Saturday, October 22, 2016

Women Power

By Yosport

History has been mad when North Korea became the first team to win the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. With many great matches and epic memories this tournament will have an important part in women's football history.
In order to summarize the tournament, let's have a look on some conclusions and thoughts.

1. Asian Dominance
A brief look on the tournament’s history graph shows that the Asian teams are the dominant ones. Asian teams played in every final, and only once the trophy lifted by a non-Asian team. If someone thinks that the old leading nations like United States and Germany will retain their place as the women's football leader, both Japan and North Korea showed us that the future is bright for Asia women’s game.
The Asian powerhouses are here to stay and it seems that in few years no one could catch them again.

The Asian dominance is here to stay. North Korea celebrates (FIFA©)

2. Better than the Boys
In this tournament we saw once again that Venezuela women's team can do something that never was seen as possible – qualify for the World Cup. While the men's team considered as one of the worst teams in South America, the young girls qualified for their second consecutive tournament and finished in the fourth place, as they did two years ago. Deyna Castellanos is the leader of the talented generation that will soon try to reach the Women's World Cup for the first time ever.
If next year they will show just a bit of the qualities they’ve prevailed in Jordan, it will be a lot easier than anyone could imagine.

3. Back to the Roots
Mexico knew that it will be really hard to struggle with teams like United States and Canada, so in recent years they had a new and original idea. The Mexicans looked for players among the Hispanic community inside the United States! Jacqueline Ovalle and Daniela Espinosa, both born in Mexico, now playing alongside with players Celiana Torres and Kimberly Rodríguez, who brought some of their experience of playing in one of the successful women's football nations in the world.
The combination of American basics and Latin passion helped the Mexicans in reaching the quarter finals for the first time, with an optimistic look for the future.

4. Develop
The host’s selection in many FIFA’s men tournaments can be suspicious, or worse, connected to corruption. The situation in the women's youth tournaments is completely different. Jordan, like the previous hosts Costa Rica, doesn't have a reputation as a major women's football nation. Yet, both took the chance to make some serious change and develop the local women's game. It's true that they are still far from being competitive at higher levels, but these tournaments can give the chance for women's football in Jordan, so do for the future hosts. These tournaments can make football more accessible for many girls and it can give a chance to make their dreams come true. That’s good.

5. Nothing to Cover
Hosting women's football tournament in a Muslim country, especially when we are talking about an Arab country, could be difficult task. From the first match you could feel that in one field women's can be equal and get the same respect as men. When Jordan's Tasneem Abu-Rob and Rand Albustanji became the first players to wear head-scarfs in official FIFA tournament, it was another moment of showing the world that football is for everyone. Their heads were covered, but they have no reason to hide – they are women that represented their country in the World Cup.

Her is covered but she has no reason to hide. Tanseem Abu Rob (FIFA©)
6. The Stars of Tomorrow
There are few players who are worth mention: Ri Hae-yon (North Korea), Fuka Nagano (Japan), Lorena Navarro and Noelia Ramos (Spain), Deyna Castellanos (Venezuela), Giulia Gwinn (Germany), Jacqueline Ovalle (Mexico) and Gifty Acheampong (Ghana).
These players and many more may be the players that’ll lead women's football in next years. These youngsters have dreams and hopes like any other footballer in the world. With this kind of competition they have the chance to make all of these into reality.

Next month, FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup will kick off in Papua New Guinea.
To be honest, after this tournament in Jordan, we simply can't wait for it!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The 2016 AFC Cup: Everything You Want in a Tournament

In the past week, Asian footy lovers and Arab football hipsters got themselves a reminder for who’s the most exciting club football competition in Asia, and maybe, the world - The AFC Cup. Yes indeed, you read it correctly ladies and gentlemen.

The experience of following and watching the AFC Cup this season is practically everything a modern game’s desperate fan needs, in order to regain his love and confidence in nowadays football.
The AFC Cup is the complete opposite from what we use to get from modern football. The teams are not those billionaires’ and millionaires’ teams, which dominate the European leagues and UEFA Champions League, or the Qatari or Emirati giants of the AFC Champions League. The teams at the AFC Cup are mostly modest or low budget clubs with strong identities and connections to theirs local communities and crowds. 

In addition the level of corruption at this year’s tournament is ostensibly not that high, as we witnessed in past seasons, or among bigger competitions not long ago. At the 2016 AFC Cup there are no Jeonbuk, Al-Nasr or Al-Qadsia. Teams are maybe presenting a low level of play, but the interest, the competitiveness and the tension are completely there.
The fact that the level of football at the AFC Cup is far from being perfect is actually what makes it more ‘real’. In modern game, the delicate fan is used to watch Manchester City against Barcelona or Bayern Munich against Atlético Madrid on a weekly basis. AFC Cup offers a wonderful refresher – matches with fewer fans, less pace, less quality, but with a lot of passion, emotions and history in the making on the pitch.
This year’s AFC Cup is a tournament full of passion. When Lebanese club Al-Ahed reached the semifinal they celebrated in tears. When they tied with Iraqi side Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya they were filled with joy and optimism. But when the team lost at Camille Chamoun at semifinal second leg against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, the players cried with tears of sorrow. The clubs progress came after years which Lebanese football suffered of mediocrity and went backwards, and the disappointment of the players from not qualifying for the final was authentic, passionate and real.

A club from war torn Iraq is in the final. And it's exciting (Lagardére Sport©)

Emotional as it was, Al-Ahed’s lost was at the shadow of not less emotional story of the Iraqi Air Force club – Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. The journey of the Rusafa based club to tournament’s final was simply heroic. Due to the security conditions in Iraq, the team holds its home fixtures at the Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium, at Al-Wakrah in Qatar. Basically, they did not have a single genuine home game throughout the whole competition. A team from War torn Iraq that reached the AFC Cup final is an exciting story that warms the hearts of millions of Iraqis in the country and the diaspora and also those of neutral fans.

The 2016 AFC Cup is also a historical one. After a tremendous journey, that included the elimination of bigger and richer clubs, FC Bengaluru became the first Indian team to qualify for an Asian final. Their semifinal second leg display against Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim was a piece of history in the evolving football scenario in India. The passionate fans in Bengalore (21,379) created a terrific atmosphere in the stadium. In addition, this achievement sheds light on the ambivalent situation of the Indian I-League – a continental success for one of the league’s bigger clubs, in front of dissolution of the smaller clubs. Surprisingly or not, the ISL is no longer the source of pride for Indian football fans.
Making Indian football history, in a continental level. Bengaluru FC (Indian Express©)

The AFC Cup this year has been an exciting and historical tournament, that provide us with a great final too; open your schedules: November 5th, Saoud bin Abdulrahman, Al-Wakrah, Qatar – the exciting Iraqis host the historical (but not less exciting) Indians; Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya vs FC Bengaluru - the final of the most interesting and exciting tournament of 2016.