David Owen: ‘Don’t play it again, Sepp’: Casablanca’s coup should not distract from the Club World Cup’s shortcomings

Congratulations to Raja Casablanca, whose 3-1 win over Ronaldinho’s Atletico Mineiro in Marrakech on Wednesday has earned them a match-up with Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the final of the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.

The Moroccan side will be following a trail blazed by the magnificently-named Tout Puissant Mazembe Englebert, from the Congolese mining capital of Lubumbashi, who in 2010 became the first African team to contest a Club World Cup final,

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David Owen: Homage to Catalonia

Can politics (though I hesitate to use the word) ‘succeed’ where football has failed?

I raise the question in the context of a referendum on independence that the President of Catalonia, the region around Barcelona, seems keen to hold in November 2014, less than two months after a similar vote in Scotland.

For the moment, it is far from sure this Catalonian referendum will even take place, or be seen as legally binding,

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David Owen: Why the Tiger brand name may be necessary to keep Hull’s future burning bright

Tradition versus success; it is a trade-off at the heart of some of sport’s most agonising dilemmas, and it has been spotlighted again by the shenanigans at Premier League new boys Hull City.

As a Bristol City fan of some decades’ standing, I have a certain amount of sympathy with members of the City Till We Die campaign group who oppose owner Assem Allam’s idea to rebrand the club Hull Tigers.

Then again,

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David Owen: Ryan Giggs in the pantheon of sporting veterans

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Neil Young

Or is it? I remember a time when all rock stars, Young included, were, well, young. And then the music industry discovered irony, and we realised it was no more ridiculous for Jagger to perform Satisfaction at 55 than 25.

I don’t know if the deft through-ball with which Ryan Giggs, then aged 39 years and 363 days,

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David Owen: Papal audience – has FIFA learnt a classics lesson from the Olympic Movement?

Taken at face value, it was just a harmless – and rather imaginative – public relations stunt. But I wonder whether FIFA President Joseph Blatter’s present on Friday to the head of the Roman Catholic church of a Latin edition of the FIFA Weekly, the governing body’s new publishing venture, doesn’t offer us a deeper glimpse into the mind of the man who has run world football these last 15 years, even though it was an idea of the FIFA communications division.

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David Owen: Bosnia aside, my fix of new World Cup blood is drying up before its time

More than 83 years after 13 teams contested the inaugural competition in Uruguay, the flow of FIFA World Cup debutants has slowed to a trickle.

Of the 32 countries who have fought their way through to next year’s showpiece in Brazil, only Bosnia and Herzegovina have never been to the World Cup finals before. It was a similar story three years ago in South Africa where Slovakia were the only newcomers.

The only previous occasion when there was just the one newbie came the first time the competition visited Brazil,

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David Owen: A message for football from a jump-jockey’s big day

On Thursday I went to one of the most uplifting sports events I have attended in a long time.

It took place in a small English town of perhaps 12,000 people with Roman origins. Its apogee came when the sport’s supreme champion of modern times, aged 39, set a benchmark for sustained excellence and endurance on a par with Australian cricketer Don Bradman’s 99.94 Test match batting average, or US swimmer Michael Phelps’s 22 Olympic medals,

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David Owen: Premiership musings – Moyes’s slow-starting United still look a good bet for title

International breaks have made this a stuttering start to the English Premier League season. With more than a quarter of matches now completed though, the balance of forces is starting to come into clearer focus.

Of the six clubs with genuine, if in some cases remote, title aspirations, Manchester United – with three defeats already and only 50% of matches won – are in the lowest position in the table.

For me,

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David Owen: Mega-events – why FIFA needs to engage the little guy

It is 29 July 2012. I am on a bus with other journalists being whisked through south-east London on a lane reserved for Olympic vehicles. Beside us, I am uncomfortably aware, snakes a long queue of non-Olympic traffic. It is at this point that I spot a road sign that makes me do a double-take. It says: “Ha Ha Road Closed”.

I later checked on a city map and there is, bizarrely, a Ha Ha Road in that area of the UK capital.

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David Owen: Brazil 2014: England will be hoping for something better than Brazil 1950

It isn’t World Cup fever, but Tuesday night’s win over Poland has left England gripped by what I would diagnose as a mild case of World Cup euphoria.

More than 15,000 fans were said to have registered their interest in going to Brazil; bookies predicted a £100 million betting bonanza; and a much-publicised tabloid story about manager Roy Hodgson’s half-time team-talk seems only to have redoubled the country’s determination to get behind the team.

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David Owen: A route to a biennial World Cup?

UEFA’s drive to turn Euro 2020 into a multinational event, rather than a tournament put on by one or two host-countries, seems to have ushered in one of those periods when the structure of numerous elite football competitions is up for debate.

In recent weeks suggestions have surfaced for: non-European countries to be invited to the European championships; a super league of elite European clubs; and friendly internationals to be replaced by a European Nations League.

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David Owen: Why England should not pin their hopes on Adnan Januzaj

Nations over the centuries have found different ways to enhance their prestige.

They have waged wars; they have erected great buildings; they have cultivated institutions of artistic excellence.

We in Britain should take great pride in the fact that today, in the year of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary, one of the most popular ways in which nations strive to achieve this is by excelling in sports many of which were invented by our 19th century ancestors.

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David Owen: Qatar and the 2022 World Cup – Expect Amazing, perhaps; Expect A Maze, definitely

Expect Amazing. As a writer, I was never a great fan of the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid slogan, on grounds of dodgy syntax.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see they were just one syllable away from a formulation that pretty well encapsulates what we have been going through since the Gulf state’s fourth-round December 2010 victory: Expect A Maze.

To summarise – with the third anniversary of Qatar’s moment of moments fast approaching,

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David Owen: Whatever happens on the pitch, Spurs could soon overtake Arsenal at the head of the Premier League profits table

After a weekend in which none of the Premier League’s big three managed to win, it remains tough to predict who will emerge as the 2013-14 champions. But you don’t need too powerful a crystal ball even at this stage to foresee which club is likely to make the season’s biggest pre-tax profit.

Assuming the soap opera of Gareth Bale’s transfer to Real Madrid (or A.N.Other) reaches a consummation before the window closes,

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David Owen: A big step forward, but where do you draw the new technology line?

I don’t know if Michel Platini is a fan of Ashes cricket.

If he is, he might have allowed himself a wry smile at the way debates relating to the sport’s attempts to harness technology to improve the quality of on-pitch decisions have provided an engrossing sub-text to the live action as the series has progressed.

Platini as far as I know still opposes use of the sort of goal-line technology that the Premier League will deploy for the first time at Anfield on Saturday when Liverpool and Stoke City kick off the 2013-14 season.

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