Happy Days in Europe

I watched a little Bundesliga and La Liga football this weekend and for their sakes, let’s hope that the games I chose weren’t representative of the wider situation in those countries.

First off, 1. FC Köln v Bayern München. Bayern aren’t the team you want to face in your final league game of the season, especially when you’re struggling to avoid relegation. And when the visitors led 4-1 with seconds to play, the Köln fans showed thei disapproval thus:


(Another pic here). Obviously, the ref had no option but to take the players off, the game was (technically) abandoned and the result stood, much like the lines of riot police and stewards across the centre of the pitch for almost an hour afterwards.

But of course, it’s England that has the hooligan problem.

Meanwhile in Spain, Real Madrid were coming from behind to condemn home side Granada to a nervy last match next week. The result of this was an ugly brawl between Granada players and the match officials at the end of the game, including a bottle being thrown at the referee by one of the players. Can’t blame the fans for that one, although the referee had to leave the pitch under the protection of three riot shields. In all my years of watching footy in England, I’ve never ever seen that either. Although it seems fairly common in Spain – who could forget the UEFA Champions League encounter between Real Madrid and Barcelona last year, when exactly the same thing happened.

But of course, it’s England that has the hooligan problem.

And the beautiful game, as played in South America, is actually far less beautiful when you look more closely.

I’ve seen players injured on the field of play before, but rarely does the trainer have to come on and treat the player while riot police protect them from objects thrown from the crowd. And by “rarely”, I actually mean “never”.
Police in England don’t use rifles and rubber bullets to disperse angry fans, like they do in Brazil (World Cup 2014, anyone?).

Yes, England has certainly had it’s fair share of problems with hooliganism in the past. But that reputation should be left right there, in the past. While there are problems occurring regularly in other leagues around the world, English football has been free of any major trouble for many years now.
Maybe it’s time that FIFA sorted out some of the other “big” names in world football before accusing English fans of being troublemakers.

Brazil again

As the last of the 32 teams to qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa were decided this week (some more honourably than others), only now do our local newspapers reveal that we’re wasting time, money and effort on the whole competition. Because they already know who will be the winners:

Football’s romantics might wish for a long-awaited Spanish victory in the 2010 World Cup, or a historic African triumph, but it looks like it will be Brazil all the way.  
Brazil’s coach, Dunga, may have alienated some fans with pragmatism rather than Brazilian flamboyance, but the tournament should end with a sixth success for the World Cup’s most successful team.

And even who they will beat in the final:

the final appears likely to be between Brazil and European champions Spain.

Honestly – all this fuss over infrastructure, security, stadiums, money and Thierry Henry’s left hand could have been easily avoided if we had known this earlier. We could have just handed the trophy over to Brazil and got on with life as usual, complaining about the form of the national football team and ignoring the fact that the Springboks aren’t doing very well, because “they’re still World Champions”.

Which leads me to an interesting point. Could it possibly be that the SAPA-AFP journalist who wrote the Brazil piece just worked out who would win and come second by looking at the current FIFA world rankings? (And if so, would that not also predict the Netherlands beating Italy in a tight 3rd place play off match in PE village on July 10th?)
If the tournament is really going to be decided by world ranking alone, then why are we bothering?

It really is nothing piece of journalism. A space filler full of speculation and unsubstantiated reasoning, obviously written by someone who knows nothing about football. Sadly, it’s exactly the kind of rubbish we’ve come to expect from The Times. Could they really not find something better to put in there? My 3-year-old son could have done a better job.

Happily, Carlos Amato’s open letter to Thierry Henry spares their blushes somewhat.