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Saturday, 30 July 2011

BLOG #45 – THE ROAD TO RIO

England will face Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, and San Marino in Group H when they bid to qualify for the 2014™ World Cup Finals in Brazil.
Only group winners are guaranteed a place at the tournament.

With 13 places available in Brazil for the European teams, the eight-best second-placed teams will play-off against each other to go through.
Must fill my expenses claim tomorrow...
The draw - including the European Confederation draw took place today – 45 years to the day that England won the Jules Rimet trophy.

The EUROPEAN ZONE DRAW :-

Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, SCOTLAND, Macedonia, WALES

Group B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta.

Group C: Germany, Sweden, R of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan.

Group D: Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra.

Group E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland.

Group F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, N IRELAND, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg

Group G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Lichtenstein

Group H: ENGLAND, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, S Marino

Group I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

BLOG #44 - AT THE COURT OF SEPP BLATTER


No doubt about it, Sepp Blatter courts controversy and derision in equal measure from time to time. The current FIFA president resembles more the avuncular figure no-one wants at their Christmas lunch rather than the President of one of the world’s leading sports organisations. He was re-elected for a further four years in May 2007 – whilst only securing 66 out of a possible 207 FIFA nominations. His tenure and candidacy in 2002 was immersed in rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, resulting in direct accusations of bribery, by a third party, made in the British press by Farra Ado, vice-president of the Confederation of African Football and President of the Somali Football Federation, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.

Blatter incurred criticism from female footballers in 2004 when he suggested that women should "wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans – even soccer pundits Gray and Keys didn’t go that far.

Further controversy followed in the British press when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup tournament with England receiving just two of their 'promised' votes - this controversy was dismissed by Blatter claiming that the English showed themselves to be "bad losers". The awarding of the 2022 games to Qatar was also contentious; the illegality of homosexuality in the nation caused Blatter to joke that "I would say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities", which brought condemnation from retired gay basketball star John Amaechi and gay rights groups.

The successful Russian bid was controversial due to the high levels of racism in the country, whilst the awarding of hosting to Qatar was similarly contentious due to the excessive heat and ability of the small 1.7m strong Islamic nation to cope with the influx of around 400,000 fans - and the alcohol those fans are expected to bring with them.

Earlier this year the FIFA president launched an astonishing attack on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), saying they manage finances "like a housewife". He has a sledgehammer tact that the Duke of Edinburgh would be proud of!

After the IOC said they would investigate allegations of corruption by FIFA members, Blatter said: "Our accounts are open to everyone. The IOC does it like a housewife. She receives some money and she spends some money". His comments appalled many still angered at alleged corruption against FIFA members, not to mention that shock decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

IOC budgeting is transparent and seemingly remains corruption-free - this is in stark contrast with the murky world of FIFA hustings, where a small number of delegates vote in secrecy amid shady lobbying by competing bid teams.

Hmmm - must top up my pension fund!
What are Blatter's salary, expenses and reimbursements per annum? No-one knows!

And today, further controversy enshrouds FIFA's higher echelons. A FIFA report seen by the Press Association says there is 'overwhelming evidence' that Mohamed bin Hammam used bribery in his recent aborted presidential campaign against Blatter. Makes Blatter's earlier comments about a corruption-free membership a little irresponsible and may possibly come back to haunt him. 
The ethics committee also stated that former FIFA vice-President Jack Warner was "an accessory to corruption". Warner resigned from his role two days ago and quit all football activities. As a result, football's governing body dropped their investigations into Warner, adding that "the presumption of innocence is maintained". Nice try - pull the other one!

However, the full report of the ethics committee headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb said there was "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming" proof that bribes had been paid to officials to support Bin Hammam's campaign for the FIFA presidency, and that Warner had facilitated this.

Both 68-year-old Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago, and Qatar's Bin Hammam, 62, were provisionally suspended on 29 May in the run up to the FIFA presidency that saw Blatter elected unopposed for a further 4 years, following Bin Hammam's withdrawal from the process on the morning of the election. Both Bin Hammam and Warner deny the allegations. Qatar - just to remind you again - secured the bid to stage the World Cup in 2022.

The 17-page FIFA report was faxed to Warner on 14 June. Three days later, he informed FIFA he was quitting his role sa vice-President. The report obtained by the Press Association concludes that there was "compelling" evidence that Bin Hammam and Warner arranged a special meeting of the 25 members of the Caribbean Football Union [CFU] on 10 and 11 May in Trinidad and that, with their knowledge, cash gifts were handed over.

Show us the money?
Statements from witnesses, contained in the report, said they were handed brown envelopes each containing $40,000. One of the witnesses, Fred Lunn from the Bahamas, photographed the cash before returning it.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestond and Hythe who is campaigning for a reform of FIFA, believes the case against Warner should be re-opened. "This makes FIFA's claim that Warner can be presumed innocent absolutely incredible," he said. "I believe Jack Warner should be made to answer these charges - it's not enough just for him to resign". This shows it was a big error of judgement by Sepp Blatter to call off the inquiry and cover this up".

Bungs, brown envelopes and shady goings-on. Surely these recent developments must put into doubt the integrity of FIFA and the way it conducts its business - including - I would suggest - the process in awarding successful bids to competing nations who wish to stage the most presigious football tournament in the world.

The enquiries into the allegations concerning the conduct of Bin Hammam and Warner should be extended to the recent World Cup bidding process that still continues to rankle with some. England's bid to host the 2018 tournament ended in humiliation, going out in the first round. Damian Collins has said any England bid to host the World Cup was "likely to fail" unless FIFA was reformed, claiming it had "a world of double-dealing and self-interest under Sepp Blatter" such is the unease that the English FA views FIFA and newly re-elected president Blatter. Blatter has indicated he will step down in 2015 and not seek a further term as President. Be interesting to see if he lasts the course!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

BLOG #43 - PAUL THE OCTOPUS MEMORIAL UNVEILING

"Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."

Tasteful tribute 
The memorial for Paul the Octopus was unvieled today three months after the untimely death of everyone’s favourite cephalopodan chum. The memorial corner unvieling took place at the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen in western Germany, the former home of Paul.

Dubbed "Paul's Corner" the centrepiece of the memorial is the octopus oracle's urn. Paul died aged 2½ in October, last year.

Respectful accolade
The psychic mollusc became an international sensation last summer during the FIFA 2010 World Cup™ after he correctly predicted each of Germany's World Cup matches - including their two losses. Paul also correctly tipped Spain to beat Holland in the final.
He picked a winner - when he ate his dinner...

The footballing world rightly mourns...







Saturday, 4 December 2010

BLOG #42 – VLAD OFF, FIFA!

Well spank me thrice and call me Sergei! Thursday’s news on the 2018 bid was very disappointing – and that’s putin it mildly. What the Valdivostock is going on? Terrible news, Ivan...To make matters worse the film on the TV this afternoon is "From Russia with Love" - I don't think so! Vodka Martini - shaken not stirred - shove it, mate! - right where your balalaika don't shine...
The aftermath and post-mortem into England’s failed bid promises to be more interesting than the events leading up to Thursday’s news. Conspiracy theories abound. Talk of “bungs” and corruption and a bidding process that appears to be immersed in all manner of shady goings-on. England’s bid to host the World Cup 2018 was – by all accounts – the best one on the grounds of technical detail, infrastructure and legacy. So what went wrong? England received one vote in support of its bid? Remember the bid had the support of royalty, the PM, BoJo and Paul the Octopus. Did that lad die in vain? One vote...says it all.
England will not be able to submit a further bid to host the tournament until 2030. I’ll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, sadly. It appears that Nottingham was chosen to host some of the group games – just to rub salt in the wounds.
I think Thursday's news now calls for a unilateral withdrawal from FIFA and international football...let's face it we're no good anyway. We don't need them - and thay have made it clear they don't want us!

Moscow - 'bye...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/9256772.stm - Roger Burden to quit as FA chairman in FIFA protest






Tuesday, 26 October 2010

BLOG #41 - FAREWELL PAUL...

I can scarcely believe the news. There are genuine tears in my eyes. I felt I had to write something about this chap having been one of the first people to report on him. I decided to write one more FIFA World Cup™ 2010 blog.
Backing England 2018
Paul the Octopus, the unlikely star of the 2010 World Cup who 'predicted' the outcome of eight matches, has died at his aquarium in Germany. Staff at the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen said they were "devastated" to learn that he had passed away during the night.
As you will know, dear friends, Paul made his name by successfully choosing a mussel from one of two boxes bearing the flags of competing nations. He picked a winner when he ate his dinner!
Octopi rarely live beyond two years so his death was not unexpected. But heartbreaking nevertheless.
I am consoled by the knowledge that he enjoyed a good life. Did he predict his own demise, I wonder?


Paul had reached the octopus old age (relatively speaking) of 2½ years and died in his tank on Tuesday morning at the Sea Life aquarium spokeswoman Ariane Vieregge said. He died of natural causes, she confirmed.
Amid the euphoria surrounding his predictive talent, he was even made an honorary citizen of the Spanish town of O Carallino before becoming an ambassador for England's 2018 World Cup bid. I will make sure his legacy continues!
The Oberhausen centre said he had seemed fine when last checked on Monday night but was found dead on Tuesday morning.
The prophetic cephalopod's brief but extraordinary life is unlikely to be forgotten.
"It's a sad day. Paul was rather special but we managed to film Paul before he left his aquarium for good" said his agent, Chris Davies.
The aquarium has not yet decided how best to commemorate their most famous resident, he said.
"We may decide to give Paul his own small burial plot within our grounds, and erect a modest permanent shrine," Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said. How very fitting. Perhaps the BBC will consider a posthumous award for BBC Underseas Sports Personality of the Year 2010 at the end of the year? Makes sense.

Farewell dear friend and thanks for the memories. (sob).

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

BLOG #40 – TOURNAMENT REVIEW

...looking to Brazil 2014


The handlers of Paul the Octopus have decided that the psychic cephalopod should retire from predicting football matches. The eight-legged oracle correctly guessed the outcome of eight consecutive matches at the World Cup, seven involving Germany. One British bookmaker estimated Paul's ‘punditry’ - or pot luck - had cost them upwards of £500,000. But cometh the biggest tournament in football, cometh the world's talented multi-tentacled clairvoyant. Step aside Hansen and Shearer! At first, Paul was seen as little more than a novelty act. A bit harsh that! Yet as South Africa 2010 wore on, and his hot-streak continued, he became an international phenomenon; global media covering live his prediction for the final tie. Of course, Paul got it right, correctly picking Spain over the Netherlands. A spokesman for the aquarium in Oberhausen where he lives said: "Paul will go into retirement and do what he likes to do best: play with his handlers and delight children who come to visit him." Should have seen that one coming, Paul! Maybe a job at the FA beckons.


Germany 4-1 England - hopefully this match, in particular, will put to rest any belief that England are a footballing nation that can seriously compete at this level, currently. The so-called “golden generation” were lamentable. Complaints about boredom, tactics, poor communication with the manager and other rubbish that I’ve frankly forgotten cannot disguise the fact that, unless there are fundamental changes at international level, England will continue to flatter themselves in being considered genuine tournament contenders. England players? - we may not like them...we don’t have to! They are not worthy of our respect. Rooney’s shameful rant after the Algeria game at England supporters in the stadium saw to that. Tired after a hard season? Don’t make me laugh! Capello has kept his job; the next England game is a friendly against Hungary in four weeks time. Time to ring the changes, il Capo! By the time the tournament reconvenes in Brazil, it will be 48 years without a World Cup win.

Vuvuzelas – missing these already! But let them stay in their homeland, please.

Not a vintage tournament, in all honesty. Underachievers in terms of personnel – Rooney, Kaká, Ronaldo and Messi perhaps, and underachieving teams – notably Italy and France going out in the group stages and then England in the round of 16.

Underwhelming is the best description that comes to mind in terms of the football provided. Expectations far exceeded deliverables.


Spain won the tournament, scoring the fewest goals for tournament winners (7) but conceded only two. Germany appear to be work-in-progress and look a good bet in four years time.


Hosts - there were no apparent difficulties in the way the tournament was hosted by the SA authorities. No stabbings or lootings, if you believed some of the horror stories we heard pre-tournament. In fact the tournament progressed crime and trouble-free, save for a clutch of Dutch female ambush-marketeers.

See you for Brazil 2014!
And I wouldn’t mind giving this blogging gig another go – in four years time. You have been warned!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

BLOG #39 – THE JABULANI BALL

adidas® technology behind the ball


Seemingly, the ball is made from eight spherically moulded panels and has a textured surface intended to improve aerodynamics. However, the ball received extensive criticism from players and coaches before and during the World Cup who said that the path of the ball through the air is unpredictable. It certainly appeared to be difficult to control and proved the undoing of many a ‘keeper.

The ball was constructed using a new design, consisting of eight (reduced from 14 in the last World Cup) thermally bonded, three-dimensional panels. These are spherically moulded from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU).
Hmmmmm...OK, keep going.
The surface of the ball was textured with grooves, a technology developed by adidas® called "Grip 'n' Groove" that are intended to improve the ball's aerodynamics. The design has received considerable academic input, being developed in partnership with researchers from Loughborough University.
The balls are made in China, using bladders made of natural rubber latex (Kerala) obtained from rubber trees, thermoplastic polyurethane-elastomer from Taiwan, ethylene vinyl acetate, isotropic polyester/cotton fabric, glue, and Chinese ink.
When a relatively smooth ball with seams flies through the air without little spin, the air close to the surface is affected by the seams, producing an asymmetric flow. This asymmetry creates side forces that can suddenly push the ball in one direction and cause volatile swerves and swoops and this effect is referred to as "knuckling”. Older designs of ball have a knuckle speed of around 30 miles per hour. NASA scientists at the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, concluded that the Jabulani, with its relatively smoother surface, starts to knuckle at a higher speed of 45–50 mph. This coincides with the typical speed of a ball following a free-kick around the goal area making the effect more visible.


Ex-Liverpool and Middlesbrough FC footballer Craig Johnston has written a 12-page open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter outlining perceived failings of the Jabulani ball. He compiled feedback from professional players criticizing the ball for poor performance and asked that it be abandoned by FIFA.


Can I have my ball back? - Chris Waddle
Incidentally the ball propelled by Chris Waddle into the Turin night in 1990 World Cup semi-final was the adidas® Etrvsco.