Monday, February 13, 2006

Welsh wizard

"Welsh Wizard" by Tom Croft(copyright), pic from AHA Premier Ltd. I just love this painting. It shows off Giggs' balance and athleticism so well.

Ryan Giggs is my all-time favourite Man Utd player. I had mentioned that briefly before. Actually, make that all-time favourite player.

Most football fans like players for their skills, flair, looks, hairdo... etc. I like Giggs for his fierce loyalty to his club, his country and to his mum:

Giggs has only ever played for one club in his life, Man Utd of course. Strangely, he was first spotted by a scout from cross town rivals, Man City. But he was a red devils fan through and through, turning up for training in red everytime despite warnings (Man City's colour is sky blue) from the coaches. Eventually, he got spotted by Man Utd scouts and was signed by Fergie at the ripe old age of 14. A gem stolen from right under the noses of their cross town rivals!

He made his debut for the club at 17 and a half. Before long, the left winger position was his. Over the years, there has been plenty of rumours linking him to other clubs, most notably the Italian ones. Italian clubs were known then to pay substantially higher wages than English ones. But he had always turned them down. Fans just love to adore loyal players like him!

He could also easily have chosen to play for England instead of Wales, which would have vastly improved his chances of playing international football at the highest levels, i.e. the European Championships and the World Cup. But he didn't.

He hails from Cardiff, Wales and has professed to have never ever thought of playing for any other international team. In truth, his international profile and game suffered as a result of it, for his skills have never ever been showcased at football's highest levels. Had he chose to play for England, he would have stepped right into their starting eleven on the left wing. It is a position England has always have problems filling.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking for him would be the most recent World Cup qualifying campaign. Wales were leading their qualifying group comfortably at one point but the second half of their campaign disintegrated completely. Given that he is already 32 this year, that should be his last meaningful chance of playing for his country at the highest level.

His international game may have suffered, but to us fans who know his reasons for sticking by Wales, he has our utmost respect.

He also chose to adopt his mum's surname when his parents separated. He stayed with his mum and took on her surname. It warmed my heart when I first heard of that story.
Another pic, this one courtesy of, that showcases again his tremendous control and balance. It is often said that when he dribbles and is in full flow, the football seems tied to his shoelaces.

Giggs is the most decorated footballer in the history of Manchester United, having won eight Premier League championships, four FA Cups, a English League Cup (also known as the Mickey Mouse Cup), a UEFA Champions League title, a Cup Winners' Cup (competition now subsumed into the Uefa Cup), a European Supercup and a Intercontinental Cup.

Given that Man Utd has just made it to the finals of the
Mickey Mouse Cup, to be played on the 26th February, he has yet another chance to add to his already formidable collection of medals! Even if he doesn't win that, he has already won everything there is to win in club football. But us fans will of course hanker for more trophies!

Again, I will not bother going through his career statistics; They're easily available on the web. One thing of note though is, as of today 13th February 2006, he has made 658 appearances for the club. The all-time record belongs to Bobby Charlton with 754 appearances. Giggs has signed a contract extension that takes him till the end of the 2007/08 season. So it looks like he has a chance of breaking that record too!Pic from, Giggs' official homepage. 大頭娃娃 of Giggs. Note the Wales jersey he's wearing.

And of course, how can a post about the Welsh Wizard not mention his slalom goal in the
FA Cup semi-final replay on 14th April 1999? I was fortunate enough to have caught the game "live" on free-to-air TV. It had me glued to the telly throughout. It was absolutely hands down the most exciting, gut-wrenching, bladder testing football match I've ever watched. (You can get a detailed description of the game from the link just given.)

This is how Giggs remembered his infamous slalom goal:

"I will never forget the night of 14th April 1999. It was the night we kept our treble hopes alive by overcoming Arsenal in a dramatic FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park, and the night I scored a goal I might never repeat. It was 1-1 when I came on as a substitute, but we were a man down. We were playing for penalties when I received the ball in my own half and weaved through the Arsenal defence to score that goal, without doubt the finest of my career."
Pic from Man Utd Zone. Giggs just about to unleash the finishing touch to his slalom goal as Tony Adams tries a last ditch tackle. Note the floppy hairstyle and white away jersey.

So famous was this goal, it spawned a whole repertoire of memorabilia in the weeks that followed the match. Indeed, some of it is available now, e.g. this t-shirt.

Giggs' career will be ending soon, since he is already 32. That Man Utd's recent seasons' barren run coincided with the imminent ending of his career is not surprising to me. There are of course lots of other reasons, but I feel this is one of the main ones.

Akan Datang: Food

46 days to go.


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