TOPIC: INTERNATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL FUTEBOL
FIFA Has Spoken. So Be It. USA Must Move On 2 years, 5 months ago #832
FIFA Has Spoken. So Be It. USA Must Move On
By Paul Gardner
Of course Sunil Gulati is correct to indicate that politics - FIFA politics - are the key to understanding the voting that gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 version to Qatar - and left the USA out in the cold.
That being the case, one can say with absolute certainty that no one will ever understand the voting of the FIFA executive committee. A jumble of 24 (or fewer, allowing for suspensions) individuals with who knows how many preferences and prejudices and whims and aversions.
One thing for sure - Thursday was not a good day for the English-speaking soccer countries: Australia 1 vote, England 2 votes, and the USA soundly beaten by Qatar. Is there any significance to that language factor? Again - who knows? There might be. While English is the legally official language of FIFA, it is evidently not the language that holds sway in the FIFA corridors of power.
It has been pretty clear for some time now that the English have not been particularly good at making friends on the international soccer circuit (clear to everyone except the English, that is). They spent a fortune - over £15 million - and collected just two votes (and one of that pair was from the English ExCo member Geoff Thompson). This was pretty exactly a re-run of what they did in 2000, when a $15 million bid process also resulted in only two votes.
Nothing has changed there, then - for the English, not even the ridiculous wheeling out of Prince William helped - a demonstration of obnoxious royal snobbery that may actually have had a negative effect (in which case it got what it deserved).
One might say the same for former president Bill Clinton’s involvement in the U.S. bid. His boring speech was not one of the highlights of the U.S. presentation.
But it is evidently the accepted wisdom that trundling the big names forward is what is required. Not soccer names, of course, but really big names from politics or showbiz.
Well, that didn’t work, obviously. David Beckham did better than any of them. I have not been a great fan of Beckham’s, but his genuine personality, his soccer sincerity, his just plain down-to-earth regular-guy qualities made him a hugely welcome presence. But FIFA politics didn’t pay any attention to him, either.
Nor were they impressed with Gulati’s meticulously presented catalogue of the financial benefits of an American World Cup. One can pause to wonder about that. Do the Americans also suffer -- like the English -- from simply being too strong, a situation that antagonizes less fortunate nations? Of course they do. Beware of Americans bearing gifts probably sums up that attitude quite well.
So, if FIFA politics was not interested in money (can that be right?), or politics, or royalty, what the hell was it interested in? Simply in doing something different? In taking the World Cup where it had never been before?
Possibly that is the truth of the matter. And that’s not at all an unworthy aim. We can pause at that point, to lodge an objection - one that once again completely clouds any attempt to understand how this voting worked. OK, Russia (representing Eastern Europe) and Qatar (representing the Middle East) are new frontiers for the World Cup -- but they also happen to be the two big spenders among the bidders. That is particularly true of Qatar. Hence the accusation that, in the end, money was all that mattered -- and that Qatar has “bought” the World Cup.
It has. Not in the sense that it has bribed voters, for we have no reason to doubt the validity of the voting. But Qatar has proved (rather as South Korea did when it money-muscled its way into a share-agreement with Japan for the 2002 tournament) that spending lavishly on the bid process can be made to pay off.
Is there anything reprehensible about “buying” a World Cup? Not that I can see -- and anyway, even if there were, the ultra-capitalist USA should be last country to complain about it.
I must point out that, as far the details of the Qatar bid go, we’ve been here before. The Qataris have, at the moment, just three stadiums. Their bid says they will build nine new stadiums. Back in 1988, during another bidding vote, Sepp Blatter (who was then FIFA’s general secretary) explained why a bid from Morocco had not succeeded ... because, he said, it was all on paper, the Moroccans “presented only two stadiums, beyond that only plans ... the World Cup is not a development program.” Ironically, the country that won that bidding vote was the USA.
But now the World Cup is a development program. With Qatar doing the developing, building stadiums (none of them exactly huge -- they all seem to have a maximum capacity of 45,000) for which the country will have little use once the World Cup is over. Hence Qatar’s remarkable suggestion that it can ship the stadiums off to poorer countries (which means almost anywhere) where the super technology would be of great help. Fanciful? I suppose so, but it might not seem that way in 2022.
Come to that, no one knows what will be happening, either technologically or politically, in 2022. Not even this strange abstraction “FIFA politics” can guarantee anything. But to condemn the FIFA decision on that basis makes no sense. The vote, so far as we can see, was an honest vote, if a rather difficult one to understand.
The USA tried its best -- just as England did -- and lost. For the mighty USA to have been beaten, or worse to have been out-spent, by tiny Qatar may prove difficult for some to digest. But the reasons for the USA’s loss had little to do with the merits of its bid, which I have no reason to doubt, was an excellent one.
The USA lost, I fear, for two reasons that are easy to identify, but impossible to define. It lost because it is the USA -- a fact that automatically engenders hostility among some who resent its power; and it lost because it is not Qatar, because it is not in the Middle East, because it represents nothing new. Qatar does mean new challenges -- the same challenges that Morocco wanted take up in 1988. Morocco was scorned, but Qatar got its timing right.
Well, maybe there is a third reason, one that the USA should be able to understand -- it was out-spent and maybe even out-maneuvered on the PR front. But I do not believe there could have been success for Qatar without those first two unchangeable facts.
All of which is clever post facto thinking. Obviously, if the USA had realized all of that beforehand, it would not have bothered to submit a bid.
Did FIFA get this one right? Who knows. In fact, the matter of being either right or wrong will only be decided after 2022. For the USA there should be no recriminations and no accusations. U.S. Soccer must resist the temptation to subside into a great sulk. The soccer show will go on. It must do.
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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
BRASIL VS FRANCE WED 2-9-11 2 years, 3 months ago #845
THEY PLAY FEB 9, 2011 ESPN 2 2PM
ROONEY GOAL 2.12.11 2 years, 3 months ago #850
the link below is to the rooney goal on sat feb 12, 2011.
Happy Days Are Here Again! Thanks to Rooney and young Brazilians
By Paul Gardner
Just this once I'm going to rank English soccer ahead of Brazilian and give Wayne Rooney pride of place in the weekend's soccer happenings for his superb goal against Manchester City.
It’s being described, repeatedly, in the British press as a bicycle kick, but it certainly was nothing of the sort. An overhead volley, for sure, but not a bicycle kick. What then? Well, we’ll call it a Rooney, for the moment -- because the spectacular effort owed everything to a few seconds of wonderful inventiveness turned into astonishing gymnastic action and climaxing in a searing shot and a goal. And not just any old goal, as it happens, but the winning goal in a tense local derby -- the goal that might well have sealed the EPL title for ManU.
A true bicycle would have seen a quick, elegant pedaling movement giving birth to the shot, followed by a smooth landing by Rooney. But Rooney has never been an elegant player -- his talent rests on muscular athleticism, and all of that came through with amazing force as Rooney launched himself skyward, threw up his right leg and met the ball almost perfectly.
I have a photo of the crucial moment in front of me. There is nothing pretty about it. Awkward, yes, but pretty, no. Rooney’s body is twisted, one leg points upward, the other dangles, the left arm is lowered, the right is outstretched -- this does not look like anything that could be practiced or rehearsed. And I’m sure it never has been.
English players do not specialize in bicycle kicks (in fact, the only one I can recall who perfected the action was Scottish rather than English -- Denis Law). But here was Rooney inventing, in a flash, his own not-too-silky version, and giving us a moment of sheer soccer genius, breathtaking to watch, a goal that no one who’s seen it -- and by now, who hasn’t seen it? -- is ever going to forget.
And so, to second place Brazil. On Saturday Brazil beat Uruguay 6-0 with a rollicking display of wonderful-to-watch soccer. Soccer full of artistry, trickery, beauty, nuances and subtleties allied with strength and speed, dazzling individual displays bursting forth repeatedly from a matrix of clever and satisfying team play.
For me, that all adds up to the real Brazil, the magicians of The Beautiful Game. Yet these were really only apprentices, not masters -- this was the Brazilian under-20 team, on its way to being crowned under-20 champions of South America, and qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics, and this year’s U-20 World Cup. The Sorcerers’ Apprentices.
This final game, this demolition of Uruguay -- and I can only say poor Uruguay, they didn’t deserve this -- was a revelation. Sure, Brazil had been winning and scoring goals -- its record going into this game was 8 games played, with 6 wins, one tie and one loss. The loss -- inevitably -- being to archrival Argentina by the minimum 1-0 scoreline.
After that loss, one wondered: Was this free-scoring Brazilian team going to founder because it was not paying enough attention to defending? It was scoring over 2 goals per game, while giving up nearly 1 goal per game. That one goal doesn’t sound like a big deal, but winning teams these days usually manage to keep that figure closer to 0.5.
But these 20-year-olds stuck to their style, a risk-taking attacking style, and against Uruguay -- poor Uruguay, I repeat -- everything worked superbly. And the Beautiful Game was accomplished despite a heavy, rain-soaked, cut-up field that looked anything but beautiful.
The boy to watch -- he celebrated his 19th birthday during the tournament -- was Neymar, from Santos. We’d seen him, last year, playing for the senior team, tying the U.S. defenders in knots. All the opponents in this tournament knew about him, none of them could stop him. He ended as the top scorer, with 9 goals, none better than the final one of the four he scored against Paraguay -- a smooth run, ending with a perfect chip over the goalkeeper ... Messi himself could not have done it better.
Against Uruguay, Neymar was actually outshone by Lucas, a short, stocky, muscular No. 10 whose forceful running and dribbling and deadly right-footed finishing earned him a hat trick.
Six times the boys from Brazil celebrated with some silly dancing routine -- but six times we got to see those radiant smiling faces, and nothing lights a soccer field up more than the real Brazilian game, and Brazilian smiles.
Of course this wasn’t a two-man show: the lanky fullback Danilo scored an impudent goal, while midfielders Fernando and Casemiro kept the game flowing with timely tackles and intelligent passing; Willian was nominally a forward -- he looked the part, played with considerable skill and verve, yet didn’t find the net too often, though he was usually involved in the buildup to the scoring. From the skinny Oscar came a soccer intelligence that his bright inquisitive eyes suggested. And, if you’re interested, they played a 4-4-2. Sort of. Maybe it was a 4-3-2-1, or sometimes a 4-3-1-2. Fluid, in other words. But above all, free-wheeling, with players enjoying themselves.
No, it didn’t have the almost unreal efficiency of Barcelona -- things broke down a bit too often for that. But it did have something that Barcelona -- or indeed any pro team -- does not, can not, have ... the enthusiasm and the unrestrained eagerness of youth.
Coach Ney Franco -- about whom I know very little -- no doubt deserves the highest praise for creating the organization necessary for team play, but not stifling the kids’ individuality and enthusiasm in the process.
I hope we shall see more of this merry band in action during the U-20 World Cup in Colombia this summer. In the Olympics, sadly, things will be different. That is an under-23 tournament, plus a couple of over-age players, so the chances are high that most of these boys will be replaced by older players. But for now, we’ve been shown that the spirit of the old, glorious Brazil is still alive, among the boys.
We can draw the conclusion that the modern game, the grownup game, finds the boys’ tactical fluidity too undisciplined, their all-out offensive play too risky, and their joyous spirit simply too immature. How utterly sad. This is, after all, supposed to be a game, isn’t it?
SHAKHTAR AND BARCELONA ADVANCE!! 2 years, 2 months ago #863
SHAKHTAR DEFEATS ROMA 3-0 IN UEFA CHAPIONS LEAGUE TO MOVE ON TO ROUND OF 8!! WILLIAN HAD 1 GOAL 1 ASSIST , HUBSCHMAN 1 GOAL, AND EDUARDO HAD A GOAL.
BARCALONA ALSO DEFEATS ARSENAL 3-1 TO ADVANCE. YOU CAN WATC THE BARCA MATCH TONIGHT (WED) AT 7PM ON FOX SPORTS MIDWEST
Re: INTERNATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL FUTEBOL 1 year, 12 months ago #979
Does It Matter Any More?
By Paul Gardner
Seven years ago the tiny state of Qatar (population: 1.7 million, about that of Philadelphia) jumped into the soccer headlines. A country that small -- especially one with no soccer tradition -- really doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of developing a competitive national team. Not to worry -- the Qataris came up with a plan to help ensure that its national team qualified for the 2006 World Cup.
Some found the plan daring and innovative, to others it was outrageous and disgraceful. The Qataris would find good foreign players and simply naturalize them overnight into Qatari citizens. It was announced that three Brazilian players, ignored by their own country, were about to become Qatari citizens. The implication was that more would follow.
Those who were shocked at the move had simply not been paying attention. Qatar already had a national team full of naturalized players. Its coach was Frenchman Philippe Troussier, who let it be known that naturalizing foreigners was probably the only way that Qatar was ever going to qualify for the World Cup finals.
He was wrong about that -- Qatar has since found another way to qualify -- but the argument about players switching their nationality rages on. FIFA used to have pretty stringent rules about this: if you’d ever played for one country, at any age level, that was it -- you couldn’t switch allegiance. The regulation was simply too harsh to be implemented without obvious unfairness, so in 2006 it was relaxed, allowing players to switch countries up to the age of 21, regardless of which country they may have played for before that.
Qatar saw a loophole and jumped in. FIFA, aghast at what it saw as abuse of its own ruling, nixed the Qatari plan. There would be no “overnight” citizenship for soccer players -- a residency of at least two years would be required for soccer eligibility. Qatar, of course, did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
But the problem did not go away. After that World Cup, Sepp Blatter -- having noticed a sprinkling of naturalized Brazilians on various national teams (Alessandro Santos with Japan, Antonio Naelsen with Mexico, Clayton with Tunisia, Deco with Portugal, Marcos Senna with Spain) -- professed to be alarmed at what he saw as an “invasion” of Brazilians -- “If we don't take care about the invaders from Brazil,” he warned, future World Cups might see as many as 16 finalists “full of Brazilian players. It is a danger, a real, real danger.”
Blatter’s exaggerations aside -- there were, after all, those who felt that the advent of more Brazilian-style soccer would improve the World Cup -- controversy still swirls around the issue of a player’s nationality, or allegiance, even of his patriotism. But the question raised these days is rather different: people are asking whether it’s that big a deal ... does it really matter?
The idea of a naturalized player is now generally accepted -- the problem has moved on, it is now a matter of the number of such players any team should carry. The most convincing evidence comes from club soccer that -- so international has it become -- has almost rendered the matter of nationality academic.
The situation in England offers the most dramatic evidence. This season’s champion, Manchester United, has as two of its top players, captain Nemanja Vidic, a Serb, and goalscorer Chicharito Hernandez, who is Mexican; other regular starters include French, Korean, Brazilian, Bulgarian and Dutch players. When neighbors Manchester City won this year’s FA Cup, the winning goal was scored by Yaya Toure, from Ivory Coast, and the captain who lifted up the trophy was the Argentine Carlos Tevez.
Arsenal’s French coach Arsene Wenger has repeatedly fielded teams without a single English player. There has been no uprising by the Arsenal faithful. Well, not yet, that is. Arsenal has not been winning, and a losing record might engender a scapegoat-ish version of xenophobia.
While club fans are clearly prepared to accept foreign players (winning ones, that is), national teams still pose something of a problem. The repeated calls -- in England and other European countries -- for a limit to be placed on foreign players have, at their base, the fear that too many foreign players in the domestic league must, inevitably, lead to a weakening of the country’s national team, if only because native players will then have fewer chances to play regularly.
One can point to England’s poor international record for support of that idea, but the reasoning is highly unconvincing because England’s record has never been good, including the distant days when foreigners were virtually non-existent in English soccer.
Conversely Italy, which started importing players back in the 1930s, has an international record that includes four World Cup titles. Spain -- the current world champion -- has a league in which nearly one in five of the players are foreigners.
Built into the national eligibility debate is another thorny problem -- that of dual citizenship, that allows players to choose which country they want to play for. This is one to keep your eye on because the USA, as a heavily immigrant country, produces many young players with dual citizenship (in soccer terms, a choice between their country of birth, the USA, or that of their parents) and would therefore seem particularly vulnerable to losing players who have grown up in this country -- a case in point is Giuseppe Rossi, born and raised in New Jersey, but who chose to represent Italy.
Qatar will shortly, no doubt, re-enter the argument as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. With qualification assured, the aim of the Qataris now becomes that of putting together a team that will uphold the country’s honor during the tournament proper. In addition to its fabulous wealth, the country also has 11 years to fashion the team.
That’s not enough time to suddenly produce a string of star Qatari players. But it’s plenty of time within which to begin naturalizing foreign players. More than enough time to make a mockery of FIFA’s two-year residency requirement, and probably enough to get around any new regulations that FIFA may come up with.
FIFA’s obvious move would be to place a limit -- a quota -- on the number of naturalized citizens any national team can have. But that would pose a difficulty. It is an accepted fact that a competitive host team greatly buoys the excitement of a World Cup. So why would FIFA pass a regulation, clearly aimed at Qatar -- the country that FIFA itself voted in as host -- that would severely hamper Qatar’s ability to organize a successful World Cup?
It seems unlikely that many of the players on the Qatar team that will take the field in 2022 will list their birthplace as Qatar. Like it or not, the strict country-of-birth requirement that used to rule national-team eligibility is already a thing of the past. Is Blatter’s personal nightmare of the Brazilians At The Gates moving ever nearer?
Bribery scandal benefits Blatter 1 year, 12 months ago #981
Bribery scandal benefits Blatter
by Paul Kennedy, May 25th, 2011 12:54AM
[MY VIEW] Will the USA get a second bite at the apple? FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn't rule out the possibility of a re-vote in the wake of the continuing investigation into Qatar's victory in the race to host the 2022 World Cup.
Not much about FIFA's politics is unscripted, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that Blatter already knows what evidence the whistle-blower, a former Qatar bid committee employee, has.
The whistle-blower's lawyers were reported to be negotiating with FIFA over the terms of their client's testimony -- expected to be given on Wednesday -- regarding charges that FIFA executive committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma collected $1.5 million each for their votes in the 13-9 victory Qatar over the USA in the final round of secret balloting Dec. 2 in Zurich.
Both Hayatou and Anouma say they're innocent, and the Qatari organizers issued a 1,700-word statement, blasting the "distressing, insulting and incomprehensible" allegations of bribery made by the Sunday Times last week to British Parliament.
It should be noted that the Sunday Times reporters did not publish the report itself, presumably for fear of a libel suit.
The Qataris aimed their attack on the messengers, the Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists in their undercover investigation that led to the suspension of two other FIFA executive committee members last fall.
“They do not state when the alleged bribes were to be paid, how the negotiations with the individuals concerned had been conducted or crucially how they came to know of the alleged bribes,” Qatar’s bid committee said in its statement. “On any proper view, their evidence is worthless.”
We'll know soon enough what evidence the whistle-blower has of meetings where the bribes were supposed to have been discussed.
To strip Qatar of its 2022 hosting rights would solve a very practical problem for FIFA: holding the 2022 World Cup in the Qatari summer.
But it would require that the bribery charges stick, which would mean that Hayatou and Anouma would also have to take the fall.
That would be a shocking turn of events as Blatter just came back from South Africa, where he won support of the leadership of the African Soccer Confederation that Hayatou heads in his battle for re-election as FIFA president against his lone challenger, Qatari Mohammed bin Hammam.
But the lingering controversy has already had a more immediate effect. It's all but ruined bin Hammam's chances in the June 1 election.
Blatter linked Guinean Amadou Diallo, accused of acting as a go-between in the alleged bribery of Hayatou and Anouma, to the Goal Bureau, a FIFA development project once headed by bin Hammam.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke went so far as to dismiss reports that bin Hammam had been asked to withdraw his candidacy in wake of the scandal.
Valcke's dismissal got more coverage that the initial reports themselves.
And left the bumbling bin Hammam on the defensive, yet another Blatter challenger headed to defeat
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