All posts by Darko Markovic

Basketball Euroleague – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

News that will become subject of fierce polemics among basketball fans in Europe in the following days is coming from the Pyrenean peninsula.  Basketball Euroleague was at a crossroads in the past few days, and finally, there is a solution wrapped in a proverb – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. At a moment when it seemed that the European basketball competition of the highest quality was good on its way to go under FIBA’s wing, everything was changed on a practically all-day meeting in Barcelona, which was attended by representatives of 11 clubs with A license – Efes Istanbul, CSKA Moscow, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, FC Barcelona Lassa, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Olympiacos Piraeus, Panathinaikos Athens, Real Madrid and Zalgiris Kaunas. What is most important for this story is that the meeting was also attended by delegates from IMG company, which is a global leader in presenting sport, fashion and other events. This is the company that signed a perennial contract with the NBA League about ten days ago, and which gives them the exclusive right to broadcast matches of the most attractive basketball league during flights on more than 250 airplanes, which are owned by ten biggest global air companies. Broadcasts will be on channel Sport 24, which has been existing for only three years and already has exclusive rights to some of the biggest sports events on the planet. It is completely clear that participation of this financially powerful company in deciding on further destiny of Euroleague was crucial for the solution achieved consensually after eight hours of negotiating. Thanks to the IMG’s business plan, which guarantees participants of Euroleague many times higher profit from participating in this competition than it was until now, European basketball clubs competition of the highest quality will be the privilege of only the selected ones from season 2016/2017.

Euroleague will have 16 participants, with a two-round league system of competition, after what there will be play-offs, and the champion will be decided at the Final Four. The above mentioned clubs with the A license will be permanent participants of the league, without the possibility of being relegated to a lower rank of competition. The 12th member of Euroleague will be the winner of the Eurocup from previous season and this is where the circle of relatively known participants of this new format end. Three participants of the new format of Euroleague will be champions of leagues that will be delegated later, while the last participant will be known after qualifications that eight clubs will partake in, which is also part of the mystery that is yet to be unraveled.

The Eurocup will also get a new format, so this competition consist of 24 teams, 21 of which will get into it through their national leagues, while three teams will get the wild card. System of the competition will be similar to the one of the present Euroleague.

One should not doubt at all that there are already a lot of disappointed people now. The decision has just been made, so reactions of the public are only yet to come. There will be critique about making the system of competition modeled on the football Champions League, which is already predestined for rich clubs. What is most painful for those outside of this system is the fact that already rich clubs will only get even richer from participating in this competition. The first estimate, which could be heard from the president of CSKA, Andrej Vatutin, hints at a profit of at least 36.3 million euro. When this is compared to only half a million euro, which is how much this Russian club got last season for winning the third place, it is clear what the new format of Euroleague is bringing and why FIBA was once again dropped out of the game. Still, attendees of the meeting in Barcelona thanked FIBA for their interest and invited them to join them. It is hard to believe such a thing would happen. At the beginning FIBA will probably play the jilted bride, but we should expect a positive reaction too, which could be in form of Euroleague’s counterpart, like it was when Euroleague was only just becoming. This time, FIBA would have to find a serious sponsor, and if they manage to do that, Europe would get another strong club competition, which would be an opportunity for other clubs to get financially stronger, especially those whose annual budgets do not allow them to even dream about Euroleague. In farther future, this could lead to creating of two conferences and eventually uniting of these two into a unique European competition, which could be called EBA. Why not, because everything else would look like the American NBA League.

In the meantime, the important question is what three leagues will have direct passage to the new format of Euroleague. Rule from the beginning of this story is still on in this case too – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. In other words, this pleasure will be given to leagues whose clubs do not have financial problems, which increases the odds for them doing business without irregularities. Bearing in mind who has the A license, the answer seems to be that one place is already smiling at the German BBL and one at the French LNB. Those who do not believe this, try counting – among 11 teams with the A license, only four teams are from Western Europe – even three from Spain and one from Italy. If you take into consideration that the winner of Eurocup could be a team from another part of Europe, as well as the winner of the still-mysterious qualifications, there is no doubt that at least two of three winners of the league would come from the richest part of Europe. Under some lucky circumstances for the Balkans, the regional competition ABA league could be among the three privileged leagues. Having in mind the results of national teams from this region, especially the reputation the former European champions Partizan and Cibona have built in the past decade, as well the attendance on the games, especially of those in Belgrade, this league deserves to have its representative in the strongest European club competition. However, Partizan and Cibona are having financial problems, and clubs who have taken over domination in the ABA league, current champion Crvena Zvezda and Cedevita, are not strong enough brand in basketball Europe. Besides this, their financial solvency is disputable, which could affect the Euroleague management’s unfavorable decision. One should also take into account that Italy will not be satisfied with only one spot, based on the fact that this country has been European champion twice and has given five club champions of Europe for a total of 13 titles.

With the new frame of competition, winning the Euroleague is definitely becoming a privilege of the rich. One cannot say that they did not have this privilege in the previous years, but with IMG stepping on the scene, the rich will get richer, and those who are far from will be left with hope that FIBA will not look indifferently at how the European club basketball is filling another till. The solution is in the model that would lead to a counterpart of the NBA. Whether FIBA sees that with the same eyes, only time will show.


Black-yellow love that’s been lasting more than a century

Borussia Dortmund is not the most trophy-winning club in Germany, and neither it is in Europe, but it is special when compared to others regarding loyalty of their fans. The biggest European clubs have tons of trophies behind themselves which, through history, drew a large number of fans, making it a custom for those football giants to brag about their fans being the most loyal. However, Borussia Dortmund can even prove that.

For many years, Borussia Dortmund has been making a sale of over 50,000 season tickets for Bundesliga matches. In their toughest season in the past seven years, a season full of disappointments, a season in which Jurgen Klopp said goodbye to the club, at the biggest German stadium, Signal Iduna Park (better known under the previous name Westfalenstadion), they made a record rating in Europe – 80.424 spectators per match! The first follow-up, one of the most popular clubs in the world, the Spanish Barcelona gathered an average of 77,632 spectators in the season in which they won three trophies, among which is the most valuable one – the Champions League trophy. The next on the list is Manchester United, which had an average of 75,335 spectators per match in the season of their return to the top of the English football, and after them the next is Real Madrid with 73,081, after whom comes Bayern with 72,882. Only 93 owners of season tickets from the past season will not be prolonging their pack on the new season. But that is not a problem for this club because the list of those waiting for an opportunity to subscribe is very long. If one thinks this is due to the club’s big successes in the past couple of years, it is a first sign that that someone has been following games of this club precisely because of those successes and knows about the club only regarding that period. That is very typical for the new generations of so-called trophy fans. The true aficionados of good football, especially of Borussia Dortmund, know that it is a love that last longer than a century. If we go about ten years back in time, when Borussia Dortmund could not get higher than the sixth place in the standings, we will ask ourselves how it is possible that precisely then, in 2004, record visiting of 83,000 spectators was noted in even six matches at Westafalenstadion. In the season behind us, when black-yellows from Dortmund suffered their 11th defeat in the first 19 rounds, 0-1 against Augsburg in front of 80,667 spectators at the stadium Signal Iduna Park, the club was at the bottom of the table. There were 80,200 spectators at their next match. It is hard to imagine any other club that is at the bottom of the championship standings, with only four victories and 11 defeats in 19 matches, to be supported by 80,000 fans in the stands of their stadium. Besides all that, in the first days after the defeat against Augsburg, even 653 new membership requests came to the club. When Dortmund fought out the final of the Champions League two years ago, already on the next day after their victory against Real Madrid in the semi-finals, 250,000 requests for presence at the final match came to the UEFA headquarters from fans of Borussia, and by the time for the very final the number went up to half a million!


This reflects just how Dortmund’s fans ‘ spirit is, a city that entirely lives for its club, which does not only support it on the stadium, because there is not enough room for everyone and not everyone has enough money for tickets. That is why on the day of a match, they all gather at Borsigplatz, where, in organization of the fan club “Total offensive”, they all watch the game on a video beam – adults, young ones, children, women, men, people of different religions and origin – united in the unique black-yellow identity. Because of that, not trophies that came and went in nearer and further past, but the fanatic loyalty of Borussia Dortmund’s fans made this club one of the most popular in the world. The black-yellow love won over fans of other colours. The black-yellow love is an example for fans of some other clubs to put a finger to their forehead and ask themselves who it is they are actually rooting for – the club or the trophies.

Only several fools on stands and many hypocrites outside stadium


A quite decent football match was played on Thursday at the stadium of Partizan, where a team whose players have not received their pays for months was completely even with team of a club that spent 42 million euro on bringing six players only in the last summer transfer window. We watched proper conduct of players on the field, fair arbitration, and it seemed that the atmosphere on the stands was decent, without torches, firecrackers or fights. However, several fools on the stand with the most devoted fans of Partizan put effort into preventing everything from being ideal and at one moment opened a piece of fabric with a message whose aim was to offend players and fans of the opposing team, as it usually goes at football stadiums. Still, it would be too mild to say that content of the message was improper, because its idiotic ambiguity, as well as subsequent public reaction, made it actually scandalous. At the moment it was shown, message from that piece of yellow fabric was not seen by players and coaching staff of both teams, as well as TV cameras, not only in Serbia, but in England as well, since it was removed quickly after it appeared. There is a small possibility that creators of this idiotic idea had a sudden bite of guilty conscience, but they probably remembered that referees on this match were coming from Israel, so removal was done for practical reasons. But the damage has been done, and it is so big that now FC Partizan in association with Serbian authorities has to try to find, at least for practical reasons, executors of this foolish act that stained not only the club and its fans, but the entire country. After they are found, and it seems that will not be hard since their faces are seen clear on the photo surrounding the world, it is necessary to determine whether they are people with sick minds, fascist orientation or only a part of the fan sediment present at all stadiums all around the football planet, who cannot see the forest from the tree. The forest represents interests of the club (national team) whose fans they present themselves as, and those interests include inviolability of general moral integrity, while the tree is selfishness and nature a of an individual that carries evil incompatible with the idea of sport, and unfortunately often incompatible with humanity as well. Message of the club and country has to be clear and definitive – sick minds do not belong in the stands of sport stadiums or halls.

Because of a few fools, the club is now in a situation that it is ashamed and apologizing for something it did not cause, and objectively looking, something it could not prevent because normal search of fans at the entrance of the stadium cannot discover a piece of fabric with inappropriate contents. Still, the club cannot evade the moral responsibility for this incident, and it is completely likely that it will not be able to evade the UEFA sanction. Even before the UEFA’s decision, moral punishment has already hit not only normal fans of the club, who are an enormous majority in the club’s fan body, but also the entire sports public that is disgusted with another scandal on stands of football stadiums. Weight of that moral punishment has significantly increased due to a really big amount of hate that can be felt from the English media’s reports and is directed at the entire nation. Message sent by those media, and among them are so-called distinguished ones, such as the Sun, is basically no different from the one shown by a couple of fools from the south stands of the stadium of Partizan. Namely, in introduction of the article regarding events at the stadium of Partizan, reporter of the Sun from Belgrade, Paul Jiggins called the Serbs sick (“SICK Serbs face a UEFA backlash after aiming an anti-Semitic banner at Spurs”). Similar views that belittle the entire nation because of a couple of fools’ idiotism can be read in other English media, too. Many are telling again about Partizan fans’ outbursts from the past, but are the ones calling upon past completely pure? Most of those who love the English football know that fans of other clubs called Liverpool “Niggerpool”, as well as that there are still insults pointed at Welsh players by printing t-shirts and banners with pictures of a sexual intercourse between a man and a sheep, which is depicted in a phrase Sheepshaggers, a name they call the Welsh players. There are also numerous racism incidents, to which the British authorities react adequately, but those incidents are still happening. During match against Crvena Zvezda, fans of Leicester, the same as fans of Leeds against Partizan, simulated flurry of airplanes with their arms spread wide, alluding at bombing of Serbia by NATO, in which the British aviation also participated, a former ally of Serbia in battle against fascist Germany during the World War II.  Precisely during that most blood-shedding war in the history of human kind, joint suffering strengthened friendship between Jews and Serbs, which is very well known by members of Jewish community in Serbia. Of course, there are always idiots and you cannot completely eliminate the possibility of an incident, but you can take certain measures of sanctioning such acts. Generalization is not only wrong, but monstrous, especially when one knows that the most extreme fascist organizations are the most numerous and most active in other countries, but not in Serbia. That is why, those who are prone to generalization should firstly look at their own backyard.

No one normal can justify the incident at the stadium of Partizan, but also no one normal should generalize and over-exaggerate that incident. Definitely that should not be done by the UEFA bodies, because certain measures they took in recent history have thrown a shadow on their objectivity. The most fresh example is disqualification of Legia from the Champions League qualifications, even beside the fact they out-played Celtic in both matches. Technical omission of Legia’s administration member, which absolutely did not have any effect on the outcome of the rematch in Glasgow, was estimated by the UEFA as more drastic than fraud committed by Milan and Fenerbahce not so long ago. Because of that, it is good that the UEFA decision is postponed for two weeks, because one should take all facts into consideration with a cool head, especially the most important ones that regard security and other organizational factors under which the match was played. The punishment should be felt by the most extreme fan body, and not the club. The UEFA could demand the club to take such measures itself, and in case of a dissatisfactory reaction of the club, disciplinary bodies should get involved and punish the club, too. Otherwise, clubs and enormous normal fans bodies will be victims of extreme individuals, after what the sense in organizing sports events will be questioned. Not so long ago Partizan was victim to a rash UEFA decision to eliminate the club from further competition even after two more than convincing victories against Siroki Brijeg. Partizan fans were physically attacked by fans of Siroki Brijeg, and because they defended themselves, the club was harshly punished. In match at Siroki Brijeg, host’s fans scanned “Ubi, ubi Srbina” (Kill, kill a Serb), which has its historical background in massive slaughter of Serbs in Croatia during the World War II. However, at that time no one judged such fascist behavior of host’s fans, which was much bigger than the events in Belgrade. Photos from Belgrade confirm that, completely opposite to writing of the English media, there was a pleasant and family atmosphere on the stands, with presence of a lot of children (photos taken from


Because of that, not everything good seen in that match should not be thrown beneath such short mindless act, which was not even really noticed in the couple of minutes it was shown. Coach of Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, stated himself that he did not notice it, but that he definitely judges such unacceptable action that shows disrespect. Unfortunately, after returning to London, Pochettino presented himself to the public with his own way of showing disrespect, saying: “bonkers Belgrade”. Partizan apologized for what a couple of idiots, who do not have anything to do with the club, did and maybe Tottenham should apologize for the insulting statement of their coach, that not only offended the opposing club, but the entire city.  If we were to agree with the English Sun’s logic, it would be an offense to the entire nation. Maybe Pochettino could explain what kind of hostility he met in Belgrade. Unless he considers under that the effort of Partizan’s players, with which they succeeded in being completely even with his too-expensive team. It seems that the Argentinean found his way around quickly and used the situation that some of the English media hysterically project an action of two-three hotheads on the club, Belgrade and Serbia as diversion from talk about the game itself. That is probably because it would not be very pleasant.

As for Partizan, hooligans have to be identified and punished for their actions, the same way it is done with hooligans in England. Because, guess what, there are hooligans there as well. The British authorities have found a way for the punishment to be felt more by the offenders, and less by the clubs. The same is expected of the UEFA. Otherwise, once again it will be questioned whether football became only a game for the rich and powerful.

Ice challenge among sportsmen – humanity, fun or self-promotion?

Sportsmen all over the world have joined action known under the name “Ice Bucket Challenge” (Ice Challenge, Cold Water Challenge), and the basic idea of this challenge is spreading awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and therefore encouraging donation that are supposed to be used for enhancing scientific research in finding a cure for this illness, what the pharmaceutical companies are not interested in enough. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is one of the five most common diseases of motor neurons, which is often called MND (motor neuron disease) and Charcot disease, while in the USA it known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Anyone can fall ill with the ALS, and the middle-aged population is the most critical group. It was noted that on every 100.000 inhabitants one or two persons fall ill with this disease, and the biggest tendency is among Caucasians. However, not many people suffer from this disease – in the USA there are 30.000 people suffering from the ALS. At the beginning the disease is characterized with muscle cramps and weakness of muscles, which is very progressive and patients very quickly lose the ability to walk, talk, swallow, and finally breathe, so many of them become totally paralyzed while their brain is still functioning. Most of the patients die within three to five years after the first symptoms appear, while patients living longer than ten years are very rare. There are medicines that relieve secondary symptoms of the disease, but there is not one to treat the very disease. Considering the number of patients, pharmaceutical industry is not interested in financing expensive laboratory researches that could discover a cure for the ALS, because its sale would not bring satisfactory profit. In 10% of the cases the ALS is a hereditary disease, and that is the way 26-year-old Anthony Carbajal was diagnosed with it, whereby his grandmother died of the same disease and his mother was diagnosed with the ALS as well. The two of them are now fighting with the consequences of this neurodegenerative disease without any hope being completely cured. In order to spread awareness of the ALS and encourage donations that would help finding a cure for this disease, Anthony Carbajal told his sad story in a video, posted on YouTube on 15th April this year. In another video, posted on 15th August and that reached almost 15 million views in ten days, Anthony Carbajal imitated Miley Cyrus’s music video in a funny way and then explained that people suffering from the ALS feel as a normal person would feel if he/she were suddenly splashed with a bucket of freezingly cold water.


That is how the action Ice Bucket Challenge gained momentum, and its idea is that a donator of the fund for finding a cure ( challenges the next potential donator to this ice challenge within the following 24 hours, and if the person does not accept it, he/she is due to pay $100 as a donation. The new donator challenges the next potential donator and that is how this endless chain expands. This way, on one hand, increasing number of donators is encouraged (with a payment of at least $100), and on the other hand, awareness of the ALS is spread (by accepting the ice challenge). Beside numerous personalities from the world of show business and politics, sportsmen from all over the world joined the Ice Bucket Challenge immediately, which was somewhat expected of them because with their popularity they can definitely significantly contribute to spreading awareness of this quite rare and for general public till-yesterday-unknown disease. Furthermore, top sportsmen lead in incomes, so they are able to financially support the battle for finding a cure for the ALS. What is less known is that everything started with a sportsman. Namely, the Ice Bucket Challenge was not related to this humanitarian action until July 15th this year, when golfer Charles Kennedy was nominated by his friend in Florida. He accepted the challenge and directed his donation to the ALS fund because his cousin was diagnosed with that disease. On that occasion he nominated his cousin’s wife, which attracted the attention of 31-year-old Pat Quinn from New York, also suffering from the ALS, who started this campaign with the help from Pete Frates, who is former baseball player of Boston college, and victim of the ALS as well. One of the best quarterbacks of today, Tom Brady joined this humanitarian chain as one of the first and that is when the entire action got its massiveness. Among the sportsmen that have already experienced the ice challenge are: Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Vincent Kompany, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Mourinho, Didier Drogba and many other from all around the world. Sometimes even entire teams did it, such as the NFL team Atlanta Falcons or the Dutch football club PSV. None of the physical challenges are hard for the top sportsmen, on the contrary, it is the matter of honor. However, more and more often a question is posed in public whether this is just another type of fun, or even self-promotion, not only for sportsmen but for other public figures, because the way it is lately, it looks precisely as that. How much can the public be certain that they marked their participation in this action with financial donation to the fund for finding a cure for the ALS? On one hand, donators usually insist on discretion regarding amount of their donations, but on the other hand the entire action is based on public participation, so maybe announcing information that the donators gave a donation would be in the interest of the very donators. Otherwise doubt that one humanitarian action turned into self-promotion and fun for spoiled stars would only get bigger. There are different examples as well. Actor Charlie Sheen did it his own way – he splashed himself with a bucket full of bills that were a total of $10.000, which was also his donation to this humanitarian action. Popular Captain Picard from the Star Trek, Sir Patrick Stewart wrote down a check for the ALS fund and toasted with a scotch on the rocks. The fact that the ALS Association received a donation of $79,7 million from July 29th to August 25th shows that the Ice Bucket Challenge contributed to expanding awareness of this disease, especially in relation to $2.5 million they received in the same period last year. However, participation of new donators is only 2,2% which is in favor of observation that many participants of the Ice Bucket Challenge have seen this as just another type of fun and self-promotion, pushing into the background a humanitarian action and sincere participation of true humanists among public figures, and among sportsmen as well.

Is Wolfsburg among the best or Bayern’s overrated, the question is now

Bayern is one of the most financially powerful clubs in Europe, and if the parameter is only operations of the clubs, leaving out wealth of the owner, then this club is undisputed. Such position gives it commodity in relation to the UEFA rule of financial fair-play and the possibility to create a team they wish. It seems that all of Pep Guardiola’s wishes have come true and that Bayern has an extremely strong team, which should practically walk through Bundesliga, especially having in mind that they directly weakened their main competitor, Borussia Dortmund. The Champions League is a different thing, not only because of much stronger competition, but because of the system of competition where one bad day in the second stage can crush all dreams. Still, some of the events at the beginning of this season are throwing a shadow on estimation of Bayern’s strength in national scopes, even though it is too early to reject them as pretentious.

On their first American tour in the past ten years, Bayern scored only two goals in two matches, conceding the same number of goals but only in one match – defeat 1-2 against team of North-American stars, MLS All-Stars. Guardiola mixed the composition in this match, partly because of the fact that some of the players were exhausted after the end of the World Cup in Brazil. But, if there is an excuse for this defeat, then it is hard to find one in case of easy defeat against Borussia Dortmund in match for the German Supercup. Team from Dortmund was better in all aspects of the game, dominating the entire match, so Pep Guardiola can be satisfied his team was only defeated with a result 0-2. But, that is a bitter pleasure because worry about faint game has to be much bigger. After that match the media looked for an excuse in absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, but some even wrote that Dortmund played with a stronger lineup, pushing into the background the fact that Jurgen Klopp sent a team without even eight A-team players to the field: Roman Weidenfeller, Neven Subotić, Mats Hummels, Jakub Błaszczykowski, Nuri Şahin, Kevin Großkreutz, İlkay Gündoğan and Marco Reus. At the same time, two former stars of Borussia Dortmund, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski appeared for Bayern. Precisely these two players are paradigm of Bayern’s policy in the past two seasons – strengthening their team and weakening their biggest competitor at the same time. Before the beginning of the season, Bayern led a small propaganda campaign, announcing they would bring the third star of Borussia Dortmund, Marco Reus, which is why in the end president of the club from Dortmund, Hans-Joachim Watzke reacted with criticism. Victory in match for the DFL-Supercup was Borussia’s response, and it was a victory of Jurgen Klopp’s chemistry over Bayern’s arrogance. But, it is justified to ask the question where Pep Guardiola was in that story.

Young Spanish coach was a true revelation for the world football while leading the team of Barcelona from 2008 to 2012, and system of game called tiki-taka will stay marked with his name as something recognized as new in football. However, only the name of the system is new, but that is a play of short passes that was applied by other coaches in earlier times. In difference to other coaches, Guardiola had top players, ideal for applying such a system, and the main were definitely Lionel Messi, Xavi Fernandez and Andres Iniesta. After a few seasons of domination, Barcelona’s game became recognizable and coaches of other teams found adequate responses to such tactics, so Guardiola left the team at the right moment. Management of Bayern saw in him a coach that can keep the team at the top of German and European football for years, so they sacked Jupp Heynckes with whom Bayern won everything that could have been won in season 2012/13, leaving the impression of the most powerful team in Europe. They have won four trophies with Guardiola on the bench – the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World, title of champion of Germany and the DFB-Cup, but the most important one is missing and that is title of champion of Europe.

Expectations in the Champions League in the new season are tied exclusively to the final, while the title in Germany is practically written down upfront. After the match for the DFL-Supercup and the first round of the new championship, it could be said that they are reckoning without their host. There is another unconvincing show on the field behind the victory against Wolfsburg in the first round. In a match of average quality, Wolfsburg was even better in the second halftime. After the match, Pep Guardiola said that Wolfsburg is one the best teams of Bundesliga, which is disputable, at least regarding the lineup of the team of Wolfsburg in that match because midfielder Luiz Gustavo, forwards Ivan Perisic and Nicklas Bendtner, as well as goalkeeper Diego Benaglio were absent. Wolfsburg entered that match with six matches without a victory behind them, including the cup match against member of the 2. Bundesliga, Darmstadt, in which they did not score a goal in 120 minutes of game. Only around twenty days ago Bayern defeated Wolfsburg with a result 3-0 in final of the Telekom Cup, and all three goals were scored in the first halftime (both halftimes were 30 minutes each). Wolfsburg suffered defeats without a scored goal in the first four matches away last season. They did finish the season in the fifth place, but with 30 points less than Bayern and with terrible seasons for three giants of German football – Werder Bremen, Hamburger and VfB Stuttgart. However, regardless of the opponents’ qualities, a question is posed  about whether faint performance of Bayern and barren victory in the first round of the championship can be justified that way. Maybe the right answer should be looked for in the fact that Guardiola is forcing the tiki-taka system of Barcelona even though the profile of players of Bayern is completely different, and even Bundesliga is completely different in relation to the Spanish Primera Division. Guardiola’s monotonous approach to the game has long been revealed, and this system can no longer pass even for the Spanish national team, while German distinctive style was dominant at the recently finished World Cup. Bayern won the title in the previous season the easy way, but it seems that that will not be as easy in the new season. It is even needless to talk about the Champions League. In the end, time will show whether Bayern “ran into” strong Wolfsburg or if this team with style of game forced by Pep Guardiola is a bit overrated.

Bankers predict the finalists of the World Cup in Brazil

Report of the U.S. investment bank The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. predicts that South American rivals Brazil and Argentina will play in the final of this year’s world football championship.

Economists of famous banking group, Jan Hatzius, Sven Jari Stehnová and Donnie Millar, have created a forecast based on analysis of 14,000 international matches played since 1960, as well as with the help of a number of other statistical data. It is predicted that host of the World Cup, Brazil will win in the final against Argentina with 3-1 and win the title of the world champion for the sixth time. According to the Goldman’s analysis, Brazilians have even 48.5 percent chance for the title, Argentina is right behind them with 14.1 percent, and chances of Germany are quite lesser – 11.4 percent. They believe that it is not a surprise that the most successful national team in football history is the biggest favorite for winning the title, especially since the World Cup is played in Brazil, but range of advantages of Brazil in their model is great according to all parameters.

They relied their predictions for each match on a regression analysis of all official matches from 1960 to present time. Basic variables were taken from the Elo rankings, because they found that this ranking list was statistically the most powerful variable in their model, unlike better known FIFA list. To create this model they used the following parameters: average number of goals of the national teams in the last ten matches, but only within the official competitions; the average number of goals conceded in the last five official international matches; frequency of participation of national teams at World Cups since 1960, where they took into account only those countries that had sufficient number of participations (including Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, England, France, Italy and Netherlands); variable that indicates whether the team played at home; variable that indicates whether the team played on their continent. Thus, according to their prediction, on the way to the finals Brazil will eliminate the Netherlands, Germany and Uruguay, while  Argentina will be better than Ecuador, Portugal and Spain.

Predicted Knockout Round by Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research:

world cup_predicted knockout stage

Otherwise, four years ago, the Goldman Sachs predicted in the same way that Brazil was the first favorite for the title, but then with a 26.6 percent chance. In reality, Spain became the world champion to which this American banking institution gave the status of the second favorite with 15.7 percent of chance for the title.

Conference finals: Pacers vs Heat and Thunder vs Spurs

After Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have earlier reached their conference finals, their opponents are finally known – Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

indiana vs miami

Miami Heat justified the role of favorites, with an express passage to the final series of the Eastern Conference. Through short series they eliminated the Charlotte Bobcats (4-0) in the quarterfinals, and then the Brooklyn Nets (4-1) in the semifinals of the conference. As a result, the Heat had plenty of time to rest before the next series, considering that their rivals struggled in their series. Brooklyn Nets survived duel against Toronto Raptors with a lot of effort, 4-3 in the series, and they secured the passage into the semifinals of the conference virtually thanks to one ball in the seventh game played in Toronto (104-103). Miami will have a day of rest more than the Pacers, because their opponents secured placement in the finals of the conference in the sixth game (4-2).

Indiana Pacers have allowed the Atlanta Hawks to make even two breaks in the quarterfinals of the conference, so their quarterfinal series was exhausting and ended only after seven games (4-3). Semifinal series was shorter, although the Washington Wizards also made two breaks, but the Pacers responded with all three wins in Washington. The third, decisive victory was achieved thanks to excellent performances of David West (29 points) and Lance Stephenson (17 points, eight assists), while Paul George contributed to the victory with 12 points.

Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will decide the winner of the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row, and the Heat were more successful both previous times. The series begins on May 18, and the Pacers have home advantage this time. However, given their four defeats at home in the previous two series, the question is whether home ground will truly be the advantage against a team like Miami.

oct vs sas

The Western Conference had slightly different picture, as both teams had a tough road to the finals of the conference. San Antonio Spurs eliminated Dallas Mavericks 4-3 in the series, thanks to the home advantage, even though the Mavericks made a brake. Home ground was crucial in the semi-final series with the Portland Blazers, which has ended with a total Spurs victory, 4-1, which also brought them one more day of rest.

Quarterfinal series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder solved much harder than expected, 4-3 in the series. Semifinal series against the Los Angeles Clippers was shorter due to win of the Thunder in the sixth game, 104-98 at the Staples Center. As usual, Kevin Durant was brilliant, scoring 39 points with 16 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 12 assists, and Reggie Jackson 14 points.

This will be the third conference finals of Oklahoma City Thunder in the last four years, and the first game has scheduled for May 19 in San Antonio.

Legend of Formula One who will never be forgotten

Ayrton Senna da Silva triumphed 41 times in his career, and he was on the podium 39 more times and won three Champions League titles. He is remembered as the King of qualifications and the best driver in the rain ruled the streets of Monte Carlo and since its debut in 1984 he drove for Toleman, Lotus, McLaren and Williams. Senna was special, his ride was pure art. He is rightly considered one of the best of all time, not only because of the titles and wins, but what he did on the circuit.

The May 1, 1994 has changed the Formula 1 forever. One of the best drivers of all time, maybe the best, lost his life on “Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari” circuit located in Imola, Italy, and nobody has got over the “black weekend” till now. “Black Weekend” at Imola in 1994 began on 30 April, when the Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger lost his life hitting a concrete wall into Villeneuve curve during qualifications. Although many were worried before the race because of that, no one had never even thought that something like that could happen during the very race. However, in the fifth round Sena lost control of his car at a speed of over 300 km/h and hit the wall in “Tamburello” corner. It is certain that Formula One has not been the same without Senna, since Formula One has been loved by many precisely because of him. And now, 20 years later, many are thinking about what would happen if there were. But one thing is for sure, Senna was unique, according driving style he was different from others. Some did not like him, and many did, but he was and he still is one of the best in history. He lived fast, but fast and left, just the way he wanted:

“I want to live fully, very intensely. I would never want to live partially, suffering from illness or injury. If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs my life, I hope it happens in one instant.” – Senna said early in 1994.

Like every Brazilian, Senna believed in God, and epitaph “Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus,” which means “Nothing can separate me from the love of God” is on his grave. His behavior during his short life was in the spirit of the epitaph. Senna was aware of the problems of people in Brazil, especially children, which he loved. That was why that he gave a large part of his wealth, which is estimated at around 400 million dollars at the time of his death, to charity, particularly to ensure a better education for the poor. A few years after Senna’s death, his family founded the “Institute Ayrton Senna”, which exactly helps the children to receive the necessary education. The legend of him still alive in this way.