Football – In Tact as Ever (Part One)

by Traolach Kaye © Traolach Kaye (March 4th 2015)

Hmmm!

CIMG0560

Qatar 2022: World Cup fall-out could tear football apart …” – Dan Roan BBC Sports-editor

If they donʼt believe it, why are they saying it, if they do believe it, they shouldnʼt be soccer analysts, so one way or another, they are wrong. Sometimes when you see these clowns…..well, then, you would have to wonder not about my sanity, but the BBCʼs sanity …”

The latter quote was made by the Former Manchester United and Milwall player, Eamon Dunphy, reflecting on BBC Match-of-The-Day Pundits during the 2006/2007 Premier League Season. So where does this leave us?

Weʼve been here before. Either the BBC donʼt believe what they are broadcasting or publishing, or they have gone mad. If they do believe it, they arenʼt fit for purpose, that purpose being to follow their mission, ʻTo enrich peopleʼs lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertainʼ.

So, what is the BBC saying? In perfect keeping with the tone of their attack which commenced with gusto on December 2nd 2010, the BBC continue to react to every utterance by and announcement of FIFA with a contrary response which both finds fault with whatever pronouncement FIFA has offered whilst seeking to always remind the viewer/reader that FIFA is corrupt, is upsetting football, is racist, is out of touch, hates women, and is just generally no good.

The New Mission

The BBC is no opinion-piece merchant. Funded by the taxpayer, and with an explicit mission to ʻenrich, entertain and educateʼ, they appear capable only of one of above trifecta, namely entertainment. 

Entertaining their own opinion, entertaining the opinion of conventional wisdom, entertaining the opinion of whatever agenda must be pushed, foisted and promoted until the target audience is left in no two minds about how things are and how things must be. Regarding FIFA, they operate a one-size-fits-all policy, employing key words in their riposte, irrespective of what it is that FIFA may have said.

Roan doesnʼt run the BBC, and is merely an agent of same. He is however the sports-editor of the BBC News. Fresh from goading, rather than entertaining, informing or educating Liverpool fans during the protracted takeover of the club by Fenway Sports Group (then a Sports Correspondent) Roan now today finds himself charged with spearheading BBCʼs latest thrust against that perennial threat to Global Peace and Harmony – FIFA.

Knock, Knock, Knocking

The door of FIFA has been kicked, yet the rest of the rotten structure seems not at all close to crashing down. FIFA, the masters of largesse, have pushed out the boat in many quarters, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and now Russia and Qatar. This largesse has made them very popular, especially in Asia and Africa.

It is no surprise that these are confederations that have many votes, which comes in handy at election time. Carry Asia and Africa and simple arithmetic tells the result – a lesson some have not grasped. Sepp Blatter certainly understood it.

Blatter and Hayatou 6

FIFAʼs major product – the World Cup – is something nations compete with each other to host. Football is increasingly popular and is the dominant global sport. England wanted to host the 2018 World Cup and failed to get enough votes. The results were a national embarrassment. It was not a bad bid, but it was out of step with FIFAʼs intentions and also those of individual federations.

Ever since, we have been treated to a monologue on the ills of FIFA. We are now expected to believe that Football itself is on the very verge of destruction because FIFA has decided to host the 2022 World Cup during the ʻWinterʼ of that year.

What is Football?

Football? Torn Apart? What is football? What does somebody mean when they say ʻFootballʼ. Do they mean the ball itself? Football, the game or sport? Football, the TV slot? Football, the Industry? 

When Roan and the BBC opine that ʻFootball could be torn apartʼ, they think, or more accurately want us to think, that they are talking about football in the Global, organized grass-roots sense of the word.

Football associations, football clubs, jumpers-for-goalposts, Football tournaments, the very fabric of football itself, the very essence of the game, is at risk. Uncle Sepp is going to get us all. In fact, the BBC are are referring, perhaps blithely, to their own narrow, oblique view of what football is and what football is about. Football the business, football….our businessOur gameThe game we gave the WorldThis thing of ours. 

Outraged?

It is no great leap to suggest that their contrived outrage stems from a sense of loss, a sense of exclusion, that they are no longer running the show and are merely instead a bit part of an organization that pays them no heed.

Third-party private organizations are entitled to organize their events as they see fit. It is up to other parties how they respond to this. Jérôme Valcke, FIFAʼs General Secretary, has told people to “Get on with it”. BBC pundits Danny Mills and Phil Neville agree with Valcke, but Roan has responded by kicking and screaming. He could do worse than consider the sentiments of the aforementioned home-grown pundits and others who have asked candidly, “Whatʼs the problem”?

The problem is that certain people have a bee in their bonnet about FIFA and rather than express it, they prefer to engage in tangential oblique nonsense. Mr Roan wants the reader to consider how the Winter World Cup imposes on the ʻCherished Festive Fixture Programmeʼ. It is lovely alliteration. It is also terrible reason. This ʻFestive Fixture Programmeʼ is not in fact a programme as much as it is semi-organized chaos, itself the subject of no small perennial, year-round criticism by domestic parties, It is bemoaned and criticized by players and managers alike, all year, every year. It is not liked. It is due for reform.

Hedged Bets

The author has hedged his bets. Perhaps aware that the ʻfestive disruptionʼ claim was as tenuous as it was false, Roan claims that More international friendlies are almost certain to be sacrificed.”  But International Friendlies are themselves the bane of the very Premier League whose best interests Mr Roan says are being interfered with.

However, we know how important some of these international friendlies can be. Consider one in particular. England tried to do business with Jack Warner by travelling to Trinidad & Tobago for a nothing friendly in 2008 in order to court Warner into providing support in CONCACAF to vote for England to host the World Cup of 2018. It was a fiasco as extracts of Michael Garciaʼs report on corruption in FIFA show. FIFA gleefully released those extracts, which suggested that Warner et al received a quid pro quo from that ill-advised friendly.

After this match Warner was exposed as corrupt and quit FIFA, exposing some of his dealings with the very dubious former head of the USAʼs federation, Chuck Blazer. Warner has a history – he was caught selling his complimentary tickets for the 2006 World Cup. He paid it back and it was business as usual until Blazer, once Warnerʼs protégé, decided that his apprenticeship had lasted long enough and tried to oust Warner.

It is conveniently forgotten that the fall of Qatari football executive and once cheer-leader of Blatterʼs 1998 bid for the Presidency of FIFA, Mohamed bin Hammam, was originally expelled from FIFA due to his attempt to ʻbuyʼ Warnerʼs influence for his own Presidential bid – exposed by Blazer. The American is no whistle-blowing anti-corruption pioneer. Blazer was neck-high in Warnerʼs shenanigans. But Warner was targeted by England to help their World Cup bid. Does this not question their anti-corruption credentials?

IronCIMG6958

England now wants to talk about corruption, but what was the football reason for the 2008 fixture in the Caribbean? What did then England manager Fabio Capello gain or learn from it? Did Capello request that particular opponent and if so why? For FIFA, attack became the best form of defence – given an open goal by the FA.

Perhaps England would do well to hold her tongue. but they try to berate FIFAʼs corruption. The BBC was at least consistent. Andrew Jennings has highlighted FIFAʼs corruption issues long before it became fashionable to do so. The FA complained that the BBCʼs Panorama programmeʼs exposé of corruption in FIFA on the eve of the vote impacted negatively on Englandʼs doomed bid.

A cursory examination of recent events lends no small credence to the opinion that England should keep its counsel. England had hoped to host the 2018 World Cup which instead went to Russia – worse still the Russia of Putins, Abramovichs, Usmanovs and Berezovsksy, etc.

England was shocked – outraged even. They had after all run a ʻgreat campaignʼ, part of which had been courting the influence of Jack Warner. Their bid had been officially presented by Prince William, nephew of Prince Andrew, the former trade envoy who told the Serious Fraud Office to keep out of the British Aerospace deal with Saudi Arabia. Glass houses?

Advertisements

Algeria Earn Another Crack at Germany

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2014)

Heroes

Sporting Lisbonʼs Islam Slimani has earned a permanent place in the hearts of Desert Foxes supporters along with the heroes of 1982 Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi – the scorers of Algeriaʼs goals against West Germany. Slimaniʼs 60th minute header equalised Aleksandr Kokorinʼs 6th minute goal.

The draw against Fabio Capelloʼs Russia was enough for Algeria to advance to the knock-out phase for the first time in their history and a clash against of all countries, Germany, the villains of 1982. Algeriaʼs coach Vahid Halihodžić kept his job due to fan-pressure. He has made it clear that the Desert Foxes are playing for their fans.

The North-African nationʼs first appearance in the World Cup Finals left a bitter after-taste. This time they had their fate in their own hands, barring a very unlikely result in the other group match Belgium versus South Korea. That never looked likely as even facing ten men South Korea were beaten 1-0. Algeria only needed to avoid defeat and did so.

Reverse

Taking advantage of a clash of heads that left Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouli requiring treatment for a head injury, Russia broke forward. Dmitri Kombarovʼs enticing left-footed cross was powerfully headed in by Aleksandr Kokorin. In pole position Russia sat back and stifled the match. Algeria had to score, making them vulnerable to the counter-attack.

Sergei Ignashevich playing his 100th match tackled Feghouli as the attacking midfielder advanced towards the area. Ignashevich then foiled a cross meant for Slimani too. But Russia had offensive ambitions too. Oleg Shatovʼs penetrating run culminated in a 30 yard shot that went just wide, but Algeria posed a threat too. Abdelmoumene Djabouʼs corner was nodded on for Slimani to head powerfully towards the top corner. Igor Akinfeev took no chances, saving to his left, but it wouldnʼt have counted as referee Cüneyt Çakir had spotted an offside

A minute into the second half Russia had a chance to ease their worries. A lovely move by Russia included a one-two between Kokorin and Aleksandr Samedov before the latterʼs shot required a great save by MʼBoli to keep Algeria in the competition. Five minutes later Kerzhakov showed exemplary determination to force his way past Djamel Mesbah and Tottenham Hotspurʼs Nabil Bentaleb to get shot away, but it was deflected for corner.

The misses proved costly as dreadful marking by Kombarov left Igor Akinfeev stranded as Slimani headed Yacine Brahimiʼs free-kick in for the equaliser that reversed positions. Russia needed to score and Algeria could settle for the draw that they had. They held out for the remaining half hour. Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakir quite rightly booked Algerian squad member Liassine Cadamuro-Bentaïbo when he came off the bench to boot the ball high into the stands to waste some time. Çakir added extra time too. The Desert Foxes would not be denied. A last sixteen tie against Germany was too enticing.

 

 

Belgium win Bore-fest

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 22nd 2014)

Dreadful Spectacle

Substitute Divock Origi spared the blushes of Marc Wilmotsʼ touted Belgium. For fans at the Maracaña it was so dreary that Belgium and Russia were booed. Fabio Capello can point to a poor refereeing decision after 27 minutes. Denis Glushakov put Maksim Kanunnikov in on the left of the area. He was plainly brought down by Toby Alderweireld. Referee Felix Brych should have given a penalty, but wrongly waved play on.

Aleksandr Kokorin squeezed between Manchester Cityʼs Vincent Kompany and Spursʼ Jan Vertonghen (who had replaced Arsenalʼs Thomas Vermaellen) to meet Glushakovʼs cross, but headed wide. He had to do better. Russia rarely threatened again.

Belgium offered little in the first half except the odd bright moment provided by Dries Mertens, whose lovely turn embarrassed Sergei Ignashevich, but Romelu Lukaku abandoned the chase as Mertens crossed. Igor Akinfeev dealt with the danger, having promised that there would be no repetition of the error against South Korea.

Progress

With ten minutes. remaining Belgium sprang to life. Substitute Kevin Mirallas struck the post from a 20 yard free-kick with Akinfeev beaten. Andrey Eschenko was put through by Kokorin with ten minutes remaining. His shot from just inside the area went just wide of Thibaut Courtoisʼ right-hand post. It was the last serious threat that Capelloʼs team mounted.

Belgium had the more incisive attacks as Eden Hazard came into his own. Kevin de Bruyne broke forward before passing to Origi, who found Hazard on the left. Chelseaʼs midfielder cut into the area before pulling it back for Origi to give Akinfev no chance. In injury time Mirallas should have scored after an excellent move, but was foiled by Akinfeev.

It didnʼt matter as the win guarantees that Belgium will at least progress to the last 16. Russia must go back to the drawing board, knowing that nothing less than a win against Algeria in their final match will do.

 

Relief

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 17th 2014)

Dreadful

Russiaʼs goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev gifted South Korea a goal and was mightily indebted to substitute Aleksandr Kerzhakov for saving point for Russia. Capped 70 times for his country Akinfeev was simply awful often spilling shots from distance in a performance that may cause Russiaʼs manager Fabio Capello to call time on Akinfeevʼs international career.

Before conceding the goal to Lee Keun-hoʼs speculative shot from just outside the area Akinfeev spilled shots from Ki Sung-yong and Kim Young-gwon without conceding, but it encouraged a shoot on sight of goal policy. Akinfeev will have nightmares over his 68th minute gaffe. It was straight at his head, but he not only failed to catch it but pushed it into his own net.

Proving A Point

Alan Dzagoev was a star of Russiaʼs Euro2012 campaign, but fell off the the radar afterwards and Kerzhakov was one shy of tying Russiaʼs scoring record. Both had a point to prove to Capello and did so. Dzagoev ignited an urgency in Russiaʼs play that had been strangely absent previously. South Koreaʼs lead lasted just 5 minutes.

Dzagoev – an Ossetian – was born in Beslan and was initially thought by his father to have been one of the pupils held hostage in the school hostage-taking by Chechen militants which resulted in the deaths of 344 people, 186 of whom were children.

He inspired the come-back tonight. Dzagoevʼs 73rd minute shot was parried by South Koreaʼs goal-keeper Jung Sung-ryeong. It rebounded to Andrey Eschenko and then to Kerzhakhov, who scored the equaliser. Less than ten minutes later Dzagoevʼs 30 yard shot flashed wide. It was a dramatic improvement on a first half that is best forgotten quickly.

 

Despicable People and the World Cup (Part 1)

Editor’s Note:

These articles were originally published by us as one article. We have split the original into four articles for ease of reading. We think it timely to remind readers, especially now, that football’s greatest tournament has been subject to political exploitation by despicable people previously. It is fitting that despite his interference Francisco Franco never lived to see Spain become the dominant force in football – consecutive European Championships and a World Cup – let alone benefit from it. There must be no return to such exploitation of the world’s most popular sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 8th 2008)

The Power of Football

The European Championship in Austria and Switzerland is centre-stage and rightly so, but some have other priorities. Over forty European nations that failed to qualify are already focusing their attention firmly on the World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010.

England played the USA at Wembley on May 28th and Trinidad and Tobago on June 1st as Fabio Capello continues to experiment ahead of the World Cup qualification campaign that will begin in earnest in September. It will offer England the opportunity to renew acquaintance with Croatia and possibly Slaven Bilić too.,

South America has already begun its qualification matches and Africa has also begun the task of whittling down the 30 countries to the five that will accompany the hosts too. Other federations have started their qualification process as well. Some friendlies offer the opportunity for members of rival federations to learn about each other as well ahead of the important business of making sure they get to South Africa.

Jorge Luis Pinto brought his entertaining Colombian team to Craven Cottage to face Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland team on May 29th. They know that the price of failure is high. Many coaches will either be sacked or resign and harsh decisions to end international careers will be taken by players or coaches, but the rewards of World Cup success are great and not just for players, or even coaches.

Basking in Reflected Glory

Sadly, some truly despicable people and régimes have basked in the glory of World Cup triumph and used the awesome power of footballing success on the greatest stage for their own ends. Both the former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and his then Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini are among those to profit from the power of football.

They understood the value of footballing success to distract the attention of the public from social ills. Franco had no love of the game, but he saw that it was popular and could be used to bolster his rule. Spanish football was organised to suit Franco’s wishes. It paid off at club level, but not in the World Cup.

Despite almost four decades in charge Franco never managed to bring the World Cup to Spain either as host or champion. The best he could do was Spain’s only triumph in a major tournament – the European Championship of 1964. Compared to Mussolini, Franco was a novice, who never understood or got the chance to exploit the World Cup for political purposes.

Dubious Origins

In 1932 Italy was awarded the right to host the 1934 World Cup finals. From the start it was a controversial choice. The fascists had been in power for a decade and Italy had snubbed the previous tournament in Uruguay – a slight the first hosts did not forgive. Luis Monti had represented Argentina in the first World Cup in 1930, even playing in the final itself. Four years later he would play in the final again – this time for Italy. He is the only player to have played in the World Cup final for two different countries.

Other Argentinian players were recruited by Italy before the 1934 tournament, much to the chagrin of the beaten finalists of 1930. The Oriundi as they were called was controversial. Argentina protested by sending a weak team. Uruguay – the defending World Champions – boycotted the 1934 event because of the lack of European participation in the inaugural World Cup.

Uruguay, previously unofficial world champions by virtue of winning the Olympic title of 1928, which was the last time the Olympic title truly was a measure of the best team in the world, was not there – the last time the winners did not defend their crown. Brasil came, but was not the force that they would be in 1938.

The South Americans were no threat to Italy, but given the fact that Italy had boycotted the inaugural World Cup, should they have been allowed to host it at all?