Sunday, September 6, 2009

World Cup countdown, England on the back foot & kick Warner out of football

World Cup 2010: Could the world's best two players be about to miss out on the world's best tournament? It's too early to say, but Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal sit precariously fourth in UEFA Group One with three games to play...Lionel Messi's Argentina are also fourth in CONMEBOL but there the top four qualify and the fifth-placed team have the less than frightening prospect of a showdown with CONCACAF's fourth finisher, although if that is Mexico it would be a tasty Latin dish.

Colombia revived their chances with a 2-0 win over Ecuador in Medellin to go level on points with their Southern rivals and only two behind Diego Maradona's men.


Ghana return to the finals after winning African Group D, while Didier Drogba's Cote D'Ivoire look a shoe-in from group E. North Africa should have at least one representative in South Africa as Egypt and Algeria head Group C, while the unheralded Gabon are in pole in Group A. Group B provides a trans-Saharan race to the finish as Tunisia lead Nigeria by two points with two games to go...

London's big two were stung by the powers that be this week. Arsenal seemed a little picked on when their diving Croat Eduardo was singled out by UEFA and punished with a two-game ban for the sort of offense one sees almost every week. But the Gunners' anger was eclipsed when Chelsea were banned from buying players for a whole season, a FIFA bolt from the blue.

Hanging over the issues themselves appears to be the continuing power struggle high above European fields, where the governing bodies continue to play a game of brinkmanship with the big clubs, who have long been toying with the idea of a breakaway league. The main reason for the birth of the Champions League, after all, was to sate Europe's top teams with enough big games to stop them going it alone and leaving the blazered army in Zurich with no more expenses to claim.

FIFA and particularly UEFA under Michel Platini have been flexing their muscles recently with criticism of the power of English clubs. Against that background, the week's sanctions seem to be a mix of territory-marking and exploratory offensives from their bases in Switzerland...

I had dinner this week with a Trinidadian doctor, who told me at length of CONCACAF President Jack Warner's entry into his country's domestic affairs, despite FIFA's prohibition of political office for its members. As I listened to the tale of Warner's attempts to curry favor with his people and his party, I could not help think of drug baron Pablo Escobar's election as a member of Colombia's parliament.

Lest we forget, the CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President scalped Trinidad's ticket allocation for the 2006 World Cup, paid T&T's players less than $1000 each for their tournament heroics and asked the Scottish FA to pay their match fee to his personal bank account instead of to the association's (!), amongst other misdemeanors chronicled in Andrew Jennings' explosive book, "Foul!"

While others shrug and move on, Jennings has confronted the Pirate of the Caribbean courageously again and again and again. This week, Jennings unearthed a video of his prey labeling him derogatorily, "a white foreigner", which is interesting language from the vice-president of the organisation which tells to "say no to racism" and implores us to "kick racism out of football."



-Sean O'Conor, London

3 comments:

bhamhawker said...

Warner can't be banished from soccer fast enough...

KO said...

Sean--relevant and articulate. Great stuff.

Soccer said...

Great stuff as always. I plan to link over to it. Keep up the great work.