Inspired by coach Diego Simeone, Atletico have twice reached the final, as well as the semis and quarters in the Champions League over the past four seasons – only to fall to cross city rivals Real Madrid on every occasion.On top of a 310 million euro ($360 million) outlay on their new home, Atletico made a huge economic effort to make their transition from the Vicente Calderon as smooth as possible despite a FIFA ban on registering new players.Simeone and key figures such as Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Koke were handed lucrative new contracts.Diego Costa also rejoined the club for a reported club record 55 million euros ($64.8 million) from Chelsea, but he and Atletico’s other major recruit Vitolo can’t feature until January.However, the gamble that Costa and Vitolo would provide the perfect boost to Atletico’s Champions League campaign come the new year could backfire spectacularly as Simeone’s men have taken a paltry two points from their opening three Group C games.Costa’s old club Chelsea lead the way on seven points, closely followed by Roma on five.– Goal-shy Griezmann – Atletico Madrid’s top scorer Angel Correa fights for the ball with Qarabag’s Badavi Guseynov during their UEFA Champions League Group C first leg match, in Baku, on October 18, 2017 © AFP/File / TOFIK BABAYEVAtletico’s problem is painstakingly obvious, they can’t score goals.Griezmann’s penalty in 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea last month is their only Champions League goal to date and they have managed just eight in their last eight La Liga games to fall eight points off the top.“It’s the same thing as always,” Saul confessed after a 1-1 draw against third-tier Elche in the Copa del Rey.“That lack of goals makes us anxious and we end up suffering.”Top scorer for the past three seasons, Griezmann’s form has faltered with just three goals 11 matches.However, Simeone insisted the Frenchman has got Atletico into a “bad habit” of solving the team’s attacking problems single-handedly for too long.Luciano Vietto, Fernando Torres and Kevin Gameiro have all been handed their opportunity to partner Griezmann in attack and failed when presented chances in front of goal.Some have also pointed the finger at Simeone’s defensive tactics as Atletico have been punished for sitting back after taking the lead against Chelsea, Barcelona and in drawing 1-1 against Villarreal on Saturday.Atletico Madrid’s head coach Diego Simeone shouts instructions to his players during their UEFA Champions League Group C match against Chelsea, at the Metropolitan stadium in Madrid, on September 27, 2017 © AFP/File / JAVIER SORIANO“Simeone isn’t the one missing the chances,” wrote former Atletico favourite Paulo Futre in sports daily Marca on Sunday in defence of the Argentine.Griezmann, Yannick Carrasco and Torres all missed huge opportunities as Qarabag secured their first ever Champions League point in Baku two weeks ago.“Now we have a final here at home,” said Atletico’s top scorer Angel Correa, his side’s top scorer with a meagre four goals this season.“We need to be calm because the only thing we lack is luck, we are creating the chances.”Atletico’s fate remains in their own hands, but they need to be a lot more clinical if Costa is to avoid the ignominy of making his European return in the new year in the Europa League as his old club progress to the Champions League last 16.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000(From L) Qarabag’s Rashad Sadygov, Atletico Madrid’s Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann compete for the ball during their UEFA Champions League Group C first leg match, in Baku, on October 18, 2017 © AFP/File / Alexander NEMENOVMADRID, Spain, Oct 30 – Finding themselves against the ropes, Atletico Madrid have to come out swinging and finally start landing punches to keep their Champions League dreams alive when Azerbaijani champions Qarabag visit the shiny new Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.The move to the 68,000 capacity stadium, which will host next season’s Champions League final, was seen as confirmation of Atletico’s place among the European elite.
Marjolein Gamble is a former pre-primary and primary school teacher who was inspired by a fondness for creativity to create sustainable products and empower local workers.Marjolein Gamble has made a living from her pencil drawn greeting cards, as above, and shweshwe fashion designs. Most of her products are made from recyclable materials. (Image: Carte-Blanche.com)Marjolein Gamble started with blank cards on which she drew with colour pencils and printed on recycled local paper. This is where the name ‘Carte-Blanche’ came from. According to the Oxford dictionary, this French term means “a blank piece of paper to be filled in as the possessor pleases”.Today Gamble sells a variety of products such as: artistic blank greeting cards; notebooks made from recycled card and paper; shweshwe shoulder bags; reversible peak hats, shirts and shorts; shweshwe and canvas aprons; printed shoulder bags; and decorative glow in the dark shapes.Sustainability is the key focus for Carte-Blanche and Gamble sources locally manufactured and environmentally friendly materials.Carte-Blanche is in its infancy but already creates a lot of regular work and employs a few locals on a part-time and contract basis.Carte-Blanche invites you to buy good quality products and clothes which are affordable, artistic and which support our local artisans and resources.Their website is www.carteblanchecards.com.
Cricket loves its heroes. Tendulkar, Dhoni, Sehwag. Warne, Kallis, Steyn. For the next few months, the game’s hero should be the Indian fan. Here come the world’s two biggest cricket attractions, right on top of each other. On February 19, commences the 10th cricket World Cup, somehow strung out to 49 games. Then on April 8, less than a week after the World Cup final, begins the first of the 74 games of the fourth Indian Premier League (IPL).In any other country, this would be too much of a good thing. In India, too much is barely enough. The games fixtured in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh notwithstanding, it will be Indian tv audiences that somehow make Canada vs Kenya and Ireland vs the Netherlands work as the tournament spends five weeks deciding whether West Indies or Bangladesh go through to the quarter-finals. Then they will swap their horizontal tricolours for the IPL replica gear of their favourite franchise and follow that all the way too.It’s a source of wonder. Forty years ago, India had issued fewer than a quarter of a million tv licences. Now there are sets in more than half the nation’s households, and they never shine more incessantly than for cricket. India is not just obsessed with cricket; it is, as Santosh Desai puts it in Mother Pious Lady, “obsessed with being obsessed”.For cricket elsewhere, that poses a growing dilemma. The World Cup is a misnomer. Cricket is not a global game (that is, followed in a majority of countries in ways not based chiefly on national identity), but a multinational one (dependent, like rugby, on an essentially fixed minority of countries) depending, as perhaps no other sport, on the latter-day financial heft of a single country.advertisementThe size and vitality of India’s economy has divided an ancient and widely-loved sport into two streams-the fixtures involving India, as competitor and consumer, and those not. The former are so staggeringly more lucrative that the latter have a diminishing relative existence.Every new cricket initiative worldwide involves trying to monetise Indian passion, whether it’s Australia’s mooted Big Bash League or New Zealand’s Cricket Holdings America LLC. Young cricketers hanker after the easy money of IPL: Australian domestic cricket stopped almost to a walk during the IPL auction as players hung on to every tweet and text message. Where once the objective might have been to become the next Ricky Ponting, now it is to be the next Dan Christian, made a millionaire overnight by the lightning strike of an offer from the Deccan Chargers.The Indian domination of the cricket world probably started more than 15 years ago, in the 1996 World Cup and when the Supreme Court liberalised India’s airwaves. The intrinsic qualities of cricket are coming to have less to do with this than Indian gross domestic product and gross political ambition. Ashis Nandy’s contention that cricket is an “Indian game accidentally discovered by the English” is vindicated not by culture but by capitalism, and the ballot box.It’s as simple as this. First, imagine you are a broadcaster or a manufacturer of consumer goods surveying the extraordinary cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity that is India. If you are a Samsung surveying the scene from Seoul or an LG Group from Yeouido-dong, how baffling it must seem? So many Gods. So many markets. How to span them all? Bollywood? Soap opera? Cricket outdoes them all, partly because it effortlessly enfolds elements of the other two-narrative, character and tamasha. No wonder, cricket attracts 85 per cent of the advertising monies lavished on sport in India.Imagine you are a politician. It’s easy, just abandon all your moral scruples. Think about the appeal to your constituents of a cricket-friendly face and a cricket-minded administration. What would an IPL franchise, a new cricket stadium or just hosting a ODI might be worth? What a way to evince your common touch, your affinity for vernacular culture.When the World Cup was last in India, the dominant administrative figures, such as Jagmohan Dalmiya and I.S. Bindra, had deep roots in the game. The administration of cricket in India in the last 15 years has been transformed by the presence of such political heavyweights as Arun Jaitley of Delhi, Rajeev Shukla of Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi of Gujarat, Anurag Thakur of Himachal Pradesh, Ranjib Biswal of Orissa, Dayanand Narvekar of Goa, Jyotiraditya Scindia of Madhya Pradesh, Ranbir Singh Mahendra of Haryana, Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar and just lately, Shashi Tharoor and K.V. Thomas in Kerala, although, perhaps above all, by Sharad Pawar, the “King of Maharastra”, patron of Lalit Modi, now poo-bah of the ICC.advertisementCricket in India is not big only because of its fans’ unique passion, its players’ great skills, the game’s incomparable appeal, and it is certainly not because of the talent of its administration. It outstrips the game in rival nations because India has a lot more people who want to buy mobile phones and tvs while aspiring to white goods, and also because of the exuberant self-admiration of India’s political and media elites.What does this mean for cricket? In the near-term, this has meant great rewards for players, who have no objection to being told where to go and what to do, providing a king’s ransom is involved, and also improved access and better deals for fans, because they are now also consumers whose disposable rupee is suddenly worth hustling for.A pre-industrial game, however, does not make a natural fit with a late capitalist economy. At risk is its hold on any independent existence, as a game, as a cultural form, as an institution. Cricket has never been truly outside economics and politics in India, as has been argued by Ramachandra Guha in A Corner of a Foreign Field. It has been an heir to the fissures and tensions of race, cast, religion and nation.But within it has been preserved something spontaneous, romantic, transcendent and inspirational. Something beyond the market forces. In this latest incarnation, cricket is mainly an effective means of conveying goods to the market; in and of itself it is arguably of dwindling significance.This happens everywhere. This summer in Australia, watching the Ashes felt like visiting a shopping mall. There was something deliciously subversive about watching the team that had come to play win, and the team wheeled out to interrupt the ads get rock’n’rolled.But India’s playing is like the effect of any other two nations squared. Which is actually a diminution of cricket worldwide. One of the qualities of Indian fans has always been their global awareness. They were international followers of the game long before it was straightforward to be so. They would follow events in, say, Australia or the West Indies almost as closely as they followed their own favourites.An irony of Indian cricket’s resistless rise is that the game is becoming less global, relatively speaking. While football and the Olympics have maintained their relentless onward march, Test cricket remains a small club; ODI cricket is a little larger. As Amit Gupta notes in Cricket and Globalisation: “There are no cricketers who have become global icons and advertising brand names in non-cricket-playing countries as David Beckham, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have done for their sports in countries like China.”China developing a taste for cricket might change the landscape. Cricket’s string-pullers would like that, because there are a lot more consumer markets to conquer there. But, really, who cares? They’re creaming it at the moment without having to look anywhere else. In the short-to-medium-term, the name of the game is exploiting a core market that is still growing.advertisementElsewhere, cricket is becoming subtly less local. When India visits Australia later this year, it will be transported in an Indian commercial bubble, with its home tv viewers in mind: even the hoardings at the grounds will be allocated to Indian brands. Series that don’t involve India, meanwhile, drift into the twilight of obscure pay-tv channels.The quasi-domestic Champions League is perhaps the most bizarre artefact of Indian hegemony, a tournament that even when it is not in India is all about that country. Last year’s installment in South Africa remains in the memory only because of its eeriness: bad cricket being played by ordinary cricketers in front of handfuls of spectators, gyrating cheerleaders and over-excited commentators simply because ESPN, frustrated at having failed to bid for the IPL, had forked out $1 billion.Here too can be seen most clearly the distinction between what the fans want and what the cricket-industrial complex wants them to want. That’s no way to treat heroes. Gideon Haigh is a Melbourne-based cricket historian and writer