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Top 10 Players to watch out for this FIFA World Cup Season

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Amiya Sinha:

The football extravaganza has finally begun. The month long tournament dawns the fortunes of 32 teams who have toiled hard for the past two years in the qualifying rounds. The FIFA World Cup 2010 is being played in the African continent for the first time and it is definitely a special time for them, a time to cherish long and one that will be remembered once its history.

Coming first in a series of articles, I focus on the players who will vie for winning the championship. From the rosters of the 32 teams selecting 10 of them is a tough job. But here I enlist 10 key players who could make the difference for their nations and be a part of glorified history.

There is however one refrain I force into the selection. I enlist only one player per nation. This is what makes the selection tough; choosing one among the best is definitely the worst job. Many players who would walk into many world XIs are missing but this list entails the driving force of some of the participating nations.


(photograph– up-right) Lionel Messi is the best pound-for-pound soccer player in the world, and perhaps of all time. At 22, Messi has won just about everything there is to win, both individually and in club soccer. Missing is any sort of hardware with Argentina, aside from an Olympic gold medal. Messi’s game relies on its unpredictability and magnificent control of the ball, which seldom demurs to anything Messi asks it to do. Listed at a charitable 5-foot-7, he’s even a good header. While transcendent with his club, Barcelona, in the last few years, the knock on Messi has been that he doesn’t match that dominance for Argentina. For the most part, this is blamed on Argentina manager Diego Maradona’s refusal to deploy him in his natural position — on the right, allowing him to cut in — and posting him behind a deep striker instead. Maradona, one of the best of all time as a player, has named Messi his successor as Argentina’s soccer savior, a label that has proved disastrous for all others so designated previously by Maradona.

Scouting thumbnail: Technical genius with a low center of gravity and pace who can break down any defense off the dribble and conjure something out of nothing. Struggles when used as a striker and prefers playing out wide and cutting in on his left foot.


Cristiano Ronaldo

“Buy that kid,” Manchester United players told manager Alex Ferguson after an 18-year old Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, whose middle name allegedly honors Ronald Reagan, had torched Man United in a friendly in the summer of 2003. Ferguson obliged his players’ wishes, shelling out some $20 million and handing Ronaldo the No. 7 jersey, previously worn by legends George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Ronaldo responded by outdoing all of the aforementioned in a six-year romp during which he scored 118 goals and won three Premier League titles, one Champions League and one Club World Cup, swiping 42 individual prizes, including the 2008 FIFA World Footballer of the Year, along the way. Last summer, Ferguson sold him to Real Madrid for a record $132 million. Ronaldo has become a lethal dribbler, superlative header and long-distance shooter and one of the better free-kick takers on the planet and will anchor an aging Portugal looking to shine one last time.

Scouting thumbnail: Explosive, pacy and an astonishingly prolific goal scorer for a winger. Specializes in long-range free kicks and shows the ability to shoot from anywhere.


Wayne Rooney

When Wayne Rooney broke through internationally at just 17 years of age and took his place next to then-England striker Michael Owen, a British journalist referred to them as “the baby-faced assassin and the assassin-faced baby,” with Rooney accounting for the less flattering of the descriptions. An England side without him has become unimaginable, as the Liverpool-born Rooney developed into a world-class striker in a country starved for them. The highly athletic Rooney has reinvented his position, swerving all over the attacking half of the field to drop back into midfield when needed or provide the final tap on a goal. With former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo now in Spain, Rooney has carried the scoring load for Man United. Rooney sports a tattoo that says, “Just Enough Education To Perform.” While this may be generous, his on-field intelligence is off the charts. One half of another British power couple, Rooney and his wife Colleen have taken England by storm, he as a soccer player and she as a fitness guru/fashion commentator of some sort.

Scouting thumbnail: Complete striker who can play anywhere across the front three. Powerful build and aggressive attitude poses problems for any defense. Can score any type of goal and has improved his finishing skills.



Kaka belongs to Jesus. The T-shirts he has shown underneath his jersey say so. An oxymoronic principled soccer player, Kaka also happens to be the rare Brazilian star who comes from an upper-middle-class background. Money couldn’t tear him away from Milan and its fans. Kaka said he wasn’t interested in the heaps of money offered him by Manchester City and Real Madrid. So long as Milan would have him, he would be staying. Milan needed his transfer fee to stay afloat though, so after Kaka won everything there is to win for club and self, Milan sold him to Real Madrid for about $95 million in June. So now Kaka also belongs to Real Madrid. Kaka has become a central figure in manager Dunga’s new Brazil, masterminding its lethal counterattacks, which have made a Brazil team not as deep in world-class players as in past years still one of the world’s best.

Scouting thumbnail: Knee injuries have sapped some of his speed and he no longer goes on galloping dribbles the entire length of the field. Artistic playmaker who can break down defenses via dribble or pass.



Every soccer team needs a Xavi, a savvy midfielder whose organizational skills are the glue that held both Barcelona and Spain together in their respective runs to glory. Along with Andres Iniesta he makes up the superb engine room for club and country, connecting the dots between those around him with his infallible short passes. The natural successor to Pep Guardiola, now Barcelona’s manager, Xavi has been a mainstay in Barcelona’s lineup since 1998 after joining the club’s academy in 1991. With a contract running through 2014, he isn’t liable to be leaving the only employer he has ever had anytime soon. His Player of the Tournament award for Spain’s EURO 2008 triumph was justified. Perhaps the best illustration of the force that is Xavi was his performance against archrivals Real Madrid in May 2009, when he notched four assists in a 6-2 Barcelona win.

Scouting thumbnail: Intelligent playmaker who combines precise passes and artistic vision in both the final third and from a deep lying position. The pulse of the Spanish team. Superb ability to keep the ball.



A man who once pronounced himself ugly and OK with that, Franck Ribery led a nomadic soccer existence until the day his Turkish club Galatasaray could no longer pony up his salary and Ribery moved to Marseille. There he became a star and was appointed the successor to France star Zinedine Zidane, even though Ribery is more a winger than a playmaker. Establishing himself as one of the finest of his craft at Bayern Munich, the bite-sized and injury-prone Ribery has yet to confirm that status with France, for which he has been a regular since its surprise run to the final of the 2006 World Cup.

Scouting thumbnail: Clever playmaker who operates anywhere behind the striker but prefers the wing. Direct player who loves to run at defenders and get to the byline. Impressive work rate.



The transfer fee record for a goalkeeper set when Buffon was sold by Parma to Juventus in 2001 may never be broken — perhaps because no goalie may ever again be so dominant at such a young age. The stylish Buffon, who needed a little time to cement himself as Italy’s undisputed No. 1, embodies the very essence of Italian soccer: rock-solid defending with a superlative goalkeeper as a backstop. During the 2006 World Cup, Buffon conceded only two goals — a penalty and an own goal — to bookend a 453-minute goalless streak.

Scouting thumbnail: Veteran Italian goalkeeper with sound positional sense. Solid shot stopper, rarely makes a mistake. Vulnerable to low shots.



While his stature leaves him likely to trip over a postage stamp, his ego is not so encumbered. Wesley Sneijder, while fabulously talented, is as likely to deliver an inch-perfect pass from 80 yards away as he is to hurl abuse at his coach. Suspected of being a clubhouse cancer in his native Netherlands, whatever psychological defect he has that makes him act like a spoiled teenager is tolerated for the positive effect he has on a team’s play. On the field, Sneijder’s world-class passing game does provide the glue that will hold together the 10 players surrounding him.

Scouting thumbnail: Short, squat playmaker with vision and impressive long-range shooting ability, harnessed with precise set-piece delivery. Can play anywhere in midfield but prefers to operate centrally in the final third.


When Chelsea splashed out $37 million for him in 2004, Didier Drogba seemingly came out of nowhere, uncommonly late in arriving on the world scene at 26. Now 31, he nonetheless has become one of the world’s foremost strikers, and probably the most athletic one. Both captain and all-time leading scorer of Ivory Coast, he will be relied upon to debunk the stereotype that for all their ability, African teams never perform. This robust striker both takes up andWhen Chelsea splashed out $37 million for him in 2004, Didier Drogba seemingly came out of nowhere, uncommonly late in arriving on the world scene at 26. Now 31, he nonetheless has become one of the world’s foremost strikers, and probably the most athletic one. Both captain and all-time leading scorer of Ivory Coast, he will be relied upon to debunk the stereotype that for all their ability, African teams never perform. This robust striker both takes up and covers a lot of real estate, often requiring several opposing defenders to keep him in check — although Premier League opponents haven’t been too successful at that this season, as Drogba won the golden boot. Known for his big personality and intense looks, Drogba is spectacular to the eye.

Scouting thumbnail: Talismanic striker and physical specimen whose power makes him practically unplayable when he puts his mind to it. Can score all types of goals and excels as a lone front man.



One of the best backs on the planet and the only defender in the list, Philipp Lahm plays primarily as a left back, where he regularly surges up the field and cuts in to unleash lethal shots from his tiny boots for both Bayern Munich and Germany. Also noted for his superior crossing skills, Lahm is one of Germany’s primary weapons. While possessing what is described by many as good speed, Lahm is prone to getting scorched by pacey attackers, like against Fernando Torres in the final of Euro 2008, due to an acceleration that is suspect at best.

Scouting thumbnail: Has no peers when it comes to attacking from the fullback spot. Raids forward with pace, verve and can beat defenders on the dribble. Slight of frame, however, and can be outmuscled on the ball at times by physical attackers.

Amiya Sinha is a Special Sports Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and is covering the FIFA 2010 to get you the latest scoop.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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