For world football, 2013 has been one of upheaval and change.
On the one hand, living legend Sir Alex Ferguson decided to call it a day, thereby changing the english game for ever. On the other hand, the UFEA Champions League saw an all German final for the first time in its history between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, with the latter taking home the trophy.
And then there was Garreth Bale, the 100 million euro player, who set a new record in high spending by clubs.
The year brought some cheer to India as well, with the country bagging the 2017 under-17 World Cup hosting rights. Fans will hope for some funds and promotion coming the way of Indian football thanks to that.
Here are the top ten causes for joy and heartbreak, off and on the pitch, in 2013:
January 8: The Barcelona website calls Lionel Messi ‘the man with four Golden Balls’ and they are right. For the fourth straight year, he wins the Ballon D’Or. In other words, he was the planet’s best footballer again.
January 15: Mohun Bagan are allowed to stay in I-League 6 after paying a Rs. 2 crore fine by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) which ignores competition rules that says a team pulling out would be barred for three seasons.
The AIFF says it made an exception because of the club’s history and huge fan base. Starting with zero points from 10 rounds, Mohun Bagan save relegation. The club was punished for refusing to play the second half of the I-League tie against East Bengal citing crowd violence after Mohun Bagan player Syed Rahim Nabi was hit by a missile from the crowd.
May 8: After 26 years, 25 trophies including 13 English Premier League and two Champions League trophies, Sir Alex Ferguson decides enough is enough. Fergie steps down after winning the league with four games to spare. He had changed his mind on retirement once in 2001-2 but this time there was no going back. Manchester United name David Moyes as successor.
May 25: Bayern Munich become Europe’s best beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the first all-German final in the tournament’s history at Wembley. This was the Bavarian giants’ fifth European title and it came in a season where they easily bested everyone in the Bundesliga and won the German Cup becoming the first German club to bag a treble.
Some goodbye that for Jupp Heynckes! And some welcome for Pep Guardiola! By the end of the year, Bayern became the new Club World Cup champions defeating Raja Casablanca 2-0.
June 30: Brazil show they mean business in next year’s World Cup clinically dismantling Spain 3-0 in the final of the Confederations Cup. Neymar scores four goals in the competition to tell Barcelona they have invested well.
July 19: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, 44, steps down after a recurrence of throat cancer. He had missed part of the 2012-13 season for treatment and the club had put assistant Jordi Roura in charge. On July 24, Barcelona name Argentine Gerardo Martino as their new coach.
September 1: After 110 days of negotiations, Gareth Bale becomes the world’s most expensive footballer when Real Madrid sign him for €100 mn from Tottenham Hotspur on a six-year deal. One day later, Real off-load Mesut Oezil to Arsenal for €50 mn much to Arsene Wenger’s approval.
September 11: Afghanistan win their first international football title beating India 2-0 in the final of the SAFF Championships in Kathmandu.
September 24: East Bengal become the second Indian team after Dempo to qualify for the semi-finals of the AFC Cup. They lose 2-7 on aggregate to eventual champions Al-Kuwait, their campaign ending at home on October 22.
Lalrindika Ralte, a 21-year-old midfielder from Mizoram, emerges star of East Bengal’s best-ever show in Asia with four goals in the competition. It makes him the joint-highest Indian scorer along with Bhaichung Bhutia.
December 5: Fifa announces that India has won the bid to host the 2017 under-17 World Cup. This is the first Fifa event that India has been awarded. It will be held in six cities with the final possibly in New Delhi.
December 20: Luis Suarez ends speculation about his future by committing to a four-and-a-half-year deal at Liverpool that will pay him £200,000 a week.