One important reason why football of all ball games is the most popular game in the world is because it is simple. Its rules are easy to understand and have none of the complexity that, for example, rugby has. Football’s celebrated off side rule may be a diverting after dinner conversation with which to bait those who do not care about the game but it is nowhere near as mind blowing as trying to work out why a penalty is given in rugby.
The 150th anniversary of the Football Association certainly deserves to be celebrated. Any organisation that has reached such a venerable age has the right to celebrate its birthday and no doubt get a telegram from the Queen, or however Her Majesty marks such occasions these days.
But the tipple for the occasion should not be Krug champagne but a glass of Prosecco. For all the warm words that are now being showered on the FA from far and wide the best thing that can be said about the FA is that it still exists.
Let us get this right. Luis Suarez is no more a cheat than most football players. I agree with those that argue that the moral spasm his handball goal has evoked is way over the top if not a touch hypocritical. I wonder if the critics have been to many football matches or if they have perhaps been too busy with other things to concentrate on what they are seeing.
If we are saying Suarez was cheating,
Consider this question. In the next few years Britain may decide to leave the European Union. At no time since this country joined what was then the Common Market 40 years ago has there been such a strong anti-European feeling. And this is a mood that seems to be going beyond the traditional ‘fed up with Brussels’ to ‘get out of Europe’ clamour.
But even should a referendum see the people of Britain vote to leave,
Those who forget the past, said the great American savant George Santayana, are condemned to repeat it. Football in 2013 runs the same risk. This is because many of the administrators who run the game seem to have forgotten the past. Or perhaps they never cared for the past despite their many references to it in public utterances.
This explains why 2013 will be for the world’s favourite game a question of dealing with issues many thought had long been settled.
So what has Qatar in common with South Africa? On the face of it you would think this is an absurd, Christmas quiz, question. But it is not.
In footballing terms they have a lot in common. The common factor is both countries are pioneers for the world’s most popular game, staging the World Cup in their part of the world for the first time. And both countries have had the need to convince the world they are worthy of having this honour.
It is not often in football you hear many people talk about Roman Abramovich, Florentino Perez and Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Crown Prince of Qatar being “visionary men”, and all in the same breath.
The first two are widely regarded as using football clubs, Chelsea and Real Madrid, as their play things, an impression strengthened in the Russian’s case by the way he got rid of his last manager Roberto Di Matteo.
You don’t know what to expect when you interview Sepp Blatter. For a man who wanted to be on the stage since he was a child, he has always been the sort of showman who likes to surprise his audience. A book of Blatter sayings would be an instant bestseller.
Yet what struck me when I had a long chat with him at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich last week, is that there seems little love lost between him and Michel Platini,
The debate on racism in football has now descended into absurd levels. On one hand, we are having accusations that the Football Association (FA) is institutionally racist. On the other hand, there are those who argue, and this includes some very powerful figures in the game, that Chelsea should never have made a complaint against Mark Clattenburg.
Both positions are absurd. Let us first deal with the Chelsea situation. As is very clear from what Bruce Buck,
It was always to be expected that the London 2102 Olympics would see a Team GB in football for the one and only time in the modern era. This was inevitable given the vehement opposition of the Scots, and the lukewarm response of the other home nations; fearful that an Olympic Team GB will mean the end of Britain’s unique position in world football, the only country with four teams.
But while Team GB in the wider football world will never come about,
The Olympics always puts football in the box, if only for a brief two-week period.
Indeed, the very nature of football’s participation in the Games, with teams composed of players who hope to aspire to be the best, but are not yet the best, give it the status of an interloper. And as if to emphasise this status, football starts even before the Opening Ceremony. In the wider world, it may be the greatest of all sports,
The Football Association (FA) does not often deserve sympathy. It has certainly had little over the John Terry affair which had such dramatic consequences that it produced, arguably, the most unexpected collateral damage ever seen in the game. England lost their manager Fabio Capello just months before the second most important tournament in the world. And this, in turn, set off a chain of reactions that also contributed to the departure of Harry Redknapp from Tottenham Hotspur.
Poor Michel Platini. Do you not feel sorry for him? A wonderful footballer, he exchanges his shorts for a suit and becomes an administrator. Under his Presidency, UEFA hosts a European football competition that everyone says is one of the best in recent memory, if not the best ever.
The fears that it will lead to racist violence, and that players might even walk off during a match if they are racially abused,
Fabio Capello’s dig at Wayne Rooney that the England star striker only understands “Scottish” has raised a few hackles. It was in response to comments by Rooney that under Roy Hodgson there are no language problems in the English team.
This has generated much debate about whether a team can perform well unless players and managers share a common language. The Italian (pictured below, second from right), who has been criticised for not learning English,
The European Championship once again raises the question of whether we are right in believing that sport, and in particular football, can reach out to society in the way nothing else can. The answer so far from the Euros is a chilling one: those of us who believe in the redemptive power of modern sport need to re-examine our beliefs – or at least ask if we do not need to prepare much better before we burden sport with this heavy load of transforming society.