Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The olden days

It was so much better in the old days.

Take football for example.

In 1986, football was a much simpler game. It was beautiful, men were men, and ref's were raised on a diet of carrots and hawk meat.

How nice to get a reminder of these times from our mate Dr Hock who, whilst cleaning his surgery, found amongst the usual stack of two decade old Reader's Digest and Wedding magazines, this beauty from 1986:

It's a 1986 World Cup special from every young lad's favourite magazine, Shoot!

Leaving aside the stunning revelation the cover gives us that Maradonna might well have easily been able to get that high for that goal, there is this interesting piece:

The opening game was surrounded in controversy when Spain's Míchel rifled a shot past Brazil's bouffant, hedgehog headed stopper, Carlos. This cannoned off the underneath of the crossbar, over the goal line and back into play. None of the officials saw it properly though and did not give the goal. Ooo, eerie.

Brazil went on to win 1-0.

In his 'The Editor' page, still smarting from a slap in the face from the hand of God, the editor starts a debate on the state of referees and calls for video technology to be used. This is all getting very familiar now.

The main issues that are covered;
"TV and communications were chaotic... some countries had foreign, or no commentaries coming through with their pictures"
It seems a big difference between the finals in 1986 and the finals this year is that now we get to see it in crystal clear high definition. Actually, now I come to think of it, thanks to ITV, sometimes we don't even get a picture.
"Pitches were awful, especially the Azteca and Mexico City."
Thankfully due to the millions of pounds invested in football, FIFA know how to guarantee a good pitch. Or not in the case of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and, for anyone who saw South Korea vs Uruguay the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
"Referees were abysmal, naive and inconsistent. Several were a disgrace." 
If there's one thing we've managed to perfect over the years it's abysmal naive and inconsistent referees.
 "If there is a controversial incident during the game... the ref could dash to a monitor on the sideline, watch the instant replay and change his decision if necessary... It would only take seconds and stop vital games being won or lost with goals that weren't!" Peter Stewart, Shoot!, 19/07/1986

It also becomes apparent that, even in 1986, football had it's fair share of gamesmanship, cheaters and divers. Or as we call them now, the Spanish:

"It was sickening to see players writhing around in an attempt to get opponents booked or just waste time." 
But I thought Fernado Torres invented diving?

The article also complains about the lack of decent free-kicks around the penalty-area. Uncanny really. In fact, if they had a rambling, monotone Geordie pundit with all the charisma of a squashed frog, we would probably be hard pressed to tell the difference at all.

Which all in all is a bit of a shame really. It has always been comforting being in the knowledge that when I was a lad football was played in the right spirit, the way it was intended to be played and all the players I worshipped were fine upstanding gentleman.

In reality, it looks like it's the same now as it ever was and, hopefully, ever will be. Football will always contain controversy, refereeing mistakes and players trying to win at all costs. It's what we talk about down the pub. If someone puts a stop to it all, it will deny us the pleasure of telling the youth of tomorrow about how glorious the game was in our day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The world (England) expects - PICTURE SPECIAL!

I was going to twitter a couple of pictures this morning, but to be honest, the papers are packed with chest-thumping, miss-guided patriotic gold this morning.

Not sure about the first one.  Three footballing vampires and a lion?  I know we import some crap American comedies, but even ITV can do better than this, surely?

Ahh, the classic England football fan.  Rooney shirt?  Check.  The worst lager, cider and bitter brands known to man?  Check.  Asleep/fighting/slagging Rooney off by half-time?  Probably.

*Wipes tear from eye*

You've got to admire the effort put into this stuff.  Until you think that the artist instead could be painting the walls of a kitten orphanage or something.

Some readers don't seem too happy about the attached article either:
"Fancy having a headline ' Long to wayne over us' when the ignorant idiot refuses to sing the national anthem he should NOT be allowed to play for his country if he cant do it with pride like all the other countries do!" julie will 27/06/2010

You won't get a bloke slagging Rooney off in there, Jules.

Anyway, I'll sign off with a bit of class today: a poem by News of the World reader Mr Kovacki:
"You muppets, why would England win?
Not in a million year!
Was not Roni who fully fit last week too?
No offence but this English team should have nover gone to the 2nd round. They are very weak.
Come on Holland!" Moses Kovacki 27/06/2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The blame game

With England's football World Cup exit round the corner, The Daily Mail has been looking to get the excuses in early.  What could James Tozer, author of 'Dog owners who walk their pets on leads longer than 6'8 face £1,000 fines' and Allan Hall, author of 'China's first man in space reveals astronauts ate dog meat to keep up their strength' place the blame on?  The vuvuzelas?  The Jabulani ball?  The altitude?

Of course not, this is the Daily Mail we're talking about, there's only one group to blame for this:


Yes, that's right, unbelievably it's a group of 'immigrants' living in a foreign country that are to blame. [insert the internet's angriest emoticon here]  Apparently whilst the Mail is at the forefront of driving those evil foreigns out of our country, the Germans accept them with open open arms.  Things are so bad there that ELEVEN of them have even infiltrated the German national football team.

Look how sad the England squad is after learning of this revelation:

The Mail decides to list all the guilty players;

Serdar Tasci, born in Germany,
Mario Gomez, born in Germany,
Jerome Boateng, born in Germany,
Sami Khedira, born in Germany... wait a minute.

Where is this going?  Only five players of the 26 man squad were born outside Germany, one of whom moved to Germany when he was seven, one when he was five and two when they were two years old.  Cacau is the only player to have not lived in Germany his whole life and he's still been living there for over a decade. It can't be just the funny names that they have a problem with, surely?

But then we get down to the real source of the Mail's objection which seems to be that some players have a single parent from Nigeria/Ghana/Spain and that, bizarrely, one player 'Recites verses from the Koran while German national anthem plays' and has parents of Turkish origin.  The Daily Mail with a thinly gild racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic agenda?  Surely not.

Perhaps they sleep better at the thought of England players thinking of pick-up lines to use on their own team-mate's wifes whilst singing our national anthem?

Friday, June 25, 2010


Yes it's in uppercase.  It's the News Of The World.

In fact, I feel so embarrassed even commenting on this article, that I'll just leave you with some quotes and a pic;
"I went and swapped all my England team Panini stickers including my shiny. Anyone who wants them can have them off me." Tim Westwood, NotW, 19/06/2010
 "you is telling it real Tim, they is a joke out there." Jamie Jenkinson, 20/06/2010
Probably too much sugar water to be honest.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Oh I say, the hemlines are shorter than ever at Wimbledon this year"

It's nice to see that during the football World Cup, some papers are aware of the existence of other sports. With arguably the biggest tournament in the world, Wimbledon, just starting, kudos to The Daily Mail for introducing some in depth review of the tournament so far;

Page 3, The Daily Mail, 22/06/2010

That's right, the moral rock that is The Daily Mail decided today that their page 3 would be devoted to drooling over semi-naked, jail-bait young, girls.  Not for the first time either.

Already assuming that no-one has any interest in the game, we get a quick analysis of two players including world number 28, Maria Kirilenko;

"Catching the eye with their outfits rather than their tennis were Stefanie Voegele and Maria Kirilenko, who wore particularly skimpy outfits, showing off their toned thighs - and a little more besides..."
Surprisingly Ana Ivanovic then gets the next portion of coverage.  What do we need to know about her?  Well, we learn that she has been voted world sexiest tennis player five time and she wore leggings beneath her mini-dress.


And rejoice readers because Laura Robson is sixteen!  This means that the Daily Mail and it's readers can say what they want and not sound creepy at all!  Take for example, David in the Comments section;

"... are you really a man ? Didnt you know that attractive females are sex objects!!!....Skirts can never be too short, girls can never be too young, (within reason!) ... and they can never be too thin, again (within reason!) ... Thats the way they like it !!" David, London, 22/06/2010 22:34
We also get an in depth look at Maria Sharapova's training methods (it involves stretching and bending over in front of the camera apparently) and also lots of updates from good looking players from around the world; sorry uglies, your participation means nothing to us.  In fact, neither does anyone in the top 15 world rankings bar Jelena Jankovic. And I presume the cameraman couldn't get his zoom up her skirt to see her knickers, because there are no pictures of her at all.

And to finish the article we of course get coverage of girls eating strawberries and cream.  Good job there's nothing sinister about printing pictures of young girls with cream dribbling down their chins.

Monday, June 21, 2010


With only days until Wayne Rooney/ Fabio Capello / The English FA are blamed for yet another early football World Cup exit, it's worth revisiting the front, and back, pages of The Sun last December.
This was of course the time of the football World Cup draw for South Africa was made.  England were paired with African based Algeria, world fourteenth ranked team the USA and Slovenia who had just beaten Russia to qualification.  A tricky group in anyone's book.  The Sun therefore ran cautiously with their front page the next day;

The Sun, frontpage, 5th December 2009

Their back page, written by Nick Parker, was equally pencilled with the delicacy to rival a nuclear holocaust;

The Sun, backpage, 5th December 2009

This is my favourite quote; 
"ENGLAND looked dead certs last night to roar into the World Cup knockout stages after landing their easiest ever group."
Or maybe it's the untraceable/made up;
"Bob Gill, 63, from Essex, said: "We're definitely going to win the group." Phil Long, 32, of Leicester, added: "We couldn't have asked for a better draw."
With England's prior World Cup record, who would have predicted that would come slap back in our faces?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"The level of punditry is patronising and insulting"

In the ocean of putrid vomit that is sports journalism, there are small islands of milky coconut refuge.

Award winning writer Tom English is one such island and his article in today's Scotsman, on the state of the English television punditry, is certainly worth two minutes of anyone's time.

"USA beats England 1-1"

In a rare case of printing an un-researched, knee-jerk reaction to the England football team's latest inevitable poor 'effort', The Sun ran with the Spam baiting headline "'USA beats England 1-1'" the other day.

The article consists of a picture of the sporting cover headline which reads, "USA wins 1-1" and then lots of patronising rubbish about how the stupid Americans don't understand 'our' sport.
 Now, far be it from me to suggest there was some irony in The Sun mocking a Murdoch owned propaganda machine for making an error of judgement, but to criticise an American paper for printing"...World Cup match ends with the greatest tie with the British since Bunker Hill." whilst being responsible for running such headlines as 'Super Subs Sink the Germans' is a bit rich really.

Highlights include:

"And the US TV networks were full of praise for the US team, endlessly playing Clint Dempsey's goal after Green fumbled the ball." The Sun
Unlike over here then.

"They also continually referred to the result as a tie — and not the usual football term of a draw for the 1-1 result."
I hope this trend of foreign fuzzy-wuzzys developing their own language doesn't continue.
"American media treated the result against Fabio Capello's men as one of the best ever for their national team."
To be fair, if the editor of the paper had been reading The Sun's coverage of the World Cup, they probably think they drew with the greatest team ever, ever.

Of course this is all besides the main point which is that the headline is actually a reference to the result of a highly competitive end of season American football game between the universitys of Yale and Harvard.

In the 1968 clash Yale were the much fancied team and indeed led 29-13 going in to the final minute of the game.  However, in the last 42 seconds Harvard scored an amazing 16 points to draw tie the game. This lead to the The Harvard Crimson running the giddy headline "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29".  It was such a famous game that it een spawned a movie film years later starring Tommy Lee-Jones who actually played in said game.

The Sun missed this ironic headline ,justifiably by their own standards, probably because it would have taken a bout three minutes of research.  Or some sporting knowledge outside the English Premier Leage.

And they say that it is the Americans that don't get irony.

"You're a kick and rush team! Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer blasts England"

Franz Beckenbauer, two times Ballon d'Or winner, three times European Cup winner and a World Cup winner as both a player and a manager, has had his footballing knowledge thrown in to question by the Daily Mail's Chief Football Writer, Matt Lawton. A man who apparently does not even rate Spanish and Barcelona legend Xavi.

This is based on an article Beckenbauer wrote for his column in The South African Times.
In the article Beckenbauer offers his opinion on England's short-comings and expresses his belief that they are a 'kick and rush' team.  I know, England!

Lawton sees this as an attack on the scale of Pearl Harbour.  Or to bring that analogy up to date, Iraq.

Lawton's attack mainly consists of cheap World War II references ('blasts England', 'an astonishing, unprovoked attack', 'das boot') because Beckenbauer is a GERMAN and, you know, they have a history and, well, boooooooooooooooooo!

In fact, if we look around even the most vaguely credible football journalism, Beckenbauer's comments seem quite gentle.  Check out what fellow compatriot Sean Ingle, writing for the Guardian's excellent Fiver football blog, says about it all;
"... it seems clear from these few comments that Beckenbauer is living in something of a dream world. There is nothing kick and rush about England's tactics under Don Fabio. In fact anybody who had actually watched the game against USA! USA!! USA!!! would have noted a pointed absence of any kind of "rush". Instead this was a hyperspace leap forward into "kick and vaguely amble" tactics, mixed with an occasional switch to "kick and wheel around in a tearful panic" tactics. For much of the second half we even saw the brilliantly pared-down "kick and kick" style, or even for a while just "kick". "   Guardian Football World Cup 2010 Live Blog
Still, it's good to have someone to take the attention away from the second rate football team that the papers, Danish beer companies and Swiss chocolate conglomerates have been over-hyping these last few weeks.