All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, December 22 | Jordan

Christmas is coming

And so is the usual hectic programme of games, 25 in 6 days or something. My usual bah-humbugism has been put on the back burner this year and I’m in a very Christmassy mood, to the point of actually enjoying the Christmas songs on the radio and everything. I just wanted to take a quick moment to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas and a very drunk and enjoyable New Year, and thanks for sticking by ATF over the last twelve months, we hope to see more of you in 2005 where you can expect more hilariously biased ramblings on the beautiful game, and maybe even a new design.

Without wanting to sound like I’m on a crusade, I’m beginning to feel thoroughly worn out by the useless, hypocritical, false morons at UEFA. Apparently, last year was an ‘anti-racism’ year, a year for putting in place those clubs and countries who still think it’s acceptable to abuse black footballers. Italy, Spain, Greece, Eastern Bloc, we’re looking at you. Given this, you’d expect Spain to be punished for the disgraceful behaviour of their fans against both the England seniors and under-21s earlier this Winter. Am I surprised that a paltry £44,750 fine was handed out to the Spanish FA? No. Is it an absolute disgrace that this fine will cost the FA less that the sum total of the match fees for the senior players for an International? Yes. When you add to this the even more pathetic fines handed to PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid and Lazio over the last few years for similar incidents, it proves that UEFA’s ‘commitment’ to stamping out racism is superficial in the extreme. Players, managers and clubs are routinely fined more for minor, petulant breaches of UEFA’s disciplinary code, and it just drives me mad.

Sticking with governing bodies, I know it was democratically voted for but I’d like to hear a convincing argument for Ronaldinho being the best player in the World in 2004. Of course the award’s a load of toss, with no disrespect meant to Trinidad & Tobago or Mongolia, Bertille Saint Clair and Ishdorj Otgonbayar have the same weight of vote as Marco van Basten and Lothar Matthäus. Enough said.

The winner of this award is simply who the FIFA highlight reels laud the most, or who does the fanciest tricks in Nike adverts. The player who scored the least goals, had the fewest assists and who won the least took the award. Now don’t get me wrong, I love watching Ronaldinho and 2005 could be Barca’s year, but how you can justify a Player of the Year award on a few nice goals and some fancy tricks in the defensively weakest major league in Europe, I don’t know. When you’ve got the robotic goal-machine of Andrej Shevchenko and the everything in one package Thierry Henry (league win and unbeaten season in which he scored more goals than anyone else and provided more assists than anyone else as well as winning consecutive domestic player of the year awards).

You could argue that Henry’s poor performances in Euro 2004 let him down, but as the Ukraine didn’t qualify for that competition, and as Ronaldinho didn’t even travel to the Copa America with Brazil, I don’t see how it can be a valid argument. Add to that AC Milan’s failure to get any further than Arsenal in the Champion’s League and Barcelona’s Fourth Round exit in the UEFA Cup, and you can’t argue European form played a part. Nonsense, utter nonsense, but if you really want it, here’s a list of manager/captain’s votes.

That’s enough moaning and whining for one year, I may post something before new year, but certainly not before christmas, so y’all have a good one. Eat, drink and be merry ; listen to some good music ; watch some good films ; and most of all, enjoy the festive footie!

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All Things Footie | Thursday, December 16 | Jordan

(Not) in sickness and in health

2nd December to 16th December = me very ill. But I’m better now, so you get to hear me roar.

Harry Redknapp. Great bloke, slightly dodgy with regards to his rather unorthadox financial dealings, but a genuine football man who works hard and gets results (for the most part). It’s a very shrewd move of Southampton’s to get hold of him, and there’s no way on Earth he’s showing any disrecpect or disdain to Pompey fans. Milan Mandaric is one of those chairman who brings both the beginning and the end of a football club; a character who breathes new life into a stale old beast and gets it back on it’s feet. Hires a great manager, but gets above his own station and starts appointing dodgy Croat fitness instructors as managers. Chelsea, are you listening?

Speaking of Chelsea, what a game on Sunday? Like Liverpool before them, they proved that if you have good players you can play football against Arsenal and still get a result. Frank Lampard, John Terry and Arjen Robben were magnificent, as were Sol Campbell, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires. It was a thrilling game, and a fair result, but I still think Chelsea have a big problem. Forwards. I’m fairly sure John Terry has outscored all of Chelsea’s forward line bar Gudjonsen, and Frank Lampard has probably outscored them all. Without a world class forward (which Chelsea don’t have) they won’t win the league, but under Mourinho they’ll give it a damn good try.

As for the free kick, Mr Cech, don’t make me laugh. Aside from the fact that Graham Poll is actually a Chelsea fan, he did nothing wrong whatsoever with regards to the free kick that Thierry Henry scored from. If you can’t be bothered checking the rules out, then just look at the reaction of Eidur Gudjonsen, the only man in the Chelsea line up who was paying attention. The Icelander clearly indicated to hi ‘keeper to get back over, fearing Henry would take it early as he was entitled to, and he was right. Cech looks like a plum, Chelsea look like plums: Jose, remove those sour grapes from your mouth.

I watched a BBC program the other night called “What Ron Said”, dealing with Mr Atkinson’s rather unecessary remark concerning that ‘f*cking lazy n*gger’ Marcel Desailly after Chelsea’s Champions League tie last season. At the beginning of the show, a small part of me had some sympathy for Ron; at least, it was willing to listen to his explanations. Heat of the moment, stupidity, a bad choice of word used as a personal attack rather than a racist one, I think it was open to more interpretation than the average brain-dead tabloid journalist gave it—particularly given Ron’s past actions in bringing through ‘the three degrees’ at West Brom in the 70s. You could tell from the opening narration by Adrian Chiles, that it wasn’t going to be that kind of show.

They took Ron to America and put him on a ‘right-wing’ radio show, where the phone in poll to ‘judge’ (you should have seen Big Ron’s face go purple when they used that word, unauthorised) him. Is Ron a racist? Rednecks phoned in and told Ron that he should be able to call african-americans n*ggers, after all, they called caucasians ‘whites’. Expecting Ron to distance himself from these inbreds was expecting too much however, and while he didn’t agree, he significantly didn’t disagree. Maybe taking Ron to see some students at an Alabama university would help. Nope, Ron seemed to insist on taking a defensive stance to everything, actually getting to the point where he was defending using ‘the’ word, and defending his sentiment.

The lowest ebb Ron reached in the program was in a museum of racist artefacts—from a tin of little n*gger liquorice drops (featuring a delightful cartoon of a black child being dragged away by an alligator), to Al Jolson masks. Upon asking the curator (a lecturer in race relations at Alabama state University) what was wrong with the assorted rubber masks with big lips, flat noses and sticky out ears (yes, asking) he couldn’t comprehend it. “If you told me that was a mask of Diana Ross, I’d believe you. You have Reagan and Bush masks don’t you?” “Yes, but those masks are styled on individual features, these masks are styled to general sterotypes of a race, they are racist.” Go on Ron, say it, them lot all look the same don’t they?

Not once did he use any one of a number of arguments that would have garnered at least a little sympathy from me, and perhaps others. Perhaps even worse than the mask incident was a flashback to a comment he made during the 1990 World Cup match between England and Cameroon, something I was hitherto unaware. After commenting that a Cameroon player was ‘absolutely brainless’, his co-commentator Brian Moore quickly stepped in ‘of course you mean no footballing brain, Ron?’ to avoid controversy. At half time, the studio mics were off and only overseas viewers heard the following conversation:

Ron: “Do you reckon I got away with that?”
Moore: “Probably”
Ron: “I’ll only get into trouble if his mother’s back home watching the game sitting up a tree.”

Even worse than the Marcel Desailly comment in my opinion. The truth is, sorry as I am to say it, that Big Ron may actually be a racist. Anyone who describes themselves as ‘not politically correct’ as though it’s some kind of badge to wear so that you can employ a few racial sterotypes, is a worry, and if he’s nothing else, Ron’s a worry.

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All Things Footie | Thursday, December 2 | Jordan

Time for a change?

It’s been a while … checks date of previous post … Jesus, it really has. No weak excuses, just an inexcusable lack of them.

I was listening to Sky Sports News yesterday (always good TV when making a cuppa and you’ve missed Coronation Street) and heard a rekindling of the FA/PFA/Football League/Bloody Foreigners etc debate involving that pus filled bubo Gordon Taylor, Gareth Southgate and other sundry Oxygen thieves. The football league are complaining that the FA are becoming more and more focused on the elite (the Premiership and, by reputation only, the England team), and that they no longer impartially represent the interests of football at all levels. There’s absolutely no way anyone can refute this accusation. The FA are a cash sapping, sycophantic bunch of self interested corporate lackeys whose only interest is in their own bank balances or their own celebrity.

My long term nemisis, Sven Goran Eriksson, typifies the attitude of our game’s governing body; sucking up to the superstars (in Eriksson’s case the players, in the FA’s case the Premiership clubs) and not giving a monkey’s about anyone else. A superficial interest in the lower levels is apparent, but the actions only reflect the needs of the top 3 or 4% of the game. The youth development centre for excellence in Burton is already 10 years late when you consider the infrastructure in other big European footballing nations, but to delay it further in order to spend a small countries Gross Domestic Product on first knocking down and the totally rebuilding the oldest and most prestigious national football stadium in the world is irresponsible at best.

What the game needs is a totally independant, non profit making, non political body that has football at it’s heart. There are plenty of decision makers at the FA who’ve probably never even seen a first division (Coca Cola Championship, whatever) game, let alone a Dr Martins or Ryman’s league match. People who can’t imagine why anyone would even consider supporting a team in a lower league (‘they must support a team in the Premiership too?’). This myopia has to stop, and unless teams ‘underneath’ the Premiership start seeing some equality and support from the governing body then serious professional football in this country is going to die a death outside of a small number of elite league(s). More teams will go under, history will be lost, and we’ll end up living in the country where the game was invented watching sterilised uber athletes playing perfect football all the time.

While I do appreciate beautiful football, and the wonderful spectacle that are Premiership games, there’s something soul warming in knowing that not far away there are some builders, plumbers, accountants and tea-boys doing exactly the same thing—perhaps not quite as beautifully, but with no less passion, effort and dedication. The game belongs to us all, and it should remain so.

Don’t get me started on agents.

Which brings me on to Mr Southgate’s comments. Clearly, dear Gareth is grooming himself for management, either of a football club or in some dull coporate organisation, as he seems to be the person that all journalists flock to when they want someone to get a little Xenophobic and express that delightful trait of Englishness that blames everyone but ourselves. Foreign players are to blame for the decline in English football—of course they are Gareth. All of the money being paid out to foreign clubs is money lost by the English game—your grasp of corporate finance is extraordinary sir!

The first point is simple enough to counter, if English players were good enough, and certain chairmen of lower league clubs weren’t so greedy, there would not be so many foreigners in the Premiership. When Arsene Wenger, or Alex Ferguson, or José Mourinho want to buy and English player, they pay through the nose for inexperience, when Brazillian world cup winners can be bought for the same price as half a Kieran Dyer. Our own inflated egos and misplaced sense of greatness is what’s killing English football. Once we accept we’re not that good, and that we vastly overrate our own players when compared to equivalents from other countries, then we’ll start getting somewhere.

The second of Southgate’s point at least has some basis in fact, but it fails to take into account the International audience that has been awakened by the flocking of starlets from all four corners of the globe to England. The aquisition of numerous World Class players has elevated the status of the Premiership and brought in millions from worldwide licensing that our old dull, long ball, ‘gritty’ game never did. These new players, these ‘foreigners’ have enlivened our game, have made it watchable, have made it better. We should be thankful, never before in the history of English football have we seen such a mix of talent parading itself for our enjoyment. It’s only a shame that it is monopolised so much by the Premiership and the biggest teams. As long as football remains a business, and as long as the FA remains in the pocket of the Premiership, it’ll never be the case that the games financial assets are used fairly, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor, well, poorer.

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