Posts Tagged FIFA

Not Every Whistle Blower Can Be a Collina But


Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks made a legitimate analysis on BBC Sport’s post-match analysis of the fiery London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal on Saturday, which the Blues won 2-0 courtesy of a Kurt Zouma header and a deflected Eden Hazard goal early and late in the second half respectively.

Before the goals however, it would not have been much of a surprise if the match had gone on to finish goalless, or to have seen either side steal a win with a fortuitous goal. Arsenal were hardly at their fluid best at Stamford Bridge but nonetheless were holding their own against a Chelsea side that can probably be seen as on a resurgence having secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season, scoring six and conceding none to boot.

In another realm of reality, Zouma scoring his first Premier League goal against a rival could have been the major talking point. Another realm of reality could have chosen to ponder on whether Hazard’s so far form is on the mend having scored, albeit off Arsenal defender Calum Chambers.

Perhaps we could have been going on about how Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger managed a (rather frosty) handshake before kick-off but ‘forgot’ or were too occupied to share another at full time, with Wenger walking right down the tunnel while Mourinho, understandably, shared a warm hug with a man he still trusts completely, John Terry.

As we would have it though, in whatever realm of reality you choose to exist, the major talking point had to do with two Brazilian born players, each on either side who threw up what perhaps has been missing in a lot of so-called derby matches in the English top flight; tempers!

Arsenal defender Gabriel reacts after being sent off against Chelsea, while Diego Costa watches on.

Arsenal’s Gabriel Paulista struggling with Chelsea’s Pedro and Branislav Ivanovic while Diego Costa watches on

That happened just before halftime and imagine after such altercation, both players remained on the field for the rest of the encounter, all riled up and just itching for the other to as much as glance along their path for a proper brawl to break out and perhaps for more slaps to be served two or three involved faces.

Arsenal fans and many neutrals can go on all week about how insert your feelings about the striker’s behaviour here disgusting, despicable, unacceptable, unsporting, irritating and appalling Costa’s part in getting Gabriel sent off was but what is a derby if neither side has at least one player being a tick in the skins of his opposition all game?

Didier Drogba held a psychological card on Philippe Senderos and Arsenal for a long time, same hold Costa seems to be having on a lot of opponents in the Premier League having previously been involved in confrontations, but somehow not getting sent off in his ‘two’ seasons so far in the Premier League.

Everton's Tim Howard confronts that man Costa

Everton’s Tim Howard confronts that man Costa

Which is why I agreed 100% with Spurs fan Crooks, ironically riled about an injustice to an Arsenal player when he said, “We all want to see 11 against 11. It’s a great game” and indeed it was, until referee Mike Dean felt it appropriate to send off one party in the altercation and leave the other on the field with just a yellow card for his troubles. Would not have been the 11 on 11 one wanted, but 10 on 10 was not a bad option at all. Alas.

Dean’s only fault as it turns out, was not showing that red card to Costa as well when he showed it to Gabriel for if he had, we probably would be scrambling for the best resolution footage of a classic tunnel bust-up between both players and possibly their teammates off the field and bench… along with the coaching staff… and both managers, tantalisingly.

However, showing just one red card brought an imbalance to what was – to that point – a contest of two sides looking to bounce back for different reasons. Instead, we were left to consume a largely one-sided second half (inevitably) which saw Santi Cazorla get himself sent off to add a feeling of injustice for Arsenal fans and a need for justification for Chelsea fans.

Good old days, one would have had a good time or held a proper grudge (depending on what side of reality you existed) at Martin Keown for (in)famously rubbing Ruud van Nistelrooy’s penalty miss in the final minute of that match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in 2003.

I mean… Keown was just getting started but look at Ashley Cole too

… Keown was getting warmed up now even though Ruud was all cool…

… think the angle in the last one did an injustice to this moment…

… but very few moments beat this ‘point driven straight home’ part of this moment of what used to be a proper rivalry.

After the incident (between Costa and Gabriel that is), Keown tweeted he would have loved to play against the Chelsea striker. That tweet reeked of an emotion missing in current Arsenal players and a whole lot at others club who have to be ‘appropriate’ or risk being farcically charged by the trigger happy FA for the comment deemed ever so slightly inappropriate.

The Arsenal manager and others of his kind should not always expect the opponent to play nice and allow the other team be the better team. That is not how the football gods (not Messi and Ronaldo but their mythical ancestors) ordained the procession to go, otherwise they would be a bunch of bored lawmakers who doze off during once-a-quarter sessions.

But all of that is for another feast of sporting battles.

Admittedly not every Mike Dean can be Pierluigi Collina great, not even Collina’s compatriot Nicola Rizzoli who saw PSV Eindhoven’s Héctor Morono get his Ryan Shawcross on and do a Ramsey on poor Luke Shaw during a UEFA Champions League encounter, which Manchester United eventually lost 2-1 with Morono scoring one of those goals for PSV.

Excuse me while I do a Crooks complimenting Dean before slating him, Rizzoli is a top official otherwise he would not have been named Serie A Referee of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013 nor would he have been chosen to officiate the final of the 2010 UEFA Europa League, the 2013 UEFA Champions League final and the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.

Luke Shaw injured during PSV v Manchester United

Luke Shaw injured during PSV v Manchester United

But in the Champions League group stage match in Eindhoven, Rizzoli covered himself in all the aforementioned adjectives for Diego Costa when he (for the benefit of doubt) forgot to book Morono for his rash challenge on Shaw. Had he done so, and given the player the red card he deserved, would PSV have won?

So, one must disagree with Crooks when he implied that referees should not try to be in the spotlight. In fact, they should have the spotlight right on them as much as the one beaming on Costa’s [insert adjectives] behaviour in order to make the referees realise how much their decisions actually impact on results.

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During the Week: 10 for Suarez, Eight for Germans, 30 for Blatter & More


After all said and bit, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was slapped with a 10-match ban by the English FA for his Hannibal moment on Branislav Ivanovic last weekend and according to the FA’s statement, Suarez, who has decided not to appeal the ban (to avoid further fuss me thinks), pretty much made the much debated ban to be that lengthy by his own doing.

In their statement, the FA, among various other points, made it clear that previous incidents involving the player hadn’t been considered when deciding the severity of this punishment and that since biting was alien to football, along with the fact that by disputing their first statement saying a standard three-match violent conduct ban would “clearly be insufficient” for his bite, he (Suarez) had failed to fully grasp the seriousness of the matter at hand hence, the length of his latest football sabbatical being 10 matches.

Meanwhile seeing as biting, contrary to the FA’s statement, is more ‘human’ than alien to football thanks to previous incidents by Suarez as well as Jermain Defoe on Javier Mascherano, not to mention a few other bizarre happenings on the field such as Cantona’s kung-fu kick of a Crystal Palace fan and Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt to the chest of Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup, there indeed – as shown above – were many instances the FA could have drawn some inspiration from before butchering Suarez with that ban.

It thus leaves a question mark on the justifications the FA felt it had in handing Suarez the ban for biting, while same player got two games less for racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011, or John Terry who got a further four games less as ban along with a fine of £220,000 for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand… or the instance of Joey Barton who got a 12-match ban for his violent conduct (no biting) in a match against Manchester City.

The FA on one hand is right in wanting to make crystal clear the “seriousness” of Suarez’s Sunday bite, the 10-match ban on the other hand mostly equally, if not more so, sends out a crystal clear message about the FA being a committee of clowns who hand down punishments as it suits the mood or as the tea/coffee tastes on the day.

As it is now, tackling a player and having to be separated from another (Barton on Agüero and Tevez) is more serious than (a certain extreme of) biting ala Suarez which in turn is a more serious offence than (a certain extreme of) racism ala Suarez as well as (another, apparently less-extreme degree of) racism ala Terry and so on.

Terry on his part was back in the ever tinkered Chelsea starting line-up and missed a late, how-did-that-not-go-in chance in Switzerland though a 94th minute David Luiz freekick – the last kick of the match in fact – gave the Blues a 2-1 win at FC Basel in the first leg of a Europa League semi-final, with Fernabahce beating Benfica by a lone goal in the other semi-final first leg match.

It was Basel’s first home loss after nine European matches just as it was Chelsea’s first away win after suffering four losses in their last five away matches in Europe, setting up the return leg nicely for them as they look to inversely follow in FC Porto’s steps by winning both major European club competitions in successive years.

So much for the time of ridicule endured when they crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage eh? Now it is the hierarchy of Spanish football suffering the embarrassment in the Champions League following the first leg semi-final matches played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Definitely Bayern Munich were going to be tough opposition for Barcelona on Tuesday night, but quantum physics tough? It was shocking to watch as the Bavarians ripped the Catalans apart with a 4-0 humbling. It was heartwarming and fun to watch as well.

Indeed Bayern got away with favourable decisions in the goals scored by Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, who by the way played by far his best match this season on the night, it was clear Bayern deserved the win and dare I say the margin of it.

What with the manner Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez neutralised the ‘threat’ of Lionel Messi’s presence and rendered Andres Iniesta anonymous, allowing Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery and Robben to wreck the havoc they brought upon the feeble Barça backline.

But not to be outdone, following a similarly high tempo first half display, Borussia Dortmund raised their game several levels higher and scored three second half goals as well on their to scoring four goals against Real Madrid to complete an 8-1 aggregate win for the Bundesliga over La Liga… perhaps initiating a power shift as well.

Apart from the mistake that led to Real’s away goal, Dortmund never looked inferior to a vastly more experienced and expensive Real side. Gundogan was imperious in midfield while Robert Lewandowski showed great technique and composure in the open-play goals he scored; with the third being my favourite.

It was fitting that someone else took the headlines, a day after Dortmund confirmed that Mario Götze; the nucleus of Dortmund’s trinity, will join Bayern next season. Even Marco Reus’ game was exceptional on Wednesday night and there was little to show Götze’s exit would be a deep blow.

Dortmund have always produced the good players, Shinji Kagawa hasn’t been missed, neither was Tomas Rosicky and I reckon Götze’s imminent exit would either bring a new name to the spotlight or see a slight change in formation that will get Nuri Sahin fully back in the Dortmund fold… or Christian Eriksen – who has been linked to Dortmund – could come in from Ajax as a replacement, and that would be an exciting transfer if it happens.

Away from the European drama, action resumed in the Nigeria Professional Football League with defending champions Kano Pillars maintaining its hold of top spot despite a second successive goalless draw, this time at home to Heartland.

With 16 points, Pillars now lead Rangers and Nasarawa United by two points after both lost their respective matches and the opportunity to go top of the league. Rangers fell 2-1 at Lobi Stars that is now in seventh place while Nasarawa fell to a 3-0 loss at Dolphins.

In other matches, Bayelsa United is now fourth on 13 points after a lone goal win over Sunshine Stars while Kwara United followed up its draw at Enyimba with a 2-0 win at home to Nembe City, rising to sixth with 12 points, behind Shooting Stars on goal difference.

Shooting Stars lost 2-0 at El-Kanemi Warriors, Enyimba lost by a lone goal at Gombe United, Kaduna United and Warri Wolves played a 1-1 draw in Kaduna as did Wikki Tourists against Sharks of Port-Harcourt in Bauchi.

Further up north on the continent, Nigeria’s U17 national team have reached the final of the African U17 Championship in Morocco following a 4-2 win over Tunisia on Wednesday with Isaac Success scoring a brace.

Those goals put him on seven goals in the lead for the golden boot award, with teammate Kelechi Iheanacho right behind him with five goals scored so far. The free scoring Golden Eaglets will face their Ivorian counterparts in Saturday’s final in a repeat of their group stage match which the Ivorians somewhat surprisingly won by a lone goal.

That match is one of many exciting ones to look forward to this weekend, with PSG on the verge of winning the Ligue Un title and needing a win at Evian on Sunday to do so. Problem is, it was Evian that recently knocked PSG out of the Coupe de France at the semi-final stage on penalties.

Elsewhere, Juventus visit Torino in a Turin derby while Real visit Atletico Madrid on Saturday in another derby. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out of that encounter with a leg injury with Jose Mourinho’s assistant hoping the Portuguese ace recovers in time for next Tuesday’s return leg against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

In the Premier League, Arsenal players will form a guard of honour for former striker Robin van Persie and his Manchester United teammates who visit the Emirates on Sunday after winning the league title on Monday.

In tennis, Rafael Nadal came through two matches in one day to make it 37 consecutive wins at the Barcelona Open and set up a semi-final with Milos Raionic who also won two matches on Friday to reach the last four.

Nadal, whose run of 46 consecutive matches and eight titles won was ended by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo masters last week, is looking to win his eighth Barcelona Open title having won every edition since 2005, missing the 2010 competition due to fatigue.

No such thing for former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner who keeps opening old sores in the FIFA’s hierarchy, this time revealing how he’d been given $6m in exchange of winning Sepp Blatter the presidency back in 1998.

Running against then UEFA President Lennart Johansson, Warner claims he was personally handed a $6m grant to build the centre of excellence on land owned by him in exchange for votes that would win Blatter the election.

Money exchanged, Warner says he delivered 30 votes for Blatter, who according to him was João Havelange’s chosen successor. The poll finished with Johansson getting 80 votes while Blatter got 111; 31 votes more.

Having resigned from FIFA after some allegations of corruption were brought against him, Warner has since tried opening a few worm cans that would bring a few names down, especially Blatter. Where this latest episode leads, we await.

For now, do have a blessed weekend. Mine already is, today especially.

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London Olympics: Football’s Headache in Uniting a Kingdom


At club level, England boasts of some of the world’s best football teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United, alone with eight European Cup wins to their name along with the London duo of Arsenal and Chelsea while Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City should probably have their ambitions of breaking the Big-Four’s monopoly taken more seriously based on both’s improvement over the last few seasons, culminating in Spurs reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter final in only its first appearance last season and City lifting the last FA Cup, defeating city rivals United along the way.

The rest of the British Isle lies well behind the English Premier League both competitively and lucratively with the closest competition, the Scottish Premier League, being a standard golf course apart from matching the EPL’s prowess and global appeal with some yards to spare.

While the biggest clubs from the other nations of the British Isle have been unable to match their English counterparts, those nations have actually produced quality footballers that have reached the heights, some of whom are Liverpool’s Scottish manager Kenny Dalglish who is part of Celtic’s greatest team of all time along with fellow Scot Jimmy Johnstone. Other fine footballers these nations have produced are Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale from Wales, Darren Fletcher, Craig Gordon, Kris Boyd and Allan McGregor from Scotland as well as Irishmen John O’Shea, Ian Hart, Roy Keane and Robbie Keane among many others.

Unfortunately, most of these footballers along with their English counterparts have achieved naught in their international sojourns despite their potential being capable of earning such acclaim as evident with their individual successes at club level.

Hence, the British Olympic Association’s move to have a Great Britain football team participate at the London Olympics of 2012 rather than the individual nations with the logic being to afford footballers from each nation of the Isle such as those aforementioned; and the individual nations on the side, the chance to have a taste of success at the international level.

It should be noted that the closest international success came to any nation of the Isle was at the European Championship of 1996 with England only able to reach the semi-final stage. A decade and half of underachievement at four FIFA World Cups, three European Championships and three Olympic Games have since been endured.

This gives credence to the BOA’s idea of a Great Britain football team representing at the Olympics London will host. The manner the Association has gone about bringing the team to fluid fruition may however have put the dream in jeopardy with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations claiming that the BOA only approached the English FA with the idea, and therefore cannot be seen to be in agreement with creating a football team for Great Britain.

The trio also stated that being a part of the proposal will confuse the individual identities of the nations. This is despite that FIFA has assured the BOA of each nation’s identity remaining intact in the aftermath of them contributing to the cause.

I strongly believe both sides should drop the egos and reach a compromise on the matter because in reality, none of the nations in the Isle can put up a commendable showing, let alone win Olympic gold come 2012; England’s U-21s a typical reason as to why. Having the best of each nation however may see Great Britain put up a commendable performance in front of the cheering faithfuls on home turf.

As it is now, should BOA go ahead with its plan of having a Great Britain football team for the first time since the Rome Olympics of 1960 without reaching a compromise with the trio that are being initially stubborn, then such team will likely predominantly compose of English players. Any success achieved then would not be shared!

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