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The Hat-trick | Manvir Singh Goes From Hero to Villain in 10 minutes; Newcastle United Reel After Coronavirus Infections, Unpublished Report Finds Transfers Rife With Exploitation

The Hat-trick (Top Football News of the Day: Manvir Singh’s goal was cancelled by Joao Victor’s strike via a spot kick in the Indian Super League match between Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan | Newcastle United, reeling under Covid-19, struggle to get players with some semblance of quality for the playing XI | UEFA-commissioned 2018 report finds transfers to be rife with money-laundering.
Manvir Singh of ATK Mohun Bagan

ATK Mohun Bagan’s Manvir Singh celebrates after scoring against Hyderabad FC in their Indian Super League (ISL) match on Friday.

Manvir Singh had a stormy match -- transforming from hero to villain in a matter of 10 minutes during the Hyderabad FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan tussle at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday. Hyderabad remained unbeaten in the Indian Super League (ISL) after recording their third draw of the season -- a 1-1 result against ATK Bagan. The game was dominated in large parts by the club from Kolkata, but the narrative took a pole shift through a penalty kick ruining Antonio Habas’ well laid defensive lockdown protecting the slender lead. 

Manvir put ATK Bagan in command with a goal in the 54th minute. Joao Victor made it all square 11 minutes later, converting a spot kick. That helped Hyderbad preserve its unbeaten streak while ATK Bagan continued a streak of its own too -- all three goals Habas’ men have conceded so far in the league are from set-pieces. 

With coach Manuel Marquez suspended following a red during the match against Jamshedpur FC, assistant coach Thangboi Singto was in the hot seat. Singto made three changes in the playing XI, calling in Subrata Paul as well. The seasoned goalkeeper proved his worth with with a brilliant day under the bar. 

Also Read | Indian Men’s Team End Outside Top 100 in FIFA Year End Rankings 

ATK Bagan’s prolific striker Roy Krishna’s goal scoring run of finding the target in every match this year was brought to a halt yesterday. He, however, did come close to scoring a few times courtesy of the simple fact of being in the right place at the right time. Krishna, it seems, possesses that uncanny ability to be thereabouts right in front of goal, ready to score. 

ATK Bagan coach Habas was not a happy man though. He felt the side did not play to its full potential, and the missed goal scoring opportunities came back to haunt them.

"I think the team has played better in other games this season in attack. We had many chances to score but couldn't. We lost the match (doing) stupid moves. It was not a penalty (in the second half for Hyderabad)," Habas said during a post-match interaction.

Bagan will next take on FC Goa and Habas said that his focus will be on preparing his side for the next fixture. 

"We need time, (with) the team we have, we don't have fine technical matches where we balance between our attack and defence. We have to prepare (for the game against FC Goa)," Habas said. 

Back to the goals: Manvir, the hero, took on the entire Hyderabad defence and smashed the ball into the roof of the net less than 10 minutes into the second half. 

ATKMB's lead was short lived though. In the 70th minute of the match, Manvir, the villain, brought down Nikhil Poojary in the box, forcing the referee to point towards the spot. Victor kept his cool to score the equaliser.

Newcastle United in Coronavirus Crisis

Newcastle United is reeling under Covid-19 but there was a glimmer of hope after three players rejoined the squad and could be available for their match against West Brom over the weekend. 

Newcastle’s training ground was closed last week after several members of the squad and support staff tested positive for the coronavirus. With most players unavailable, the Premier League postponed the club’s last week’s fixture against Aston Villa. The players, whoever had tested negative, restarted training on Wednesday and manager Steve Bruce said on Friday that he was positive of having enough depth in the squad to beat West Brom in their match Saturday.

“We’ve got far more [players] than what we thought we would have last Monday,” said Bruce. “We’ve got two or three who have had it and come back into the squad, and we didn’t think they would come back so quickly.

Also Read | Champions League Referee Implicated in Match Fixing

“We’ve got enough to pick a team and see how we go. It was a significant number of people in a tight-knit group and we will be without a big chunk of players tomorrow,” he added.

Bruce said that the club never considered requesting the postponement of their second match in a row despite doubts over the availability of key players.

“We’ve done everything we possibly can to get the game on and make sure we don’t fall foul of a fixture pile-up, because we’ve got a huge month coming up,” Bruce said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love a fit, strong, healthy squad but we have enough to make sure that we will be competitive in the game. We won’t use it as an excuse.”

Unpublished Report Finds Illegalities in Transfers 

A hardly surprising yet hugely condemnable confidential UEFA report into the transfer market concludes that money-laundering was widespread in the game. It also found that “dominant agents” were exploiting a failure to enforce rules banning third-party ownership.

The 2018 report, compiled by the Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) was never published. The Guardian has access to it and found that it made eight recommendations to help rectify systemic issues. None have been adopted by FIFA more than two years later, although it is close to introducing one and will vote on others next year.

One incredibly revealing segment shows how third-party ownership of players’ economic rights (TPO), banned by FIFA in 2015, “is still a well-established reality”.

“Fierce competition between teams within a highly unregulated context with no effective enforcement of the few existing rules (ie TPO ban) creates a climate of suspicion in which clubs are afraid to lose competitiveness by acting in legal and/or ethical ways. The lack of transparency in transfer operations in general, and in the representation market more particularly, puts clubs at disadvantage vis-à-vis agents and intermediaries who have easier access to the most relevant information,” the report says. 

Titled ‘Intermediation market and transfers in football; state of play, empirical working and corrective measures’, the study also found undue influence of “well-established” agents and the complicity of clubs had a detrimental effect on fair representation of players.

The common practice of agents being hired and paid by clubs to act as intermediaries, the report found, led to a “lack of loyalty” to the player, while creating an elite class of agents in itself. The document found that this led to clubs preferring to deal with larger agents (a fact that becomes clearer as transfer window drama plays out each time), more willing to act in their favour. This, the report claims, is “to the detriment of agents with greater professional conscience”.

The report’s one recommendation that is close to fruition is the creation of a clearing house system through which payments to all agents are made. FIFA agreed to the concept in 2018 although the decision had little to do with this report.

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