Soccer


How I Became A Green Bay Packers Fan 3

[Edit:] Note: my brother says the first game we saw might have been an earlier Packers/49ers game from 1996. He could be right because the only thing I remember for certain was that it was those two teams playing each other. [/Edit]

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many success stories regarding the teams that I follow. The Toronto Blue Jays last made the won the World Series (or made the playoffs) since before I moved here in 1995. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a championship in 44 years and haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years. The Toronto Raptors had minor success making the playoffs 3 years in a row from 1999-2001 and twice in 2007 and ’08 but have struggled mightily the rest of the decade. The Green Bay Packers have won the division four times in the past nine years and made the playoffs seven times this decade but have not reached the championship game since 1997 (when they did back-to-back years). The last time the Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl, I was only 10 years old at the time and still had not started following football.

There is a funny story that goes with me and how I got introduced to the game of “football”. I moved here from Pakistan in the winter of 1995 and was just getting to know the western sports when I started school here in the 3rd grade. I went up to a new friend of mine and asked him if he wanted to play ‘futbol’ which I had known and meant as soccer as it is known here. The kid looked at me like I had three ears or two noses and probably thought why is this skinny, tooth pick of a kid wanting to play football? After spending all of recess trying to convince him that I knew and had played ‘futbol’ before, I gave up for the day. I did come to know the sport as soccer but I had forgotten about what the kid thought I meant when I said “football” – until 3 years later. I still chuckle to this day thinking what might have happened if I had played American football that day.

However, It wasn’t until the playoffs of 1998 when the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a playoff win against the San Francisco 49ers that I watched my first ever American Football game with my brother. That game had NFL legends like Brett Favre, Reggie White, Steve Young and Jerry Rice – not a bad time to catch your first game. Even though they lost, that was the defining moment where I became a Green and Gold fan for life and my brother took the 49ers. Neither of us has waivered since.

We have had a tradition going back many years of gathering up a whole bunch of family members and watching the big game together. I’m not certain how well that will be this year since I am north of the border but I’m guessing there’s got to be some pack of Cheeseheads here that want to watch the game. On a related note, I had scheduled a trip to Boston last year which happened to fall on this upcoming Super Bowl weekend. Initially I had no problem with it because my plane would land in downtown Toronto just in time for a “normal” kickoff time because I had thought it would be around 8:30PM but apparently they go with a much earlier kickoff time of 6:30 which I only noticed a couple of days ago. I will be making a friendly call to the wonderful people of Porter Airlines later today and hopefully get that switched up with the one that will get me here in time for the game.

Boy, do I wish I was back home – just for that weekend. I have got to schedule a trip home for the Super Bowl weekend if I am still here next year.

One more game, Green Bay. One more.


2010-11 Stevens Athletics Calendar

For anyone interested in the Stevens Athletics’ calendar, I have created an unofficial once again this fall. The fall sports include Equestrian, Field Hockey, Men’s Golf, Men/Women Soccer, Men/Women Cross-Country, Women’s Tennis and Women’s Volleyball. As more schedules get released, I hope to keep updating this calendar so even if you add it now, you’ll get all the updated scheduled into your calendar automatically. If you are interested, I have embedded the calendar below and given the link if you would like to add it to your calendar as well. For those only interested in specific sports, I will also attach individual sport calendars and you can pick and choose.

Here is also the iCal and HTML link to the calendar:

If anyone needs instructions on how to import these calendars into your own, feel free to ask.

Here are the individual calendars by sport which are in .csv and are formatted to be simply imported into your calendar. I would recommend right clicking on each link to save the specific ones you want and then individually import them to your calendar. You can also just click the link to open up the calendar for viewing purposes.

Equestrian

Field Hockey

Men’s Golf

Men’s Soccer

Men’s Cross Country

Women’s Soccer

Women’s Tennis

Women’s Volleyball

Women’s Cross Country


2010 World Cup Predictions 3

In just under an hour, the 2010 Soccer World Cup will begin in South Africa and the timings for those games here in the US are awesome. Just start the games off early in the morning, they are done by mid-afternoon and that leaves your evenings free. Look through my Group Stage picks and let me know what you agree with, disagree with and put up your own picks.

Who do you have winning it all?

Group A (FIFA Ranking maybe a little dated)
South Africa (90)
Mexico (17)

Uruguay (18)
France (10)

There has yet to be a World Cup where the host country failed to reach at least the round of 16 but I think it might be safe to say that there will be a first time this year. South Africa will have a very hard time of advancing out of this group but the Bafana Bafana will have the home crowd support and that can provide for some exciting games (circa ’95 Rugby World Cup and ’96 African Cup).

France ended up getting a very favorable draw after the handball incident against Ireland late last year but their solid defense should overcome any offensive problems they might be having to start the tournament.

The second team to qualify should be the winner of the Uruguay/Mexico game and I think Uruguay, coming off of a win against Costa Rica to qualify for the WC should be able to handle Mexico and advance to the 2nd round.

Group B
Argentina (7)
Nigeria (20)
Korea Republic (47)

Greece (12)

I am not sure what to think of the Greek squad but after their 2004 win they were a huge disappointment by missing the 2006 World Cup entirely. The Greeks needed to win a playoff to get into the tournament and have plenty of talent to make a run in South Africa. Argentina is the most interesting team in the tournament. They have the players it to win it all but the antics of their coach could lead to their downfall.

Group C
England (8)
USA (14)

Algeria (31)
Slovenia (23)

As much as the England/USA game as been hyped up on this side of the Atlantic, I don’t think it is that big of a deal for the British. They fully expect to come into that game and defeat the Americans and I don’t think the game will be close. I have a feeling that the American squad can be distracted by the very first game they play in the tournament and let that get in their way of advancing far in the tournament. Not a lot stands in their way of qualifying from the Group Stages however.

Group D
Germany (6)
Australia (20)
Serbia (16)
Ghana (32)

The Germans coming off a third place finish in the 2006 WC will probably be lucky to get that far again this tournament. Ballack once again leads a team of talented players and they should advance easily but will not reach the Finals once again. The Aussies had a good run last time around as well and should provide to be a tough opponent for whoever they face.

Group E
Netherlands (4)
Denmark (35)
Japan (45)
Cameroon (19)

A lot of people seem to be down on the Dutch and giving them a tough pass in this group. As tough as the other three may be, it should be THAT difficult for Netherlands to advance. As for the second team, I am ready to take any of the three. This should be the most closely decided group of games of the Opening Round and I see Denmark advancing.

Group F
Italy (5)
Paraguay (30)

New Zealand (78)
Slovakia (38)

Italy probably got the most favorable draw possible for a rather weak and old team entering this World Cup. They should have no troubles advancing I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the second team to qualify from this group ends up advancing further than the Italians.

Group G
Brazil (1)
North Korea (106)
Ivory Coast (27)

Portugal (3)

No surprises here with Brazil and Portugal but it would have been rather awesome to see the Ivory Coast compete with a healthy Drogba. Either way, the game between the #1 and #3 rank to decide the top seed in the group should provide plenty of early excitement.

It’s quite the awful draw for North Korea in Group G as they have absolutely no shot of winning any games here and should easily be handled in all three games. Tough schedule for a team making it into the tournament for the first time since 1966.

Group H
Spain (2)
Switzerland (26)
Honduras (40)
Chile (15)

I don’t pick too many upsets coming out of the group stage and I had the Swiss bypassing Chile but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They have a rather energetic and young lineup that has the potential to make a run if they get into the second round.

The host country has never failed to reach the round of 16, but there is a first time for everything. South Africa will have a very hard time of advancing out of this group. The one bright spot is the Bafana Bafana will have the home crowd support.

The Two Headed Think Tank

I definitely put off recommending blogs in the segment “ABG Recommends” much longer than I would have liked but as this week’s snowpocalypse allowed me to get some work done, I’ll recommend one now. This one is called “The Two-Headed Think Tank” and its co-written by Niko Gkionis and Matt Friesen who were both teammates in Belgium for a little while.

Niko Gkionis is a professional soccer player who currently plies his trade in the Belgium 3rd division for Excelsior Veldwezelt. Born and raised in New Jersey, Niko probably likes MTV reality television shows just as much as I despise them but we can both agree to like sports of all kinds. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Biology from Stevens Institute of Technology. I saw Niko play for two years when I first came to Stevens and he’s still probably one of the best players I have seen play in D-III all these years later.

Matt Friesen spends his days in the rain of the NW playing soccer for the Kitsap Pumas, members of the NW division of the USL’s PDL. He’s pretty much been a West Coast boy his entire life as he was born in California, raised in Oregon and attended Whitworth University (in Spokane, Washington) graduating with a degree in Computer Science.

At first I wasn’t sure how this blog was going to work out since one of the two guys takes a relative topic in the sports or entertainment world and puts up their view and the other is left to reply in the following post. It is quite a novel idea and I haven’t seen too many other blogs like it that post a reply to one of their own posts.

According to Niko,”the blog touches on a lot of the major sports news since that is what we mostly talk about. Soccer is a big subject on the blog of course and we have some nice debates back and forth since Matt and I sometimes have differing views on soccer.” They have touched on topics from American soccer to Tiger Woods to even a mention of the television show “Jersey Shore”.

It has been quite refreshing to see a different style of narrative on a blog with rebuttals and sometimes contrasting styles instead of the usual boring single-person blog (myself included) and if you’re looking for that type of perspective from two guys who are in their early-to-mid 20’s, this is the blog for you. The blog is still relatively new as they started in January of this year but they have been pretty good in updates with about 10 topics with a rebuttal for each to keep things fresh.

So if you are looking for some healthy banter, make sure to give them a visit. I have links to the blog at the top and bottom of the post along with their Twitter handles if you so desire.

Essential Links:

Blog URL: Two Headed Think Tank

Twitter: Niko Gkionis, Matt Friesen

Niko Gkionis is a professional soccer player who currently plies his trade in the Belgium 3rd division for Excelsior Veldwezelt. Born and raised in New Jersey, Niko has a strong affinity for MTV reality television shows and sports of all kinds. He is a educated man as well who received a degree in Chemical Biology from Stevens Institute of Technology. http://twitter.com/ngkionis

Matt Friesen spends his days in the rain of the NW playing soccer for the Kitsap Pumas, members of the NW division of the USL’s PDL. Been West Coastin’ his whole life, born in California and raised in Oregon. Matt attended Whitworth University and holds a degree in

Computer Science. He enjoys reality television, GOOD music, and sports, just sit back and listen to what he has to say.


Breaking Down Gender Barriers 1

It’s not every day you get to hear about a high school girl captaining a varsity boy’s soccer team and being successful at it.

Meet Aditi Vyas. A senior who goes to the Middlesex County Academy in Edison, New Jersey which is a school only 10 years into existence and one that only accepts 40 kids each year from the entire county based upon an entrance exam which usually yields only a 20% acceptance rate.

As a senior this year, she co-captained the squad to a 9-9-1 record but an outstanding 7-2-1 in division mark where they fell one pathetically refereed game short of winning at least a share of the Gold Division. I had a couple of opportunities to coach her both during her regular school season and in two indoor seasons where she has been nothing short for a great leader for her squad which at times were quite inexperienced. There was never a doubt in my mind she would be able to overcome some of the verbal/physical abuse you take in the GMC (or in any competitive environment) as a female going up against male opponents.

When the Academy soccer program back in 2004, the initial squad featured two girls with the Scala sisters who certainly took more than their fair share of abuse on the playing field but if you were to ask anybody from the program over the years, they wouldn’t replace either one of them and I am certain that has been the case for all the girls that have passed through the program since from Danielle and Lauren Scala to Allison Mazur to Aditi Vyas and will be the case for those to follow.

Coming from a school with approximately 150 students, it didn’t matter where you were from, it didn’t matter if you were a freshman or senior and it most certainly didn’t matter what your gender was. Having a great leader and coach who stood up for the team and instilled these beliefs, made the task to be just another day on the soccer field. It is good to see the school get some more recognition which has finished at or near the top of its division despite carrying a co-ed roster from year 1 going 55-54-2 since 2004 and 45-23-2 in division.

For a look at the entire piece that was featured, click here: The Home News Tribune: Locker Room.