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The NFL is a league that loves to expands to new and untapped markets within the United States. There are many major cities out there in the U.S. that can make that argument that they are deserving of a new NFL franchise should the NFL decide to expand or relocate one of their current franchises. This article will discuss why Louisville would be a great fit for an NFL team.

Louisville Has A Solid Sports History And Culture

Louisville has a long history with sports. First of all, Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby which is a well attended and watched event on television. Second, Louisville is home to the Louisville Slugger which is a popular brand of baseball bat used by several prominent baseball players. Third, the University of Louisville Cardinals have solid basketball and football programs year in and year out.

Louisville has also been home to some of the greatest legends. One of these legends is Muhammad Ali who would go on to become one of the best boxers ever. Another individual from Louisville is Johnny Unitas who would go on to become one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. There are many other sports figures who are from Louisville but there are too many to be put on this list.

Louisville would certainly be a good fit for an NFL team. One might make the argument that college sports dominate the landscape in Louisville, which certainly is true. However, since the NFL schedule is usually played on Sunday afternoons, it would not be hard to accommodate both the collegiate sports schedules and the Louisville NFL team. In fact, the addition of an NFL team in Louisville would bolster the already solid sports history and culture of Louisville and give the sports fans there another team to cheer for.

Having An NFL Team In Louisville Is Good For The Neighboring Television Markets And Sports Markets

As with any expansion or relocation of a team to a new city, one of the biggest factors is the neighboring markets which the team would expand to. In this case, placing an NFL team in Louisville would reach out to the entire state of Kentucky, southern Indiana, and southern Illinois. If the team is successful in their first few years, they would be able to reach out farther.

It is true that there are other NFL teams which compete in those markets. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans reach into Kentucky. The Indianapolis Colts reach into southern Indiana. The St. Louis Rams reach into southern Illinois. The Louisville NFL team would have to face competition from those teams in terms of reaching out into the desired markets.

However, I would argue that this competition is a good thing because it encourages fans in those areas to become more active in terms of which team to cheer for and would force the neighboring teams to field a better product in order to keep Louisville from claiming those fans. Louisville in turn would do its best to field a solid team to gain a stronghold into states such as Indiana, Illinois, and Tennessee which have solid sports cultures in their own right. It’s a win-win situation for the NFL and the fans in those markets.

Yup, you’re a real NFL football fan, not some casual bandwagoner. You already have a team jersey and a jacket, a poster of your favorite player on your wall, and maybe even an autographed picture or helmet.

Now, tired of writing personal checks on boring standard bank paper or worse yet, pastel colors with balloons or animals, you think it would be cool to have some that sport the logo and graphics of your favorite NFL team.

“Yesss! Finally, some checks that I can be proud to put my signature on…” you think to yourself. But chances are you won’t be so enthusiastic after conducting a Google search.

Why? Thanks (or no thanks) to licensing restrictions and who knows what else, there are only 6 official NFL team checks available from just two banks – Bank of America offers checks for the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, & the Washington Redskins, while U.S. Bank carries the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings.

So if you’re not a fan of one of those six teams, it’s back to balloons and birds unless you…

Print Your Own Checks

If you want pay your rent with checks imprinted with the Green Bay Packers logo, you’re going to have to print them yourself. If that’s something you’re willing to consider, here are some things to think about first:

  • Learning curve – it’s not all that complicated, but it’s important to be thoroughly familiar with both the software and hardware when printing checks since the information (such as your account number) needs to be 100% accurate and readable.
  • Technical support – or lack of it. Computer and electronic products in this day & age tend to become obsolete rather quickly. Let’s say your printer is in need of a repair or update but that model is no longer manufactured. Without the proper tech support, replacement parts, or drivers, that slick new machine that you bought just 6 months ago may wind up as an expensive paperweight.
  • Cost – the good news is that contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a laser printer to produce checks – a good ol’ inexpensive (but not just any) inkjet printer will do just fine. The bad news is that printing checks requires special paper, magnetic ink, & software with MIRC-compatible fonts, which means that the price of a check printer bundle can run as much as $300 more than that of a regular inkjet.

The cheapest deal I’ve seen so far for a package that is capable of printing customized bank-compliant checks with the NFL football graphics of your choice is the HP D2680MX Gold Bundle from VersaCheck ($199.99).

200 bucks seems like a bit much to print your own NFL checks, but if you already order custom checks than you do get to enjoy some savings in the long run. Plus, you can be as creative as you’d like when it comes to designing your own checks.

Playing sports is not just for adults anymore, heck, there are probably just as many kids who play football, basketball, hockey, and soccer as there are adults, so this means that there is a need for sports paraphernalia and sports equipment for children who play sports; however, many kids do not actually play sports but are big sports fans and enjoy collecting sports memorabilia and paraphernalia from their favorite players and teams.

Sports equipment, memorabilia, and sports paraphernalia such as helmets, uniforms, balls, mouthpieces, gloves, knee pads, shoes, bats, rackets, and so on have to be designed and chosen for the appropriate age group, after all many of the world’s best athletes and players of different sports are those who started playing or collecting at an early age, and this holds true the saying “Good athletes are not born, but are bred”. Most athletes are not just naturally good at the game, but have trained long and hard to be successful at what they do.

The right sports paraphernalia and equipment can make all the difference in the success or failure of a child’s athletic career. Being successful in sports can give a child confidence in himself or herself and lead to good leadership and communication skills later in life; however, on the other hand, failing at sports can lead to low self esteem and a lack of confidence in a child which could effect the way he makes decisions as a teenager and adult. Playing sports is not just about physical accomplishments but also about building character which will have an effect on how well a child learns to accept winning and losing in other aspects of their lives.

Kids who show an interest in playing sports early in life should be given the opportunity to develop their skills by exposing them to the appropriate sports paraphernalia and equipment needed to correctly advance and enhance their athletic career, and for those kids who just love sports, collecting sports memorabilia at an early age could be a fantastic path into yet another avenue of the sports arena.

There are many different skills that player needs to be able to play rugby, they are running, passing, catching and tackling. However, every team should have at least two people who have the special skill of kicking the ball.

A rugby ball is oval and so it will bounce in a much different way than a round soccer ball. For this reason a good kicker has to know exactly where to place the ball so that the bounce will go in his favour. There are three different types of kicks that you will see in a rugby game, and I will go over each of them now.

The punt is a kick that is used in general play. To carry out this kick the player holds the ball in front of themselves about a legs distance from their body to maximise the swing of the kicking leg. The non-kicking foot is planted firmly on the ground, and the kicking leg is swung in a way that it will make contact with the ball on the instep of the foot. This is the top part of the foot between the toes and the ankle. Keep your eye on the ball as you are kicking it and try to ignore the 15 other players that will be trying to tackle you at the same time.

The drop kick is a specialised type of kick that is used to restart play and to kick at goal during normal play. A restart is taken at the 22 metre line for a dropout, or the halfway line when a try or penalty has been scored. To make a drop kick, the ball is held vertically in the kickers hands about waist high. The ball is dropped to the ground and the kicker makes contact with his instep again a split second after the ball has bounced. Ideally the ball will be leaning slightly backwards, and the kicker will also lean back to get more height in the kick.

The place kick is used when a penalty has been awarded or when a conversion is to be attempted after a try has been scored. Most players these days use a kicking tee or small amount of sand to hold the ball in a set position while they make their run up. Although every kicker has their own kicking style, almost all will begin by walking backwards from the ball a set distance and then move out to one side or the other. The kicker will then pause to clear his head and relax.

No matter what type of kick is employed the key to a good kick is accuracy. The ball must land exactly where the kicker wants it to, and either score points or put the team into a better attacking position than they were previously. A good kick is a fantastic attacking weapon, and on the flip side a bad kick can be disastrous.

Kicking should always be done for a reason. Generally, a team will kick more often when they are in their own half as a defensive measure to get out of trouble, and continue play in the other teams half. This type of kick is called a defensive kick, or sometimes a territorial kick, which means that the kicking team is trying to get into the oppositions territory.

Kicking in rugby is a difficult skill to master due to the shape of the ball. However, with consistent practise it is possible to read how a ball will bounce depending on how you kick it. You can make the ball bounce end over end in a straight line which will cause it to ‘pop’ up slightly higher on about the third bounce, which makes it easy for chasing players to pick up as they run at it. It is also possible to make the ball spin off to the side so it will bounce out of play near the oppositions try line.

The debate is as old as the sentence, it seems. I have never understood why these two training styles seem to be mutually exclusive. Why do you have to select between them? It has long been accepted that Olympic lifting developed explosive power, and powerlifting develops absolute strength. Don’t most athletes demand both? Luckily the body has no Olympic or Powerlifting bias. It simply strives to become proficient in whatever the task at hand may be. The problem with trying to do both is that there are only so many training hours in the week. I believe training economy is one of the most important aspects of strength & conditioning for athletes. Even in the off season, athletes spend a substantial amount of time developing specific skills for their sport, or at least they should. At the high school level, they might even participate in multiple sports. So how do we decide which training style to follow? Let’s look at each, shall we?!

One of the main concerns strength coaches have with Olympic lifting is the complexity of the movements. And frankly that reflects some ignorance on their part. If you have seen any of Coach Dan John’s videos or seminars he breaks down the movements and can have you snatching and cleaning in a matter of hours or days. Despite having said that, I consider the Olympic lifts to be somewhat technical. Olympic lifts require a lot more attention to detail than the powerlifts do. Also there is a limiting factor to the loads you can use with the Olympic lifts. The clean is comprised roughly of a deadlift, hang clean and front squat. One of those 3 movements will hold back the other two. How explosive do you think an athlete could be if they limited their deadlift poundage to what they could handle in the front squat, or hang clean? A 500lb deadlifter that could only front squat 300lbs, would develop a hell of a lot of force pulling 300-350lbs for explosiveness. And that’s just IF they could clean 300lbs.

Also if you watch Olympic weightlifters closely, the initial pull is not explosive. The initial pull can’t be explosive because they are building up, and getting into position for the all important second pull. They are slowly stretching the rubber band, otherwise known as the hamstrings. The second pull is where the hip snap and jump occurs; these movements are basically the basis of most sports performance. This is the portion of the movement that Olympic lifting proponents attribute to building explosiveness for sports, and I do not disagree with them.

After reading this you are probably expecting me to say that powerlifting training is definitely the way to go for football. I hate to disappoint you, but since training should be fluid; the answer is yes and no. Powerlifting training allows you to use heavier loads, and develop absolute strength. I personally believe the development of absolute strength should be the basis of any strength and conditioning program for athletes. Strength is the platform that skill is built upon. However, there are significant limitations to powerlifting training as well. First of all they are all single plane movements. Take the deadlift, my favorite lift for training athletes and assessing their progress. It, and the squat, will build sheer strength and overall muscle mass like very few lifts. Yet they are single plane movement, done while holding your breath. And apart from occasionally sitting on the sideline hoping a game winning field goal is made, that’s not how we play sports.

So if neither of these training styles by themselves are optimum then what is the answer?! Well in my opinion there is a dark horse in this race. One that is finally starting to get some mainstream acceptance, though I am not sure if that’s a good thing. Mainstream acceptance usually means a bunch of young coaches bastardizing a perfectly legitimate strength training protocol. From my work with athletes the best hybrid between powerlifting and Olympic lifting is Strongman Training.

Strongman training has many benefits when compared to the other two classic disciplines. The most important of which is that you are taught to be strong in several planes. You learn to be strong while having to breathe. That is HUGE. I recall the first time I used a strongman yoke. I had recently squatted close to 800 lbs, and thought that carrying 600lbs. on my back for a distance would be relatively easy. It was a rude awakening. Balancing the weight while walking was difficult, but what really got me was I had to BREATHE. The moment I let out my initial breath, I started losing tightness, and the weight started to crush me. Learning to be strong while breathing is something that every athlete must do.

Another benefit of strongman training is a forgotten element sometimes. Attitude and aggression are things that should be encouraged during training. Making football players mentally tough should be a goal of any strength and conditioning program, as I addressed in my article about finishers. You have to realize that the amount of aggression that you can apply to a lift is inversely proportional to how technical a lift is. Which movement is more technical, a tire flip or a snatch? Even with a superior coach like Coach John, it takes some time to develop proficiency in a complex move like the snatch. Where as, as long as the tire is the proper weight, you can show a kid how to flip a tire and have them doing it in a matter of minutes. It’s much like teaching a kid to play an instrument. You can give them a drum, and right away they can beat the hell out of it. Give the same kid a French horn and see how they do. We all recognize that the less an athlete has to THINK the better, and that goes for the weight room as well as the field of play.

You also don’t take small jumps in strongman. A larger tire is probably a hundred more pounds at least. If you are doing a barbell exercise, a kid will always want to add weight, even if it’s only 5 lbs. They have to feed their ego. With strongman training they have to become more proficient at the same weight, work on moving it fast and developing more explosiveness. There is no way you could get kid to stand still for that if they had a barbell in their hands. And as far as barbells go, one more advantage of strongman training is that tires and sandbags don’t have handles…. neither do offensive/defensive linemen. Yes I recognize there grabbing them under the armpits will work for a handle, but it is “technically” illegal…wink, wink.

The last point I will make about strongman training is that most of it is done outside in the elements. This is also where the majority of sports are played as well. It is different, and fun. Most young athletes need the training to be fun for them to give their best effort. Not to mention that strongman training lends itself to a healthy competitive atmosphere.

So does that mean that I think that strongman is the end all and be of all strength and conditioning for sports? Not at all. I believe that the best strength programs will take something from all the disciplines. Powerlifting movements such as the squat and deadlift build sheer strength as well as packing on tons of muscle mass. Olympic lifts such as hang cleans, and muscle snatches are great for developing, hip snap, jumping ability, and overall explosiveness. Then there are crossover movements like front squats and push presses. Almost all athletes should do more of each. There is no reason to only use one style of training. There are things to draw from all three. Strongman training helps an athlete take their strength in the weight room to his chosen field of play. And performance on the field is what really matters.

Are you taking prediction football as a game, or do you seriously want to make some serious money from it? While it seems like most people who bet on the game are motivated by money, there are hobby players who do it more for fun and pride. If you are truly serious about making money from prediction football results and placing your bets on it, there are definitely things which you should take note of that can significantly improve your chances for winning.

Firstly, you need to understand that you can be the best fantasy football player in this world, or the most knowledgeable person there is on the topic of football, but these things do not guarantee that you will win. The thing with football betting is, there are factors such as handicaps and your payout odds that give the sports books an advantage. Regardless of how good you are at prediction football results, if you cannot overcome the house edge, you will be losing money at the end of the day.

To counter this, many of the best and biggest football bettors have hired mathematicians to develop intricate prediction football systems. The purpose of these systems is not to predict the exact result of every single football match. Rather, each system uses its own algorithm to process data that have been accumulated throughout the years, and come back with its picks on the few bets that have the highest chances of winnings.

Truth be told, less than 1% of people who bet on football games make a consistent profit. The key to join the elites and generate recurring income by profiting through accurate predictions of match outcome, is to simply ride on the very system that the successful players developed through years of statistics review. Getting 20% of all match results right may be a pretty good score in predicting the results of football matches, but if you take such stats to the football betting tables, you will be in for a rude shock.

Despite what “experts” on the media are saying, there is no magic formula in making a fortune from football betting. It’s a straightforward path of identifying and testing the systems which consistently deliver successes, and once you finally find it, prediction football will be just as profitable as it is fun.

My grandparents always say to me how our lives are better now than when they were young, and that I should enjoy and cherish my life instead of complaining. Admittedly, in most senses, our lives are indeed much better than our grandparents’ when they were young.

Back in the day, gifts for grandparents definitely wouldn’t have been Plasma TVs or mobile phones. No siree. In the words of my Grandad, “in my day, we were lucky if we got a plate of baked beans on the table for dinner.”

When my grandparents got married, they moved into a cramped one-room – and I repeat – one room flat, with a divan mattress in the corner it, and no running water or electricity. They cooked using a single gas hob and could hardly afford to feed themselves. And when their son was born, times got so tough that they often had to eat blackberries for dinner!

In my grandparents’ era, you were lucky if you had a sink in your abode. Many folks collected water from either private wells or from public pumps. Washing machines and dishwashers would’ve, undoubtedly, come in extremely useful and made incredibly handy Birthday gifts for Grandmothers, or Birthday gifts for Grandad, so they would’ve spent more time resting and less time washing the dishes and clothes themselves!

As for debit and credit cards, my grandparents didn’t use ATM cards until they were in their 60’s – imagine that! Instead, they always went inside the bank and did business eye-to-eye with the bank clerk, who even knew them by name.

My grandparents often joke that they don’t know why people refer to those times as “the good ol’ days,” because there wasn’t much good about them. Grandad told me a story about a young lad who actually killed himself for lack of food and money.

Of course, I treasure these stories and the time I spend with my grandparents. When I find myself drooling over a new gadget, I think back to the stories of my Gran ransacking the cupboards for a missing “twopence” piece, which would’ve paid for a can of soup for her son’s dinner. It puts life into perspective.

People managed to get by without today’s mod-cons. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism of today’s modern conveniences, because frankly, many of them make life much more enjoyable. On the other hand, perhaps we should be reminded that the majority of these are luxuries, not necessities, even though media and peer pressure would have us believe otherwise.

These days, we can spend more time and money on our hobbies, which was unheard of in our grandparents’ time. My Grandad would’ve given anything to immerse himself in his favourite book, but he just couldn’t afford it, they were that strapped for cash.

When I was walking with my Gran down the local high street, we passed a tanning bed salon and spied a girl, her skin glowing a shade of orangey-red, strut out of the salon. Gran whispered to me: “Why pay the earth to cook your skin when the good Lord shines a sun over your head that does the same for free?” That did make me laugh.

I can safely say kindles, GPS devices, Xboxes, Wiis, and so on, certainly won’t be on my gifts for grandfather or Birthday Gifts for Grandma shopping list. I believe there’s definitely something to be said for personalised gifts for grandparents.

Very recently, I gave a personalised football book to my Grandad for his 80thbirthday. The front cover displayed his name in gold, and there was a personal message on the inside cover. This particular book contained newspaper reports on the history of Sunderland football team over the last century.

On visiting him a week later, Grandad was already half way through it. Not being much of a football lover myself, I couldn’t really share in my Grandad’s excitement as he went off at a tangent about all the things he’d read, like the famous League and Cup wins, the stars – past and present, etc. etc. etc. But what did excite me was when he said this was one of the best presents he’d received, ever. That made me so happy.

Fundraising For Youth Football

Ok, you’ve thrown up because you’ve heard the dreaded word all youth football coaches hate, fundraising. Unfortunately some of us youth football coaches are required to participate and sometimes even run fundraising projects. It’s probably the thing most of us detest the most about coaching youth football.

Youth football costs a lot of money to run, far more than anyone that isn’t involved in the day to day operations would care to know. There is equipment, insurance, field rentals, film and video, advertising, printing, phone, web, awards, officials and food just for starters.

There are always kids that can’t afford to play, so scholarships are a cost to you as well. If you are planning to play in an out of state tournament, that it an entire different universe. Most of the trips we’ve taken our kids on have cost an average of $25,000 per team, transportation, hotel and food add up real quick even if you do it on the cheap. So what I’m getting at is fundraising is a necessary evil for programs and an absolute necessity for teams that are traveling.

This year at the Pop Warner and AYF National Championships in Florida, I interviewed about 70 youth coaches and asked them what were the top three challenges their team faced this year in their quest to get to Florida. Over 90% of the coaches put fundraising in their top three. In fact there were teams and kids that were left behind because they couldn’t afford to make the trip. Needless to say fundraising is not an isolated problem, it is something we all struggle with.

When looking at fundraising the consensus is we all want something that doesn’t require a ton of work, is short in duration and pays well. As the Founder and President of two different Organizations I can tell you we tried them all, some worked pretty well, others were real bombs. How many of you have had the air conditioning go out in your office on a 90 degree day and see your pallet of just arrived chocolate candy bars melt into a gooey mess? How many of you have had a sticky fingered team mom run off with all the raffle money? How may of you have had kids not turn in money because a big brother stole if from Junior? How many of you have had adults call your office and wonder where their cheese cakes they ordered and paid for haven’t arrived two months after you sent the kids out with them on the delivery blitz?

Here are a few ideas that worked well from some of our readers:

Kids buying game jerseys. The jersey costs $20 with the name on the back, you sell them for $75, netting you $55 per jersey. You raise about $1,250 per team.

Kroger affinity program. A Kroger in the Cincinnati area offers an affinity program. You load dollars into your Kroger card and 2% of your purchases go to your program. One team I know raised over $3,000 with it.

PDP- They do a letter writing campaign for you, nothing to sell, no deliveries to make, no collections to worry about, pretty pain free.

Discount Cards. Most discount card programs have nice discounts for 20% off or buy one get one at local eateries and service companies. The cards usually cost $10 or $20 with the organization keeping half the funds. Most of these companies will allow you to put your team name, picture and schedule on the cards. One program I know raised over $8,500 with it.

Not so great programs, while these companies and programs may be fantastic and work for many, they weren’t my cup of tea or for my readers.

Frozen cookie dough. Getting the money up front and then getting these tubs of frozen cookie dough out to all of the players and customers was a nightmare. I still have bad dreams about that year and it happened way back in 2000.

Candles- Having boys and coaches selling candles for $20 a pop went over like a lead balloon.

Car Washes- While HUGE event car washes where you rent the bays of a big car wash might work for some to raise $1,000- $1,500, most of the time the payoff is pretty small for a days work.

For me I don’t feel comfortable sending kids out to sell something grandma really doesn’t need, why not just ask for donations instead? I’m a big fan of affinity type programs where mom and dad are already spending the money on a necessity while the organization benefits, like the Kroger program. Same goes for the discount cards, they pay for themselves and include some information on your program that stays right in the wallet of your supporter.

If you have players in need and want to build your numbers, start thinking about fundraising well before the season starts. If you are planning on an out of town trip, you better start planning for it now, it’s pretty tough to raise $25,000 in a week or two or even a month or two once the season starts.

The life span of a footballer is a function of how he takes good care of himself both on and off the field of play. History is replete with talented footballers who never got to the peak of their career because they could not manage success. Having a good manager can sometimes be very helpful as he tends to caution and advise his ward on the need to keep a cool head throughout his career.

Undisciplined

This is one of the most frequent causes of failure among football players. Way back in the 1990’s, Nigeria witnessed the emergence of a star in the person of Etim Esin. He was so talented that most clubs in the country then were falling over each other to have his signature. His huge potential became the source of his woes, as he had frequent brush with national team coaches and football authorities. There are other cases of talented footballers who are always at the receiving end of the referee cards. Either they are sent off for dissent or for violent conduct.

A typical example is that of Manchester City star- Mario Balotelli, who has always been a constant source of trouble both on and off the field of play. Since his move to Manchester City from Inter Milan, he has collected more than four red cards in all competitions. One fact about players, who are not disciplined, is that top clubs find it extremely difficult to sign them as they are regarded as liabilities rather than assets.

Drugs

It is common to see athletes and other sports men and women indulging in the use of performance enhancing drugs. It is however rare to see players who make use of these banned substances throughout their career. There are however some few exceptions that have been recorded in the game. Kolo Toure who plays for both Ivory Coast and Manchester City of England got caught in the act and was subsequently banned for some months by the English Football Association. He later admitted using his wife prescription drugs to enable him control his weight.

Some common drugs normally used by sportsmen and women include- amphetamine, ephedrine and cocaine. These substances can be discovered in the blood samples of the individual during routine blood or urine test after a game. Diego Maradona remains one of the biggest names involved in drug related scandal in football. He was found guilty of using performance enhancing drug at the FIFA 1994 World Cup held in the United States of America and was subsequently suspended.

women

Some players cannot do without women flocking around them. The high rate of promiscuity among football players made some football association to ban visitors from coming to hotels or camp site of players during major tournament. The negative effect of indulging in sexual perversion before matches can be seen in players who often get fatigued before the normal regulation time.

alcohol

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll was recently advised by one of Liverpool legendary players, to be cautious with how he managed his life outside the field of play especially with regards to excessive consumption of alcohol. The nature of the game makes it easy for players to be tempted into indulging in the destructive habits of consuming alcohol after each game. The health implication of indulging in this habit cannot be easily quantified, as players easily get carried away whenever they are drunk. Loss of form usually results, with some occasional signs of violence.

Some weeks back, Manchester city player Kelvin Etuhu was sentenced to some months in prison for causing grievous bodily harm to a man after having a swell time with some friends. He later confessed that he was slightly drunk when the incident occurred.

Call it a dress rehearsal for the 2010 World Cup or a recce for national teams, either way it sure has thrown up some dazzling soccer, and its fair share of upsets! Into its eighth edition, the Confederations Cup is sometimes not clearly understood? What exactly is it? How and when did it start? And what are the stakes? Let’s find out…

It began as the King Fahd Cup in 1992, with the four continental cup winning teams of Saudi Arabia, Argentina, USA and Ivory Coast playing each other. When FIFA took over in 1997, it was renamed the Confederations Cup and was held every two years. But in 2005, FIFA declared that it would now take place once in four years, that too, a year before the final of the World Cup in the host country. And so, with less than 365 days to go for the 2010 World Cup, this year’s eight team Confederations Cup is well underway in South Africa.

Though its roots are rather humble, it has grown in importance over the years. Now, countries send their national teams at almost full strength making for an impressive line up! This year the only biggies missing are Ronaldinho (Brazil), who was dropped by coach Dunga, and Andres Iniesta (Spain), who has been kept out due to an injury. South Africa gains an automatic entry as hosts of the 2010 World Cup along with Italy as the 2006 World Cup winners. The other participating teams are Brazil, Spain, Egypt, USA, Iraq and New Zealand.

So what makes the Confederations Cup so special? Well, for starters it gives host South Africa a chance to test its operational readiness in terms of stadia, infrastructure and transportation prior to the 2010 World Cup. It is also an opportunity for the players to make their mark and teams to go through the drill on the pitch in this precursor to the World Cup. The opening match held on the 14th of June saw host team South Africa, proudly wearing its national team uniforms, draw against Iraq in front of an almost packed to capacity stadium. Out of the total 640,000 tournament tickets, 453,218 have already been sold. FIFA is likely to dedicate one of the Confederations Cup matches in honor of Marc-Vivien Foe, the Cameroon midfielder who tragically died of cardiac arrest on the pitch during the 2003 Confederations Cup in France…

After much controversy surrounding the choice of South Africa as host to the World Cup, the success of the Confederations Cup is a shot in the arm for the nation. As FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, assured the world during the opening ceremony at Ellis Park, “FIFA is committed to Africa… The world of football trusts you, and the confidence is in you. It is in Africa, it is in South Africa today.” Yes! This is where the action is, so get your old faithful soccer jersey out of your cupboard and wear it even if your favorite team is not playing! There’s no better way to get into the spirit of the game!