Men Of The Year (1 Viewer)


Junior Member
Dec 7, 2002
byJames Ellaby

The nearly man of world football in 2002, Michael Ballack has been, in my opinion, the best player. He may have missed out on any of the numerous trophies he came so close to winning, and he may have seen Ronaldo walk off with all of the player of the year awards, but Ballack has been the most consistently impressive performer of all.

In this week's glittering awards ceremonies, Ballack was named amongst the top stars, but had to settle for fifth in the Ballon d'Or and seventh in FIFA's list. Arsenal's French striker Thierry Henry came out and publicly offered his support for the German star: "Over the year, I wouldn't put Ronaldo in with my favourites. He deserves the prize if it is judged on the World Cup alone - but it is supposed to be for the whole year," he said. "The prize is given for the period from December to December. Ballack was consistent for the whole season."

That sums up what Ballack has achieved this year, as he has gone from being a talented young prospect to one of the game's undoubted stars. Unlike many others, he did perform at the highest level, scoring three goals from midfield at the World Cup finals, and inspiring the German team all the way to the final.

The semi-final against South Korea showed exactly why Ballack was this year's best player. He picked up his third yellow card of the tournament, and knew that it would rule him out of the World Cup final if Germany qualified. Instead of letting that affect him, he was driven on and five minutes later, scored the winning goal to send his team-mates through.

After the match, he was obviously disappointed that he would miss what would have been the biggest game of his career, but Ballack was still happy for his colleagues: "It's a great achievement. I'm happy for the team, for the entire nation," he said "It just has to sink in first."

His coach Rudi Voller knew who his country's hero was and said: "Even though he knew that with another yellow card he would miss the final, he still committed that tactical foul that was absolutely necessary. He placed himself at the service of the team and the whole of Germany - the entire country will stand and applaud him."

Unfortunately for Ballack, he had to watch helpless as his team fell to Ronaldo and Brazil. It was a familiar feeling for him, as he had also tasted defeat in the German Cup final, the Champions League final and the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen had been the surprise package in Europe last season, but fell at the last hurdle in all competitions.

Nevertheless, Ballack was the driving force for Bayer as they overcome English giants Liverpool and Manchester United en route to the Champions League final. Even before those inspirational performances, Bayern Munich had already secured his services for the incredibly low price of US$5.9m, though the final cost of the deal as a whole was nearer to US$49m.

Once again this season, Ballack's personal performances have been overshadowed by the failure of his team as Bayern have crashed out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, not even managing to win a single group match. With seven goals in the Bundlesliga already, he is well on his way to matching last season's total of 17, a great total for a midfielder, and he is looking on course for a league title, though he will not be taking anything for granted after what happened to him this year.

Despite the disappointments, he did receive one award, as he was named as Germany's Player of the Year, beating off competition from Oliver Kahn. Summing up exactly why he deserved this, and much more, his national coach Rudi Voller said of Ballack: "The award is highly deserved. Over the entire year, he performed the best."

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Dec 7, 2002
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    Guus Hiddink
    By Kashif Naveed

    What's Christmas without some Guus? However, this particular Guus in question avoided being stuffed and roasted by the passionate fans or the fervent media alike. I am talking about Guus Hiddink of course, a man who had been consigned to the scrap heap and who this year bounced back in style.

    Somewhere and at sometime this yuletide season Hiddink will look back on an extraordinary twelve months that saw him make football history. South Korea's Dutch coach started 2002 looking a weary man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had taken the poisoned chalice that was coaching South Korea. He was unloved by the Korean press and unpopular with the masses. Who'd have thought six months later they'd be naming streets after him.

    Indeed, I wonder if the thousands of fans that followed every kick and goal concerning South Korea's astonishing World Cup voyage are familiar with the 'Man of la Mancha'? It is the musical based on the life of that famous literary character Don Quixote and which includes the famous lines to that song 'The Impossible Dream':

    To dream the impossible dream,
    to fight the unbeatable foe,
    to bear with unbearable sorrow,
    to run where the brave dare not go...

    For a moment back in June, South Korea - co-hosts of World Cup 2002 - stood unbelievably on the brink of a place in the final. This from a team that came into the tournament only having won three of their fourteen games they had played in the year.

    The main objective, indeed the only objective, was to qualify for the knock-out stages. No host country had ever failed to reach the second stage in the history of the tournament and the KFA (Korean Football Association) were determined that they would not be the first.

    The scene was set when they defeated Poland in their first match courtesy of goals from Hwang Sun-Hong and Yoo Sang-Chul. "I am very, very happy," said Guus. A 1-1 draw followed against the USA before they faced their first real test. Their opponents in their last match were Portugal, who needed to win to progress.

    Park Ji Sung's goal in the 70th minute eliminated the Portuguese and suddenly no one was taking Hiddink's men for granted. The Italians were next and having achieved what they had set out to do Korea's fairytale run was expected to end. An early goal from the Azzurri's Chirstian Vieri looked to have put them on their way, but a late strike from Seol Ki Hyeon and then a golden goal winner from Ahn Jung Hwan stunned the Italians.

    It was one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. The Italians cried foul. "I don't understand why we had to become a victim of bad decision-making. I think the winner should be Italy," said their coach Giovanni Trapattoni afterwards.

    Spain were the next to fall to the Koreans and once again controversy was not very far away. The Spanish were eliminated in a penalty shoot-out despite having two goals ruled contentiously offside. None of this mattered in Korea. Guus had become the first coach in World Cup history to take two different nations to the last four.

    Figures later revealed that 99% of the Korean population had watched the team in action against Spain. "I cannot describe how I'm feeling. I think more dreams have come true now," said Korea's Don Quixote as he prepared his team for the semi-final showdown against Germany.

    Unfortunately, Hiddink was woken from the dream. Rudi Voller's Germany did what Portugal, Italy and Spain could not do and knocked South Korea out of the tournament.

    However, the endearing image from this summer's footballing festivities in the Far-East is of the sea of red that swept the World Cup. That was primarily down to Hiddink instilling a sense of confidence in his men. Altogether now - "To dream the impossible..."


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    Dec 7, 2002
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    Sepp Blatter and Political Power Struggles

    Dr Urs Linsi was this week named Fifa's new general secretary. The appointment of the acting-general secretary to a full time role may not have caused anything more than a ripple in most quarters, but in some Linsi's accession to the post vacated by Michel Zen-Ruffinen this summer will have been greeted by more than just a few groans. Linsi, a 53-year-old Swiss banker, represents that growing band at the top of football's hierarchy whose history in the game makes unpleasant reading. This has been the year that football's shady backroom dealings hit the front pages with frightening regularity.

    Doubts over the probity and integrity of the game's leaders is not a phenomenon peculiar to 2002, but over the past 12 months there has been an unprecedented amount of negative publicity focusing on a select band of football's most powerful men. It leaves the overall impression that the world game and its constituent confederations are run by a cabal of corrupt ne'er do wells who are only concerned with lining their own pockets.

    Linsi and the rest of the members of this coven are all linked by one man, Fifa president Sepp Blatter. A true master of real politik, Blatter himself was a student of the legendary Joao Havelange, the Brazilian who built Fifa up into a financial juggernaut and was the subject of numerous corruption charges himself.

    Much of the pre-World Cup hype focused not on the football but on the sensational challenge to Blatter's power. In May the then general secretary, Zen-Ruffinen, shocked the football world when he produced a 21-page dossier alleging his boss's numerous misdemeanors and financial scams. The threat of legal action brought about by 11 Fifa executives followed - reportedly prompting Linsi to change the locks on his office door before the Swiss investigators came knocking.

    Blatter sat tight, maneuvering expertly to block his critics and silence any dissenting voices. At the Fifa congress that preceded the World Cup opener in Seoul, Blatter was re-elected by a landslide majority. His grip on football's governing body has tightened ever since. He and his cronies were challenged once; they are not about to make the same mistakes again.

    Blatter's closest allies in his moment of need must have empathized with the president's predicament: they too had all been accused, vilified and disparaged; they too remain survivors.

    The year opened on a familiarly ugly note. Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian football confederation (CBF), was the subject of over 300-pages of allegations in the Brazilian government's December 2001 inquiry into football corruption. "The Brazilian Football Confederation is truly a den of crime," said Senator Alvaro Dias, the president of the 14-month investigation.

    Teixeira, Havelange's son-in-law, has been in charge of the CBF since 1988 but compared to Argentina's Julio Grondona he is barely out of short trousers. 'Don Julio' has been president of the Argentina Football Association (AFA) since 1979 and like Teixiera has fallen foul of his own government. Last May an Argentine judge called in Interpol to investigate Grondona on suspicion of fraud. When Zen-Ruffinen fell foul of Blatter in the summer, Grondona assumed responsibility for Fifa's financial matters.

    Further north, Jack Warner, the Trinidadian president of CONCACAF, has amassed a $50 million fortune since he left his school teachers job for a career in football administration. Like Grondona and Teixeira, Warner is a Fifa vice president. He has been accused of vote rigging and has been directly linked with fixing up members of his family with lucrative, football-related contracts.

    Warner's peer, Mohammed bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the AFC, was labeled as Blatter's 'bag-man' in the 1998 presidential election that secured Blatter his seat of power. Blatter's connection with Hammam and the lucrative Arabic FAs led to him being nicknamed 'Yousuf' by Fifa insiders.

    After his pre-World Cup jitters Blatter filled the in house audit committee, set up to 'investigate' the charges leveled by Zen-Ruffinen and co, with supporters. Not surprisingly he was cleared of all financial irregularities earlier this month. So much for the beautiful game.

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