Football Review of 2011 Part 1: January-June

On this week’s main listening report we look back at some of the big stories from the football world in 2011. Part one will feature January to June while part two will focus on July to December.

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On this week’s main listening report we look back at some of the big stories from the football world in 2011. Part one will feature January to June while part two will focus on July to December. This report has a transcript below, as well as explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained.

January-February

January was a fairly quiet month for football in Europe with most European leagues on a winter break and England suffering from heavy snow that caused havoc with the fixtures. However, the sun was shining in Qatar where the15th Asia Cup was taking place with Japan winning their 4th continental title by defeating Australia 1-0 in extra time. The Japanese side, under Italian coach Zaccheroni, showed impressive spirit throughout and were worthy winners though a special mention should also be made for outsiders Jordan who qualified for the knock-out stages by drawing with Japan and beating Saudi Arabia.

Two big stories dominated English football at the start of the year: first, two TV pundits in the UK were fired for making sexist comments about a female referee’s assistant, while the battle for the Olympic Stadium raged on with West Ham finally winning the decision over Tottenham to move into the stadium in East London. Tottenham were faring better in the Champions League where they eliminated seven-time winners AC Milan in a tempestuous match that saw Milan captain Gattuso attack Spurs coach Joe Jordan.

February saw the retirement of one of the greatest strikers of this generation, O Fenômeno, Ronaldo. He finished his career in Brazil with Corinthians but it was his time in Europe that really made his name. He first came to prominence in Holland with PSV Eindhoven but moved to another level with Barcelona in Spain before really taking off in Italy with Inter Milan. Unfortunately his career was blighted by injuries but he sealed an amazing comeback with the national side in the 2002 World Cup when he scored the winning goals in the final to give him an amazing record-breaking 15 goal haul in overall World Cups.

March-April

March and April are known as the business end of the season, or what Sir Alex Ferguson terms squeaky-bum time as teams battle to win the title, progress in the cups and avoid relegation. The first domestic trophy of the season in England was decided in early March when lowly Birmingham City caused a huge upset at Wembley to defeat Arsenal 2-1 to win the Carling Cup – their first silverware since 1963. Ironically both sides then suffered dips in form with Birmingham ending up relegated to the Championship while Arsenal went out of the Champions League to Barcelona, lost to Man Utd in the FA Cup and then fell away in the title race – a bad March for the Gunners.

North of the border in Scotland the traditional Celtic-Rangers dominance continued but this year it seemed to have taken on a new ferocity. In early March the two sides played out a stormy affair which saw three players from the Rangers’ team sent-off. There was also an altercation between Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers’ assistant coach Ally McCoist at the end of the game when they had to be separated. Rangers went on to win their third Scottish league title in a row and their 54th overall, while Celtic won their 35th Scottish FA Cup.

March was a good month for Palestine, who hosted their first competitive international game since becoming a FIFA member in 1998. It was also a good month for the São Paulo keeper, Rogério Ceni who scored his 100th league goal by scoring a free kick against derby rivals Corinthians. Good too for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Schalke and Manchester United who all qualified for the Champions League semi-finals but not so good for England manager Fabio Capello as he was criticised for suggesting that he only needed 100 words to communicate with his players. Nevermind Fabio, we at languagecaster offered him a list of the most important words and phrases in football.

April was el clásico time as Real Madrid and Barcelona met four times: the league decider, the Champions League semi-final and the final of the Copa del Rey. Madrid won the Cup thanks to a Ronaldo header and then dropped the Cup thanks to defender Sergio Ramos in the post-match celebrations but Barcelona had the better of the remaining matches. Their 1-1 league draw in Madrid virtually sealed the title for the Catalan side while they also beat their rivals in Europe to qualify for the Champions League final where they were due to play Manchester United at Wembley.

May-June

The European club seasons end in May which means that it is time for congratulations for the winners and commiserations for those less fortunate. In the Premier League Manchester United won their 19th title – a record – while their rivals Manchester City beat Stoke City in the FA Cup final, while it was an unfortunate end of season for West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham as they were all relegated. In Spain Barcelona won their third title in a row beating Madrid by four points to record their 21st title, while in Germany, Dortmund sealed the Bundesliga title with a 2-0 victory over Nurnburg with two games to spare and this was Dortmund’s seventh overall. In France Lille won their first league title since 1954, they then defeated PSG in the final of the French Cup to record their first double in over 60 years, while Ajax won the title in Holland. Italian giants AC Milan won their first title in seven years, their 18th overall, as they finally stopped their crosstown rivals, Inter’s run of five Scudetto titles.

Porto won a double in Portugal and topped off a tremendous first season for young manager André Villas-Boas by winning the Europa League final 1-0 in Dublin against fellow Portuguese side Braga. Manchester United and Barcelona met in the Champions League final at Wembley in May with the Catalan side comfortably beating the English champions 3-1 to win their second title in three years. Easily the best team of this generation.

Vocabulary

caused havoc: Caused lots of problems or trouble; chaos

raged on: continued in an angry fashion

were faring better : Performing / doing better

were worthy winners: They deserved to win

came to prominence: People started taking notice of him

really taking off: Doing very well, performing very well

was blighted by injuries: His career was badly affected by injuries

sealed an amazing comeback: Completed his comeback

haul: total

silverware: trophy; cup

ferocity: fierceness, the noun form of fierce

altercation: A fight

hosted: held a game or competition

commiserations : feelings of sympathy

sealed the title: Completed, won the title/league

topped off: completed

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