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While my interest in football has dropped from obsession to pastime in recent years I still enjoy reading good articles about football.

In Sweden we have 1 maybe 2 writers at the big papers who still do nice pieces from time to time, and there is also a publication called Offside that has some quality stuff.

It would be nice to read some stuff from other places as well and since England after all is a pretty big place there must be at least some writers out there who is good at their job.

Same goes for other countries.

For example I thought some of the stuff Ben Machell wrote for VICE was brilliant. A lot of it was about Leeds so I imagine he is in a much happier place now :D.

Also the stuff done by The Swiss Ramble is amazing. It's heavy reading about the economics of football, but it's on another level of research. 


So tips, links and articles please.

I'll start you off with some from the Swedish guys I mentioned at the start.


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Document: Monaco's fall from the throne

They were the club that charmed the roar of Europe, twisted the crown from PSG and played the semi-finals in the Champions League.

They became the club that was paralyzed by dark headlines and an art scandal worth tens of billions.

In one year, AS Monaco has fallen hands-free.

It's up to a bunch of little guys and a jerky Thierry Henry to rescue them from the final crash.

The heat was of the kind that the asphalt roads outside Stade Louis II lost the outlines and became their own miracles. Monaco drove over Montpellier, winning with 4-1, driven by a bunch of dormant teenagers. I remember that I had to change the shirt in pause to see something so representative of the heat.

It's five years since now. In August 2013, a new owner had lifted Monaco from the bottom of the sea (or at least the second layer of the bottom of the ocean), trimmed it up to luxury yacht, patterned top player for 1.8 billion kronor and set speed against the European peak.

I was there to tell him more about him: Dimitri Rybolovlev, a potassium and drug oligarch from the foot of the Ural Mountains, who moved the post-Soviet ruins with billions in their pockets. The newly hired sports manager, the Norwegian Tor-Kristian Karlsen, was sure:

- The club is in extremely good hands. Rybolovlev is committed in the long term, and has an extreme passion for the club. And his financial status is well known.

Yes please. According to Forbes, the oligarch was good at round throwing SEK 70 billion when he bought off two-thirds of AS Monaco. He bought Donald Trump's luxury home one day and talked to President Putin the next. He bought Greek islands, huge luxury yachts, some of the world's largest private aircraft. When his 22-year-old daughter Ekaterina (who in the official papers also partly owned AS Monaco) wanted somewhere to live in New York, he bought a luxury apartment at Central Park which was then the most expensive one ever sold there. The price tag? One billion kronor.

So sure: In a football world that increasingly came to deal with which ultra-billionaire to owners who ended up in which club, AS Monaco seemed to have got bingo.

Rybolovlev had charmed the power of the principality, Prince Albert had nodded favorably, Monaco was back with young players playing amazingly fine football.

Everything pointed upwards. Everything would continue to point up.


For almost five years, everything was pointing upwards.

Rybolovlev and his right hand, the French-speaking vice-president and Vadim Vasiliev, were "helped" by super agent Jorge Mendes to build a European top club. Portuguese top coach Leonardo Jardim built speed football with some parts of Portugal, some parts French, many sharing young and exciting.

A year and a half ago they arrived. Master, far, long before Paris Saint-Germain. 107 goals forward, Radamel Falcao and an eighteen-year-old Kylian Mbappé as unstoppable cartoon characters at the front. Monaco played football with Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar on the edges, with world champion rider Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibé running forward outside them. 2-4-4 on the pitch, sexiest in Europe. They scored six goals at Manchester City, just as many at Dortmund, and went to the semi-finals in the Champions League.

Since then, Vadim Vasilyev has sold players for almost five and a half billion, kicked a success coach and seen his club raging from last year's silver spot to a very real threat of leaving Ligue 1 this season.

When Rybolovlev took over ASM, Christmas 2011, they had won three of their opening twenty matches for the season. When he celebrated Christmas 2018, they had won four out of 26 matches, joking out in the Champions League and summarizing the league's longest injury list.

- I get to hear after every match that "now it can't get worse". But then it will be, shocked coach Thierry Henry sighed after losing against 0–4 at home against Club Bruges in early November.

They were down with 3–0 after just 25 minutes in that match, but it wasn't even the week's worst bang for Monaco. The match was hardly even over before the world learned that the owner Dimitri Rybolovlev had been taken into police interrogation.

The suspicions directed at him are so wide that they are difficult to fully figure out. The only thing that is clear is that they are about to change both the club Monaco and the principality of Monaco basically.

In March 2015, I was back at Stade Louis II, to watch Monaco knock out Arsenal and move on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

I remember it was hard to even come in. My accreditation had suddenly disappeared without a trace, I was standing in a garage under the arena together with two giggling, teenage Russian shrubs with obviously fake press cards. They did not come in, I got many after and but an apology and a place in the press room.

Monaco danced and smiled, the members of U2 stood on the VIP stand and saw how a reborn club took place among the really big elephants in Europe. Outside, ASM had just opened its new supportershop - 400 square meters of jerseys and scarves, for a club that really lacks the support base.

I have seen very many matches in Monaco, but never experienced a mood like that evening. The arena was bursting, the stands rocked.

Last night, a detail seeped out of the evening. Before the match, Henri van der Aat, the then marketing manager, had written to Vadim Vasilyev and wondered how they would bring in all VIP guests.

- I have analyzed which sites are free, for whom and why. And it's pretty shocking, because we lose a lot of money again. It is important that you know how many places go to the police, the government, the mayors and so on, wrote van der Aat.

If Vasiliev knew?

Obviously she did. It was the whole point.

Dimitri Rybolovlev left Russia with tens of billions in his pockets, and is no exception: those who have done so also have heavy enemies. Roman Abramovich protected himself by buying Chelsea. Rybolovlev acquired the whole of Monaco.

When he was called in for interrogation in November it was after a lot of information seeped out showing how he sewed a safety net in Monaco, by building relationships in all the different corridors of power.

Tasks presented by newspapers such as German Der Spiegel and French Mediapart describe how AS Monaco acquired friends in the right places by sending Christmas presents filled with Russian Beluga caviar and wine bottles for thousands of euros. The men and women of power received VIP seats at Stade Louis II, in the summer of 2013 there were about 100 names in the free list. And Prime Minister Serge Telle will have traveled with Rybolovlev's private jet to away games, accompanied by his thirteen-year-old son.

According to the suspicions, everything around AS Monaco has been an intricate system for giving Rybolovlev the right entrances to the principality. And for a long time everything seemed to float fine.

It needed an atomic bomb, an art dealer and a cell phone because everything would start to shake.


It's not easy to get a club like AS Monaco to go around. They have no audience support, no population enough - but for a long time it was not needed either.

It was only with Uefa's new rules on Financial Fair Play that demands were made that a football club would carry their own weight, that they should not run without limit in the running.

Rybolovlev had submitted 3.5 billion in the player squad in two years, they had a deficit of 1.7 billion when the FFP regulations came into force. Thus, they were forced to conjure with the numbers.

According to data provided by Football Leaks, they sketched on a system where 1.4 billion would be sent annually via shell companies in the Caribbean and Hong Kong to a marketing company, AIM, which would then arrange for the money to go straight back into the club in the form of sponsorship agreements . Washed and clear.

Just in order for Uefa to review Monaco's business, however, AIM withdrew. The owner Bernard de Roos threatened to reveal the entire arrangement unless Rybolovlev wanted to negotiate with him.

"It will be an atomic bomb," he told the club management in Monaco.

When the financial solutions became impossible, Vasiliev and Rybolovlev got to invest in the political instead. Andrea Traverso, the base of Uefa's FFP program, was invited to Monte Carlo. They ate at the Michelin tavern and talked through the matter; Traverso, Vasilyev and de Roos.

Monaco got away with relatively small fines, they were not thrown out of the Champions League. However, they were forced to find a new model to cope with the club's finances.

They turned AS Monaco into an ATM.


That team that made ASM champion a year and a half ago was young, cool, a bunch of promising talents who were like brothers in the locker room.

When they celebrated the league title, they talked about staying, but when everything started to move, it went very fast. Kylian Mbappé to PSG for two billion, Lemar to Atleti for 800 million, Mendy and Bernardo Silva to City for 1.2 billion. Bakayoko to Chelsea for half a billion. Fabinho to Liverpool for as much.

In less than two years, Monaco has sold players for SEK 5.5 billion. Why? The obvious answer is that they managed to educate such good players that they had been forced. But there may be more. According to data in Football Leaks, Vadim Vasiliev personally receives 10 percent of all winnings Monaco does on his player sales. In five seasons, it would have paid him almost half a billion dollars. At the same time, Der Spiegel has published information that Rybolovlev itself earned 1.5 billion on the sale of Kylian Mbappé to PSG.

The club denies, they deny that they have done anything wrong at all. But regardless of this, the sporting venture has lost momentum. If Leonardo Jardim won the league with a red and white Ferrari 2017, the club management has sold the engine, chassis and wheels - and asked him to continue as usual.

In October, Monaco had started the season with six points in ten rounds. Jardim was blamed, one of Europe's best football coach was fired.

- I am grateful to have been Monaco's coach for more than four years. I have always done my best and worked with passion. We achieved some great victories together, I will always remember it, the Portuguese said.

Jardim has said that his mission was to "constantly rebuild", and he did so tremendously well. Now he would be replaced, and Vasiliev gave the job to a young, interesting but untested coach.

Thierry Henry, the largest player ever raised in Monaco, came home to raise new major pillars in Monaco.

"Titi" slipped into French football with her world champion aura, but it didn't take long before the glory ended up on the sidelines. He had a huge injury list to struggle with, an extremely young squad to get together, a total failure of self-confidence to rehabilitate.

Henry himself has seemed most angry and frustrated, he has humbled a couple of his young players publicly, watching out for the TV cameras. On his first twelve matches as head coach, he collected eight points together.

Dimitri Rybolovlev has bought Will Smith's house, Donald Trump's luxury estate and a couple of the world's largest private boats and planes. He has bought himself a football club and he has given his daughter a billionaire in New York.

But it was the art that gave him trouble.

Like many of the world's überrika, he has entered the art market to acquire artworks that ordinary wealthy people can only see in museums.

Yves Bouvier, a Swiss art dealer, served as his guide into the art world. It was Bouvier who helped him buy Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, the world's most expensive artwork. Rybolovlev paid close to five billion kronor for the painting. For eleven years, from 2003 to 2014, Monaco's owners purchased 38 artworks through Bouvier, for a total of twenty billion SEK.

Very? Yes.

Too much? Well, that too.

After several years of cooperation, Rybolovlev and Bouvier collapsed into what has become the world's largest money bank ever. The oligarchs claim that the merchant continually overestimated artworks, and himself bluffed to nearly SEK 10 billion. Now he wants them back, and he does not shed any funds. According to information provided to French media, Rybolovlev's attorneys will have engaged heavy names in French security services to access Bouvier, he has pulled all his power lines in Monaco to get Bouvier's assets strangled.

Tatjana Bereshda, the lawyer who is a Rybolovlev's closest assistant, had secretly recorded a conversation with Bouvier - and handed over her phone to the Prosecutor's Office as evidence.

It would turn out to be a mistake.

The prosecutor found the more things in that phone. Among other things, SMS traffic between Bereshda and a plethora of rulers in Monaco showed exactly how insulted everyone was in the Rybolovlev case.

The magazines dubbed the scandal to Monacogate. The Minister of Justice resigned, the Minister of the Interior withdrew, senior police officers stood with their butt bar.

Rybolovlev's people firmly claim that they are completely free of guilt, but have done everything in their power to reject the evidence from Bereshda's phone (all but the Bouvier recording), as it is the lawyer's private conversations.

They get to fight on all fronts now.

And on the soccer field, it doesn't go well either.

The days before Christmas Eve, on the spot seven years ago AS Monaco got a Russian owner, Prince Albert sits on the VIP bench at Louis II. He suffers, it shows. One meter to the left of him sits CEO Vadim Vasilyev half-bent, jerking. Ligue 1-jumbo Guingamp is visiting, and has just done 2–0.

Monaco is sinking ever deeper. After the final signal, Vasilyev is gray in the face.

- Until tonight, I thought we needed two new players in the January window, but maybe I'm wrong. We may need more.

It is written about the intended signings, Cesc Fabregas is coming in among other things. In terms of football, it has long been obvious that ASM is investing in expensive and young to be able to make quick profits on exploding talents. They have paid huge sums for sixteen-year-olds (Willem Geubbels from Lyon for 220 million, Pietro Pellegri from Genoa for 230 million), the authorities have commissioned investigations to go to the bottom of the allegations that Monaco has violated regulations and bought even younger players.

What is the hardest thing, all the legal or lying second in the league? Vadim Vasilyev sighs:

- Everything happens at the same time, and it doesn't help with all this happening around the president. But I am convinced that he will be cleansed.

The newspapers are renaming the scandal to Monacogate. Prince Albert is still a strong supporter and power factor around the club, he has vetoed the heaviest fate decisions made in ASM. Does he regret that he was seduced by Dimitri Rybolovlev? That they were celebrating birthdays and partying together? That he gave him the key to Monaco?

"If all this turns out to be true, I think Rybolovlev will retire himself," the prince told Media Party in November.

This week (just like Thierry Henry sent out seven players who were 22 or younger to punish the cup match against Rennes), the French Cassation Court decided to reject Rybolovlev's claim that SMS traffic in his lawyer's mobile phone should not be used as evidence in others than in the process against the art dealer Bouvier. The court is of the opinion that it is not violated by emptying the phone on all information.

Oligarch's lawyers talk about appealing to the European Court of Justice. Two years ago he was the master who stood arm in arm with a prince, who had gained access to an entire principality and had Europe's perhaps very finest football team. Now he is fighting for life in dual litigation, while Thierry Henry is fighting to save his club in Ligue 1.

Tonight, AS Monaco Sudiste plays derby in Marseille. OM comes into play with two draws and five losses on its last seven, this week they were played by the fourth division team Andrézieux in the cup. They are in their sporting worst crisis of eternity, but for once they can comfort themselves with a simple fact:

The club they face has even bigger problems.


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Los Chilestinos

In early November, there was a football player named Yashir Pinto, a 27-year-old Chilean outward forward who never really succeeded in realizing his potential. He was still only a teenager when Marcelo Bielsa invited him to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup on a kind of training and internship trip. Pinto was not in the squad, but trained with Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and the others to see and learn.

Yashir Pinto was seen as a major and important part of Chilean football's future - but Yashir Pinto is no longer there. For two months, he has instead been named Yashir Islame. He has gone over to using the surname that he himself feels strongest for, the name he identifies with.

It is a little over 1,300 kilometers between Chile and Palestine, but the links between the nations are both protracted, sustainable and strong. Nearly half a million Palestinians live in Chile - more than anywhere else outside the Middle East - and Yashir Islame is one of them. The fact that they ended up in South America has nothing to do with Israel, but most of them come from Christian families and left Palestine just over 100 years ago to avoid being forced into the Ottoman army.

They quickly found themselves adapting to their new life, their new continent. Ever since the mid-20th century, the Chilean Palestinians have been disproportionately successful in politics, business, education - and football.

A very large part of the Chilean Palestinian identity is tied to Club Deportivo Palestino, the football club that plays in the Palestinian colors and which this year created a political arena when they formed the ones of their jersey numbers from a map of historic Palestine.


It is fair to call Palestino an immigrant club on roughly the same terms as Assyrian, Dalkurd or Syrian - but their history is so much longer and their success so much greater. Twice they have lifted the league buck, and as late as November, they became Chilean cup champions and thus qualified for Copa Libertadores 2019.

When the Palestino won the cup, sports manager Roberto Kettlun was one of the pioneers in developing Palestinian football by linking it to the Chilean. His family left Bethlehem in 1909, but the Palestinian cause has always been present for him. He hesitated neither to represent Palestine nor to move to Ramallah to play for Hilal Al Quds. He landed almost immediately after the second intifada. 
- Of course, it affected the Palestinian team. Why didn't Ismail come to the game? He was injured by a rubber ball. Where's Jamal? He was sentenced to a few years in prison.

After a few years, the influential Fatah politician Jibril Rajoub became president of the Palestinian Football Association. In his desire to change and improve, Roberto Kettlun contacted him, presented his plans to professionalize the business, sharpen the conditions, get more players from the diaspora. Most stranded at the Israeli border crossings - but the revamped Palestinian Federal Assembly collected materials and built a case presented by a Chilean lawyer to the FIFA Congress in Switzerland. 
- We explained: "Look here, there is a third party that prevents our opportunities to develop. Fifa intervened, created a committee and explained to Israel that they risked being shut down or excluded if they did not stop sabotaging Palestinian football.
For Palestinian football, the FIFA intervention meant completely different opportunities, but for Roberto Kettlun personally, he meant he had to return to South America. 
- They told me, "We know who you are and what you have done. Here you are not playing again ”. Israel did not renew my visa, and I was afraid they would simply come and pick me up. We had ten days to take the children out of school, collect our things and leave the country.

At the end of 2017, Palestine passed Israel on the FIFA ranking for the first time, and right now they are participating in the Asian Championships for the second time in a row. Their squad is a diverse collection of players from Sweden, Slovenia, USA, Argentina - and above all Chile. At the premiere against Syria there were four chilestinos  on the pitch, and one of them was the striker who is now called Yashir Islame. 
- Changing the national team to represent Palestine was the most important decision in my life. My family has always followed the Palestinian cause, and since I grew up as a Palestino supporter, I have always understood how important football is in that context. Everyone has their way to help, our way is football.


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  • 2 weeks later...

So Erdogan's state backed club is running away with the league you say.

Surely he, they would not rig the league, I mean it's not like it's a coup d'etat.


Former Celtic managerJock Stein once remarked how football is nothing without fans. In times of money-spinning commercial interests and sponsorship deals, though, supporters are often left feeling increasingly distant from their clubs. One place where you would not think this principle is under threat is Turkey, a nation famed the world over for its passionate fans and fierce rivalries. None of this, however, applies to Istanbul Başakşehir, a government-backed entity with few fans who are threatening the established order.

This is not the first time a club from within has challenged the establishment of Istanbul. In the 1990s, Cem Uzan’s bankrolling of İstanbulspor briefly saw that side become a competitive force, although upon withdrawal of funding in 2001, the team virtually collapsed. Başakşehir are different, though, with an administrative model in place that has questionably close ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and looks set to persist so long as he remains in power.

The club was founded in 1990 on the initiative of Nurettin Sözen, the mayor of Istanbul, who decided to merge three municipally owned sides into a single organisation called İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor (Sport Club of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality). The new entity took the league place of ISKI Derneği, the club of the water board, and were entered into the fourth division. Winning promotion to the 3. Lig in their first season, they went on to gain another promotion in 1993, although were relegated in 1995 before returning to the 2. Lig in 1997.

The following season ended in heartbreak with an 86th-minute winner for Sakaryaspor in the playoff final denying İBB a place in the Süper Lig. The success of that season would fail to be emulated for the best part of a decade, and after narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2006, the top flight was finally reached in 2007. Instrumental to this was the appointment of Tukey under-17 boss Abdullah Avcı, who, fresh from reaching the semis of the Under-17 World Cup, steered İBB to second-place behind Hacettepe.

The speed of this rise, however, had unwanted consequences. Situated in the hotbed of Turkish football that is Istanbul, İBB have struggled to attract fans, with promotion doing little to change that. Throughout their time in the Süper Lig they have failed to achieve attendances above 2,000. With away fans and club officials removed, this sometimes equated to as few as 20 spectators. Despite this, the club made the seemingly bizarre move prior to their maiden top-flight campaign to the 76,000-seater Atatürk Olympic Stadium.

This decision, resulting from their municipal ties, is emblematic of the club’s 28-year existence. There are other clubs in Turkey tied to local governments, however the difference with İBB comes from their location. Based in Turkey’s biggest city, as a government organisation, the responsibility for maintaining the club fell on the 10 million taxpayers of Istanbul. It is these connections that allowed the club to play in the Atatürk Stadium for seven seasons despite filling less than five percent of seats, and correspondingly made İBB Turkey’s most hated club.

A 12th-place finish in their first season was followed by a gradual rise up the table to a peak of sixth in 2010 and 2012. Meanwhile, in 2011, İBB went all the way to the final of the Türkiye Kupası, losing 4-3 on penalties to Beşiktaş after a 2-2 draw in normal time. Despite the lack of fans, landmark signings such as Okan Buruk, Pierre Webó and Samuel Holmén made it seem as if the club were growing. However, with Avcı leaving in October 2011 for the national hot seat, a surprise relegation in 2013, and under growing public pressure to close down, it seemed as if the threat was gone.

On the campaign trail for the 2014 Istanbul mayoral elections, Republican candidate Mustafa Sarigül announced at a rally in Sultangazi, “If elected mayor, I will close İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi.” This policy was welcomed, with their unpopular structure leading many to conclude the club was simply a waste of money. Despite losing to Kadir Topbaş, the new mayor agreed with Sarigül that the club should be disbanded. However, this did not sit well with the TFF, owing to the fact İBB won the 1. Lig and that their disillusion would have left a vacant space in the upcoming Süper Lig season.

A compromise was reached in June 2014 when the club were moved to a new district and renamed Istanbul Başakşehir. Ownership was transferred from the Istanbul municipality to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, while there was also an end to the Olympic Stadium farce. The club relocated some seven kilometres north-east to the brand new 17,000-seater Fatih Terim Stadium intended for İBB.

Unfortunately, if anything this move served to increase animosity towards the club even more. The Başakşehir district the club is now based in is a modern satellite town some 30km from the city centre. It was built in the 1990s during President Erdoğan’s time as mayor, enjoying enormous economic growth during his spell as prime minister, and, as a result, is heavily populated by AKP supporters. With such an influence on the history of this area, it comes as no surprise that Erdoğan is involved with Başakşehir FK.

President Göksel Gümüşdağ and club captain Emre Bëlozoğlu are both AKP members, with Gümüşdağ married to a niece of Erdoğan’s wife. The murkiness only escalates when you realise that after Erdoğan played in the new stadium’s opening match, the club retired the number 12 shirt in his honour. Meanwhile, the district is the centre of 3. Istanbul, a grand project that constructed a third intercontinental bridge.

Initially the club could be applauded for their smart recruitment, with the likes of Alexandru Epureanu, Edin Višća, Mahmut Tekdemir and Volkan Babacan still regulars today. Avcı was brought back on board as coach, rejecting approaches from Bursaspor and Kayserispor to return home on a five-year contract, a length rarely seen in Turkey. However, in recent times several big-name signings have led to questions over the long-term visions the club directors so profusely proclaim.

In their debut season under the new name, Başakşehir surprised everyone, smashing Galatasaray 4-0 in October before drawing with Fenerbahçe in the penultimate game of the season to hand Gala the title. Their fourth-place finish brought European qualification for the first time in the club’s history, and despite losing 4-1 over two legs to AZ Alkmaar in the playoffs, Başakşehir’s stock was rising.

After the signing of Emre on a free in the summer of 2015 and another fourth-place finish, further reinforcements came in 2016 through the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Junior Caiçara. A 17-game unbeaten run meant by the midway point of the season, Başakşehir sat top of the league. Unfortunately, a 1-0 loss at Fenerbahçe in late January deposed them, and despite another 4-0 triumph over Galatasaray in April, the club were unable to catch defending champions Beşiktaş.

This run-in also featured questionable links to the TFF, with first-choice goalkeeper Volkan Babacan avoiding a lengthy suspension for attacking a journalist after a match with Rizespor. Instead of the usual 10-match ban, he only missed one game, allowing him to take part in a potentially title-defining win over Beşiktaş that reduced the gap at the top to just two points with four games left. Whilst Beşiktaş recovered to regain the title, Başakşehir did manage to squeeze past Fenerbahçe on penalties to reach the Kupası final. Starting out as favourites, they were beaten on penalties yet again by Konyaspor after a goalless 120 minutes.

Regardless, Başakşehir finished in a club record second place, being presented with their first opportunity to taste Champions League football. After overcoming Club Brugge in the qualifiers, a match at which Erdoğan was present, they narrowly lost out 4-3 to Sevilla in final playoff round. This did, however, ensure passage into the Europa League group stage for the first time, although in a tough draw with Braga, Hoffenheim and Ludogorets, they were unable to progress.

One could argue this was a distraction, though, with Başakşehir instead focusing on becoming established in Turkey first. A big part of the project now is attempting to make the 300,000 or so inhabitants of Başakşehir connect to the club, but attendances still rank around the 3,000 mark. There is, however, a longer-term vision at the core, with Başakşehir arguably one of the most professionally run clubs in Turkey. Significant focus is being placed on youth development, with a facility now ranked amongst the best in the land, and a scouting system that has helped identify the likes of Višća and Cengiz Ünder, who is now making waves at Roma after a £15 million summer move.

Despite the disappointment of last season, it has come as no surprise to see Başakşehir challenging for the title once again. After a strong start for Igor Tudor quickly turned sour at Galatasaray, including a 5-1 loss to Başakşehir courtesy of an Adebayor hat-trick, they were able to catch up and have remained near the top since. In terms of staying there, with just three points separating the top four, Başakşehir have as good a chance as any.

Their squad is amongst the strongest in the division, featuring the Süper Lig’s leading assist provider in Višća, a revitalised Adebayor up front, and an evergreen Emre pulling the strings in midfield. The summer recruitment of big names such as Aurélien Chedjou, Eljero Elia, Gökhan Inler and Gaël Clichy has helped bring much needed top-level experience, with the crowning glory coming in January with the acquisition of Arda Turan.

Arriving on an 18-month loan from Barcelona, the move is a testament to the rise Başakşehir have enjoyed over the past decade. Whilst it remains to be seen if his notoriously volatile personality will destabilise the dressing room, the sheer symbolism of signing Turkey’s most successful overseas player of the past decade is significant. He started with a goal off the bench in his debut at Bursaspor and seems to be buying into the philosophy of Avcı.

With such a long-term vision, it is clear this is not another İstanbulspor. Whilst their ties to the government are certainly questionable, from an external perspective it is certainly interesting to have another competitor in the traditional three-way race for the title. Despite having few supporters, Başakşehir serve as a shining example of it being not what you know, but rather who. 



When you hear about Turkish football, you may think about very warm stadiums, with the classical cliché of magical atmospheres sometimes flowing into ultras disorders. Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş’ original and coloured coreographies, as well as the unconditioned and loyal support of the claret-and-blue Trabzon wall when the whole stadium was cheering the team in spite of the 0-4 defeat vs. Napoli, these examples always confirmed our impressions: Turkey is a country where supporters are in the middle of the game, also outside the pitch. Another example, the ultras group çArsi from Beşiktaş got involved in an attempted coup process. Yes, exactly: çArsi would have tried to “take down the government”, as reported on court sheets.

In front of this last event that well resumes the importance of this phenomenon in Turkey, to talk about Istanbul Başakşehir – absolute revelation of 2014-2015 season – looks like an enormous paradox. Reading on Wikipedia or online websites there are just vague information about them; the title “Istanbul Başakşehir qualify to Europa League” is not under the spotlights, as if we were talking about a normal sports result. No, it is not like that. First of all, for a simple detail: Başakşehir, one year ago, was founded in Istanbul.

The club raises from contested Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Istanbul BB)’s ashes, municipality property.

Yes, you read it rightly: in Turkey this unusual activity is not just possible, it’s even actively promoted by last 25 years’ governments, without too many political party differences. Well, some criticism has been raised: in the 2013 campaign, when Mustafa Sarigul, CHP’s major contestant, declared to shut down Istanbul BB; that bizzarre identity team, playing in the enormous Ataturk Stadium with 80K seats (the one where Milan-Liverpool was played) where the average-attendance of the orange-and-blue team was firmly under 5K people.

An empty cathedral, distressing as few others in the world, where the only supporter group (Grey Owls) distinguished itself from the others because of its surprisingly politically correct chants.

So, in spite of Sarigul’s defeat at the municipal elections, the new major Kadir Topbaş decided to listen to the many citizen’s complaints. Istanbul BB were cancelled, but the promotion to the Turkish Süper Lig, obtained on the 2013-2014 PTT 1.Lig season, was raising uncomfortable questions to the Turkish Football Federation headquarters.

5th june 2014: without even a press conference, Istanbul Başakşehir were founded.

No more tied with the municipality but linked with a district yet under construction on the western peripheric side of the town, the new-born Başakşehir found themselves with a brand-new stadium with 15K seats, originally scheduled to host Istanbul BB matches.

Many Turkish people realized about the new club one month later, during the Presidential elections campaign.

Of course Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the next President of Turkish Republic (10 days later), entered the pitch in the new Fatih Terim Arena. Named after the well-known former Milan and Fiorentina coach, the new Başakşehir Arena is a very modern stadium, respecting the most recent UEFA requests.

The local press’ titles gave too much attention to Erdogan’s surprisingly smooth left foot, while a revolution silently was beginning in Istanbul. Softly, without too much attention: the choice of Abdullah Avci as a manager was a winner one. 4-5-1, the right technical-tactical mix and a cast-iron defensive discipline: a deadly receipt, if supported by the young Bosnian Edin Visca’s sprints and Semih Senturk’s goals. The goalkeeper, a new absolute character: Volkan Babacan, now fundamental also for the Turkish National Team.

Avci talked clearly to the orange-and-blue new-born: “Aim: Europa League”, as written on Twitter by Jeremy Perbet just arrived from Villarreal last august.

A thunderous laugh, my reaction: I admit it with no shame.

Because the show I was about to see would have left me with no words.

And do it with no trophies, but putting a deadly stone on Cesare Prandelli’s adventure in Istanbul. With a “Italian-like” style of play, in front of the former Azzurri coach: the pitch is a shadow game between a Orange shirt and another, while Fernando Muslera sees continuously opponents in front of him, increasing by every action. 1, 2, 3, 4 times: Galatasaray’s tactical ideas do not exist, while Başakşehir give a football lesson to Cimbom (4-0) by dominating a derby that stays in the red-and-yellow story until the end of the season. Maybe because Başakşehir will decide the title as well: it could not have been like that, in a mad year. Another 6-months period passes, this time Fatih Terim Arena almost joins 10K full seats. Incredible, maybe the no-more municipal property change worked out. And Başakşehir give back the favour to Galatasaray, cancelling Fenerbahçe and closing an astonishing match, 11 vs 7, on 2-2. The result is enough, Gala are the new Turkish champions.

While Istanbul turns red-and-yellow, Bosphorus bridge included, Başakşehir are officially qualified to Europa League.

And the destiny is really sarcastic: another time tiptoing, when 80 millions of Turkish people are thinking about Galatasaray’s 20th title. Abdullah Avci, insulted and contested in his Turkish National Team spell, gets his personal redemption: now Europe is right there, in one month in Başakşehir, at the end of july. Starting since the third summer round, where the opponents could be even Borussia Dortmund or Sampdoria. Meanwhile, how many things have changed in Başakşehir, in less than one year.

From zero supporters, to the European enthusiasm during the Fenerbahçe match.

From the promotion as Istanbul BB to the summer transfer market: the Albanian striker Sokol Cikalleshi, the Nigerian sensation Musa Mohammed, bought thanks to a scouting system that is yet to be a standard for many Turkish clubs. Now Başakşehir think about Emre Belozoglu, experienced player available on a free transfer. Despite the AKP Erdogan Party’s friendship – not really seen as positive for many opponents, Başakşehir will be followed with curiosity in their European adventure. This is another mad tale from the football world, this is Başakşehir: a kick to stereotypes.


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A club hijacked by gangsters and hooligans would become a club run by Swedes and Cambodians.


After many years of violence and chaos, classic Wisła Kraków was thrown into an unlikely bluff carousel who was finally killing the club

For me, all this started this fall, at 15.56 on Friday afternoon on September 6. An email entitled "Polish investment" landed in the inbox, and the sender explained his case.

A few months earlier I had written about Kawa Junad, an Iraqi-Kurdish businessman who first invested heavily in Dalkurd but then left Swedish football. Now, the email writer claimed to be able to offer him new opportunities:

"Can you introduce me to Kawa Junad? I represent a Polish club / Champions League and I think Junad wants to become a new owner ”.

I conveyed a couple of email addresses, but then did not think so much more about the matter. The inquiry did not have the most credible package; It was sent from a regular hotmail address, by a man with a bland Swedish name that barely even appeared in archives and search registers.

A little over a month went by and I got another few floating messages before the tone suddenly became much more concrete. The name behind the email was the same, but now they were sent from a Noble Capital Partners address rather than from a hotmail server.

“We will buy the Polish club ourselves and have a meeting with the board in the morning. I take the lead in the management ”.

What did the club know about its new owners?

December 18, the news in Polish media burst. Classic, filthy, misguided Wisła Kraków had finally got new owners.

" Gigantyczna inwestycja!" Roared the very first title, and you did not need to know Polish to understand the meaning. Everything was already agreed and clear, the deal had been tied together at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Zurich.

The layout was explained, the new owner consortium was presented - and it was a motley crowd that showed up.

The spokesman was Adam Petrowski, and was a Polish FIFA agent who lived and worked in Germany for several decades. Majority owner Alelega was represented by Vanna Ly, a French-Cambodian investor who appeared to be both mysterious and eccentric. And then there was Mats Hartling, a big blonde Swedish with a freestyle look that represented 40-percent owners Noble Capital Partners from London.

The mail that I received a few months earlier had been sent in another name - and some Kawa Junad didn't seem to - but it was obvious that the thin, loose trusses actually seemed to be on the way. A totally unknown Swedish was about to take his place in the lead of one of the most rambling clubs in Eastern Europe.

But what did Wisła Kraków really know about his new owners? And how much did the businessmen know about the complicated, corrupt club they were entering?.

A little over 20 years have passed since the day when the violence really linked the grip on Wisła Kraków. October 21, 1998 should have been a great night for the club - home game against star-studded Parma in the UEFA Cup - but it ended with a gigantic scandal. A home knife was thrown from the home baker who met the Italian national midfielder Dino Baggio in the head.

Baggio was sewn five stitches, the man who threw the knife was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

Yet it was not the culmination of the violence around Wisła Kraków, but it was just the beginning.

Down in Poland , the knife thrower goes under the name "Misiek" - "The Teddy Bear" - and once he got out of prison, his reputation and his horror capital had grown tremendously. He became the leader of Wisła Sharks, a hooligan firm that eventually evolved into a crime syndicate, a mafia organization.

In this preliminary investigation protocol, it is possible to read about bestial cruelty - how "Misiek" tortured kidnapped victims by forcing down boiling water into their mouths - and how Wisła Sharks were increasingly betrayed into a regular death patrol.

They have been driving the brutalization of Polish hooliganism in the 21st century. As a result of a series of death traffickers, virtually all Polish companies agreed on a "weapon-free" code of honor, but it never got caught in Kraków.

The doctor and street fights between Wisła and the local rivals Cracovia were called "förwięta Wojna" - "The Holy War" - and were fought mainly with knives and machetes.

In 2011, one of the Cracovia hooligans' leader figures was murdered with 64 knives, handed out just before ten a Monday morning on a regular street in Kraków. It was the sixth football-related murder in the city in the 21st century, and several of those convicted of the crime sang in the courtroom dressed in Wisła Sharks shirts.

Before the fall of the season just over two years ago, the Wisła players ran out to warm up in t-shirts with the text:  "Dudek, wracaj do zdrowia" , "Dudek, tickle you".

Who was "Dudek" then? An old high roller, or any loyal club official? No, he really had nothing to do with Wisła Kraków - but was a hooligan tied to Ruch Chorzów.

For some time, his company Psychofans had established a kind of partnership with Wisła Sharks, and a few weeks earlier he had joined them for a deal in Krakow's world.

Armed with hammer and machetes, they had attacked another notorious gangster, but that gang had responded to the firearm attack. One of the bullets got stuck in the spine on "Dudek".

The episode said a lot about how Wisła Sharks had been transformed - how they became an organization devoted to extortion, recovery, kidnapping, robbery and drug trafficking - but above all, it uncovered an uncomfortable truth that Polish football long chose to close.

When one of their hired foot soldiers was shot, they could order millionths and national team players to wear jerseys to his honor.

Wisła Sharks was no longer an unwelcome little minority who moved in the peripheral outer edges of Wisła Kraków. Wisła Sharks ruled Wisła Kraków.

No one in Cambodia seemed to know Vanna Ly

On Friday, December 21, Wisła Kraków's new owner was on the home ground for the first time. From a lodge at the main venue Mats Hartling and Vanna Ly saw their team fall with 1-0 against Lech Poznań along with 22 489 others. It was the last game before the Christmas break, and Wisła Kraków parked at an eighth place right in the middle of the table.

Given the club's situation, the location was okay. The players had not been paid the entire season, the debts grew and the bankruptcy approached.

The situation was critical, and that is why many really wanted to chew on the fact that the new owners were really wealthy and well-established, that they really were in a position to launch a partnership with Manchester City and aim for the Champions League.

It was just so desperately hard to believe.

Any information that pointed in that direction did not go anywhere, even less, to verify. No business history, no financial statements, no references - it was as if these people and their companies suddenly only came from nowhere.

No one in Cambodia seemed to know Vanna Ly, no one in Sweden knew anything about Mats Hartling.

- I will not talk about myself, because it is not about me but about Wisła Kraków. I am a businessman who likes to keep a low profile, I am not interested in advertising myself on Google, said Mats Hartling to the Polish journalists.

The background portrait that Vanna Ly had drawn for herself was more important. He claimed to belong to the Cambodian king film that he was part of the ownership structure around Manchester City and that he decided on Wisła Kraków because he felt Pope John Paul II in person.

The day after the match against Lech Poznań, the new owners met with the Mayor of Kraków in the City Hall. Vanna Ly hid under an umbrella on the road, blaming him for being hypersensitive to light. When he came to Krakow, he had flown with the low-cost carrier EasyJet from Prague.

"It seemed like they knew what they were talking about, but it is still very difficult to judge," said Mayor Jacek Majchrowski after the meeting.

The more Polish journalists reviewed the new owners, the more confused they became. According to the documents they came to, the company, like Vanna Ly, represented assets of less than EUR 2,000, and a headquarters in a small cottage in the countryside of Luxembourg.

Mats Hartling and his Noble Capital Partners? A few million dollars in assets, and a business address in London where the Polish journalists only found a cigar store.

In Poland, no one simply knew who actually sat on one side the negotiating table when Wisła Kraków changed ownership. On the other hand, there was no longer any doubt as to the starting point of the selling side: Bulvanics, representatives and agents of Wisła Sharks.

From the beginning it was that kind of history that is easily dazzled by many of us football romances.

For almost 20 years, Wisła Kraków was owned by Telefonika billionaire Bogusław Cupiał. Thrown up eight league titles over the years, but still managed to never qualify for the Champions League group game.

When Cupiał finally got tired and left the club, both a gigantic financial hole and a great power vacuum arose. No credible investors signed up, so in spring 2016, Wisła Kraków was threatened with bankruptcy and forced degradation to the fourth division.

But who were there? Who are always there? The fans, of course.

A supporters' association had already driven several of the club's other sections, and by taking control of the entire umbrella organization, they also took over the football activities as well. Beautiful on the surface - but it was just that this was not a common fan with some common ambitions.

Infiltrated club sections

At the annual meeting, a female board member warned to leave Wisła Kraków completely in their hands. That same night her car burned.

Those who took control of Wisła Kraków in the summer of 2016 were Wisła Sharks. They had long been mandated to run the club's martial arts section - the gym where they were trained by the hooligan leader "Misiek" - and even arranged street riding courses in the club's name.

Over time, they had infiltrated and penetrated the club's other sections, to the point where they could push themselves to a majority.

After the change of power in the summer of 2016, a lawyer named Marzena Sarapata was appointed new club president. She had previously represented "Misiek" at various trials, been a delegate in the martial arts section and appeared as a rather badly masked Sharks puppet.

The vice president was called Damian Dukat, a street fighter who, according to the reviewing television program Superwizjer, organized, among other things, an action when the Wisła homemakers were bombed by pyrotechnics from outside.

When Superwizards made a spotlight on Wisła Kraków's staff records, they found Sharks connections everywhere. Among the employees were dozens of murder and ill-convicted men, their wives, relatives and friends. They were in the marketing department, at the ticket office, among the subcontractors - just about everywhere. "Misieks" own girlfriend worked in the finance department.

On several occasions, club president Sarapata had intervened as a reference and character witness to trials involving members of the Wisła Sharks. In the name of the club, she had assured them that they were in favor of the accused, that they would gladly employ to facilitate the reintegration into society in the event of liberating or mitigated judgments.

With Marzena Sarapata as president, at the same time, the club was drained of assets in a manner that appeared to be criminal rather than incompetent. Subcontractors associated with Wisła Sharks paid sub-pricing for their premises rentals, but billed sky-high for their services.

On average, Wisła Kraków went about three million minus each month, which meant that the expenditure was more than double the revenue.

The crash was approaching. It was just the question of when it would come and how it would look.

Finally, justice came up on May 21 last year. Polish police attacked a special drug syndicate - a drug syndicate with headquarters at Wisła Kraków's arena and office.

Nine men were arrested in Wisla's premises, but most of the police wanted to be found there. They issued an international arrest warrant for the man called "Misiek", but it turned out that he left the country and fled to Italy two days before the raid.

When Vanna Ly and Mats Hartling signed the documents for the purchase of Wisła Kraków, the football section's debts were reported to be somewhere around SEK 75 million.

No problem. Unofficially, the new owners suggested that they expected to invest about SEK 350 million only during the first year.

The very first installment appeared initially only as a detail. The most acute debts needed to be dealt with, and for that purpose, approximately SEK 30 million would have to be paid into the club account no later than December 28.

But no money was paid.

Panic spread in Kraków. People looked in despair for straws and explanations. This was Christmas time, so maybe there was some problem and some delay with all the holidays and banking days? Perhaps the millions would be there in the account as soon as it became normal everyday again?

But no million appeared in the account.

On January 2, Wisła Kraków formally declared that they saw the purchase as canceled, when Vanna Ly and Mats Hartling did not fulfill their obligations from the transfer documents.

Vanna Ly disappeared on December 27th

Absolutely breathtaking stories began to circulate. One rumor was that Vanna Ly got rid of her mobile phone, and thus could not make the transaction through her bank application. Another that he suffered from a heart attack on board his private plan, and disappeared away to an unknown hospital to recover.

It is unlikely that it was the official version.

- He disappeared on December 27. It is alleged that he flew to the United States. We received a couple of emails from his wife, who wrote that he had a heart attack and was in a hospital in Washington. That's all.

When Mats Hartling did well, he made it clear that even he himself did not believe in this story. On January 5, he gave an interview to Polish journalist Sebastian Staszewski, and it is the first and only time he has given his own version of the whole of this masterpiece.

- I don't want you to see me as an enemy of Wisła, because I am not. I was cheated by Vanna Ly, just like everyone else. But I am surprised that everything has gone so wrong. Until December 28, I had no sense that everything was a scam. Mister Ly appeared as a serious man. But now I'm angry, pissed off, shocked. I do not know what to say, because I had to use very ugly words. Everything is the fault of this little asshole, and now that bastard doesn't even want to see me. It could have ended him very badly.

When I myself tried to resume the dialogue around the purchase of Wisła Kraków, I did not get that far. Some emails bounced back, others remained unanswered.

In hidden corners of the internet, it was alleged that the signature written to me and Mats Hartling was the same person, where there were warnings issued that those email addresses for everyday use were mostly used for bluffing activities of about the same nature as the Nigeria letters.

In more respectable archives, the harvest was remarkably lean.

Mats Hartling says he has lived in England for almost 30 years, but his Swedish business history contains eleven different bankruptcies spread over 25 years, linked to everything between shafting in Upplands-Väsby, freight companies in Filipstad and restaurant operations in Västerås.

The results in UK business registers are similar. The bankruptcies are about as common, the companies as sprawlingly anonymous. The vast majority have been based on various industrial properties in the small port city of Boston on the English East Coast.

In my own computer I find an email from Mats Hartling

Getting any of the people he ran business with to tell him seems a little impossible. Either they have made themselves undecided or have told them that they have nothing to say. Someone agrees to speak anonymously, warning Hartling's "hard pinches".

Down in Poland he has stated that he is on AIK, but in Swedish football environment I find no one who has ever heard of him.

The only occasions his name has been mentioned in Swedish media is when Expressen quoted two different senders sent to conservative columnist Ulf Nilsson. In the one, Mats Hartling complained about the "left wing" in Sweden, in the other he expressed dissatisfaction with the "sickly left-winged duck pond".

In my own computer, I actually find an email where the name Mats Hartling is the sender. It was sent after the dramatic Swedish World Cup loss against Germany this summer, and formulates some type of harmless anger primarily aimed at the federal captain Janne Andersson: "Fy fan which cowardly skit team. Learn from Mexico your pale fat sweep.

Of course, it is quite possible that someone else uses the name as a pseudonym, but in the Swedish population register there is only one Mats Hartling.

Finally, I also get hold of him, through an email to one of the different company addresses he has used in recent years. It does not go to or from.

"Has no comments whatsoever at present," says Mats Hartling. Then he doesn't answer any more emails.

So what was it all about?

At present, it is impossible to give a clear and definite answer to it. Perhaps that is what Mats Hartling has said, that after all, he is a serious investor with big money in the back who was cheated by a fast-paced Cambodian. Perhaps they were jointly discouraged when they realized how all-wise Wisła Kraków's club box was really.

Or perhaps one of the theories now fluttering in Poland is true, that it was either an attempt to acquire a future money laundering or a smoking curtain that Wisła Sharks wanted to use to empty the club of money it didn't even have anymore.

Some mysteries will probably always remain in the dark darkness, while other ghosts and ghosts are slowly starting to advance.

He was immediately placed in isolation cell while waiting for trial, but next time Wisła Kraków played at home, a new banner was hanging on the short side:  "Misiek, trzymaj się, bracie" , "Misiek, hold out brother".

On January 8, the next police raid came to the club. Once again, the office was searched, but this time the extension was extended to the former president Marzena Sarapata's apartment. A preliminary investigation concerning, among other things, company plundering was initiated.

By now, Wisła Kraków was left with a debt mountain that covered the entire field of view. The players who did not receive a salary were in practice free to break their contracts and leave the club free of charge, the Polish League Board withdrew their license to play in the high league.

They had neither old owners nor new investors, they had nowhere to play and for that matter none who could do it either. They were a club that seemed to be on the verge of being out of existence.

In the midst of all the misery, it has been very easy to forget which historically shimmering, tradition-bearing institution like Wisła Kraków is after all.

For us Swedes, it is still perhaps the team that Tore Cervin sent in a snowdrift in the European Cup quarter in 1979, but for Poles, this is the 13-fold masters of the 113-year history, forever won by Legia Warsaw in the battle for which really is the nation's largest and most successful club.

It is that type of club where the sound of a doctor has his own echo and the sweater has a special weight, the kind that both enriches and obliges.

The 104-year-old Polish national teammate Jakub Błaszczykowski has always felt that Wisła Kraków gave him his elite career. When he played his last match for the club ahead of the move to Borussia Dortmund, he pulled up his match shirt and showed the t-shirt below:  "Jeszcze tu wrócę" , "I will return".

It would take 4 256 days - but "Cuba" Błaszczykowski kept his promise.

On the same day that the League Committee withdrew Wisła Kraków's elite license, he broke his contract with German Wolfsburg. He came back, and he did it when he was needed more than he ever needed.

Wisła Kraków not only got an untiring edge sprinter - who was going to play without pay - but they got a board member, an owner, a rescuer.

So far, Błaszczykowski has lent about six million dollars of his own money to Wisła Kraków, and it is doubtful whether he ever intends to claim them back.

Together with IT entrepreneur Jarosław Królewski and the media man Tomasz Jażdzyńsk, he has created an investor trio with completely different credibility, substance and efficiency than the peculiar Swedish-Cambodian duo who puzzled Poland a few weeks earlier.

Wisła Kraków still has their problems and their debts, but they have managed to get rid of most and the worst of all gangsters, bandits and jokes about keeping the club hostage.

They have been plundered, devastated and violated - but they breathe, they exist.

A road has been laid out, an action plan has been presented. On Tuesday, they got their elite license back, so when the Polish High School resumes in a few weeks, they will join.

They will still be Wisła Kraków, and for the first time in many years they will look like a club with a future.

Sources: "Wisła Kraków. Sen o potędze "(Miga), Superwizher (TVN), Gazeta Krakowska, Gazeta Wyborcza, sport.pl, Fakt, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Przeglad Sportowny.


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Bit of background for todays game.


This Gulf Between Us

The Cold War in the Hot Desert.

After all, it is about who really should control the Arabian Peninsula, who has a future on the other side of the oil and natural gas - and it is driven and shaped in astonishingly high degree of football.

Each time has its weapons. For the past 15 years, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been involved in a clear race to become established and accepted. They want to be seen and recognized internationally, they want to be trading partners and tourist destinations - and you don't have to be Kim Källström to find out how football is used here.


You can build the world's tallest house and the world's largest shopping mall and the world's toughest **** Christmas ball - the United Arab Emirates put 95 world-class world records only last year - but you will never be able to compete with a neighbor who arranges a football World Cup. Then it doesn't matter if you own both Manchester City and Arsenal's name and Real Madrid's shirts. Nothing else gives you the same impact, the same exposure.

In a promotional and marketing war, the World Cup itself is the nuclear weapon - and on the other hand, the only chance is to rob it or disarm it before it is fired.

When the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain suddenly started a hard blockade last summer, they justified themselves by accusing Qatar of financing terrorists and of approaching Iran. Many read the escalation differently. What drives the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia was not the will to fight terrorists - without fear of losing the propaganda war. Globally, they lost ground to Qatar, so they felt compelled to weaken them, isolate them, and take away their sharpest weapons.

They would make it impossible for Qatar to alone arrange the World Cup.

An all too deceptive interpretation? Of course, a conscious simplification, but nevertheless an analysis which after only a few months was recognized as semi-official truth. United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash demanded Qatar submission, if anything the World Cup could possibly be up to. The Dubai Lieutenant General, Dhahi Khalfan, was even more explicit in his argument: 
"If the World Cup disappears from Qatar, the crisis will also disappear. It was created to crack the World Cup ”.


Following the Asian championships down in the United Arab Emirates was especially in many ways, but one of the more peculiar impressions was that the matches were not shown at all on television in the host nation. Nothing in the hotels, nothing in the restaurants - either you were in the arena, or you saw nothing of the matches. The explanation, of course, was that the broadcasting rights are owned by beIN-Sports, a pay channel that originates from Qatar.

It is not the case that the Qatar team is on the other side of the trench line in a war zone, but the hostility they encounter is greater than that driven by ordinary sporting rivalry. Since the land border out of Qatar is barred and the flight connection between the nations is shut down, they had to take a 25-hour detour over Kuwait in order to arrive at all. And now they are alone. No fans from Qatar have been admitted to the United Arab Emirates, hardly any journalists either. Where all the other coaches are painted in the colors of the participating nations, the Qatar bus is grayed out anonymously.

In the United Arab Emirates it is now considered a cyber crime worth up to 15 years in prison to even express sympathy for Qatar on social media.

What happens in the future is difficult to speculate in. joint arrangements with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

They bought and ripped off a national life insurance of football already in connection with the 2010 World Cup election. Now they have no minimum interest in sharing it.

And the blockade they can handle. Although it cost them about SEK 400 billion only during the first two months, there are virtually unlimited banknotes left in the natural gas tunnels. Now Saudi Arabia is threatening to make Qatar an island, replacing the entire land border with a deep moat and dumping nuclear waste next to it. Well ...? Nothing that can't be solved with money. When the blockade made 95 percent of Qatar's dairy products disappear, they purchased 17,000 dairy cows from Germany, Hungary and the USA. When they need construction workers or military personnel, they recruit them in Bangladesh or Pakistan, when they need football players, they recruit them from North Africa.

For those who can't bother to make any moral background assessment - a majority of the football world, with or without Kim Källström included - the Qatari national team has been the most positive surprise of the Asian championships. Under the hand-picked Catalan federal captain Félix Sánchez, the young team has really evolved, become a well-structured team capable of playing both with and without the ball. In contrast, the home-run United Arab Emirates has rather stuck to this semi-finals, played in front of half-empty arenas but had luck with both verdicts and bounces.

At least they are now making an effort. In order to guarantee full stands for "Block Adderby", the government bought up all the remaining tickets for the match, and handed them free to "loyal emirates". Both schools and authorities close at lunch to give everyone the opportunity to see the match (through one or another pirate broadcast).

Qatar already has a clear and clear lead in this football war. Should they also defeat the United Arab Emirates in the United Arab Emirates - should they win the entire Asian Championship - it would shake an already unstable region further.


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Some nice digging and an interesting story developing atm.


In July 2013, a 16-year-old decides from the Uganda final in Gothia Cup.

He is called Charles Ssali and is a rewritten talent in his homeland - but after the game it becomes silent about him.

A couple of months later, a single boy appears in Malmö. 

Over the years that follow, he makes a comet career in Swedish football and tells a fascinating life story. Today he plays in the all-Swedish.

He is also from Uganda and has the same date of birth as Charles Ssali - but he is called Lumala Abdu.

In the background, a story conceals that the connections are several.

The SportExpress's Noa Bachner is enjoying a growing mystery.

- If I understand this right, Lumala is a victim of something, says Kalmar FF's club manager Mattias Rosenlund.

Only minutes remain of the Gothia Cup final for 16-year-olds. After the inferiority of 0-2 in half time against Japanese Consadole Sapporo, the Kampala Junior Team has settled in the second half. With his last forces, the team is chasing a victory goal. 

The summer sun sets the artificial grass in Gothenburg. Everything is at stake.

Suddenly, it is as if time is stopping. Charles Ssali has number five on his back, just like the favorite player Rio Ferdinand. He is surrounded by defenders when he leaves the ground. The bike park is not excessively gymnastic, but it is enough to hit the ball with the force needed.

3-2. The cup for the teenagers from Uganda. At the center circle, the match winner meets Viasat's reporter Anders Bjuhr.

- We know that there are many scouts that are here and check, says Ssali and scouts at the stands.

Decide on Gothia Cup as a sixteen year old

The clip is from 2013. It ends soon after the interview at the center plane. I turn away my computer. On the other side of the table is Kalmar FF's Lumala Abdu. While watching, he carries a facial expression that solidifies. He is silent and sits completely still.

I'm getting ready to try out two stories. 

One ends after Gothia Cup 2013, where Kampala Junior Team wins the tournament for both 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds. After playing diligently and creating headlines with his great talent, the match hero disappears from the final, Charles Ssali. 

Or does he?

The second story starts at about the same time and is about an unaccompanied 16-year-old who turns out to be unexpectedly good at football.

The question is whether it ends here.

In the Allsvenskan it has always flourished players with more or less strange background stories. Few were wise about the circumstances that marked Hammarby's recitals of "video hunters", Bogic Popovic and Dragan Vasiljevic. Brassen Quirino, who had "ambitions to enter Brazil's A-national team" when he came to Djurgården with a price tag of SEK 14 million, but barely took place and was sold to Japan after three years. AIK's surprising deal for Bosnian Sulejman Krpic, who was to replace Alexander Isaac, but returned home after six months of nothing.

Also internationally there are countless stories about players who appeared and left great riddles behind them. Anyone who has watched the television pictures of Southampton's Ali Dia, who jumped into the Premier League in 1996 but was unable to play football at all, is having a hard time smiling.

Many times there is an almost humorous snore at the end.

Not in the story I will tell you now. It is at least as confusing, but it is of a completely different nature.

A week ago, in the evening of January 27, I published a review of how young African football players are attracted to Sweden . The point of departure for the question was a tip on how the Småland Division 3 club Växjö United in 2018 was a gathering place for players who stayed in Sweden on a so-called tourist visa. During the autumn, Växjö United has also become the subject of a police investigation that contains several tracks.

The investigation led me to two interesting Africa links. The first was about a group of Nigerian players who ended up in Swedish division 3 with the help of a company, Tiki Taka Football Development.

The other one was about a man from Uganda who, according to my information, worked in Växjö United and helped to take players from their homeland to the club: Kabugo Mansoor.

As I came closer to an explanation of how nine Nigerian amateur players spent a year in Växjö to play football, I let the Uganda track rest, but shortly before the publication of the review I fell over another story.

A Ugandan player is more prominent than everyone else in Sweden right now. His fate should have been difficult to avoid considering how many times it has been told in Swedish media, but I had actually not heard of Lumala Abdu. 

At the beginning of December 2015, he signed a four-year contract with Kalmar FF. The success of Mjällby in Superettan had been great. During the years that followed, he played for the Varbergs Bois and Helsingborgs IF in the supernet. Last season he was on loan at IFK Värnamo.

The football success is fashionable if you consider these isolated, but not against the background of Lumala Abdu's life story. 

In Aftonbladet he describes it himself as "a fairy tale" .

Left alone at Sturup as a teenager

The story of the unaccompanied 16-year-old football talent who managed against all odds is impossible not to be amazed at. Abdu tells several newspapers that he grew up orphaned and instead lived with his grandmother under poor conditions. This should have happened in a village called Kataba. In an interview with TV4 , he says that the money was not enough to go to school or play in a football team. In January 2013, as a 15-year-old, he was, according to himself, sent alone to the capital Kampala to try to find a job. There he must have lived with a group of peers. Abdu says he has washed cars on the street to make money .

He says that he then came to Sweden in the autumn of 2013 with the help of a so-called "escort", but was abandoned by him at Sturup. At the time, he was only 16 years old. As most details, Abdu details that he was assisted by a man named "Peter" , in other interviews it only says that he "got help from some friends" in Kampala when he was sent off. He believes that in Sweden he contacted an unknown man on the street who then helped him to the Migration Board. He started playing football in Bromölla, where he got a living, and then went on to Gualöv IF. A leisure leader, Elvin Jakus, came close to him.

In Gualöv, Abdu makes a gruesome success. 20 goals in 10 matches, it is said.

- All the coaches in division 7 knew each other and everyone wondered who we had found. It was really unbelievable that a 16-year-old could come in from nowhere and dominate as he did. He had never played organized football in his life, says Jakus lyrically in an interview with FotbollDirekt.

Eventually, Abdu scouts off Mjällby and is then sold to Kalmar FF. He himself emphasizes in several interviews that he never played football under organized forms in Uganda, but only with friends on the street. He says, among other things, to Aftonbladet that he "never dreamed of becoming a professional", and in an interview, with FotbollDirekt, that the money was not enough to play in one team. When I talk to previous club leaders to him, several continue to say shocked at how good he was as a teenager, considering that he never played organized earlier.

On the one hand, Abdu says in a number of interviews that he did not have the opportunity to attend school in Uganda . On the other hand, he says to Kristianstadsbladet that he started school as a 10-year-old. He says he had never been to Sweden before he appeared at Sturup 2013. He didn't know where he was going when he left his home country.

It's when I get there that things start to get weird.

Called for another name in their home country

Among the search results related to Lumala Abdu, a number of results appear from Uganda. At least seven Ugandan football blogs and news sites mix his name with another: Charles Ssali. 

Several do not really seem to be able to decide which name to use. Charles Ssali's name is used several times to describe Abdu's career in Sweden, Lumala Abdu is described on several sites as an "alias" .

More things are peculiar: Lumala Abdu and Charles Ssali share birthday, July 21, 1997. They are strikingly similar in appearance and have an exactly the same scar in the forehead that comes with life, probably from chickenpox or a similar disease. 

On a Ugandan blog, Ugandan player Kezironi Kizito, now a pro in Indian Kerala Blasters, is mentioned as one of Charles Ssali's great role models. This seems to have inspired his Facebook account, where he is called "Ssali Kezironi". The posts on the account will end in autumn 2013. A couple of months later, activity occurs in another account linked to the name Lumala Abdu.

When I start reading about Charles Ssali, I quickly notice that his life story is different from Lumala Abdus. As a 12-year-old, Ssali is interviewing a charity, United Against Malaria (UAM), which combats malaria, a disease he himself should have suffered at a young age. He becomes ambassador for the organization as a child.

Interview with a 12-year-old Charles Ssali.Photo: SCREENSHOT FROM UAM'S WEBSITE.

Charles Ssali (left) during his work as ambassador for UAM.Photo: SCREENSHOT FROM IPSNEWS.NET

In the interview with UAM, Ssali tells that both his parents live , but that he lives with his aunt in Bakuli, a suburb of the capital Kampala. Ssali further describes how he went to school in Bakuli and played football under organized forms since childhood. He also describes how he went on youth tournaments in other countries several times. In 2009 he visited Sweden to participate in youth cups: A tournament in Piteå, one in Dalarna and Gothia Cup. At these championships he has entered into a squad for a kind of Ugandan national team for children, Kampala Junior League , who traveled around several tournaments in Europe.

Charles Ssali appears in the following years in Ugandan reporting due to his success as a youth player. He decides among other things a final in a domestic youth tournament , "President's Cup", in March 2013, when he represents his school law, St. Mary's Kitende.

In March 2013, Charles Ssali settles the finals in a domestic Ugandan championship.Photo: SCREENSHOT FROM NEWVISION.COM

He then goes to Gothia Cup with the very successful youth team Kampala Junior Team during the summer of 2013. Once there he decides the final which the team wins by 3-2. After the match, Ssali is interviewed by Viasat's commentator Anders Bjuhr . At age 16, he emphasizes that there are many scouts in place. 

Subsequently, the report silences him in total - besides the Ugandan news sites that call Lumala Abdu for Charles Ssali.

Several players from Kampala Junior Team in Sweden

With the head full of question marks, I begin to go through hundreds of pictures on the Kampala Junior Team's Facebook page. I think there must be a context.

Who trained the team? Where are his teammates? Are there no tracks?

After many hours, with eyes that are close to falling asleep, I get stuck on a photo of the club's celebration after the victory in Gothia Cup 2013. 

Two faces that I recognize reveal themselves. 

At the far left, with the arms in the weather and a shirt where it says Uganda in capital letters: Växjö United's chairman Mohamed Abdi Elmi.

Some places away with the trophy in your hands? Elmis's former employee of the club, Kabugo Mansoor.

Other photos from the club's Facebook account show Mohamed Abdi Elmi visiting the club management in Kampala in 2013.

Mohamed Abdi Elmi (far left) and Kabugo Mansoor (with the trophy in his hands).Photo: SCREENSHOT FROM KAMPALA JUNIOR TEAM'S FACEBOOK PAGE.

Mohamed Abdi Elmi (seated, third from left) visiting Kampala 2013. To the right of him Kabugo Mansoor.Photo: SCREENSHOT FROM KAMPALA JUNIOR TEAM'S FACEBOOK PAGE.

It quickly turns out that Charles Ssalis club in Uganda, Kampala Junior Team, is led and even during Ssali's time in the club, led by Kabugo Mansoor. Mansoor is the face of Kampala Junior Team. He appears in pictures from Uganda where Ssali is also present.

I'm starting to go through old teams and troops from the Kampala Junior Team, reading about the players on Ugandan news sites and blogs, mapping several of them using social media. 

It does not take long to say that a fairly large number of players with a background in the Kampala Junior Team - several of these former teammates to Ssali - today play football at lower levels in the Swedish series system. Several have also at some point belonged to Växjö United or the club under their former name, Sufstars FC. Suf is an abbreviation of the Somali Youth Association. 

A number of former Kampala Junior Team players are mentioned with different names in Uganda and Sweden, although it seems to be the same person. I also find examples of how Ugandan players in interviews with various Swedish media have described an existence in their homeland that bears similarities to Lumala Abdu's depictions.

What has happened here? 

Looks at picture with Mansoor

The SportExpress has previously reported that Kabugo Mansoor previously acted as a mix of sports manager and agent in Växjö United. This should have occurred during the period 2014-2016 (possibly longer). He will then have opened a channel for Ugandan players to Sweden. During the same period he is seen in connection with several transitions that are carried out to and from Sufstars FC or Växjö United. Among other things, Ugandan player Kamaliza Mahad Ndhodhi was sold to Syrian . According to information from the SportExpressen, the same player was then sold to the Ugandan club Vipers, but then under the name Moses Waiswa , something which is evidenced by pictures on Ndhodhi's Facebook account where he poses as a player for both Syrian and Vipers. Additional Ugandan players were sold from Växjö United during the same period.

Not only that. 

In connection with Lumala Abdu writing for Kalmar FF in December 2015, he is shown in picture together with Kabugo Mansoor. The picture is published on Mansoor's Facebook account. Mansoor also wears a Kalmar FF shirt on several private pictures..

"I do not know anything"

On my way down to Kalmar I get in touch with a friend of Charles Ssali's childhood who lives in Kampala. He says that they have grown up together and played a lot of football.

In order not to harm his relationship with Ssali, he wants to remain anonymous.

- Charles Ssali is the same person as Lumala Abdu. It is not particularly common for Ugandan players to change their name when moving to Europe, but in our generation, some did so, he says.

A few hours later, Kalmar is hit by a heavy snowfall. A gray light illuminates the small conference room inside the Guldfågeln arena.

When we have looked at the clip from the Gothia Cup, I ask if Lumala Abdu recognizes the TV pictures of Charles Ssali. He shakes his head and says no. He says it is not he that Lumala Abdu is not the same person as Charles Ssali. I mention some parts of the whole story, show some pictures, talk about how Ssali came from Kampala Junior Team to Gothia Cup, pointing to a scar he has in his forehead as a child and which Abdu has as an adult, in exactly the same place. The Facebook account that ended up being active. The picture with Mansoor. Tells you what I know about some of Ssali's teammates.

- I know nothing, he says.

This procedure repeats itself many times. I ask if it is no better to tell. Lumala says he doesn't know anything again. And again and again. He says it's the truth that he doesn't know. He says he can't be forced to say anything else. I know nothing, I know nothing, I know nothing.

At first, the answers are different.

- Nothing is a pain. I am a happy person. I have come here and everything is fine, he says.

You can talk to the club first and then come back?

- What should I talk to the club about?


- No.

Are you sure?

- I don't want to ruin. I want to focus on training and exercising. That's the only thing I think about. 

Isn't it better to tell what happened? For me or the club.

- I do not know anything. Maybe we can talk another day. So...

But you don't want to say anything about this now?

- No. We can talk after the training camp or something like that.

About this?

- Mm. Now I am focused on the training.

You want to talk about this as I show you after the training camp?

- We can talk about something.

We talk for a while. Lumala says he's happy. That he is an honest man who spreads joy. That he lives in a good country. He points out that he sees me in the eyes, that means he does not hide anything. Then he asks me to talk to sports director Thomas Andersson Borstam and leave the room.

Police are investigating "several cases of false identities"

On the way from the meeting with Abdu, I come back to some questions that plague me and now feel increasingly troublesome.

Has an entire football team full of teenagers from Uganda only appeared in Sweden?

What happened?

SportExpressen was already able to show links between Swedish and Ugandan football on January 27th . This has occurred in connection with, among others, Växjö United, or the club under its previous name, Sufstars FC.

People with close ties to Växjö United's activities are currently being investigated by the police after a former player in the club police reported a threat in December, something that Dagens Nyheter was the first to report on . The player went to the Swedish Migration Board in connection with his police report and told him that he had been living in Sweden under false identity. According to DN, the police are also investigating whether there may be "more cases of false identities, as well as information that people have received asylum in Sweden using incorrect data" .

- What is happening right now is a preliminary investigation into threats to a player. The threat has been raised by a representative of a club in Småland. The player was threatened at the end of the season, says Nils Martling, who is the inspector and preliminary investigation leader for the police's Action Group Sports and leads the investigation in Växjö.

- We have also been informed that players from African countries have been picked up during the preview to play football and get paid for this. We are investigating it right now and see if there is a criminal procedure. I find it difficult to say exactly how it should have been, but our information says that someone should recruit promising players and take them to Sweden.

"There is no cooperation"

To the SportExpressen, Växjö United's chairman Mohamed Abdi Elmi said during a long telephone call that there was no cooperation between Växjö United and Kampala Junior Team.

- During 2016 and 2017 there has been no player here from Uganda. The players have come from different directions. When it comes to Växjö United, it is one or two who have come from Uganda and who have moved on to other clubs, he says.

When I list the names of seven players from Uganda that I know have played for Växjö United or Sufstars FC, he maintains that this is not true. I add that Kabugo Mansoor, who represents the Kampala Junior Team, worked together with the association.

- No, listen. Växjö United has not had any agreement with Kabugo Mansoor or Kampala Junior Team, Elmi replies.

Kabugo Mansoor is on display in both Sufstars FC and Växjö United clothing. He also attends recruits and sales of players. But you have not had any cooperation with the Kampala Junior Team?

- Not Växjö United. Look up Växjö United's corporate identity number. When did it start?

2016. But Sufstars FC became Växjö United.

- Right.

Did Sufstars FC work with Kampala Junior Team?

- I don't know what you're trying to do. I have no comments regarding the Kampala Junior Team. Unfortunately. I do not have that.

Then I write it.

- You can write whatever you want. There is no connection between Växjö United and Uganda at all.

There is a picture of when Kampala Junior Team wins Gothia Cup 2013 where you are with celebrating with the team.

- Yes, but I was invited.

And a picture when you visit the club management in Kampala. But there has been no cooperation between Sufstars FC and Kampala Junior Team?

- There is no agreement or agreement with Växjö United and Kampala Junior Team.

Not when it comes to Sufstars FC either?

- However, there was some project with the Somali Youth Association and Kampala. It's another thing.

Had nothing to do with football?

- It wasn't Växjö United. Växjö United's history began in 2016. You are welcome to ask what happened between 2016 and 2019.

Was there a collaboration between Sufstars FC and Kampala Junior Team?

- There was some project there, but I can't talk about it, because I do not represent that association. I can't. I do not have permission.

Who can I talk about that collaboration with?

- You have to ask someone else.

You should know?

- I don't know who you can talk to.

Elmi then maintains during the remainder of the conversation that he cannot comment on the Somali Youth Association or Sufstars FC. 

The SportExpress has searched for Kabugo Mansoor without success.

"He is a victim of something"

In Stockholm it snows even more. The fact that the aircraft can land at Bromma Airport is incomprehensible.

After the meeting with Lumala Abdu, I share Kalmar FF everything I know about Charles Ssali, Lumala Abdu, Kampala Junior Team, Kabugo Mansoor and the connections to Sweden. The day after, the team plays their first training match for the season. Abdu jumps in half time. After the match he has a meeting with sports director Thomas Andersson Borstam, but maintains that he is not the same person as Charles Ssali.

Lumala Abdu in training with Kalmar FF.Photo: CHRISTIAN ÖRNBERG

In the evening I talk to Kalmar FF's club manager Mattias Rosenlund. He says that everything has gone very fast, that you have had a first contact with the Swedish Football Association.

- Lumala Abdu is approved by the football association as a professional player. He has a work permit and a residence permit in Sweden via the Migration Board. We have been following that. He has come via Gualöv, Mjällby and then to us. We have made a sporting assessment that he is a very good player, he says.

- This is news for us. We didn't have a clue about any of this. It looks deeply unfortunate and is really regrettable. What we can do now is to support Abdu in this process. We do not know what is right and wrong here, but we look forward to a continued investigation. I sincerely hope that the police will go to the bottom of what has happened and prosecute those who will be prosecuted if someone has acted criminal. The people behind this kind of activity should be stopped.

Rosenlund silences a blow.

- It's a great guy. He manages himself exemplary every day, he says.

- If I understand this right, Lumala is a victim of something


The Article in the paper also contains photos and some clips.

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This is a good article. Replace Liverpool with any other team and it all rings true:


Evidently, this is a phenomenal time to be a Liverpool fan. We’ve the most talented squad I’ve seen, led by a manager of genius and charisma. Hell, I’d spend Christmas with Jurgen Klopp instead of my family if I could. We spent two years winning almost every game. It’s been amazing.

Yet you wouldn’t believe it if you observed a cursed corner of social media, where you’ll find a certain strand of extremely online Liverpool fan. I’m not talking about all Liverpool supporters who use social media, of course, but a very specific species that engages with the club via these mediums in ways most right-minded people would find strange. Though they are small in number—by my estimation it’s maybe a thousand or so accounts, in a global fan base of hundreds of millions—I’m going to call them “Twitter fans” or “online fans” for brevity.


The first thing you must understand about these fans is that transfers are the barometer by which they believe all footballing achievement must be gauged. Liverpool had a relatively quiet summer on the transfer front this year, but they still solved the most obvious hole in their squad by signing centre back Ibrahima Konate. Of course, that was never going to cut it for fans who deem “winning” the window as the most telling metric on whether or not a club is in good health. It’s fair to say that Liverpool Twitter in the closing days of window was in a state of anarchy.


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I know its a basic enough story of how the journey to becoming a PL player but thought this was a good read into a fairly meteoric rise.



Until this month, many fans and even some pundits would have been unaware of Omobamidele’s existence. Now, he was being talked about as representing the future of Irish football.

He had come a long way from the quiet kid Molloy had first encountered, who was “obsessed with” the idea of moving to England and becoming a star.

Born in Dublin to a Nigerian father and Cork-born mother, Omobamidele spent the early years of his life living in Lucan before the family moved to Leixlip.

Molloy first met the youngster when some school friends brought him up to training at Leixlip United.

Aged eight at the time, Omobamidele was by no means the club’s most talented player back then. In fact, he spent the first few seasons in their B team.

“He wasn’t over the moon, to be honest, playing with the B team,” remembers Molloy.

“But he was probably a little bit raw and the other boys would have had a couple of seasons between being in the academy and playing competitively.”

Even then though, Omobamidele was starting to show the pace and strength that would be key components of his game, and the more he trained, the better he became.

One of the youngster’s distinguishing features is his remarkable composure on the ball, and this quality can be partially attributed to the fact that he played as both a striker and midfielder at Leixlip, before eventually settling on centre-back.

“He just turned into one of these lads where you realised he could play literally anywhere. Even in goals, the lot. And in every position, you’d think there’s more in him. He could improve as a centre forward, a midfielder, a right-back, but he moved into the A team then, a couple of seasons later. It was a really good environment there, we had so many players pushing each other.”


Edited by Kuwabatake Sanjuro
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