April 15, 2014

The Meaning of Hillsborough 25 Years on

25 years ago today, 96 Liverpool fans died at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, asphyxiated following a crush in a spectator pen at the Leppings Lane end of the ground. 766 fans in total were injured, 300 of whom required hospitalisation.

The Liverpool v Nottingham Forest F.A. Cup semi-final was abandoned barely six minutes into the match as a tragedy of horrific proportions was unfolding across England's airwaves.

The aftermath was extraordinary, with an entire nation momentarily convulsed by the senseless carnage. English football came to a standstill, and Liverpool's manager and players said it felt impossible to continue playing the season after such a tragedy.

Although the whole country was touched in sympathy, the playing-out of the disaster was particularly Northern, involving three cities born of the 19th century industrial revolution: Liverpool, Nottingham and Sheffield. The blood spilt was largely working-class and in the resulting tableau football still flew the flag of the people's religion, a remnant of close-knit solidarity in a post-industrial age.

In an age of increasing individualism and dying collectivism, those Liverpool supporters wore the same colours, sang the same songs, surged into the ground together and were crushed and died as one. And Merseyside's very public reaction to the deaths - a tapestry of flags and scarves, packed cathedrals and wailing families, was decidedly Victorian in its sensibility.

Had the tragedy occurred in London or the South of England the mourning would have been more private and curtailed. Yet this cultural nuance was lost on some right-wing Southerners, such as conservative commentator Simon Heffer, who was angry at the victims' relatives and boldly claimed that "Liverpool fans were killed by the thuggishness and ignorance of other Liverpool fans."

Sunday Times writer Edward Pearce opined, "The shrine in the Anfield goalmouth, the cursing of the police, all the theatricals, come sweetly to a city which is already the world capital of self-pity."

Britain's best selling tabloid The Sun, prompted by Conservative M.P. Irvine Patnick, went further and claimed that dying Liverpool fans had been stolen from, sexually assaulted and urinated upon by their comrades, in a notorious front-page splash entitled "The Truth."

The then government was hardly football-friendly, considering its rowdy supporters a nuisance at best and a national disgrace at worst. Until the Taylor Report into Hillsborough destroyed its credibility, a scheme to force all fans to carry special I.D. cards was being planned.

The sports minister hastily despatched to Sheffield was the diminutive and shrill former rowing cox Colin Moynihan, whose clipped accent and private school background could scarcely have made him less qualified to understand northern football culture.

Although government ministers hurried to be photographed in Sheffield, the Thatcher administration's cultural distancing was laid bare, confirming many a suspicion it did not really care about the Northern cities, whose allegiances it had assumed to belong to the opposition.

Liverpool was a decidedly left-wing place, but with a special history that set it apart from the rest of the country. With quick access to the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, its deep-water harbour meant that since the 1800s it had become a working city of docks, cranes, ships and ocean liners. It had long been used to African and Irish immigration, lived off transatlantic trade including slavery and managed a religious divide unique for an English city.

While the Beatles made the Scouse accent famous across the world, the docks were starting to close and by 1989 Liverpool was reeling in the social wreckage left by industrial collapse. Nottingham and Sheffield had also witnessed decline but still profited from the labour of coal-miners, whom the Prime Minister had dubbed "The Enemy Within" during their bitter conflict a few years earlier.

The people of Liverpool had no option but to take control of the situation: Anfield became a sea of scarves and flowers of condolence, a charity single topped the charts and an appeal raised £12 million. Whatever the divisions, the nation appeared to come together in grief and consolation in a fleeting return to the spirit of the Blitz. There is thus some nostalgia for what was a famous cultural moment of the 1980s, a decade when politics and identity really mattered.

Football fans felt a particular brotherhood, and I well remember collections at grounds for the appeal.

When the semi-final itself was eventually replayed in Manchester, a surreal atmosphere enveloped the occasion, with Nottingham Forest coach Brian Clough admitting before kick-off his team was in "a no-win situation". Forest manfully respected the nobility of the sport by trying to win, but Kenny Dalglish's side was in a rabid mood, exorcising their demons as they tore into Clough's team, eventually winning 3-1 before lifting the cup itself in May.

Wembley dismantled its hated fences for that game, and across the nation, the cages which had imprisoned supporters like animals since the 1970s were taken down, never to return. Such was the feeling of catharsis after Hillsborough that English soccer hooliganism lost its appeal and would never dictate the direction of the national sport again. It was undoubtedly a watershed.

Justice Taylor's report analysed the tragedy precisely, yet drew the controversial conclusion, having been egged on by the Football Association, that installing all-seater stadia was the way forward, when standing can be perfectly safe, as German football proves today. The conversion of the nation's grounds to all-seated arenas began in earnest, initially aided by F.A. grants and later by the windfall of TV money from Rupert Murdoch's Sky.

Fans argued against the death of the terraces on phone-ins and in print, yet were powerless to prevent the transformation. English stadia certainly became safer as a result of Hillsborough and would never be again the "medieval fortresses" which had horrified Taylor, yet the sport lost an extraordinary atmosphere to be mourned ever after by the 'terrace generation'.

It is a mistake, as is often claimed, to argue that the Taylor Report and by extension Hillsborough helped midwife the Premier League. Technology had made satellite TV possible and a number of companies spotted there was a gap in the market for regular live football. As England's No.1 sport, football was always going to be snapped up by the highest bidder, all-seat stadia or no.

25 years later, the fulsome tributes to the 96 victims are a measure of the emotional strength of Liverpool as a city and football's undimmed power to unite, while the new inquest is a pertinent reminder of the immense and unresolved pain the tragedy caused.

The new age of the Premier League since 1993, along with its 'year zero' statistics erasing what came before means some may look on Hillsborough as an embarrassing detail of the past, or a merely local issue. Yet Liverpool fans' refusal to forget while the team returns as a force heading for this year's title, and perhaps the personal connection of skipper Steven Gerrard, who lost a cousin that day, has meant Hillsborough remains a hot topic in English football in 2014.

What remains frustratingly unresolved a quarter of a century on is the blame for it all. While some tried and failed to smear the supporters, the police's handling of the event, the design and maintenance of the stadium and the actions of the emergency services have never come under proper scrutiny.

The persistent campaign of 'Justice for the 96' never died down, and finally bore fruit a couple of years ago. In September 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which had been formed the year before, exonerated the fans of any blame and reported that an astonishing 116 witness statements had been doctored by the police. It also concluded up to 41 of the 96 lives could have been saved had the emergency services been properly prepared.

At the end of 2012, the initial verdicts of accidental death were quashed by the Lord Chief Justice and a fresh inquest was launched, which is hearing testimony as we speak. Amid the commemoration of an unspeakable loss, the fusion of football and religion which filled Anfield today reminds us of the healing powers of community and friendship, and at the heart of that memory burns a defiant flame of justice undimmed by time.

Trevor Hicks, the highest-profile campaigner, who lost two daughters at Hillsborough,  had told the inquest earlier this week,

"To lose both your children is devastating, It's not that it's twice as bad, it's that you lose everything, the present, the future, any purpose."

Today he reminded the thousands gathered in the stadium today how strong they had all been:

 "We stuck together," he said. "We pulled, we pushed, and we refused to lie down. We refused to go away."

Following the failure of a number of private prosecutions against the South Yorkshire Police, the release of a number of previously withheld documents could finally see those negligent that fateful afternoon face justice.

Only then will the families and friends of the dead feel public vindication, although their personal losses will remain, tied to an unforgettable date:

The 15th of April 1989.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


Baggies Fans To Protest Pathetic Ticket Prices

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Angry West Bromwich Albion fans are to stage a protest against ticket prices in their match against Manchester City on Monday night. A 30ft long banner will show “£56 Daylight Robbery” will be the focal point of the protest. The game, which is also on Easter Monday is to be televised live on Sky Sports. Despite this, Manchester City who ironically staged a similar protest in a match against Arsenal earlier this season are charging Baggies fans an astonishing £56. Former West Brom kitman Pat Frost, the banner organiser said that is time fans show the frustration at rising ticket prices: “You’ve got to drawn the line somewhere… I normally travel with the missus and two kids but if you’re doing by the time you’ve paid to get there and for food etc, then it ends up at £220 for a night out which a lot of people can’t do.”

One of the most peculiar aspects of the £56 price tag is that last year, West Brom took less than 500 fans in their previous visit to the Etihad last season. This game was also played midweek, near to the end of a season, yet I purchased a ticket worth £42. Manchester City may argue that this game is likely to play a big part in deciding where the Premier League title will go, this is despite the fact that City will still have a further 2 games to play at home. Even so, why should West Brom fans pay the price for a ‘title decider’ in which they are not involved in, this is along with the fact that fans of teams lower down in the league table don’t have that much care for who wins the title!

Along with that, after looking at several train companies websites I found out that the last train from Manchester to Birmingham is at 10:10pm. The match starts at 8pm, meaning it will finish around 9:55pm, leaving no time for fans to get back home! Of course this point is irrelevant for fans who go on the official coaches that the club put on for them, but how about people who work 9 till 5 and can only get a train to the match?

As touched on earlier, the game is televised on Sky Sports meaning Man City as a whole will gain more money through television rather than income from ticket prices.

I will not be attending this match, not because I lack loyalty to my beloved West Brom, not because my University assignments are filling up my time, not because I know we will most likely be battered all game, but because of these ludicrous ticket prices.

You can either boycott this game, or support Pat Frost’s banner idea. My point still stands, £56 for a match on Easter Monday that is additionally being televised is a complete farce and whatever fans do to try and change this obsession with income in football as a whole can not be a bad thing.

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April 14, 2014

La Liga Round-Up: Granada Stun Barca

The post La Liga Round-Up: Granada Stun Barca appeared first on FootyBlog.net

A shocking defeat for Barcelona has left them trailing in the hunt for the La Liga title. With Atletico Madrid in unstoppable form, and their Madrid rivals Real recently rediscovering their free scoring touch, Barcelona are now on the back foot with just five games of the season to go.

On paper it seemed routine for Barcelona to travel to Granada and return with the three points, however their hosts had other ideas, and Brahimi struck inside the first 20 minutes of the match. The goal stunned Barca, and a response failed to materialise for the thousands of nervous onlooking fans, fully aware of the developments at the Bernabeu.

Di Maria’s tight angled finish before the half hour mark sent Madrid in with a single goal advantage, and no doubt they would have been buoyed to hear of Barca trailing by the same scoreline. In the second half, Madrid made the game theirs, with Bale and Isco scoring two goals in the space of three minutes, and Morata put the game to bed with 5 minutes to go to sweep aside a struggling Almeria side.

Atletico Madrid would have no doubt been watching the action from the day before, and knew what they had to do as they entered their Sunday game away at Getafe. Atletico were already one goal to the good before Lafita saw red for their opponents, and thus making Atletico’s task a little bit easier as Diego Costa then secured the three points late on.

So what do these results mean for the table? Atletico hold now a three point advantage at the top of the league on 82 points. Following them, Real Madrid on 79 and Barcelona now lose ground in third on 78 points. Remember, despite Barcelona having the superior goal difference, it is head to head form that is the deal breaker in this league, separating those on even points if such an occurrence was to materialise.

At the wrong end of the table, none of the bottom three teams (Betis, Almeria and Getafe) benefitted from playing European chasing opposition. And a draw between Osasuna and Valladolid on the Friday night won’t hugely benefit themselves either, although it is another point added to the 2 point slim gap between 17th and 18th places. Granada’s win over Barcelona does now though place them in a much healthier looking 13th place, 6 points adrift of the relegation zone.


Friday 11th April

Osasuna 0 Valladolid 0

Saturday 12th April

Celta Vigo 2 Real Sociedad 2
(Agudo Duran pen.37, Aurtenetxe so.48, Mina Lorenzo 82, Canales 8, Griezmann 43)

Villarreal 1 Levante 0
(Perbet 90+5)

Granada 1 Barcelona 0
(Brahimi 19)

Real Madrid 4 Almería 0
(Di Maria 28, Bale 53, Isco 56, Morata 85)

Sunday 13th April

Real Betis 0 Sevilla 2
(Perez Lopez so.27, Gameiro pen.30, 82)

Valencia 2 Elche 1
(Piatti 22, Parejo 61, Barragnan so.90+3, Corominas 28)

Getafe CF 0 Atlético Madrid 2
(Lafita so.64, Godin 40, Diego Costa 84)

Espanyol 2 Rayo 2
(Stuani 3, Colotto 88, Falque 43, Larrivey 50)

Monday 14th April

Athletic v Málaga (21:00)


1 Atlético Madrid 33 26 4 3 72 22 50 82
2 Real Madrid 33 25 4 4 94 32 62 79
3 Barcelona 33 25 3 5 92 27 65 78
4 Athletic Bilbao 32 17 8 7 55 35 20 59
5 Sevilla 33 16 8 9 61 47 14 56
6 Villarreal 33 15 7 11 52 38 14 52
7 Real Sociedad 33 14 9 10 56 50 16 50
8 Valencia 33 12 8 13 46 46 0 44
9 Espanyol 33 11 8 14 37 42 -5 41
10 Levante 33 10 10 13 30 41 -11 40
11 Málaga 32 10 8 14 35 40 -5 38
12 Celta Vigo 33 10 7 16 36 49 -13 37
13 Granada 33 11 4 18 30 46 -16 37
14 Rayo Vallecano 33 11 4 18 39 71 -32 37
15 Elche 33 8 11 14 27 44 -17 35
16 Osasuna 33 9 7 17 28 53 -25 34
17 Real Valladolid 33 6 14 13 32 50 -18 32
18 Getafe CF 33 8 7 18 29 51 -22 31
19 Almería 33 8 6 19 34 64 -30 30
20 Real Betis 33 5 7 22 28 66 -38 22

Photo via: http://www.rediff.com/sports/slide-show/slide-show-1-la-liga-photos-barca-losing-momentum-after-shock-loss-at-granada-real-win/20140413.htm

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History Tells Us That Brazil May Not Actually Be Favorites for 2014 World Cup

World Cup 2014, Brazil
With the 2014 World Cup taking place in the warm confines of Brazil this summer, many experts and fans alike have basically come to the consensus that this the Brazilian World Cup to lose.

The host nation has an incredibly talented squad, a pure striker in Neymar who is ready to burst on the international scene, and a pride that is simply unmatched by any other soccer nation on the planet. In front of their vibrant home fans, the Brazilians should stroll to glory!

But one thing that might actually crush this blind hope is a little trip down memory lane. 2014 will actually be the second time that Brazil has hosted a World Cup, with the first edition coming in 1950. That year was also supposed to be a resounding victory for the host country of Brazil, but instead, it became a great soccer tragedy widely known as the "Maracanazo".

The 1950 World Cup was a strange one in many ways. Because of World War II, the event had not been held since 1938, and by 1950 there were many famous soccer teams that took no part in the tournament, including France, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Turkey. Nevertheless the tournament would go on, and still did contain some famous contenders like Italy, Spain, Uruguay, England, the United States, Mexico, and Yugoslavia.

Another strange quality to the 1950 World Cup was the organization. Because of teams dropping out, only 14 teams participated, and one of the 4 groups contained just Uruguay and Bolivia. But Brazil had a group they could dominate, featuring Mexico, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.Brazil certainly liked their chances, but with the event having not occurred in over a decade, it was hard to place a finger on any favorites.

That all changed in the first game between Brazil and Mexico. Brazil won 4-0 thanks in large part to a brace by the fantastic striker at that time Ademir. Although a draw with Switzerland was not ideal, Brazil pushed on to the final round with a win over Yugoslavia, Ademir again scoring a goal! The final round would be a round robin affair with the 4 group winners taking part.Spain and Sweden both won their groups, while Uruguay turned a few heads with an 8-0 rout of Bolivia, but were still seen as outsiders.

In the final round, Brazil again opened strongly. They routed Sweden 7-1 (Ademir with a hat trick) and trounced Spain 6-1. Other potent Brazilians from this team included Cico and Zizinho, and they played beautiful soccer that wowed the spectators. Meanwhile, Uruguay struggled. They could only draw 2-2 against Spain and barely beat Sweden 3-2 with a late goal by Miguez. Heading into the last match, Brazil was a team on fire and needed just a draw to be crowned champions. Uruguay looked shaky at best and needed to win.

The days leading up to the match were a party for Brazilian fans who had already declared themselves as champions. The worldwide press agreed with these sentiments. A special song was being composed for the soccer team of Brazil, FIFA president Jules Rimet had a speech written in Portuguese for the impending "winners", and victorious medals had already been assembled for the Brazilian players. Everyone seemed to forget the simple fact that there was still a soccer match to be played.

On the morning of the final game, Uruguay captain Obdulio Varela collected a batch of newspapers (all declaring Brazil to be the World Cup champions) and brought them forth to his teammates, instructing them to pee on them!  In the dressing room, he brought forth a rousing speech, urging his players to not be intimidated by their opponents and go forth with an offensive strategy.

This famously contradicted with the views of the Uruguayan coach Juan Lopez, who had wished for his players to defend. But the players then had to march into a stadium filled with nearly 200,000 roaring fans, nearly all of which supported Brazil. It was the largest crowd for a soccer match in history!

Something tells me that such a monstrous crowd may have actually played to the favor of Uruguay. Due to all the pre-match hype and declarations of glory, Brazil was under immense pressure.  For such a proud soccer country, they had yet to actually attain the World Cup, and in front of their fans this was supposed to be their coronation. Even the mightiest of contenders can falter under such circumstances!

The match began tensely as this weight was firmly upon their Brazilian shoulders. At half time the score was still tied 0-0 and Uruguay was gaining hope that they could snatch victory. But Brazil scored early in the second half and the party was full on!  Friaca had broken through and beat the keeper, sending the crowds into frenzied celebrations.
Varela played a typical soccer stall tactic and began arguing a nonexistent offside call.  Eventually the crowd had settled from their cheers due to the delay and the game continued.  This move may have been the vital act that prevented an all-out trouncing from occurring.
Uruguay then took command of the game and played with an immense spirit beyond what people thought was capable. Schiaffino and Ghiggia both scored goals as the half winded down, and by the time of the final whistle, Uruguay had become the champions!
An eerie silence descended upon the stadium. There was no presentation for Uruguay simply because no one had thought they would win. The trophy was merely placed in Varela’s hands as the stadium began to empty.  Despair was widespread throughout Brazil as people failed to believe their eyes.  There were even reports of fans committing suicide!  The horror became known as the "Maracanazo" and Brazilian football would never again be the same. Players were booted from the team permanently. They even discarded their white uniforms forever, taking on the current yellow home jerseys. In essence, it was a national tragedy! So can something of the same sort actually happen now, 64 years removed from this infamous occasion?
You better believe it can! The latest odds makers only mark Brazil as 3/1 favorites to lift the cup. While those odds are the best among the contenders, it would still be less than a 50% certainty that Brazil should take home the title!
Additionally, with so many close competitors like Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and even Uruguay all vying for glory, Brazil will have an even tougher task at winning the World Cup than they did in 1950.
In some way, I could even see Uruguay completing the feat once again.  They have top class strikers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and I am sure that they are being reminded regularly about that famous triumph in 1950.
However, this 2014 World Cup progress, we can be certain of one thing.  This will be no cake walk for Brazil!

© Nicholas Spiller & Soccerphile.com

Nicholas Spiller is the editor of the soccer site Sport Spiller


April 13, 2014

Liverpool Title Favorites After Seeing Off City

In one of the most enthralling games of the Premier League season, Liverpool took the box seat in the title race with a 3-2 win over Manchester City.

On a day when Anfield remembered the 96 people who perished in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago, Liverpool took a 2-0 half-time lead through Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel.


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April 10, 2014

Atleti Dreams Turning Into A Reality

They've now beaten both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season and on Wednesday Atletico Madrid's dream of an unlikely Champions League and La Liga double moved a step closer to reality.


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March 31, 2014

Can German Legend Break Incredible World Cup Record?

Back in the penultimate game of the 2010 World Cup, a desperate Miroslav Klose sat prone on the bench during Germany's 3-2 third place playoff win over Uruguay, with the striker just one goal shy of equaling Brazilian striker Ronaldo's all-time World Cup goal scoring record of 15.


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March 24, 2014

Socceroos Boss Closing On World Cup Squad

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has an important job. It is he who has been tasked with defining the future of Australian soccer and ushering in an exciting new era for the national team.


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March 18, 2014

Another Milestone For Messi

Lionel Messi became Barcelona's record scorer on Sunday as he surpassed Paulino Alcantara's record of 369 goals for the club.

The Argentinean, who has been under par by his lofty standards this season, netted a hat-trick in the 7-0 demolition of Osasuna to take his tally to 371 goals for the club. He is still only 26.


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March 14, 2014

Liverpool Aim to Make Manchester United More Miserable

Manchester United vs Liverpool is never just a walk in the park, and Sunday's meeting between the two most successful teams in the English top flight is arguably the most important in the modern era, with a power shift in the North West very much on the cards.


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March 12, 2014

RVP Heading For Old Trafford Exit Door?

Rumors are abound that Manchester United striker Robin van Persie could be leaving the club this summer.

The Dutchman only joined United from Arsenal in the summer of 2012, and after a terrific first season, which saw him finish as the Premier League's top scorer with 26 goals.


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February 28, 2014

The World Cup: A Look Ahead

I have already started my look ahead to this year's World Cup in Brazil. You can check out analysis, players to watch, squad predictions and tournament predictions by clicking on the links below. The other 16 teams are to come...

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New Dawn For Australia

The regeneration of Australia's national team started in earnest this week as new coach Ange Postecoglou made a raft of changes to his squad ahead of the friendly with Ecuador.

The likes of Lucas Neill, Mark Bresciano, Sasa Ognenovski and Brett Holman have all been omitted for the March 5 clash, while a number of younger players have been called up.


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February 25, 2014

Mourinho Candid About Strikers

Jose Mourinho is said to be annoyed that private, and apparently light-hearted, comments about his strikers have been filmed by French TV station Canal Plus.

Should Mourinho win the title with the Blues this season, he may consider it one of his greatest achievements given that he has been without a world class number 9. Strikers Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have scored just 11 times between them in the Premier League, and it is no secret that Mourinho will be in the market for a striker, come the summer.


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July 29, 2011

Tips for Better Sports Betting

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January 19, 2011

Cricket Betting Tips

Betting on cricket matches and cricket players has been going on for decades. Today there are number of online sites which offer betting services. Most of these sites allow people to place bets on games going on in all the prominent cricket playing countries. In any form of gambling and while placing bets it is important to know what the odds are and what you are up against. Cricket being a

August 28, 2009

Everton v Wigan Saturday Football Line up

On the 30th of August at 1500 hours, Everton will host Wigan at their home ground, the Goodison Park. Starting out, Everton are definitely the favorites, especially since they are the stronger side and they will be playing at home. However, Wigan does have a few tricks up its sleeve, and they will be hoping to win this match and thereby boost their players' confidence. The betting odds are

August 13, 2009

Burnley v Manchester United

Ardent followers of the Premier League will recall how newcomers Burnley managed to pull of incredible victories against seasoned teams like Chelsea and Arsenal last year. Their nascent Premier League ambitions were brutally cut short by Tottenham in the semi finals. Burnley returns to the Premier League this year, having signed up promising Scottish international Steven Fletcher, in the midst of

November 11, 2008

Football Star Beckham in His Element on the Field

David, along with Victoria Beckham, who attended the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, expressed his satisfaction at being accorded a red carpet welcome.A red carpet will not be rolled out for Beckham when he hits the field Saturday night at Giants Stadium where the match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Red Bulls is slated to be

September 14, 2008

MSU’s Success in Football Crucial for Funding Entire Athletic Department

Michigan State University’s last athletic director who took its football team to the prestigious Rose Bowl Stadium was Doug Weaver who in Jan 1988 fulfilled this dream with George Perles, MSU’s football coach that year.Mark Hollis, MSU’s present athletic director is working towards achieving the same after 20years. "The goal is that going into every year, we have that legitimate anticipation that

August 31, 2008

Ancient small-school football rivalry in the south spreads to all sports

With the first gridiron feud between these two Virginia schools starting in 1883, the fact that the rivalry has not ended even after 125 years goes on to prove that this small-school rivalry is probably the oldest in the South.While the college students from Hampden-Sydney celebrated their 24-10 victory in the 100th game over rivals Yellow Jackets from the near Randolph-Macon College, they

August 05, 2008

Russia enjoys the Hiddink revolution

If you have been watching the Euro 2008 championships, you would have noticed the Russian advance through the various stages culminating in their booking a semi-final berth. For a side that was written off not long ago, the very fact that they reached the semi-final is in itself a great achievement. The credit for this amazing turnaround goes to the Russian side and its famous coach, Guus Hiddink

July 24, 2008

Repurposing condoms as soccer socks

Every now and then I read an article that catches me off guard and this is one such piece.

I turns out that the big soccer fashion trend in Cape Town, South Africa, these days is to wear condoms on your feet to keep your socks up.

The need for such an innovated way of using these prophylactics is the result of a lack of proper soccer gear, such as socks with elastic to hold them in place. Since condoms are distributed for free in order to help curb the spreading of HIV, it all makes sense.
Sivuyile Nqawe of the Lingelethu Football Association in Khayelitsha said it was to "ease matters for those who cannot afford expensive brands of football kit on their mission to sharpen their skills to become future soccer stars".

"It is just a creative method and it works to alleviate the situation. You just break a condom packet, grab and stretch it. Then you put it on your leg," Nqawe said.

"You will find that in most instances players bring a box of condoms to a match and share them among teammates for the same purpose."
Another example of necessity being the mother of invention.

FC Dallas might lose Toja to Europe

Is Juan Toja about to play his final match as a MLS player?

Rumor has it that the longhair midfielder will fly to Romania tonight, after the All-Star match, to finish a deal with Romanian powerhouse Steaua Bucharest.

Then again, it is just a rumor. Accord to FCD coach Schellas Hyndman, "I expect him here to play against LA (on Sunday)."

Although this season has not been as strong as the first half of last year, Toja is still a vital part of Dallas's attack. If he does decide to move on to Europe, FCD will have a difficult time replacing him.

Then there is the ongoing speculation that teammate Kenny Cooper might also be soon to fly across the Atlantic. Those rumors have died down of late, but if both of these ended up being true, it is hard to see a way for Dallas to finish the season in a commanding fashion.

Is the face of FC Dallas about to change in a major way? We'll know within a week.

July 09, 2008

A Fitting finale to an Exciting championship

The recently concluded Euro 2008 championships in Switzerland were a resounding success by all accounts. If it was a spectator’s delight watching the scintillating games, it was an organizational and logistical success from the administrator’s point of view as well. The Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid declared on Sunday that "It's been a mega event. The third-biggest sporting event in the

June 10, 2008

Sanchez Happy With Fulham Revival

Although drubbed by Arsenal in the Barclaycard Premier League opener, Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez has hardly any doubts about the strength of his defense. He is the person who has been credited with the revival of the side. Fulham was not in the best of form when he had taken over the mantle of leading the side towards the end of last season.Chris Coleman, the predecessor to Sanchez, was under

April 03, 2008

World Cup History: Sweden

Sweden has already managed to put together a pretty impressive World Cup record. After all, the country has already achieved one final appearance as well as three top four finishes. It will certainly be interesting to see what the country still has to offer.

Sweden first participated in the Cup events in 1934. At this time, they beat Argentina with a score of 3 to 2 during the opening round. They then lost to Germany with a score of 2 to 1 during the quarter finals and the Germans went on to lose to Czechoslovakia with a score of 3 to 1.

After this first tournament, the event moved to France in 1938 and Sweden received a bye for the first round when Austria withdrew from the competition. They went on to beat Cuba with a score of 8 to 0 in the quarter finals and met up against Hungary for the semi-final. Here, they lost with a score of 5 to 1. Hungary went on to lose to Italy in the final, with a score of 4 to 2.

In 1950, Sweden managed to beat Italy with a score of 3 to 2 and then had a 2 to 2 draw against Paraguay. They moved onto the final four, but than lost against Brazil with a score of 7 to 1 and then lost to Uruguay with a score of 3 to 2. Although they did win over Spain with a score of 3 to 1, it simply wasn’t enough for team Sweden to move on.

In 1954, Sweden did not qualify for the tournament, but they hosted the event in 1958. This seemed to bring good luck to the team, as they had the best World Cup performance in the country’s history of the game. First, they beat Mexico with a score of 3 to 0 and then won against Hungary with a score of 2 to 1. The team then had a 0 to 0 draw against Wales and moved on to the quarterfinals. They went on to win against the USSR with a score of 2 to 0 and to beat Yugoslavia with a score of 1 to 0. They ended up making it to the finals and facing Brazil. They couldn’t pull of the win, however, and lost with a 5 to 2 score.

Sweden failed to follow up this good year in a positive way, however, as they failed to qualify for both the 1962 tournament and the 1966 tournament. On the other hand, they did qualify in 1970 and they did win their final group with a score of 1 to 0 against Uruguay. That’s as far as they managed to go, however, and Italy ultimately won the title with a 4 to 1 win against Italy.

In 1974, the team did a little better with a 0 to 0 draw against Bulgaria and a Group 3 victory. They won with a score of 3 to 0 against Uruguay. They went on to lose against Poland with a score of 1 to 0 and a 4 to 2 loss against West Germany. West Germany ultimately went on to win the title.

Things looked promising in 1978, with a 1 to 1 draw against Brazil. They went on to lose against Austria and Spain and finished at the bottom of Group 3. The team failed to participate in the 1982 and 1986 events, but returned in 1990. At this time, they faced Brazil and lost 2 to 1, and then went on to lose by the same score against Costa Rica and Scotland.

In 1994, the Swedish team managed to make it to round two after a 2 to 2 draw against Cameroon, a 3 to 1 win against Russia, and a 1 to 1 draw against Brazil. They went on to win with a 3 to 1 score against Saudi Arabia and went on to the last eight. Here, they faced Romania and drew 2 to 2. After the shoot out, Sweden came out on top with a 5 to 4 score. They then faced Brazil and couldn’t manage to pull out a win.

The team failed to qualify in 1998, but did participate in the 2002 event. They won a 1 to 1 draw against England, won 2 to 1 against Nigeria, and had a 1 to 1 draw against Argentina. They went on to face Senegal, but still couldn’t pull out a win.

2006 doesn’t look much better for Sweden. Although they will likely make the last 16, history shows that they probably won’t make it all the way. If they do manage to progress any further, they are not likely to take it all the way to win the title, despite the fact that the team does have a great deal of talent to offer.

World Cup History: Portugal

There are several more contenders for the 2006 world championship title in Germany than many may have thought. In fact, many are claiming there is a “new world order” that deserves to be recognized. Some of the teams being considered more closely include Greece, Turkey, and South Korea. Portugal is also being looked at as a possibility when it comes to winning the cup, though most people think they pose little threat to actually win the entire cup. After all, history has demonstrated that the team has not been able to capitalize on its assets and bring home a win.

In 2004, Greece won the European honors and Turkey and South Korea have also managed to make it to the semi-finals in 2002. Another dark horse that is starting to gain more recognition over the past few years is Portugal, despite the fact that the 2006 competition represents only the fourth time Portugal has participated in the World Cup finals. The first Portugal win came in 1966 in England and it is still considered to be the best main event performance for Portugal.

Before their excellent 1966 performance, they had been in a difficult group that pitted them against two of the most prestigious teams from the decade before. In 1958 and 1962, Brazil had captured world titles. In addition, Hungary was having an amazing period of football at the time. Despite the fact that they hadn’t actually won a championship during this period of time, the Hungary team from that era is still regarded as one of the most revolutionary in the history of the game.

Although Hungary wasn’t quite the juggernaut it used to be by the time 1966 came around, the fact that Portugal was able to win with a score of 3 to 1 at this time was quite an achievement. It was also here that Eusebio made his first goal while helping in a 3 to 0 win over Bulgaria. Eusebio added two more goals to his record while helping Portugal achieve a 3 to 1 victory over Brazil. Although some of the defensive moves used by Portugal at this game were controversial, the game still highlighted the fact that the Portuguese were a team to contend with.

The fact that North Korea beat Italy during the first round also helped Portugal, because this meant the Asian side would be their opposition during the last eight. It looked as if all was lost, however, when North Korea brought the score to 3 to 0 during the game’s first 25 minutes. With the help of Eusebio’s four goals, the team managed to pull out a 5 to 3 win.

The team then faced England and faced a real challenge. Bobby Charlton got two goals early on and Portugal wasn’t able to regain control. It took another 20 years before Portugal made it to the finals again. When Portugal made it to the tournament in Mexico, they were considered a difficult team to contend with, but they still were not thought of as a team that could win. At this time, Portugal found itself facing England in the opening group phase. Despite putting up a good fight, Portugal did not progress.

Once again, the Portuguese found themselves out of the World Cup action for a long period of time. In fact, they didn’t return until 2002. They were referred to as the “Golden Generation” during this time, but still did not fair too well. Despite the excitement surrounding Rui Costa, Luis Figo, and Fernando Couto, the young team wasn’t able to pull off a victory. First, they lost against the United States with a score of 3 to 2. They did win against Poland, however, with an impressive score of 4 to 0. With that victory, team Portugal’s hopes were improved. This was short-lived, however, as they were beaten by South Korea. The hopes team Portugal held in its young talent were quickly dashed.

After that disappointing season, Luis Felipe Scolari was brought in to try to revive the team. Scolari, who was the manager of the winning Brazilian World Cup team has brought new hope to the struggling team. After being beaten in Euro 2004, Scolari has something to prove to the world and he has just the team to do it with. In addition, it is a straightforward procedure to get out of Group D, which contains Iran, Mexico, and the former colony of Angola.

If history is any indication, Portugal is not likely to bring home the win in 2006. At the same time, they have a number of factors working in their favor. They have young talent that is thirsty for a win as well as a high-quality coach with something to prove to the world. The results of this match up remain to be seen.

September 19, 2007

Starting a Football Betting Career

As a novice to football bets, the first thing you must learn is the types of bets used. These are the basics to a successful betting career. There are various types of football bets. A few of them are Straight Wagers, Money Line Wagers, Half-time Wagers, Parlays, Future and Proposition wagers, Teasers, Reverse Wagers, etc. Gaining a basic idea about some of these would help you place bets

July 01, 2007

Rafa’s excited over new signings

Liverpool is all set to get bolstered with new signings. Manager Rafael Benitez is gung-ho about the possible move of major players like Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso into his Liverpool squad. To add to the excitement is the speculated buy-out of ‘The Kid’ Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid. Although played down by the Madrid officials, this move is definitely in the offing.

May 03, 2007

Free Bets on the internet

I was looking around on the internet as I often do for free bets. Most of the time online bookies offer you free bets as an incentive to sign up. Many of these free bets could be a straight $20 or £10 and sometimes as much as £60 / $120. You will also see regular offers such as place a bet on any market and your get a free goal score bet. The site that I was looking at for these free bets was

April 02, 2007

2001 no longer seems 6 years away...

That is how desperate the situation at High... no wait (forgive me) Ashburton Grove has become. Why do I mention a year normally associated with terrorism? That year encapsulated Arsenal's most embarrassing defeat in modern history - a 6-1 tub- thumping at the hand's of Manchester United. On Saturday lunchtime, Arsenal were treated to a another dose of an only slightly less venomous medicine, this time on Merseyside; in front of Liverpool's new American co owners - one wonders whether Liverpool's breathtaking display has left the Americans shell shocked that there just might be something more exciting than March Madness on this side of the pond?

Whatever the case, on this occasion, the terrorism is not being perpetrated by some Islamic fundamentalist, no - the terrorism is etched between the paper thin lines of Arsenal's permeable defense. These players have hi-jacked the Gunners' back line and transformed what are normal defensive rituals into Sunday morning comedy routines which only serve in aiding the opposition, not Arsenal.

All this was on a day when Arsenal were presented with a precious opportunity to cement their status as the third best team in the Premiership, hence securing another venture onto European shores next season. To say Arsenal "spurned" this chance is the understatement of the season. Suicide would perhaps be a more appropriate description. From the start, Arsenal were 2 yards off the pace, Liverpool harried Arsenal like blood thirsty wolves chasing a pack of hyenas, and the skyscraper they call "RoboCrouch" used his height to great effect. More irony for Arsene to ponder, two players the Frenchman previously rejected once upon a time played a decisive roll in this thrashing, number one being Jermaine Pennant whose spell at Arsenal was tainted with off the field controversy, and number two being Crouch - whom Wenger once described as “a basketball player who can play with his head”. I am sure messas Michael Jordon and Kobe Bryant would be equally flattered if they were on the receiving end of such a back handed compliment.

True defeats in the north of England are no stranger to the north London outfit. This season alone, Arsenal have suffered at the hands of Bolton, Man City, Everton, and of course Liverpool. And that does not account for the last gasp defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup; which extinguished Arsenal's only semi realistic shot at silverware this season. If Celtic and Rangers joined the English League tomorrow, rest assured there would be no welcome party from Arsene's boys...

So the heaviest Premiership reverse since February 2001. Accurate to point out that on that occasion the scoreline read 6-1 in Man Utd's favor, but way back yonder Arsenal were still second in the league, and were still fighting in the FA Cup and Champions League. This season's traditional northern drubbing comes at a time when Arsenal are officially annexed from every competition, so although 6 years ago Arsenal conceded two more goals, the picture still looked brighter than it does today considering Arsenal's league position and precarious premature exits in the FA Cup and Champions league (two arenas where Arsenal have flourished in recent seasons).

At the beginning of the 2005-2006 season Wenger said he was not one to look back because he harbors too many regrets on previous failures and misfortunes. One can only imagine that sentiment will have been reversed on Saturday as the Gunners provided their fans with an early, not so welcome, April fools joke of a performance!

March 04, 2007

My Rant on Fox...

And no! Surprisingly my tirade is not directed at the political vultures at the top of the blood sucking money making tree that is FOX. My venom is not directed at the political architecture of the network which continues to serenely support the Bush administration by constantly parroting the orthodoxes handed out by the Republican party which have led us into the quagmire of Baghdad and beyond.

However, my anger is directed towards one of FOX's sister channels, "Fox Soccer Channel", and more specifically, the Fox Soccer Report, which airs on channel 613 on satellite television at 10pm eastern, 9pm central. This show has ruined the prime principle of soccer broadcasting.

This dilemma compounds, what is to me anyway, a fundamental problem entrenched in the roots of this country. American media is incensed with a fixation of advertising by the mass; cramming as much in to as little time possible in order to make the maximum profit. I'm sorry, this simply does not work when it comes to presenting British soccer.

It may work with the endless carpet commercials sandwiched between the intervals of your Sunday morning conservative radio talk shows, it may work during the non stop commercials which display legal attorneys encouraging people to sue for an arm and a leg. And it certainly may work during the infamous ESPN show called sportscenter, which successfully transforms baseball and basketball highlights into tiny two minute segments representing only a portion of the actual game. But you cannot marginalize soccer highlights into such short segments, that action represents an unforgivable sin on "the beautiful game".

And the pirates that run this show Fox Soccer Report are complicit in this act. They have this wild idea of compiling all the soccer highlight reels from 4 or 5 different countries into a brief one hour segment. This leaves the viewer with a somewhat less than full filed taste in his or her mouth. Showing one clip from a game that lasted 90mins and declaring "the game ended in a tie game" is not the way to report a game of soccer.

Even on the few occasions when analysis is permitted (and believe you me, this is rare) the main correspondent, Bobby McMahon, is only provided with 15 seconds or so to either summarize, or preview a game. He often ends up saying "This is gonna be a close game but I see it going this way..." This is simply not nearly enough time to explain the tactics, players, or sheer mental psychology that surrounds international soccer. You have to allow your viewers to understand the emotional pysche of the respective players before a match, and what sort of tactical masterpieces the managers will employ during the match to win the game. Furthermore, I do not think Americans have grasped the concept of "derby matches", these are games which take place between local rivals where the seed of hatred between the two clubs age back 10s, if not 100s of years. Rivalries which make the Packers - Bears rivalry look like a tussle between two spoiled toddlers on a playground!!!!!!!!!!!!

So to conclude, Soccer is not Baseball. It does not deserved to be presented as if it were a commercial itself, no, this game deserves more respect. I hope Fox Soccer Channel changes its ways and adopts a more rounded approach when it comes to Soccer coverage. I can only hope that Fox allows Fox Soccer Channel the same adequate analysis time they allow Bill O'Reilly on "The Factor". Hopefully with less advertisements, and a more comprehensive analysis of the games at hand, the Fox Soccer Report may one day enter "The No Spin Zone".

(Highly unlikely in our lifetimes, however...)

March 03, 2007

Betfair - Betting Exchange

Betfair - Betting ExchangeBetfair is undeniably one of the largest online gambling operations in the world today. Betfair has offered services for some time that has not disappointed their clients, thus making the site the largest online. Betfair launched its site in 1999, and since this time, the site has become the greatest market share Online. Its online betting shares out rates many of

January 26, 2007

Arsenal Football Tickets

Well, the new football season has started and what better time is there to purchase yourself some Arsenal football tickets.Arsenal have some big games coming up and tickets are available for you to purchase.Don't miss out on all the action, the atmosphere just isn't quite then same when watching on the television! Check out Online Soccer for more information.

September 04, 2006

Defoe frustrated with Tottenham situation

Jermaine Defoe has admitted his on-going frustrations at not being a regular feature in the Tottenham starting line-up.After scoring for England and putting in a very impressive performances, Defoe has given his best shot and there's not much else he could do to command a decent role at club level.However, Defoe is going to get his head down and let the football do the talking rather than speak

Gallas makes Chelsea feelings known

Former Chelsea defender William Gallas has criticised former boss Jose Mourinho.Now having joined Arsenal in a deal which saw Ashley Cole head the over way, Gallas feels relived.The France international had been phased out at Chelsea and appeared to be on very bad terms with Mourinho. Gallas feels that the gaffer was fickle with his players and the same thing that's happened to him happened to

Lampard praises Arsenal signing

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is happy with the signing of Ashley Cole.Lampard has played with Cole for England so he knows what he's all about and considers him to probably be the best left-back in the world.There's a lot of pressure playing for a big club like Chelsea but Cole has experienced it with Arsenal and England so Lampard doesn't think the defender will have any problems."Ashley is

Gerrard gets international praise

England boss Steve McClaren has praised midfielder Steven Gerrard.The Liverpool captain has been in good form for England and it's finally looking like he's transferring some of his inspiration from club level to international level.Now McClaren feels that the best is still to come from Gerrard as he'll be on the right hand side for England."He's been influential for Liverpool over the years and

Henry excited by new Arsenal big signings

Arsenal captain Thierry Henry feels that the club have made signings which will help them progress.Despite losing Jose Antonio Reyes and Ashley Cole, Arsenal have got William Gallas and Baptista, two very good players indeed.Henry considers Gallas to be the best centre back in the whole world and also believes Baptista can become a big player for Arsenal this season."I have known William for a

August 31, 2006

Cole completes awaited move

Andy Cole has completed a transfer from Man City to Portsmouth.Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp has been trying to strengthen his squad throughout the summer and the arrival of Andy Cole will be a great boost to their Premiership campaign.After passing a medical today Cole completed his move and hopefully we'll have some more news on this later, including quotes from the player and manager.

West Ham shock Arsenal with massive star signings

West Ham have shocked Arsenal and many people involved with football around the world by signing both Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano on year long loan deals.Anyone would have thought that Arsenal would be the club to go to over West Ham but in this case it looks like it's a matter of where first team football would be easiest to come by.Now Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will have to look

Aston Villa fail to make star signing

A move for Javier Saviola to Aston Villa will not go through as the players agent Alfredo Cabrera Brizuela insists his client wants another level.The move never looked likely from the start but it shows that new boss Martin O'Neill is very optimistic and feels he can bring some of the biggest talent to the club."The propositions are important, but Javier wants another level." said Alfredo Cabrera

Blackburn in striker talks

Blackburn Rovers are currently in talks with Roma over a loan deal for Shabani Nonda.Blackburn are looking to strenghthen their attack for the Premiership season and Roma are willing to let the 29-year old go.With two years left to run on his current deal, there is an option for Blackburn to make a purchase for the player when the loan has expired in the summer.

Sven getting £13,000-per-week from the FA

News that Sven Goran-Eriksson is still being paid by the Football association has angered Wigan chairman Dave Whelan.Even before the World Cup when Sven committed gross misconduct, Whelan stood up and said the FA that Sven should be sacked. That was the perfect opportunity to get rid of the Swede in his view.However, Sven was not sacked by the FA and is now still getting paid a reported £