The last month of what has been a not-so memorable year, with the Covid-19 pandemic robbing us of most of the sporting action scheduled. But, with things slowly making strides towards normal, the action is coming thick and fast, bringing us to this week's edition of Good, Bad and Ugly.
Bala Devi becomes first Indian footballer to score in a top-flight European League
We have seen rare cases of Indian footballers plying their trade in European leagues, with custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu achieving the distinction of being the first from the country to feature in a top-flight game. Even though he went on to make an appearance in the UEFA Europa League, later on, his stay at Stabaek FC, in Norway, was short-lived. Taking the Indian dream forward, Bala Devi became the first Indian woman to sign a contract with a top-flight European League, having signed over the dotted line for Scottish giants Rangers FC. It was earlier this week that Bala created history once again - by becoming the first Indian footballer to score a goal in a top-flight European League when she netted en-route to Rangers FC’s 9-0 hammering over Motherwell F.C in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. Now, that’s something to cheer about!
International cricket back in India after 12 months
It has been over five years since the first pink-ball Test match was played at the Adelaide Oval, between Australia and New Zealand. It was in 2019 that India, after much speculation, hosted its first-ever pink-ball Test match against Bangladesh at the iconic Eden Gardens. As per the latest schedule, India is set to host England for a Day/Night Test match at the new 1,10,000-seater Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad, in late February. Moreover, International cricket will be back in India after a 12-month gap, owing to the pandemic situation. The tour kick-starts on February 5 with the first Test at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, while the players will stay back in the southern city for the second Test too. The third and the final Test matches, along with all the five One-Day Internationals will be staged in Ahmedabad. The tour will conclude with the 3-match T20I series at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, in Pune. The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association is also making plans to allow fans during the matches in Chennai, with the venue hosting Test cricket after three years of drought.
Italy's 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi passes away
Marred by a match-fixing scandal during his early days with Perugia, Paolo Rossi was handed a three-year ban, even though he guided the Italian side to the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup. Despite the penalty, the footballer was re-purchased by Juventus in 1981, with him helping the Turin-side to clinch the 1981-82 Serie A title. The 11th-hour entry to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, after his ban was curtailed, was the turning point in his career. Even though he failed to make an impact in the group stages, Italy’s then-manager Enzo Bearzot showed faith in him and fielded him against the favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals, where he scored a hat-trick to storm the ‘Azzuri’ to the semi-final. He ended up as the highest scorer of the tournament and also won the ‘Golden Boot’ award, thus the beginning of a legacy - and he never looked, till hanging up his boots in 1987. The legendary footballer passed away on 9th December, at the age of 64. The year 2020 has struck yet another blow!
Former Argentine player and coach Alejandro Sabella breathes his last
The Argentine might not have been one of the best players for the South American national team, with him earning just eight caps in his national colours, but Alejandro Sabella’s contribution as a manager will be cherished nevertheless. Initially, during his managerial career, he worked as the deputy of legendary footballer Daniel Passarella - with the duo taking charge of Italian side Parma, the Uruguayan national team, Mexican outfits Monterrey, and Brazil-side Corinthians. But, it was his stint with the Argentine national side that earned his global acclaim, after he was given charge of the ‘Albiceleste’, following their early exit from the 2011 Copa America. Sabella’s reign was more than memorable as he guided the side to the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil - only to see Germany lift the trophy by virtue of a Mario Gotze strike at the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro. The former footballer and manager breathed his last, at the age of 66 after battling with cancer and heart problems for years.
Fourth official's racist comment halts PSG - Istanbul match tie
2020 has been nowhere near normal since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March. But, some incidents have it worse - for example, the George Floyd killing, which sent shockwaves around the globe, with footballers taking an active part. But, we haven’t learnt from our mistakes it seems, with the world of football marred with yet another incident of ‘racism.’ Just 13 minutes into the game, the fourth official, in an attempt to make the referee convey which player on the bench should be booked, he said, “The black one over there. This is not possible. Go and identify him. That guy, the black one.” It was no sooner that the referee showed the marching orders to Istanbul Basaksehir’s assistant coach Pierre Webo that players from both the teams and the visiting team’s coach clashed-off with the referee. In the midst of the commotion, Istanbul’s Demba Ba’s comments stood out from the rest, when he questioned - “When you mention a white guy, you never say ‘this white guy’, you just say ‘this guy’, so why when you mention a black guy do you say ‘this black guy? The match was suspended on the spot but completed the game the next day.
Quality of refereeing in the ISL hits rock bottom
The Indian Super League has done wonders for the development and the popularity of the game in our country - but sustainability should be omnipresent. But this is not possible if the quality of refereeing degrades to an excruciating level, as it has been in the ongoing season so far. Debutants SC East Bengal seems to have been on the receiving end of most of the poor decisions this season, with them denied two penalties during their game against Northeast United FC. If that wasn’t enough, the Kolkata-based side was reduced to 10-men in the next match against Jamshedpur FC - a decision which no one saw coming, while the officials of the club have already lodged a complaint to the organisers regarding the same. Roy Krishna’s goal for ATK-Mohun Bagan en-route to their 1-2 loss against Jamshedpur FC was also a controversial call, with the Fijian striker a good yard off-side. Not only are the decisions hampering the results of the game, but denting the future of Indian football as a whole.