Making a Guaranteed Sure Bet Profit From Soccer

If we want to find guaranteed profitable sports bets then soccer is a great sports to start with.

Soccer matches are priced up by all the big bookmakers and some nice guaranteed profitable bets are available if you know when and where to look. Sports bookmakers never miss a trick when thinking up new ways to extract your money from you and there are many inventive bets on offer.

Soccer can in many ways be about timing. The earlier the price appears the more likely there will be a sure-bet or arbitrage opportunity (arb).

Bookmakers clearly do a lot of research as soccer has now become a big earner for them. They need to do this as they are only too aware that the serious punters are becoming much shrewder in this market and will exploit any snippets of news that could give them an edge. They advertise heavily in the tabloids.

Whereas in some minor sports there may be only one odds compiler working for the bookmaker soccer is too lucrative for this any many odds compilers will work feverishly setting prices for the big bookmakers. Any European bookmaker worth its salt will offer odds on soccer, its a high revenue turnover sport.

Such is their turnover on the ever increasing soccer betting market that Ladbrokes and other such big bookmakers are willing to take a ‘big’ bet on the outcome of a match. This is clearly great news for the arb maker. This means that the maximum bets they will accept on a bet are a lot higher.

There are many types of soccer bets. Firstly there is the match winner. This is split into 3 results, win, lose or draw. Then there are the first goal scorer and the precise match score. The less obvious bets are half-time, full-time results, total corners, total throw-ins, total numbers of yellow and red cards and so on. In fact anything where odds can be set to will offer a betting opportunity.

So which are the best soccer bets to look for? Firstly forget about predicting the match score, there are too many outcomes. The first goal scorer is a waste of time too. Both these types of bets are heavily advertised but are for mug punters only, the odds consistently being offered are poor, the bookmakers regularly taking over 15% profit on the book. These bets have far too many possible outcomes. We are looking for bets with ideally 2 or 3 possible outcomes.

Other types of bet can throw up the odd arb but the main source of arbs is on the match result over 90 minutes. This is where we should concentrate most of our efforts. Clearly this falls into 3 results, win, lose or draw.

Here is an example:

Team A versus Team B.

Team A Draw Team B

Bet365 3/1

SpotingOdds 9/4

Victor Chandler 11/10

The way to play the soccer market is to open accounts with European bookmakers as the difference in opinion between UK and European bookmakers is a good source of sure bets. They both have strong opinions on this sport. They will price up the sport in their own country and the matches in foreign countries. Anything to make a profit.

Italy, for example is even more soccer crazy than the UK, with newspapers dedicated to the sport. Everyone thinks they know best on this subject and egos get in the way of sensible pricing. This is great news for us. The European bookmakers can be opinionated and where as they may well have greater detailed knowledge of the comings and goings in their own countries they are relying on third parties to collate information on their foreign counterparts.

One good starting point is in midweek games between teams of different nationalities. There is a tendency in punters to get patriotic when it comes to events where the opposition are ‘foreign’. The chances of the home team get talked up and the odds could get skewed in their favour as the weight of money is overly wagered in their direction.

Having said that the big bookmakers offer an early price, they will often advertise it in the national papers and by and large stick to it. This means that a bench mark has been set and subsequent bookmakers may take a different opinion or try to tempt money in their direction by offering different odds. If this were to happen the arb may be available for a considerable amount of time.

There are always discrepancies in odds but clearly bookmakers tend to stick around the same price. They figure there is safety in numbers. But remember they are ‘guessing’ what the odds should be just like you and me. They are basing their opinion on past experience and they might utilise statistical formulae but they still need to form an opinion on the likely outcome.

They can get it wrong and other firms can take a totally different view of the outcome of a game. A totally different view will only result in a slight variation in the odds but this can be enough to offer a sure bet profit.

Another approach is to start with the more obscure games in eg. the Spanish, Italian or Norweigen lower divisions. They can have quite lucrative discrepancies. They will be covered by a number of different bookmakers all over Europe. This does however add a complication. Although quite easy for finding arbs, the mere fact that you concentrate on these obscure matches will throw up the possibility that you are going to get spotted by the bookmakers if you concentrate your action here.

Also they are going to be reluctant to accept high maximum bets on matches where they have done little research. On the other hand it is a training ground for arb spotting and may gain you valuable experience. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of this strategy.

This is a fairly obscure area of betting and if someone was to check your account over a number of months and found solely these obscure foreign matches on your account it could ring alarm bells. The motto here is to dilute the bets by betting on as many different type of sport and events as possible so that your accounts have varied bets on them. This shouldn’t be a problem as many different sports are great for sure bets.

The more prominent European ties will also produce arbs and they are less likely to attract attention to you and the maximum bets will be higher.

As before you cannot control whether the individual bets win or lose but soccer is a 3 way result and so 2 losing bets to one winning one can be useful on your account. The point here is that not many people are interested in the lower European divisions and it may become clear that the betting pattern is a little unusual. This is especially true if your bets towards the maximum permitted.

Injury news can be a lucrative area in soccer. Think about it. If a player fails a late fitness test on a Saturday and he is the teams star striker then this will greatly affect their chances. Recently Alan Shearer turned up to play a premiership game for Newcastle but was declared unfit to play at the last minute. Newcastle were soundly beaten. I am not saying this wouldn’t have happened, I don’t know. But the odds on the game clearly changed the minute this news broke.

Some bookmakers were alert to this and altered prices as the money poured in for the opposition. Some were slow to react or would not have reacted at all. Either way arbs were available. This type of last minute frantic activity is particularly keen on the betting exchanges like Betfair where you can act as the punter or the bookmaker (lay bets).

You can find injury news through one of the many soccer web sites. Alternatively satellite television channels always have comprehensive news coverage of all the games and are quick to offer any ‘off the press’ news. Slowly the bookmakers’ prices will all change, but not all at the same time, only one by one so creating sure bets.

In this scenario where prices are changing bet on the old price first. The new price is the one that wont change the old price is the one that is about to and so may be lost if you are not quick.

To re-emphasise, arb hunting can be all about timing. When the odds are first produced or have reason to change then the arbs are much more likely to appear.

Recently the English referees have become more lenient in the issuing of yellow cards. This had an effect on the prices for the total number of bookings in a game. Some of the bookmakers adjusted their prices accordingly and others did not. This will affect the bet ranges applied for total bookings.

Let’s look at the red and yellow card market. If you didn’t know the yellow and red cards bet is calculated as 10 points for a yellow card and 25 points for a red. A player can get a maximum of 35 points in a match (10 + 25).

The betting here is normally split into 3 ranges. Under 11 points at say odds of 100/30, 11 to 30 points, at 6/4 and over 30 points, the most likely outcome, at about 11/10. This doesn’t vary much unless there is a history of animosity between the teams in which case the odds are adjusted accordingly.

Here is an example:

Team A versus Team B – Total points for red and yellow cards during the match.

Less than 11 points 11 to 30 points Over 30 points

Ladbrokes 100/30

William Hill 6/4

Victor Chandler 11/10

Usually this type of bet will not figure strongly in your plans. Also it is unusual to find information being issued that will affect the total bookings bet. But a simple piece of news like the policy for issuing cards has just changed can affect prices and lead to one or more arb. The conclusion is not to expect too much sure betting activity from the issuing of red and yellow cards but it simple enough to check the odds.

Soccer and the English football league is the basis of a lot of arb opportunities. A Saturday morning is a very hectic time in the soccer season and if you only allocate 3 hours on each Saturday morning, up to half a dozen arbs could appear every week. Equally spending the same time researching prices when they are first issued earlier in the week can equally be rewarding. Have a game plan and concentrate on how you are going to organise your trading activity.

The obscure British matches are more likely to offer an arb than one of the premiership games. This is because there is less information available on team selection and injuries. Bookmakers will spend a lot of time gathering information on the likely result of the premiership games because they are high profile but are less likely to research the more minor games. They tend to try the ‘safety in numbers’ approach and all give a similar price for the games where they have little or no current information on the outcome.

This can lead to some more informed bookmakers, who have a stronger opinion, seeking out the money by offering differing prices. This inevitably leads to arbs appearing. Injury news is clearly a news event that will change a team’s chances, so keep informed of the injury news by looking at one of the many soccer websites that are running.

As mentioned previously foreign games produce arbs on a regular basis. Whether it’s the fundamental difference of opinion between the British and continental bookmakers or just the fact that the foreign ones are going to be better informed about their own matches matters not. Variations in prices occur regularly.

Here are some recent UEFA cup examples:

Celtic versus FK Teplice (Note the odds are in the decimal format).

Celtic Win(1) Draw(X) FK Teplice Lose(2)

Sportwetten 1.45

Canbet 5.50

Canbet 13.00

Here are the odds translated to percentages:

Celtic Win(1) Draw(X) FK Teplice Lose(2)

Sportwetten 68.97

Canbet 18.18

Canbet 7.69

This resulted in an arb of about 5%. If our total stake was £1,000 we would have bet about £690 on Celtic, £182 on the draw and £77 on FK Teplice.

The interesting thing here was that Canbet make up two sides of this arb. Their thoughts were that Celtic were overwhelming favourites to win this tie and priced the match accordingly. Sportwetten, along with other bookmakers, had the Celtic win at 1.45, favourites yes, but not as much as Canbet had thought. Maybe Canbet were trying to attract a lot of money. They were certainly offering what appeared to be generous prices on FK Treplice.

Another example: Benfica versus Rosenborg:

Benfica Win(1) Draw(X) Benfica Lose(2)

Canbet 1.95

SportOdds 3.50

SportOdds 5.50

Here are the odds translated to percentages:

Benfica Win(1) Draw(X) Benfica Lose(2)

Canbet 51.28

SportOdds 28.57

SportOdds 18.18

This resulted in an arb of 2.0%. If our total stake was £1,000 we would have bet about £513 on Benfica, £288 on the draw and £182 on Rosenborg.

Not as lucrative as the previous arb but again one bookmaker, SportOdds, making all the running in terms of two generous prices and Canbet being the make weight in the bet.

These days, the major clubs have big squads and participate in at least three different competitions. Tactical switches of personnel are more common and unpredictable than injury news which is normally known a day or two in advance of a match and will focus on only one player. Be wary of personnel changes, weaker teams being fielded to save the best players for the big games.

As always, the rule is the earlier you can get a price, hopefully by phoning up before the prices are on-line, the more likely a price differential will appear. Also the period before a match results in frantic trading and can lead to price movements. With so many bookmakers offering prices they will not all move as one.

There are so many bookmakers catering for soccer that you are spoilt for choice. Terrestrial and satellite TV. This is fast becoming the best place to pick up to the minute news on injuries and team selections. Satellite TV stations literally show wall to wall coverage of soccer on Saturdays and this can be invaluable when looking for sure bets.

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5 Christmas Gifts For A Football Fan

Gift Number 1 – Football Shirt

One of the best gifts you can get a football supporter is the latest strip of the club that they support so for example if the support Arsenal then you would want to either buy the an Arsenal shirt or go all the way and buy them the full Arsenal kit. This is probably the number one gift you could get them and the fact is there are many good deals online for official football strips.

Gift Number 2 – Football Match Ticket or Season Tickets

Depending on your budget you could either get someone a football match ticket for the team that they support or you could also look at getting them a season ticket for the team they support. This would be very expensive so you would have to have quite a high gift budget to be able to get them a season ticket. So if they support Arsenal then you would buy them an Arsenal match ticket or an Arsenal season ticket.

Gift Number 3 – Football Merchandise

There are great little gifts that you can buy which are ideal for stocking fillers such as branded cups, mugs, scarf's, hats and stationary which again you would want to buy them for the football team they support.

Gift Number 4 – Car Accessories

For many people in the UK the two biggest passions they might have are cars and football and so combining them together is always a good Christmas gift idea. There are many car accessories for football fans such as car mats, window covers, seat covers and many more. A lot of fans like to deck their cars out in their football teams colors on the day of an important match to show their support.

Gift Number 5 – Football Documentaries and DVD's

This is a nice gift for a stocking filler as DVD's and documentaries are normally very well priced especially if you can find some good deals online. There are many good DVD's released each year on many of the big teams such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United etc so these are always a good buy if they support them. Alternatively you can get them a more generic gift such as the best goals DVD for 2009 or any football related DVD.

As you can see there are many good options to buy football fans gifts related to football. The one thing you need to make sure is that you buy them the gift for the right football team as they will not be happy if you get them a football shirt for the wrong team.

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The "Aggressive Forgiveness" of Grace

What an amazing term it is: grace. Nothing bad, The Message tells us, has any power over it. Even though it appears illogical, «grace… invites us into life.»[1] With this sort of power, and the knowledge of it, it’s only a fool who would pass it up – yet, we often don’t trust its power; we have to experience it first-hand. It’s a «what comes first: the chicken or the egg?» situation. We can’t experience grace until we take a risk with our heart and try it or see someone else give it to us; giving grace in essence is giving someone a chance they don’t deserve. Many people never actually experience this grace in a personally meaningful way, although one could argue that life itself (i.e. the provision of life) is an act of grace.

The supreme example of grace was the Passion of Christ. The power of this salvific act was, is, and will always be, undeniable and irrefutable, as millions upon millions of human beings are given the ‘second chance’ at new life, and we might say, real life. It transformed the meaning to life by making life with God a possibility.

Perhaps one of the better popular songs, When Love Comes to Town, describes best the effects of grace on a life; this ministry of the second chance. The lyrics below summarise what so many have experienced through the loving power and grace of God:

Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down,

But I did what I did before love came to town.

What is actually a gospel song sung by U2 and B.B. King soared through the charts through the world. These lyrics above describe what so many did before coming to know God. Lives punctuated by sin, both covert and overt. These lives were most often useless for anything other than self-gratification, disorder, misery, and the antithesis of real hope, as well as contradiction and hypocrisy. Only rarely did glimpses of the light of grace emanate from within this person. Then a miraculous thing happens. Love comes to the ‘town of the heart’ of that person. Grace is ‘love coming to the town’ of our hearts. It is knowing and accepting our true selves in the light of life. This love came to us; we did not go to it. The love of God that is grace seeks and finds us, and it truly finds us when we turn and look, and then it is there – and it is there to be seen! We are the ones who have to ‘see’ it.

Here are some more lyrics from the above song that feature the theme of this ‘aggressive forgiveness’ we know as grace:

I was there when they crucified my Lord,

I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword,

I threw the dice when they pierced his side,

But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.

Theologically, these are correct statements. In essence, we killed Jesus and he, the resurrected Lord, still forgives us; further, that is precisely why he did it; so we could have a way of being set right with God, and also to facilitate the process to «make us fit for him [i.e. the Father].»[2] It is grace that made the way possible; the undeserved favour of God. It is so we could be saved from our sinful selves.

The Greek word charis means grace. It can mean all manner of things connected with the theme of grace including: matter of approval, benefit, a charitable act, free favour, gracious provision, or simply, grace. The Bible is littered with this term as a response to the fall of humankind in the days of Adam and Eve and the serpent. Even at that point grace was evident. Grace has been and always is evident.[3] People who are grace-filled have charisma, another Greek word for someone with charm, allure, and who is persuasive; a natural and at times divine leader.

Grace is anything that we do that we illogically forgive for. If someone harms us, slanders us or gossips about us, or doesn’t consider us, we normally have the right to defend ourselves and exact revenge – not with grace; we leave any of that justice to God, and he sorts them out, eventually! It simply doesn’t matter to the person who has grace. Grace is finding love in the heart to cover all wrongs; it may lack sense to you but until you try it you won’t know true life. To forgive someone a transgression is also about forgiving yourself, as you release all the pent-up anger in a most beautiful and safe (and graceful) way.

Grace collides with freedom. It challenges incredibly all captivity. It’s fighting courageously for the ethical right. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s «I have a dream» speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 oozed grace for both his, and inevitably all, people:

«Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring-when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children-black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics-will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: «Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!»

Grace is freedom for everyone. It is knowing that wrongly holding something from anyone is a bondage to one’s self too. That’s the power and allure of grace.

Sadly, Rev. Dr. King was shot dead not quite five years later, and this is depicted in another U2 song, Pride (In the Name of Love). The lyrics of the song underscore one man’s pride for his people, and for love to win the day, through the justice and righteousness of God; of action. «Early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky, Free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride.» Indeed, King’s ‘pride’ lives on! Now, that is descriptive of the provision and justice of grace. As powerful as grace is for the good, it also ushers in the presence of God for justice to pervade situations and groups and individuals. In this way grace is theologically both prevenient and irresistible. It is irrepressible.

Grace is about relationship: between God and humankind. It’s knowing the joy of life. The experience of grace for Jews in Old Testament times brought about joy. Grace is not a New Testament, purely Christian concept though Christ sought to ‘finalise’ the deal by fulfilling the law and the prophets. «The ancient Israelite looked on the law not as a burden, but as a gift of grace, a delight, precisely because of the warm and personal relationship with the LORD that it enabled and expressed.»[4] The law was always a provision of grace. Covenant (the relationship) always came before the law.

In yet another U2 song, One, what sounds like a ballad is actually a painful song of the opposite of grace within the relationship between lead singer Bono and his father. Here are some of the lyrics that allude to this sentiment:

Did I ask too much?

More than a lot.

You gave me nothing,

Now it’s all I got,

We’re one,

But we’re not the same

See we,

Hurt each other,

Then we do it again

You say

Love is a temple,

Love a higher law,

Love is a temple,

Love is a higher law,

You ask me to enter,

But then you make me crawl,

And I can’t keep holding on,

To what you got,

When all you’ve got is hurt.

The italicised portions of the lyrics above highlight the awkwardness seen in relationships lacking grace; for instance, where father will lord it over the child. It acknowledges that genetically for Bono and his father, ‘we’re one’ and at the same time ‘we’re not the same,’ because of this grace that is somehow missing. It highlights the hypocrisy and incongruence of the father preaching ‘love is a temple and higher law,’ and yet the same father who makes his son crawl. We see in the antithesis of grace an absence of beauty, favour and ‘way.’ It is clumsy and inelegant.

The father who experiences no grace can issue only hurt to the life of the son or daughter whom desperately needs the father’s love. I used to know such a man; one who tried so hard to say the right things and do the right things, yet invariably when push came to shove wasn’t able to consistently offer grace. This can be for a range of reasons. For the individual who hasn’t got grace it is frustrating; it’s inexplicable. Something just isn’t right. One thing is for sure, the person who misses out on grace misses the mark in life, and so do those who rely on this person. There we have the recipe for generational cursing.

Grace comes to us. We recognise it and respond. It is beauty and favour. If we respond the right way its beauty and favour become part of us and the way we operate and behave. Then we have ‘charisma.’ This is a spiritual word. Only when we ‘move in time’ with God can we have this charisma, which is an aggressive form of forgiveness. It’s a miraculous gift of God to have this insight and requisite character quality.

© Copyright 2008, Steven John Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

REFERENCES:

[1] Romans 5:21 (The Message).

[2] See Romans 5:1-2 (Message).

[3] Even during events like the 6th Century BCE Exile of the Israelites and the great flood (Noah’s Ark) grace was evident.

[4] Christopher J.H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, A fully revised, updated and integrated edition of Living as the People of God and Walking in the Ways of the Lord (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 317.

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AC Milan’s Dutch Trinity: Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard Showing Unique Soccer Skills

AC Milan, the reigning champion, won the Italian league 18 times now. A remarkable period in their rich history was highlighted by Dutch influence. The Dutch stars Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten played a major part in the club’s successes in the late 80’s and first half of the 90’s. National and international titles found their way to Milan and to this day Milan fans and (former) players still express their gratitude.

Gullit and Van Basten joined the club in 1987, Rijkaard one year later. At first, it was Gullit who had the biggest influence. Charismatic Dutch captain Ruud Gullit’s first season at Milan saw the club win the «Scudetto» for the first time in 9 years. To sign Gullit, AC Milan paid the world record transfer fee (at that time) to PSV Eindhoven. But they earned that back in no time.

Marco van Basten played for Ajax in Amsterdam before moving to AC Milan. In Holland, he became the top scorer in the league for four seasons from 1983 to 1987, scoring 117 goals in 112 matches. In 1987, he also scored the only goal in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final. That was the last European trophy Ajax was missing. So it was a great «going-away» present to the club, as a new adventure awaited in Italy.

Like Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard took his first professional steps on the pitch playing for Ajax. He lived in the same part of Amsterdam as Ruud Gullit during their teenage-years. After becoming Europe’s best with Holland in 1988, he completed AC Milan’s Dutch Trinity. In the end each played a significant role in the career of the other.

AC Milan was almost invincible and played a revolutionary type of soccer, demonstrating skills hardly ever seen before in the Serie A. This was part of the owner’s Master plan. In 1986 entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi acquired the club and saved it from bankruptcy. Berlusconi got manager Arrigo Sacchi to lead the team to success. He was followed up by Fabio Capello, England’s current manager. The «Rossoneri» signed the Dutch trio, where they already had players like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Carlo Ancelotti. This was the start of arguably the most successful era in the history of AC Milan.

During the time of the Dutch trinity (1987-1994) they managed to win four domestic titles, reach the final of the Coppa Italia in 1990 and won four Supercoppa Italiana. They were also a force to be reckoned with in Europe. They won three Champions League trophies, three UEFA Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. In all of this the Dutch players effectively used their super soccer skills. AC Milan won the 1989 Champions League final with 4-0 against Steaua Bucuresti. Gullit and Van Basten both scored 2 goals and Van Basten become top scorer with 10 goals in total. The year after it was Frank Rijkaard’s turn. In the final against Benfica he scored the only goal, Van Basten provided the assist.

Along with Boca Juniors, Milan won more FIFA recognized international club titles than any other club in the world. There is no denying the Dutch trinity played their part.

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The Greatest Of All Football Matches Played Ever – The Death Match

Those die-hard football enthusiasts who eagerly watch all the live coverage of UEFA Champions League matches, often by spending sleepless nights, are aware of a Ukrainian football team Dynamo Kiev, which hails from Kiev, the capital city of the country. But only a few of them know about the striking history of the club and what happened to the players after they won a match convincingly against German Army Football Team when Nazis invaded the country during the Second World War.

Those Early days of Dynamo Kiev (Before Nazi Invasion)

This Kiev based club was founded in the year 1927 as an amateur team as a part of Dinamo, a nation wide Soviet Sports Society and later it became officially funded and sponsored by NKVD which was a Soviet Secret Agency. During the 1930's, Ukraine suffered terribly under the leadership of Stalin as he always feared a possibility of Ukrainian breakaway from the Soviet Union Empire. So, a special attention was given to suppress any possible nationalist movement which made the lives of thousands and thousands of inhabitants of Ukraine miserable. Each and every city was taken over by Soviet Secret Police and they used to look at every movement made by any citizen from a suspicious point of view. Innocent citizens were arrested, deported and often shot dead by them for committing mistakes which were as simple as arriving late at work or talking to the foreigners or for quarreling with neighbors etc. Even Ukrainian Government Officials and Police men were not spared from this hellish act. Moreover, Stalin's repressive Farming policy shattered the Ukrainian economy and led to a great famine for which 14 million Ukrainians lost their lives. So an atmosphere of fear, hatred and terror loomed large during those days and there was no ray of hope for the Ukrainians.

Football was like a breeze of fresh air in those days of uncertainties and insecurities. At that time, Football was very much popular a sporting activity in all over Soviet Union and it was easy for a citizen to book a football match ticket and to be engrossed with all the thrills and happenings of the match and to enjoy it's every possible moment . For them, it was like a temporary relief from a very tense situation, from the constant fear of deportation or execution. Then, the most popular clubs of Soviet Union were Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Moscow, two clubs from Moscow and in the field of Football, Ukrainians had something to cheer about – the achievements of Dynamo Kiev. Those fiercely contested matches played between Dynamo Kiev and those two clubs from Moscow were followed by a huge number of supporters and often they defeated the Moscow Clubs to win the Soviet Championship and also to break the Moscow Dominance in the football field. The matches played by Dynamo Kiev were not just mere games but they also involved National Pride. This club is often regarded as unofficial Ukrainian National Team by the Ukrainian Government and the team was funded by the Government. It participated in the first "Soviet Championship" played in 1936 and became second after fighting hard with all the tough opponents. In 1937 and 1938, they finished the championship in 3rd and 4th place respectively and in their 1938 they scored a record 76 goals which is quite an achievement considering the hardship they suffered and tough situation they endured. However they did not perform to their potential in the next two seasons (1939, 1940) and in the next season (1941) they were playing well as a unit till the 4th game but after that Nazi army invaded the whole Soviet Union on 22nd June , 1941.

Dynamo Kiev during Nazi Invasion

When the Soviet Union's Red Army lost in the battle with the Nazi's then some of the Dynamo Kiev players registered themselves in the army and were sent to the battlefield to fight for the country and rescue their land from foreign invasion. After 3 months of horrible bloodshed finally Nazis gained the full control over the city of Kiev. Those Dynamo players who were in the army were captured as "Prisoner of War" and sent to the Prison Camps. The Prison Camps were short of food and water and all the prisoners were forced to live in a very short enclosure earmarked by barbed wire fencing. After Kiev fell to the Germans, it witnessed a horrible scenario of devastation, death and destruction over a period of 1 year (which included the murder of 33,771 Jewish men, women and children in just 2 days, 29th and 30th September and by the end of 1941 over 100000 Ukrainians died either shot by the Nazi army or died of starvation). But some of Dynamo Kiev players were fortunate to be released from the prison camps and then they came back to the Kiev city in search of a job. From there onwards, Dynamo's story again started with a positive note.

Bakery Number 3

Iosif Kordik, a die-hard fan of Dynamo Kiev, was the manager of the huge Bakery Number 3, in Kiev when Nikolai Trusevich, the tall goalkeeper of the team came back to the city looking for a job and offered him a sweeper 's job in the shop. Those days those who were released from prison camps were not given any work permit to work or to live in an apartment. So indeed offering any job to Nikolai was an illegal activity but Iosif, the manager had something else in his mind. This enthusiastic soccer-fan dreamt of constructing a strong Bakery Football Team and gave the responsibility of finding quality football players and his former teammates to Nikolai. The ever enthusiastic goalie, began his search for former teammates by walking through the lanes of Kiev and then slowly one by one, he was able to find nine of his former Dynamo Kiev teammates (they were Nikolai Korotkykh, Mikhail Svyridovskiy, Mykola Korotkykh, Oleksiy Kilimenko, Fedir Tyutchev, Mikhail Putistin, Ivan Kuzmenko, Makar Goncharenko, Makar Honcharenko) and also some of the players of Lokomotiv Kiev (Vladimir Balakin, Vasil Sukharev and Mikhail Melnyk). So in the next few weeks, in those days of insecurity, all the contacted players slowly moved to the Bakery Number 3 where they got much needed food, shelter as well as job. From then onwards, all those players working in the bakery, some of whom were suffering from malnutrition, started to train though they were tired of 24 hour shift and started to believe that they have the potential to be a powerful team. The tall and skillful goalie Nikolai gave their brave unit a name "Football Club Start (FC Start)" as participation in football and getting job, shelter in the Bakery Number 3 gave them a new life which was previously guided mainly by terror, fear and confusion.

The Journey of FC Start

They first played a match in the local league run by Georgi Shvetsov, a former footballer and sports instructor and Start's first opponents were Rukh, Shvetsov's own team. They convincingly won that particular match by a margin of 7-2 though they haven't got a proper shoes as well as football jerseys. Shvetsov became very much embarrassed and went to the German authority and asked them to ban FC Start from training at Rukh's Stadium. Without the training facilities, they still won all the matches by huge margins.

They beat the Hungarian Garrison by 6-2 on 21st June 1942, Romanian Garrison by a huge margin of 11-0 on 5th July. This winning sequence boosted the morale of all the Ukrainians, who were morally low and dejected for all what happened to them. They used to turn up at large numbers to see their favorite team mercilessly crushing the other teams coming from the regiments of ruling power.

Their winning streak continued as they again won by a margin of 9-1 Military railroad workers team on 12th July and on 17th July, they also defeated PSG (a German unit) by 6-0. But slowly the German authorities were becoming annoyed to hear about the supremacy of Ukrainians in the soccer fields. They could also see the enthusiasm generated by the football team among the common mass and they sensed that this enthusiasm could pose a great threat to the foundation of German supremacy. This enthusiasm can also start a sudden freedom movement. On 19th July FC Start won against MSG.Wal, a Hungarian team by the margin 5-1 and they again won the rematch on 21st July by a narrow margin of 3-2. To prevent the joyous journey of FC Start in the football field, the German Authorities fielded a team named as Flakelf in the same league and the players of that team were physically far more superior to any players from any other team. When FC Start was playing their last match against MSG Wal, the Flakelf team was playing against Rukh (against which team FC Start started their incredible journey) and Flakelf almost demolished Rukh and there were rumors that Flakelf team had not lost any matches before.

So on 6th August, 1942 FC Start met Flakelf in the football field and to the astonishment of the German Authorities, FC Start won the match convincingly by a huge margin of 5-1. Now the German Authorities took this matter seriously and they announced a rematch of the same two teams on Sunday, 9th August at Zenith Stadium. The posters were put up in the walls to announce the rematch between the same two rivals.

Finally: – the Game of Death

On 9th August, Sunday spectators gathered at large number at the Zenith Stadium to watch the match between the resurgent FC Start and the yet undefeated Flakelf football team. The atmosphere was very much tense and it took a very much effort for the Ukrainian and German Police to control the huge crowd. Just before the match started, the referee of the match, a SS officer came to FC Start's dressing room and told them to greet their German team in their fashion by giving a salute and saying "Heil Hitler". The FC Start footballers already sensed that the referring in the match would be biased against them. After the referee left the dressing room, there was a state of pandemonium. They clearly understood that the authorities had planned in such a manner that if somehow they managed to win the match, they will face dire consequences. Some of them thought of giving away the match and some of the players suggested to play a clear game. One Romanian delegate also came to the dressing room and congratulated them for their successful journey in the league and wished them Good Luck. After that, all the players unanimously decided to go out to the field and play football.

Just minutes before the kick-off the strong and stout Flakelf team lined up in the half-line and gave a Nazi Salute "Heil Hitler". Then it was the turn of the Start players and they decided not to give a Nazi Salute and instead of that, brought their arms back to the chest and shouted a Soviet slogan 'FizcultHura!' which means "Physical Culture Hooray!". This chant got a very wild response from all corners of the stadium which infuriated the German Authorities to a larger extent.

Just as it was thought, the referee totally ignored any foul committed by the Flakelf team and they targeted Start goalie Nikolai to attack physically. After sustaining blow after blow, suddenly a Flakelf forward hit Nikolai in the head leaving him almost unconsciousness. While he was recovering from the injury, Flakelf went 1-0 up. The Flakelf team was pulling the jerseys, tackling dangerously and also while tackling they were going for the players instead of ball but still those tackles could not draw any kind attention from the referee. Despite these facts, FC Start scored a wonderful equalizer from a free kick by the winger, Kuzmenko. This goal got a huge cheer from the large congregation of people who previously were hurling abuses for the Flakelf team for their ugly play. A few minutes, after the equalizer Goncharenko, another Start forward, dribbling through the venomous Flakelf defense scored another wonderful goal and they went ahead. Just minutes before the half time they again scored another goal and the scoreline read 3-1.

During the halftime the team was ecstatic to overcome the strict challenges faced by them in the match and the scoreline was also in their favor. However, Shvetsov, a former football player, suddenly came to the dressing room and told them to protect themselves from their opponents. Soon after he left, another SS Officer came there and told them politely that though they are a good team but they should lose the match otherwise they will get harsh punishment from the Authority.

Amidst the confusion and in a state of indecisiveness, the Start players started the second half of the game and this time, the Flakelf team, afraid a crowd trouble, played less violently. Start as well as Flakelf scored two goals each and Start was leading at that time by 5-3. Then, Klimenko, a Start defender, got the ball in the midfield, beat the entire German defenders and went to the penalty box. Then, instead of pushing the ball towards goal line, he turned around and kicked the ball back towards the center circle. This was a total humiliation for the Flakelf team as the defender himself chose the option not to score against them. Soon after that, the referee blew the final whistle.

The After Effect of the Match

FC Start players' enjoyment was short lived as they can see that the German soldiers were hitting the crowd as they were shouting loudly after their favorite team's success. It was a total humiliation for the Nazi army as well as for their Hungarian and Romanian allies. The axis troop cannot take that game lightly as their team of Aryan descendant was comprehensibly beaten by a bunch of "Sub-Humans". They could sense that for the first time in a year or so, there is public outcry against them and if it is not handled prematurely then this sentiment could spark a revolution against them and it may spread in all directions just like infectious disease.

But nothing could stop the successful run of the Start as they again demolished Rukh by a margin of 8-0 on 16th August. Soon after that, Bakery Number – 3 was invaded by a number of Gestapo members (intelligence group of German Police) and almost all the FC Start players were arrested, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo, allegedly for being NKVD members (as Dynamo was a police-funded club). The Gestapo wanted them to confess that they were criminals or saboteurs which would have given them enough reason to execute the players. But none of them had confessed. One of the arrested players Nikolai Korotkykh died under severe torture as his sister identified him as a NKVD officer. He was first Start player to die who played in "The Death Match". The German Gestapo, unable to break the silence of the players, sent the ten survivors off to a nearby labor camp at Siretz. At Siretz, they were expected to work, until do not die of starvation, malnutrition or dehydration.

The Fate of the other Players

But other players survived in different ways.

Pavel Komarov, one of the players escaped from the labor camp at Siretz and then he disappeared from public view.

In 1943, following an attack of anti-German allies, the camp commandant thought of killing every third prisoner as reprisal. So, the entire camp was lined up in the freezing mid-winter cold. Kuzmenko, the tall FC Start striker and scorer from the free kick in that particular match, was one of those who gathered in the ground with others and shot dead. Young and talented defender Klimenko, who had have not scored despite getting the opportunity in the penalty box and kicked in to the midfield was the next one to die.

He was asked to lie down and was shot behind the ear as he lay on the ground. Nikolai Trusevich, the giant goalkeeper and captain was also knocked to the ground. According to an eyewitness, he sprang back to his feet and shouted out a Communist slogan 'Red Sport will never die!'. A German guard opened fire. He reportedly died on his feet, wearing his favorite goalkeeper's jersey. The bodies of the three players, along with those of all the other murdered prisoners, were taken to Babi Yar and thrown into the ravine.

Three of the other players, Goncharenko, Tyutchev and Sviridovsky, who, fortunately, were in a work squad in the city, were shocked when the news spread. They became very much panic-stricken and they guessed that, because of their profile as FC Start players, it might be their turn next. They thought that the German Authorities are planning to execute all the FC Start players to take a revenge for the humiliation they suffered in that particular match. All three quickly made the decision to escape and they stayed hidden in the city until Kiev was liberated from German occupation in November 1943. But it did not help them in other way. When Stalin regained the control over Kiev, he ordered the intelligence to interrogate all the persons who came close to the Germans or their allies previously. So they were also tortured during the hours of interrogation. These few survivors were the persons responsible for the popularization of the dreaded fate met by the FC Start players and the account of their struggle.

The Death Match is that Real or a Myth ??? Different Views

At first, the Soviet Authorities had suppressed the real truth revolving the death match though that successful run by the FC Start team has boosted the morale of all the Ukrainians during those horrible days of Nazi occupied Ukraine. And later on, the Soviet Minister of Sport in Ukraine, Timofei Strokach, suppressed the story about the heroics performed by the FC Start players because of 3 reasons: –

1. The FC Start footballers had actually agreed to play in the Nazi-organized league – which meant possible collaboration with the Nazi's and their Allies, which was totally opposite to the Soviet's stand during those days. When Soviet army was heavily fighting against Nazi's then FC Start players decision to play in a Nazi organized league, according to the Communist Party of Soviet Union, was something that was not desirable or should be condemned. So their heroic performance was not officially regarded.
2. Those players decision to beat the Germans was a spontaneous act and not approved by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – this kind of individualism was hara-kiri. They consider this as an act of foolishness, not as an act of heroics.
3. They were Ukrainians.

On 16 November 1943, Izvestiya was the first newspaper to report the execution of the sportsmen by the Germans but the relation with the match was not mentioned in that particular article.
Later, in 1959 a Ukrainian writer Petro Severov written an article titled "The Last Duel" which came in "Evening Kiev" newspaper in which for the first time the official recognition of the heroics shown by the FC Start Players during the match was published. He said that the murder possibly took place several months after the match and in the prison camp.

In 1997, an Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, in his book "Football in Sun and Shadow" written that all the FC Start players were given a condition before the match that if they win they will die, but still the players after going to the ground , they totally forgot about the probable outcome of their victory and playing their natural game they went on to win the match. They were shot wearing their Club jersey. This version is totally different from the one that was told to others by the surviving members of the team Goncharenko, Tyutchev and Sviridovsky and also from Petro Severov's account.

Also only survivor of the players, Goncharenko gave an interview to tell about the horrible experience they have suffered during and after the match which revealed all the parts that were previously shrouded in mystery.

The Relevance of that Match in Popular Culture

In 1971, in memory of their heroics, a monument was placed outside the Dynamo Kiev stadium to commemorate their contribution, their sacrifice and their true passion for a game, Football which they had exhibited after knowing fully well that they will lose their lives if they win. In 1981 the Dynamo Kiev Stadium was renamed to Start Stadium.

Quite a few famous films like 1961 Hungarian film drama "Két félidÅ 'a pokolban" and "Escape to Victory" was also made taking inspiration from the story. In "Escape to Victory" film many renowned football players like Pele, Bobby Moore took part and it also featured Sylvester Stallone. A few other films like "Third Time" and "The Match of Death" were also made on the same story. Based on the same story, a few other Ukrainian plays were also made.

Why the Players Should Remain in our Memory Forever ??

More than 320000 Ukrainians died during the Second World War and those who have survived were sent for deportation or prison camps. Finally, when in Ukraine, where so much death, devastation and destruction were taking place in Stalin era as well as Nazi regime, how much important was the incident of the executing the Start Football players and was this incident is of historical significance? So, does that incident carry any historical importance or should this act be termed as a freedom struggle or as an act of foolishness or they were impulsive while taking their decision? These questions will always remain unanswered as we cannot assess the political scenario without actually going back in time. But definitely they will be remembered for giving their precious lives for the sake of playing a clean game, not yielding to the pressure exerted by the authorities, even if they were threatened to be slaughtered if they win and also for boosting the morale of the millions of fellow war ravaged countrymen who totally lost their hopes.

Though the FC Start players, like common mass, lost their lives during Second World War, but they lost their lives for their passion of a game. They exhibited their wonderful skill in the football field to defeat the German team which brought smile and happiness and some ray of hope to all those Ukrainians in those dark days of horrifying devastation, death and destruction. So they will remain forever in the memory of all die hard football fans allover the world for their courageous effort in that match. No where in the world, the players were met with such harsh punishment for winning a football match.

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Hats Off To The Maestro

Sir Alex Ferguson retires. Citing health reasons, he said, «The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I gave done so. «

Well, I am not a great fan of Red Manchester, but I do respect this man. I have always appreciated his composure, intensity on the pitch. The way his sheer presence inspires his team and the respect he incurs from adulating fans is one that only greats can achieve and he is no exception.

For the 27 years that he served the club, not once did the United administration must have thought about installing a new manager. He has been calm, unruffled and dedicated in making a team that is balanced in every sense, be it age-wise, or position-wise and stardom-wise as well.

He has been a solid inspiration to the young crops of managers that take cues from him in managing their respective clubs. The large numbers of good-bye messages on Twitter reflects so.

He joined Old Trafford in 1986 from Aberdeen and never looked back as the Red Devils have dominated not only the English but European scene as well. His tally includes 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 Champions League titles. The 71-year Scotsman will join the team’s board members and will serve as ‘Ambassador’ in the upcoming season. Till now, United have two games left and one of them is a home game against Swansea where we may expect some emotions from the not-so-much expressive coach.

Well, talking about replacing him is a contentious issue. United never had to think about the position of manager, it was already in very capable hands. It’s always hard to replace a veteran; plus the void left for the first time in 27 years, is a thought that United administration would always have dreaded. But it’s time to answer that. Rumour has it that Everton boss David Moyes may be stepping in his shoes, but before the confirmation from the official website; it’s going to be a matter of fierce debate. Former Chelsea and current in-charge of Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho is also a sought-after name by the grim fans. The administration is also in pressure to declare the new name, as Manchester United are listed on New York stock exchange, so any change in administration will have to be reported back to its shareholders. So, the secret can’t and won’t be held long.

Whoever is chosen as a manager, he will have a tough time handling the pressure but it would not be so gruesome on the pitch considering Sir Alex has left his team in the strong possible shape.

#RESPECT and good luck on your future endeavours Sir Alex!

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