Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

July 4, 2018

“An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a list of imported items banned by international sanctions.” NY Times


Europe And South America Are Growing In Soccer Power — That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen

June 20, 2018


“If there’s been a dominant trend in the first week of the 2018 World Cup, perhaps it has been how well European nations from beyond the continent’s traditional giants have performed. Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Russia are all off to a strong start. This should be no surprise. Only two nations from outside Europe and South America have made the World Cup semifinals (the United States in the inaugural competition in 1930 and South Korea in 2002). In 20 previous World Cups, only 12 countries have reached the final — all from Europe or South America — and only eight sides have won the tournament.” FiveThirtyEight


Fifa’s Gianni Infantino hits rocky ground on 2018 World Cup eve

June 12, 2018

“The World Cup in Russia has sailed into view with a new Fifa captain at the helm, two and a half years since Sepp Blatter’s presidency crashed on the rocks of corruption and ethics breaches. Gianni Infantino seemed a callow, unlikely president when he was elevated to succeed the banned Blatter in February 2016 as, his tie slightly askew, he tapped his heart in wonderment at winning the vote of the Fifa congress.” Guardian


Nations League: The back-door route to Euro 2020?

January 26, 2018

“Is the Uefa Nations League a complicated irrelevance? Or, for some of the home nations, is it their best route to Euro 2020? England, Wales and Northern Ireland might baulk at that suggestion, given all three were at the finals in France in 2016, but would they all be entirely confident of finishing in the top two places in a five- or six-team group to earn qualification in the usual way? The Scottish FA is being more circumspect. With its focus sharpened by Hampden hosting four Euro 2020 tournament matches, it is selling Uefa’s new competition – one which will effectively replace most international friendlies – to sceptical fans as a way of ending what would be a 22-year absence from major finals. …” BBC (Video)


FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017

January 19, 2018

“… No.26, Kylian Mbappe. Talk about bursting onto the scene: the teenager turned heads across Europe – and became the second-most expensive player in history – with his scintiliating performances in Ligue 1 and beyond. One football stats sage recently declared on Twitter that Kylian Mbappe is ‘the best teenager we’ve seen in the data era’. This is no time for another Proper Football Men vs Analytics Geeks debate – and in this case there’s no need anyway, as it’s a statement with which all parties can surely agree. …” FourFourTwo (Video)


FIFA’s Dirty Wars

December 21, 2017


“Toward the end of the 2010 World Cup, Julio Grondona made a prediction, or perhaps it was a promise, to a group of journalists in the gilded lobby of Johannesburg’s Michelangelo hotel, the five-star Italian-marble palace where FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, had established its tournament headquarters. Argentina had just been humiliated, 4-0, by the Germans, but Grondona wasn’t worried about the backlash. In 31 years as president of the Argentina’s national soccer association, he’d endured personal scandal, government turmoil, economic collapse, and the ardent passions of the beautiful game’s fans. ‘Todo Pasa,’ read the inscription on his big gold ring. All things pass—all things except, of course, Julio Grondona. ‘No one is kicking me out until I die,’ he told the reporters. …” New Republic


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)


Tottenham’s defeat of Real Madrid is a warning to Europe’s super-clubs

November 7, 2017

“It was one of the greatest nights in Tottenham’s history. It was better than beating Internazionale 3-1, probably the equal of those fraught nights in 1983-84 when Bayern Munich, Austria Vienna, Hajduk Split and Anderlecht were overcome on the way to the Uefa Cup. Almost whatever happens over the next three decades, it is safe to assume that in 2050 Christian Eriksen’s goal will still be included in the pre-match White Hart Lane montage as Danny Blanchflower’s voice, the crackle of time even more pronounced, explains once again that the game is about glory. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Real Madrid | Spurs Make A Statement

November 7, 2017

“Pochettino looked to take a secure approach of press as Tottenham didn’t always insist on disturbing the early phase of Real’s build-up. Tottenham assigned the pressing work based on a 5-3-2-ish shape, with Christian Eriksen slightly higher than the other two central midfielders. The Dane pressed Casemiro while Harry Kane and Delle Alli kept an eye on Real’s both center halves. The other defensive duty for Tottenham’s 8 was that they also had to maintained good access to Kroos and Modric. …” Outside of the Boot


The best and worst moments of 2016, according to WSC contributors

December 27, 2016

“From a sunny trip to Tow Law and many unexpected winners to a seemingly endless number of scandals, our writers’ give their highs and lows of 2016…” WSC – Part 1, Part 2


A Light On Hanoi

October 13, 2016

“When I tell a friend I’m going to watch Hanoi T&T FC play he offers up a derisory snort. I get my bike fixed and the local mechanic shakes his head and mutters something in a tone that suggests derision, a bartender laughs at me. I am clearly not in on the joke. Vietnam is a football mad nation but ask a Vietnamese person if they follow a team here and they blush. My Airbnb host in Ho Chi Minh City woke up in the early hours to cheer on Manchester United against Southampton, watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic score his debut Premier League goal.” In Bed With Maradono


The enduring bond between Torino and River Plate

September 12, 2016

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“When Lucas Boyé struck a looping wonder goal from the edge of the box on his Torino debut last month, he did much more than announce himself on the Italian football scene. The Argentine’s dipping effort – spectacular as it was – also carried the weight of history behind it. Boyé, after all, arrived in Italy from River Plate, the Buenos Aires club whose links to Torino go back more than half a century to the most tragic day in Italian football history, 4 May 1949. That was the day the Grande Torino died, an entire squad wiped out when the plane carrying them home from a friendly game at Benfica crashed into the Superga hillside overlooking Turin amidst the thick fog that hangs so often above the Po Valley.” the set pieces (Video)


Mythbusters: Why Critics of Robbie Keane Were Wrong

August 31, 2016

Robbie Keane will call time on his 18-year Ireland career having made a record 145 senior appearances for his country
“While Ireland basked in the love-in of an almost year-long Brian O’Driscoll farewell, his counterpart on the national football team hasn’t always enjoyed 100% support. But when the history of the Irish game is written, Robbie Keane will rightly be spoken of in the same breath as our retired rugby icon. After 18 years, Keane has decided to hang up his international boots and it’s only when he’s gone will we realise what we’ve missed.” Pom Mo Goal


2016–17 UEFA Champions League

August 28, 2016

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“The 2016–17 UEFA Champions League is the 62nd season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 25th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The 2017 UEFA Champions League Final will be played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The winners of the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League will qualify as the UEFA representative at the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League in the 2017 UEFA Super Cup. Real Madrid are the defending champions.” Wikipedia


Issue three of Póg Mo Goal’s magazine is available now (for free!)

August 20, 2016

“Irish website Póg Mo Goal has launched another edition of its superbly put together magazine, with contributions covering a wide variety of topics. The third issue of the magazine is available free in selected stores and online for a fee to cover shipping. It features 40 pages of excellent feature writing and beautiful photography and illustrations including an interview with the team behind YouTube channel COPA90.” backpagefootball, €5.99 – On Sale


Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland)

July 23, 2016

“… I have tried to make all the club crests on the map approximately the same size. From the original blank map I added lakes in Sweden and Finland, plus I also added flanking-edge areas not in the original blank map (in the Baltic States/Eastern Europe and in NE Netherlands). I did this because I had to tilt the original map to orient it in a more North-South axis. That was necessary because the original map’s focal point was the Norwegian Sea, not the Scandinavian Peninsula, and so Scandinavia-and-Finland looked distorted – until I tilted the whole map about ~20 degrees.” Bill Sport Maps


Euro 2016: Russia given suspended disqualification

June 15, 2016

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“The Russians have also been fined 150,000 euros (£119,000) following violent scenes at the game against England in Marseille on Saturday. The suspended disqualification and fine relate only to incidents that happened inside the stadium. There were reports of minor disturbances between rival fans in Lille on Tuesday evening. Russia play Group B rivals Slovakia in the city on Wednesday, while England fans are congregating there before Thursday’s match against Wales in the nearby town of Lens.” BBC (Video)

Is Russia exporting a new breed of football hooligan?
“Violence has been part of Russian football for many years. Clashes inside stadiums and organised fights away from them are common. But this weekend’s mass disturbances in Marseille have thrust Russian hooliganism into the international spotlight. The Russian Football Union expressed regret over the fighting and Russia’s sports minister described those involved as a disgrace. But other senior officials have praised the hooligans openly as ‘real men’. Meanwhile the fans themselves seem largely unrepentant, even proud.” BBC (Video)


Cristiano Ronaldo v Atlético: Will he score?

May 26, 2016

“Cristiano Ronaldo scored the last time Real Madrid met Atlético in a UEFA Champions League final, but can he do so again in Milan? UEFA.com picks out some key statistics.” UEFA


Is the integrity of international football under threat?

March 28, 2016

“Mid-March is upon us and the business end of the football season has arrived where we start to get an idea of the future destination of all the big prizes in both domestic and European football. As Sir Alex Ferguson famously remarked ‘It’s squeaky-bum time’. It also sees the arrival of the calendar year’s first worldwide international break where top level football across Europe takes a week’s break for a round of international matches. With 2016 being an even-numbered year and in addition a European Championships year for UEFA’s members, this batch of friendly matches has more of an edge to it than your traditional drab and half-hearted friendly international fixture that takes place prior to the start of the European league season in early August.” Outside of the Boot


What Is Brussels?

March 23, 2016

“What is Brussels? The images of Tuesday’s attacks are of a city in transit, a crowded metro and a bustling airport, banal sites of everyday movement—now turned into spaces of death. The city is much less legible and familiar than Paris. We learn of fragments of its geography—an immigrant neighborhood called Molenbeek and downtown subway station called Maelbeek—but what connects them? Brussels is many things at once: the de facto capital of the European Union, a contested site in the long-running conflict between Dutch- and French-speaking groups, and a city of immigrants, remarkably cosmopolitan and diverse—a crossroads of histories and conflicts. The city is a place, but we should also think of it as a project: imperfect, unfinished, but essential.” Slate – Laurent Dubois


The Downfall of Genoa

March 16, 2016

“From 1096 to 1797 the Republic of Genoa was one of the most powerful city-states in Italy and Europe. Alongside Venice, Pisa and Amalfi, it was one of the Maritime Republics, independent entities provided with a fleet of ships both for their own protection and to support their rich and extensive trade networks all over the Mediterranean Sea. During the 16th century Genoa flourished under the government of the admiral Andrea Doria (one of the two teams which in 1946 merged to form Sampdoria was named after him) but after reaching its peak the Republic fell in 1797, when Napoleone Bonaparte established the Ligurian Republic. In the 2014/2015 football season the region flourished much like it had in the 16th century: Genoa finished sixth on the table, with three points more than city rivals Sampdoria, who placed 7th but still qualified for the Europa League play-offs at the expense of the Rossoblu, who were denied a UEFA licence by the FIGC. Both Genoese teams outdid AC Milan and Inter Milan in the league table.” Stats Bomb


How wonderful life is: The joy of Watford’s world

January 4, 2016

“Even though I’m a Watford boy, I used to hold a season ticket at Tottenham Hotspur. I went between 1998 and 2003 with my dad, alternating with my brother Richard, who was there for Sol Campbell’s return. I was at the 3-5 defeat against Man United, and also the 1-3 loss in the Worthington Cup against Birmingham. Unpredictable, full of flair, and lots of foreign talent, Spurs were fine, but Man United won things, so I switched to them in 2003.” Football Pink


Are League of Ireland clubs finally leaving the quick-fix mentalities behind?

November 6, 2015

“This coming Sunday, November 8th, will see the curtain come down on yet another League of Ireland season as league Champions Dundalk battle back to back league runners up Cork City in the 2015 FAI Cup final. Despite the fact the domestic league here in Ireland has one of the longest off-seasons in Europe you will already find businesses being done by the majority of the twenty league clubs in preparation for 2016.” backpagefootball


1985 – Division One, Year Zero?

October 23, 2015

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“From the moment a shirtless Michel Platini gleefully paraded the European Cup trophy around the chaos-ravaged Heysel Stadium on May 29th 1985, English football had to face the stark reality that its existence would never be the same again. The tragedy in Brussels claimed the lives of 39 people when a decaying wall collapsed under the pressure of hundreds of fleeing Italians. The responsibility for those deaths – and the majority of the trouble witnessed in and around Heysel that day – was laid squarely at the foot of the riotous, out-of-control Liverpool fans. The events of that evening were shocking in the extreme, yet this was not an isolated incident; Heysel was a gruesome punctuation to a decade long charge sheet built up against the English. Certain rampant hooligan elements who attached themselves to English clubs (and the national team) had long since spilled over the Channel from domestic football to the continent. For some time, UEFA had been itching to censure English clubs for the behaviour of their fans abroad – the Heysel disaster finally provided them with the necessary gun from which to fire their bullets.” Football Pink


No goals in Paris, joy for City, Galatasaray, Malmö

October 23, 2015

“Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid ended goalless, Manchester City scored late to defeat Sevilla, and Galatasaray and Malmö earned long-awaited group victories.” UEFA


Platini and Blatter’s “thing between two men” defense explains why neither should be FIFA president

October 21, 2015

“This has not been a good month for Michel Platini. When September turned to October, UEFA president Platini was the clear front-runner to replace beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was supposedly planning to finally step down after the February 2016 FIFA presidential elections. Platini had it good. Europe had his back, so did many Asian and South American nations. Everything was rainbows and champagne, even though there were always plenty of questions about Platini’s past and candidacy. And then everything crumbled. It must have been devastating.” Fusion


A UEFA Champions League underdog you can hate: Meet FC Astana

September 30, 2015

“The team is funded by income from oil and natural gas interests. Its players have been seduced by high salaries to join the squad. Part of the team’s reason for being is to attract visitors to its country. In fact, the country’s president founded the club’s umbrella organization.” Fusion


Barcelona beaten 4-1, Juve problems continue

September 24, 2015

“Barcelona suffered a big shock and Juventus stuttered again while Real Madrid and Lyon impressed. We round up how the group stage contenders got on in Wednesday’s action.” UEFA


20 years since the Bosman ruling

September 20, 2015

“The transfer system in football wasn’t always the way it is today – a free market in the true sense of the phrase. In fact, for most of the 20th century, it was quite the opposite. Admittedly, we still retain some core features of the old transfer system. For example, contracts generally lasted anywhere between one and five years back then, and would normally expire on June 30th of any given year, which is more or less how it works today.” backpagefootball – Part 1, Part 2


Iceland’s place at Euro 2016 a result of calculated development, growth

September 10, 2015

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“Iceland’s ascent as a footballing nation, falling at the final hurdle of 2014 World Cup qualification before become one of the first to qualify for Euro 2016, has been one of the big surprises in recent years. However, looking at the infrastructure the tiny island nation has built, it seems like less of a mystery and more of an inevitability. Despite an average daily temperature hovering around freezing for nearly half the year, Iceland has been slowly creeping toward the upper echelons of European football since the new millennium. Seven of the squad that pulled off a historic double against the Netherlands, winning 1-0 away from home on Sept. 3 after a 2-0 victory in Reykjavík in October, also qualified for the 2011 UEFA Under-21 Championship.” SI (Video)


Wales, Iceland, and Wait, Who? Your Not-Quite-Last-Minute Guide to Euro 2016 Qualifying

September 8, 2015

“You know what’s not fun? Having to go a weekend without club soccer, yet this is the reality the gods1 of FIFA and UEFA have cast upon us over the next few days. But you know what is fun? International tournaments. You might remember exciting events such as last summer’s Women’s World Cup, when the USWNT kicked ass and Carli Lloyd finally became a household name. Or perhaps you recall the summer before, when Germany made David Luiz cry. If evoking either of those memories makes you yearn for the past, do not fret: After two summers of World Cups, the European Championships kick off in June 2016.” Grantland


How UEFA can fix Financial Fair Play

July 25, 2015

“It has been five years since Michel Platini promised to save European football from financial ruin. The introduction of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules gave fans hope that success in football would no longer be decided by how much money a Russian oil tycoon or Middle Eastern sheikh could throw at a club. But the rules in their current format are not stopping super rich clubs from spending eye watering amounts of money. Seven of the top ten transfers of all time have occurred in the last two years and financial experts warned against ‘reckless wage spending last summer, four years after the introduction of FFP. The rule make no attempt to improve the chances of well run clubs who see no benefit from living within their means.” backpagefootball


FIFA Inquiry Yields Indictments; U.S. Officials Vow to Pursue More

May 27, 2015

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“United States law enforcement officials declared in forceful terms on Wednesday that their broad investigation of FIFA had only begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption. The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said. The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals.” NY Times (Video)

FIFA: U.S. alleges corruption, indicts 14; Switzerland opens separate probe
“‘The indictment also alleges that corruption and bribery extended to the 2011 presidential FIFA election, and to agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,’ U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters in New York on Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation into FIFA officials and others. FIFA executives and others used bribes to influence where the 2010 World Cup would be held, Lynch told reporters Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation of FIFA. The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa.” CNNN (Video)

Fifa officials corrupted football – US prosecutors
“US prosecutors have accused several officials from football’s governing body Fifa of racketeering, fraud and money laundering involving tens of millions of dollars over 24 years. Prosecutors said they had discovered a dozen schemes, including one awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. Fourteen people have been indicted, with seven held in Zurich on Wednesday. Fifa president Sepp Blatter is not among them. Fifa still intends to hold its presidential election on Friday. However, European football body Uefa has called for the election to be postponed and said it would decide on Thursday whether to boycott the congress. Mr Blatter is seeking re-election and is favoured to win a fifth term.” BBC (Video)


Italy v Croatia: Boss Niko Kovac expects Uefa punishment

November 17, 2014

“Croatia coach Niko Kovac expects European governing body Uefa to punish his country following trouble during a Euro 2016 qualifier in Italy. The match ended 1-1 but was marred by crowd unrest as fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs on to the pitch. Referee Bjorn Kuipers was forced to twice stop the game and 16 Croatia supporters were arrested. ‘Of course Croatia will face sanctions, but there is no reason for any point deductions,’ said Kovac.” BBC


Season of firsts lays ahead for Gibraltar

August 29, 2014

“Since May 24th, 2013, the Gibraltar national football team have achieved many firsts, and have written their names into the history books. On November 19th of that year, Allen Bula’s squad represented the British colony in their first official UEFA fixture against Slovakia, earning a commendable 0-0 draw. Against the Faroe Islands in March of the following year, Roy Chipolina scored their first official goal in a 4-1 loss and three months later a strike from Kyle Casciaro earned Gibraltar a first official win against Malta. Next month, the national team will reach another milestone when they line up against Poland for their first official qualifier for Euro 2016 in France.” backpagefootball


Non monsieur: why Michel Platini’s 40-team World Cup idea is misguided

October 30, 2013

Michel Platini, Uefa president
“Another day, another wearying proposal to ruin football. This time it was Michel Platini, the Uefa president who long ago surpassed Sepp Blatter as the global game’s greatest nonsense machine, who shook the kaleidoscope of self-interest and came up with a proposal to expand the World Cup finals from 32 to 40 teams. More games! More countries! More fans! More money! More votes! Hurrah!” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


UEFA charges CSKA Moscow over Yaya Toure’s racism claims

October 24, 2013

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“UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against CSKA Moscow after Manchester City’s Yaya Toure claimed he was abused by monkey chants from the stands in Wednesday’s European Champions League encounter with the Russian club. The Ivorian made his concerns known to the referee and said he was ‘furious’ after the Group D game at the Arena Khimki, which City won 2-1. But CSKA released a statement on its website denying there was any racist chanting and told CNN that UEFA’s match delegate wasn’t aware of any either. European football’s governing body UEFA told CNN it had no official comment to make on CSKA’s claim.” CNN (Video)


Is the Premier League providing corporate cover for ‘corrupt’ foreign owners and regimes?

August 6, 2013

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“‘In this meeting of a desperate UK economy with Abu Dhabi’s fortunes’ wrote David Conn in the Guardian this week, ‘there is a limit to the UK government’s disapproval over allegations of torture and flaws in the UAE legal system.’ But then domestic attitudes have always been a little on the liberal side when it comes to owners of Manchester City. Six years ago nobody in a position of much authority had anything very accusing to say about Thaksin Shinawatra after his £81million take-over of the club, save for the Thai authorities who spent a couple of years frantically posting out arrest warrants like junk mail over a catalogue of offences against the state.” Think Football

Jury remains out on Michel Platini’s financial fair play project
“For all of Michel Platini’s tough talk, conspicuous consumption has once again been the order of the day this summer from the gilded boulevards of Monaco to the fast-changing post-industrial landscape of east Manchester. Arsène Wenger has labelled the situation ‘a joke’. As Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur haggle over just how much the Spanish giants will pay for Gareth Bale and in how many instalments, the likely world record fee will add further to the volume of disgruntled muttering surrounding the implementation of the Uefa president’s financial fair play project.” Guardian


Financial losses, potential penalties put FFP’s development in a bind

July 13, 2013

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“In 2009 Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, announced that something was finally going to be done about the arms race in European soccer. With great fanfare it was announced that regulations, known as Financial Fair Play, had been agreed to limit excessive spending, especially by the notorious ‘sugar daddies’ — wealthy individuals who use their financial muscle to stockpile talent and effectively buy titles. Many soccer fans welcomed the initiative, believing that prudential regulation was long overdue in the light of the persistent insolvency of European clubs.” ESPN (Video)


The 10 biggest questions for European soccer in 2013-14

July 13, 2013

“With the Confederations Cup now behind us and the new European soccer season less than 40 days away, there are plenty of talking points looking ahead to season 2013-14. Here are ten questions that we have been asking this summer…” SI


Ten Scenes From The FA Cup Final

May 12, 2013

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1932 FA Cup Final
“This afternoon at the mildly absurd time of 5.15, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic will kick off in the one hundred and thirty-second FA Cup final and, much as the old trophy has frequently been debased in recent years, it still has a rich history upon which we can draw. What follows is listed chronologically (partly out of a mild degree of Saturday morning laziness, and partly because, well, how do you compare a middle-aged man running onto a football pitch and evading his would-be captors with a penalty save or a match that would prove pivotal in the entire history of the game?), and we should also take a moment anybody with any complaints about this list should bear in mind that this list was plucked almost at random, with a hangover, at ten o’clock on Saturday morning.” twohundredpercent


UEFA Prize Money – Rhapsody In Blue

May 9, 2013

Chelsea's Juan Mata celebrates scoring during his side's 4-2 Premier League win at Tottenham Hotspur
“The Europa League has long been regarded by leading clubs as a poor relation to the far more lucrative Champions League, but Chelsea’s prodigious efforts after parachuting in to the junior competition might just give pause for thought, as they will end up earning more from Europe this season than any other English club. Although they earned €5 million less than Manchester United from the Champions League after exiting at the group stage, they will receive at least €6.5 million from the Europa League, even if they lose the final. If they repeat last season’s victory in the Champions League, the sum earned will rise to around €9 million.” The Swiss Ramble


How to ruin a party

April 27, 2013

“I was there when Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 won the Champions League and the UEFA Cup only seven days apart, back in 1997. And I was desperately trying to meet deadlines in late October 2000, when the Christoph Daum cocaine scandal blew wide open, plunging the domestic game into a major crisis and triggering an absurd media frenzy. Finally, I still remember the howls of protest that went up (in either camp) when Manuel Neuer, a Gelsenkirchen boy and Schalke’s brightest hope for the future, announced his move to Bayern Munich in 2011. But somehow it all pales in comparison. There’s never been a week like this in German football. Not least because this one condensed almost all of the aspects listed above – and then some – in a mere handful of days. It also proved once more that there is a vast discrepancy between the view from the inside and how you are viewed from the outside.” ESPN


Yordy Reyna leading Peru’s next generation

April 27, 2013

“The South American Youth Championship is always a good opportunity to spot rising stars of the world game. After all, in 2011, the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura and Oscar all featured in Brazil’s squad alone, while in 2009, Eduardo Salvio, Sandro and Salomon Rondon were just some of those who announced their arrival as potential forces in world football. There can be little doubt, then, that some of the many stars of the 2013 tournament will also go on to achieve much greater things, and there are several players already well on their way to doing so.” ESPN


Portugal, Spain under pressure as UEFA World Cup qualifying resumes

March 21, 2013

“The first round of UEFA World Cup qualifying is nearing its halfway point with 53 nations vying for 13 spots at Brazil 2014. The nine group winners will qualify, plus four of the group runners-up after two-legged playoffs in November. Here’s the rundown as qualifying continues, starting with matches Friday …” SI


How Soccer Explains Israel

March 21, 2013

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“On the last Saturday in January, with most of Israel shut down for Shabbat, Beitar Jerusalem FC — the only soccer team in the Israeli Premier League to have never signed an Arab player — announced that it had picked up two Muslim players from Chechnya: Dzhabrail Kadiyev, 19, and Zaur Sadayev, 23. The first response from fans was nonviolent but brutal: At the team’s next match, members of Beitar’s proudly racist ultras group La Familia unfurled a giant yellow banner in Teddy Stadium’s Eastern grandstand. It read, in a surreal echo of Nazi terminology: ‘Beitar Will Be Pure Forever.’ The next response was arson.” Grantland


Gazprom face UEFA stand off

February 19, 2013

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“How does one begin to comprehend the manner in which football and politics have become so inextricably linked? It is disturbing to contemplate that such a truly global sport is quite possibly one of the most corruptible institutions in the modern era. It has got to the point where there are simply too many issues upon which we must turn a blind eye in order to replicate the perceived naivety of days gone by – with the game finding that its hands are increasingly tied behind its own back. Such a situation is glaringly apparent in Eastern Europe, where discussions have continued over the viability of the formation of a league system comprising of sides from Russia and Ukraine.” SFUnion


Soccer’s New Match-Fixing Scandal

February 8, 2013

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“I am a midlevel Hungarian gangster. You are a Finnish referee. So here’s how it works. I get a call from a lieutenant in the syndicate — not from Dan Tan himself, the boss has to be protected, but from a middle man somewhere in Asia. Maybe Singapore, where Dan Tan is based; maybe someplace else. The caller says: We need so-and-so to happen in such-and-such soccer game. So I fly to Helsinki from Budapest and take a train north to Tampere, where you’ll be officiating a match in the Ykkönen, the Finnish second division, between FC Ilves and FC Viikingit. We meet. It’s not as if I’m lugging a duffel full of cash. The money will be laundered; we have the systems in place. I want you to be comfortable, after all.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Surprised by the match-fixing scandal? You shouldn’t be
“In The Hague on Monday when the director of Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, announced the preliminary findings of an investigation into the rigging of soccer matches, many observers were shocked. Nearly 700 fixed games. Several on UK soil. A transnational criminal conspiracy with an Asian syndicate pulling the strings. How could such a thing be happening? I knew how easily it was done.” ESPN

W – 2011 South Korean football betting scandal

W – 2006 Italian football scandal

W – 2011–12 Italian football scandal

W – 2005 Bundesliga scandal

W – Brazilian football match-fixing scandal


Police Call Match-Fixing Widespread in Soccer

February 5, 2013

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“Soccer is known throughout much of the world as the beautiful game. But the sport’s ugliest side — the scourge of match-fixing — will not soon go away. With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil drawing closer, a European police intelligence agency said Monday that its 19-month investigation, code-named Operation Veto, revealed widespread occurrences of match-fixing in recent years, with 680 games globally deemed suspicious. The extent was staggering: some 150 international matches, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America; roughly 380 games in Europe, covering World Cup and European championship qualifiers as well as two Champions League games; and games that run the gamut from lower-division semiprofessional matches to contests in top domestic leagues.” NYT

European police say match-fixing probe uncovers more than 680 suspicious soccer games
“A major investigation involving Europol and police teams from 13 European countries has uncovered an extensive criminal network involved in widespread football match-fixing. A total of 425 match officials, club officials, players, and serious criminals, from more than 15 countries, are suspected of being involved in attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches. The activities formed part of a sophisticated organised crime operation, which generated over €8 million in betting profits and involved over €2 million in corrupt payments to those involved in the matches.” europol


UEFA Financial Fair Play

December 29, 2012

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“Over the last 20 years European soccer has gone through an exciting but dangerous period of global expansion. When Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV signed the English Premier League to a $115 million television rights deal in 1992, he set the European club sport on a terror of worldwide expansion. The Spanish Empire of the 1700s is the only conquest that rivals the expansion of European soccer.[1] With the additional capital, individual clubs could grow. More potent, though, was the exposure the clubs garnered worldwide through the advent of technology. This exposure turned community institutions into global brands that have been wielded with a capitalist’s fist. The dangerous part is that this expansion has gone unregulated.” Soccer Politics


Commons touch takes Celtic into knockout stages

December 7, 2012

“A Kris Commons penalty nine minutes from time took Celtic FC into the UEFA Champions League round of 16 for the first time in five seasons as a narrow victory against FC Spartak Moskva secured second place in Group G. The Scottish champions kicked off level with SL Benfica on seven points but needing to better their Portuguese rivals’ result to go through for the first time since 2007/08. All looked promising when Gary Hooper fired them into a 21st-minute lead only for a delicate Ari chip to bring eliminated Spartak level before the break. With time running out, Celtic pushed for a winner and were rewarded when Giorgos Samaras was impeded by Marek Suchý, Commons smashing his spot kick in off the underside of the crossbar to earn a result that, combined with Benfica’s draw in Spain, sparked joyous scenes at the final whistle.” UEFA


The European Football Revolution Will Be Televised

December 3, 2012

“If there is one old adage that football has chosen to ignore above all others, then that which states that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ must be amongst the contenders for pole position. Barely a year goes by without something being rebadged or rebranded, as if applying a tenth new coat of polish to our clubs and competitions will definitely this time lead to a hitherto elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Michel Platini hasn’t been entirely bad as the president of UEFA – occasionally misguided, perhaps but nowhere near approaching what we might describe as Blatteresque levels of appallingness – this mornings announcement that European club football needs to be rethought is a potential minefield of disaster for UEFA which should be negotiated with the utmost care.” twohundredpercent


UEFA World Cup qualifying: Spain wins opener; England ties Ukraine

September 12, 2012

“World Cup champion Spain defeated Georgia 1-0 on an 86th-minute goal by Roberto Soldado on Tuesday, the first step by the Spaniards on their road to the 2014 World Cup. This was the 23rd consecutive victory in qualifying matches for Spain, which has three points in Group I and is tied with Georgia. Spain is attempting to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major title after repeating as European champion this summer.” SI


UEFA’s FFP Regulations – Play To Win

September 6, 2012


“So the transfer window is finally over after the customary twists and turns and, as always, has raised some intriguing questions. Perhaps most perplexing is the decision of previously big spending Manchester City to slam on the brakes (by their own recent standards) much to the disappointment of manager Roberto Mancini. On the fairly safe assumption that this is not due to Sheikh Mansour struggling for cash, the culprit is likely to be UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, a particularly delicate issue for the blue side of Manchester.” Swiss Ramble


Drugs, Mafia And Murder: The Ten Most Corrupt Football Leagues Ever

August 15, 2012

“The Premier League might get on your nerves and agents might make you scream, but it has nothing on the ten most bent leagues in the world and the hookers, murderers and extortionists who populate them…” Sabotage Times, amazon: Jon Spurling

The Dark History Of The World Cup by Jon Spurling
“Zaire full-back Mwepu Ilunga’s odd behaviour at the 1974 finals, breaking off from the defensive wall to boot the ball away just as Brazil’s Rivelino is about to take a free-kick, has gone down as one of the most comical scenes in World Cup history. It is replayed time and again on the obligatory TV clips shows in the run-up to each subsequent tournament. What John Motson described as ‘a bizarre moment of African innocence’ was actually more a moment of desperation, one man trying to run down the clock and prevent a third Brazilian goal, thereby salvaging a sliver of national pride.” WSC

Death or Glory
“In 1974 Zaire’s football team were summoned into a room in their West German hotel and told that if they lost to Brazil by more than three goals the following day they would never see their families again. In this astonishing book Jon Spurling has travelled the world to scratch beneath the glossy, confetti-strewn surface of the world’s biggest sporting event to uncover its dark secrets. In this astonishing book Jon Spurling has travelled the world to scratch beneath the glossy, confetti-strewn surface of the world’s biggest sporting event to uncover its dark secrets.” amazon: Death or Glory, Jon Spurling


Euro 2012: Uefa investigates allegations of racism by fans

June 13, 2012

“Uefa is to investigate alleged racist chanting during the Euro 2012 matches between Spain and Italy and Russia v Czech Republic. A Spanish fans’ group has said some of its supporters abused Manchester City and Italy striker Mario Balotelli. Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie told reporters he ‘noticed’ racist chants directed at him. Uefa said that no disciplinary proceedings had been started at this stage.” BBC


Euro 2012 previews: general themes

June 6, 2012


Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robbe
“Team-by-team previews are on their way later today. But, to save repetition in many articles, here are some general themes based upon recent international tournaments…” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Holland
“After a reputation for playing beautiful football was undermined by Holland’s brutal performance in the 2010 World Cup final, Holland’s strategy in the past two years has been an interesting balancing act – Bert van Marwijk wants to look as if he’s moved on to a more open style of football, but remains reluctant to abandon the structure and functionality that took Holland to the World Cup final in the first place.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Spain
“Spain didn’t win World Cup 2010 through pure tiki-taka. They won because they mixed tiki-taka with different options that brought more directness and urgency to their play.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Germany
“They didn’t win the competition, but Germany hit the greatest heights at World Cup 2010. While Spain embarked on a series of controlled but rather uninspiring 1-0 victories, Germany hit four goals past Australia, England and Argentina.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Czech Republic
“Michal Bilek hasn’t been particularly popular during his time as Czech Republic coach, but he has assembled a well-organised, functional side that mixes experience with youth.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Greece
“Greece aren’t overwhelmingly different from the team that shocked Europe to win Euro 2004. They’re not as extreme in their negativity, and not as effective, but are still broadly defensive and their main threat will come from set-pieces.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Italy
“In many ways, Cesare Prandelli isn’t a typical Italian coach. He’s a highly intelligent man, but one doesn’t think of him as a pure tactician like Marcello Lippi, Giovanni Trapattoni or Fabio Capello. He’s of an Arsene Wenger figure – he wants an overall, attacking philosophy rather than lots of specific tactics, and likes developing young players to suit his footballing identity.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: England
“Roy Hodgson was the right choice as England coach – at least in the short-term – but realistically, you can’t expect a side to play good football when their coach is appointed a month before the tournament.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Croatia
“Of the 16 teams in this competition, Croatia are one of the hardest to define. They seem trapped between a few different ways of playing, and don’t have a specific footballing identity.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Sweden
“For the first time since World Cup 1994, Sweden are at a major international tournament without Lars Lagerback. Now in charge of Iceland, Lagerback was at the helm for so long (first as a joint-coach with Tommy Soderberg, then in sole charge) that his footballing style -organised, defensive – became merged with Sweden’s footballing style, to the point where it was difficult to tell the difference between the two, at least to an outsider.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Denmark
“It’s impossible to think of Denmark at the European Championships without thinking of their astonishing victory 20 years ago. Then, they triumphed at Euro 92 despite not qualifying for the tournament initially…yet they’re even more of outsiders this time around.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Russia
“There are many lessons to take from Spain’s dominance of international football over the past few years, and an important one has been the importance of bringing a solid club connection to international level.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Ireland
“It is a decade since Ireland last qualified for a major international tournament, and the three biggest stars from the 2002 World Cup will represent Ireland again here – Shay Given in goal, Damien Duff on the wing and Robbie Keane upfront.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Portugal
“Such is their habit for producing a certain type of footballer, it rather feels like we’ve encountered a Portugal side with these strengths and weaknesses many times before.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Poland
“Poland come into this tournament with the lowest world ranking of the 16 competitors, but they are certainly not the weakest side in the competition.” Zonal Marking


For Poland

May 25, 2012


“Erm, they voted for Michel Platini! It’s widely reported that the tournament hosting rights were handed to Poland and Ukraine as a ‘thank you’ from Platini, for the Eastern European national football associations voting for him in the UEFA Presidential Elections. As the co-hosts, Poland haven’t had to qualify for the tournament; and therefore have not played a competitive game since their World Cup Qualifying loss to Slovakia back in October 2009!” In Bed With Maradona

For Ukraine
“Ukraine have managed to sneak their way into the competition via the backdoor, due to the fact that they automatically gained a place upon UEFA accepting their bid to jointly host the tournament. Being the host nation of a major international tournament allows for the enjoyment of vociferous local support as well as the comfort of taking to the pitch in familiar surroundings and climes. Such advantages are well documented and for Ukraine this situation could well play into their hands.” In Bed With Maradona

For Russia
“The Russian journey to (relatively) nearby Poland and Ukraine should, by all rights, have been a relatively comfortable one. Only the Republic of Ireland looked like posing them any real threat in a fairly lightweight group, and so domestic expectations were high, especially given the national side’s impressive outing at the last European Championships. However, when a routine victory over Andorra in the opening match was followed by a defeat to Slovakia on home soil, the alarm bells began to ring. A controlled 3-2 win in Ireland and a gritty 1-0 over FYR Macedonia may have steadied the ship, but when the side travelled to Armenia and emerged only with an insipid goalless draw to show for their efforts, the media sharpened their knives for Dick Advocaat and his men – the manager was clueless, star player Andrei Arshavin was past it, and the team didn’t care.” In Bed With Maradona

For Italy
“Beginning with straight-forward wins over Estonia and Faroe Islands as well as a hard-fought draw with Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Italy’s relatively simple path to Poland and Ukraine was all but sealed when Serbian Ultra’s caused their game in Genoa to be called off. Eventually awarded as a 3-0 win to the home side, it saw Cesare Prandelli’s men take a virtually unassailable lead at the top of the standings which they would never relinquish. Dropping just four points and scoring twenty goals while conceding just twice, it was one of the most dominant qualification campaigns the Azzurri have ever enjoyed. While the quality of the opposition can be called into question – as Republic of Ireland’s dismantling of second placed Estonia in the playoffs clearly attests – Italy should rightly be a team to fear once the tournament proper gets underway.” In Bed With Maradona

For Ireland
“It wouldn’t really be a Republic of Ireland qualifying campaign without a trip to the playoffs. Thankfully there was no repeat of the heartache suffered against France in the qualifiers for the last World Cup as Estonia were easily dealt with 5-1 over the two legs. Ireland finished second in a tricky group which also featured Russia, Armenia, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Andorra. They lost only once, at home to the Russians, but conceded just seven goals as Giovanni Trapattoni defensive mindedness came out on top as it has done many times in the past.” In Bed With Maradona


For better or worse? How Havelange’s global vision changed football

April 1, 2012


“Laid low by an infection, former Fifa president Joao Havelange is gravely ill in a Rio hospital, where no doubt he is profoundly irritated at being forced to interrupt his daily routine of swimming 1,000 metres. At the age of 95, Havelange remains a force of nature. Over 30 years ago he used his strength to change world football. When Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards made his recent remarks about Fifa “stealing football from the English”, there can be little doubt that he had 1974 in mind. That was the year that Havelange unseated England’s Sir Stanley Rous to become Fifa president.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Brian Glanville on Lyon’s improbable Champions League qualification

December 14, 2011

“Seven goals scored and consequent qualification in the European Cup for a Lyon team which until then had found scoring in the group so difficult. True, Dynamo did have a man sent off in the first half, but seven goals? Michel Platini, ever more controversial and disappointing President of UEFA, seems airily unconcerned, reassured it would seem, by the fact that there was no sign of unusual betting at the bookmakers.” World Soccer