Ibrahim’s Review of 2016

I’m back! My first blog post of 2016! Let’s do the Sturridge…

Liverpool FC striker Daniel Sturridge is in the groove

Wait… what? Oh yes… I haven’t blogged all year. Oops. Sorry everyone. My ONLY blog post of 2016.

Technically that isn’t true though, I did write one blog post this year. It just wasn’t published on my website. More on that later…

I’ve got to say, 2016 has not been easy for me. It’s been a difficult year but on reflection there have been some great highlights to share, and I am determined to make my eighth review a positive one. It was a bright start to the year with the news that I had been shortlisted under the Services to Media category for the British Muslim Awards 2016. The awards ceremony took place on a cold evening in Birmingham where I lost out to BBC Asian Network presenter Noreen Khan, but I was up against many tough opponents in my category. Excuse the footballing analogy but it was like being a newly-promoted team in the Premier League for the first time, and you’re just happy to be there knowing you’re probably going to get relegated anyway… or somehow you’ll find a way to stay up! Analogies aside, that night in January was a memorable occasion and it was an honour to even have been shortlisted under this fiercely contested category. Well done Noreen for claiming the award, you fully deserved it!

Ibrahim with BBC Asian Network presenter and award-winner Noreen Khan

A month later, I left my presenting role at Cambridge 105 to join LB24tv, an online British Bangladeshi TV network based in East London. From February to September, I presented Youth Corner – a web series chat show for the youth. The aims of the programme were to showcase the achievements of emerging talent, providing a platform for guests to share their experiences and inspiring stories, and discuss topics that are important to them. It was great to gain TV presenting experience but I particularly enjoyed meeting guests and getting to know them. It felt rewarding to introduce fresh new faces and offer them a platform, considering how the majority of Bangladeshi media outlets I’ve come across, seem to frequently promote the same people and do not provide other hard-working and talented individuals a chance. Many thanks to Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan RahmanShuhel Ahmed, Amira HaqueSafwaan ChoudhuryHalima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry, Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, and Sayful Alam for all being part of the show! Special thanks to the LB24tv production team for giving me the opportunity to present the show too!

Ibrahim presents the chat show web series “Youth Corner” for LB24tv
The guests (top-left to bottom-right): Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan Rahman, Shuhel Ahmed; Amira Haque, Safwaan Choudhury, Halima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry; Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, Sayful Alam

My experiences with presenting Youth Corner inspired me to publish my first-ever article as a blogger for the Huffington Post in October, focusing on my utilisation of digital media to engage and empower the youth within the British Bangladeshi community. Massive thanks to Abu Ali, Amira Haque and Shuhel Ahmed for your valuable contributions!

I left LB24tv in September to undertake a TV production course every Saturday at the Cambridge TV School for nine weeks. It was fantastic! What impressed me the most about the course was how much of the work was practical. It was very much hands-on. From the very beginning we were testing out the TV cameras, filming at various locations in Cambridge, presenting and interviewing contributors in the Cambridge TV studio, and editing our captured video footage. I did a fair amount of presenting over those two months as well – the autocue was great fun to mess around with! It was a real pleasure to work with so many awesome people throughout the course, and I would like to thank everyone involved (staff and students) at the school for their amazing support and enthusiasm. I hope we get opportunities to collaborate again soon and I wish you all the best with your future endeavours!

Ibrahim presents “Behind the Brush” for Cambridge TV, a show that explores the work of Cambridge artists

I also managed to sandwich a TV appearance on The Daily Show with Joseph & Salma, a magazine lifestyle series chat show hosted by Joseph and Salma Hayat, on British Muslim TV (Sky 845). In November, I joined the couple in their fancy-looking studio by the London Docklands to talk about how I was engaging and empowering the youth through my work using digital media, drawing some parallels to what I wrote in my blog for the Huffington Post. Thank you Joseph and Salma for having me on your show! That round table changes colour by the way. Thought it was pretty cool…

Ibrahim appears on British Muslim TV’s “The Daily Show with Joseph and Salma”

And finally, I found out almost a couple of weeks ago that I had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Services to Creativity and Technology category at the British Muslim Awards 2017! The awards ceremony will take place next month at the Athena in Leicester. Yes, Leicester – the home of the 2015/16 Premier League Champions. Unbelievable, but what an achievement. Anyway, next year looks like it’s already off to a good start…

Oh yes, what’s happening with Ramadan Roundup? I’ve had a lot to do recently and as you can see, there hasn’t been a new episode in the series since 2014. The timing just hasn’t been right for me yet, but let’s see what happens next year. As it stands, I do believe there is at least one more episode to produce. It’s just a matter of making time. As my filmmaking friend Shuhel Ahmed will tell you, even work on his upcoming superhero comedy web series Classified Freaks has stalled in recent months, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait. I’m really looking forward to watching it!

And that’s pretty much it for this year. I leave you with an inspirational quote from Mufti Ismail Menk…

“The road of life doesn’t allow you to travel backwards. Keep going. There’s a reason for everything. You may not see it now; just trust!”

As always, thank you all so much for your support and kindness, and for following my adventures in 2016. I hope things look up for us in 2017. Best wishes to you all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Rahman Red Reflection: Impressive Irons Hammer Lacklustre Liverpool

Liverpool were well beaten by a powerful West Ham United, inflicting a third defeat in five league games on Brendan Rodgers’ side.

The Reds failed to cope with their opponents’ fast start, scoring twice through Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho in the opening seven minutes. Liverpool halved the deficit through Raheem Sterling who lashed in the rebound for his third goal of the season, after Mario Balotelli’s attempt had initially been blocked. The Reds pressed hard in search of an equaliser, only to be continually thwarted by Hammers keeper Adrian but this left them vulnerable to the counter attack and their misery was soon complete. Morgan Amalfitano jumped off the bench to apply a late clinical finish and secure West Ham’s first home win this season.

It was a dreadful display from Liverpool. They never looked settled and West Ham exploited their weaknesses. Looking at the defence, there is a serious lack of organisation and leadership. Dejan Lovren has had a shaky start to life at Anfield and Mamadou Sakho has also struggled in recent games. Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo have been hit and miss so far. These defensive frailties, however, are not new and you only need to look at last season to see the number of goals they conceded. Too many.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were so important in the previous campaign but there is little point saying Liverpool are missing the Uruguayan. First of all, it’s obvious that any team would miss someone with his qualities. Secondly, he is still banned so he wouldn’t have played anyway. The bottom line is he no longer plays for Liverpool. Focus on the players who are actually in the squad. Move on.

Sturridge’s absence is clearly hurting Liverpool at the moment and he should be returning very soon. I hope he can hit the ground running straight away as Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert have yet to score in the league.

They are also really missing Joe Allen, a player who is accomplished with the ball at his feet but works very hard to reclaim possession for his team. Liverpool are missing his tenacity, energy and excellent workrate.

The Reds are lacking that spark at the moment and hopefully Sturridge’s comeback will reignite their attack. It’s still early days but three losses in their first five league games is worrying. Liverpool face Middlesbrough in the 3rd round of the Capital One Cup at Anfield and it seems inevitable that Rodgers will make plenty of changes, but I hope he fields a strong starting eleven as they need to return to winning ways quickly.

The Merseyside derby is not far away…

Rahman Red Reflection: Vivacious Villa Emerge Victorious

Gabriel Agbonlahor’s ninth-minute strike for Aston Villa was enough to punish a lifeless Liverpool and secure three well-deserved points for the visitors.

Brendan Rodgers was forced to reshuffle his pack as Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Emre Can were confined to the sidelines after picking up injuries during international duty, handing Anfield debuts to Adam Lallana, Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno. The Reds fell behind after failing to deal with a corner, allowing Villa striker Agbonlahor to prod the ball in from close range. Liverpool continued to show nervousness from set pieces and could easily have conceded more goals. As the match wore on, Liverpool dominated possession but the away side were rarely troubled. Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was hardly tested as Rodgers’ side mustered eighteen shots in total – with only one shot on target.

Daniel Sturridge’s absence was clearly felt in this game. He is a peripheral figure for Liverpool and they need him to return to fitness as soon as possible. I was also surprised that Raheem Sterling was on the bench – Rodgers was clearly looking towards Tuesday’s Champions League group match against Ludogorets Razgrad. I wouldn’t want to place so much pressure on his young shoulders as he is only 19 but I would have started him for this match, especially as our recent record at home against Aston Villa has been poor. Did he not get enough time to rest after returning from international duty? When I saw Rodgers’ team selection, I initially thought that Sterling could come on later in the game and make a positive impact but sadly for Liverpool, this did not happen on this occasion.

Adam Lallana made his first appearance of the season and I thought he played relatively well. He was replaced on the hour mark and was lacking match sharpness, but he showed glimpses of his qualities and a sign of things to come. The former Southampton skipper needs a good run of games and hopefully it will not be long until Liverpool see the types of displays that led to his acquisition from the south coast.

Mario Balotelli struggled to make an impact and was on the receiving end of some rough treatment from the opposing defenders. It was a difficult game for the Italian but he was good at holding the ball up and spreading the play to the wide players. Balotelli created a good chance for Lallana – his low drive from distance flashing just wide of Guzan’s near post.

Overall, it was a poor Liverpool performance but Aston Villa deserve great credit for their victory. Paul Lambert’s side were organised, stubborn, disciplined and had frustrated the Reds on a disappointing evening at Anfield.

Bring on the Champions League!

Rahman Red Reflection: Clinical City Rifle the Reds

Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season as Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero inspired Manchester City to a comfortable 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

For much of the first half, Liverpool looked comfortable in possession and were rarely troubled. For 40 minutes, Manchester City were yet to register a shot on target, until a defensive lapse in the 18-yard box allowed Jovetic to pounce and blast his powerful strike through the legs of the despairing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Ten minutes into the second half, Jovetic doubled his tally with a wonderful team goal that was initiated and dispatched by the Montenegro striker. Sergio Aguero was introduced midway through the second half and within seconds, he dashed onto an excellent pass from Jesus Navas, finishing from a tight angle to all but end the contest. Liverpool secured a consolation after Rickie Lambert attacked a Daniel Sturridge cross and pressured Pablo Zabaleta to turn the ball into his own net.

Before Jovetic scored, I thought Liverpool played well in the first half. They had plenty of the ball and it looked like they would be going in level at half-time. Alberto Moreno made his debut and it was a difficult place to make an immediate impression. Unfortunately for him, he will be scrutinised for his error that led to Manchester City’s first goal. Moreno is 22 and can only get better. The home side were clinical in taking their chances and ultimately deserved the three points.

However, I am still concerned about the defence. Rodgers must address this as first priority. Liverpool conceded far too many goals last season and many have argued that this was the main reason why they failed to win the Premier League title. It will take time for Liverpool’s new signings to settle in and adapt to Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy. Mario Balotelli should be available for Sunday’s visit to White Hart Lane and hopefully Liverpool can return to winning ways as soon as possible.

At such an early stage of this season, I would not be too alarmed at this result as there is still a very long way to go. Rodgers must know that the defence needs to improve and hopefully they will work on this on the training ground. The new signings will understandably need time to gel and adjust to the high intensity of English football. Manchester City had the best home record in the league last season and I would not be surprised if Manuel Pellegrini’s side achieved this feat again. They have a fantastic squad – for a manager to be able to bring on a player like Aguero demonstrates their superior strength in depth and can only reaffirm the fact that they are one of the favourites to claim the title this season.

It’s still very early days and we shall see what happens…

Rahman Red Reflection: Southampton, Suarez and the (New) SAS

Liverpool started the 2014/15 season with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Southampton at Anfield. It was a nervous encounter for the home side, as new Saints manager Ronald Koeman set out his team to frustrate the opposition and in doing so, they played very well and created some excellent goalscoring opportunities. The sheer delight on the face of Brendan Rodgers was clear for all to see when Daniel Sturridge swept in the winning goal, taking advantage of a knock-on from man-of-the-match Raheem Sterling, who also got his name on the scoresheet today with a neat finish in front of the Kop.

Sterling and Sturridge. The new SAS? Sounds exciting. Martin Skrtel chipped in a few times last season. We had a case of SASAS against Arsenal. If only El Pistolero was still here…

I was very disappointed that Luis Suarez left for Barcelona, especially the manner in how he made his departure, but I do believe the club was right to sell him. He is a really special talent and he will definitely be missed at Anfield, but the club has to move on and they will.

Is it impossible to replace Suarez? It is very difficult to name another player in the world who possesses similar qualities. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Bale spring to mind, but that is another debate entirely and it would be a dream if one of them became a Liverpool player! Tottenham Hotspur sold Gareth Bale for £85.3 million but failed to achieve their aim of securing a top-four finish, with Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood heading in and out through the revolving doors of White Hart Lane last season. The majority of the players they signed had struggled to make an impact and it will be interesting to see if their new manager Mauricio Pochettino can get the best out of his squad.

Liverpool sold Suarez for around £75 million and Rodgers has recruited the services of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno. Javier Manquillo has also joined the club for two seasons on loan. I think they are all good acquisitions and time will tell if Rodgers has signed the right players for Liverpool to challenge for honours, but a quality striker is a requirement to support Sturridge.

To conclude, Liverpool should be encouraged by the fact they were able to kick off their Premier League campaign with a win despite a below-par performance. There is still a very long way to go and hopefully the displays will get better as the new signings adjust to life at Anfield, but the Reds visit Manchester City next week. A big game for both sides, but far from season-defining…

The Road to Anfield and Beyond

My first blog post of 2014. I should have written this ages ago… I have been really busy!

In recent years, January has been largely uneventful. When I was at university, this month would be the time I spent ploughing through assignments or revising for exams. In other words, education was always at the forefront. This year, however, has began in some style.

Last December, I won free Premier League tickets to watch Liverpool v Aston Villa at Anfield! I was ecstatic! I had previously watched the Liverpool youth team play Cambridge United in 2009, where the Reds claimed a 1-0 victory in a pre-season friendly at the R Costings Abbey Stadium. I was really excited about watching my first Premier League match and relishing the journey to the home of my favourite football team.

It was a three-hour drive all the way from Cambridge to Liverpool. I enjoyed lunch with my uncle at the Red Hot World Buffet, located within the Liverpool One shopping centre. You can choose from a variety of dishes including Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai and much more. All for £9.99 (excluding drinks).  The food was good. Pre-match meal complete. Next stop – Anfield.

We arrived at the stadium well over an hour before the game. We were situated in the Main Stand, close to the away fans. A steady flow of supporters claimed their seats as the match edged ever closer to kick-off. The pre-match atmosphere around the ground was great, watching both sets of players jog out onto the pitch as they made their last-minute preparations for this Premier League encounter. The referee blew his whistle immediately after we bellowed out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” whilst standing with our red scarves. It was a wonderful moment. The ball was rolling and the battle had begun. No matter what the result would be, I knew this would be a match I would never forget and so it would eventually prove…

Liverpool were desperately poor throughout the first half. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Inside the first minute of the game, Aston Villa missed a great chance with only the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat. The Reds were lethargic, lacklustre and lifeless as the away side dominated the midfield, playing with a high tempo which really unsettled the Liverpool back line and their ability to keep possession. Paul Lambert’s boys were full of energy and were rewarded for their efforts after 25 minutes as Aston Villa burst forward on the counter attack, firing themselves into a deserved lead with Andreas Weimann prodding in from close range. Their star striker Christian Benteke doubled his side’s advantage in front of the Kop, heading into a gaping net after Mignolet misjudged a cross from the right-wing. We were all stunned and speechless, while the away supporters taunted us with their chants. I must admit, some of them were fairly amusing.

I had been looking forward to this occasion for ages. I was savouring the prospect of watching the best striker partnership in the Premier League – the SAS (Suarez And Sturridge). Instead, I found myself amongst tens of thousands of disgruntled Liverpool supporters watching our team being played off the park at home. It was difficult to see how we would get back into this. However, towards the latter stages of the first half, Daniel Sturridge lifted the ball beyond the Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan. GOAL! Anfield roared. We finally had something to cheer about! At this point, I was grateful to see a Liverpool goal. Despite an awful first-half display, we were only a goal behind. It was an excellent time to score.

We spent the interval scratching our heads in disbelief. “Liverpool have been excellent at Anfield in the league this season. What’s happening here?”

The second half began with the Reds showing more purpose. Lucas Leiva replaced Philippe Coutinho at the break and Steven Gerrard was pushed further forward as Liverpool started to take control. The captain played an exquisite diagonal ball through to Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was in the box and Guzan charged towards him. Suarez went down. The crowd went wild. The referee awarded a penalty! From being second-best throughout the game, we had a fantastic opportunity to equalise! Anfield held its breath as Gerrard placed the ball on the spot whilst facing the Kop. He calmly took a few steps back before slamming his penalty into the bottom corner and beyond Guzan’s reach. 2-2! A great finish by Captain Fantastic and a superb comeback from the Reds! Liverpool went searching for a third but Suarez and Raheem Sterling were denied as the visitors held on for a point.

We were obviously disappointed not to see Liverpool win but it was certainly a game to remember. It was a tense encounter. The result left Brendan Rodgers’ side in fourth place, just two points ahead of fifth-placed Everton whilst falling eight points behind league leaders Arsenal. It seemed like it was going to be a real battle to secure a top-four finish this season. Two months later, Liverpool have won six of their last seven league games and appear to be on course for securing Champions League football next season. However, recent results have been so good that they currently occupy second place and are only four points behind current table-toppers Chelsea! It has been a really exciting season. With nine games left and Manchester City and Chelsea having to play at Anfield, optimism continues to build as Liverpool gather momentum in the title race…

Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time
Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time

Suarez and Sturridge: The Red Connection

Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace
Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace

“I am not sure there are two better in the league. Those two are right up there with the best in the country…”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for his strike duo last Sunday, as they played a vital role in beating managerless Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light. Few would be surprised to hear his words being echoed again, as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge inspired the Reds to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. Before studying the duo’s performances on Saturday in their first match together at Anfield this season, one should analyse the recent revival of a promising partnership that could fashion a statement regarding their ambitions for this campaign.

Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan forward punished with a ten-match ban for sinking his teeth into the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, returned from his footballing exile last weekend to face Sunderland. His first league appearance of the season saw him swiftly reinstated to the starting line-up, combining with Daniel Sturridge to deliver the goods that handsomely illustrated the potency of Liverpool’s latest strike partnership. Sturridge was on hand (if you will pardon the pun) to score once again before creating two goals for Suarez, as the Reds secured the points.

It was evident that Liverpool’s most important player last season was Suarez. The Uruguayan made 33 appearances in the league and scored 23 goals, finishing second to Manchester United’s Robin van Persie in the race for the Golden Boot. Club captain Steven Gerrard feared the striker would leave in the summer, after Suarez expressed a desire to play for a club in the Champions League. Arsenal had two bids rejected for the player and was also linked with Real Madrid, but Liverpool stood firm and were determined to keep him at Anfield.

“Nobody tried harder than me to make him stay and he knows exactly what I think of him,” said Gerrard. “He is a special type of footballer and he gives us something different. When the club got the message to him that they were not going to sell him, he got his head down and has worked hard. I think it is a credit to Luis for the way he has come back. He realised that the club wanted to keep him and he has respected their decision. He is here now and he wants to stay. He wants to achieve something this season and he looks as hungry as he has ever done.”

Sturridge, on the other hand, had flourished in the absence of his strike partner. He has enjoyed the responsibility of being the main source for goals by netting the winners against Stoke City, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Sturridge’s goalscoring exploits after the first three games of this season guided Liverpool to the top of the table, resulting in the England forward and Brendan Rodgers to be awarded with the Barclays Player and Manager of the Month accolades for August respectively. This marked the Reds’ best start to a season since 1994/95. A thigh injury ruled out any involvement in England’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, but he continued his goalscoring run by finding the net in a 2-2 draw with Swansea City.

Back-to-back defeats soon followed for Liverpool as they lost their first league game to Southampton and crashed out of the League Cup to Manchester United. Rodgers welcomed the arrival of Suarez with open arms as the Uruguayan produced an encouraging display at Old Trafford, but was unable to mark his return with victory. Liverpool had failed to win in their last three games in all competitions before their clash with Sunderland.

The reunion of Liverpool’s front pair for the first time at Anfield was never in doubt. Suarez required only 13 minutes to open the scoring against Crystal Palace, steering a superb low shot past Julian Speroni from 12 yards despite plummeting over. Sturridge wasted no time to print his name on the scoresheet three minutes later, twisting and turning before smashing an excellent strike into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Steven Gerrard scored his first of the season from the penalty spot to put Liverpool in a commanding position before half-time, before Dwight Gayle snatched a consolation deep into the second half.

Questions were being asked of whether Rodgers would be successful in restoring Suarez, so that his integration did not cause an imbalance to a system which had seen Liverpool make a positive start to the campaign. Before he was suspended last season, Suarez showed that he was more than able to forge an effective partnership with Sturridge. One of the challenges Rodgers has been poised with is to reignite the firepower within his strike force. Based on recent wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace, there is strong evidence that this striker combination could inject fear into the hearts of defences. Suarez has found the net 19 times in his last 22 games for the Reds, while Sturridge has 19 in 25 games since his arrival in January. Some will argue that this partnership requires further examination and testing, having disposed of two clubs who are currently struggling for form and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table.

There will be many obstacles and trials for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side to overcome. The Premier League campaign is still in its infancy but with the Reds starting positively, optimism will begin to develop around Anfield. One thing is certain, the 2013/14 season promises to be a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Note: This article was originally posted on Insight Sport.