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Sarpreet Singh makes Bundesliga debut for Bayern Munich

On July 1st, 2019, Wellington Phoenix starlet Sarpreet Singh made the big European transfer he would’ve only ever dreamed of.

German giants Bayern Munich came calling and on Saturday, Singh made his official top tier debut for ‘Die Roten’ in their 6-1 win over Werder Bremen.

Singh was a late substitute for Philippe Coutinho, who scored a hattrick. Coutinho is most well-known for his tenure at Liverpool, where he made over 150 appearances.

Coutinho is currently on loan at Bayern from arguably the biggest club in the world, Barcelona.

The mere fact that Singh, who played in a loss to NPL Victorian side Bentleigh Greens whilst at the Phoenix, replaced Coutinho is absolutely astonishing.

From the semi-professional grounds of Kingston Heath Soccer Complex to the 75,000 capacity Allianz Arena in Munich, Singh has come a very long way in record time.

And he still has plenty of time on his hands. At just 20 years of age, Singh has already accomplished so much, but still has plenty of potential to realise.

Following the abrupt sacking of Niko Kovac, Bayern have scored 25 goals from eight games, with a win/loss record of 6-2 in all competitions.

Hans-Dieter Flick, the interim head coach of Bayern, has allowed many of the club’s youth players opportunities in the first team following good runs of form in the third tier with the club’s reserves team.

Kovac, during his time as coach, took Singh along with the senior side in their pre-season tour.

Despite this amazing opportunity, Singh was expected to see out the season in the reserves.

But nine scoring involvements from 13 appearances has impressed Flick, giving him the nod for a senior debut.

Despite only being on the field for a mere ten minutes, Singh was lively and was able to win a corner. It’s not much, but it’s certainly enough of a platform for him to launch off.

Singh also created a little bit of history by stepping out onto Allianz Arena. He became the first Kiwi player to play in the Bundesliga since New Zealand footballing legend Wynton Rufer.

Funnily enough, Rufer spent the majority of his playing career at Werder Bremen, the same club Singh made his debut against at the weekend.

Sarpreet’s Bundesliga debut is another sign that the A-League, for all its criticism of bringing in too many marquees and older players, is doing a marvellous job at developing youngsters and nurturing them for the roads that lie ahead.

Over the years, we’ve seen many players struggle to forge successful careers outside of Australia and New Zealand, with many being forced to return to try and recapture their best form.

There have always been players that have been very solid players in lower European tiers, such as Carl Valeri who played in Serie B and C during his time in Italy.

But not many have been able to take Europe by the scruff of the neck and establish themselves as high-quality players who can make it alongside the ‘big boys’. Brighton pair Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan are two of the best we’ve seen in the last 5-10 years.

Robbie Kruse is another example of this. He was a superstar of the A-League prior to making the move to Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany in 2011. He would proceed to jump from club to club whilst in Germany, struggling to establish himself as a regular.

21 appearances between 2013 and 2017 during his time at Bayer Leverkusen sums up Kruse’s fortunes whilst in Europe.

His best stint came at VFL Bochum, who are a second-tier side. Between 2017 and 2019, he made 42 appearances and was a constant member of their first team.

He then moved back to Australia to join the Melbourne Victory at the start of the current A-League campaign.

Perth Glory star Chris Ikonomidis is in a similar boat. Despite being seven years Kruse’s junior, Ikonomidis seems to be following in the Victory star’s footsteps ever so slightly.

He made the move to Italian giants Lazio as a teenager, which on paper, would be a dream move for any aspiring junior.

He was subsequently loaned out three times before moving permanently from Rome back to Australia, where he joined the Perth Glory.

Ikonomidis has plenty of time on his side and hopefully, we haven’t seen the best of him just yet and he can one day, return to the big leagues and make his mark.

The same can be said for Sarpreet Singh. He has a lot of work to do to become a first team regular in the coming years at Bayern. But his Bundesliga debut can hopefully be the catalyst for his development into becoming that player.

Barcelona the most popular online club in China from Red Card report findings

Barcelona has overtaken fellow La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid to become China’s most popular soccer club online, based off Mailman’s 2020 Red Card report.

In Mailman’s 2020 rankings, it shows that Barcelona have risen significantly from fifth to first place since last year, mainly due off the back of their impressive growth on Chinese social media.

The club’s followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo went up from eight million to 16.3 million, a massive 104 per cent jump. In turn Barcelona improved on it’s engagement through Weibo, trending up 45 per cent from their 2018 efforts.

The club also gained huge exposure on short form video platform Douyin, with Lionel Messi’s penalty pass to Luis Suarez ranking as the fourth most watched video last year, accumulating 64 million views and 2.3 million engagements.

“[The award is] a testament to the effort, teamwork and innovation of all of those involved with FC Barcelona in China,” said Barcelona Board Member Didac Lee.

“Our challenge is to create content for China that is bespoke to the ever-evolving digital landscape, culture and habits of this market and we’re proud to be recognised for outstanding fan growth and engagement.”

In English Premier League standings, Chelsea are the most popular club from England and sit third in Mailman’s rankings overall.

There are two more Premier League outfits in the top five, with Manchester City and Manchester United in fourth and joint fifth alongside Juventus respectively.

City went up from ninth place in 2019 to leapfrog rivals United this year, while Liverpool are seventh, dropping down a single place.

The Premier League itself is the most popular competition with China’s digital community, ahead of the LaLiga which overtook the Bundesliga to claim second place. The German top-tier sits third, recording its lowest ever ranking.

“To receive this Red Card award for the second year running is a great honour and testament to the Premier League and our clubs’ loyal fanbase in China,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.

“We witnessed their passionate support during last year’s successful Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai, something that has been reflected by the growing popularity of our digital coverage in the country.”

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular player with China’s digital soccer fans according to Mailman, ahead of Neymar and Lionel Messi respectively.

It’s the second consecutive year that Ronaldo has topped the poll, being one of the few players to see increased engagement and followers on Weibo despite a decrease in soccer-related user activity on the platform. Neymar found himself the most followed player on rival platform Douyin.

“I am very pleased with this award. I know that I have a huge part of fans in China and it means a lot to be on top of the table for the second year in a row,” said Ronaldo.

Chinese fans have contributed many commercial opportunities for European soccer clubs, with an estimated AUD$98.9 million of digital sponsorship revenue still on the table, according to Mailman.

Football Queensland’s CEO Robert Cavallucci to reform Junior Development on the Sunshine Coast

Football Queensland today released a statement on the current state of junior development on the Sunshine Coast.

In their statement, FQ say that they have discussed potential pathways for women and girls to play soccer on the Sunshine Coast. Talks were held with NPL club Sunshine Coast Wanderers.

The statement in full can be found below, per footballqueensland.com.au:

Football Queensland (FQ) Chief Executive Officer Robert Cavallucci met with club officials from Sunshine Coast Wanderers on Monday to discuss future pathways for women and girls on the Sunshine Coast.

Following a review of junior development opportunities across the state, discussions were held around how FQ can support the club moving forward to strengthen pathways for women and girls in the region, including the National Premier Leagues Women’s (NPLW) Queensland.

Related Articles:

Football Queensland announce reformed junior NPL competition

Football Queensland welcomes new SWQ Technical Development Manager

Over the next few weeks, FQ will work collaboratively with Football Queensland Sunshine Coast Zone and Sunshine Coast Wanderers as the NPLW licence holders to grow opportunities for women and girls.

FQ will not be making any changes to the current NPLW licence holders on the Sunshine Coast.

Further details around the support package will be announced in the coming weeks.

*ENDS*

The Sunshine Coast Wanderers are the leaders in their geographical area for promoting the women’s game and making it as readily available as possible.

The club has women’s sides in under 13’s, under 15’s, under 17’s and seniors.

However, Football Queensland have clearly seen the women’s game and the junior side of that, in particular to be an area in need of addressing.

This is a great show of initiative from Robert Cavallucci and FQ. The women’s game is arguably as important as any area of soccer in Australia at this point in time. They have clearly noticed the need to maximise coverage of the sport in the state and we here at Soccerscene tip our hats off to them.

In recent weeks, some of our best exports have been making all the headlines.

Sam Kerr, who recently signed for English club Chelsea FC, scored her very first goal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (the female equivalent of the Premier League) in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Arsenal.

The win itself came as a real surprise as Arsenal, for all their struggles in the men’s league, are the reigning champions and currently sit second on the table in the Barclays FAWSL.

They are only behind Manchester City on goal difference.

It’s great to see Sammy hitting the scoreboard in England and let’s hope that this is merely the beginning for the Matildas star.

Fellow Australian Hayley Raso also made waves by joining Everton’s women’s side from Brisbane Roar.

Raso, who is from the Gold Coast originally, had stints at Brisbane, Canberra United in the W-League and the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League (the female equivalent of the MLS).

Raso has been riddled with injuries in recent times and after moving from the United States, then to Australia and now to England, let’s hope she can make a splash like that of Sam Kerr.

Australian soccer legend Tim Cahill, who made his name at Everton as well as Millwall, made the announcement via Everton’s Twitter page. The video can be found below.

2021 AFCON switches to winter due to heat

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has made the decision to move the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to the months of January and February, going against its plan to have the tournament during summer.

The AFCON has formerly seen winter months at its traditional time slot and is due to take place from January 9th to February 6th 2021. .

The African governing body, currently being presided over by FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, cited extreme heat as the reason why they they made the decision to move the competition, however it also now prevents a clash with FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup in June 2021.

CAF’s announcement follows discussions with the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT), the host nation’s governing soccer body.

CAF Deputy General Secretary Anthony Baffoe confirmed the association’s decision.

“We have reviewed the period of the competition as requested by the Cameroonian party due to unfavourable climatic conditions during the period initially slated,” he said.

“After listening to the various arguments and viewpoints, and in particular from the Cameroonian meteorological authorities, the coaches and players; the representatives of the Afcon organising committee, which received the mandate from CAF Executive Committee to take the decision, has granted this request.”

English Premier League clubs are most likely to be affected with this news – the heavy scheduling around January time could mean that teams may miss key personnel for up to six games.

Some of the African stars that will depart across EPL sides:

  • Liverpool – Sadio Mane (Senegal), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) & Naby Keita (Guinea)
  • Manchester City – Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
  • Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) & Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)
  • Manchester United – Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
  • Leicester City – Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)
  • Crystal Palace – Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) & Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
  • Everton – Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

The biennial African national team tournament was meant to be hosted by Cameroon in 2019 but was reassigned to Egypt because of building delays, which lead to the Ivory Coast now hosting the tournament in the summer of 2023.

Despite having more construction time last year, Cameroon will need to get everything right six months earlier.

The 2019 tournament was won by Algeria through a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the final.

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