Moscow :France began dreaming of World Cup glory after a two-decade wait after Les Bleusdefeated Belgium to reach the final, unleashing a wave of soccer euphoria across the country.
Delirious supporters draped in the Tricolor flag spilled on to Parisian boulevards as the blare of car horns reverberated through the French capital. In a fan zone outside City Hall on the banks of the River Seine, jubilant supporters embraced and lit smoke flares.
“I’m totally blown away, this is crazy,” said 41-year-old Gilles Rove in Paris’ Belleville neighbourhood. “Nobody believed this could happen at the beginning of the World Cup, but this team has really shown something in recent weeks.”
“This team gives me goosebumps, even more so than the team of 1998,” he added, in reference to the last time France won the World Cup, on home soil against Brazil 20 years ago.”
“We’re going to the final, we’re going to the final,” scores chanted in one central Paris bar before breaking out into an impromptu rendition of the La Marseillaise national anthem.
The partying was marred by clashes between riot police and mobs on the iconic Champs Elysees avenue. Live TV images showed bare-chested men hurling plastic crowd-control barriers and other missiles at the armed officers, who charged back.
In the southern city of Nice, more than two dozen fans were hurt when the detonation of firecrackers triggered a brief stampede near the seafront.
Hundreds of thousands of fans had poured on to the Champs Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe as bars, cafes and restaurants enjoyed a bumper evening of revelry after the World Cup equivalent of a local derby between the neighbouring rivals.
Some French fans were already looking forward to a possible final clash against long-time rivals England, who play Croatia in the second semi-final on Wednesday.
“Our unfortunate Belgian cousins were just not quite good enough. But it was Europe which won, and it would be amusing if we were to beat the English,” said 45-year-old Francois Garnier who watched the game near the Eiffel Tower.
In St Petersburg, ecstatic French fans sang their way out of the stadium, relishing the prospect of a final against England or Croatia.
Belgium fans filed quietly out of the arena, while back home they drowned their sorrows in beer after their dreams of a first World Cup final were shattered by their bigger French neighbours.
“I feel ill,” said Denis Backaert, 34, after watching France prevail 1-0 in the tightest of semi-finals between two quality teams in St Petersburg.
France won in front of President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has dropped in opinion polls and will be hoping for a World Cup bounce. The French leader went down to the players’ dressing-room after the match.
Asked what Macron told the players, Les Bleus young forward Kylian Mbappe told TF1: “He said he would come back for the final, to see us with the cup.”
Unified ISL, I-League is ultimate goal but it seems like a distant dream for now
New Delhi: The I-League clubs, who are fighting for a level-playing field and better treatment from the All India Football Federation, last week proposed a grand plan for a 20-team unified league with an estimated net revenue of Rs 325 crore after deducting cost of production and other expenses.
The proposal, which wants the unified league to run for 9 months with promotion and relegation, has based the calculations of net revenue on the central revenue figures the 10 Indian Super League teams are supposed to get for the current season.
According to the I-League Private Clubs Association, ISL owners Football Sports Development Limited raised Rs 150 crore this year for 95 games. With the new proposed league – comprising 10 ISL and 10 I-league teams, hosting a total of 380 matches the revenue should also increase exponentially, they claimed.
The proposal, which claims that the new unified league would also help AIFF earn Rs 50 crore annually, looks good on paper but one needs to understand that market forces do not work on theoretical arithmetic.
And this is where the real challenge to the proposed unified league lies because all plans come to a nought without money.
As things stand now, the ISL title sponsor pays between Rs 15-20 crore for the entire season with the remaining amount coming for other sponsors and the money paid by Star Sports as co-owners of the league.
Even if one inflates the value of the unified league, no title sponsor is going four to five times of the current amount and given the fact that no broadcaster has been inclined to bid for television rights of Indian football, Star Sports definitely won’t be willing to pay a higher cost for showing all the 380 matches from the first year itself.
Even Minverva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj admitted that on the sidelines of the I-League trophy presentation ceremony in Chennai recently. “The revenue might not be possible in the first year itself but we will definitely cut down the losses,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
Losses have been the one common factor between ISL and the I-League and the clubs in the new entity have been bleeding a lot more money than their counterparts.
Even Bengaluru FC CEO Parth Jindal in a recent interview with espn.in spoke about the difference in expenditure and losses in the two leagues. “ISL teams are losing far more money than I-League teams. We were in the I-League two years ago. We know the numbers in I-League, and we now know the numbers in ISL,” he was quoted as saying.
The IPCA has proposed that the franchisee fee be brought down to Rs 2 crore per year in the unified league so that the cost of ISL teams can be reduced substantially.
However, the ISL clubs who have been paying through their noses for the last few years feel that it was like allowing I-League clubs for free.
And it was this issue that got Delhi Dynamos owner worked up during a twitter exchange with I-League fans and even Minerva owner Heena Bajaj where he questioned why I-League teams should be allowed entry in the ISL for free.
But the bigger question is how many I-League clubs can afford to lose more money than what they are already losing to sustain in the proposed unified league till the league becomes commercial viable for a broadcaster to media rights and sponsors to pour in the kind of money the clubs are expecting.
While the average budget of the I-League teams currently hovers around Rs 5 crore annually, the average franchise fee for the ISL teams is around Rs 15 crore with players salary ranging from Rs 9.5 crore to Rs 16 crore.
Even if one hypothetically accepts the proposal for bringing the franchisee fee down to Rs 2 crore, how many I-League teams are in a position to put in Rs 9-10 crore in players’s salaries, another 10% into youth development and also have the budgets for marketing and infrastructure development.
It is a fact that I-League clubs’ reluctance for promotions and infrastructure development has been a major problem area in Indian football and one is not sure how these clubs would be able to raise money to sustain the additional activities.
And if they fail to do so, then the new initiative will soon suffer the same fate of the I-League, which was the primary reason behind FSDL launching a separate league to attract sponsors and broadcasters.
Those who have followed Indian football over the last few decades would point out that the petty politics of AIFF have been equally responsible for the problems in I-League as they could never enforce basic systems that the Asian Football Confederation had been asking for.
So much so, many I-League clubs still do not fulfill all the AFC Licencing criteria and the AIFF has remained a mute spectator and let politics take precedence over good practices and systems required to improve Indian football.
Even as the impasse between ISL and I-League clubs continues, the AIFF has done nothing to finalise a roadmap that AFC and FIFA had suggested over two years ago which would have seen the former becomes the top league with no relegation by 2020.
For now, AIFF secretary general Kushal Das has already ruled out the possibility of a unified league citing the 10-year contractual obligation with FSDL and it is pretty clear that the federation’s marketing partners would only think of such an option if it is commercially viable.
It seems, the AIFF’s immediate game plan depends on FSDL’s ability to rope in Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the ISL to end any kind of resistance from Indian Football Association, the state association in West Bengal.
FSDL sources have confirmed to Scroll.in that the tender for new teams is likely to be only for Kolkata unless a current franchise, which is already under tremendous financial strain, pulls out. The powers running Indian football are hoping that East Bengal would be the new franchise while Bagan and ATK would join hands to run the existing team.
The only catch here is the unpredictability of the two Kolkata clubs. A similar attempt was made two years ago when Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC joined ISL from I-League but internal politics within the two clubs meant that the deals never went through.
There is no guarantee that the plans to rope in the two Kolkata clubs in next year’s ISL will materialise even now. If that does not happen, AIFF will once again be left fighting a political battle within its ranks and it is more likely that both leagues will co-exist for another year.
In any case, those associated in the decision-making process have already been mentioning that the roadmap AFC proposed was just a guideline and not a mandatory requirement.
But speak to the ISL or I-League clubs or anyone associated with Indian football, and all of them would insist that an unified league was the ultimate dream. But the implementation of the idea remains a huge question mark; a question mark that hangs not only over Indian football with an unsettling silence.
Ashwin’s action was disgraceful and embarrassing: Warne
Melbourne: Australian spin legend and Rajasthan Royals brand ambassador Shane Warne has come down heavily on Ravichandran Ashwin for ‘Mankading’ Jos Buttler in an Indian Premier League match here, calling his action “disgraceful” and against the spirit of the game.
The incident happened when a desperate Kings XI Punjab skipper Ashwin ran out Rajasthan Royals’ Buttler, who was at the non-strikers’ end, without giving him any warning while bowling the 13th over of the match.
Buttler was going strong at 69 off 43 balls and Rajasthan steady at 108-1 while chasing 185 but the dismissal proved to be a game-changer and Kings XI eventually defeated the Royals by 14 runs.
Informally named after the legendary Vinoo Mankad, who first did it in 1947 against Australia, ‘Mankading’ is when a bowler dismisses a non-striker by removing the bails in the process of delivering the ball with the batsman outside the crease. Though this is a legally permissible dismissal, it is widely considered against the spirit of the game.
A livid Buttler had a heated exchange with Ashwin before leaving the field and the incident sparked the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ debate.
“So disappointed in @ashwinravi99 as a Captain & as a person. All captains sign the #IPL wall & agree to play in the spirit of the game. RA had no intention of delivering the ball – so it should have been called a dead ball. Over to u BCCI – this a not a good look for the #IPL,” Warne wrote in his Twitter handle.
“Ashwin’s actions were simply disgraceful, and I hope the BCCI doesn’t condone this sort of behaviour in the #IPL ! #spiritofthegame.”
“As Captain of your side – you set the standard of the way the team wants to play & what the team stands for ! Why do such a disgraceful & low act like that tonight ? You must live with yourself & FYI – it’s to late to say sorry Mr Ashwin. You will be remembered for that low act,” he wrote.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which is the custodian of cricket laws, had made subtle changes to the rules on running out of non-strikers by bowlers in their run-up in 2017. The law gives bowlers the right to run out the non-striker up to the instant at which they “would be expected to deliver the ball”.
However, Warne said what Ashwin did was embarrassing.
“And to all the people (including ex players) saying it’s in the laws of the game, but you don’t like what he did & you wouldn’t do it – I ask you this “why wouldn’t you?” ! Simple answer – it’s disgraceful and embarrassing plus it’s against the spirit of the game !,” he wrote.
Warne also tagged India and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli in his tweet, asking if people would have supported this act if Kohli was at the receiving end from England’s Ben Stokes.
“Sorry – one more thing to add. If Ben Stokes did what Ashwin did to @imVkohli it would be ok ? I’m just very disappointed in Ashwin as I thought he had integrity & class. Kings lost a lot of supporters tonight. Especially young boys and girls ! I do hope the BCCI does something,” he wrote.
The man who originally did it was criticised for his action but Mankad had received support from an unlikely source – batting great and then Australian captain Sir Don Bradman.
‘Gerrard would walk into Rangers team and score a winner against Celtic!’
London: Danny Murphy says he has no doubt that Steven Gerrard could still play at a high level as the former Liverpool midfielder says his former team-mate could walk right into this Rangers team and give Celtic fits.
Gerrard ended his playing career in 2016 following an up-and-down stint with the LA Galaxy after departing Liverpool following a nearly three-decade-long stay with the Premier League club.
Gerrard recently featured for Liverpool once again as part of a charity match, where he scored the winning goal in the final minute in a victory over AC Milan as part of a legends match at Anfield.
And Murphy saw enough that made him believe that the 38-year-old former midfielder could do a job for the team he managers.
“I don’t know his fitness right now. But what I saw the other day and what I’ve seen over the years, with a little bit of tweaking, he would walk into that Rangers team,” said the TalkSport pundit.
“He would boss it. He would be humble and say no. He’s still in his 30s.”
Celtic currently maintain a 10 point lead over Rangers in the league, despite the midseason of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City.
The two historic rivals are set to face off on Sunday, and Murphy says that, if he were a player, Gerrard could make a real contribution in that match with his current skillset.
“If he put his boots on against Celtic it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they won and he got the winner.
“That’s just what he does. But he’s not going to do it so let’s not get hopeful for the Rangers fans.”