Football – In Tact as Ever (Part Two)

By Traolach Kaye © Traolach Kaye (March 19th 2015)

Shenanigans

The BBCʼs Dan Roan alludes to how offended the Premier League will be by all these shenanigans to host the World Cup in the winter in Qatar to avoid the searing heat of an Arabic summer. That is most odd. English football is all about the Premier League. Clubs are either in the Premier League or aspire to be in it.

Those seeking to give the lie to this will claim that the Championship play-off final is the ʻrichest game in footballʼ … by dint, oddly enough, of the winner being ushered into the Premier League. Should football fans, globally, take umbrage at how the machinations of the Premier League, itself – something of a tyrantsʼ charter – have been upset and knocked marginally out of kilter by the decision to host the 2022 World Cup during the Winter months?

Roanʼs assertion that the FA might be upset as it may interrupt some ceremonially flavoured FA Cup programme – 2022 is the centenary of the Final at Wembley Stadium – is laughable. This presentation of the FA Cup as some Holy of Holies sits uncomfortably with how the event has been policed and how its attendees have been treated – Hillsborough, for example.

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Uncomfortable

It sits uncomfortably with how managers and players treat it. It sits uncomfortably with the stark reality of attendances at FA Cup games with certain clubs, at even advanced stages of the Cup. If it is important, why is it being treated as an after-thought, especially by the big clubs and the prize of qualification for the Europa League being seen as a unwanted burden, even though for some clubs, it is the only possibility of Champions League football.

Take Hull City for example. A lacklustre approach to it saw them dumped out without even reaching the League stage. This in the year that the winner of the Europa League gets into the Championsʼ League. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool dropped out in the last 32. Only Everton still fly the flag.

Disproportionate Effects?

If Roan is so concerned that the effect of hosting WC 2022 in the Winter Months will have a disproportionately negative effect on the ʻSmaller Clubsʼ, he would do well to look at how the same ʻSmaller Clubsʼ themselves treat the FA Cup, and how the FA Cup treats them. Name the last non-top flight Club to win the FA Cup?

Southampton, 1976. The last 10 winners are Arsenal, Wigan, Chelsea, Manchester City, Chelsea, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal. Who owns those clubs? Portsmouth at the time of their winning the FA Cup in 2008 were owned by Alexander Gaydamak. He had bought the club from Milan Mandarić who was subsequently charged with tax-evasion.

Gaydamak then sold the club to Sulaiman al-Fahim who had acted as spokesperson for Mansour al-Nahyan and smoothed al-Nahyanʼs takeover of Manchester City. Al-Fahim in turn sold the club six weeks later to Ali al-Faraj, a supposed Saudi oil tycoon. Portsmouth went to rack and ruin and who paid the price? The loyal supporters who were the backbone of the club and who ultimately saved the historic club.

By 2013, Portsmouth FC had finally returned to the ownership of the fans themselves, with the club having been bankrupted, relegated three times and almost forced out of existence in the intervening period. But we must keep an eye out for FIFA, it seems.

Fit and Proper

Anybody can own an English football club. They are for sale every day of the week on whatever index you choose to consult. They are open to bids from everyone, irrespective of their morals, their achievements, their politics, their ethics, or the pedigree of their finances. They are not even the Harrods of their time, for which a purchase price AND favour had to be first agreed. Who buys these clubs?

The best known example is everyoneʼs favourite ʻBillionaire from Nowhereʼ, Roman Abramovich – a long-time associate of Vladimir Putin. Abramovich rose from nothing to dominate the Russian aluminium and gas sector, after being the understudy of Boris Beresovsky who was subsequently found dead at home in March 2013 soon after a protracted legal battle with Abramovich ended badly for Beresovsky.

Other noted humanists such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Hicks, George Gillette, Mike Ashley, Vincent Tan, Venkatesh Rao, the al-Mubaraks, Alisher Usmanov and the aforementioned al-Fahims, Gaydamaks, al-Farajs, Mandarićs, etc. either own outright, have owned outright, possess, or have had strong financial interests in various English clubs.

Chicken factories. Bangladeshi sweatshops. Human rights abusers. Leveraged buyout merchants. Corporate raiders. Oligarchs. Oil tycoons. Silicon valley entrepreneurs. Eastern-Bloc businessmen. But look out for FIFA.

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Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United has used his position to try take advantage of the collapse of Glasgow Rangers such that Rangers was in danger of becoming a satellite club of Newcastle United. But look out for FIFA.

Universal Problem

This is not alone an English problem. Perspective is loaned to the matter when one considers that Real Madrid have agreed a £350m deal with a construction company owned by a member of the family that owns Manchester City. These clubs are supposedly in competition. They are instead each otherʼs keepers. This is supposedly the football that we should be worried will be ʻtorn apartʼ by a tournament being hosted in the Winter months – a tournament 7 years now.

No self-respecting journalist capable of even the slightest abstract thought could possibly find themselves offended uniquely by FIFAʼs alleged corruption juxtaposed as it is against the backdrop painted above. A brief examination of those invited to do business in England, and fêted for doing same, says a lot about this. 

England held its nose and took its reluctant place at the trough in the run up to the decision to award the World Cups for 2018 and 2022 respectively. Had England walked away early-doors and refused to have anything to do with the selection process, then we might have avoided the entire saga. Instead, the tit-for-tat will continue, presumably up and until such a stage as England is awarded a World Cup to host.

And letʼs remember that three-times beaten finalists the Netherlands have never hosted the World Cup, let alone suffered a long delay waiting for it to return. Isnʼt it their turn first?

Harsh Lesson for the Bees

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 29th 2014)

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Convincing

Jan Urbanʼs Osasuna sent a second half message tonight. He put a new eleven on at half time, but insisted that was not his first team. “Our priorities are to get back into the Primera División,” Urban said. A much changed Brentford team held their own in the first half, but were taken apart in the second as Osasuna put four past the Bees without reply.

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“I think they are a very good team”, Brentford defender Kevin OʼConnor said of Osasuna. “They had chances. We had chances. We could have gone one nil up. Thirty seconds after, they scored, so itʼs just fine margins”.

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Seconds before the counter attack that gave Osasuna the lead Alan McCormackʼs 53rd minute shot beat goalkeeper Asier Riesgo Unamuno, but also the post. Riesgo initiated the retort which resulted in Manuel Onwu Villafranca finishing with aplomb to open the scoring. Brentford, fielding just two of the starting line-up that defeated Nice 3-2 three days earlier. Less than five minutes later a nice move by Osasuna on the edge of Brentfordʼs area put Onwu through to score his second.

With 14 minutes remaining Nino (Juan Francisco Martínez Modesto) penetrated Brentfordʼs defence trying and failing to play offside to beat Richard Lee for the third. With added time approaching Osasuna added a fourth – an excellent header by David García Zubiria that gave Lee no chance. Osasuna deserved their win, but the gloss was somewhat taken off it by fervent speculation over the future of Adam Forshaw. Wiganʼs approaches, which Brentford have rejected, have angered the Bees.

A Tale of Two Halves

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Urban denied that his second half team was his strongest side. Jordan Lotiès impressed in defence, producing a magnificently timed interception to stop Montell Moore in his tracks. Roberto Santamaría Ciprián was delighted to see Stuart Dallasʼ shot from André Grayʼs cross clear his bar – the first chance of the match in the 17th minute – but Santamaría had to be alert to deny Gray after Moore had put him through.

OʼConnor was impressed with the Spanish opposition. However, he pointed out that Brentford not only held their own in the first half, but very nearly took the lead just before Osasuna did. “Very good team”, OʼConnor said of Osasuna. “They moved the ball around very well. It was a very good test. They also changed their whole team, so they went out fresher than us in the second half, but they are a good team, so itʼs tough”.

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After 32 minutes Alejandro Berenguer Remiroʼs shot was well saved by Lee and just before half time Harlee Deanʼs block prevented Marcos Tébarʼs error from costing the Bees. Roberto Torres Moralesʼ goal-bound effort was not allowed to trouble Lee. Brentford faced a fresh eleven in the second half. Urbanʼs new look team almost made the Bees pay three minutes after the restart. Álvaro Cejudo Carmonaʼs corner was headed onto the woodwork by Oier Sanjurjo Maté with Lee beaten.

So what did Brentford learn from playing Nice and then Osasuna ahead of this weekendʼs fixture against Crystal Palace? “Just we play against a different style of football”, OʼConnor said. “You know I donʼt think there will be another team that will come to Griffin Park and play the way Osasuna played. You know they were very good. You just try and adapt to every type of scenario”.

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