Archive for the Football Category

Trouble in Africa Raises Concerns for World Cup

Posted in Football, sport with tags , , , on 10/01/2010 by mfcx4tm2

The football world has been left in disbelief this week with the events in Africa that have lead to Togo withdrawing from the competition after gunmen attacked the team bus and left 3 people dead and others injured. The attack has shocked the sporting world and has led to serious questions being asked about whether the tournament should go ahead, as well as the wider implications for the World Cup in South Africa in a few months time.

It came as no surprise that the Togolese team decided not to take part in the competition, football pales into insignificance when lives are lost and there’s no way any of the players could have concentrated on playing when they had lost friends to the attack. However, there were calls from the organisers of the tournament for Togo to stay and play and even the threat of serious sanctions against them, such as long term bans from competition, if they didn’t take part. I can’t believe this lack of compassion after such an awful event, and find it hard to believe that even if that conversation was taking place that it somehow managed to get leaked to the press. I think Mark Lawrenson summed it up nicely on Football Focus, pointing out that the players lives were more important than football and that those involved in the attack (if not everyone) should be back with their families as soon as possible, not playing a game and risking further danger.

Many of the Premier League managers have spoken out about the affair, Phil Brown being particularly vocal in saying that the players should be on the first plane home and forget about the Cup of Nations. This was echoed by the majority of his colleagues, barring Arsene Wenger who suggested that the competition should continue as anything else would be handing the terrorists a victory in kind. This is a fair point from Wenger, it’s true that people who behave in this way shouldn’t be allowed to alter the arrangements in one fell swoop and cancelling the tournament would have done exactly that. However, i think if i was in the shoes of the Togolese players my thoughts would have been a long way from playing a football match and focused on seeing my family and loved ones. Some of the players have talked of continuing in the competition in order to honour those that died, but in my opinion the risk is too high despite the honourable sentiments.

The situation has obviously raised a question mark over this summers World Cup in South Africa as well, the first to be staged on the continent. How can safety be ensured for an even higher profile event? South Africa’s past troubles have been well documented and the idea that an English team bus could be caught up in a shooting is unthinkable. That risk needs to be all but wiped out as if there is any hint of danger arisen then i’m sure the changes will be made, whether that is moving the venue and/or postponing the event altogether. Of course, South Africa is a long way from where the attacks have taken place and i’m sure the necessary precautions will be put in place, but seeds of doubt have been planted and that is exactly what the continent didn’t need. The World Cup was supposed to be a sign of how far Africa has come, but it could end up being an illustration that it hasn’t come far enough.

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Spurs – Football Team or Harry’s Second Home?

Posted in Football, sport with tags , , , on 16/12/2009 by mfcx4tm2

My favourite footballer is Peter Crouch – great feet for a big man. The truest cliche ever. Great nickname too,  ‘the ladder’.  Turns out that a lot of the Spurs players have good nicknames. And also that  a lot them are associated with the home. Too many in fact. Has this been a deciding factor in Harry’s transfer policy? Crazy I hear you scream. Judge for yourself, but i think Harry’s trying to set himself up a little house of players:

Peter Crouch aka ‘the ladder’

Tom Huddlestone aka ‘the wardrobe’

Michael ‘Door’son

Johnathon Woodgate

Benoit Assou ‘a cot’o (for the baby)

Alan ‘Hut’ ton (like the garden shed, no?)

Wilson ‘Palace’ios (Harry’s home is a palace)

Danny Rose (Bush)

David Bentley (to do the school run in for Jamie)

Looks like a dead cert to me, all he needs to do is get some nice Deco(r)  in and he’ll have the lot.

Stadium Name Shame

Posted in Football, sport with tags , , , on 18/11/2009 by mfcx4tm2

‘Welcome to sportsdirect.com@St James’ Park.’

It’s got to be a joke hasn’t it? They’re pulling our leg. Those Geordies up to their old tricks again. But it seems Mike Ashley has proved just how little he knows his beloved compatriots once more by taking away the famous name of their stadium but only half replacing it – he couldn’t even go the whole hog with this one either. So now he’s failed at running the club, failed at selling it and failed at renaming the stadium. Not the best record.

It does illustrate the influence that money is increasingly having in the game though, and it isn’t just Newcastle that are sacrificing club history in the chase for more pennies in the piggy bank. We’ve already seen Arsenal leave Highbury to play at the Emirates and are soon to see Liverpool leave Anfield, one of the most iconic grounds in football, to play at a bigger, commercially named stadium (if the Americans can stay in a room long enough to get their figures in order that is). I find these two examples slightly more acceptable as the stadiums themselves are brand new and it’s true that the amount of money available from naming rights is incredible. However, renaming a club’s existing ground is slightly harder to swallow and I’m glad I’m not a Newcastle fan at the moment.

As a Darlington fan I’ve seen a similar situation evolve at our club as former chairman George Reynolds built a shiny 25,000 all-seater stadium (despite our average gate being around 5,000!) and seeing it fall on its face as he didn’t get the concert licence he was hoping for to support the funding of it. Perhaps a tad presumptious George. Anyway, the naming rights were sold for our stadium too in order to raise funds for the club after we sacrificed the history that went with the tin shed stands at the old Feethams Ground. Unfortunately though it seemed that any company that sponsored the stadium suffered similar fortunes to the team on the pitch as one after another went bust. It’s now called the Darlington Arena, looks like no-one else wanted to put their name to it…

So will we soon see Barcelona playing at the Adidas Stadium, Manchester Utd at the Andrex Arena or Newcastle at the…oh no, they’ve already changed. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Baptism of Fire for Short at Ferencvaros

Posted in Football with tags , , , on 13/11/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Craig Short has been thrust into the limelight at Hungarian giants Ferencvaros after being put in charge of the club (dubbed Hungary’s Manchester United) until the Hungarian league’s winter break on the 21st November. It is Short’s first experience of management, having taken over at the helm after previously being assistant to Bobby Davison, and it is a task he is relishing despite knowing how tough it will be. The severity of the task must have dawned on him after his first game in charge which was abandoned with Ferencvaros 1-0 down due to crowd trouble. This involved some fans throwing flares at the players who, understandably, were a tad scared. Can’t imagine that happening at Old Trafford.

The reason i mention this was that i met Craig when i played football for a team in Harrogate a few years ago. Craig was friends with ouButcher blood injuryr coach and came down to watch a game whilst he was still playing for Blackburn. During the game i was lucky enough to be involved in a clash of heads which resulted in blood pouring from my forehead like a tap. I came to the side of the pitch to get some attention and, clearly concust and unable to make a sensible decision, said i wanted to get my blood soaked head wrapped up like Terry Butcher and carry on playing. I wasn’t listening to any of the helpful advice i was being given when Craig put his arm around me and said he thought i should go to hospital. Now, you can’t argue with Craig Short, so i went and had 7 stitches in my forehead!

So, that was my brush with a premier league footballer and, if he can manage the Hungarians like he managed me that day, i’m sure he’ll do a fine job!

You’re only cheating yourself.

Posted in F1, Football, sport with tags , , , , on 19/09/2009 by mfcx4tm2

It seems like every single sporting event these days needs to be investigated by MI5 to ensure that the result is in fact the correct one and hasn’t be affected by foul play, match fixing or rule breaking.Whether it’s Formula 1, Athletics or Rugby it seems all sport is getting dragged into a dirty mire where enjoying the sport you love seems low on the list of priorities and political wrangling sits in pride of place.

Formula 1 is the most recent to fall at the feet of controversy with race fixing allegations all but confirmed by the departure of Renault decision makers Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds this week. When Nelson Piquet Jnr made the allegations that he had been told to crash his F1 car on purpose many found it hard to believe, so the fact it has turned out to be true has shocked people in F1 and the sporting world in general. This takes the biscuit in terms of sporting cheats in my opinion and has certainly further spiced up a Formula 1 paddock already rabid with political intrigue.

The season of sporting scandals was properly kicked off by the Harlequins ‘Bloodgate’ saga. I’m sure the use of underhand tomfoolery is rife in many sports and goes undetected, so Harlequins were really only guilty of being found out. However, as serious as their actions were, they never put anyone’s life in danger (as with Piquet’s 170mph smash) and i don’t think these can be compared to Renault’s wrongdoings. The only person who may have been slightly hurt was Tom Williams when the club ‘doctor’ sliced his mouth open to provide him with his first genuine injury of the day.

Then there’s athletics and Caster Semenya, where i don’t think anyone can suggest that there has been any overt cheating, just a horribly handled enquiry into which category she/he should be competing in. I can’t imagine a situation where not only your sporting integrity is questioned, but so is your biological identity. How Semenya went on to win that race after all the fuss is beyond me. Let’s hope that inquiry is finished soon and she can get back to doing what she does best, winning races. If she’s allowed to run with the women of course, her time was 10 seconds off the winning men’s time…

The lengths people go to in order to succeed in sport are incredible and i’m sure that these examples are just a few amongst a much larger amount of misgivings that take place undiscovered. The only real mistake these particular ones made was getting caught. In hindsight they might as well have taken a leaf out of Emmanuel Adebayor’s book and just kicked their opponents in the face.

Tango but no cash for Argentine football clubs

Posted in Football, sport on 06/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Tickets-Boca-Juniors-and-River-Plate-games-9571-1

Can you imagine if someone turned to you now and told you that the start of the Premier League season was being delayed indefinitely? It sounds like a highly improbable scenario, but that is exactly what has happened in Argentina this week. Due to huge financial problems for many of the clubs across all the leagues it has been decided that the new season will not start as planned, but will be delayed in order for the clubs to find the money that they owe players in backdated wages.

The shortfall in funds for many of the clubs has been blamed on the economic crisis which has stopped clubs in Europe buying players from the Argentine leagues. There has also been widespread controversy surrounding the issue of money from television rights, with many arguing that an insufficient portion is being given to the clubs as the AFA keeps a hefty chunk for itself. On top of this, the extreme supporter groups known as ‘Barras Bravas’ are said to be gaining an increasing stranglehold on club activities including transfer deals, ticket touting and director decisions through violent behaviour. This has driven out other fans who are not prepared to risk their safety to see a football match.

It is an incredible turn of events for a country that produces so many world class footballers. Imagine a world without the future Messis or Maradonas, a place we could be heading unless these issues are sorted out for the better. Even the big name clubs such as Boca Juniors and River Plate are struggling and, having been in La Bombonera for last year’s derby i can vouch for the fact that it would be unthinkable for it not to take place this year. With support like that for both sides it is unbelievable that the clubs can be in such financial woe.

The current failings of the national side will not be be helped by the situation either. They continue to struggle under Maradona in their task of qualifying for the World Cup, trailing the likes of Chile and Paraguay and only marginally leading Ecuador. Players not being paid and bickering between clubs and the governing body is unlikely to make the task any easier. Lets hope the situation is sorted out quickly, as losing a breeding ground that consistently produces some of the world’s greatest talents would be a travesty.

Becks back in LA, but for how long?

Posted in Football, sport with tags , , , on 17/07/2009 by mfcx4tm2
 

So David Beckham has made his long awaited return to the MLS, nearly 4 months after the date he was expected to be back on US soil. One of the conditions of Beckham’s loan move to AC Milan was that he would be back in time for the start of the MLS season in March, a promise that proved too difficult to keep for Beckham as he savoured the taste of world class football after his stint Stateside. Needless to say, the reception from the Galaxy fans was sour to say the least, with Becks getting jeered every time he touched the ball for his supposed lack of loyalty. His case hasn’t been helped by a playground tiff with Galaxy hero Landon Donovan, as each accused the other of unprofessionalism. Nothing like handbags at dawn in the media to prove your professionalism.

Looking back, it’s hard to understand what Galaxy, Donovan and the fans expected when Beckham moved to Milan. His move to LA originally stemmed from the fact that he believed his England career was over and, despite what he says, he will certainly have had an eye on his financial future and potential retirement options when he moved to America. When this all changed with Steve McClaren’s departure (and subsequent adoption of a Dutch accent) it reopened doors that Becks had never anticipated. So when AC Milan came knocking he was always going to jump at the chance and make it last as long as possible.

All hugs for now, but will it last?

All hugs for now, but will it last?

Now Beckham is back in California it’s a very different picture from that when he arrived. I was lucky enough to be in LA at that time and Beckham fever had really struck the city. Everyone was talking about ‘soccer’, Becks was all over the billboards and the Home Depot Centre was full every week. This was a stark contrast to the scene last night for Beckham’s comeback match against New York Red Bulls, and it remains to be seen if he can win back the fans affections.

But it seems that will be an uphill task, as the first news on his return was that he was interested in a move to the Premier League and that Fabio Capello had told him he must be playing European football to have a chance of going to the World Cup. We’ve always known that playing international football is top of Beckham’s priorities and he will undoubtedly do anything Mr Capello asks for in order to make that happen.  For me that that was the final nail in the Beckham/Galaxy coffin, and I don’t believe he will have time to win back the fans adoration as he’ll be on a plane back to European shores. And this time it’ll probably be for keeps.