Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow with the flow

*On the last day in 2010 for most European leagues, there were slim pickings here with the heavy snow canceling many matches; Ipswich's 3-0 win over Leicester in the Championship was straight out of the playground, with blue lines and an orange ball, fiery Roy Keane versus ice-cool Sven-Goran Eriksson and the 'ghost-goal' referee Stuart Atwell stopping the game twice before continuing, in incessant snow. Why did it go ahead - anything to do with Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV...?

*LA Galaxy got a mention on Britain's prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, as David Beckham paid tribute to his employers as he received a lifetime achievement award. Of course Becks is still playing, and dying for another England outing, which makes the award odd.

*Alex Ferguson broke his BBC boycott with a brief Becks tribute, but has still not given an interview to them since 2004, the year the corporation exposed the shady dealings of his son Jason, a football agent. Alex is a man of principle....which makes his rant yesterday about agents' unhealthy influence in the game all the more curious. "It's baffling and it's a serious threat," said Ferguson, referring to Jerome Anderson's role in the firing of Sam Allardyce at Blackburn.

*Three of Becks' former teams are in the knock-out stage for the UEFA Champions League, (or four if you include his spell as a youth with Spurs) which seems a bit weaker than in recent years. Barça look out in front, but beyond them...? These are my tips:

Roma v Shaktar Donetsk, Milan v Tottenham, Valencia v Schalke, Inter v Bayern, Lyon v Real Madrid, Arsenal v Barcelona, Marseille v Man Utd, Copenhagen v Chelsea.

The CL resumes in February. La Liga's Christmas break lasts until the 3rd of January, while Serie A is on hiatus until the 6th; France and Germany are back on the 15th of January, while Holland resumes four days later.

England of course keeps playing, despite the proven increase in injuries and the damage to various national team players: Boxing Day and New Years Day football is a well-loved tradition here and at a time of economic hardship for many, few are sympathetic to entertainers on astronomic salaries.

*Yet no-one seems to want to play a World Cup in January 2022, as seems ever likelier now Sepp Blatter has given it his "definitely, definitely" blessing. First Beckenbauer, then Platini, Valcke and now the FIFA President say they want winter, an admission that the air-conditioning promised for 12 years' time may not materialise and that anyway, once you exit the stadium into the outdoor furnace in search of a cool beer...

The European leagues would need two months' break, putting FIFA on a direct collision course with the clubs, which could result in outright rebellion (if only) or such huge concessions on compensation and player release that international soccer loses further ground to the club game.

The big UEFA clubs should stand up to Blatter's desert fiasco and refuse to play ball, but we need someone within the Ex. Co. to break ranks and lead the revolt. Platini is the ideal Robespierre with his European connections, but has so far followed Blatter's line in public, perhaps working the room for a future assault on the throne, I hope.

*And oh yes, Inter, 7th in Serie A, won FIFA's Club World Cup in front of 42,000 in Abu Dhabi, defeating Congo's Tout Puissant Mazembe 3-0. Rafael Benitez managed to sharpen Massimo Moratti's axe once again by saying the club was "without a project, without planning" and needing "four or five" new players in the wake of their win. Moratti replied icily, "It is not the moment to ask for reinforcements."

Good will to all football men.



-Sean O'Conor

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