Randers Dominate

Editorʼs Note

We have covered many sports that do not receive the recognition that they should. Among them is womenʼs handball. The speed and agility and active time in the sport compares well to other sports, notably football. The Magazine will be relaunched shortly. We will resume our coverage of a sport that tests the legacy of Londonʼs Olympic Games. For that reason we republish some of our articles on the sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 25th 2011)

Ambitions

We are looking to win the league,” Randersʼ goal-keeper, Chana Masson told us. “If we stay in the top two we get two points for the play-offs.” FC Midtjylland pose the only realistic threat and it is a long shot as they need Randers to start losing – something they have shown no sign of doing. Viborg offer a more realistic target, but they will be difficult too. Midtjylland play tomorrow afternoon, knowing tat anything less than victory is not an option.

The business end of the season is tight for play-off spots. Three points separate fifth from eighth. Odenseʼs slim hopes of making the play-offs needed nothing less than a win tonight, but Randers was in no mood to roll over.

Masson believes that Denmark has the best handball league in the world. She was part of the first wave of Brasilians to come to Scandinavia to learn her trade. She stayed and earned the respect of team-mates like the German Nina Wörz.

Different Class

Randers outclassed HK Odense with a sterling display of defence and attack too, 37-17 in Odense. Masson kept the home team at bay with a string of top-notch saves. She cost them at least five goals in the first half. Meanwhile, Denmarkʼs Camilla Dalby enhanced her reputation with four first-half goals, as Randers established a commanding lead, 20-7.

They made a strong and rapid statement of intent. Wörz opened the scoring in the third minute and Mette Melgaard doubled their lead, almost immediately. Within two minutes Wörz had completed a hat-trick. Odenseʼs trainer, Jan Laugesen had seen enough and took a time-out. Odenseʼs Pernille Larsen and Susanne Madsen then earned the displeasure of referee Ole Blok, receiving yellow cards before Larsen finally beat the impressive Masson to make it 4-1.

Mie Augustesen and Melgaard extended Randersʼ lead before Wörz capitalised on penalty opportunities for fouls on Augustesen and herself. With 13 minutes gone Randers had a commanding 8-1 lead. Cecilie Pedersen beat Masson for the second time, but not before the goal-keeper had kept Odense at bay a few times. Katrine Frueland scored a brace separated by another from Augustesen. Randersʼ tenth was scored by Augustesen after slick and probing passing between Wörz, Dalby and Melgaard created the opportunity.

Madsen and the impressive Gitte Andersen exchanged goals before Spaniard Eli Pinedo opened her account for Odense after 21 minutes. Wörz replied immediately. Dalby helped herself to three more while Andersen scored two and Berit Kristensen added another. Meanwhile, Pedersen and Janni Gade conceded penalties for preventing shooting opportunities. Dalby converted the opportunities.

Randers were dominating at 18-4 before Pinedo and Pedersen clawed two back.

Andersen conceded a penalty, but Massonʼs dancing around in her area distracted Pinedo enough to cause her to strike Massonʼs right-hand post. Gitte Aaen punished the lapse by scoring Randersʼ 20th goal of the half. There was just enough time for Pinedo to make amends, but Randers had established control by then, leading by 13 goals at half time.

The False Dawn

Laugesenʼs team-talk obviously struck the right note. In the first six minutes of the second half Nikoline Nielsen scored a hat-trick, but Masson saved her penalty, although Anna Sophie Okkels and Dalby scored for Randers too. The hard work had been done by Randers in the first half, during which Masson also showed how to turn defence into attack with a long throw to Andersen who gratefully accepted the chance.

Maria Fisker seemed to have left her shooting arm behind in the first half, missing when it seemed easier to score and striking the woodwork, before Wörz spared her blushes. In the second half she found her arm, scoring a magnificent break-away goal – her teamʼs 35th. The match was all but over by then. Randers completed the win 37-17.

Dalby top-scored with seven. Eleven players netted for Randers with Wörz and Augustesen netting five apiece. Fruelund and Andersen scored four each. Nielsen and Pinedo shared the honours for Odense with four each, but the score didnʼt lie. Randers deserved their win, consolidating their position at the top of the table.

Protection (Part Two) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 14th 2010)

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the magazine in May 2010. We republish it now as we think it is topical that even with rules in place the big clubs – in this case FC Barçelona – are being treated differently to smaller clubs like Cardiff City and FC Midtjylland.

Derek Miller

Selfish

Former professional footballer and FA coach Noel Blake1 has a different outlook to that of the Director of Cardiff Citys academy, Neal Ardley (for further information on Ardley’s opinion see https://empowersport.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/protection-part-one-archive/) – one he admits is selfish.

While academies and centres of excellence just want the best players regardless of nationality or racial origins, Blake wants more from them. He wants English academies to develop English talent.

“From a selfish point of view I wouldn’t want foreign boys to come to the academy anyway in all honesty, because this is England”, he told us exclusively. “Obviously I’ve got a selfish point of view. I want to see English players developed in England. At the appropriate time – senior level – fine, but I don’t think our academies should be encouraging young players from far afield, who can’t play for the national teams, to come to England. I don’t think it’s right.”

Developing Young English Talent

Blake wants English academies to concentrate on developing English players. “Forget that I was working for the FA, because I was saying this before”, he said, “I had a couple of foreign boys in the academy, but they played for their nation. The fact of the matter is as I have said previously and I stand by this statement, I wouldn’t like to see our academies or youth development programme flooded with non-English players, because for me we’ve got to get back into a system where the English players come through our academy system”.

His main concern is ensuring that young English talent comes through and benefits first and foremost from the academies and centres of excellence of English clubs. “My views are in terms of youth development programmes”, said Blake. “I don’t think it would be wise for young players from further afield to be allowed academy places, so I can’t sit here and endorse twenty or so foreign players coming to our academies”.

Quality Imports

But Blake has nothing against foreign players in principle. English leagues have benefited from top foreign talent. Gianfranco Zola was one of the most skilful foreign imports, becoming a Chelsea legend in the process. He helped to bring through young players at Chelsea. Zola remembered when he was a young player in Italy and had the opportunity to learn from top foreigners that made Serie A the envy of Europe at the time.

Zola found himself denied opportunities at Napoli because he was behind two foreigners in the pecking order – one was the Brasilian, Careca. The other was one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game – Diego Armando Maradona. Zola makes no complaint about it. They were better than him at the time and he had the opportunity to learn from them in training. It made him a better player.

He eventually moved to Parma and was a great success there before being forced out of the club by Carlo Ancelotti – the Chelsea manager accepts that he made a mistake letting Zola go. Parmas loss was Chelseas gain, but Blakes concern over foreigners is not at first team level.

It is domestic talent in English academies that Blake wants to protect. “In terms of senior players that’s a different matter”, said Blake. “If the club then want to sign senior players at first team level, that’s down to them”.

But if a European club had the opportunity to sign a schoolboy Lionel Messi or Cesc Fàbregas, should they refuse? Barçelona didnt and nor did Arsenal and nor would other clubs when offered the chance to sign such talent so cheaply. They could have waited, but the price would have been significantly higher and thats the bottom line.

1After seven years as an FA coach including spells in charge of England Under-19 and Under-20, Blake left in June 2014. He joined Blackpool despite the chaotic situation at that club.

Protection (Part One) – Archive

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the magazine in May 2010. We republish it now as we think it is topical that even with rules in place the big clubs – in this case FC Barçelona – are being treated differently to smaller clubs like Cardiff City and FC Midtjylland.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 14th 2010)

Opportunities

Cardiff Citys academy has to operate under the rules governing all academies or centres of excellence. Under-14 year-old players must live within an hour commute of the ground, whereas Under-16s have an extra half hours grace. There are loopholes’ in the system, although these favour the richer clubs.

Families can be relocated with jobs provided, but only wealthy clubs can afford to do this – ironically because they want to avoid paying fees to a smaller club that developed a player. Even clubs like Barçelona – one of the biggest in the world – has lost talent in this manner. Cesc Fàbregas is the most famous player that Catalunya’s top club lost to the English Premier League.

No Angels

But Barcelona are no angels. They have scouts all over the world – other top clubs do as well – and if they spot a player they believe will make the grade, they too will flex their muscle. This was how the world’s greatest player Lionel Messi left Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina in 2000 for Barcelona’s academy – la Masia – a stone’s-throw from the Camp Nou.

Messi and his family left for the city that the architecture of the great Antoni Gaudi dominates – lured in part by Barcelona’s promise to provide treatment for the young superstar in making’s growth hormone deficiency. And Messi is far from the only player that Barca has done it too.

So how can smaller clubs compete, both with the lure of playing for bigger clubs and their financial clout? The answer is they can’t can’t – they have to compete within their price range and spend shrewdly at every level, especially after the experience of Danish club FC Midtjylland.

Foreign Links

Cardiff City is a small club. Last year they comfortably broke their transfer record by over a million to sign Michael Chopra from Sunderland. The fee was £3m. They compete on the pitch through a strong youth policy and wise spending and investment in talent. They start early. Even their academy has to find ways to recruit top talent and cling onto it without breaking the bank.

We have a lad from Canada – a goalkeeper”, says the Director of their academy Neal Ardley1. “We just set up a little link with a club over there and they look to send some players over for us to have a look at once in a while, but that’s just purely neutral, giving players an opportunity to see what level they’re at”.

Different Rules

This is not the only foreign link that the Bluebirds academy has. “The only other foreign area we’ve gone into is over in Ireland”, Ardley told us. “We’ve got a lad from Northern Ireland and a lad from Southern Ireland and we’re trying to create links with clubs over there. What we’re trying to do is create a link with the clubs. We can maybe give some of their players a chance to come over and see if they’re good enough”.

But it is not a one-way thing. The Irish clubs benefit as well. “We in turn come over there and coach and coach-educate,” said Ardley before a note of frustration creeps in.

I know that UEFA are trying to put rules in place that even if the two clubs agree that they want to do this little system, there’s got to be compensation, which would take Cardiff out of the equation really in many ways”, Ardley said. “For me that’s the wrong rule because it comes back to the big clubs win again. The clubs with the money can afford the compensation and will get the best players”.

1Ardley was appointed Director of Cardiff City’s the day after his retirement in 2007. He stayed until 2012 when he became the manager of AFC Wimbledon. He is still their manager.