CD Torrevieja – could it become your new “holiday” home?

I’m pleased to present a fascinating article by Chris Darwen, author of Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager. Chris is on Twitter @comeontheoviedo

So, I made it on to the coach with my very limited Spanish. Yesterday I headed off to Ontinyent with the club I’ve just started working with as a commercial and PR guy.  CD Torrevieja are my local professional club and, like many at the 4th tier level in Spain, have professionals on the technical side but volunteers running the club out of love for the game.  Obviously, having moved here, I have offered my services – whatever they may be!
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Globe Blogs of Football – Escape to Suomi

In a new feature on the site is a collection of interviews with various websites which cover football in specific areas of the world. Hopefully this will give an insight into the work of people who share their knowledge of the game.

Part 1, with Bundesliga Fanatic, can be found here.

Part 2 with Scottish Soccer Show, can be found here.

Part 3 with Caribbean Football, can be found here.

The latest Q & A is with Escape to Suomi, who are also on Twitter.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself/the team/contributors?

My name is Rich Nelson, I’m 34 years old and based in South West London. I have a full time job, and have no aspirations to be a journalist, so it’s just me doing the blog. I do get a lot of help from both family members in Finland and some people I’ve met through doing the site. So far I’ve only had a couple of guest articles, but would like that to grow. I’d love to do more myself, but it’s just finding the time.

2. How did you first get interested in football from the region you cover?

When I first started visiting Finland with my wife (who is Finnish), I saw a couple of games and enjoyed it as an alternative to the English team I support. While perhaps football isn’t quite the dominant sport as it is here, there are still groups of fans who are just as committed to their support and improving the atmosphere.

3. What inspired you to start your site?

Whenever I came home from Finland, I’d find it nigh on impossible to keep up with what was going on, bar the results. Plus I’d done some football writing previously, and quite fancied doing my own thing with a proper purpose other than general stuff.

4. What is the purpose of your site?

Mainly to provide an outlet for people to get into Finnish football in English and create a bit more of a community. It’s evolved since it started, where I started with specific topics and match reports. Now I don’t have as much time to write reports or long-winded updates. Mine is the only English site allowed to show the official highlights, so I showcase those. If a large event occurs, like a high-profile transfer or important international match, I’ll still do a proper blog for it.

5. Summarise your site in your own words.

Highlights of games, the latest news, nostalgia and a look at the more surreal incidents that happen. Just a fan, I’m not an expert! Probably a bit too much Jari Litmanen content…

6. How long has the site been running?

I started in summer 2012 when work was a bit less time-consuming…

7. How has the site grown since you started?

I’ve got quite a few followers on Twitter and it seems to be the most prolific outlet, although I do have a Facebook and Instagram page too. I’m probably not as good at plugging the site as other people; I don’t have the time or patience to go nagging people for retweets or endorsements. I do get a lot of feedback, which has become more common with the increase in readers and followers.

8. What has been the most popular article/feature on the site?

I visited Helsinki last summer to watch Arsenal v Manchester City, and the before and after articles on that game were huge. Also a response to a Guardian podcast mentioning Sami Hyypiä’s wife has been very popular, although that’s because there are photos of her in it and she’s very attractive…

9. How do you keep up to date with the region you cover?

I follow a lot of different people on social media and online, from journalists and the official organisations to fans and supporter groups. Some of Mrs ETS’s family members have been invaluable; I often get a text from them when something happens! My wife also helps a lot with translation of articles and TV programmes. Some of the matches are streamed online which helps as well. I try to go to Finland at least once a year, although that varies with work commitments.

10. What advice would you give to other football writers/bloggers?

Be passionate about what you do. There are a million blogs out there, a lot of them are either cut-and-paste merchants or think that it’s easy to see a gap in the market and blag it. Note how many people suddenly become experts on lower-profile nations during World Cups for example. Don’t get caught up in how many readers or followers you have – if your site is interesting, that’s the important bit.

Globe Blogs of Football – Caribbean Football

In a new feature on the site is a collection of interviews with various websites which cover football in specific areas of the world. Hopefully this will give an insight into the work of people who share their knowledge of the game.

Part 1, with Bundesliga Fanatic, can be found here.

Part 2 with Scottish Soccer Show, can be found here.

This week it is Caribbean Football,

1. Tell us a bit about yourself/the team/contributors?

My name is Nathan and I’m 17. I run the blog by myself with occasional guest posts from the small network of writers that we have. I’m based in the UK and all information you see is more or less found online.

2. How did you first get interested in football from the region you cover?

It originated from a lack of interest in mainstream content. I wanted to delve into something a little different and try to learn about a region where football is relatively under-covered. I first stumbled across CONCACAF football before narrowing it down solely to the Caribbean and the rest is history. But I truly don’t have a definitive answer – becoming interested in this region was a combination of curiosity and luck.

3. What inspired you to start your site?

I realised that Caribbean football was scarcely covered so my intentions right from the outset were to set up a blog where people could log on and gauge a basic understanding of what it’s about. I thought it would be something quite niche and cool to do – I wasn’t bothered (and to an extent this remains the same) about hits – I do it for the love and it’s a very rewarding experience. I already knew how to operate WordPress so I took advantage of that, designed The Home of Caribbean Football, and now here we are.

4. What is the purpose of your site?

The purpose of my site is to deliver high quality content and compelling articles, trying to make more and more people aware of the game’s existence in the Caribbean. A lot of people and football followers don’t even know football is played on the islands so the primary aim is to inform and enlighten them. I want to provide exposure, help football grow in the region and be of as much help as I can. To everyone who follows and reads my writing, I’m eternally grateful. You’re doing your bit. The site is a powerful tool and I like to think I use it to full effect.

5. Summarise your site in your own words.

If I had to sum The Home of Caribbean Football up in three words it’d be: laid-back, interesting, rewarding.

6. How long has the site been running?

It’s been on the web since June 9 2012, so around two years.

7. How has the site grown since you started?

It’s grown pretty well. At the very beginning views were more or less non-existent and hardly anyone knew about the Twitter page @caribbeanftbl. Now the page is closing in on 2,000 followers and the blog receives a decent amount of readership. As I said before, though, this doesn’t really bother me. Of course I want to get it out there but the primary reason for running this project is because of the joy. I don’t generate as many views as a lot of other sites but I tend to plug a fair bit on Twitter and this helps. Now a more significant amount of people have heard about The Home of Caribbean Football. I’ve talked to some fantastic people, made some great contacts and I do not regret starting the blog in any sense.

8. What has been the most popular article/feature on the site?

The most popular/well-read article was a piece on the former Trinidad & Tobago international, Akeem Adams, who at the time (October 2013) was fighting for his life after suffering a major heart attack. I simply documented his story and this received 2,000 odd hits. In December he sadly passed away. He will never be forgotten.

9. How do you keep up to date with the region you cover?

It’s reasonably difficult because obviously I don’t live in the region I cover, I’m a long long way away trying to do the best job possible. I use the CONCACAF and CFU websites as well as island newspaper sites to find news updates to then relay on social media and maybe use as an article feature. I try and maximise resources by constantly being in touch with what’s going on – you’d be surprised, there’s *always* something happening in this region. I love covering the international scene as much as the domestic divisions, the players as much as the coaches. The region is rich in talent and potential. My ultimate dream is to fly out to the Caribbean to write about the game there on a permanent and paid basis, or cover a Caribbean country at a major international tournament. I will endeavor to achieve this dream and won’t stop working hard until it happens.

10. What advice would you give to other football writers/bloggers?

From personal experience, my advice would be to find a niche because this helps enormously in opening up new opportunities and doorways. To truly believe in what you’re doing and never give up, stick to your guns and really go for it. You make your own luck so you will get out as much as you put in. Finally, enjoy what you’re doing. Have fun but remember to work hard.

Globe Blogs of Football – Scottish Soccer Show

In a new feature on the site we have interviewed various websites who cover football in specific areas of the world. Hopefully this will give an insight into the work of people who share their knowledge of the game.

The first interview, with Bundesliga Fanatic, can be found here.

In the second part of the series is Scottish Soccer Show, who can also be found on Twitter.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself/the team/contributors?

My name is Gerry and I created the Scottish Soccer Show however we generally rely on fans of the games to write for us. We have many different writers who range from weekly articles to sporadic appearances and we are grateful to all of our contributors. Most of the writers have a Scottish team which they write about and we have some writers looking at Scotland as a whole, the national team, youngsters and all kinds of topics.

2. How did you first get interested in football from the region you cover?

I myself as the founder of the Scottish Soccer Show really developed an interest for all Scottish teams through playing various football management games such as LMA, Football Manager and FIFA Manager. I have been almost every team to be and developed a strong affection for many Scottish teams as well as generally enjoying watching Scottish football regularly.

3. What inspired you to start your site?

The lack of negativity which has surrounded Scottish football in recent years was one of the major factors I started the Scottish Soccer Show because I wanted to put a positive spin on it. Also what could be better than writing about something you love?

4. What is the purpose of your site?

The purpose of my site is to find the latest news, rumours and on-goings in Scottish football as well as opinions pieces. We also promote Scottish football activities such as Adventure Kicks (An adventurous football training camp), local futsal and amateur teams.

5. Summarise your site in your own words.

The Scottish Soccer Show is a happy-go-lucky website which enjoys just being around. With a strong following and regular updates we are confident that our blog is one of the best in Scotland.

6. How long has the site been running?

The Scottish Soccer Show has officially been running since February 2014 and our new website has been running since June.

7. How has the site grown since you started?

The site has grown immensely in such a short time. We have had tremendous contributions and feedback and even linked up with some other great blogs. By July 2014 we have been averaging over 4,000 readers a month and the figure is growing greatly each month.

8. What has been the most popular article/feature on the site?

The most popular feature on the Scottish Soccer Show was actually a non-sports related piece about a young boy called Oscar Knox. I wrote a poem about his struggles and wished him well and we had a lot of readers. Everyone said they were very touched by the poem. Sadly Oscar passed away not long after I wrote the poem.

9. How do you keep up to date with the region you cover?

I am always checking twitter and watching what is happening in Scottish football to keep up to date.

10. What advice would you give to other football writers/bloggers?

For a start out blog or writer I would advise them to find more established blogs which allow them to put their work on, such as the Football Blogging Awards. This gives you a platform to work from and helps you interact with many more like minded people. Also just be confident in your writing ability, not too much that you think you can’t improve but be confident and ambitious.

Globe Blogs of Football – Bundesliga Fanatic

In a new feature on the site we have interviewed various websites who cover football in specific areas of the world. Hopefully this will give an insight into the work of people who share their knowledge of the game.

First up is Bundesliga Fanatic who can also be found on Twitter.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself/the team/contributors?

The answer can be found here: http://bundesligafanatic.com/about-2/teamz/

2. How did you first get interested in football from the region you cover?

Well, for me personally my obsession with German football started at an early age, as I was born in Germany. Some of the others have travelled to Germany and fallen in love with the league whilst watching football in the stadium, but mostly our contributors came to the Bundesliga after they had heard about the great football culture through other sources and after they had started watching the league.

3. What inspired you to start your site?

Our founder Gerry Wittmann started the site because there was a limited amount of information about the Bundesliga for English speakers. It has since been our goal to enlighten our readers about the day to day business of German football as well as its history and culture.

4. What is the purpose of your site?

It’s to give readers a better understanding of German football. Our main focus is the Bundesliga and the national team, but we also take the time to dive into the history books as well as covering what is going on in Bundesliga 2 and in the lower divisions.

5. Summarise your site in your own words.

You can read more about our mission here: http://bundesligafanatic.com/about-2/mission-2/

6. How long has the site been running?

It’s been online since September 2010.

7. How has the site grown since you started?

The growth of the site has been tremendous over the years; we had about 1500 followers on Twitter after a year, now we do have 11,000.

8. What has been the most popular article/feature on the site?

Depends from day-to-day to be honest. Everything about Bayern, Dortmund and the national team is bound to generate a decent amount of page views, but other features can do well if they are well written and cover something interesting.

9. How do you keep up to date with the region you cover?

Well, there are the usual news sources like Bild, kicker etc., but we also do travel to the region and we do have a number of contacts providing us with information.

10. What advice would you give to other football writers/bloggers?

Find your niche! Being aware of your strength and weaknesses as writer is also very important.

My Debut Season on Twitter

Before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil I want to share My Debut Season on Twitter, a review of the football year that has just been. I initially joined the social media site in August 2013 before setting up my blog with its own Twitter account in November. Prior to joining, most of the football news in the media which came via Twitter was from footballers saying something stupid or controversial, but the thought of following players didn’t really appeal to me. From my point of view if it was a big enough story I would find it through other sources. Twitter had been recommended to me for a way to find like-minded people with similar interest. However when I joined I didn’t know what to expect.

I began by following those accounts which I was already familiar with such, as FourFourTwo (@FourFourTwo), their brilliant Stats Zone (@StatsZone), Michael Cox (@zonalmarking) and Opta (@OptaJoe). I quickly discovered a host of superb football websites such as Squawka Football (@Squawka), IBWM (@inbedwimaradona), A Football Report (@afootballreport), B/R Football (@br_football), Think Football (@Think_Football) and ESPN FC (@ESPNFC). These well-established sites offer fantastic stories & reports from across the football world. One feature of Twitter which I was sceptical of, but thought was interesting, was being able to interact with people you wouldn’t usually be able to, such as Paul Watson (@paul_c_watson), author of the incredible Up Pohnpei, which I would thoroughly recommend, and have done a number of times on Twitter. By following Paul on Twitter I was able to find out about the latest on the team in the book as well as let him know how much I enjoyed his book.

Through Twitter, I joined the Prediction League via You Know The Score (@predicthefootie), making my way up League 4 before gaining promotion and finish the season as League 3 Champion. For anyone who likes guessing the outcome of the weekend’s Premier League fixture it is a simple way to pit your wits against others. I hope to be competing with as many of you as possible next season. As well as finishing the season as League 3 champion I also picked up other silverware thanks to Twitter competitions, in the form of Issue 3 of The Football Pink (@TheFootballPink) and, via Of Pitch + Page (@OfPitchandPage), The Boy in Brazil by Seth Burkett (@burkett86).
As I continued the Twitter season I was on the voting panel (anyone can vote) for the Football Blogging Awards (@TheFBAs), unfortunately none of my initial selections won but it was another great way to discover more football writers. By reading more content it persuaded me to write myself. Two of the articles which directly gave me the inspiration and confidence to were Football Charlie (@Footballcharlie), Blogging: it still matters and putnielsingoal (@putnielsingoal) Twelve ways to be better. For aspiring writers Twitter is a great way to get your thoughts and opinions out there. A number of sites accept articles for submission. My first article was picked up and published by The 4th Official (@_4thOfficial) and The False Nine (@The_False_Nine). Other sites that have been kind enough to offer a platform to me have been Sportsbant.com (@sportsbant), Natter Football (@NatterFootball), MatchDay App (@MatchDayApp) and iLovethissport.com (@Lovethissport). The latter also reviews and rates articles, which I have found invaluable to improving my writing. Anyone thinking about writing or getting their voice to a wider audience should use these sites for the fantastic support they offer.

Having seen my first to article published I decided to set up my own blog. Even though I was getting my work out there via other sites I thought it was the best way to share my thoughts with as many people as possible. Having already been on Twitter since August I had got to know some wonderful football bloggers and websites. When I started promoting the new blog I was humbled by the support of these people. All the comments and feedback on all the articles have made the hard work all worthwhile. I have also enjoyed reading and sharing other people’s writing and hopefully also getting their work to a wider audience.

To recap this season, I have written about Joe Hart’s problems at Manchester City and how he could take inspiration from Wojciech Szczęsny, reminisced on My First World Cup Memories, ranked the Premier League owners (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4), compared the similarities of Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, hailed ex-Reading skipper Jobi McAnuff, explored who the neutral was rooting for in the title race and analysed whether Van Gaal would fit in with the class of 92. Some of the articles have been easier to write than others, especially with the amount of research some subjects require but I hope everyone has enjoyed my offerings. I have thorough enjoyed my debut season on Twitter and to avoid the dreaded second season syndrome I already have ideas for next year and hope you will continue to read.

There are so many people to thank for their help supporting the blog, as well as those who I have already mentioned, if you don’t follow them already I suggest you do immediately:-

Football Pink (@TheFootballPink) – brilliant monthly magazine covering almost every aspect of football, as well as regular articles on the website.

Putnielsingoal (@Putnielsingoal) – a true football hipster, already mentioned once but he’s that good

Christopher Lash (@rightbankwarsaw) – blogging on Polish football, past and present, and a Reading fan.

The Footy Guy (@_FootyGuy) – one of the most entertaining, and genuinely amusing bloggers.

Pete Spencer (@irishpete67) – Liverpool fan, writing on the historical events in football, whose recent World Cup stories are most insightful.

John Townsend (@jontownsend3) – another Liverpool fan, writes about his club and new coaching methods among other things for the brilliant These Football Times (@thesefootytimes)

Rob Canavan (@whitesfan) – member of excellent The Final Third (@TheFinal_Third) podcast

Proven Quality (@provenquality) – as the name suggests a regular source of quality football writing

Laura Jones (@YICETOR) – former FBA finalist; her very personal account of the Hillsborough disaster is probably one of the best articles I’ve read this year

Athletic Bilbao & Barcelona – much more than just clubs

Barcelona is a team that are known the world over. Over their history some of the greatest players in the game have appeared for Barça from Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona to Gary Lineker and Rivaldo. Their current squad, inspired by Leo Messi, could be considered the greatest club side ever.

What separates Barcelona from the other biggest clubs in the world is their tradition, identity, style of play and academy.  Founded by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers in 1899 the football club is a symbol of the local Catalan culture, signified by the clubs’s motto, “Més que un club” meaning More than a club. However, there is another club in Spain which has a lot in common with the Catalan giants but is far less celebrated.

Athletic Bilbao, from the Basque area of Spain, represents the region in a similar way Barcelona do for Catalonia. Both have links in their past to England, both are owned and operated by club members and both clubs are ever present in the Spanish top flight. This is the tale of two sides that are much more than just clubs.

The city of Bilbao was an important industrial location in Northern Spain with lots of trade with the British. As such there were a lot of British workers in Bilbao at the end of the 19th century. These shipyard workers mainly from Southampton, Sunderland and Portsmouth bought their passion for football with them and formed Bilbao Football Club in the early 1890s.

At the same time affluent Basque students were completing their educations in Britain where they picked up a love of the national sport. When they finished studying they returned to their homeland to form Athletic Club. The name they chose for the team, opting for the English spelling shows the influence their time in Britain had on them. Basque students also formed a second football team, Athletic Club Madrid, which would go on to become Atletico Madrid.

Bilbao Football Club, formed by the British shipyard workers and Athletic Club, the team of the Basque students merged at the start of the 20th century creating Athletic Club. The club’s colours was also influenced in Britain, Basque student Juan Elorduy was returning to Spain and brought back 50 Southampton kits, as they matched the colours of the city of Bilbao. The club decided to change from blue and white to red and white and have remained as such ever since.

Athletic Bilbao have gone on to become one of the most successful teams in Spain. They have won La Liga 8 time and the Copa del Rey 23 times, second only to Barcelona. They haven’t been able to recreate that success in Europe but have reached the UEFA Cup/Europa League final on 2 occasions in 1977 and 2012. Notable former players include Andoni Zubizarreta, Joseba Etxeberria, Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez.

Since 1912 Athletic Bilbao has operated a Cantera policy which means that their team consists solely of players that have come through the club’s youth academy or Basque players recruited from other clubs. The club’s motto explaining the thought behind this ideology is “Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación” which translates as “With home-grown players and supporters, there is no need for imports.” Real Sociedad also employed a similar system to Athletic until they relaxed they policy to allow foreign players into their team from 1989. The policy has been criticised in the past but Athletic’s own rules have adapted over time and players from other areas can play for the first team as long as they’ve developed in the Basque area. Players with Basque heritage but not born in the region are also allowed to play for Athletic, similar to the grandparent rule in international football. Athletic Bilbao current training ground was opened in 1971 and the board have plans to expand and modernise the club’s Lezama training complex. Recognising the importance of the academy this will help consolidate the Cantera structure and continue the development of youth players for the first team.

Cantera is Spanish for querry and in football terms refers to the academies and feeder teams. At Real Madrid the youth team is called “La Fabrica” and their second team is Real Madrid Castilla. In his first spell at the club Florentino Perez said he wished to form a team of “Zindane y Pavon” meaning creating a squad composing of superstars and home grown talents. This didn’t work and of the “Galacticos” only Iker Casillas, Raul and Guti came through the academy. In recent times academy products have been pushed out by expensive foreign imports and forced to seek opportunities elsewhere. Notable alumni of the Real Madrid academy include Alvaro Arbeloa, Jose Callejon, Juan Mata, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado. Real Madrid are the only team to provide more players for the Spanish national team than Athletic Bilbao.

In a similar way to Athletic’s policy of home grown players Barcelona have a strong desire to produce their own players from the Catalan region. La Masia (The Farmhouse) is Barcelona’s famed academy where the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi have developed. Originally used to house players from outside the city youngsters are taught the Barcelona way. Since it opened in 1979 it has trained over 500 youngsters, half coming from Catalonia and 10% making it into the first team, Lionel Messi was recruited by Barcelona from Rosario Central in Argentina at the age of 11. The running costs for the academy is £5m a year, making it one of the most expensive academies in Europe.  Echoing Athletic’s ideology, and embracing his own club’s motto former technical director, Pep Segura explained “It is about creating one philosophy, one mentality, from the bottom of the club to the top”. The team which won the Champions League in 2009 was made up of 8 home grown players and the following year 7 graduates from La Masia were part of the Spainish World Cup winning squad.

Although both cities are in Spain Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona represent the Basque and Catalonia regions where the respective clubs are based. Following the Spanish Civil War in 1936 both areas found themselves marginalised by the new regime headed by General Franco. Athletic Bilbao, named in homage to the origins of the club, were forced to rename as Atletico Bilbao as Franco had insisted upon the Castilianisation of all club names. In these years there was a strict limit on the number of foreign players allowed in each team; this didn’t have too much effect on either side due to the fact that both teams have strong beliefs on producing their own players from the local areas. Due to the oppression not just on the football field but in everyday life going to support Athletic Bilbao or Barcelona represented taking a stand against the regime. Fans were allowed to express themselves more freely when watching their respective teams in the San Mames or Nou Camp, both stadiums became symbols of regional pride. Supporters would be able to speak Basque or Catalan openly without fear of reprisals.

These expressions against the regime drew support not only from the Basque region but from working class Spaniards across the country. This growth in popularity wasn’t felt as much in Barcelona as they were the middle class team in Catalonia with Espanyol being the team of the working classes in the area. When Franco died the clubs and their fans were able to return to normal life. Athletic reverted to their original name and before the local derby with Real Sociedad the Ikurrina, the Basque flag, was displayed before the match, another rule which was put in place by Franco but subsequently overturned.

As everyone knows “El Clasico” is one of the most fiercely contested in world football. Regularly competing in both La Liga and the Champions League the rivalry between the two clubs has intensified in recent years. Although no longer direct adversaries for the title, matches between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid are also hotly anticipated. The origins of both these rivalries can be linked to Franco’s regime. Real Madrid was seen as the club of the dictator with Franco maintaining his sphere of influence from the Spanish capital. As Franco’s centralisation was bitterly opposed in both Bilbao and Barcelona matches against Real Madrid was an opportunity to voice their discontent through football.

Now Spain has become a duopoly with Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating the league. When a player crosses the divide they usually know they will be in for a tough afternoon when they return to their old stomping ground. When Luis Figo crossed the divide in 2000 it was on another level. Lining up at the Nou Camp for Real Madrid the £37m man was bombarded with objects from the Catalan crowd, including the now infamous pig’s head.

In recent times football has become more of a business with the number of off field deals. Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona were two of the last major European teams to forgo extra revenue from shirt sponsors. Their principles are admirable and show the respect both clubs have to their traditions. When Athletic finally agreed to sponsorship in 2008 they received €2m a year. In 2011 Barcelona were able to negotiate a five-year €150m deal with Qatar Sports Investment. Prior to that Barcelona had displayed UNICEF’s logo on their shirts as well as donating €1.5m a year to the charity. The comparison between the two clubs sponsorship deals highlights the inequality in finances in Spain.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are the 2 biggest clubs in Spain in terms of success, history, size and money. The way income earned from TV rights is distributed is hugely beneficial to these two teams, as each club negotiates individually. They would argue that they are pulling in the audiences and are the most watched clubs but it has also allowed them to pull away from the rest of the league, only Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side have been able to keep up this season.

The figures of the 2012-13 season make interesting reading. Barcelona and Real Madrid received €140m EACH. The next teams on the list were Atletico Madrid and Valencia, both receiving €42m. The €17m Athletic Bilbao earned put them in 8th place. Between them Barcelona and Real Madrid made up also 50% of the total TV money earned by the 20 La Liga clubs collectively. With money like this it’s not hard to see other clubs get left behind, not even taking into account season ticket sales, income from replica shirts, sponsorship deals and the Champions League TV deals.

Barcelona’s Tiki Taki style of play was heavily influenced by Yohan Cruyff who was himself an advocate of Rinus Michels Total Football with Ajax in the 1970s. While a young midfielder at Barcelona Pep Guardiola developed under the tutelage of Cruyff. Heavy pressing and dominating possession are all qualities which have been ingrained in the Catalan’s style of play. Another influence in Guardiola’s managerial philosophy has been the legendary Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa. His teams are identifiable through a 3-4-3 formation, confidence in possession, high defensive line, heavy pressing and interchanging positions.

When Bielsa took over Athletic Bilbao these qualities where quickly found in the Basque outfit. During his time at the club he led them to a first European final since 1977. Although they were outclassed by a Radamel Falcao inspired Atletico Madrid team in the final there journey there bought many admirers with famous victories over Manchester City and Manchester United.

Barcelona’s have been hugely successful in the past decade and the praise they have received has been rightly deserved. The aim of this article is to highlight the similar philosophy employed by  Athletic Bilbao Football team.

First World Cup Memories

Now that the draw has been made everyone can start look forward to next year’s World Cup in Brazil. The unveiling of the Brazuca, along with its own Twitter account (???), has also got the ball rolling. By the time it all gets underway in June the anticipation will have reached fever pitch.

Some people may argue that the Champions League offers a higher standard of football but no other tournament can match the excitement of the World Cup. Only coming around every 4 years it is the pinnacle of every footballer’s career. It brings people together, including those who don’t have an interest in football.

Every football fan will have fond memories of World Cups gone by, following the highs and lows of the competition; whether it was being thrashed by Germany in South Africa, Rooney’s red card, Ronaldinho’s lob over Seaman, Gazza’s tears or the Hand of God. OK, so England hasn’t fared too well in the last few years but it is also a time to celebrate a festival of football from across the globe. The first World Cup for any football fan is a special occasion.

World Cup’s also have the ability to combine football and music. From the 1970’s England squad singing Back Home, World in Motion featuring John Barnes rapping and 1998’s single from Fat Les, Vindaloo. Personal opinions will differ on which is the all-time greatest.

France 98 was the first tournament I followed. England had failed to qualify 4 years earlier so there was an extra sense of excitement leading up to this tournament. Since 1990 the Premier League had changed the game domestically and there was a real sense of optimism following the national team’s progress to the semi-finals of the European Championships on home soil 2 years earlier.

Before the competition I remember playing football in the playground but I didn’t go to any matches or watch any on TV, I was too young to remember Euro 96. I really got into the swing of things and had the sticker album and the wall chart. It was the first time there were 2 matches a day for the whole month. All the matches were on terrestrial TV which made football more accessible, including watching on the big screen in the school hall. As soon as one match had finished it was time for Italy v Chile.

England progressed out of their group with wins over Tunisia and Colombia but a defeat to Romania set up a second round clash with Argentina. The drama of the tie was a new experience for me and after Michael Owen’s wonder strike, Sol Campbell’s disallowed goal and David Beckham’s red card England lost in the penalty shoot-out. In the years since that’s something I have had to endure a few times.

Despite the disappointment of England’s exit I will never forgot the magic of that summer’s tournament. I continued watching the stars of the tournament on video, in the days before DVDs, blue ray and HD. To this day Jose Luis Chilavert, Denis Berkamp and Jay Jay Okacha remain some of my all-time favourite players.

Having developed a new found passion for football I went to my first live match the following year and have maintained an interest ever since. World Cups have the ability to capture the imagination of the nation greater than any other sporting event, with the exception of last year’s Olympics and Paralympics. It creates a new generation of football fans who will forever remember their first World Cup.

Hopefully that has whetted the appetite for next summer, personally I cannot wait. Bring on Brazil 2014.