Soccer Notebook

By Andrew L. Dixon, III BASN Soccer writer
Updated: May 25, 2012

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***image14***TALLAHASSEE, FL (BASN) -Ok, my Lakers are out so let’s talk some football before the OKC-San Antonio series gets started:

Drogba Leads Chelsea To Improbable Champions League Title

Absolutely stunned.

That was my and undoubtedly most people’s reaction as Chelsea F.C. came from behind thanks to Cote D’Ivoire striker Didier Drogba and beat Bayern Munich in Bayern’s own building to capture its first Champions League title, winning 4-3 on penalties after drawing 1-1.

The Blues as Chelsea are known, came into the Final seemingly missing half their team. The cost of their determined and improbable two leg victory over tournament favorites F.C Barcelona included their pacy winger Ramires, defenders Branislav Ivanovic and captain John Terry (yellow card suspension and a ridiculous Ron Artest-like knee to the back of a Barca player, respectively) and midfielder Raul Meireles. While Bayern were missing players of their own, it was widely understood that the players Chelsea were missing were more important to the English side and with Bayern playing at home, most were expecting a victory by the German side seeking to raise its 5th European Cup.

Bayern Munich enjoyed most of the possession as Chelsea looked to defend and counter and would end up dominating the final in every conceivable statistic except the one that matters the most…the scoreline. As the game entered the final 10 minutes, the apprehension and nervousness of the home crowd that still couldn’t believe their side hasn’t broken the scoreless deadlock was palatable even through a television screen.

Bayern finally grabbed a deserved lead in the 83rd minute when German International Thomas Mueller rose to meet a Toni Kroos cross and head past the Chelsea keeper at the right post. But as Bayern sought to ride out the last few minutes, replacing Muller and an injured Frank Ribery in the waning moments, Didier Drogba stepped up and turned the game on its head.

The Ivory Coast man, who scored in the FA Cup Final and played a large role in the semi-final victory over Barcelona, lost his marker and powerfully headed home Chelsea’s only corner of the match, tying it at 1-1 in the 88th minute. Bayern were stunned and the match went into extra time.

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Drogba almost went from hero to villain for Chelsea as he tripped Dutch winger Arjen Robben in the area for a clear penalty. Robben’s penalty was too close to Cech and Chelsea was let off.

Bayern grabbed the early advantage in the ensuing penalty shootout when Juan Mata’s first pk was saved by Bayern’s Manuel Neuer. However Cech later saved from Ivica Olic to even things and when Bastien Schweinsteiger pushed his penalty onto the right post it was left to Drogba to give Chelsea the title. Drogba, who missed the penalty shootout against Manchester United 4 years earlier after being red carded late in the match, took full advantage of his opportunity this time around, burying his kick past diving Neuer to the keeper’s right to give Chelsea its first Champions League title and ensure that the Blues would be in the Champions League next season.

It was a fitting end for Drogba who emerged from the shadows of Andrei Schevchenko to become a big game player for Chelsea. Drogba has since announced that, with his contract expiring, he is leaving Chelsea. Rest assured for all of his ups and downs, he will be long remembered as the man who rescued and Chelsea and ultimately delivered a title London.

No Rio for England

Meanwhile, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand has seemingly seen his international career come to a controversial end after being left off the squad that will represent England at the 2012 European Championships.

Ferdinand has not featured much for England lately but most figured he would be selected, especially as he seemed to have overcome his latest stretch of injuries to feature for United during its ultimately unsuccessful run for another title.No matter as Ferdinand was not selected.

Ferdinand’s exclusion was all the more startling in light of who was included: John Terry. The Chelsea captain is facing a trial this summer for racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton during a match against Aston Villa earlier in the season which ultimately could have…and still might…locker room chemistry implications. For his part Ferdinand stated that he would be able to put his differences aside to represent England. However new England manager Roy Hodgson will not give him that opportunity, having chosen Terry over him for what he called “purely footballing matters,” a claim that many in including former England International John Barnes, one of England’s first Black stars in the 80s is unsure about. “The politically correct reason is the fact they didn’t believe he could play two games in a short space of time,” said Barnes, who is also Ferdinand’s cousin “But we will all try to read between the lines, because Rio has played 38 games this season for Manchester United – and even being injured for a spell, he still managed to play that many.”

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As always several Black players will feature for England who have drawn into a group that includes France, Sweden, and Ukraine,

The full squad: (black players in bold print)

Goalkeepers – Robert Green (West Ham United), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City) Defenders – Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool) Phil Jones (Manchester United), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), John Terry (Chelsea) Midfielders – Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Man City), Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Theo Walcott (Arsenal) Forwards – Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur)

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family not travelling to Euros

While Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family is undoubtedly happy about his inclusion in the England squad, his family won’t be cheering him in person.

Citing fears of racist fans in Ukraine where the tournament will be held, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family has opted to cheer from home after receiving warnings from the England Home Office that “travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.” The Arsenal winger’s family is not the first to decline to travel as Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott’s family has already said that they too will not travel to the Ukraine. Several Black and Asian England fans have also decided to cheer at local pubs. No point going where you’re not wanted…

African football mourns legends

Fans of African football recently mourned the loss of two legends.

Senegal’s striker Jules Francois Bocande, one of the first Senegalese players in the France’s Ligue 1 passed away during an operation in Metz, France. The dred-locked forward made his name with Metz in the 80s leading the league with 23 goals during the 85-86 season and also played for Paris Saint-Germain, and Nice.

Bocande also featured 73 times for Senegal, scoring 20 times.

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Bocande’s death occurred roughly 72 hours after the death of another legend, Nigeria’s Rashidi Yekini. The 1993 African Footballer of the Year, Yekini was said to have been suffering from a bi-polar disorder and an undisclosed mental illness in recent years and passed away at age 49.

Nigeria’s all time leading scorer, Yekini, a strong burly forward for the Super Eagles produced one of the 1994 World Cup’s indelible images with his goal celebration after scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal. ” In the team’s opening match against Bulgaria he met “a cross from Finidi George to score the first ever goal for Nigeria at the World Cup, prompting Yekini to run into the goal post, grabbing the net, and shaking it endlessly while screaming to the high heavens in celebration of what would be an iconic goal for the country’s football.” (naijafeed)

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Rashidi appeared 58 times for Nigeria scoring an astounding 34 goals in international competition. His club career saw him play in the Ivory Coast, Portugal (where he scored an amazing 90 goals in 108 games for Vitoria Setu), Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Nigeria.

CFU Elects a New President

Gordon Derrick, the General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda FA has been elected the President of the Caribbean Football Union.

Derrick, who also owns Antigua Barracuda FC, officially succeeds Jack Warner who was forced to resign during the fallout of the FIFA bribery scandal last year. Derrick is not without his own past having been reprimanded and fined in November by FIFA following their investigation into alleged “ethics violations” of former Asian soccer head Mohhamed Bin Hammam that helped bring down Warner.

Derrick takes over for Yves Jean-Bart of Haiti who assumed the post on an interim basis after Warner’s resignation. “Rest assured there will be no marginalization, discrimination or segregation under my tenure,” Derrick told the CFU congress following the vote. “We are all vital components of this union, each and every member has a part to play and it is only through unity can we move the union forward.”

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US begins World Cup Qualifying tune up matches.

Speaking of Antigua and Barbuda, the United States National Team, a.k.a. The Squad opens up qualifying for the 2014 World Cup with against A&B on June 8, 2012 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

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The US will play a series of warms up starting Saturday, May 26, 2012 against Scotland in Jacksonville, continuing against Brazil at Fed Ex Field in Maryland on May 30 before heading north of the border to Toronto to face Canada. The US will follow their match against A&B with an away match against Guatemala on June 12th.

That’s it. Live this game!

Love this game! And see you in Jacksonville!