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‘We’ve signed you to win the UCL’ – inside Real Madrid’s European obsession

first_img3 3 Bale dreamed of playing for Madrid. At his 2013 unveiling, a photograph of Bale as a boy grinning in a Real shirt loomed large on club TV screens. We suggest that his father, seeing his son’s prodigious talent, bought a job-lot of replica kits for Europe’s top clubs and got him to pose in each – just in case such a photo was ever needed. The 26-year-old laughs in response.“No, I just loved watching Real Madrid when I was a young kid,” he says. “I loved the white kit, the players playing for them, the special football they played, the goals they scored… I remember when Steve McManaman came over, then David Beckham, then Michael Owen. I started watching more and more. Just seeing top British players playing alongside the likes of Brazilian Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos was amazing.”Zidane, assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti when Bale joined the club, is now Real manager. Does he ever get involved in training? “He did in my first season!” says Bale. “He dropped the shoulder on me a few times as well. I grew up watching him. Such a good player, he was.”MEET BART SIMPSONWatching a Champions League match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is a unique experience. There are plenty of excited ‘day trippers’ at big Premier League clubs, but this is a different level. Excited visitors from France, Japan and China clamour outside the gargantuan 85,000-capacity stadium, posing for pictures with a man in a giant Bart Simpson costume plus Real Madrid kit (though we doubt he was endorsed by either club or cartoon). It feels more like Times Square on a Saturday night than the preamble to a football match. The stadium fills up late (well, this is Spain), but it is packed full when the match begins.Before Real score, however, the atmosphere is slightly unusual. Alert, but also pensive. A friendly voice sat beside us offers an explanation: “The fans are quiet; they have such high expectations. Whatever is normal at a football club, they expect three times as much. If the team score three, they want four. That’s why it takes a special player to play here.”Sport’s new amigo isn’t referring to talent – that’s a given. He taps the side of his head: “It’s the mental strength needed to play for these fans. Not everyone can do it. You need to have a mental resilience not to fall before these expectations.”Bale concurs. “Being here is like being under a microscope,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to go out in England. Here, the sole focus is football. They have whole newspapers dedicated to Real Madrid. But that’s just part of being a Real Madrid player – you get used to it.”Bale seems settled into life in the Spanish capital. Scoring match-winning goals in the finals of the Copa del Rey and Champions League (against rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, no less) in your first season probably helps. Yet he felt the fierce gaze of media scrutiny last year.“I feel like I’ve grown up [since I arrived], especially since you’re not in your comfort zone any more,” he tells us. “You’re really thrown into the deep end – and I think maybe last year, I didn’t play so well in the second half of the season. In a way, I’m quite glad it happened, because it has made me a stronger person, a stronger player. You learn more from when things are not going well than if you were just a winner. I’ve really benefited from it.”Fitness niggles have disrupted Bale’s third season in Spain, but he has also looked in excellent form in the middle (scoring 11 goals in his past eight games, although he hasn’t played since January 17). Madrid will want him back fit for the Champions League crunch matches, not least because it represents perhaps their ultimate challenge of the modern era.GALACTICO TO CLASICOWhen the European Cup first came into existence 60 years ago this season, Real Madrid’s name was the first on the cup. Four years later, it was still the only name on the trophy. The galactico policy of signing the world’s best players that caught the eye of a young Bale didn’t begin in the late 1990s – it stretches back to the 1950s.Real Madrid built a team around their greatest player, Alfredo Di Stefano, but improved it each year. Raymond Kopa played superbly for French club Stade Reims against Real Madrid in the 1956 final. He was quickly convinced to switch sides. In 1958, after two years out of the game and at least two stone overweight, Hungary’s glorious galloping major Ferenc Puskas signed. He slimmed down (well, a bit) and shone. So it goes. Take the tour around the Bernabeu and, alongside the rich history of mementos, boots worn by great players and Ballon d’Or awards, two things stand out. One is a FIFA Club of the Century award, underlining Real’s status as the most successful club side of the 20th century. Then, at the end, 10 European Cup/ Champions League trophies stand proudly in a row inside a glass case filled with a constant whirl of gold and silver paper. A bit like the end of The Crystal Maze, but admittedly more impressive.Whisper it quietly around these parts, but the newest version of this trophy resides not in Madrid. It’s in Barcelona. With one win each from the past two Champions League finals, the rivalry between the two clubs stands tall above European football. It’s never been more fierce. But there must be figures at both clubs who realise it is terrific for business.In his book Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid, Sid Lowe covers why the labels attached to both clubs (Real as the establishment club, Barca the rebels) isn’t just a simplification but often plain wrong. However there’s one quote in the book, from former Real Madrid player and manager Jorge Valdano, that sums it all up: “If Barcelona didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.”They are two clubs constantly trying to one-up one another, pushing each other to greater heights. It’s Barcelona who currently top the pile in La Liga. Now, however, they’re stepping on Real’s patch of Europe, with three Champions League titles in the past seven years. In 2016, they’re aiming to be the first club to retain the trophy since AC Milan in 1990.“My plan when I first started playing football was to try and reach the pinnacle – and Real Madrid is the pinnacle of football teams,” Bale tells us, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. And yet it’s now Barcelona looking to carve out a fresh piece of European history.The good news for Real is that stopping Barcelona is in their own hands. The two Spanish clubs – along with Bayern Munich – are favourites for this season’s Champions League. Wouldn’t it be just like Real to gatecrash Barca’s party? ‘La Undecima’ is Spanish for ‘The Eleventh’ – just in case you need to know.Gareth Bale is an ambassador for BT Sport: the new home of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League exclusively live – btsport.com This feature appears in the current edition of sport magazine. Download the free iPad app here, and follow on Twitter @sportmagukEurope has several big football clubs, but only one that judges itself on the highest altar of all. Don’t believe us? Consider England’s two most successful sides. Manchester United endured an agonising, 26-year wait without a domestic league title from 1966/67 to 1992/93. Liverpool fans look back to their previous league win in 1989/90 and wince. Their wait is growing.It’s natural that England’s big clubs gauge their success by this marker. Real Madrid judge themselves on a similar criteria. Yet their domain is all of Europe. This is a club that marks its success in relation to the continent’s biggest prize; that considers the European Cup (or Champions League) its benchmark. When the club won that trophy for the 10th time in 2014, it had been just 12 years since the their previous triumph. Most clubs would gladly settle for a Champions League win every 12 years. To those at Real Madrid, the wait felt like a lifetime.Gareth Bale offers a shy smile when Sport asks him how much pressure there was to win the fabled La Decima when he signed in 2013. “Massive,” is the word he settles on. “It literally felt like the reason they signed me. Whenever I spoke to the president here [Florentino Perez], he was always telling me: ‘We’ve signed you to win the 10th Champions League.’” Sport magazine spoke to Gareth Bale about his club’s Champions League obsession 3last_img read more

More families seeking help handling debt

first_imgNEW YORK – Consumers struggling to keep up with higher gas prices and other rising household expenses have been pulling out their credit cards more often – sometimes too often. Credit counselors report a sharp rise in the number of families seeking help, many of whom end up on belt-tightening budgets and debt management programs to pay down their balances. “People are using their credit cards because they don’t have enough money to make it day-to-day,” said Howard Dvorkin, president of the nonprofit Consolidated Credit Counseling Service in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It’s driving the American consumer deeper and deeper into debt.” What happens, he says, is that “eventually they hit a wall – and then they call me.” Ciampi, who is 38 and single, said he had had a disagreement with an auto mechanic over what he believed was unauthorized work. The card company initially removed the disputed charge, but later added it back – pushing Ciampi’s balance over the limit. “If you’re 10 cents over the limit, they start adding penalties,” he complained. “There’s big business in those penalties, and it got me fed up.” So a couple of months ago, Ciampi cut up his credit cards, except for one he uses in emergencies, and agreed to a debt management program, or DMP. Through a DMP, a counseling agency often can get card companies to forgo or reduce penalty fees and cut interest rates. At the same time, the consumer agrees to monthly payments that the counseling agency collects and passes on to creditors. The fees for these programs average about $30 a month. Ciampi said he’s happy to be on a “cash only” budget and to be paying a single bill to eliminate his debt. David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, said the nonprofit counseling agencies in his group have seen a rise in the number of people seeking help, including the elderly. “We have retirees coming in with no income other than Social Security and $50,000 to $60,000 of unsecured debt that they can’t handle,” Jones said. Some consumers need just a bit of help creating a spending plan, and then can get a handle on their debts themselves, he said. Others may be able to borrow against their homes and reduce their card debt that way. Still others may need to speak to attorneys about filing for bankruptcy. Those who qualify for DMPs have a steady source of income – and are willing to cut up their cards and work over the next three to five years to become debt free. “It’s not just credit card debt,” he added. “Often people have debts to doctors, lawyers, dentists hospitals that need to be paid off, too.” Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the NFCC, said some consumers weren’t sure when to seek counseling. Her suggestion is, the earlier the better. “If you’re afraid to answer the phone because it might be a bill collector, afraid to open the mail, getting into arguments over money at home, hiding your purchases … not sleeping well, you may need help,” she said. “It won’t hurt to see a credit counselor and get an independent, third-party take on where you are.” Cunningham estimated that about a third of the consumers that credit counselors see can, after a bit of counseling about budgeting and spending, better manage their credit cards. Another third, say people with a gambling problem or an abusive relationship, may be referred to another agency for help. The remaining third go into a debt management program. “The most important thing is a willingness to change, to stop charging and make a fresh start,” she said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre And they’re calling in increasing numbers. Susan C. Keating, president and chief executive of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said the nonprofit counseling agencies in her organization dealt with a million consumers in 2005, 2.2 million in 2006 and are on their way toward seeing a record 2.8 million this year. Mortgage foreclosure problems as well as pre-bankruptcy counseling have swelled their ranks, Keating said. But credit card debt also continues to trip up consumers. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that outstanding credit card debt grew at an annual rate of 4.4 percent to $920.1 billion in September from $917 billion the month before. Frank Ciampi, a musician and stagehand who lives in Chicago, said he sought help from Consolidated Credit after credit card companies began imposing penalties on his accounts. last_img read more


first_imgALL-COUNTY JUNIOR LEAGUE Termon  5-08   St  Patrick’s  Muff  1-06BY JAMES TREARTY: Termon  Junior  Ladies  had  a hard  earned  victory  over  St  Patrick’s  Muff  at  the  Burn  Road  on Sunday.Played  in  very  difficult  conditions  with a swirling  cold wind  that  blew from  the  North  it  was  not  a  day for  the  faint  hearted.Muff  lost  the  toss  and  Termon  played  with the  wind  that blew  straight  down  the  field.Termon  got  off  to  an  ideal  start  with  points from Fiona  Mc Laughlin, Lisa  Mc Glynn  and  Aisling  Ryan  before  Dara  Kelly,and  Sharon Mc Laughlin  had  goals  to  put  the  Burnroad  side  in  the  driving  seat  after fifteen  minutes. Indeed   the  Mc  Laughlin  sisters Sharon   and Fiona   with  Tara  Mc  Daid   were  thorns in  Muff’s  side. Aoife Ryan,Holly  Mc  Daid and    Lisa  Mc Glynn  all  were  to  the  fore  when  experience  was  needed. Muffs  woes were  compounded  when several  scoring  opportunities  went a begging for the  Foylesiders and  indeed it  was no  surprise when  Termon  went further  ahead Lisa  Mc  Glynn  and Tara Mc Daid   added  to  Termon’s  tally   to  leave  Halftime Termon  4–7  Muff  0–00As  the  second  half  got  underway  Harry  Mc Glynn made  what  turned  out  to be  a  very  tactical  move  when  he played into  the  strong  wind. He  placed  Dara  Kelly  in  goals  with  Caroline  Gallagher at  midfield.Kelly  had  an  outstanding  30  minutes  minding  the  house  while the two  Kelly  sisters Maura, Martina  and Orla  Trearty  played a very  supporting  role.With  two  minutes  gone  Lorraine  MC Colgan  opened  Muffs  account  and  with  County  panellist  Aine  Mc  Laughlin  added another but for stout  defending  by  Termon particularly Anne  Mc  Glynn, Niamh  Callaghan, Shauna Kelly  Muff  would  have  more  scores. In  a  counter  attack  Termon  added  to  Muffs  woes   when  Lisa  Mc  Glynn  received  an  inch  perfect  pass  to  give Carla  Mc  Closkey no chance  in  the  Muff  goals. This was  a  killer  score as Muff  were  in  the  ascendency and  had laid  siege  to the  Termon  goals  without  any  great results.But  the  fighting  Muff  spirit  was  alive  and  well  and Aine  Breslin with a  wonderful  goal  after  Termon  failed  to  clear  the  lines to  cut  the  deficit. Breslin  added  another  points before Lorraine  Mc  Closkey raised the  last  white  flag  for  Muff. Final  score Termon  5–8  Muff  1–6This  score  did  not  truly  reflect Muffs  contribution  to  this  game  and in particular  Aine  Breslin  and  Aine  Mc  Laughlin  who  covered   a lot  of  ground. Up  front  Muff had  good  performances from  Lorraine  Mc  Colgan, Rachel  mc  Laughlin and  Aine Mc  Callion .Termon  manager Harry  Mc Glynn could  afford  the  luxury  of trying  out  several  positional  changes and  substitutes where  he  called  on the  services  Celine  Mc  Daid, Molly  Callaghan, Debra  Mc  Daid, Roseleen Gallagher  and  Christine  Coyle . A few  of  these panellist will no  doubt  have  staked a claim for  further  consideration.Termon  team  was . Caroline  Gallagher, Martina  Kelly, Orlaith  Trearty, Maura  Kelly, Aine  Mc Glynn,  Niamh  Callaghan, Shauna  Kelly,  Dara  Kelly,,Sharon  Mc  Laughlin, Aileen  Mc Glynn Tara  Mc Daid, Fiona  Mc  Laughlin, Aoife  Ryan,Lisa  Mc Glynn, Holly  Mc Daid,Muff  team  was Carla  Mc  Closkey, Shannon  Lynch, Fiona  Grant, Emer Grant, Andrea Mc  Laughlin, Catriona  Grant,  Aine  Breslin, Aine  Mc  Laughlin,  Caroline  Margy, Dypna  Molloy,Rachel  Mc  Laughlin. Lorraine  Mc Colgan, Niamh  Mc  Colgan, Patrica  Margey. LADIES GAA MATCH REPORT: TERMON OVERCOME MUFF was last modified: April 29th, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:LADIES GAA MATCH REPORT: TERMON OVERCOME MUFFlast_img read more