible for a minor stomach infection, contracted on or around 25 December, to stop Nadal competing in the Aussie Open, which takes place a full three weeks later. Sadly, he might just have to start accepting his knee injury genuinely is career-threatening. Rafa could never be the same player again. Nadal’s last-minute sickie had a huge impact on the World Tennis Championship, certainly contributing towards the dwindling crowds at the Zayed Sports Stadium. Andy Murray’s tame first round exit to world No.9 Janko Tipsarevic (6-3, 6-4) didn’t help matters either, and nor did Roger Federer’s notable absence. Greg Sproule, the managing director of IMG Middle East, pleaded with the Swiss star to replace Nadal, but Federer rightly snubbed the event after being overlooked in the first place. It was lunacy for Sproule not to offer the 31-year-old one of the

Former world No.1 Nadal now plans to return to action at the relatively obscure Mexican Open (Abierto Mexicano) in Acapulco on 25 February

initial eight spots, and his logic for not doing so makes him look even more foolish. “The principle reason is that we are celebrating past champions and Federer, unfortunately, hasn’t won the event,” he argued. “Roger is very dear to us, and I mean that very seriously. But the celebration of champions and the youth of the ATP, which we have in spades here with arguably the six hottest young players in the game, was our aim from the outset. These guys have more Grand Slam victories ahead of them rather than behind them.” The 2012 tournament was undoubtedly plagued with bad luck, but what’s more worrying is if bad management stops Federer from ever returning to the UAE capital. Without him, and with injured Nadal still unable to commit to events, Abu Dhabi’s World Tennis Championship is significantly weaker.

ARE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THE SIGNING OF

ANNABEL CROFT

AS OUR TENNIS COLUMNIST

She will start writing for us in February. You can also follow her on Twitter via @ANNABEL_CROFT

gossip: ATP stud Grigor Dimitrov has started dating WTA hottie Maria Sharapova

JANUARY 2013

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PRE-MATCH TALK

CHERUIYOT OF FIRE

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oses Cheruiyot Mosop is fired up to win the 2013 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (25 January) on his debut. The 27-year-old, who represented Kenya at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, is best known for his 10k bronze at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. In Boston last year, he and fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest ever times recorded for a marathon (2:03:06 and 2:03:02). The pair shattered the Boston record by almost three minutes, but their achievement was not official because the IAAF only recognise times set on a loop course like Dubai’s. “It was a shame, though more so for Geoffrey because he ran quicker than I did,” said Mosop. “We knew the rules, so can’t have any complaints. It was a fantastic run. I arrive in Dubai in strong form and spirits, and depending on how hot it is might stand a chance of getting somewhere near Haile Gebrselassie’s course record.” Three-time winner Gebrselassie set Dubai alight in 2008, clocking 2:04:53, which will surely take some beating. Joining Moses, and with one eye on Berhane Adere’s own 2008 record (2:22:42), will be the fastest woman in the field, Tirfi Tsegaye. The 28-year-old Ethiopian produced two outstanding performances last year. In April she won the Paris Marathon in 2:21:40, while the following September, in Berlin, she ran compatriot Aberu Kebede close, eventually finishing @HAILEGEBR THE OPEN FOR runner-up but setting a new personal best in REGISTRATION IS IE MARATHON. HAILE GEBRSELASS the process (2:21:19). . ES AC PL THERE ARE 1,200 TO Tsegaye’s training partner Koren Jelela will GO N MATIO FOR MORE INFOR M .CO ON also be present, as will Kenyan-born Swede TH RA MA ILE HA Isabellah Andersson, but sadly defending women’s champion Aselefech Medessa is absent due to injury. Of course, the January race isn’t only for the pros, and that’s why the event is on course to smash its own 2012 record of 17,141 runners. A whopping 20,000 are expected to set off from Emaar Boulevard in downtown Dubai, just steps away from the towering Burj Khalifa – an apt backdrop for what looks like being the biggest Dubai Marathon to date.

On October 9, Mosop won the Chicago Marathon with a blistering time of 2:05:37, beating Sammy Wanjiru’s course record by four seconds

gossip: Double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah has been invited to run in the 2014 Dubai Marathon

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CLIVE AGRAN


R

eluctant though I am to admit it, my interest in birds could well be rooted in envy. Those who have heard me ‘sing’ The 5th Dimension’s ‘Up, Up and Away’ in the shower could easily be forgiven for concluding I am jealous of their warbling. But it’s not that – nor is it their talent for building a snug abode out of nothing but twigs and feathers. Quite simply, I wish I could fly! As a young nipper, I even dreamt of one day becoming a real life paratrooper rather than just whimsically wishing I was Superman like my other chums. When you think about it, flying is the only significant means of locomotion we mortals haven’t yet mastered. We can walk, climb, crawl, run, sail, swim and even slide along on skates, skis or rollerblades, but we haven’t yet figured out how to shake our arms vigorously, rise gracefully up from the ground and then flap off down to Tesco. The fact mankind can’t yet (quite literally) fly in the face of gravity hasn’t stopped us from trying. A trip to the annual celebration of non-flight, the Worthing International Birdman Festival, conclusively proves this. Staged in August, presumably to take advantage of any helpful thermals (rising bubbles of heated air that can be used to gain height), the endearing if ludicrous event offers £10k (AED 60k) for “The furthest flight should a birdman achieve over a 100-metre distance.” The rather cautious (and grammatically cumbersome) wording suggests the organisers are a tad anxious about the possibility of multiple birdmen fluttering past the 100-metre mark. Since Worthing isn’t all that far from where I live (95 miles by road, but only 64 by air), and £10k would enable me to fill up my car with diesel at least half a dozen times on those rare occasions when it is perhaps too foggy to fly, I aim to enter one day – probably before my impending 100th birthday. However, before doing anything as reckless as jumping off Worthing Pier in a feathered costume, I thought it prudent to see if I have an aptitude for self-flight. Dave Lewis certainly does. In his early 40s and a qualified paraglider pilot for 14 years, he has managed to

stay aloft for over 1,600 hours without once tumbling to earth in a crumpled heap. A full-time instructor, he now specialises in taking wannabe swallows up in a tandem machine. Not to be confused with a TARDIS, this is a sort of two-person sky bike entirely incapable of time travel. While I frantically sipped a large mug of tea in a glam café, Dave oozed serenity as he patiently explained a few pertinent pointers. I struggled to pay attention, since I was both hastily scribbling my will on a used napkin and pondering why he hadn’t offered me a pre-flight Red Bull, considering it is supposed to give you wings! Although thankfully sparing us any complicated aerodynamic theory, Dave didn’t hold back elaborating on the inherent risks associated with the sport. The good news is, compared with its early pioneering days, paragliding has grown progressively safer. “A nasty falling out of the sky is most unlikely,” he reassured us. “Take off and landing are the most dangerous parts.” I foolishly asked about his hairiest moment and he graphically described a dramatic incident over the Himalayas where he struggled to stabilise his paraglider after the wing collapsed in turbulent air. Despite hurtling earthwards at a frightening pace, he didn’t freak out and eventually straightened things out at the fifth attempt, so never seriously contemplated deploying his parachute. The real positive I took from this otherwise harrowing tale was the welcome presence on every flight of a parachute on his back, which I assumed he would share in the event of a real emergency. Dave also talked a bit about thermals and how to locate them; the helpful phenomenon known as ridge lift (where wind hits a hill and deflects upwards); and glide ratios (the ability of an aircraft to convert height into distance). Broadly speaking, the sleeker and more delicate the craft, the greater its efficiency and thus the further it can travel. Fortunately, for my health, we had the Phil Mitchell of paragliders – robust, workmanlike and no doubt handy (for self-defence) in a dark alley.


CLIVE AGRAN

FLYING IS THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT MEANS OF LOCOMOTION WE MORTALS HAVEN’T YET MASTERED. WE CAN WALK, CLIMB, CRAWL, RUN, SAIL, SWIM AND EVEN SLIDE ALONG ON SKATES, SKIS OR ROLLERBLADES, BUT WE HAVEN’T YET FIGURED OUT HOW TO SHAKE OUR ARMS VIGOROUSLY, RISE GRACEFULLY UP FROM THE GROUND AND THEN FLAP OFF DOWN TO TESCO.

clive would feel VERY MUCH at home at the worthing International birdman festival given it attRacts lunatics!

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As he chatted knowledgeably, Dave occasionally glanced up, lovingly, at the fluffy cumulus clouds forming above our heads. These indicate thermal activity and suggest favourable conditions. Thus, I drained what I feared could be my last-ever cuppa and then hopped into a battered old Land Rover, which took me to a field at the foot of a colossal hill just outside Lewes in East Sussex. Myself and Dave were both armed with hefty rucksacks (each approximately the size of Susan Boyle) full of various paragliding gizmos, including Dave’s parachute – or ‘Clive’s parachute’, as I quickly rechristened it! We lugged these up the steep escarpment of the imposing mound, eventually settling almost 500 feet above sea level. Sitting on the summit, I devoured what I was now convinced was my final-ever packet of cashew nuts and raisins and downed one parting bottle of ginger beer. While I panicked… erm, I mean picnicked, I watched a few fellow fliers assemble their paragliders before stepping off the side of the knoll, then angelically floating over the vast valley below. Meanwhile, Dave scoured the horizon and rather elatedly confirmed the absence of any thunderstorms. “I think we’ll wait for the thermals and wind to pick up,” he gleefully pronounced. Although it felt both humid and pretty gusty to me, I did notice that the guys who took off a few minutes earlier were struggling to gain any real height. My appreciation of the glorious view was cut short when I suddenly realised it was my turn. Final preparations, however, weren’t aided by a last-minute sneeze that resulted in the accidental blowing of my nose with my will. I became worried that, if I didn’t survive, no one would know who to give my moderate riches or comic book collection to. Nonetheless, I boldly donned my crash helmet and harnessed my creaking limbs to Dave’s hardy thighs (the process wasn’t nearly as erotic as it sounds). He then instructed that when he yelled, “GO, GO, GO,” I should lean forward and try to run off the hill in the direction of a small pond on the far side of the (now disturbingly busy) road. He double-checked everything was clipped in correctly and then clung softly to my back and buttocks as we went through one final rehearsal.


agran plans to lobby (or bribe) the ioc for paragliding to BE introduced at rio 2016

The Dubai skyline is arguably even more spectacular than Five minutes later and it was time to lose my paragliding Lois Lane’s cleavage, so paragliding there would be a true treat virginity for real. I could hear the wing fluttering in the breeze and – although the Burj Khalifa is so blooming high there’s a danger my heart thumping. Due to the strong pull behind, running isn’t that the sharp pole at the very top could quite the right word to describe my frantic efforts puncture a parachute! Away from all the to put one foot in front of the other as quickly as skyscrapers, however, you can apparently go possible. No matter, I was up, up and away and to Oman’s Zighy Bay, where you can enjoy Dave was soon guiding me through the clouds! PARAGLIDING wonderful views of the sparkling Strait of “Lean right. Lean left. Now, right again. Okay, IN THE UAE Hormuz. Hotel guests can even paraglide now straight,” he screamed, as we slid back and down to reception to check in! forth across the hill in search of a lift. Dubai Paragliding Club As I contemplated whizzing through the Being a closet ornithologist, Dave kept : +971 5 5178 6714 Arabian Gulf, saving princesses from ogres, geekily pointing out various birds. We saw *: feller@sfeller.com the hill we had just taken off from suddenly kestrels, crows, seagulls, falcons and buzzards : dubaiparaglidingclub.com disappeared, and the altimeter’s beep-count – well he did, I kept instinctively looking up to more than matched my pulse rate, as we try and locate them, but they were all beneath Abu Dhabi Micro Aviation Club piggy-backed on a big dollop of warm air us! At least this meant, for once, they couldn’t : +971 5 5843 5254 that had soared skywards from the hot poo on my head! The birds provided useful *: microaviation@hungary.org fields below. “We are now 1,500 feet up,” clues as we went in search of beneficial : microaviation.org yelled Dave. thermals. The upward progress of other Being so high, we could afford to peel away paragliders was another promising indicator. Zighy Bay and explore. I could see all of Sussex, most of An altimeter attached to Dave’s arm emitted a : +968 2 673 5888 Brighton, a chunk of Kent and possibly even range of beeps to let us know whether we were *: reservations-zighy@ Dubai (or perhaps just the Camber Sands). climbing, dropping or staying level. sixsenses.com Then, all too soon, it was over. We ambled By now, and to my slight surprise, I wasn’t : sixsenses.com down and landed on precisely the same spot terrified at all. I was relishing the thrill of flying from which we had taken off half an hour high over the magnificent English countryside. It earlier. I remembered to keep my legs is at this point, though, I realised that if I was a outstretched as we gently touched down but paratrooper I would probably have to start forgot to stay on my feet, so lost quite a few style points. What an lobbing grenades at a target, so I decided pretending to be experience! Plus, I learnt that flying isn’t just for birds – but it’s Superman was preferable and began musing over the obvious definitely not for chickens either! benefits of rescuing damsels in distress. JANUARY 2013

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M.C.F.C. M.C.F.C. Manchester City Football Club, we salute you.

Congratulations to everyone at Manchester City FC on being crowned the Barclays Premier League champions 2011/ 12. From your proud partners, Etihad – the World’s Leading Airline. etihad.com

Job No: 95787

Client: Etihad Campaign: MCFC

Proof No: 01

Publication: ME Sports Talk Insertion Date: 16/05/2012


FIRST HALF

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM » INTERVIEWS » PREVIEWS

THIS MONTH… 22 ATOMIC FLEA

Barcelona’s 91-goal assasin Lionel Messi tells both Manchester clubs to buzz off

34 GIANTS ARE BACK

World No.1 Rory McIlroy and No.3 Tiger Woods headline January’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

46 LITTLE MASTER

Sam Pilger chats to Sachin Tendulkar following his retirement from one-day cricket


LIONEL MESSI

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NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2012


NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2012

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LIONEL MESSI

LIONEL MESSI TELLS BEN JACOBS HE WOULD STRUGGLE TO SCORE AS MANY GOALS AT EITHER MANCHESTER CLUB

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W

e have officially run out of superlatives to describe Lionel Messi. He is La Pulga Atomica (The Atomic Flea), El Asesino Silencioso (The Silent Assassin) and, if the 5ft 7in Argentine wasn’t two inches taller than Sachin Tendulkar, probably the Little Master too! Ultimately, stats rather than adjectives prove Messi’s near indescribable supremeness. In 2012 he bagged 91 goals (not to mention 22 assists) – that’s 16 more than West Ham striker Carlton Cole’s career tally, and he’s won seven caps for England and is four years Lionel’s senior! Astonishingly, 25-year-old Messi averaged a goal every 66 minutes in La Liga. When you consider that Racing Santander managed just 28 in 38 matches (that’s 0.73 per game compared to Messi’s 1.36), you realise the truly ridiculous numbers he posted last year. Barca’s nifty No.10 needed to net 86 times to surpass German Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record for goals scored in a calendar year. His first, against Osasuna, was a neat back-post header in the Copa del Rey. Numbers six and seven were jinking solo runs against Malaga, while the 18th and 20th, deft dinks over helpless Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno, were two of the most memorable. Messi eventually broke the record on 9 December, scoring both in Blaugrana’s 2-1 victory at Real Betis – only for Brazil legend Zico to claim he got 89 for Flamengo in 1979. Unperturbed, the Argentine promptly added five more (just to be sure), including braces against Córdoba and Atletico Madrid. Amazingly, his feat is still being challenged, this time by the Zambian FA, who swear blind Godfrey Chitalu weighed in with 107 in 1972. FIFA refuse to acknowledge this. Messi, with loveable nonchalance, isn’t particularly bothered whether he does or doesn’t hold the record, providing Barca continue to dominate with their mesmerising tika-taka swagger. However, goals (and the personal accolades they tend to bring) clearly do matter to him, which is why he has no intention of moving to either Manchester club, despite keen interest from both. “I think a lot of people assume I will end up in the Premier League one day,” the 2013 Ballon d’Or winner told Sports Talk.


MESSI v LA LIGA 1.4 1.2

GOALS PER GAME

GOALS

1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2

LIO N At EL M hl ES et ico SI Bi lb ao Se vi Re lla Re al B al e So tis cie da d Es pa ny Os ol as un a M a Sp n or or tin ca g Gi jo n Ge ta V fe Re illa re al Za al ra go Ra G za cin ran ad g Sa a nt an de r

0

120

AVERAGE MINUTES PER GOAL

MINUTES

100 80 60 40 20 0

LIO N At EL M hl ES et ico SI Bi lb ao Se vi Re lla Re al B al e So tis cie da d Es pa ny Os ol as un a M Sp an or or tin ca g Gi jo n Ge ta V fe Re illa re al Za al ra go Ra G za cin ran ad g Sa a nt an de r

“I am not sure why. I think La Liga is the world’s greatest football league. I have been at Barcelona since I was 13. It is the only life I know, and a fantastic one. “Obviously, my contract has a release clause. Everyone knows that and any club can activate it. Manchester United and Manchester City have paid me the compliment of scouting me, but I don’t believe either has ever made an approach. If they did, I wouldn’t leave Barcelona. I think rumours I might go there have started recently because Pep Guardiola may end up joining one of the Manchester teams, but I have no reason to look for a new club. “One reason England doesn’t appeal, despite the country’s passion for football, is it might be impossible to score 91 goals in the Premier League. The style over there is a little more physical, and I would get kicked a lot, and possibly injured more. Plus, with no winter break, fatigue is more of a factor. It is also very cold, especially up north, so Manchester would be a tough place to live. As for London, that is a wonderful city, but nothing beats Barcelona!” We all know Messi is the most sought-after star in football, but he could easily retire as a one-club man, thus never commanding a transfer fee and leaving us all to wildly speculate just what it might be. The answer, right now, is €250 million (AED 1.23 billion) – that’s the number which triggers the release clause in his current contract. Only last month, Messi penned a two-year extension, keeping him at the Bernabeu until 2018, yet ambitious Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala still had the

Messi’s final goal of 2012 came in Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Real Valladolid at the Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla, taking his tally to 91 – 27 more than Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo JANUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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LIONEL MESSI

MANCHESTER UNITED AND MANCHESTER CITY HAVE PAID ME THE COMPLIMENT OF SCOUTING ME, BUT I DON’T BELIEVE EITHER HAS EVER MADE AN APPROACH. IF THEY DID, I WOULDN’T LEAVE BARCELONA.

In just over a decade, Messi has gone from a shy kid with health issues at Newell’s Old Boys to a three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona

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audacity to table an inflated offer. Messi, unsurprisingly, wasn’t swayed, despite being promised €500k per week. “Money doesn’t motivate me,” revealed the 25-year-old, who originally signed a contract with Barcelona crafted on a napkin by ex-sporting director Carles Rexach. “Barcelona have always shown love and loyalty towards me and all I want to do is repay them. It is common knowledge that I suffered from a rare form of growth hormone deficiency [it affects just one in 20 million people] and, when I was at Newell’s Old Boys, my family couldn’t afford my medical bills. Barcelona stepped in and for that I will be eternally grateful.” It is crystal-clear Messi just wants to play football, and the fact he could conceivably become the world’s first billion-dollar player hasn’t given him an ego. Away from the field, even among close friends, there is not a whiff of bravado. Quite the opposite – if anything, he lacks confidence. At heart, Lionel is a recluse (a Barca loner!) who communicates almost exclusively with the ball at his feet. “I have never met someone so quiet,” revealed Messi’s teammate Cesc Fabregas. “What makes Lionel so likeable is his humble nature, but to begin with I just thought he was mute! Then, in 2002, we went to Italy for the Maestrelli Trophy with Barcelona’s B-team. We spent some time together, played lots of video games in the hotel, and suddenly he came out of his shell. There is no denying he is still shy and certainly doesn’t crave the fame that comes with his talent, but on the pitch he is a leader.”


Last March, Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League fixture as Barcelona trounced Bayer Leverkusen 7-1

JANUARY 2013


LIONEL MESSI

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JANUARY 2013

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LIONEL MESSI

Better than M

Maradona?

essi is the antithesis of flamboyant Diego Maradona, whose capacious cockiness coaxed Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser into awarding the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Consequently, he feels uncomfortable being mentioned in the same breath as the former Al Wasl boss. “I often get asked if I believe I am better than Maradona,” mused a blushing Lionel. “I can’t answer that. I am flattered by the comparison with such a great player. All I know is Maradona is a legend who is still worshipped by the people of Argentina and will be forever remembered for some of his goals. If I get close to his achievements I will have had a brilliant career.” Unlike Diego, Messi is yet to win a World Cup (something he can’t now change until Brazil 2014), but nor did Johan Cruyff and no one would dare dismiss the legendary Dutch midfielder as unworthy of football’s hall of fame. Messi has at least won Olympic gold for his country (Beijing 2008) along with five La Liga and three Champions League titles at Barcelona. Plus, in the modern era, the World Cup surely pales into insignificance compared to the Champions League, if not in terms of prestige then certainly as far as quality is concerned. Lionel’s domination of Europe’s premier cup competition is every bit as significant as the indelible mark Maradona left on Mexico ‘86, even if Diego himself doesn’t think so. “I am sick of hearing that Messi is the new me,” chuckled Maradona, who is currently an ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council. “I coached him at Argentina, so I should know. No one is like me. He is a very special talent, with an exceptional work rate, but you can’t compare the two of us – not now, only after his career is over. Until then, I have a legacy and Lionel is still creating his.” Maradona’s point is not strictly true. In fact, Messi is one of only a handful of current footballers (along with David

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Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo) who already have football geeks across the globe nostalgically reminiscing about his past – almost as if he has already retired – even as he continues to write new scripts. The image of that towering header in the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United (2-0) at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico (with an aghast Edwin van der Sar looking on) will surely stand the test of time. It was a moment preceded by widespread chatter about Messi being useless in the air, and was followed, immediately, by his boot falling off as (so the scientists tell us) his body shrank for a split second as the super-human effort shot through his petite frame. Two years later, Messi lashed in the second goal against Manchester United as Barcelona won 3-1 at Wembley, before bolting off to assault the corner flag in a savage celebration – it was gloriously uncharacteristic, the kind of thing Cameroon’s Roger Milla might do! The point is, at just 25 Lionel already has a Champions League legacy equal to Maradona’s international one. His goal in that 2011 final was his 12th of the tournament, while last season he went two better, equalling AC Milan striker José Altafini’s 50-year record. He is odds-on to smash it in 2013. Those who maintain Maradona is still superior would argue Messi is surrounded by other footballing genii, like Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, who make his job easy. Diego, on the other hand, joined a shambolic Napoli side in 1984 and single-handedly transformed them from relegation contenders to Serie A (19861987, 1989-1990) and UEFA Cup champions (1989). Tellingly, since he left the club in 1991, I Ciucciarelli (The Little Donkeys) haven’t won another trophy. In addition, the scandalous handball aside, Maradona’s contribution in Mexico


In its own way, Messi’s magnificent header against Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final is up there with Maradona’s dazzling goal against England at Mexico ‘86

ALL I KNOW IS MARADONA IS A LEGEND WHO IS STILL WORSHIPPED BY THE PEOPLE OF ARGENTINA AND WILL BE FOREVER REMEMBERED FOR SOME OF HIS GOALS. IF I GET CLOSE TO HIS ACHIEVEMENTS I WILL HAVE HAD A BRILLIANT CAREER.

was sensational. Ten of Argentina’s 14 goals were scored or created by him, and his five included sublime strikes against England and Belgium. In the final, after West Germany had battled back from 2-0 down, he supplied the killer pass for midfielder Jorge Burruchaga to net the winner. He did all this with a knee injury that had threatened to rule him out of the tournament. You can clearly make a case for both players, but Messi’s certainly shouldn’t be damaged by Argentina’s recent World Cup woes – the last of which, in fact, was partly down to Maradona’s poor management. As the star name, Lionel took the brunt of criticism in South Africa, but he was actually quite unlucky, hitting the post more times than any other player. “It bugs me that I haven’t yet won a World Cup, but I will hopefully still have at least three more chances,” said Messi, who failed to score in South Africa. “In 2010, I thought we were fantastic during the group stage, but we lost our way in the 4-0 quarter-final defeat to Germany. That’s just cup football. If you have an off 90 minutes your dream is over and in the case of World Cups you must wait for four long years to get another chance.” If genial (and genius) Messi does raise the Jules Rimet trophy in Rio, there will surely be no question that he has surpassed Maradona, but even without international glory his 91 goals in 2012, and domination of the greatest club competition in the world, are arguably already enough to solidify him as history’s greatest ever footballer. With this in mind, it is just a shame he will probably never grace the Premier League, although perhaps a war over his signature between United and City is best averted – it would inevitably be ‘Messi’! JANUARY 2013

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

N

ew Nike stablemates Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will begin their 2013 season in Abu Dhabi this January (17-20). The pair will be joined at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by world No.4 Justin Rose, No.7 Lee Westwood, defending champion Robert Rock and three-time winner Martin Kaymer (2008, 2010, 2011). ADTA ambassador Matteo Manassero, UAE pro Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Butch Harmon School of Golf coach Callum Nicoll are also part of the illustrious field. Like last year, world No.1 McIlroy (who has spent his pre-season at Dubai’s Els Club) and No.3 Woods will be grouped together for the first two days. The pair both came agonisingly close to victory 12 months ago, yet were ultimately denied by gritty party pooper Robert Rock. For the 62nd time in his career, Tiger led going into a final round, but the unassuming Englishman became just the ninth player to overhaul him, courtesy of a final round 70. In blustery conditions, Woods could only muster a level-par 72, so fell to joint third, with McIlroy’s 69 good enough for second place – a familiar position for the Northern Irishman. “Obviously the aim is to go one better in Abu Dhabi,” said McIlroy, who was also second to Martin Kaymer in 2011. “I have started the season in Abu Dhabi for the last five years, but this is the first time I am heading there as world No.1. I have come close a few times and sense this year could be my turn. “It is fantastic that Tiger is joining me at the tournament. We had a great tussle nine months ago and I am sure he will be in contention once again. We spent quite a bit of time playing together last season: it is really fun for me to test myself against the very best.”

McIlroy might dub Tiger the best, but in doing so he does himself an injustice. After all, 2012 was a breakthrough year for the affable Ulsterman. The 23-year-old won the PGA Championship last August, and in doing so became a multiple Major winner five months earlier than Woods. He also topped the Race to Dubai and PGA Money List (courtesy of four other wins) – a feat only Luke Donald had previously managed, in 2011 – although Tiger, in his pomp, did consistently win the Orders of Merit on both sides of the Atlantic without ever officially holding a European Tour card. Having already wrapped up the Race to Dubai in Singapore, and in second gear for the most part, McIlroy showcased his prodigious talent with a two-shot victory at the season-ending Tour Championship. He finished with five consecutive birdies to deny Justin Rose, despite the latter firing a 10-under par course record of 62. “That was the big difference last year,” revealed McIlroy. “I found a way to contend without always playing well. As a result, I got a lot more experience of back nines on a Sunday. “The first Major I should have won, but didn’t, was the 2010 Masters. I was cruising for three days and then just fell to pieces at the 10th, hooking my tee shot into the housing. Mentally, I crumbled, but I feel like that kind of scenario won’t happen again. Obviously, I would love to win the Masters and believe Abu Dhabi will serve as excellent preparation ahead of Augusta.” McIlroy is the hot favourite for the first Major of the golf season. Plus with his coach, Michael Bannon, now full time (having previously split his workload between Rory and Bangor Golf Club), severe swing or mental lapses appear less likely. Nonetheless, question marks remain as to whether his

23-year-old McIlroy has managed the same number of Majors as Tiger did at his age, but Woods had won seven more tournaments and boasted a slightly lower average score (68.43 v 68.73) 36

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP When: 17-20 January Where: Abu Dhabi Golf Club Tickets: AED 50 (via timeoutabudhabi.com) Website: abudhabigolfchampionship.com

$250 million switch to Nike is a shrewd one. The new clubs won’t be a huge issue, but the Nike ball is significantly sub-standard compared to Titleist’s. That said, it hasn’t hindered Tiger from winning 14 Majors. After a barren spell lasting two years and 26 tournaments, he finally won in December 2011 (albeit at his own event, the Chevron World Challenge), and again at last March’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 37-year-old is thus back up to world No.3 – although he is as far behind Rory as the gap between himself and world No.26 Hunter Mahan – and finally seems over both the sex scandal and knee and Achilles’ niggles which threatened to prematurely end his career. Abu Dhabi should be an excellent gauge of how he will fare in 2013. When Tiger wins a season opener it usually bodes well. Historically, he has started his year at the Farmers Insurance Open – a tournament he has won six times (1999, 2003, 20052008). On five of those occasions he has gone on to claim a Major, with the only exception being 2003. “That’s a pretty cool stat,” Woods told Sports Talk. “The season opening event is important because it sets the tone. Abu Dhabi has a very strong line-up, so winning there would be a big confidence boost. “I haven’t just chosen to return to the event because of the field, though. I really enjoyed visiting Abu Dhabi last year – everything from the weather and fans to the course and facilities make the UAE capital the ideal place to begin my year. It is a tournament I really want to win after coming so close in January. It would be a wonderful way to start 2013.” Of course, one thing Tiger conveniently forgets to mention is he has also been lured over to the UAE by a hefty appearance fee. Sports Talk understands he penned a three-year deal in 2012, worth $1 million per cameo, with an additional $1 million bonus if he also features in the WGC-HSBC Shanghai Champions.

Woods usually demands at least $3 million per tournament, but significant contributions by HSBC to the Tiger Woods Foundation have resulted in a cut rate. Tellingly, McIlroy’s appearance fee is similar to Tiger’s, while Martin Kaymer, fresh from sinking the putt that retained Europe the Ryder Cup, also demanded big bucks (to the point where an agreement almost wasn’t reached). For the inflated fees they receive, both McIlroy and Woods have been forced to sign exclusivity clauses preventing them from playing in the Dubai Desert Classic. HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) both argue this is to ensure the duo’s presence in the region is not diluted, but it is still a shame, given 2009 champion Rory’s long-term affinity with Dubai (having been previously sponsored by Jumeirah) and the fact that Tiger has won the Middle East’s oldest golf tournament twice (2006, 2008). Their absence has also led to the weakest Desert Classic field in recent years, with only Westwood agreeing to feature. However, according to tournament organiser Adrian Flaherty, Tiger has at least signed a one-off deal to appear at Emirates Golf Club next year for the tournament’s 25th anniversary. If true, he would presumably have to opt out of his Abu Dhabi deal a year early. If Woods’ calendar wasn’t so restricted, he could plausibly stick around for the entire Desert Swing in order to stand a chance of hitting the new reduced quota of 13 events needed to hold a European Tour card. Right now, however, the notion of replicating Rory by trying to top both Orders of Merit isn’t a goal. “I love playing around the world, but I don’t have any plans for European Tour membership,” conceded Tiger. “Throughout my career, I have a certain number of events that I like to play, and that’s worked well for me. I want time with my kids, to work on my game and to arrive at each tournament ready to try and win.”

I HAVE STARTED THE SEASON IN ABU DHABI FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS, BUT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I AM HEADING THERE AS WORLD NO.1. I HAVE COME CLOSE A FEW TIMES AND SENSE THIS YEAR MIGHT BE MY TURN.

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP In a congested European Tour calendar that doesn’t even have room for Hong Kong this season, no one can blame Woods or McIlroy for reining in their schedules. Inevitably this will damage some of the smaller events, but it will ultimately give both the best possible chance of winning more Majors, which is in truth all they really care about. With a $2.7 million prize pool, and excellent ranking points at stake, Abu Dhabi is likely to remain one of the ‘safe’ events. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which only started in 2006, is going from strength to strength and well deserves its billing as a Middle East Major. “To have Tiger and Rory in Abu Dhabi is quite a coup,” said tournament director Peter German, who is actively musing moving the tournament to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in 2014 after ruling out Yas Links as too small last year. “Rory is such an exciting player, with a tremendous record in Abu Dhabi, while Tiger is always guaranteed to ensure huge galleries. It was great to see him regain some form in 2012 and I think a lot of people sense 2013 could be his year.” Of course, it would be foolish to assume both the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, and 2013 more generally, will evolve exclusively around golf’s two biggest stars. Abu Dhabi debutant Rose is just as confident of shining on the big stage. The 32-year-old enjoyed a sensational 2012, with top ten finishes at the Masters (T8) and Open (T3), as well as a one-stroke victory over Masters champion Bubba Watson at March’s WGCCadillac Championship. Justin also saw off Phil Mickelson in his Ryder Cup singles despite being one-down through 16. He sunk two monster putts, the first of which even had a stunned Mickelson applauding. “That was the best day I have ever had on a golf course,” beamed Rose. “If we had lost 14½-13½, I would have still come away

38

I LOVE PLAYING AROUND THE WORLD BUT I DON’T HAVE ANY PLANS FOR EUROPEAN TOUR MEMBERSHIP. I WANT TIME WITH MY KIDS, TO WORK ON MY GAME AND TO ARRIVE AT EACH TOURNAMENT READY TO TRY AND WIN. proud of us, thinking we had given it a great run, but the fact we actually won the Ryder Cup was just fairytale stuff. “I honestly said to myself on the 17th tee, ‘Justin, you’re one behind with two to play and even a half won’t do – not when we’re 10-6 down. It is time to weigh in with a point!’ I then sank a 35-footer – the kind of putt you hole one in 50 times. “I was really nervous, but in golf you don’t have to be completely in control of your body, as long as you keep your head. Putting is the one artful aspect of the game that is mostly mental. It is more about heart and confidence than the stroke itself. “I did a lot of thinking before I went out against Phil. I took my clubs home the night before and had a few practice putts in my hotel room. I knew if I was going to win, I would have to do something different. “I only spent about five minutes hitting balls on the carpet, but that was enough time to alter my grip pressure, which helped the putter swing more freely. The next morning, I spent 20 minutes more on the putting green than normal, just to bed in that feeling, and went out truly believing I was going to sink some putts. “Now, when I am in a high pressure situation, I have the Ryder Cup to draw upon. Hopefully that will help me win my first Major this year and also come in handy at tournaments like Abu Dhabi too. “I am really looking forward to starting my season in the UAE, especially with Rory and Tiger present. HSBC always know how to put on quality golf tournaments. I have heard excellent things about both the course and atmosphere and feel like this new addition on my schedule for 2013 will only enhance my preparation ahead of the Masters.” With a plethora of quality names, many of whom stand a realistic chance of claiming the green jacket at Augusta this April, all choosing to kick off their season in Abu Dhabi, the PGA Tour (which doesn’t proffer appearance fees) could be forgiven for being a touch green with envy. They are clearly perturbed by the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship’s pulling power, hence their successful request for it not to clash with the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open this season. The bad news for America is, with ambitious HSBC behind it, you can pretty much bank on the tournament landing most of the world’s top 20 for many years to come.


RORY 9 TIGER 1 (2012 PGA TOUR) RORY

TIGER

4

Wins

3

10

Top 10s

9

8,047,952

PGA Money List ($)

6,133,158

2,092

FedEx Cup

2,269

2,827

FedEx Cup Playoffs

2,663

68.873

Average Score

68.904

4.20

Average Birdies

3.97

227

Total Birdies

266

310.1

Driving Distance (yds)

297.4

56.16

Sand Save %

49.00

The stats prove that although Tiger enjoyed a mini-resurgence in 2012, McIlroy, who has been runner-up in Abu Dhabi for the past two years, still enjoyed the better year

HISTORY 2012 – Robert Rock (-13) 2011 – Martin Kaymer (-26) 2010 – Martin Kaymer (-21) 2009 – Paul Casey (-21) 2008 – Martin Kaymer (-15) 2007 – Paul Casey (-17) 2006 – Chris DiMarco (-20)

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

An Internationally Acclaimed Battleground

18 TOP EUROPEAN TOUR STARS GUIDE US THROUGH ABU DHABI GOLF CLUB’S NATIONAL COURSE

1

2

PAR 4, 405 YARDS

PAR 5, 600 YARDS

I normally employ a driver here and, depending on the wind, try to steer clear of the left fairway bunker. If the pin is right you can be really aggressive. Overall, this is a very scoreable opener.

Jeev M ilkh a Sing h

Long hitters have a big advantage on this often wind-assisted hole. A dangerous new bunker down the left makes the fairway quite narrow. The green isn’t too tricky, but does slope towards the water.

Pablo M artin

3

4

PAR 4, 439 YARDS

PAR 3, 174 YARDS

The third plays longer than the yardage suggests and requires a draw. The rough is thick, so finding the fairway is paramount. The green slopes left-to-right and is surrounded by sand.

This is a slightly fiddly par-three with a two-tiered green. Anything left leaves a very fast putt. The bunkers around the putting surface are quite deep. Par is a fantastic score here.

Jose M aria Ola zaba l

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Name: National Course Designer: Peter Harradine Par: 72 Yardage: 7,600

SPORTS TALK

JANUARY 2013

Ros s McG owa n


5

6

7

PAR 4, 469 YARDS

PAR 4, 469 YARDS

PAR 3, 200 YARDS

There is a new bunker in the landing area which, depending on the tee box, can make three-wood a better option than driver. There is problematic rough down the right, but you can still reach the green from it.

I often use a threewood off the tee and, when the pin is right, loft a safe approach onto the centre of the green. This is one of the hardest holes on the course.

At first glance, the seventh looks quite daunting, but it is actually a decent birdie chance. Solid approaches tend to stop dead on the green, allowing you to fire right at the pin.

Lou is Oosthu izen

8

Seung- yul Noh

M artin Kay mer

PAR 5, 597 YARDS This is an awkward hole. It is imperative to find the fairway off the tee. They have grown the rough down the left so you can’t really cut the corner unless they move the tee box forwards.

Padr aig Har rington

9

10

11

PAR 4, 456 YARDS

PAR 5, 582 YARDS

PAR 4, 417 YARDS

The ninth is quite tight off the tee and, when they place the pin back-right, it plays pretty long. There is water on both sides, including on the left by the landing area.

Only bombers can reach the green in two. The putting surface is fairly large, but if the pin is back-left the ball can easily run off, leaving a daunting up-and-down for par.

The fairway is narrow but, despite the dogleg, the tee shot isn’t too problematic. Thereafter, I use a short iron to attack the uphill green. It is crucial not to miss right, or you’re finished!

Lee two Wes od

Fran cesc o Mo lina ri

JANUARY 2013

Alva ro Qui ros

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ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

12

13

PAR 3, 186 YARDS

PAR 4, 414 YARDS

PAR 4, 490 YARDS

At first glance this is quite a timid hole, but it still seems to produce its fair share of bogeys. Pins at the front are very accessible, but ones at the back are well protected by sand.

This is a real birdie chance, but it is vital to find the fairway because the green sits at a funny angle. Aim your approach just left of the greenside bunker, which acts as a useful visual.

This is a perilous par-four with two bunkers down the left. The green, however, is generous, but the front-left bunker does claim its fair share of victims.

Paul Cas ey

15

Edo ardo Mo lina ri

16

David How ell

17

PAR 3, 177 YARDS

PAR 4, 475 YARDS

PAR 4, 483 YARDS

There are three big bunkers guarding the green and they often put the pin right by one of them. The putting surface has a few slopes on it, but still isn’t too cryptic.

If you can carry the left fairway bunker you can land your ball on the widest part of the fairway. If you can’t, par suddenly becomes a decent score despite the flat green.

The 17th is a stern test, which often plays into the wind. The trick is to avoid the two fairway sand traps. The green is vast, but you must stay left of the pin or a horrible uphill putt awaits.

Rafa el Cab rera -Be llo

18

42

14

SPORTS TALK

Gra eme McD owe ll

Joost Luiten

PAR 5, 567 YARDS

Partly for drama, this is my favourite hole on the course. You play up towards the unique falcon-shaped clubhouse with the crowd cheering. The tee shot is critical and designed with risk-reward in mind. With water down the right and some well-placed bunkers, it is a hole that can make or break your round.

JANUARY 2013

Tiger Woo ds


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QATAR MASTERS

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he organisers of the Qatar Commercialbank Masters (23-26 January) are, in all probability, whimpering at Abu Dhabi’s stellar line-up, but make no mistake: it’s tears of joy they are shedding! The second event on the Desert Swing undoubtedly benefits from the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, with a number of top players sticking around for Qatar straight after it. Teeing off on a Wednesday for the first time, the popular $2.5 million event has attracted the likes of defending champion Paul Lawrie, European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and American Jason Dufner. It’s Dufner’s first visit to Doha Golf Club, so Sports Talk caught up with the world No.9 ahead of the event.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE QATAR? I spoke to some of the golfers and they all said Qatar is one of the best events of the year. From what I have seen on TV, Doha looks like a lot of fun. I often travel for tournaments in the last quarter of the year, so this will be the first time I am playing overseas at the beginning of the season. I can’t wait!

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QATAR MASTERS When: 23-26 January Where: Doha Golf Club Tickets: AED 50-125 (via virginmegastore.com) Website: qatar-masters.com

Weeps

WERE THE THREE RYDER CUP POINTS YOU CARDED ANY CONSOLATION FOR AMERICA’S OVERALL LOSS? No, I was pretty disappointed. I didn’t take anything away personally. I still keep thinking whether I could have done more to get an extra point or helped a teammate do the same. The crowd, and overall environment, was far more intense than I anticipated. That said, I felt a lot more comfortable than when I played in the final group at the 2011 PGA Championship. It wasn’t a Ryder Cup we should have lost.

HOW SIGNIFICANT WAS YOUR FIRST PGA TOUR TITLE AT THE ZURICH CLASSIC? It has definitely given me a lot more confidence. It is so satisfying to gain some success after all the hard work. Victory gave me a lot of self-belief. Zurich was basically an early wedding present and I followed it up with another one too, after also winning the Byron Nelson Classic.

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF TOM WATSON’S APPOINTMENT AS AMERICA’S RYDER CUP CAPTAIN FOR GLENEAGLES 2014? Watson is a really good choice. He has great experience and knows Scotland well, having won four of his five Open titles there. As a result, he is respected on both sides of the pond. He might have to make an effort to get to know some of the younger and newer members of the team. I haven’t met him before, and I think that’s the same for a couple of the others, so Tom will need to address that.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2013? I am not particularly results-driven. I am just trying to be as consistent as possible. I have gained a lot of experience in 2012 and want to keep building on that. My improvement has really come about since teaming up with Chuck Cook in 2007. We have been working on swing mechanics, but also the physical and mental side of golf.

DO YOU THINK RORY MCILROY WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE IN 2013? Rory is very talented, but there is no guarantee he will rule in the way Tiger did for so long. Woods himself will be looking to knock McIlroy off top spot this year. Justin Rose is also playing well, Ian Poulter finished the season strongly and Adam Scott deserves a Major, so Rory certainly won’t have it all his own way.

SPORTS TALK

JANUARY 2013


SACHIN TENDULKAR

THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH....

THE

LITTLE MASTER

AFTER RETIRING FROM ONE-DAY INTERNATIONAL CRICKET, RECORD-BREAKING INDIA BATSMAN SACHIN TENDULKAR SPOKE TO SAM PILGER

46

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SACHIN TENDULKAR WHY DID YOU QUIT ONE-DAY INTERNATIONAL CRICKET? India’s main one-day goal is currently to defend the 2015 World Cup, and I knew I wouldn’t be around then. I thus felt it was the right time to go – so preparations can begin early for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps I would have considered another year if my form hadn’t dipped of late, but I only averaged 31.5 runs in 2012 – almost 15 less than in previous years. It was important to walk before I was pushed. I leave with so many fantastic memories, including my 100th career century against Bangladesh last March. Believe it or not, my one-day career actually began with back-to-back ducks, yet 23 years later I retire with a record-breaking 18,426 runs. That’s not bad for a Mumbai lad who initially dreamed of becoming a fast bowler! HOW LONG WILL YOU CONTINUE WITH TEST CRICKET? I want to play Test cricket into my 40s. It is important that I don’t just end my career in one swoop. The plan was always to retire in phases, so I look forward to being an integral part of the home Test series with Australia in February. It did briefly cross my mind to quit Test cricket after December’s loss to England, but it would have been wrong to end on such a low. I averaged just 18 runs in six knocks, passing 50 only once. I owe it to my loyal fans to go out on a high. Plus, some of the old guard need to stick around until the young players who will eventually replace us are properly established. We have already lost VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, and if I went now it could place potentially insurmountable pressure on captain MS Dhoni.

Tendulkar fired 49 centuries and 96 fifties in 463 ODIs 48

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HOW WILL YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME? Apparently, I am going to be appointed the new goalkeeping coach at Manchester United! That’s what one April Fool joke claimed! Others seriously assume I will end up as a politician or Bollywood actor, but the honest truth is I haven’t made any firm plans – after all, I am still playing cricket. In the long term, I can’t wait for some exciting new challenges and to spend more time with my wife Anjali and kids Arjun and Sara. The only goal I can share is the desire to perfect my cooking – I already make a mean prawn masala! RAHUL DRAVID BELIEVES YOUR LONGEVITY IS DOWN TO “A CHILD-LIKE LOVE FOR CRICKET”. DO YOU AGREE? Yes, and I think it is really important to always cling on to that. I love the game now as much as I did when I first joined the John Bright Cricket Club as a teenager. I think the key to my success is that even practice has always excited me. I have a lot of fun in the nets, trying to correct kinks in my game. When I get it right, I feel an overwhelming sense of achievement and pride which I then take to the crease.

HAVE YOU EVER FALLEN OUT OF LOVE WITH CRICKET? No, but there have been some really tough times – especially when I had my tennis elbow injury. I tried to play through the pain for about a year before finally undergoing surgery in 2005. Before I went under the knife I had shock treatment too, which was one of the most painful things I have ever endured. Then, after the surgery, I could barely pick up a cricket bat. There were times when I couldn’t sleep because I was totally convinced my career was over. Once the swelling went down, I thought I SACHIN TENDULKAR was hitting the ball pretty hard again, but I soon discovered 12-year-old boys on the 1973: Born in Mumbai on 24 April street could comfortably stop it after about 10 metres! That was a terrifying period. 1989: Makes Test and ODI debut ARE YOU OPEN TO ADVICE OR A COMPLETELY for India v Pakistan SELF-SUFFICIENT CRICKETER? When I was little, I used to always talk to 1990: Scores maiden Test century my older brother, Ajit. Then, when I broke v England into the India team, I would dissect my game with Ravi Shastri. However, I have 1998: Scores first double-century never chased technical perfection. There are for Mumbai v Australia obviously certain basics that are extremely important, but beyond that it is up to the 2005: Breaks Sunil Gavaskar’s individual to adjust to various situations, so record for most Test centuries I try and play with my gut, rather than follow too much advice. 2008: Becomes highest run-scorer in Test cricket, surpassing DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE REDEFINED THE STYLE Brian Lara’s tally of 11,953 OF INDIAN BATTING? Yes, without doubt. I always wanted to be a 2010: Becomes most capped mixture of Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards. player in Test history I felt I should be able to both defend and attack when I wanted to, rather than letting 2011: Wins World Cup with India bowlers or pitches define how I performed. I thought being a combination of those two 2012: Scores his 100th international would be the ultimate thing. I am not sure I century in ODI v Bangladesh ever quite got there, but I have perhaps encouraged others to embrace that same


Sachin and daughter Sara (right) had plenty to celebrate in 2011, as the Little Master not only won the World Cup for the first time, but became the tournament’s leading run-scorer with a total of 2,278

I WANT TO PLAY TEST CRICKET INTO MY 40s. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT I DON’T END MY CAREER IN ONE SWOOP. THE PLAN WAS ALWAYS TO RETIRE IN PHASES, SO I LOOK FORWARD TO BEING AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE HOME TEST SERIES WITH AUSTRALIA IN FEBRUARY. philosophy. I can certainly defend when I need to, but cricket’s definition of attacking has dramatically changed since I first started. Being aggressive used to be about getting a run a ball, and now it is often going for 36 per over! That is quite hard to adjust to. Nonetheless, I am the joint quickest batsman, with Brian Lara, to reach 10,000 runs in Test cricket, so am not exactly a slow scorer. When people say I am as solid as Gavaskar and as destructive as Richards, that makes me realise what a wonderful career I have had… and it’s not over yet!

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SACHIN TENDULKAR WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR CAREER HIGHS? The 2011 World Cup victory over Sri Lanka on home soil was incredible. I had dreamt of winning the trophy since I was a young boy, so to contribute 482 runs and finally achieve success, after five heartbreaking near-misses, was unreal. My 143 against Australia in Sharjah in 1998 will also live long in the memory. After a sandstorm disrupted play, we faced a revised target of 237 in 46 overs to reach the final of the Coca-Cola Cup. The middle order collapsed, leaving me to guide the team home in searing heat. I hit five of the best sixes of my life that day. We then beat the Aussies again to win the trophy on my 25th birthday! My 114 in Perth against Australia in 1992 stands out too. My most emotional innings, however, was probably the 103 against England in Chennai in 2008. It came shortly after the horrendous terrorist attacks in Mumbai and I hope it gave some of the victims’ families a little solace. In addition, I will certainly never forget my maiden century against England in 1990 or the 100th against Bangladesh last year. DO

YOU THINK YOU HAVE PERSONALLY INFLUENCED

TODAY’S GENERATION OF INDIAN BATSMEN?

Any cricketer who has played for a reasonable period would hope to leave an imprint on the game. When Virender Sehwag came into the side in 2001, the first thing he said to me was, “I used to watch you bat on TV and try to replicate all your movements.” I was flattered, although his comments also made me feel a bit old, even though there’s actually only five years between us! Since then, Virender has evolved into one of the world’s top batsmen, and I like to think I have played a small part in that. He is just a brilliant cricketer. I was batting alongside him in 2001 against South Africa when he made his maiden century on his Test debut. He is currently right at his peak, and what I love about him is he backs himself in pretty much any situation. His thought process

SACHIN’S ODI RECORDS 185 consecutive appearances Most runs (18,426) First to score an double-century (v South Africa, 2012) Most centuries (49) Record opening-partnership (331 with Rahul Dravid v New Zealand, 1999) Most runs in World Cup history (2,278), including 523 in 1996 at an average of 87.16

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Aussie legend Bradman, who averaged an incredible 99.94 in 52 Tests, is one of Tendulkar’s idols is completely different to anyone else I know. True, there have been times when he has failed, but also games where he has totally destroyed the opposition – like his triple-centuries against Pakistan (2004) and South Africa (2008). The best I have seen him bat, though, was in Adelaide. Against Australia, he hit 151 off 236 balls at a point when we desperately needed to kill time. His defence was sensational. He really is the all-round batting package. ONCE

SIR DONALD BRADMAN WAS

DEEMED TO BE UNTOUCHABLE, BUT IN RECENT YEARS IT HAS BEEN ARGUED YOU HAVE SURPASSED HIM.

HOW

DO

YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

I don’t know how to react to that. To be honest, I have never liked being compared to others. Obviously an analogy with ‘The Don’ is a big, big deal, but he, and other top cricketers from that era, have to be respected for what they achieved in arguably trickier conditions, so perhaps it is unjust. I still believe Bradman is the finest cricketer that has ever lived. Remember, he had to balance Test cricket with his day job as a real estate agent, and even found time to play tennis too for a short period! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE IN COMMON WITH BRADMAN? I suppose our styles are pretty similar – I know he thought so. Plus, we both used to train with a golf ball! As a child, I owned one that had been bashed out of shape and then shaved it to make it even less round. I was staying with my aunt and uncle, because they lived much closer to my local cricket club than my parents, and I would get them to throw it at me so I could practise my back foot defence and develop soft hands. I guess now I will be needing a much rounder golf ball, as I spend my retirement trying to lower my handicap!


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HALF-TIME TALK

BIG-NAME WRITERS » GUEST COLUMNISTS » DEBATE

THIS MONTH… 54 ANDREW STRAUSS

Straussy says England’s first Test series win in India since 1985 is on a par with an Ashes victory

58 RON ATKINSON

Big Ron believes Rafa Benitez won’t last at Chelsea and would prefer to see Harry Redknapp in charge

60 BRYAN ROBSON

Robbo can’t see Fergie leaving Manchester United soon, even with Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho lurking


ANDREW STRAUSS

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE ENGLAND’S VICTORY IN INDIA ENGLAND’S FIRST TEST SERIES WIN IN INDIA SINCE 1985 IS ON A PAR WITH ANY ASHES VICTORY, writes Andrew Strauss

E

ngland’s fantastic 2-1 Test series victory over India is one of the most impressive cricketing feats this decade. Due to the pace of play and frantic culture, it is an extreme challenge to succeed in that part of the world – even in their pomp Australia went there as underdogs. What makes the achievement even more outstanding is the fact that England not only lost the first Test in Ahmedabad, but also struggled against Pakistan in Dubai,

fuelling a widespread perception that they couldn’t play spin. I would rank defeating India in their own backyard as right up there with an Ashes victory. Of course, you don’t have the extra hype that you inevitably get (even from non-cricket lovers) with the Ashes, which is why a win over Australia will always appear a bigger deal, but in purely cricketing terms, Alastair Cook’s first scalp as Test captain should not be underestimated.

I thought Cooky was excellent, as both a leader and opener. Given how he batted with the armband, the selectors should probably have made him skipper years ago – he might have 10,000 Test runs by now had they done so! In all seriousness, it is extraordinary how easily he has taken to the captaincy, but then we shouldn’t be too surprised because he has already shown us what he can do in the one-day game. Alastair has now turned himself into

December’s Test series victory in India is England’s first since 1985, when 575 runs (at an average of 95.83) from Mike Gatting ensured a 2-1 success for David Gower’s men

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ANDREW STRAUSS EX-ENGLAND TEST CAPTAIN

A WIN OVER AUSTRALIA WILL ALWAYS APPEAR A BIGGER DEAL BUT, IN PURELY CRICKETING TERMS, ALASTAIR COOK’S FIRST SCALP AS TEST CAPTAIN SHOULD NOT BE UNDERESTIMATED.


Cook made 547 runs in five innings, the highest aggregate by an England captain in a series in India, surpassing Ted Dexter’s previous record of 409 in 1961

one of the world’s top batsmen – his 190 in Kolkata proves that (despite the bizarre run out!). Cooky’s statistics, for his age, are equal to (or even better than) most of the game’s greats. He looks solid, unflustered and tactically astute. When you bat like he did in India, you gain automatic respect and your teammates strive to follow your example on the pitch. I can’t speak highly enough about the way he has settled into the role. The fact that England heaped so much pressure on India is partly down to Cooky’s tactics, but also the bowlers, who deserve a lot of praise. Amazingly, England’s spinners are now better than India’s – and, for me, that was the really interesting sub-plot to the whole series. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann were superb. They also bowled pretty well together in Dubai last year, so are clearly starting to forge a bit of a partnership. It has been a long time since England has had the luxury of two world-class spinners. Historically, Indian batsmen aren’t fazed by spin – fending it off is their forte. Thus,

INDIA 1 ENGLAND 2 FIRST TEST Ahmedabad: India (521/8d & 80/1) beat England (191 & 406) by nine wickets

Monty and Graeme being able to take as many wickets as they did is testament to their talent. They complement each other really well: Panesar is the quickest of the pair and is pretty accurate, while Swanny is very attacking and gets plenty of purchase and turn. Conversely, the Indian spinners were found lacking. Unlike Pakistan, they don’t have a Saeed Ajmal or Mohammad Hafeez at their disposal. There is an incorrect perception that India owns the world’s top spinners but, aside from in the first Test, the likes of Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran

SECOND TEST Mumbai: England (413 & 58/0) beat India (327 & 142) by 10 wickets THIRD TEST Kolkata: England (523 & 41/3) beat India (316 & 247) by seven wickets FOURTH TEST Nagpur: England (330 & 352/4d) drew with India (326/9d)

Ashwin will be quite disappointed with their return. India is now in a tough spot. There is always mass hysteria when they underperform at home – that is the downside of having such a wonderful, passionate fanbase. I think their fielding, attention to detail and fitness levels were exposed by England. In fairness, these have always been issues, but India has traditionally made up for them with star individual displays, particularly with the bat. This time, their top performers didn’t stand up to the challenge. Sachin Tendulkar really struggled (averaging only 18), Virender Sehwag got a century on the opening day of the first Test but hardly contributed thereafter, and Gautam Gambhir failed to put in too many meaningful innings. India just has to accept they are going through a transitional phase. Replacing the likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman was never going to be easy. Make no mistake, though, they will always be strong – close to, or at the top of, the world game for the foreseeable future. They do, however, have a pivotal year ahead as they strive for consistency with a new crop of players. As for Tendulkar, all of us want to see him go out on a high. It feels wrong for a guy of his ability to retire from Test cricket on a whimper, which is why I think he has only chosen to quit one-day cricket for now. He might be targeting this Easter’s Australia series as a time to permanently bow out. It is plain to see he is not the player he used to be. The light is clearly dimming, and he will be fully aware of that. Sachin also won’t want to be the story. If every Test match India play, people are asking, “When will Tendulkar retire?” that will only disrupt the dressing room. It is incredible that Sachin has performed so consistently for the past 20 years. His form is down to his passion for the art of batting. I think he will find it hard to let go, since cricket is all he has ever known. However, he is surely aware that the time to quit is almost near, certainly within the next 12 months. I know as well as anyone that as soon as you start grappling with the idea of retirement it becomes JANUARY 2013

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ANDREW STRAUSS extremely difficult to keep performing. Without a clear mind, batting well is near impossible. Sachin is going to have to get used to watching rather than playing cricket. It isn’t an easy transition, and it is one I have had to come to terms with this winter. That’s why I wanted to keep a distance but, in the end, I still got drawn into the Test series more than I thought. It is really weird watching your mates do something without you. You feel really close to them, but also realise you are just a spectator and the game has moved on. I didn’t set the alarm for the crack of dawn every day, but I saw most of the action, and was on the phone too offering supportive messages to the lads. However, I consciously tried not to meddle too much. It was quite odd at first seeing Cooky walk out to the crease with a new partner. I think opting for the more experienced Nick Compton, keeping Jonathan Trott at three and trying out young Joe Root at six was the right approach. That said, it was tough for Nick – India is never the ideal place to make your debut in that position. He is probably a bit unhappy he didn’t convert one of his starts into a bigger score, but he did show he has the technique and temperament at that level. I believe he deserves a run as opener, but I guess, in some senses, Root has clouded the issue. He did incredibly well in the one Test match he played, amassing 73 on a difficult, low-scoring wicket in Nagpur, so there could be a temptation to look at him at the top of the order ahead of the back-to-back Ashes. Obviously, I also had a keen eye on Kevin Pietersen. I think that whole saga is now water under the bridge. His 186 in Mumbai was outstanding and, in terms of wrestling momentum away from India in the series, was as important as anything. No one has ever doubted what a quality batsmen KP is. There were just some question marks as to how easily he would slot back into the team, but I think England have probably got the ideal scenario now – their best player is back in the side and they have a happy dressing room. Not being inside it in India has made me even more motivated to get 56

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STRAUSS V INDIA TEST STATS MATCHES 12 RUNS 929 TOP SCORE 128 AVERAGE 44.23 100S 3 50S 3 WICKETS 0

In 2006, Strauss hit 128 as Andrew Flintoff’s England won the third Test in Mumbai to draw their series with India 1-1

out of bed and set new goals… as has my training for the London Marathon! I am up to 10-mile runs now. I think once you get past the mental barrier of thinking, “Wow, how can I possibly keep going for that long?” the training process becomes rather enjoyable – probably more so, even in the English winter, than in the heat of Dubai. I actually find the December chill quite invigorating. It is far better to embrace it than just sit inside and mope because of it. The training is useful too since it guarantees I will shed some of the pounds I have inevitably put on during the Christmas break! My natural pace should mean I clock about 3 hours 30 minutes, but I haven’t yet set a time to beat. I will know more by late January, once I start running close to 20 miles. Overall, Christmas this year was brilliant. Most professional athletes have to make sacrifices over the festive period, so it was wonderful to just relax with my family. If I am

honest, the idea of being a househusband doesn’t appeal, but I have enjoyed spending time with my boys and doing the school run. Although I want to stay active, I am in no rush to firm up my long-term future. I am well aware that this is my one chance to take stock, spend some quality time with my wife and kids, play a bit of golf and just enjoy life for a while. I am also using the downtime to pen some of my book, which I am writing all by myself. I find it quite hard to consistently make headway on a day-to-day basis. I always feel like there is something else more pressing, so procrastination has been a minor problem, but when I do get stuck in I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I still have quite a lot to do, but the more time I spend tapping away on my keyboard, the more memories start flooding back, and that will hopefully make it a better read as a result. I will keep you posted with my progress and, in the meantime, would like to wish you all a Happy New Year!

IT IS INCREDIBLE THAT SACHIN HAS PERFORMED SO CONSISTENTLY FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS. HIS FORM IS DOWN TO HIS PASSION FOR THE ART OF BATTING. I THINK HE WILL FIND IT HARD TO LET GO SINCE CRICKET IS ALL HE HAS EVER KNOWN.


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RON ATKINSON

BENITEZ COULD BE LUCKY TO LAST 44 DAYS RAFA BENITEZ’S APPOINTMENT AS INTERIM CHELSEA MANAGER IS AS ILLOGICAL AS BRIAN CLOUGH’S MOVE TO LEEDS IN 1974, writes Ron Atkinson

B

rian Clough lasted just 44 days at Leeds United and Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Chelsea could be equally brief and ill-fated. In the same way that loveably brash Cloughie slated Leeds whilst at both Derby and Nottingham Forest, Benitez went out of his way to rile Chelsea fans during his six-year reign (2004-2010) at Liverpool. In 2007, he called the club “soulless” and insisted he would never manage there – yet six years later he finds himself at the helm. It is a ridiculous appointment that will never last. I can totally understand the fans’ frustration at it. They have despised Benitez since he gloated about Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost’ goal against Chelsea, which never crossed the line, in the 2005 Champions League semi-final. Liverpool won the game 1-0 en route to becoming European champions for the first time since 1984. It would have made far more sense to give Harry Redknapp the

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Chelsea job. That would have pacified the majority of Blues supporters. I don’t understand why British managers are so often overlooked for the really big managerial gigs. If you look at Chelsea’s bosses under Roman Abramovich – Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram

Even during Chelsea’s 8-0 of drubbing of Aston Villa Benitez was repeatedly booed by large sections of fans

Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto di Matteo and now Benitez – there’s no sign of home-grown talent. I have absolutely nothing against foreigners. In fact, bar Cloughie, I believe Giovanni Trapattoni is the best manager of my time, but why are the likes of Redknapp, David Moyes or Sam Allardyce not considered big four material? Since he joined in 2003, Abramovich has actually won more trophies than Sir Alex Ferguson so, like him or loathe him, he has been a positive influence on Chelsea; but you have to question his judgment in hiring Rafa. Remember too, Benitez’s latter years at Anfield were hardly covered in glory and he didn’t do particularly well at Inter either. Plus, Roman clearly wants Chelsea to play like Barcelona and Rafa’s style is very rigid and pretty defensive. Abramovich will no doubt maintain Benitez is an experienced

RON ATKINSON EX-MANCHESTER UNITED BOSS

IT WOULD HAVE MADE FAR MORE SENSE TO GIVE HARRY REDKNAPP THE CHELSEA JOB. THAT WOULD HAVE PACIFIED THE MAJORITY OF BLUES SUPPORTERS. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY BRITISH MANAGERS ARE SO OFTEN OVERLOOKED FOR THE REALLY BIG MANAGERIAL GIGS.


stopgap until he is able to persuade Pep Guardiola to join. I know Chelsea have definitely made contact with the Spaniard, but I will be shocked if he doesn’t join one of the Manchester clubs – probably Manchester City, since Fergie is pushing hard for Jose Mourinho to replace him at Old Trafford. People wrongly think they are arch-enemies, when they are actually quite close. Guardiola is a free agent, so if he was sold by the Chelsea dream why wouldn’t he have just joined them straight away? I would understand if he wanted to extend his sabbatical until the beginning of next season, but if that’s the case I don’t see why Chelsea didn’t just stick with Roberto di Matteo until then. After all, they began the season in tremendous fashion, bringing in exciting new signings like Oscar and Eden Hazard, and, let’s not forget, the popular Italian also won the Champions League last season. That is the problem for Benitez: Abramovich is so cut-throat that

RAFA IS A VERY DIFFERENT CHARACTER TO BRIAN – FAR MORE PLACID. I HIGHLY DOUBT HE’LL BE BARGING IN AND CHUCKING LAST YEAR’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MEDALS IN THE BIN!

5 ODD MANAGERIAL APPOINTMENTS 1. BRIAN CLOUGH, LEEDS (1974) Clough surprisingly joined Leeds, a club he had previously branded “dirty”, but lasted just 44 days after winning only one game and alienating the likes of Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner 2. SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON, NOTTS COUNTY (2009) Former England boss Eriksson was duped into signing for Notts County after being told by crooks Russell King and Nathan Willett that a Middle East consortium was behind a bid to take the League Two strugglers into the Premier League

there is no guarantee, even if he wins the Premier League, that he will earn a permanent deal – and anything less and the fans will continue to crucify him. On the upside, perhaps Roman can’t get rid of Rafa too quickly because all that would do is undermine his own credibility. Right now, he is basically acting as a shield, since critics are furiously venting their frustration at him, not Abramovich. There are certainly comparisons to be made with Clough’s unfortunate spell at Leeds. Rafa, though, is a very different character to Brian – far more placid. I highly doubt he’ll be barging in and chucking last year’s Champions League medals in the bin, arguing they were only won by cheating! Yet, in an infamously intimidating dressing room, full of cliques, the ‘interim’ tag hanging ominously over his head could mean he struggles to gain respect. At least one player, however, is delighted he is there. Fernando Torres will relish the chance to relink up with Benitez, with whom he enjoyed a prolific period at Liverpool. Since Rafa has arrived, the Spaniard has looked a bit more confident, but I doubt he will ever reach his peak again. It is clear for all to see that his right knee injury has resulted in a permanent lack of pace. He is nowhere near a £50 million player anymore. If it is true that Chelsea didn’t give him a proper medical when they rushed the lucrative deal through in January 2011, they were extremely foolish.

Torres’ only hope of longevity at the highest level is to morph into a target man, but I am not convinced he has the build. In which case, perhaps Chelsea are just better off selling him and drawing a line under the whole saga. Of course, they would be lucky to get even a quarter of the fee back! Even if they hang on to Fernando, Chelsea must finally replace Didier Drogba this January. Atletico Madrid’s Falcao is one option, but what about Norwich’s Grant Holt? Imagine the damage he could do with that amount of talent around him! Another bargain buy would be Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, who is basically an improved version of John Carew. I will be very interested to see who Rafa brings in and exactly how long he lasts. If he stays on longer than Cloughie at Leeds he will have done quite well. I am equally intrigued to find out who eventually replaces him. Sorry, Chelsea fans, but I just don’t think it will be Guardiola. Mourinho won’t be making a sensational return either. Those two will, in my view, be going head-tohead in Manchester for a very long time. Perhaps the job will go to Arsene Wenger, who despite coming from another of Chelsea’s rivals would be a welcome choice. He would flourish with the opportunity to spend money and plays precisely the right style. The only problem is he opposes everything Abramovich’s Chelsea stands for, but then so did Benitez and he still ended up at Stamford Bridge!

3. DIEGO MARADONA, ARGENTINA (2008-2010) Ex-Al Wasl boss Maradona had no managerial pedigree, yet was charged with the task of winning the 2010 World Cup, a feat he couldn’t achieve as his Argentina side were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals 4. BERTI VOGTS, SCOTLAND (2002-2004) Vogts was poached from Kuwait to help Scotland qualify for Euro 2004, but a 2-2 draw with the Faroe Islands soon proved he was the wrong man for the job 5. LES REED, CHARLTON (2006) Ex-FA bigwig Reed managed just one victory and lasted only six weeks, having taken over from Ian Dowie at the Valley In August 1974, Clough replaced Don Revie at Leeds, despite previously suggesting the club should be relegated for their poor discipline, but he couldn’t replicate the success he enjoyed at Derby County and Nottingham Forest

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BRYAN ROBSON

FERGIE GOING NOWHERE SOON JOSE MOURINHO AND PEP GUARDIOLA ARE CASTING A MENACING SHADOW OVER THIS SEASON’S PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE RACE, AND MANCHESTER UNITED ARE THE UNDOUBTED BENEFICIARIES, writes Bryan Robson

K

nowing the world’s two most in-demand coaches are almost certain to take a job in England sometime soon can’t be easy for anyone at Chelsea, Manchester City or even Arsenal. I would feel quite unsettled if I was Rafa Benitez, Roberto Mancini or (no longer unsackable) Arsene Wenger. With every bad result, the murmurs of them being axed in favour of Mourinho or Guardiola grow stronger. I fear that nagging feeling of insecurity

could damage the trio’s prospects of success this season. I think, eventually, there’s a distinct possibility we will see Jose and Pep going head-to-head in Manchester but, make no mistake, Sir Alex Ferguson won’t stand aside until he is ready. He is in superb health, continues to bring stability and success to Old Trafford and, after all he has won, won’t be forced out of the door just because two other top managers are open to a move. He will

Mourinho is currently under pressure at Real Madrid, while Guardiola is a free agent after quitting Barcelona last May

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decide exactly when he wants to retire, and I don’t see that day coming for a while. Thus, while all the other top clubs pander to Mourinho and Guardiola, United are just going about their business as usual. Like any former United player who has dabbled in management, I can’t pretend I didn’t dream of taking over from Sir Alex. When I was at Middlesbrough, there was talk doing the rounds that I could be his successor. I must confess, even I began to contemplate the prospect, which was very exciting. That was 11 years ago, and Fergie is still at the helm. I wouldn’t be particularly shocked if he stayed there for another 11 years either! Whoever does replace him will face an impossible task, since Sir Alex is the greatest club manager there has ever been – better even, in my view, than Brian Clough. His successor will need an exceptionally strong character and must also quickly cotton on to the United way. Ferguson’s focus on discipline, particularly with his young players, is the aspect of his management style which truly distinguishes him. I remember him being über-strict with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville when they were teenagers – almost like an over-protective father. He even banned the quartet from going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach on their days off because he was worried they might over-exert themselves! I played in an era where having a party or drink wasn’t frowned upon too much, but Ferguson changed all

BRYAN ROBSON EX-MANCHESTER UNITED MIDFIELDER

I THINK, EVENTUALLY, THERE’S A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY WE WILL SEE JOSE AND PEP GOING HEAD TO HEAD IN MANCHESTER BUT, MAKE NO MISTAKE, SIR ALEX FERGUSON WON’T STAND ASIDE UNTIL HE IS READY.


Ferguson has won 12 Premier League titles since joining Manchester United from Aberdeen in 1986

that by wisely forcing the generation below me to eat, sleep and breathe football. He ensures his squad does everything right, on and off the field, and his professional approach and deep passion for the game is infectious. It is no coincidence that Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Phil Neville are all still playing. If Gary Neville hadn’t had his injury problems he would still be out there too. Sir Alex’s obsession with football is bred into all the world-class footballers he has so often played a large part in nurturing. I tried to imitate some of his management styles when I became a gaffer, but it is impossible to copy someone like Fergie. You have to be yourself, and although I sometimes lost my temper, I certainly wasn’t a natural when it came to dishing out the hairdryer treatment! That said, I was able to successfully mimic other aspects. For example, Middlesbrough’s training ground was inspired by Sir Alex. I saw what he was doing at United and ensured Rockliffe Park had the same high standards in terms of design, pitches and medical facilities. Ferguson has become who he is today through a lot of hard work. His job is relentless, and I guess what annoys me about football is there is no

space on the calendar for a break. One thing I don’t miss about being a manager is the hectic festive schedule! I am sure Sir Alex has barely seen his family over Christmas since his first flurry into management with East Stirlingshire in 1974. Personally, I would love to see the Premier League take a two-week break over this period. As a father, I found it pretty miserable leaving my wife and kids at home. As a family you get used to not seeing each other too much, but it’s really not fair and happens in virtually no other job. If I was given a choice – and I think a lot of current footballers would agree – I would happily trade two weeks of my summer holiday for a fortnight’s break in December. Training on Christmas Day is particularly arduous, but one year, in the late eighties, it was even more depressing than usual for me. I was driving down the empty, frost-covered road towards Old Trafford about at 8 when I was pulled over for speeding! Apparently I was doing 45mph in a 30mph zone. I

ROBBO’S MANAGERIAL RECORD 1994-2001 Middlesbrough (W127 L101 D86) 2003-2004 Bradford City (W7 L20 D1) 2004-2006 West Bromwich Albion (W19 L38 D24) 2007-2008 Sheffield United (W14 L12 D12) 2009-2011 Thailand (W7 L7 D4)

remember asking the policeman to show some festive spirit, but he wasn’t interested. I was hoping for three points on Boxing Day, but instead they came a day early! It was unbelievable! Speaking of unbelievable, nothing will match the climax to last season’s Premier League. Manchester City’s injury-time heroics against Queens Park Rangers gave them bragging rights in Manchester, but I am tipping United to restore order in 2013. I don’t say that out of personal bias. The obvious difference between the two Manchester clubs is United’s greater firepower. Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are all capable of getting you 20 goals. I do rate Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, but I am less convinced about Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli. City rely quite heavily on Dzeko to come off the bench and bag some crucial goals, but super-subs don’t win titles in the long run, and that’s why City’s rich owners might end up not just buying in more firepower, but ultimately firing Mancini! JANUARY 2013

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TRAINING GROUND

TOP TUITION » SPORTS NUTRITION » GYM ROUTINES

THIS MONTH… 64 WAYNE ROONEY

The Manchester United striker tells you how to properly prepare for your local derby

66 JAKE SHEPHERD

Cadillac’s MENA golf ambassador gives us his keys to perfect driving

68 DAFYDD JAMES

Daf offers a PHA circuit that will give you the heart of a (British & Irish) Lion!


WAYNE ROONEY

HOW TO BEAT MANCHESTER CITY THE KEY TO WINNING A MANCHESTER DERBY, OR ANY MASSIVE MATCH, IS TO PREPARE METICULOUSLY AND KEEP A COOL HEAD, writes Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney

I

relish Manchester derbies, but they do come with some added pressure. To cope with this it is important to stay calm. I try to clear my head and just focus on playing football. This is far easier said than done, but you can’t let nerves hamper your strengths. I know if I perform to my peak Manchester United can beat anyone, but if stress creeps in I might not be able to. To stay in optimum condition, and give

WAYNE’S TIP

Personally, I am not very superstitious, but if you are, and it helps you create a positive mindset, then follow a set pre-match routine in the build up to kick-off. Paul Ince, for example, used to always insist on being last out of the dressing room and would never put his shirt on until he got into the tunnel. 64

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myself the best chance of scoring, I need to sleep, eat and prepare correctly. Obviously, I have ten other top guys out there with me, which relieves some of the burden, but to help see off a quality side like City I need my A-game. Thankfully, I found it on 9 December, scoring twice as we won 3-2 at their place in one of the games of the season so far! Here’s my advice to help you win your local derby.


DEJA ROO Since I was little, I have always pictured the game the night before. When we play away from home, I even ask our kitman what colours we are wearing, so the mental image I paint is as accurate as possible. I ask myself what I will do if the ball gets passed or crossed in a certain manner, that way if it happens I get a sense of deja vu – as if I have been in the situation before and thus know exactly what to do. That’s how I managed the overhead-kick winner against City in February 2011 – a goal that was voted the best of the season. I knew, if the ball was fizzed in behind me, I would try a scissors kick, rather than just trying to bring it down with my back to goal. Visualising set plays will enhance your sharpness. Unlike others, the only thing I don’t pre-plan are my celebrations – they are totally spontaneous!

FATMAN & ROBIN I am pretty thick skinned, but I don’t like the jokers who refer to myself and Robin van Persie as ‘Fatman and Robin’. It is offensive and simply not true. I have a healthy, balanced diet. Obviously, no one expects your average Sunday league footballer to stick to the same dining regimen as I do, but do bear in mind that what you eat will directly affect your performance. The night before a game, I have some chicken, pasta and fish. Try to stock up the previous evening, because you don’t want to overload on match days or you risk getting bloated and, ultimately, suffering from cramp. I usually have a bowl of Coco Pops and a banana for my pre-match snack, then, when we get to the stadium, there are energy bars and gels in the dressing room.

40 WINKS = 40 GOALS Sleep is so important. Before big games, I try to grab at least eight hours, and sometimes even take a one-hour nap in the afternoon. There’s no point in forcing yourself to snooze, so rather than setting a specific amount just make sure you get enough for you. I usually go to bed at 11 and try to wake up at 8. Fatigue is one of the biggest contributors to a poor display. If you are too nervous to doze off, try listening to some soothing music or put on your favourite DVD. Trust me, if you don’t get enough shuteye the night before a key match you will pay for it the next day. Without my 40 winks I wouldn’t stand a chance of scoring 40 goals a season!

EVRA MAN FOR HIMSELF The final few hours before a Manchester derby (or really any game) can be quite agonising because we all just want to get out there. The warm-up eats up some of this time, but there’s no set rule on how to fill the rest. It all boils down to personal choice. Patrice Evra likes to put on some hip-hop or rock for everyone to listen to. It is not always my cup of tea, but it does help forge team spirit and is far better than us all just sitting there with our iPods on. I suggest choosing a match day anthem for your team and blaring it out right before kick-off. However you fill the time, just try to create some camaraderie since that will help on the pitch.

Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United striker. You can follow him on Twitter via @WayneRooney JANUARY 2013

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JAKE SHEPHERD

KE YS TO TH E PE RF EC T DR IV E GOLF COURSES ARE GETTING LONGER AND LONGER. WITH 600-YARD PAR-FIVES NOW COMMONPLACE, HAVING A BIG DRIVE IN THE BAG CLEARLY HELPS, ESPECIALLY ON A WIDE-OPEN FAIRWAY WITH THE WIND ON YOUR SIDE, writes Cadillac ambassador Jake Shepherd

K

nowing how to apply some extra power without compromising too much accuracy is vital. When deciding whether to unleash a monster drive, you should first assess the wind, the width of the landing area, and factor in where you are in your round. If you have a healthy lead, there’s no point

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taking unnecessary risks. Conversely, if you need to gain some shots and encounter a long par-five, a massive tee shot could set up a potential eagle opportunity. Fortunately, I am pretty long off the tee. I have even, occasionally, bombed the ball 400 yards, but only when my technique is spot-on.

JAKE’S TIP

A great way to add confidence and commitment to your driving is to line up your ball. It is widely known that plenty of top tour professionals do this for putts, but I think the benefit is just the same with drives. The markings on your ball are there for a reason. They take all the guess-work out of alignment, so why not use them to your advantage and give yourself one less thing to worry about!

Power

Accuracy


TEE IT HIGH, LET IT FLY! To execute a powerful drive, the correct set-up is imperative. Before worrying about stance, tee the ball up a touch higher than usual. You really want to feel like you are hitting up on the ball. The likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods do so as much as four degrees! Next, assume a normal golf posture, then move your right foot out about three inches. Let your spine angle shift with your weight, so there is more tilt to the right. This will ensure you gain

Address

additional power in your right leg and hip during the backswing, which, in turn, will generate extra clubhead speed. Of course, this approach is more risky. Since you are moving off the ball during your backswing, you must make sure you really commit to the shot. If you stay too far behind the target you will most likely hit a hook. With the right leg and hip holding a lot of tension you will feel like you want to explode into the downswing, but don’t

Backswing

A GLOVELY DRILL The biggest problem most amateurs face off the tee is the dreaded chicken wing. This can manifest in two forms. Either golfers become so disconnected, and uncomfortable with their right arm, that they overcompensate and flip underneath the ball, resulting in a hook. The more common scenario, however, is the club goes across the line and they thus lurch over the top and slice the ball. You can address both problems using nothing more than a golf glove. Place it under your right armpit and take some practice swings, then start hitting three-quarter shots with wedges and short irons. The goal is to not let the glove fall out. This will help train you to always fold your right arm correctly.

force the speed of your swing to gain more power – just focus on your posture and backswing. If you get this right, the additional speed will come naturally. Don’t make the mistake of trying to add power by overusing your arms. After impact, the follow-through is pretty much the same as for a normal drive, although you might notice a bit more extension. In rarer cases, the club could even recoil off your back, just like Greg Norman’s does!

Follow-through

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Jake Shepherd is the 2011 MENA Tour champion. To contact him about private lessons, email jakeshepmail@aol.com JANUARY 2013

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DAFYDD JAMES

HO W TO GE T TH E HE AR T OF A LI ON PERIPHERAL HEART ACTION (PHA) TRAINING WILL HELP YOU START THE NEW YEAR WITH A ROAR, writes ex-Lions star Dafydd James

P

HA is a fantastic form of circuit training. The concept sees you continuously switch exercises over a prolonged period without taking a break. It is designed to target the cardiovascular system, improve overall muscle mass and promote healthy blood supply. The key is to maintain a high heart rate, so don’t pause between exercises. That said, pace yourself and drink plenty of water before you start. The beauty of PHA is it can help you get a beach body to show off in a relatively short space of time. It is perfect for busy expats, whose New Year’s resolution is to shed a few pounds during their lunch hour.

PHA SESSION (45-60 MINS)

Try repeating the following routine three to five times without a rest, before finishing with a simple static (or stretch-based) warm-down.

1

WARM UP (5 MINS)

Do two minutes of gentle cycling on a bike machine, followed by a dynamic warm-up. I suggest squats, lunges, press-ups, calf-pumps and chest openers (10 of each). This will help prime your muscles for more intensive action.

2

TREADMILL (3-5 MINS)

A rigorous jog or sprint will quickly raise your heart rate. Before you start, tweak the dial so you have at least a couple of degrees of incline. This will remove the advantage of momentum and thus imitate a good old-fashioned outdoor run.

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3

SQUAT WEIGHTS, BENCH & SHOULDER PRESSES (15 REPS)

Do about 15 reps for each. The trick is to keep them as pacy as possible. Don’t just grab the highest possible weight you can handle – choose one you are comfortable with. Keep your chest elevated and your feet shoulder width apart.

4

SEATED ROW (10-15 REPS)

A seated row is a piece of apparatus predominantly used to build back muscles. It is easy to use because, as the name suggests, you can remain seated at all times. It can also help correct posture and even improve shoulder-muscle balance.

DAF’S TIP

Don’t go all out: you will be excercising constantly for 4560 minutes, so try to maintain a 7580 percent intensity level or you might burn out.

5

CORE EXERCISE: PLANK

Position your body in a straight line from head to heels, with your feet together and elbows just beneath the shoulders. Keep looking down at the floor. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds (or as long as you can) without letting your hips sag.

Dafydd James is now a Dubai-based personal trainer. For inquiries about private sessions with him, please contact Daf on dj@dafydd-james.com or visit dafydd-james.com. JANUARY 2013

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SECOND HALF

AWARDS » DREAM PRIZES » RIB-TICKLING HUMOUR

THIS MONTH… 72 JORDAN BENNETT!

Steven Bond travels to Amman to witness the latest leg of MMA’s Desert Force tour

78 TIM VICKERY

Sports Talk’s South American scout reveals ten top talents he claims to have seen first

84 ALL-SPORTS AWARDS

Vote now to win an all-expenses-paid trip to May’s FA Cup final at Wembley


STEVEN BOND


I

n the second century, during the reign of Antonius Pius, Jordan’s Roman Theatre was erected. Crafted into a hillside in what is now downtown Amman, the 6,000-seat stadium still stands adjacent to Al Hashimi Street, right in the heart of the city. A remnant of occupation, the threesided structure has served as a grand monument to both the arts and, during darker times, sporadic yet bloody carnage. 1,800 years on, it was a fitting backdrop for the second stop on the so-called Desert Force tour – an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts to the uninitiated) tournament consisting of five events, each exclusively for Arab fighters.


STEVEN BOND

On a brisk December evening in the Hashemite capital, just minutes away from the crumbling Roman ruins, 20 Arab gladiators descended on the polished Al-Hussein Youth City Boxing Arena to beat the brains out of each other (albeit in a relatively cultured format). Of the night’s 10 bouts, two local fighters garnered particular interest from the 2,000-strong crowd, although the warriors from Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia and Qatar weren’t entirely without support either. The first of the Jordanian pair, Ahmed Ansari, trains at the highly reputed Intensiti Gym – an Amman-based facility backed by a British entrepreneur with links to UFC veterans Paul Daley and Brad Pickett, along with boxing legend Ricky Hatton. “A year ago, when I first came to the gym, no one really cared about MMA, but now it is all the rage,” said the lanky featherweight. “People want to see UFC-style fights here. The sport is becoming pretty big. You can tell that from the weighins, where fans turn up in droves to see us fighters.” In truth, Ansari doesn’t look like a pugilist – at least not in the Hollywood sense. To the Most MMA organisations now untrained eye the only foe he follow UFC approved rules. Each seems to be fighting is event, however, must also malnourishment, but I am comply with the athletic reliably informed he is quite commission guidelines of the capable of making me squeal like country in which it is being held. a fox on a barbecue (so let’s hope One of the most basic he never reads this!). requirements is that you must The sprightly Jordanian is fight within your weight class. For trained and cornered by US MMA instance, a lightweight can never fighter-turned-coach Noah be matched with a heavyweight. Thomas, a former World Extreme That kind of pairing is exclusively Cagefighting lightweight contender. reserved for Bruce Lee!

MMA FOR DUMMIES

For more information about the Desert Force tour go to desertfc.com or check out facebook.com/desertfc

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Flown in over a year ago by the Intensiti Gym, Thomas describes the regional MMA scene as “very green”, comparing it to the North American one in the noughties – mostly because fighters are still rooted in a single discipline rather than cross training MMA disciplines from the outset. With continued investment and soaring popularity, it shouldn’t take too long for the Gulf to get up to speed, though the lack of high school wrestling will inevitably hinder talent. The Middle East could learn a lesson, in this respect, from America, where they make promising up-and-comers train six days a week wearing singlets. Picture Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in Borat’s ‘mankini’ (... now try to stop!). The weigh-ins were a makeshift but suitably intense affair, taking place in a crowded corner of Taj Mall, teeming with fighter entourages and wide-eyed onlookers. Several middle-aged women were even spotted sporting a five o’clock shadow, perhaps induced by the inordinate levels of testosterone in the atmosphere! By stark contrast, the polished arena smacked of high production values and substantial investment. The alcohol-free venue was mostly occupied by twenty-somethings, almost half of whom (intriguingly) were female. Sadly, from a spectacle perspective, the lively audience only saw two fights escape the first round, in what emerged to be a furiously fast-paced string of submissions and technical knockouts. Ansari’s Saudi opponent, Abdulmalek Bin Mardi, took a verbal battering en route to the octagon before succumbing to a first round armbar in what was an enthralling ground war. The submission brought the arena to their feet and raised the temperature of the room – a taster of what was to follow. JORDAN BENNETT! It was the Jordanian light-heavyweight headline act, Hashem ‘Cavaca’ Arkhagha, who subsequently brought the house down, pounding his way to victory in what was the only title fight of the evening. In quasi-pantomime fashion, Arkhagha came out looking like one of the ugly sisters, in a fuzzy blonde wig, while his opponent, Ibrahim El-Sawy, assumed the role of nemesis for the night (“Oh no he didn’t…”). The Egyptian, a dangerous kickboxing champion, opened round one by liberally applying his right shin to the local lad’s temple, silencing the arena, if only for a moment. Despite absorbing some nasty shots in the clinch (when two men grapple standing up), Hashem, still bleeding from El-Sawi’s opening blow, dominated the fight. Nobody was left seated as the hometown hero dumped his opponent on his head midway through round three – and pandemonium ensued when referee Yves Lavigne interrupted Cavaca to stop him dishing out further helpings of narcolepsy with barely a minute left in the final round.

MMA NO-NOS

MMA originates from a hand-to-hand combat sport called ‘pankration’ (from the Greek words ‘pan’ and ‘kratos’, meaning ‘all powers’), which was first seen at the Olympics in 648 BC. The Greek competitors had just two rules: no biting or eye gouging. These days a few more universal no-nos do exist.

NO... Fingers in an opponent’s orifices Throwing opponent out of the ring or cage FISH GROIN ATTACKS HOOKING

Intentional grabbing of ring or cage

HEAD HAIR BUTTS PULLING BITING

Manipula n of the fingers ortiotoe s

EYE AT GOUGING THRO GRABBING

Strikes to the back of the head or the spine Knees to the head of a grounded opponent

In front of a packed crowd, popular Jordanians Ansari (top) and Arkhagha (bottom) both comfortably won their fights

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STEVEN BOND

WAYS TO END A FIGHT

DECISION When a fight goes the distance, the outcome is decided by three judges DISQUALIFICATION Three illegal moves results in a loss FORFEIT When a fighter is forced to concede due to injury NO CONTEST If both fighters violate the rules, or an injury occurs via an unintentional illegal move SUBMISSION When a fighter trapped in a hold concedes defeat KO When a fighter loses consciousness due to an opponent’s blow TECHNICAL KO When a fight is ended by the referee, doctor or either corner

Pan-Arab, free-to-air TV station MBC Action (mbc.net/en/mbc-action), who own a 50 percent stake in the Desert Force series, will air all future tournaments in 2013

A highly charged home crowd stomped and screamed for what seemed like an eternity until the victorious Jordanian finally seized hold of the ring announcer’s microphone. “I would like to thank everyone who came to see me,” he bellowed, donning the ridiculous wig once more. “It is all thanks to God, without Him we would all be nowhere. It has been a pleasure fighting at home in Jordan.” Arkhagha’s triumph was the perfect result for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) experts Zaid and Mohammed Mirza, who came up with the Desert Force concept in 2010. BJJ is a relatively modern martial art. Born out of traditional Japanese judo and developed by the Gracie clan – a family of savages descended from a Scottish expat in northern Brazil (… obviously!) – the general idea is to rip off your opponent’s limbs and/or detach his head without throwing any strikes. It’s basically the latest and classiest way to pulverise your pals! The Mirza brothers are unabashedly trying to engineer compelling storylines and, in doing so, gain global exposure. They are even actively mulling bouts between Arabs and ‘outsiders’ to 76

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feed regional viewers with clearly defined heroes and villains. Rivalries based on nationality seems like a reasonable starting point, especially if this event was anything to go by, with virtually every fighter proudly draped in their home flag at some point. The Mirzas’ vision for Desert Force is to eventually expand to North Africa too, before potentially venturing further afield – forging a following not only for MMA, but for the individual fighters themselves. “The original idea was simply to start an Arab league,” explained Mohammed Mirza. “However, we have quickly realised the crowds want more than that, and our local fighters wish to do battle against international opposition too. It is the only way they can improve. Consequently, by 2014 we will open up the Desert Force tour to everyone and hopefully start seeing some world-class bouts.” Look out then, perhaps the likes of Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre and Jose ‘Scarface’ Aldo (MMA’s answer to Nadal, Federer, Njokovic and Murray) will be on their way to Jordan next year... although I won’t be holding my breath!


Autocar Pan 230x300 E.indd 1

5/17/12 4:51 PM


JOELVICKERY TIM SJOHOLM

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THE SOUTH

AMERICAN SCOUT

TIM VICKERY REVEALS HIS TOP 10 FOOTBALL SUPERSTARS WHO SPENT THEIR INFANCY ON SOUTH AMERICAN SHORES

S

outh American football has a vivid sense of its own history. There are century-old club rivalries and majestic, if sometimes outdated, stadia that can claim to have hosted the world’s top players, as well as some of the greatest games the sport has ever seen. The ghosts of football past so often send a shiver down the spine,

but it’s the stars of the future that really get my juices tingling. I have been based in Rio de Janeiro since 1994, and undoubtedly the most enthralling aspect of my work is the chance to get a glimpse of young sensations on their way to becoming household names across the globe. Below are 10 players I can claim to have seen before most!

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TIM VICKERY

10. JUAN

SEBASTIAN VERON AGE: 37 CURRENT CLUB: BRANDSEN PEAK VALUE: £28.1 MILLION (LAZIO TO MAN UNITED)

My first trip to Buenos Aires was in January 1996, when I went to see Argentina’s highly-rated Under-23 side, who would provide about 75 percent of the players for the next three World Cups. Back then, the most highly-rated midfielder was Christian Bassedas, who spent three years at Newcastle United. Alongside him, though, it was Veron who really stood out. With his build, dynamism and immense range of passing, I couldn’t help but compare him to tireless Brazilian midfielder Toninho Cerezo. As a veteran, Cerezo led Sampdoria to the 1991 Serie A title, feeding the hungry strike partnership of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini with countless assists. Fittingly, the Genoabased club, then managed by Sven Goran Eriksson, would also pip Boca Juniors to Veron’s signature in 1996.

8. JAVIER

9. ROQUE

MASCHERANO

SANTA CRUZ AGE: 31 CURRENT CLUB: MALAGA (ON LOAN FROM MAN CITY) PEAK VALUE: £17.5 MILLION (BLACKBURN TO MAN CITY) Towards the end of 1998 came news of a precocious Paraguayan striker, only just turned 17, who had scored a hat-trick of headers for Olimpia past legendary Velez Sarsfield goalkeeper Chilavert in an international club match. I thus decided to check out Santa Cruz in the next round, against Brazilian outfit Palmeiras. His beanpole build accounted for his power in the air, but I was totally unprepared for the first thing he did in the game – as were the Palmeiras defence! He effortlessly pushed the ball past his man and then was off – with the acceleration of the Millennium Falcon (the speedy Star Wars spacecraft, in case you’re not a geek like me) he danced through the defence and was only denied by a desperate covering tackle. It was one of those ‘wow’ moments. “Ah, so he’s not just good in the air,” I thought! Santa Cruz was an electric talent back then. When Bayern Munich bought him in 1999 they were fully entitled to their belief that he would soon become the world’s most prolific striker. He has had a decent career, but without all those niggling injuries he could have achieved so much more.

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AGE: 28 CURRENT CLUB: BARCELONA PEAK VALUE: £18.6 MILLION (WEST HAM TO LIVERPOOL) Mascherano was a player I first spotted at the 2003 South American Under-20 Championship in Uruguay. I vividly recall a game against Paraguay where Argentina had two men sent off. Mascherano fought like a lion to make up the disadvantage, dominating the space around him, snapping into some crunching tackles and using the ball wisely. He somehow reminded me of gritty Joe Frazier against Muhammad Ali – the tougher things got, the more he seemed to relish the occasion. At the time, Javier had yet to make his senior debut for River Plate, but it was abundantly clear he was going to be a star. Argentina obviously agreed because, just a few months later, he was handed his international debut – still without having ever played for River Plate!

7. DIEGO

FORLAN

There was this striker, with wavy golden locks, playing for Independiente in Argentina, who kept reminding me of a young Jurgen Klinsmann. I loved his intensity, the fact that he would lurk in the penalty area and drop deep, and could score with both feet and his head – although his finishing lacked a little precision. I was surprised there wasn’t any hype surrounding him because to me he had tons of potential. Then, all of a sudden, in January 2002, Forlan was front-page news in England. Middlesbrough thought they had signed him, but Manchester United gatecrashed the deal. Hindsight tells us Diego’s move to Old Trafford came too soon, but his subsequent exploits with Uruguay and in La Liga show what a classy, cultured footballer he is.

AGE: 33 CURRENT CLUB: INTERNACIONAL PEAK VALUE: £17 MILLION (VILLARREAL TO ATLETICO MADRID)


5. RONALDINHO

6. LUCIO

AGE: 32 CURRENT CLUB: ATLETICO MINEIRO PEAK VALUE: £21.2 MILLION (AC MILAN TO BARCELONA)

AGE: 34 CURRENT CLUB: JUVENTUS PEAK VALUE: £6.5 MILLION (BAYERN MUNICH TO INTER) The bellicose defender first caught my eye for being a bit too pugnacious! Brazil were just seconds away from elimination at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Lucio charged out of defence to receive the ball from playmaker Roger. The pass, however, never came. Furious, at the next pause in play, he stormed over and gave his teammate the most ferocious (Zinedine Zidane-style) headbutt! The ploy back-fired as he hobbled off covered in blood! Consequently, there were concerns about Lucio’s temperament, a couple of months later, when he was given his debut in the senior side. Brazil were somewhat limping through World Cup qualification and Colombia were dangerous opponents, with Juan Pablo Angel a test for any centre-back, let alone a rookie. What might loose-headed Lucio do under pressure this time? Brazil need not have worried. He was sensational: strong, quick and, most importantly, decisive. The five-time World Cup winners had found a centre-back for the long haul.

I followed mesmerising Ronaldinho through Brazil’s Under-17 and Under-20 sides, but the thing that really sticks in my mind is his first competitive game for the full national team. He came off the bench in the 1999 Copa America opener against Venezuela and scored a wonder-goal that brought instant comparisons with 17-year-old Pele’s during the 1958 World Cup final. Ronaldinho delicately lofted the ball over a defender with the outside of his right foot, ran around the keeper and blasted the ball home, before celebrating with that childlike glee that so illuminated the game until he lost his spark in the middle of the last decade.

4. CARLOS

TEVEZ

AGE: 28 CURRENT CLUB: MANCHESTER CITY PEAK VALUE: £25.5 MILLION (MAN UNITED TO MAN CITY) I remember Tevez, stocky and feisty, operating alongside playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme as he took his footballing baby steps for Boca Juniors in the first half of 2002. Soon after, his mentor was sold to Barcelona, and attempts were made to squeeze Tevez into a Riquelme-shaped hole – all part of the obsession Argentine football has with the No.10 shirt. The following year, Boca were really struggling in the early stages of the Copa Libertadores (South America’s Champions League). Carlos was thus pushed up to centre-forward, and there was no looking back from there. He spearheaded their path to the final, where they beat Santos over two legs to win the trophy. Tevez was named the player of the tournament.

3. KAKA AGE: 30 CURRENT CLUB: REAL MADRID PEAK VALUE: £56 MILLION (AC MILAN TO REAL MADRID) Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite’s moniker was actually spelt ‘Caca’ when he first emerged for Sao Paulo in early 2001. He soon put that right. Like the graphics of a Kinks album, suddenly the letter ‘K’ was appearing all over the place in the Brazilian sporting press! Within a matter of weeks, astute Tostao, Brazil’s seventies forward-turned-doctor, was proclaiming the greatness of this bambi-legged youngster who (annoyingly) just made everything look so simple.

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TIM VICKERY

MARCELO BIELSA It would be remiss, in my list of talent that emerged from South America, not to include a quick aside on a coach. This year Bielsa has gone global with Athletic Bilbao. My little secret is out. When his side won 3-2 at Old Trafford in March, everyone could view and embrace his endearing eccentricities: the small-step wanders along the touchline, the constantly drooping head, which looks as if it is searching for lost car keys – and let’s not forget the touchline squats (which are not too dissimilar to Paula Radcliffe’s at that infamous 2005 London Marathon!). Suddenly the world knew why charismatic Marcelo is fondly known as ‘Loco Bielsa’ (Madman Bielsa). His mannerisms have been delighting South American audiences for some time. When he was appointed Argentina coach after the 1998 World Cup, Bielsa was not that well-known, despite some notable domestic successes with Newell’s Old Boys and Velez. Yet that all changed pretty soon. I first met him during the 1999 Copa America after his team had lost 3-0 to Colombia. Forward Martin Palermo had missed three penalties, and Marcelo himself had been sent off. Against my better judgement, I asked him what he thought of the referee. “I don’t make a habit of commenting on officials,” he predictably began, staring intently at a vacant point in space. I fully expected him to proceed with something like, “But this one should be hung!” Instead he continued, “However, this referee was absolutely correct to send me off because I protested in an ill-mannered fashion.” It was instantly clear that anything this man did was going to be both gloriously refreshing and highly unconventional.

1. LIONEL

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AGUERO

AGE: 24 CURRENT CLUB: MANCHESTER CITY PEAK VALUE: £38 MILLION (ATLETICO MADRID TO MAN CITY)

In his formative years, there was quite a fuss over Aguero because he made his Independiente debut shortly after his 15th birthday. I saw him about a year later, at the start of 2005, and the first thing that impressed me was he was already proficient at linking up play with his back to goal. This was something I didn’t expect to see. Soon, too, I was able to appreciate his real strength – the capacity to come up with something special in the cluttered confines of the penalty box. I was at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for his international debut against Brazil just after the 2006 World Cup. He came off the bench and showcased his supreme vision, luring in the defence before finding room to dink a neat pass that put a goal on a plate for midfielder Federico Insua. It looked like being a moment to treasure for an entire career – until Insua ruined everything by blazing over. I am not sure if Aguero has found it in his heart to forgive him. I know I haven’t!

MESSI

Seeing Messi for the very first time was, without doubt, the highlight of my career. I was in Colombia at the start of 2005 for the South American Under-20 Championship. The tournament was held in the country’s coffee-growing region, but what I witnessed gave me a far bigger buzz than any of the local product! Argentina had called up Messi knowing virtually nothing about him, except that he suffered from a growth hormone deficiency. There were rumours of something special, but all Lionel had behind him was a single friendly cameo for Barcelona’s first team. Nonetheless, the Spanish national side were desperate to lay claim to him, so Argentina included him to deter a change of allegiance. Man-boy Messi was only 17, two years younger than most of the other players, and he looked half that age. When he took the field he gave the appearance of a pigeon-toed runt of the litter, but when he got the ball his talent became abundantly clear. His uncanny and dazzling ability to dribble, the capacity to unleash passes at

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AGE: 25 CURRENT CLUB: BARCELONA ESTIMATED VALUE: £100+ MILLION (NO TRANSFER FEE TO DATE) ridiculous angles and then race on for the return and, of course, his ice-cool demeanour in front of goal – it was all there back then too. He found the tournament hard going – hardly surprising with nine games in three weeks – and was brought off the bench for some of the later matches, but he still always lit up the game. That summer, Messi also helped Argentina win the FIFA World Youth Championship in Utrecht, scoring the opening goal in their 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the final. Ever since first coming across ‘La Pulga Atomica’ (The Atomic Flea), I have been besotted (or perhaps beswatted!?) and followed his progress with a giant (and slightly smug) dose of professional pride – I saw him first!


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ALL-SPORTS AWARDS

All-Sports Awards WIN

VOTE NOW TO AN ALL-EXPENSES-PAID TRIP TO MAY’S FA CUP FINAL AT WEMBLEY

O THE PANEL

ur 18 awards, each shortlisted by a panel that included Andrew Strauss, Ron Atkinson and Bryan Robson, cover everything from 2012’s best sportsman and woman to the top tournament and club in the Middle East. Tell us who your vote goes to, via mesportstalk.com, to stand a chance of winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the FA Cup Final at Wembley on 11 May, along with loads of other awesome prizes! Ben Jacobs Editor, Sports Talk

Ron Atkinson Ex-Man United manager

David O’Leary Ex-Al Ahli manager

Andrew Strauss Ex-England Test captain

Dafydd James Ex-British & Irish Lion

Bryan Robson Ex-Man United midfielder

Nick Tarratt Director, European Tour International Office Tom Bushell Head of sport, ARN


AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

2012 REVIEW 2012 was an outrageous year for sport, so 2013 has a lot to live up to! The so-called ‘Miracle at Medinah’ – where Europe won the Ryder Cup from 10-6 down on the final day – was arguably the greatest ever sporting comeback. Ian Poulter was so pumped up his eyes looked like they were about to pop out, while a bleary-eyed Rory McIlroy, fresh from his second Major (PGA Championship), almost slept through his tee time, yet still managed to defeat in-form Keegan Bradley. The Ryder Cup came just months after a gripping London Olympics, which saw Usain Bolt complete a 100- and 200-metre double (a feat he celebrated with the entire Swedish handball team!) while Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and David Weir all enshrined themselves in British folklore. In the football, the UAE, spearheaded by the fearless Omar Abdulrahman, held their own against Team GB at Wembley while, domestically, his teammate Asamoah Gyan scored 22 goals as Al Ain cruised to the 2011-2012 Pro League title. Elsewhere, Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup champions Spain became the first team to claim three successive major championships after victory at Euro 2012, while Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City (just about) managed their first English title since 1968 with a dramatic 3-2 injury-time victory over Queens Park Rangers. Dogged Chelsea, galvanised by (now fired) boss Roberto di Matteo, somehow won the Champions League, while Barcelona’s Lionel Messi notched 91 goals in the calendar year. In tennis, Andy Murray finally reached a Wimbledon final, but lost to Roger Federer (the same opponent who beat him in Dubai last March). The usually sullen Scot broke down on court yet, weeks later, returned to the same scene to beat the ‘Fed Express’ and win Olympic gold, before scrapping past Novak Djokovic in the US Open final to secure his maiden Grand Slam. Finally, who could forget Monterosso’s scintillating victory in racing’s $10 million Dubai World Cup, Aussie mare Black Caviar (who made it 22 wins at Royal Ascot) or Frankel, who was retired after 13 victories in as many starts. Sadly, we don’t have an award for horses, but there are 18 others to chew over below!

INTERNATIONAL

MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR • Andy Murray • Bradley Wiggins • David Weir • LeBron James • Lionel Messi • Michael Phelps • Mo Farah • Rory McIlroy • Sebastian ettel • Usain Bolt

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR • Abdulla Alaryani • Ahmed Naas • Ali Al Habsi • Asamoah Gyan • Ian Walker • Mbark Boussoufa • Mohammed Hammadi • Nazr Mohammed • Omar Abdulrahman • Taoufik Makhloufi • SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR • Feta Ahamada • Isil Alben • Neda Shahsavari • Neslihan Darnel • Nurdan Karagoz • Sara Alflai • Sarah Attar • Sania Mirza • Thuraya Hamad Al Zaabi • Wo dan Shaherkani

SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR • Ale Morgan • Esther ergeer • Jacqueline Freney • Jessica Ennis • Lindsey onn • Missy Franklin • Sarah Story • Serena Williams • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce • Ye Shiwen TEAM OF THE YEAR • All Blacks • Barcelona Football Club • China Olympic table tennis team • European Ryder Cup team • Manchester City • Miami Heat • Red Bull Formula team • Spanish national football team • Team GB Olympians • US Olympic men’s basketball team MANAGER OR COACH OF THE YEAR • Bob Bowman (Michael Phelps) • Christian Horner (Red Bull) • Dave Brailsford (GB Cycling) • Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat) • Ivan Lendl (Andy Murray) • Jose Maria Olazabal (Ryder Cup) • Michael Bannon (Rory McIlroy) • Roberto di Matteo (e -Chelsea) • Steve Hansen (All Blacks) • incente del Bosque (Spain)

TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR • Abu Dhabi Golf Championship • Abu Dhabi Grand Pri • Dubai Desert Classic • Dubai Marathon • Dubai Rugby Sevens • Dubai Tennis Championships • Dubai World Cup • Tour Championship, Dubai • Qatar Masters • olvo Ocean Race TEAM OF THE YEAR • Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing • Al Ain Football Club • Al Ahli Saudi Sports Club • Jebel Ali Dragons • UAE Olympic football team COACH OR MANAGER OF THE YEAR • Cosmin Olaroiu (Al Ain) • Justin Parsons (Butch Harmon School of Golf) • Mahdi Ali (UAE football) • Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum (Peter Wilson) • Wayne Marsters (UAE rugby)

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ALL-SPORTS AWARDS INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR • Dubai International Sports Conference (Dubai Sports Council) • Dubai Sports World (World Trade Centre) • Green Sports (BankMuscat) • MENA Golf Tour (golf in DUBAi) • Race to Atlantis (Atlantis, The Palm) SPORTS CLUB OF THE YEAR • Al Ahli Sports Club (Dubai) • Al Forsan Sports Club • Al Nasr Sports Club • Emirates Golf Club • Yas Links Golf Club SPORTS BAR OF THE YEAR • Barasti (Mina Seyahi) • NRG (Le Meredien, Abu Dhabi) • Stars ’n’ Bars (Yas Island) • The Qube (Meydan) • West Beach Bistro & Sports Lounge (Mövenpick, JBR) GYM OF THE YEAR • 24 Fitness Dubai • Abu Dhabi Country Club • Activa Fitness Club • Big Apple • Contender MMA Dubai • Dubai Ladies Club • Haddins Fitness Centre • Horizon Fitness Oman • Ozone Gym • Rocks Gym DG, MD OR GM OF THE YEAR • Cedric Le Res (Yas Marina) • Chris May (Dubai Golf) • Chris White (Yas Links) • Clark Francis (Clark Francis Tennis) • Mubarak Al Muhairi (ADTA) SPONSOR OF THE YEAR • Dubai Duty Free • Emirates • Etihad • HSBC • OMEGA

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JUNE 20122013 JANUARY

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION OF THE YEAR • Abdullah Al Naboodah (Al Naboodah Group) • Ahmad Al Kamali (IAAF) • Faisal Al Sheikh (ADTA) • Hassan Al Thawadi (Qatar 2022) • Mohamed Juma Buamaim (golf in DUBAi) • Mohammed Al Kamali (UAE National Olympic Committee) • Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG) • Nawal El Moutawakel (Sports Minister, Morocco) • Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Manchester City) • Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Godolphin Racing) SPORTS PUBLICATION OR BROADCASTER OF THE YEAR • Abu Dhabi Sports • Al Jazeera English • Dubai Eye • Dubai Sports • Golf Digest Middle East • OSN • Seven Days • Sport 360 • Ten Sports • The National

TO VOTE Go to mesportstalk.com, then click on All-Sports Awards

PRIZES An all-expenses-paid trip to the 2013 FA Cup final ----------

A signed Paul Gascoigne England shirt ----------

A signed Thierry Henry New York Red Bulls shirt ----------

SPORTS JOURNALIST OR BROADCASTER OF THE YEAR • Ashley Hammond (Gulf News) • Brian Murgatroyd (Ten Sports) • Chris McHardy (Sport 360) • Hamed Al Harthi (Abu Dhabi Sports) • Jim Rosenthal (OSN) • Laura King (Dubai Racing Channel) • Marianne Bassil (Sky News Arabia) • Mike Casey (Press Association) • Robbie Greenfield (Golf Digest) • Tom Urquhart (Dubai Eye)

A signed Alastair Cook England shirt ----------

A signed Andrew Strauss cricket bat ----------

A fourball for night golf at Emirates Golf Club

! N I W SE S N E P X E L L A AN PAID TRIP TO THIS YEAR’S FA CUP FINAL


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THE KIT ROOM

FASHION » GEAR & GIZMOS » SPORTS CARS

THIS MONTH… 90 ONES TO WATCH

Richard Greene looks at what’s in store for four OMEGA ambassadors in 2013

96 DRIVE HOME

Shahzad Sheikh compares the latest JCW MINI hatchback with two of its ancestors

100 CLASSIFIEDS

A comprehensive listing of every major sports club in the region


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ONES TO WATCH Richard Greene profiles four OMEGA ambassadors destined to make a splash in 2013

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MICHAEL PHELPS The ‘Baltimore Bullet’ became the most decorated Olympian of all time at London 2012. He added four golds and two silvers to take his career medal count to 22 (18 of which are golds), thus surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s total. The 27-year-old American has been an OMEGA ambassador since 2004 and will remain with the brand despite his retirement. He will now turn his hand to golf and, despite professing to be little more than a hacker, holed a downhill 153-footer at last October’s Alfred Dunhill Championship – the longest ever televised putt. It seems multitalented Phelps can ‘sink’ just as well as he can swim!

Seamaster Aqua Terra AED 28,800


CHAD LE CLOS With Phelps out of the picture, le Clos will surely assume the mantle of swimming’s lean, mean gold machine. On his Olympic debut, the 20-yearold South African produced a blistering finish to pip Michael to gold in the 200-metre butterfly. Chad’s delightful dad, Bert, then provided us with one of the most hilarious interviews of the Games, with a voice so hoarse that he sounded like the Cookie Monster! Le Clos could one day come close to Phelps’ numbers. OMEGA have signed chatty Chad for his unquenchable charisma. He has time for everyone – including schoolgirl Melanie Olhaus, who, on a whim, asked him out to her prom – to her surprise he said yes!

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QIU BO The 19-year-old from China’s Sichuan province is one of the world’s most exciting divers. At the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, he claimed two golds, but it was his performance at the 2011 FINA World Series that really put him on the map. Here, Qiu received a ridiculous 25 perfect 10s en route to victory from the 10-metre board. In the same event, in London, nerveless Bo only missed out on gold by 1.8 points to American David Boudia. His silver medal should be the first of many – and if he needs an incentive to go one better in Rio, generous OMEGA have promised him a sparkling new watch for every gold he wins!

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NATALIE COUGHLIN At Beijing 2008, Coughlin became the first American woman to win six medals in a single Games. Four years later, she added a bronze in the 4x100-metre freestyle relay. It took her Olympic medal count to 12, equalling fellow swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres’ record for the most won by a female athlete from the States. The 29-year-old now has 48 medals (21 of them gold) in all major competitions and is currently debating whether to retire or to try and pass the 50 mark. When she does finally call it a day, Natalie aims to take up photography, with her extensive Seamaster collection one of the first things she plans to snap!

Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial AED 27,300


DRIVE HOME

MEET THE PARENTS! Shahzad Sheikh PITS THE NEW (ROOMY) JOHN COOPER WORKS MINI AGAINST TWO CHARMING (IF AGEING) CLASSIC COOPERS

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I

know exactly what you’re thinking: “Gosh, that new MINI isn’t so mini anymore!” Well, of course not! All cars are bigger these days, they have to be – it is the inevitable consequence of (vital if mind-numbingly dull) safety dictates, government legislation and the unavoidable fact that we are all getting larger. Don’t worry, it’s a height not a weight issue, so isn’t down to gorging too many cheeseburgers! Brace yourself for a knowledge bomb – compared to 150 years ago, people in industrialised nations are actually a full 10 centimetres taller!

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DRIVE HOME Anyway, size doesn’t matter, so get over it! What’s important is whether the John Cooper Works (JCW) MINI range, first launched in 2001, retains the zany essence of its more compact parents. The best way to find out is to test the newest hatchback model against two adorable Classic Coopers. Of course, technically, legendary MINI designer Sir Alec Issigonis wasn’t aspiring for cute and lovable – he was frantically following a hastily written brief to build a small, spacious and megaeconomical vehicle in response to the fuel rationing brought on by the Suez Crisis in 1956. In that respect, the MINI was a little car with a big job! Nonetheless, its cuteness made it an instant hit, and ensured a hefty production run between 1959 and 2000. A bit like Pippa Middleton’s bum, the masses just fell in love with it, to the point where it has been dubbed the second most influential car, behind only the Ford Model T (the first globally marketable car). As if all that wasn’t enough, Issigonis’ close pal John Cooper used his pedigree in crafting Formula One and rally cars to emphatically unleash the MINI’s competitive potential. The first Coopers with race-tuned engines (featuring twin SU

Carburettors capable of producing 55bhp), a close-ratio gearbox and snazzy front disc brakes arrived in 1961. On the road it was a hoot, while on the track it rapidly gained a reputation as a giant-slayer. What it lacked in brute power, it made up for in agility. It was basically a nippy go-kart with a roof! In the late noughties, I remember driving a last-of-the-line Cooper S, which by then had multipoint fuel injection for its 1,275cc engine. In terms of safety and construction, it was already woefully behind the times, but it was still miles ahead of most upstart ‘hot hatches’ when it came to driver satisfaction and uncanny limpet-like handling. The Cooper S really didn’t feel old at all – it was invigorating to drive. Refreshingly, most Classic Coopers still induce the kind of raw childish glee few modern cars are capable of. Not so, however, with the JCW MINI, which is very much a throwback to times gone by. The AED 174k hatchback model is now available for the first time in automatic and looks menacing in Midnight Black (a bit like a mini-Batmobile). It also has a rose-red roof and side skirts with claw-like scoops.

A bit like Pippa Middleton’s bum, the masses just fell in love with the MINI, to the point where it has been dubbed the second most influential car, behind only the Ford Model T.

Shahzad Sheikh is editor of Motoring Middle East . For more information about his work go to motoringme.com or email him via shahzad@motoringme.com. 98

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JCW MINI HATCHBACK Price: AED 174k Engine:1.6-litre, four-cylinder, 211bhp @ 6,000rpm, 192lb ft @ 1,850-5,600rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel Economy: 7.1L/100km Performance: 0-100kph in 6.7s; top speed 236kph Weight: 1,260kg

All modern MINIs are tremendously entertaining to drive, but they often only have minute performance benefits compared to their ancestors. The latest JCW, though, does boast a swish sports suspension, Brembo brakes and an upgraded engine that puts out 211bhp. Diving into the car, my preferred upright seating position means I have no trouble getting cosy, despite my lanky legs. Even with the panoramic sunroof, there are no headroom headaches (even Peter Crouch could comfortably fit in it). Inside, the quirky toggle switches and supersized central instrument panel are all present. They are essentially pointless, but still contribute to the car’s quirky character, even if it is somewhat contrived. Start it up and the JCW is buzzy and boisterous. It is here that its prowess over the comparatively humble Cooper S is most apparent. Predictably, the JCW sticks to the tarmac as if its tyres have rolled across a schoolyard full of discarded chewing gum. It just flits about like a livid mosquito sensing fresh blood, so it is fortunate that the steering is so responsive! I just have one pet peeve… the ‘A’ word. Perhaps I am being a pedantic old fart, but I

firmly believe MINIs should always be manual, not automatic. Still, the JCW does have a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddleshifts, and the option to select gears using the lever. Its top speed is down by a mere 2kph to 236kph, while acceleration up to 100kph is only twotenths of a second slower. It also guzzles a bit more fuel – 7.1L/100km compared to 6.6L/100km in the manual models. Despite these slight shortcomings, the transmission isn’t too shabby – it is pretty snappy, responding best to manually selected inputs through the paddles. Frankly, there is nothing major to moan about with the new set-up because, cleverly, it has been made aggressive enough to complement the car’s loudmouth persona. Ultimately, the new JCW MINI hatchback is a fun, funky and ferocious drive. Just do me (and your bank balance) one small favour – save yourself AED 4k and buy it in manual! Alternatively, if you’re feeling retro and have an appetite for the extra petite, you can bag a Classic Cooper from as little as AED 20k. Plus, you will gain extra coolness points because second-hand MINIs are all the rage! JANUARY 2013

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