Thursday, May 24, 2018

George Best (1946 – 2005): The Belfast Boy

George Best 1946-2005

Certainly one of the greatest players to grace football boots in the UK sadly passed away quietly in 2005. He died of multiple organ failure after a lifetime of heavy drinking. In the 60s the "Beatle in shorts and football boots” was a well balanced ball-playing genius, the like of which the world had hardly ever seen. The Belfast Boy was discovered by a talent scout at age 15 and taken to Manchester United . Two years later he pulled on the Red Devils Number 10 shirt and made his professional debut with the Old Trafford giants. In the same year as England won the World Cup, the Northern Irish star was a key player in the team that reached the semi-final of the European Cup. The Team went onto win the cup in 1968. Best scored 179 goals in 466 appearances for Manchester United and nine goals in 37 Northern Ireland caps. I saw George play for Manchester United, Hibs and Northern Ireland and he was a gifted player.

A joy to watch with superb mixture of natural skills, balance and dribbling abilities his ability to read the game and play effortlessly with both feet was testimony to his work on the training ground. Like many others, Best kept ‘profiles’ of his opponents and used these to good avail.

George for ever the sartorial footballer bridged the gap between football and fashion and wore specially designed football boots with side laces. The Stylo 'George Best' boots looked like a pair of bowling shoes with a white stripe from top to toe on each side. They were signed to authentic Best’s endorsement Decades before David Beckham, George Best ruled supreme on the green blaze. Sadly the boy had his demons and inevitably they caught up with him, yesterday. George was no saint off the field but despite this throughout his long and colourful career, George gave great pleasure to millions of football supporters across the globe. Everyone has a story about Besty, my favourite quote from the Irish wit, was.

"I spent a lot of my money on booze (alcohol), birds (women) and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

Wherever you are George, thanks.

My sympathies and thoughts are with the family and friends of this great athlete.
All the Georgie Best

Reviewed 27/07/2016

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

FIFA World Cup TM 2014 The Boots

Professional footballers second main source of income is their individual sponsorships, after the salary they receive from their club. Brands seek to lock down key players with financial incentives and different conditions which makes it unusual to see football stars change their sponsors during their professional career. This does not mean it has not happened but it is the exception to the rule. In the lead up to the World Cup much store is put on the key sponsored players to show case the new range of boots.

At the FIFA World Cup TM 2014, the first goal of the tournament was scored by Marcelo Vieira (Brazil), only he netted into own goal. Not that unremarkable, but the captain of Brazil had recently changed his sponsor which put the payer under the spotlight.

Playing for Real Madrid he was sponsored by Nike, then at the World Cup 2014 he had become an Adidas player. Was the own goal a serendipitous event, or the revenge of changing sponsors, who knows?

For FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Nike signed six of the best players in the world including the top ranking Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

Nike also sponsored 10 national teams including: Brazil , England, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Greece, Croatia, USA, Australia , and South Korea .

In total, 171 goals (five own goals) were scored by 121 players during the tournament, with 135 goals scored in the first round. In FIFA official records goals scored from penalty shoot-outs are not counted. Sixty-one (61) came from players wearing Nike cleats. Nike's best-performing boot (21 goals and 65 assists) was the Superfly IV as worn by Chile's Alexis Sanchez and Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri; Hypervenom 13; Vapour X 10; Magista Obra 7; Tiempo Legend V 6; Vapour9 2; CTR 360 III 1 ; and Magista Opus 1. Brazil's Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., (Neymar) wearing Hypervenom, Nike’s top goal scorer with four goals and Nike’s Miroslav Klose (Germany) netted his 15th World Cup goal to tie for the title of all-time leading World Cup goal scorer.

Adidas was the major sponsor of FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 . The German Company outfited nine national teams. (including four of the favourite teams i.e. Spain, Germany, Argentina and Colombia.) These were: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Mexico,Nigeria, Russia and Spain.

Fifty-seven (57) goals and 54 assists came from the boots of players wearing Adidas cleats. Adizero (38 goals); Predator Instinct (15 goals) ; Nitrocharge BP (3 goals) ; 11Pro TRX (1 goal). Germany's Thomas Müller (5 goals) and Argentina's Messi (4) wore Adizero to become the top scorers for the three stripes.

James Rodríguez (Colombia), was awarded the Golden Boot for scoring six goals wearing Adizero boots.

The Adidas-sponsored FIFA World Cup TM finals, featured two adidas sponsored clubs, Germany and Argentina. However, when Germany’s Mario Goetze volleyed in the winning goal. He was wearing Nike’s new lightweight “Flyknit” boots

Puma-sponsored players scored eight goals with six assists. Evopower 1 (6 goals) and Evospeed 1.2 (2 goals) . Puma unveiled novel colourful versions of Pumas’s evoPOWER and evoSPEED football boots, with the right boot in pink and the left boot in blue.

Goal scorers wearing the Tricks boot included Ghanaian captain Asamoah Gyan with two goals; and one goal each to Mario Balotelli (Italy) was paid an estimated $6.9 million to wear one blue and one pink Puma cleat and went on to head Italy's winning goal against England.

Others included: Olivier Giroud (France), Vedad Ibisevic . Oribe Peralta , Rafik Halliche , and Diego Godin .

Best of the rest. Tim Cahill (Australia) wore Warrior Superheat soccer cleats when he volleyed a screamer into the net of the Netherlands.

The two Brazilian Goal Keepers: Júlio César and Jefferson de Oliveira Galvão (aka Jefferson) wore ASICS soccer boots during the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Major Boot manufacturers and retailers – Asics

Japanese company ASICS Corporation was started in 1949. The name is a pneumonic for "anima sana in corpore sano" (you should pray to have a sound mind in a sound body). Attributed to Juvenal 2nd A.D. Soccer was introduced into the PE classes of Japanese elementary school in 1962 and the game became very popular. In 1962 soccer boots were made of cloth with three studs on the heel and four on the ball of the shoe. In 1964, leather soccer shoes were also released on a trial basis.

The company began to supply a range of quality soccer boots in 1966 with "SOCCER KAWA A" and "SOCCER KAWA AA. " These had soft uppers made of leather with interchangeable cleats to adjust to any kind of surface condition. A resin (nylon) sheet was used on the sole to provide the twin benefits of repellence and bounce prevention. A sponge was added between the upper and the sole, and further reinforcement was provided for with nails around the edge. The KAWA A, unlike the KAWA AA, did not come with interchangeable studs, but was adapted for Japanese soccer grounds with a suitable rubber compound.

In 1971 the company introduced the CHAPE 201. This was a lightweight yet sturdy soccer shoe which incorporated new technology to stabilise the cleats. This was thought to isolate the foot from cleat pressure during the impact of landing. Aluminum studs were replaced with polycarbonate resin and soccer shoes bore the Mexico line (the current ASICS stripe) in yellow. By the 80s soccer shoes incorporated a two-tone resin sole and were made on a last that emphasized the function of running. A hard sponge was inserted in the heel for a structure that allowed the user to retain a forward-leaning stance, and act as a shock absorber. Since the studs required changing, the sponging was designed with consideration to deformation.

The "BOMBER" series had a black sole, and the fabric of the uppers incorporated rubber on the toe and heel for extra support and shock absorption. "BOMBER 45" had a white sole which was quite unusual at the time, and used synthetic leather on the toe. The soles were sewn using "ARIAN THREAD." The style quickly established itself and soon most soccer players in Japan were wearing them.

In 1986 The Injector PF Series was released incorporating a unit sole that combined rubber studs for stopping power and durability with a polyurethane resin in the main body for lightness and bounce. The rubber studs were first pressed, and then inserted in an injection mold, and a polyurethane resin was finally injected into it. The innovative construction method relied on the reaction of the rubber treatment agent without using glue. Though the metal mold of the rubber press was developed through countless trial and error and at considerable costs, it had a huge impact on future molding machines. Of the three models released in the first year, the PF-III was the highest grade with oil-tanned calfskin.

In the same year ASICS Gel Lethal design was released and incorporated new design features including elevated heels which gave mechanical advantage to the player when propelling forward in accelerated movements. The emphasis on boot construction is lightweight, robust with waterproof uppers and ground midsole. Polyurethane outsoles are board lasted for stability and a selection of sole units suited to various conditions and preferences are available. These include some boots with tradition 4/2 stud arrangement or others offering the Asics’s circular cleat design referred to as the M.F.C. Ongoing research collaboration with Sports Medicine Australia strive to provide boots suitable for hard surfaces and warm climates.

Asics are one of the few boot makers to custom design boots for goal keepers The Janus JP Series was released in 2006. The signature model was used by Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006.

Brazilian Goal Keepers: Júlio César and Jefferson de Oliveira Galvão (aka Jefferson) wore ASICS soccer boots during the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.

So too did captain of Colombian, Maeio Yepes (Colombia)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Major boot manufacturers and retailers – Nike

Nike was established in 1964 and within two decades had the majority market share in soccer. adidas, the second-largest sportswear company, enjoyed supremacy for decades but was under constant challenge from Nike, the world's biggest sportswear company with an estimated $25 billion in revenue and a 17 percent market share. Together these companies have dominated the soccer boot market. For FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Nike signed six of the best players in the world including the top ranking Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

Nike began its football journey back in 1971 with the release of ""The Nike" football boot, the first shoe to bear the Swoosh logo. The boots proved unpopular so it was back to the drawing board.

The Nike Tiempo Premier boots were introduced at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States . Nike supplied boots to ten of the players in the final, between Italy and Brazil. Sponsorship agreements were reached with Brazilian Romário and Italian Paolo Maldini for the use of Nike Tiempo boots. Such attention broke the dominance of Hummel, Puma, and Adidas, who up until then were the favoured brands for international soccer players. The Nike Tiempo boot became an evergreen.

The Nike Tiempo Legend V (now 0.8 ounces lighter than its predicesor) will be worn by Sergio Ramos (Spain ) , Gerard Piqué (Spain) , and Andrea Pirlo (Italy) .

The The Hypervenom featured a NikeSkin upper that blended synthetics, mesh and All Conditions Control(ACC) was by England’s Wayne Rooney (England), Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, as well as Neymar Jr. ( Brazil ) and Clint Dempsey (USA).

The Nike Magista Obra FG was a return to the ankle boot style (mid cut) and worn by Thiago Silva the captain of Brazil. The new generation Magista was lightweight and made with thin leather and a mesh sockliner. According to the manufacturer, the knitted exterior of the boot enhanced fit. Studs were designed to maximise speed and abrupt changes in body movement as well as aid pushing off and sprinting.

The original Mercurial football boot was released in 1998 and established Nike as the leader in football boot innovation. The latest Nike Mercurial Superfly graced the feet of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nike sponsored 10 national teams including: Brazil , England, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Greece, Croatia, USA, Australia , and South Korea .

Neymar (Brazil) played the first half against Chile with his new golden boots. However because they were uncomfortable he changed into his regular orange cleats for the second half. Nike’s Neymar's exclusive golden model had the drawing of a spray can on the sole, and sold for more than $500 in Brazilian stores.

Nike Mercurial Superfly 2018 World Cup cleats will be worn by Cristiano Ronaldo in Russia. Built for speed, the Nike Mercurial Superfly VI boots have a one-piece Flyknit upper with ACC (All Conditions Control). There is a new 3-D structure towards the front of the upper to give improved control.

The 2018 World Cup Nike boots pack includes the current-gen Nike Hypervenom, Magista and Tiempo boots as well as the next-gen Nike Mercurial 2018 World Cup cleat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sports Injury: Footballers' ankle

Something a young sportsperson never wants to hear, especially if they are keen soccer or footy, is they suffer from a condition known as footballer's ankle. Literally this condition puts thousands of young hopefuls off the professional circuit every year and prevents them from ever playing the game seriously, again.

Footballer's Ankle is a pinching or impingement of the ligaments or tendons of the ankle between the bones, particularly the talus and tibia. This results in pain, inflammation and swelling. The condition was first described in 1950 and occurs in people who repeatedly kick a ball. Excessive kicking and up-ward bending and stretching of the foot causes strain on the capsular ligaments causes damage to the bones in front of the ankle. Repetitive ankle injuries cause not only thickened ligaments but also the bone in the ankle to hit the base of the shin bone causing a lump of bone or trapped ligament to appear. This restricts normal ankle movement and makes kicking a stationary ball, very painful. Some people respond well to surgical treatment but the vast majority of sufferers end up with chronic pain, especially if they attempt to persevere with activity.

Perhaps one of the few ways to help prevent this disorder is to learn, from a very early age, how best to kick the ball.

People who excel at sport tend to have the advantage their bodies are naturally made for that particular sport. Middle distance runners for example present a different leg foot relationship to long distance runners. In the former, the runner uses the ball of the foot, whereas in the latter, the heel strikes the ground first. Understanding this can help improve selection of young athletes and enrich training techniques sufficiently well enough to prolong their active careers.

In New Zealand researchers reported a small study on part-time soccer players to consider the relationship between anatomy of the player and type and frequency of injuries they sustained during a playing season. Players from Lower Hutt Football Club AFC (Premier Division in New Zealand) were examined and a diary of injuries recorded over the season. The data was compared to previously published data from a similar study conducted on professional Premier League players in England . Due to the limited size of the study, insufficient evidence was found to support the connection between anatomical make up of the individual player with the type of injury suffered. However the injuries noted in the New Zealand study were consistent with the type of play. High incidence of muscle strains and tendon pulls were recorded but ligament injury and joint sprains did not feature. A possible reason for this pattern of injuries may be related to the level of fitness of the player. Played at a slower pace, intricate ball skills are less obvious in New Zealand soccer than South American or Australian styles for that matter. Maintaining possession or dispossessing an opposing player takes longer therefore increasing the risk of contact and traumatic injury. Defensive and mid-field players were reported more at risk because they were involved in general play for longer periods of time. A lack of preparation before the game may also have contributed to their injuries. The playing surfaces had no significant effect on the type and frequency of injuries reported nor was new boots or studs a factor. All injured players were wearing boots worn for at least three months. Injury was more prone to occur during the first thirty minutes of the game with the first hard tackle being the primary cause of damage.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Stress Fractures of the Metatarsals

Concerns were expressed as to the potential cause of foot fractures in football code players and the role of boots in cause and or prevention. First and foremost there are many types of fractures which can affect the foot and with 28 bones (26 small bones + 2 sesamoinds ) so the matter can be quite complex. However if restricted to March Fractures of the (middle) metatarsals these are due to fatigue cracks in the short bones (metatarsals). This results from rotation along the long access of the foot due to the pendulum swing of the rearfoot against the forefoot during propulsion. It may also arise as a result external forces (serendipitous trauma) acting upon the foot when it is in non weigtbearing.

Boot design can assist the foot to cope with some of these stresses but may not be able to cope with all external factors. Depending on the location of the fracture i.e. the base of the fifth metatarsal, repeated inversion of the foot (rotating inwards) will weaken or damage the insertion of the lateral tendons from the leg . Overuse (overplaying and training) will further weaken this important junction between the leg and foot. No boot can help prevent this once the weakness has been established and rest from peak stress is the only option. In the case of professional athletes with punishing expectations this is often not an option. Players will be played until a critical incident arises and radical options such as surgery are employed. The reason why so many cases are now reported is not because of an epidemic due to poor footwear but instead because the responsibility of duty of care to the player from their club (employer) requires all injuries are reported and the consequences of the damage and or outcome of treatment explained to player. For as long as we over exercise our professional athletes we can look forward to more fatigue related injuries. Take care of the pair.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Goal line technology

Goal-line technology (or Goal Decision System) refers to an electronic means to determine when the ball has completely crossed the goal line with the sole intention to assist referees in awarding a goal or not. In the wake of controversial calls made in the Premier League, 2010 World Cup and the Euro 2012 FIFA have rather reluctantly accepted the need for GLT but insist the function is not to replace the role of the officials, but rather to support them in their decision-making. The introduction of the so-called "fifth official", i.e. the extra assistant referee standing beside the goal-line, was partly in order to facilitate in such situations.

FIFA’s decision to incorporate goal line technology is largely attributed to a 2010 World Cup game between England and Germany. Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany was disallowed despite television network footage showing it crossing the goal line before bouncing into the German goalkeeper’s hands. The game ended with a German victory, 4-1.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) officially approved the use of goal line technology in 2012 and for the first time goal-line technology in a competitive match has been used at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil .

The GoalControl system was installed in each of the 12 stadiums. Each stadium is equipped with 14 high-speed cameras positioned around the field, with seven cameras focusing on each goalmouth (the area directly in front of the goal). The system was developed by the Fraunhofer Society in association with Select Sport . It works by detecting the passage of the ball using magnetic induction. A low frequency magnetic field is generated around the goal, which is monitored by coils installed in the goal posts and crossbar. The ball is fitted with a passive electronic circuit embedded between the leather outer and inflatable inner layers. Software monitors the condition of the magnetic field in the goal and can detect the change that occurs in it due to the passage of the coils in the ball over the line. Once detected, the system sends an encrypted radio signal in real time to a wrist watch worn by the referee, which both vibrates and displays a message that a goal was scored.

The first World Cup goal to be be award using GLT was in a group stage match between France and Honduras, the Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares dropped a shot from Karim Benzema into the goal.

Advocates for goal-line technology maintain it will significantly reduce refereeing errors during play (up to 30% of the referee’s decisions made during a game) but the systems still has critics mainly within FIFA itself. Critics believe the new technology will impact on the human element of the game and remove the enjoyment of debating mistakes. Without doubt the new technology is prohibitively expensive particularly for smaller/poorer football associations. Advocates contend that any extra help for the referee should outweigh arguments that it would lead to non-uniform rules (since not all football associations would be able to implement it). Goal line technology will likely remain a part of the World Cup in future years and many believe goal line technology will enable referees to focus more on off sides which is important as those are still entirely monitored by humans.

The electronic goal-line technology to be used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ has been in use in all FIFA men’s senior events since 2012 FIFA Club World Cup Japan competition and was used for Women’s World Cup in Canada for the first time. The electronic goal-line technology will automatically register the goal and instantly alert the referee to the fact that the football has crossed the goal line. The following goal-line systems have been approved for use: GoalRef, Hawk-Eye, and GoalControl-4D. Recent reports of errors with GoalControl system during the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals, have cause d some concerns however and the use of the technology was suspendended. The Premier League, Bundesliga, Eredivisie and Italian Serie A all use a separate company, Hawk-Eye, for their goal-line technology, while GoalControl's system was used during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Video Assistant Referees (VAR) has created confusion in the first full season of live trials which now include more than 1,000 games worldwide. Unease over the technology has largely centered on the lack of clarity for fans, coaches and television audiences over when and how decisions are reached using video review. The International Football Association Board (IFAB), FIFA have agreed Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be at the World Cup in Russia 2018.