In rugby much is being made about how England’s head coach Stuart Lancaster has brought back Englishness to the oval ball game. Yet look at the round ball game and you see that foreign culture is not only accepted but cherished. A glimpse of this was provided when there was much surprise that Tim Sherwood, as English as they come, would take over when Andre Villas-Boas, who could not be less English, was sacked. Yes there was surprise that Sherwood had no experience of first team coaching at this level but in many ways the greatest surprise was that he was English.
The astonishing coverage of the Southampton story since Nicola Cortese left may suggest the football world on the south coast is about to collapse. I cannot recall another occasion when the departure of a managing director of a club has resulted in such media exposure. However much of it has been so hysterical and over the top that it is clear that the world of football has not changed, only the public perception of it.
Time was when the third round of the FA Cup produced excitement, surprise, fun and often a touch of magic to keep the winter blues away. Now all it does is produce moans about how the Cup has been devalued and the competition is not what it was back in the old days. The only surprise is this year the moans began even before the third round matches had been played, ignited by comments of Paul Lambert of Aston Villa that the FA Cup did not mean much to Premier League teams.
Much has been made in recent weeks of the terrible working conditions of migrant labour in Qatar. As the hosts for the 2022 World Cup, the spotlight was always going to be on the Gulf state but even then Amnesty International’s report on migrant workers presented a dreadfully bleak picture of the conditions of those involved in the infrastructure projects Qatar is undertaking as it prepares for its historic moment in the sun.
The Amnesty report mentioned that more than 80 migrant construction workers,
Nelson Mandela, as we have been told endlessly in the last few days, belongs to the world. So it was no surprise to arrive at the Doha Goals Forum last week to see that pictures of Nelson Mandela were festooned all over Aspire Academy, the multi purpose sports and conference venue where the forum was being held. Even had this not been the week when the eyes of the world were glued to Mandela’s funeral a forum such as Doha Goals,
Nelson Mandela may not have been a professional sportsman but his understanding of sport surpassed that of most high profile sporting stars. Mandela knew how sport could be used for wider political and social purposes. In his long years in prison, as he closely studied his white oppressors, particularly the Afrikaners, he began to appreciate that sport in general and rugby, in particular, had an extraordinary hold on the white nation.
He also realised that since the rise of international sport in the 19th century white South Africa had used sport to drive forward its hideous racial agenda.
Andre Villa-Boas may or may not get the sack soon. Certainly the media pressure on him is huge and with the Tottenham board keeping the shutters down in the way the old Soviet-style Kremlin would have envied there is no way of knowing what will happen to Spurs’ Portuguese head coach. Observe I use the words head coach to describe his job, not manager.
The reason is that what is really interesting about this saga is the light it throws on the concept of director of football,
The story so far on the Olympic stadium is clear. West Ham have a deal, and a very advantageous one for the Hammers. And the hope of Leyton Orient chairman, Barry Hearn, that the House of Lord’s Select Committee report on Olympic legacy would provide him a way in has not quite worked.
The report did touch on how the deal was done but the noises it made are not strong enough to help Orient to reopen the deal,
There is no question we should raise questions about how the football authorities are dealing with or, more accurately, failing to tackle the issue of race. But let us not forget that while skin colour remains a huge problem being a woman in the game is no easy task as Ebru Koksal, Board member of Galatasaray, knows all too well.
She was on the panel I chaired at the recent International Football Arena in Zurich,
On the face of it seems very easy to find a solution for match fixing. Everyone agrees it is bad and if not controlled it will ruin sport – indeed in China it has all but destroyed Chinese domestic football. But having agreed how dreadful it is we run up against the problem that it is impossible to find a universal system to police it.
How difficult this can be was well illustrated when on Wednesday of this week a conference was held to discuss sport integrity.
Alex Ferguson for all his achievements could hardly be compared to Winston Churchill. To do so would be absurd as football for all its wonder can hardly be compared to issues such as national survival that Churchill had to deal with.
But there is one Churchillian principle Ferguson has been keen to adopt. This is not only to make history but to write history. The Churchillian trick was to present the part he played in history as the most important part of the story –
The problem with race these days is that the whole subject too often gets reduced to a tabloid presentation with the result that England manager Roy Hodgson, a cultivated man of wide culture and sensitivity, ends up by being absurdly labelled as racist. We can all accept that Roy Hodgson made a mistake in repeating an old NASA joke about the monkey in his half time talk as an illustration to remind English players that they should get Andros Townsend involved in the play as often as possible.
Harry Redknapp could never be accused of being a toff, let alone an intellectual. Yet his autobiography, Always Managing published by Ebury Press, a book that brings his story up to date following on from an earlier book 15 years ago, has some profound observations on how football has changed in this country. It should spark debate, if not some soul searching, among those who follow the people’s game.
What Harry is mourning is how the beautiful game has turned viciously ugly compared to his youth.
Disenchantment with Europe is now so prevalent in Britain that it seems hard to find anyone who looks to Europe to help their cause. Yet Barry Hearn, who has got nowhere in his fight to share the Olympic stadium with West Ham, may find Brussels rather than Westminster is his best bet.
At the moment, having spent three quarters of a million pounds in legal fees over three years and got nowhere –
Why should it matter if a section of Tottenham supporters chant yids?
I entirely take the point my colleague Andrew Warshaw has made that Spurs fans, “have for years used chants like “yid” and “Yid Army” not as term of abuse but exactly the opposite: as a badge of honour, of identity, of pride, of endearment.”
However I disagree with him that the chanting is now acceptable. Don’t get me wrong.