Italy’s Soccer Apocalypse

November 17, 2017


“Is soccer a matter of life and death? ‘It’s much more serious than that,’ the droll Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool in the club’s glory days, once remarked. But how much more? ‘Us, out of the World Cup?’ Carlo Tavecchio, the head of the Italian Football Federation, said to journalists, after Italy lost a crucial qualifying game in September. ‘It would be the apocalypse.’ What he seemed to be saying was that it would be something so bad that it surely couldn’t happen. But then it did. ‘THE END,’ the enormous headline of the Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed, when, on Monday, contrary to all expectations and pundit wisdom, Italy failed to score against a modest Swedish side and crashed out of the forthcoming tournament in Russia. …” New Yorker

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Where it went wrong for the teams who missed out on the World Cup

November 17, 2017

“Fans from 21 countries explain why they will be staying at home next summer. Holland were unlucky, Italy were mismanaged and Mongolia were a disaster” Guardian


Frank de Boer, Ronald Koeman and the strange decline of Dutch managers

November 17, 2017

“Whatever you think of Frank de Boer’s sacking by Crystal Palace, his short stay as manager reminds us of the diminished state of Dutch football. A previously unthinkable gap has opened up between the Netherlands and the top football nations. Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV have all been humiliated in Europe this season. And it’s been decades since the national team were so bad. The players who reached the 2010 World Cup final and came third in 2014 are mostly retired now and Holland’s new normal was exemplified by the 4-0 defeat by France in August. …” WSC


Brazil’s Indicted Soccer Leader Planning to Keep His Job

November 17, 2017

“LONDON — As the president of Brazil’s soccer federation, Marco Polo Del Nero should have been here on Tuesday, watching his country’s national team play out a soporific 0-0 tie against England in an exhibition match at Wembley Stadium. Yet instead of exchanging pleasantries with executives from the Football Association in a suite high above the field, Del Nero was almost 6,000 miles away, at home in Brazil. Even there, though, it would have been understandable if his focus was not on the events unfolding under Wembley’s brightly lit arch, but instead on proceedings inside a wood-paneled courtroom in Brooklyn, where three soccer executives — well known to the 76-year-old Del Nero — are standing trial on corruption charges. …” NY Times


Romania 4 Yugoslavia 6: World Cup qualifier, Ghencea Stadium, Bucharest, 13 November 1977

November 17, 2017

“In his interview with Dragan Stojković in Issue Two of The Blizzard, Andrew McKirdy asked, “Serbian and Yugoslavian football has a history of drama and highs and lows. Do you think this reflects the Serbian psyche and do you think this is true of you?” Stojković is an intelligent man and a good talker, but his answer missed the point. He spoke about bad organisation, poor leadership, a refusal to take responsibility and the lack of a professional mindset, but he didn’t touch the painful truth. The history of drama and highs and lows derives to a large extent from a confused national psyche that leads it simultaneously to overestimate itself and to have an inferiority complex. …” The Blizzard


Jose Mourinho ready to renew rivalry with Rafa Benitez, the man he hated first

November 17, 2017

“The last time that Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez had one of their many flashpoints, back in that odd exchange in the summer of 2015 when the Spaniard was Real Madrid manager and his wife Montse even had comments about how they ‘tidy up his messes’, it wasn’t actually the Portuguese who was most bothered. Mourinho’s loyal long-time assistant Rui Faria seemed to care the most.” Independent


A Night in Belgrade With an Undercover Crowd Monitor: ‘Try to Act Casual’

November 7, 2017


“BELGRADE, Serbia — At the appointed hour, the man picked up his phone, sat down on the couch in his hotel, and dialed the number. ‘Yes, hello, I’m calling you on behalf of Fare,’ he said, dropping the name of a network based in London that fights discrimination in world soccer. ‘Just to inform you, I will be the matchday observer tonight in Belgrade. We have done some research. Of course, we all know it’s a high-risk match ….’ The match in question, set to begin a few hours later, was a Europa League contest last Thursday between Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and Skenderbeu of Albania. The person on the other line was the UEFA delegate assigned to supervise proceedings at the stadium. And the so-called risks? …” NY Times (Video)