Posts Tagged ‘Blatter’

Win required, retirement, Blatter’s bluster, Rudi’s challenge, supporting football.

November 7th, 2013 No comments

Stoke City’s season so far has been dogged with a chronic lack of goals.  Those who felt a stroke of good fortune was required have been granted their wish.  Asmir Begovic’s goal against Southampton was a gloriously crazy way to start any game!  To take the lead after a matter of seconds, to a goal so bizarre  was the kind of good fortune any team experiences once a decade at the most!  Initially Southampton seemed unsettled.  We pressed forward and looked capable of adding to our lead.  However, when Ryan Shawcross squandered a great chance of adding a second it was  ominous.  Shawcross should have done better.  It could be argued a defender shouldn’t be expected to finish clinically but, as a professional footballer, he should have made contact to get a shot on target. From that point Southampton grew in confidence and their equaliser on the stroke of half time wasn’t a shock.  The second half consisted of both teams trying to carve out an opening with neither creating enough to win the game.  While we can have no complaints about the result it’s frustrating to have failed to win another home game.  It was particularly disheartening to gain only a draw from a game in which we had such a marvellous, albeit outlandish, start.   It’s a simple request, but soon, as soon as possible, we need to start winning games of football.

Mark Schwarzer’s retirement from international football came as a surprise.  At the age of 41 he has 109 international caps…. an Australian record.   Having experienced two World Cup campaigns with the national team there seemed every possibility he’d again play on the biggest stage next year in Brazil.    Australia will miss his presence stature and experience.  Schwarzer himself might have made a mistake when he still has a World Cup left in him.  In June he may come to rue this decision.

Joe Hart in another keeper in the news.  Did Hart’s omission from Manchester City’s starting line up really merit the media attention it generated?  His form has been erratic for months.  Manuel Pellegrini’s decision was relatively straight forward.  Costel Pantilimon performed steadily against Newcastle in midweek so keeping him in the team was a sensible decision in the best interests of the team and the club as a whole…. including Hart himself.  Off form he can use the time away to rest, recuperate and return to his best.  The press have exaggerated the importance of this.

Roma’s perfect start to the season finally reached it’s conclusion when they drew 1-1 at Torino.  Winning the first ten games of any season is impressive for anyone.  The odd thing is after such a dominant start the leaders find themselves only three points ahead of second place Napoli who, worryingly for Roma, are only ahead of Juventus on goal difference.  Manager Rudi Garcia has made a staggering start to his reign in Rome, he now needs to ensure his players can maintain their brilliant start and remember they are still on top and the team to beat.  Also, at the start of the season they wouldn’t have turned down the chance to be three points clear after eleven games!

Brisbane Roar’s 3-0 victory over Melbourne Heart was the archetypal game of two halves.  At half time nobody watching could have guessed the second half would be something of a stroll for Brisbane.  In the first period Heart wasted several great opportunities to take the lead and at half time there was a feeling they may have blown their chance.  To see the hosts effortlessly glide to victory in the second half was a huge surprise!  After the game it was disappointing to get chatting to several football fans who rarely attend A-League matches because they consider the quality of football on offer to be poor.  Of all the reasons not to go to matches the perceived low quality of play is lame.  Not least because the A-League is improving.  It isn’t, and has never claimed to be, a rival to the European Champions League.  It does however have some decent matches and holds it’s own as a national competition.  To dismiss an entire league on the basis of poor quality is to suggest the only football worth spending time on is the absolute pinnacle.  Why watch Brentford when they aren’t as good as Chelsea?  Why watch Piacenza when you can watch Milan?  For that matter, only Bayern Munich Barcelona and Real Madrid would attract crowds at all.  Is this a healthy scenario?

Sepp Blatter has pledged to seek explanations from Qatari authorities regarding the continuing controversy surrounding the 2022 World Cup.  His posturing and talk may be an attempt to recover some integrity.  If his organisation is to regain any credibility at all he needs to assert governance and strip Qatar of hosting rights and re-open the bidding process….. before resigning.





Solid but toothless, taking a stand, storm in a teacup

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Stoke City’s draw against Crystal Palace wasn’t a classic.  It was satisfying to secure a clean sheet but the point has to be made, failing to sustain meaningful pressure on the Palace defence was disappointing.  However, the priority from a fiddly tie was to be in the hat for the fourth round draw and in that respect it was mission accomplished.  The replay certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.  There is a lot to do if we are to get the  fourth round tie against Manchester City.

Despite being a lover of football traditions, it’d be foolish to deny that the FA Cup has lost much of it’s polish in recent years.  Seeing games played out on front of half full stadiums and managers clearly regarding the whole competition as a nuisance isn’t an inspiring spectacle.  The FA holding this years final yet again on a weekend of a full Premier League programme hardly suggests that it’s a priority for anyone.  But if we were to totally disregard the FA Cup it would be an arrogant mistake.   Some may consider it to be a hindrance but it’s a hindrance worth winning.

When Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng led his teammates off the pitch last week it was a huge moment.  For several years the issue of how to deal with the issue of bigotry in football has been debated.  The vast majority of supporters are repelled by racism and believe it has no place in football… or anywhere else in society for that matter.  The clamour for authorities to take strong decisive action has only been matched by the administrators  stubborn refusal to do so.  It’s the lack of affirmative action which led to Boateng snapping, deciding enough is enough, and that in 2013 nobody should have to tolerate racial abuse in the workplace.  The stand had to be taken as ruling bodies clearly have no intention of addressing the subject.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the incident is that it occurred at all.  Traditionally players have been expected to do what they are told and keep quiet.  Even now there is a handful of people who believe footballers shouldn’t respond at all to the abuse and that is a small price to pay for earning an astronomical wage… despite the fact the vast majority of players don’t earn a huge wage and some things transcend the relevance of money.  For all that, the response to Milan’s walk off has, in general, been supportive from both the general public and those in the game… with one notable exception.  Sepp Blatter stating his belief that Boateng was ‘running away’ from racism is yet another indication that he is fails to understand the issue and why it needs to be addressed.  FIFA have shied away too long, seemingly afraid to assert effective governance.  As a result Blatter has demonstrated his isolation from a crucial subject in the game and as such has proven again that he is unfit to govern.

On an issue considerably less important, another administrator stoked some fires recently.  Michel Platini declared “If we look at the Champions League draw, it’s clear that Juventus are already through to the quarter finals”.  While Juventus are clearly favourites heading into the tie It’d be foolish to consider Celtic an easy passage to the quarter finals.  Especially now Neil Lennon has extra armour to motivate his team!

Much has been made of Roberto Mancini’s training ground altercation with Mario Balotelli.  Was it really worthy of so many column inches?  Probably not. Disagreements like this have always occurred at football clubs and always will.  Many years ago I used to watch Stoke City training and similar incidents were commonplace.  The main difference is that now anyone who witnesses something can post details on a social media website and within minutes the story has travelled across the world.  With the saturation coverage of modern football press are often present and looking for the story.  The attention received by their spat says much more about modern media practices than it does about the individuals involved.


And…..THEY’RE OFF!!!!!!!

August 21st, 2012 No comments

Welcome back into my life football. My friend, my strength, my infatuation and, of course, my eternal frustration!  Weekends are  inconsequential without you football my darling.   The big kick off symbolises a  return to midnight (or 1am) kick offs before retiring to bed usually accompanied by liberal doses of fatigue and deflation.   It’s August, time to start all over again.

Every game has it’s own story.  The story behind our 1-1 draw at Reading is a tale of Stoke City’s two dropped points.  The match started with a familiar look as we defended deeply and struggled to impose ourselves on the game.  For all Reading’s possession they rarely threatened to unlock us and as the first half wore on we were increasingly comfortable.  After half an hour we started to carry the game forward and we quickly found the ultimate reward.  The ball dropped in the box to Michael Kightly who tried a shot.  Fortuitously, Reading keeper Federeci completely misjudged the scuffed effort and the ball bobbled guiltily into the net.  Fortunate or not it was great to be ahead away from home and fantastic that Kightly could mark his debut with a goal.  For over an hour it seemed likely to be the winning goal.  Until the 89th minute we defended our lead in comfort and controlled the game.  We put pressure on Reading and while we didn’t create much we still looked more likely to add a second goal than Reading were to equalise.  Then came that fateful 89th minute.  We were caught out at the back and Dean Whitehead’s lunge resulted in the penalty that provided Reading their escape route to retrieve an unlikely draw.  As a result we got one point from a match we should have won comfortably.  The very simple lesson to be learnt is that if you fail to finish games off whilst on top in them you’ll be vulnerable to sucker punches.   Reflecting on the entire game we really have nobody to blame but ourselves for those two dropped points.  And that is the story of Reading v Stoke City.

As an aside it was pleasing to see Robert Huth start the game and compete as vigorously as ever.   Less than a fortnight ago our very own Berlin Wall was in hospital with a serious illness.  It’s just so frustrating that we couldn’t mark his rapid recovery with a clean sheet and three points.

Our next challenge arrives in the shape of Arsenal.  Last season’s game was marred by tasteless chants regarding the Shawcross Ramsey incident.  That incident occured two and a half years ago. It’d be a refreshing change if everybody dropped the vitriol so that terrible moment can be well and truly  confined to history.   There are some aspects of football that are truly awful and that was  horrible for all concerned.   It’d be a refreshing change if everybody just let it go and concentrate on supporting their team.  Please, no more.

The London Olympics contained many special moments.  For many football supporters the most poignant moment was Sepp Blatter being roundly booed before the womens gold medal match.  Despite the  hostility Sepp generates he clings on to his prestigious role like grim death.  Only last week his bruised battered organisation announced further investigations into the activities of disgraced ex official  Mohamed bin Hammam.  This is merely shooting fish in a barrel hoping it’ll deflect from other more relevant discrepancies. For the good of the game Blatter and his sycophantic cronies should be dragged from the trough and replaced as soon as possible.

As the cliche states it’s early days for Brendan Rogers at Liverpool.  Even bearing that in mind few could argue that the 0-3 defeat at WBA was an horrendous start to his reign. While at Swansea, many were impressed by his teams style of play and the confidence they showed in their first top glight season.  To receive similar plaudits at Anfield he’ll need some resilience to accompany panache.  At The Hawthorns his team waved the white flag as soon as the ref waved the red card.  It looks as if some of their players are too comfortable.  A huge clearout is required.  It’ll be a long painful process but the powers that be must be  prepared to give the manager time fulfill his vision.


Blatter, technology and a missed header

August 23rd, 2010 No comments

There’s no question that Bale’s second was an impressive strike but, the point has to be made that Lennon being allowed to carry the ball unchecked was shoddy on our behalf.  And for the first Collins was caught square and ballwatching as Bale ghosted in past him.  Its going to be tough if we give sides that kind of help.  Especially sides with the quality of Spurs.  The second half we played well.  Tuncay’s introduction added some much needed skill and our forward play got a new dimension but that header was a bad miss.  When Jonesy returns and is fully fit hopefully he’ll put chances like that away with the minimum of fuss.  After half time we took the game to Spurs and we were worth a point.  The point we’d have got if the ref had given the goal we scored.  It’s depressingly similar to Shawcross’ disallowed goal at home to Manchester Citeh last season.  The ref was right next to the incident yet got it horribly wrong.  That Huth fouled the keeper is irrelevant.  If the ref had thought it was a foul he’d have immediately blown for a free kick.   Chelsea next week.  One good thing about going to Stamford Bridge in August is that we’ll get it over with.  it’ll be an exercise in damage limitation so we have to hope we limitate it better than we did last time there!   Barring a miracle next week it seems we’ll head into the international break with zero points.  Obviously there’s a long long way to go and no need to panic.  If Jonesy returns fit and we can show the same appetite we did in the second half against Spurs we should be OK.  But we mustn’t forget to win games of football.

One of the fascinations of this season is to see how Jose Mourinho fares at Real Madrid.  The club who regard style and panache as important to the culture of their club as their illustrious historical trophy haul.   In choosing Mourinho they have effectively chosen a U turn.  Mourinho’s brilliance is as a motivator and   his tactical manoeuvring.  His teams, as successful as they are, haven’t always played exhilarating thrilling football.  The pragmatism and attention to detail being the cornerstones of his glittering career.  Moving to Madrid is actually a masterstroke. His previous connections with Barcelona are now forgotten and there is animosoty between the self proclaimed special one and the club that was his football classroom.  This will only help to endear him to the Bernebau.  It’s known Real Madrid is a notorious  managerial graveyard.  If the internal politics are too much and he walks away he’ll probably be able to do so with reputation intact and will still be able to pick up a job at a European powerhouse.  That Jose isn’t stupid!

**The debate about goal line technology rumbles on.  Surely if it’s available it’s  foolish not to use it.  It’s unlike many topics of debate that arise that surround refereeing decisions in a game of football.  For example, last week Joe Cole was sent off for Liverpool.  It was my opinion that the red card was harsh and a yellow would suffice.  However, mates I spoke with and looking at assorted internet message boards many felt it was a good decision by the ref and the sending off was fully justified.  There are varying opinions and that is part of the soul of football.  The difference between a situation like that and whether a ball crosses the line or not is that whether the ball crosses the line isn’t a subject of debate, it’s a matter of fact, and also the key factor in a match…. scoring a goal, or not as the case may be.  In these days where lost points can lose a club millions, and to implement the change would be relatively straight forward, isn’t it prehistoric to refuse to accept it?   Mr Blatter would be OK, he should think of the favours it could generate from the companies who want to get the contracts to put the equipment in place! 

Talking of Blatter, how kind of him to visit England!  We can hope he enjoyed beer and crisps at Downing Street.  And Nick Clegg was appropriately ambassadorial is meeting him and his delegates.  This visit is an important part of the bid, especially at this late stage.  But where was the Prime Minister?  It’s understandable that he wants time with his family but Prime Ministers don’t have holidays.  Hosting the 2018 World Cup could be one of the biggest things in the history of England.  It reaches parts of the nation the Olympics can’t.  The big cheeses of FIFA have egos the size of  Heathrow  airport.  Hopefully the decisive factor won’t be that Vladimir Putin went to meet them last week.

It’s pleasing that Brisbane Roar have made a healthy start to the A league season.  A win and a draw is a vast improvement on last seasons lame capitulation.  Some stylish football has been played too which is an important factor in Australia.  The league here is a huge marketing exercise to generate interest in the game of football.  It’ll be more pleasing if Brisbane’s enterprising start can be maintained.  The politics of football here can be overwhelming.  Hopefully we, the people of Brisbane, can focus on the pitch instead of the meeting rooms.   Home to Wellington Friday night!

**  The bit about  goal line technology was written before our incident against Spurs on Saturday.  Honestly.

Paraguayan pride and pundits

July 1st, 2010 No comments

Typically, as soon as I mention the second round having a healthy goals per game ratio we get two games with one goal between them.   It’s pleasing that Paraguay got through, albeit by a penalty shootout.   When they played Slovakia the camera scanned on them singing their national anthem and at the end they all cheered and clapped and looked at each other smiling.  A brief miraculous moment, players actually ENJOYING participating in the World Cup.   Such a refreshing change from the usual surly scowling young men with the weight of the world on their shoulders talking of which… Christiano doesn’t help himself does he?  He hasn’t written much future either.  He’ll meet his friend Wayne and they can drink champagne and decide who to blame for their lack of influence.  Then can blame Nike for not paying them enough to do those adverts.  Wayne and Steve Gerrard has decided to pull out of an event in London to find the worlds most skillful footballer, and they have had to lose their payment of half a million quid.  Poor loves, lets have a whip round. 

The decision of the remarkably named Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan to suspend their national team is as foolish as it is melodramatic. It seems the decision is more to punish their FA than the players. This is in the wake of their chaotic preparation which resulted in friendlies cancelled and even the plane to take them to South Africa unable to take off. However, FIFA take a dim view of political leaders meddling with football.   If the two year ban is upheld it could be that Blatter and his mates decide to bang an extra ban on top.  This will harm the players in several ways but most of all deprive the Nigerian people the chance to see their team in competitive action.  Hopefully Goodluck is using this as a chance for a spot of self promotion.  Otherwise we can only wish bad luck on Goodluck. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger’s digs at Argentina got a staggering response from Maradona, because there wasn’t one!  Where you might usually expect him to react by smashing a glass or baring his arse or something, he didn’t react.  This is the calm before the storm.  You can bet there will be a reaction if Germany knock them out.  There is still bad blood after their quarter final in 2006 and nothing stokes the fire like a sense of grievance.  If, as is extremely possible, Argentina meet Brazil in the final the terms  mind games and antagonistic will have to be re-defined!   And antagonism is rarely as antagonistic as it is when Brazil play Argentina.

Reading some articles it seems the punditry on UK TV is rather poor.  The most annoying aspect is that in the first few weeks when they said something about one of the more obscure sides players they got ridiculed for being a swot.  Before Slovenia v Algeria one of them sort of shrugged and admitted he knew nothing about either team.  How lazy can you be?  Have they never heard of this thing what was invented called the, er, internet like?   This  attitude does nobody any favours.  In fact they just present themselves as ignorant and insular.  It’s not much to ask to provide some background information, otherwise why are they there? 

Blatter has apologised for Lampard’s phantom goal, how very kind of him!!   Three cheers for good old Sepp.  What happens now?  This apology means nothing unless measures are taken to ensure mistakes like this aren’t repeated.  They are happy to accept technological developments when they develop the new ball the players can’t play with.  Or when they have those big videoscreens that carry sponsors advertising.  Maybe, just maybe, they can use technology to help the game and not just so they can vacuum up money.

Stokeless in South Africa

June 25th, 2010 No comments

Who could have predicted that?   In the build up questions were asked about the age of the Italian squad.  Lippi responded by pointing out that in a World cup you  only need to win seven games.  The world champions  tepid exit will come as a huge shock.  Expectations were low but failing to get out of the group is a disaster.   Surely the inclusion of Cassano and Balotelli would have brought some much needed energy.   The outcome of the group was particularly suprising  because Slovakia had been uninspiring and dull in the first two games.   Without wishing to demean Slovakia’s victory it was more about Italian lethargy than any silky Slovakian skills.  They got through but Holland don’t have too much to worry about.  And remember, my predictions are usually 100% wrong!!   New Zealand didn’t quite have the craft to open the Paraguay defence but they can be proud of the achievements.  To go out unbeaten is impressive.  In years to come the Kiwis will look back on this as a special time in their lives. 

For Japan’s first goal Tommy took a slight move  to the left as it was being struck and that wrong footed him.  That was the beginning of the end of Stoke City’s representation in the tournament.   The TV companies will be hoping that doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the viewing figures.   Across the globe millions will now turn away from the World Cup.   Would Adidas and Macdonalds been so keen to invest so many millions in sponsorship if they had known it’d be Stokeless from the second round onwards?   Surely not.  Blatter will have some explaining to do.  To make it worthwhile the TV cameras will be scanning crowds for Stoke fans in Stoke shirts just to satisfy the hunger of sponsors and get some Stokeness in.   Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Another big question that’s been thrown up is about Maradona.   Is he becoming normal?   Admittedly, he did say Pele should go back to the museum, but in other areas he’s been saying things other, more sane, less unhinged  managers say.   He’s even said that Brazil were favourites.   In itself, this wasn’t a particularly controversial observation but  it was a rare moment of chivalry towards the deadly rivals.   Hopefully the pressure of the knockout stage will bring around a bit more madness from him. 

So we now have one eye on the game against Germany.   One difference between this and the other three games is that we won’t be favourites.  Given the fragile metal state of  our players will that work in our favour?    A bit less pressure maybe?   Looking back to the 1990 semi David Platt observed that deep down inside, in their heart of hearts, the England players didn’t believe they could win that game.   Will we dogged by those doubts on Sunday?   It’s in the head.

Rejoice…..planet football is almost here!!

June 11th, 2010 No comments

Since South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup was successful in 2004 it hasn’t always been a smooth road.   In fact at times it has been violently bumpy.  So many doubters (including me) bemoaning South Africa’s hosting as a legacy of advanced madcap Blatterism.  There have been question marks over everything.  Would the stadiums be ready?   Will the lights stay on?   How will the thousands of visitors travel?  Will they be safe when they do so?  Was the talk of England being secretly approached and asked to step in true?  In fact, was there any truth in the rumour Australia had been approached and asked to step in?   Even today, the horrific news of the death of Nelson Mandela’s great granddaughter adds yet another layer to the story.

Watching the fans gathering in Johannesburg is special. Of course, we can easily relate to the spectacle and colour when excited fans congregate for football, but there is another aspect to it this time.   This also symbolises a changed nation. The tyranny of apartheid is in the past and the next month is the biggest moment in African history.  Has the planet ever been so focussed on that continent as it is now?  

After the internal wrangling and political stunts we can soon observe something much more important…..the football!  Enjoy the beautiful football.  Oh by the way, enjoy the ugly football too!!    

In 2 hours  54 minutes and 58 seconds we land on planet football.   ENJOY!!!!