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Archive for the ‘football’ Category

I’ve written on Transfer Deadline Day before, and spoken at length about how disgusting it is. To me, it’s a weird day where footballers are paraded like pigs and cows in a ring while men dressed in tweed shout ever increasing numbers at an auctioneer until finally, down goes the gavel and the pig or cow is sent to the highest bidder.

Really, I just loved the above photograph and wanted an excuse to post about it.

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Today is Transfer Deadline Day. The mere mention of it fills with me with absolute horror.

Not because I’m scared that my little town of Luton Town FC won’t find anyone worth buying. Not because I’m worried that Owen Hargreaves won’t actually sign for Manchester City. And not even because Sky Sports News won’t show anything other than football news all day.

No, today is the ultimate reminder that there is no loyalty left in a lot of people. None at all.

Most people, almost all, in fact, would agree that they would leave their job if offered another one for more money. And they can hardly be blamed for that fact. But these football players are on so much at one club that actually, a pay rise just makes them an even bigger millionaire than they are already.

This is the crux of the matter. The ridiculous sums of money passed around on Transfer Deadline Day actually make me feel a bit ill. And people talk about it as though it’s nothing. When Fernando Torres signed for Chelsea last year for £50m everyone balked a little bit, including Chelsea supporters. It was truly an astonishing amount of money. I just felt it was disgusting. £50m for a man who kicks a ball around? Really?

I know money in football is only natural nowadays. And the buying of players has made a very… Well, I want to say competitive English Premier League. But it’s not really, is it? It has made certain teams ‘the ones to watch’ and it has given others horrible financial problems to other teams that may torment them for years to come.

A small side may raise a player. Pay for their coaching and lifestyle. They will win matches because of this young player, maybe even win trophies. And then Manchester United turns around one day, flashes a lot of cash and this small side cannot refuse to sell their homegrown player. Manchester United will go on and win some trophies because of this player, and my little club struggles to stay up. It drives me to distraction that only a few teams are now going to win the League. Every team knows it before they even set out. Their hope is merely to stay up. Competitive Premier League? Sure, if a four side race can be called ‘competitive’.

Of course, some will say any side can win trophies. Well, if some billionaire comes in with a lot of money all of a sudden they can, and yes, Manchester City and Crawley Town, I am looking at you.

I don’t find football always the most enjoyable sport to watch. At the best of times, I find it tedious, and as a result, I am not writing this blog with the most open mind.

But I hate Transfer Deadline Day with a passion. It genuinely makes me feel sick to my stomach. I await the day when a player is sold for £80m, and football fans slowly begin to feel the same way. Football is not just about tactics and goals and wonderful passes anymore. Underlying every single game is the amount of money paid for certain players, or the difficulties teams will face having lost certain players. Football  is now simply a stock market, with players the commodities. What has ‘the beautiful game’ become? And where will it end up?

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So, the Premier League is upon us again.

I must say now, that despite the name of this blog being ‘Slowly Learning the Offside Rule’ (which I do actually know, by the way, after many ketchup bottle, tv remote and beer bottle demonstrations – I do like to live up to a stereotype), I do not actually really like football that much.

This is actually a weird phenomenon, because at university I watch a lot of football. More football than I care to have watched. Possibly more football than cricket. There have been some really great games I was glad to have seen, don’t get me wrong. Nothing that involved Chelsea, unless they lost. Liverpool’s sudden make-over after Kenny Dalglish took charge. Birmingham beating Arsenal in the Carling Cup. Watching Torres be terrible at Chelsea. I don’t like Chelsea, can’t you tell?

In the course of last season, I also attended three games. The first was York v AFC Wimbledon, which ended with York scoring some fantastic goals and me gloating to my boyfriend who supports Wimbledon. As people who know the eventual results of the Blue Square Premier may realise, my gloating was short lived when AFC beat my boys in orange – Luton Town – to promotion. The other two games I watched was indeed that final, which was no where near as exciting as the Johnson’s Paint Trophy win a few years ago. I also watched Luton v Gateshead, a game that ended in a lacklustre draw after Gateshead scored some really frustrating goals despite Luton playing much better football.

So, with the Premier League starting in a matter of hours, where do I stand now?

I love the new rules. No snoods and tights must match the colour of the player’s shorts. I think this is a fantastic step forward. It’s about time we get some manly footballer players on the pitch, not wimpy ones who are more afraid of their hair getting out of shape than losing the ball.

The lack of goal-line technology is still a major gripe with me, coming into the new season. Every other sport has taken technology to its heart, playing a key role in the development of the respective sports. It is rare to watch tennis without hawkeye, international cricket without DRS (Decision Review System) and rugby without checking trys. There are many arguments to why there should be no goal-line technology in football, and FIFA are now rightfully looking into it after Frank Lampard was denied a goal during that fateful World Cup game against Germany.

I still don’t like football that much, but I’m going to try a little bit. After all, Beat Victor is a useful way of potentially winning free bets and then potentially winning money, and it is fun to do better than some of my male friends on PremierLeague.co.uk with Fantasy Football.

So, what do I hope for the new season?

I always like the underdogs. I don’t want Chelsea, Man U or Arsenal to win. I want Tottenham to win. I have taken them on as my Premier League side, since they have a history of being supported in my mum’s side of the family, and I quite like their players and Harry Redknapp. I would love a smaller side to do well, but it will never happen.

I want the FA Cup winner to be a small side. No one in the top ten of the Premier League should win it. I want a proper small team to be outstanding and show that money isn’t everything.

I want less diving, less arguing with the referee (I thought that behaviour was supposed to be kicked out of football?), and less of players grabbing their legs and then getting up and running a second later. Man up, for goodness sake.

I want more amazing goals, another week where every team scores (that was quite outstanding last year) and Chelsea to be really poor.

Oh, and Luton to be promoted, finally. (I know that isn’t Premier League but they’re my team!)

So, too much to ask?

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Okay, it was a week ago, but it has taken me a long time to get this written.

In the second Test between England and India, the following event occurred: Ian Bell hit what looked like a 4. He and Eoin Morgan ran three runs. Believing his shot had gone to the boundary, Ian Bell began walking down the pitch towards Morgan, ready to go in for tea. The ball, however, was not yet dead and Bell was run out. The umpires asked Indian captain Dhoni if he would like the appeal to stand. He said yes, and Bell was declared run out. After tea, the players returned, including Bell. Dhoni had decided to reverse his decision to uphold the appeal, all within ‘the spirit of the game’.

In no other sport is the ‘spirit of the game’ so important. So important, in fact, that sometimes it takes precedent over the rules.

In tennis, if a ball hits the net and goes over, the player may apologise, but it is still a point. In golf, if a player’s ball hits their opponent’s ball away from the hole, it is an unfortunate accident but the ball stays where it was. In cricket, however, in some circumstances, the ‘spirit of the game’ supersedes the rules. Bell was undeniably out, and yet, Dhoni allowed him to continue playing.

In cricket, the spirit of the game floats around like an invisible imp. It hangs over what appears an obvious decision and puts doubt into the minds of players and umpires. A batsman may be out under the rules of the game, but allowed to stay in because the spirit sometimes matters more.

This got me thinking more about the concept of ‘spirit of the game’ and the sportsman like conduct it implies, and decided to make a list of my five favourite sportsman moments. Naturally, these are not a definitive list. Let me know if you have any of your own favourites to add.

5. Andrew Flintoff Comforts Brett Lee

This has been mentioned so many times, it’s practically a cliché, but no other gesture epitomised the spirit the 2005 Ashes series was played in more than the moment Flintoff said ‘well done’ to Brett Lee after England managed to win the Edgbaston Test by a mere two runs. Lee had been outstanding in batting so long, and Flintoff’s gesture recognised his efforts. It is a good job Lee didn’t take this gesture in the wrong spirit, as Michael Kasprowicz, the man down the other end, should never have been given out.

4. The Heptathlon Athletes

Very few people in the world truly know the tremendous effort it takes to compete in a decathlon or heptathlon, except the people that always compete. At the end of seven events, the women fly their country’s flags together, whatever the result, whoever the competitors, rather than competing their lap of honour individually.

3. Paolo Di Canio Plays Fair

Di Canio’s playing career was not without incident, but he set a great example in a game against Everton when the goalkeeper went down with an injury. With the game poised at 1-1 and play continuing, it would have been all too easy for Di Canio to score in the open goal. Instead, he picked up the ball to stop play and signalled for help for the injured Paul Gerrard.

2. A Whole Team Stands Aside

In a Carling Cup second round match, Notts Forest were one goal up against Leicester but at half time, Leicester defender Clive Clarke collapsed in the dressing room. Fearing for his safety, it was agreed that the game would be abandoned and replayed three weeks later. After kick-off in the rematch, the entire Leicester team stood to one side to allow the Nottingham keeper, Paul Smith, dribble the ball along the pitch to restore the lead Forest had in the previous game. Good karma must have been on Leicester’s side, as they went on to win the match.

1. Two Greats Share the Title

In 1982, the National Hunt jockey title was heading towards a thrilling finale with John Francome and Peter Scudamore each within in an inch of winning the trophy. Scudamore was ahead with more winners when he suffered a serious fall and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Francome was left clear to take the title, but when he reached Scudamore’s total of 120 winners, he retired for the rest of the season so that best men could share the title.

 

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Today, the news has emerged that the Formula 1 television rights will now be shared between the BBC and Sky, increasing Sky’s monopoly on sport even further. Sure, the BBC will be allowed to show half the races and highlights, but if you want to watch Formula 1 from now on, it will have to be on Sky.

In recent years, Sky has gained a monopoly over cricket, it has stolen the Ryder Cup, and now F1, a sport the BBC claims has been gaining large audiences over the last few years. What a perfect time for Sky to play its trump card – money.

Fans of the move will say that F1 should never have been on the BBC in the first place. After all, their license fees pay for it and it is one of the BBC’s most expensive programmes. But Sky would have out-bid every terrestrial broadcaster. ITV’s coverage lasted a good number of years and very successfully.

Sky’s hold over sport only seems likely to continue. If F1 proves successful, who is to say that they won’t buy the BBC out of their deal?

The list of sports that must be shown on terrestrial tv by law is very small. It does include the Olympics and Wimbledon but only the final of the Rugby Union World Cup. Terrestrial tv must show all of the FIFA World Cup but not even the final of the Cricket World Cup. Not even the Six Nations has to be shown on terrestrial tv as it is on the BBC every year.

The public’s best loved sports need to be protected now by legislation before every sports fan in Britain is forced to purchase Sky in order to watch the sport they crave.

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US Open winner Rory McIlroy is back in the news, but this time it is not for more of his fantastic Major winning exploits. This time, McIlroy has engaged in a spat on Twitter.

Arguments over the web are nothing new. Rooney had a very public, and probably unnecessary, dispute with a Liverpool fan and Piers Morgan’s tweets (perhaps justifiably) do not always receive celebrity-worshiping, ego-boosting replies.

Nonetheless, McIlroy has stepped into a new domain; he has replied to media criticism in a very open fashion. Former-golfer-turned-pundit Jay Townsend tweeted during the Irish Open about McIlroy’s performance, stating “McIlroy’s course management was shocking. Some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under-10 boys’ golf competition.”

McIlroy replied to Townsend in a petulant fashion when he said “Shut up … you’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!”

It is true that the opinions that will matter the most to McIlroy will be not be found in the media. The criticisms that really count will come from Michael Bannon, his coach, his caddy, the golfers McIlroy respects the most, as well as his closest family. Nevertheless, any form of criticism is hard to take, particularly when it is aired in such an open and public way.

In the past, many sportsmen have responded to criticism by turning it into match-winning performances. Stuart Broad recently showed his critics just why he deserves his place in the England squad with a fantastic performance against India and Wayne Rooney had a poor start to the 2010-11 season but by the end, turned out some match-winning performances, guiding Manchester United towards Premier League victory.

In responding angrily to Townsend, McIlroy has not let his future performances speak for themselves and has instead appeared unable to handle criticism. Townsend’s comments were not particularly constructive and can be seen as being rather insulting, but McIlroy did not need to rise to them. He could have quietly blocked Townsend and no one would have been the wiser.

These angry spats over the web may become more and more common in the future, as the line between sportsman and the media becomes more blurred. If they follow each other on Twitter, is there a greater license for them to insult one another?

Many commentators are former sportsmen themselves, no strangers to criticism and yet more than willing to dish it out. Through airing their opinions on social networking sits such as Twitter, sportsmen are even less able to avoid their remarks. It is easy enough not to buy newspapers or at least avoid the back pages. It is even easier in the vast chasms of the internet to only read articles that have no relevance to a sportsman’s performance. With Twitter, used as it is by so many sports personalities and members of the media, it is harder to avoid the constant stream of criticism that could appear on a news feed. Blocking Townsend may be enough for McIlroy to ignore his comments. That is, as long as no one else decides to re-tweet them.

As a side note, Ed Cowan’s brilliant article on the prevalence of depression amongst cricketers raises many important reasons as to why it may be so common, though it ignores the issue of media pressure and critique.

Every newspaper, sports website, sports blog, and now, Twitter, leave the sportsman finding it harder and harder to avoid disparaging remarks. While some may thrive in proving the pundits wrong, for others, it could be harder to ignore.

For many sportsmen, living in the 1800s may have been preferable, when news could not travel so fast and open criticism was not available at the click of a button.

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