BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for May 2012

Brazil feels hand of history upon it

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Tim Vickery | 09:10 UK time, Monday, 28 May 2012

From Roberto Carlos and Juan Sebastian Veron, through Roque Santa Cruz, Ronaldinho and Kaka, to Lionel Messi (with Argentina's Under-20s) and Sergio Aguero, to the likes of Neymar today, the biggest privilege South American football has given me is a chance to catch the early steps of players on the way to global stardom. It is like getting a sneak preview of the future.

But my area of action gives me another great, almost opposite pleasure - the opportunity to breathe the air of the game's history, to watch matches in settings that have, in the past, played host to the highest level of football the world had seen.

No true fan can fail to be awestruck by a visit to Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. After strolling along the main avenue, and cutting through a scenic park, you come to the concrete colossus of the Centenario stadium, hurriedly constructed for the first World Cup in 1930, and still going strong.

While I am not a great fan of River Plate's ground in Buenos Aires - the stands are too far from the pitch, you often seem to be watching the game from a strange angle and it is one of those places that seems permanently cold and blustery - I still love going there. It is a chance to pay homage to the venue where Alfredo Di Stefano honed the skills that would have such an influence on the game's global development.

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A top league with both quality and unpredictability

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Tim Vickery | 09:46 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2012

Even the most enthusiastic inhabitant of the Matthew Harding Stand might be reluctant to argue that Chelsea are the best team in Europe. But they dug deep, rode their luck, came up big at key moments and went home with the trophy. And this is the essence of a cup competition, with the chances that it creates for upsets.

League championships are a different matter. At the end of the season the table does not lie. The worst teams are at the bottom and the best ones are at the top - and in most major leagues the number of teams capable of making a genuine title challenge has fallen over recent years.

In the first full season I followed the English title was won by Derby County, who did it again three years later. There were still players around who had been active when the championship went to Ipswich and Burnley, unthinkable from today's perspective.

Before we start eulogising over the good old days, it is worth remembering that this competitive balance was underpinned by the treatment handed out to those who put on the show.

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Argentina's battle for South American supremacy

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Tim Vickery | 10:56 UK time, Monday, 14 May 2012

With his dramatic title-winning goal for Manchester City, Sergio Aguero paid off a fair chunk of his reported £38m transfer fee - some of which filtered down from Atletico Madrid to Independiente in Argentina, the club which produced him.

Producing such a magnificent striker has already done wonders for Independiente's finances. The money they received for selling him to Spain was used to rebuild their entire stadium, the Estadio Libertadores de America - named after South America's equivalent of the Champions League, which they have won a record seven times.

The Copa Libertadores is not only close to the heart of Independiente, it is a huge deal in Argentina nationally.

Supporters in the country have made up special songs about the Libertadores, and the atmosphere in a big Buenos Aires ground during one of those matches is something every fan should experience.

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Lords of the dance

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Tim Vickery | 09:32 UK time, Monday, 7 May 2012

Rashidi Yekini has died at a tragically early age, but in his all-too-brief time on earth he certainly left his mark. He will be remembered all over the globe not just for scoring Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal (against Bulgaria in USA 94), but also - perhaps more - for the way he celebrated.

One of the lasting images of the tournament is that of Yekini gripping the back of the net and then forcing his arms through the holes as he yelled out his thanks to the heavens. It was a beautiful moment because there was nothing contrived about it. It was a genuine, spontaneous show of deep emotion.

More cheesy but equally sincere was another famous goal celebration from that tournament - Bebeto scoring for Brazil in the quarter-final against Netherlands and then, joined by team-mates Mazinho and Romario, rocking an imaginary cradle. It was a tribute to newly born son Mateus, nearly 18 years later a promising player himself. As the proud father explained, the beauty of the celebration lay in the fact that it was entirely unplanned.

The same could certainly not be said of the thousands of imitations it spawned, and all the other little dances now found around the world in commemoration of the ball hitting the back of the net. These days planning new celebrations has become a cottage industry - one that has flourished in Brazil more than anywhere else.

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