Posts tagged ‘World Cup’

A National Headache

The international backlash to the Australian cricket team’s behaviour following their world cup victory has not been a surprise but has been embarrassing. Add to that Shane Warne’s attempted interviews post match and the tournament has ended on a very sour note for most Australian sports fans who applaud their cricketing feats but not their decorum.

This is sadly not the first time the Australian cricket team have behaved in a way that does not befit men who are representing the country. One Australian official in a diplomatic role told this writer that following a tour of India his staff spent a month going around the country mending bridges and apologising for the behaviour of the players.

What compounds the issue is at the celebration the next day in Federation Square,Melbourne the players publicly seemed to revel in the fact that they had been drinking all night. Captain Michael Clarke appeared on stage from the rooftop bar with the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy, and when asked to describe his overriding emotion answered saying, “A little hungover, I think I speak for everybody in that sense. I guarantee you the boys will continue to celebrate today. It’s the Australian way.”

Brad Haddin has since apologised for going on Triple M Breakfast radio in Sydney having been introduced by team mate Steve Smith as the most drunk of players. Haddin on website Cricket.com.au has said that he wished he hadn’t agreed to go on air. “We were celebrating a World Cup win and enjoying ourselves after a long tournament, in hindsight, we should have stayed off the radio. If I offended anyone, it was never my intention.”  The damage has been done as his comments have been spread across the world’s cricket media.

Comments about his team mates which went like this “I’ll paint a picture for you now. I’ve got a coach who’s spooning the World Cup who can’t speak,” Haddin said. “I’ve got James Faulkner who’s got his clothes off but don’t tell everyone. And I’ve got the Marsh boys, and you know I can’t even talk about the Marsh boys because you know what trouble they have. I’ve got Josh Hazlewood … he’s never been drunk in 30 years. It’s a problem. We just can’t get him drunk. He’s an absolute nightmare to drink with.” Totally irresponsible by a man who has been Vice Captain of the national team and therefore was tipped as a leader.

One has say that everyone expects a team to celebrate after winning a World title, as such titles do not come easily. However players must remember that they are held up – whether they like it or not – as ambassadors of this country a country where Cricket is the national sport a sport permuted to reflect gentlemanly behaviour and fair play; although Australia may well debate this quite vociferously. Representing your country, or club comes with responsibilities and sadly for a while now the Australian cricket team have failed to live up to those responsibilities off the field.

The question has to be asked what is CEO James Sutherland done to arrest this? Why have Cricket Australia been so quite in the past few days, while their reputation is being damaged around the globe, or as in India are they expecting others to clean up the mess. Cricket Australia should have had the players in a controlled environment post match and taken the mobile phones off the players while they were drinking, to protect both the players and the image of Cricket Australia.

Now they face a global backlash.  A strong leader would have fined those players such as Haddin, Clarke and others who wore their hangovers with pride and promoted them, they would have then given the money collected to Alcohol abuse related charities and made the players carry out some form of community service, to try and restore the damaged image.

The other thing that would be nice to see is a public apology to the nation by the team. They made many proud with their victory but have embarrassed just as many post match.

All of these things are unlikely to happen, but one thing is for sure Cricket Australia need to take control and ensure that off field behaviour improves and that others do not have to go around cleaning up after these men behaving like teenage boys.

 

 

 

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April 2, 2015 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Premier League Clubs to Bankroll the World Cup?

Recent reports out of Russia, the hosts of Football’s World Cup, claim that the game is on the breadline, and President Vladimir Putin has had to ask for help from two billionaires with Premier League connections.

Roman Abramovich owner of Chelsea and Alexander Usmanov owner of Arsenal are two of the oligarchs being asked to help bankroll the tournament as the impending recession has the government very concerned.

Sports minister Vitaly Mutko has already revealed ten per cent cut in the original World Cup budget of USD$22billion. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has also hinted that the number of venues used may well be reduced, a suggestion that Mutko has denied. He has said that designs will be simplified but will still meet FIFA requirements.

He did not deny that The Kremlin is trying to attract private donors but would not reveal who these were. Other sources are convinced that Abramovich and Usmanov are top of the list as these two were asked to help out when Russia staged the $51billion winter Olympics in Sochi last year. These were the most expensive winter games on record.

The World Cup will be an event no where near as lavish as the economy begins to bite. Many believing that this will indeed, despite a very impressive bid document in which all visitors were promised free travel in Russia, a World Cup put together on a shoestring budget. Corners may well be cut, let us just hope that no lives are lost a result of work not being done properly.

Could FIFA have foreseen the problems that Russia now faces. Some politicial analysts have said that the writing was on the wall, when votes were cast. Sadly the FIFA Executive rarely look that far ahead, all many of them are interested in seeing is what is under the table.

March 6, 2015 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Football Must Unite for Change

It is refreshing to witness that Football appears to be finally be awakening from a slumber that has lasted almost four decades.

The BBC and Sky Sports have cleverly offered to host a live television debate amongst the candidates for Football’s top post the Presidency of FIFA. As they quite rightly state the current incumbent Sepp Blatter has frequently claimed that the rille is the equivalent to that of a head of state, so why not treat the run in for the Presidency in the same vein and have a televised debate, where all candidates get to air their views on key issues?

For too long Blatter and his acolytes have ruled with a complete air or arrogance and untouchability. Their lead has sadly been followed further down the pecking order by individual national Federations. On occasion FIFA has pulled them into line despite the hypocrisy of such actions, and on other occasions they have let sleeping dogs lie. On both occasions the game has been the one to suffer, along with those who support and participate outside of the professional game.

FIFA’s mission statement has been “For the Good of the Game.” Yet such a statement is ridiculous when one looks at the actions of the men in FIFA and insults the intelligence of those fans of the game. “The Football Family” is another annoying and equally condescending mission statement, especially when only the head of the family has a say.

News that there may in fact be a breakaway from FIFA is refreshing and long overdue. When you are unable to change something from the inside, that is if you can in fact get inside, then it is time for change.

The awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar may well be the tipping point for change. How can a country where racism is endemic, as is the case in Russia host such a global party? How can a tournament traditionally played at the same time of year be moved and hosted by a nation built on slave labour and where the stadia construction has resulted in hundreds of deaths?

To show just how much FIFA does not care about due process, Secretary General Jerome Valcke has effectively admitted that FIFA bought off the threat of legal action on the timing of the 2022 World Cup by awarding the USA television rights to the 2026 tournament to Fox and NBC- owned Telemundo without going through the usual tender process. Compensation to all of the European Football leagues that will be disrupted by the 2022 World Cup being run in the lead up to Christmas will no doubt be settled in a similar way, because money talks. Greed saw the World Cup awarded to Qatar and greed will see many Football Federations roll over and have FIFA tickle their tummies with wads of cash, when it comes to compensation for a December tournament. Although Mr Blatter has assured his member nations the tournament will not run past the 18th of December; the final day of the tournament no doubt, as this is also coincidentally the National Day of Qatar!

Should the European and South American nations boycott the 2022 World Cup? Many fans believe that they should. Whether they do will be a different matter altogether, although momentum for such a move is building.

Germany, Spain and Italy are believed to be strong supporters of a new world order, and they have the support of the home nations in the United Kingdom. Emerging power bases in Asia, Africa and South America are also said to be aligning themselves with these nations. The question is are all of these nations prepared to get their own houses in order, and crush the corruption within their own Federations?

This is a great opportunity for Football to act, the time has never been better. If Football fails to act it may well get left behind.

This may sound a strange statement for a game that dominates world sport in terms of participation and spectators, but other sports are changing the way they operate in order to survive.

Rugby Union is looking at a similar closed shop operation that sustains Baseball and American Football so well in the USA and sees both of these sports with strong and healthy bank balances. Cricket is going through a metamorphosis as its commitment to traditional Test Cricket is being eroded by commercial necessity driven by Indian administrators and ably supported by England and Australia. Even the Olympic Games market is being manipulated to try and pull in a younger average age of viewer, this is being done courtesy of new sports being introduced and traditional ones being thrown out.

Fans across the globe are no longer happy funding multi-millionaire players who behave abominably and fail to perform. With more and more internet viewing, and some via illegal streaming, football has to change. Just as the music industry has had to adapt, so too does football have to change.

Apart from crushing corruption football needs clear thinkers to be driving the game forward at this point in its history. If key nations do boycott the 2022 World Cup, there will be a great deal of shouting and posturing from those at FIFA unwilling to relinquish control, they will try and issue bans but guaranteed new similar competitions will spring up and will thrive, history has shown that. It just takes the courage of a few to stand up and be counted.

Maybe it is time that UEFA President Michel Platini did follow through on making the European Championships the biggest tournament in the world and just like the Copa America invite the top nations from South America and Africa to perform as guests at their tournament. (World Cup By Invite Only).

In football there are too many top dogs for whom the game is not their true passion. It is a job, a steeping stone to big money illegal or otherwise, as well as free tickets to plush events. Administering sport should be more than that, as the great Bill Shankly believed, it must be a passion. Then you can guarantee the person will go the extra yard for what is best for the game, and they will be happy to do so and put in that time. They will never want to harm their club or the game itself.

There is a line in Don Quixote that reads “Tragedy is to see life as it is, not as it should be.” This is how football is at the moment. Yet through times of difficulty come opportunity. The question is will those nations with the power to make change grasp that opportunity. Hopefully they will try, and when they do they would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Something Mr Blatter will hopefully be beginning to realise, along with many others in the game who are not there for the real ‘good of the game.’

March 3, 2015 at 10:20 am 1 comment

Referral System Worth Copying?

Having just returned from the Hockey India League in India where teams were allowed one referral to a video umpire per game, which if they were correct in their assessment of a situation they kept to use again, but lost if the video umpire was wrong, one had to ask whether or not football could adopt a similar system.

Hockey’s system is currently not flawless, and one feels that the games governing body has overcomplicated the system by making the players request a specific offence.

Having watched La Liga in the evening following an HIL game, there was one game where an attacking player was clearly offside, the referee’s assistant missed it, so too did the referee. The defender widest, and in the best position raised his arm in appeal immediately. The goal stood.

Had football had the same approach as hockey, the player could have given the signal for a referral to the referee. The game was already stopped and the referee could have conferred with his video official with a simple question, ” Is there any reason why I should not award a goal” or “X team are claiming number 10 was offside, I felt he was not can you check and confirm whether the goal should stand.”

Similarly if as in the World Cup in South Africa England believed Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany had crossed the line they could have asked for a referral.

If of course the video referee deems the ball did not cross the line in that case when play has been stopped to view the footage, a drop ball would take place level with the penalty area. In hockey they have a bully-off.

There will be people who claim that this stops the flow of the game. It does but only momentarily. Hockey moves at a much faster pace than football yet the referral system has not harmed the game; only some of the interpretations have!

Football has increased in pace, referee’s and their assistant’s will make mistakes, but this way they have the opportunity to correct them. It may in fact build the drama in a stadium rather than slow the game down. For teams fighting relegation, or to qualify for Europe or to win the League this could be the difference between success and failure. Too often we have seen teams lose vital points because of what appears a blatant mistake. In England’s case they went out of the World Cup; although were they really good enough to beat Germany?

Sepp Blatter has said if such systems are to come into football they should be at all levels of the game, but this is not at all levels of hockey and yet it works. It is also an ideal opportunity to educate viewers as to the rules, and let us be honest how many viewers really do understand the current offside rule?

Surely it has to be worth considering? How knows maybe a new head of FIFA will be more open-minded.

March 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Asia Becoming The End of The Line

Without taking anything away from the Asian Cup, it has yet to resonate with many football fans around the globe the way that the Copa America or even the African Cup of Nations does.

Currently in India for the Hockey India League, there was hardly any coverage of the Asian Cup, only the final was televised. In the newspapers the tournament was lucky to garner a paragraph. Whereas the African Cup of Nations has demanded a third to a quarter page. The English Premier League still dominates the papers while these tournaments are taking place along with La Liga.

One area Asia needs to be very careful is that it does not become the graveyard of footballers past; something it is heading down the path to become.

Many countries in Asia are now going to become trivia questions as to where superstars of the game played their last professional games. William Gallas, Robbie Fowler, Mario Jardel in the A-League and more recently the likes of Robert Pires, David James, David Treziguet and Alessandro del Piero in the Indian Super League. What is interesting is that in India they realised that del Piero was finished after four games, and he played no further part in the tournament, this was coming off a season in Australia with Sydney FC where he was still being lauded as great. Mind you he did pocket another million dollars!

China too is not helping. With lots of money they too are bringing in players who are quite simply past their best. Is it helping the profile of the League? Not really. Is it helping development of the game? Possibly, but it depends how involved these players are with helping develop the youth.

Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua was a disaster, even though he did not end his career there. Although interestingly players of his ilk tend not to end up in China, it is the second string internationals rather than the top names. In fact if you look at the Chinese Super League in the main only Guangzhou Evergrande bring in players on the rise and sell them on for a profit. The rest bring in everyday reliable workmanlike footballers, as is evidenced by the Australian players who have gone to play in China; although the clubs in Australia need the money being offered in transfer fees.  The fact that very few of the top South Korean or Japanese players head to China confirms that their leagues are stronger and technically better. Maybe that is why their remain at the top of Asian football.

Will the big name players heading to Qatar and the other West Asian nations help raise the standard of their leagues or their national teams? History would say that is unlikely to be the case. It may help the profile of the league in the short term but not the standard of football.

Asia may be upset that Australia won the Asian Cup, as well as the Asian Champions League, and thus deprived one of their own a place at the Confederations Cup and the World Club Championship, but rather than sniping at Australia, the powers that be should be looking at what is the best way to raise the standard of football in the region, so that there are more teams vying for World Cup berths. More important is that the Asian Cup becomes a genuinely respected international tournament where more than four of five teams are expected to win the title, so that it does generate more international interest and respect.

The start of this may well be to cut back on allowing big name players to come and graze on their fields.

February 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Humility a Good Place to Start

It came as no surprise to hear that on the eve of Australia’s second consecutive Asian Cup final appearance some federations within Asia would like to see Australia returned to Oceania.

This site has covered many of the issues that have been building up and gaining more momentum since 2010. If Australia manages to lift the trophy tonight then many will feel that this will strengthen their position to remain a part of Asia. However it may just have the opposite effect, as with victory will come a lucrative trip to the Confederations Cup a year out from the World Cup in Russia.

If that were to happen Australia would not be the first to suffer such a fate. As the host nation Israel won the Asian Cup in 1964 and were then exiled in 1974 before finally joining UEFA in 1991.

Australia’s best hope will be a change at the top of FIFA, and it may well be that Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein may be their best hope to topple Sepp Blatter as President. The trouble is with so many candidates putting their hands up, and Africa pledging allegiance to Blatter once more, all that may happen is the various candidates dilute the votes from the other confederations and see Blatter sail home yet again.

According to Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein “reform is crucial.”  He has also stated “We have to bring the administration of sport into the current time we live in. I want to bring back that confidence.”

He has also stated that “in the coming months I will be looking to sit down and talk to all our member associations and listen to them. I am not coming in to dictate. I have my ideas but I have to hear back from my colleagues.”

There are many who feel that the World Cup finals may well be opened up to all and rather than having qualification places allocated to various confederations a draw will be carried out which will see the possibility of European teams having to play, African, South American or Asian opposition in order to qualify. Qualification will then be based purely on merit and the Finals will witness the truly top 32 teams in the world.

There is a problem with this plan, what to do with Oceania. This is without doubt the weakest confederation within FIFA. There are some who feel that the confederation should be split, with Australia and New Zealand and the more northerly island nations been incorporated into Asia and play a tournament to go into the main draw. The other nations be absorbed into Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and play under the same conditions.

For Australia to be returned to Oceania would be ruinous for the game, that has made such strong advances in the last ten years within the nation’s psyche. It would also have a knock on effect on the game in New Zealand as currently they are almost always guaranteed a great chance to qualify for a World Cup, but via one play off match. When they qualified for the 2010 finals New Zealand knocked out a team from Asia, Bahrain, and it was perceived that Australia had helped New Zealand knock out one of its Asian counterparts by having the Wellington Phoenix play in the A-League.

There have been many other issues that have irked members of the Asian Confederation and it would be wise for Australia to show a little humility should they win tonight. The same applies to their post analysis of their hosting of the tournament as a whole.

One thing is clear the FFA are going to clean up their act in terms of how Asia perceives them and the way they operate. They will have their work cut out for them in the months up until the FIFA elections in May, and they will have to think very carefully who they align themselves to, as their future will clearly depend on it.

January 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm 1 comment

Hockey India League Proving Its Worth

According to five time World Player of the year, Jamie Dwyer,  2015 is the time for the the Hockey India League ‘to thrive rather than survive,’ and the way the tournament has started he may well be bang on the money.

Despite a break in activity for many of the international players leading into this year’s tournament, all have come to India looking fit and committed, which is a credit to them all. All of the players can hold their heads up for what has been achieved in the first two years of the competition.

The premise behind the Hockey India League was to expose young Indian talent to the best players in the world, and have them learn from that interaction, with the hope that Indian Hockey can start the long climb back to the top at international level.

In 2014 Indian Hockey had one of its best years on the International stage. It won Silver at the Commonwealth Games after a 9th place finish at the World Cup. Then came a gold medal at the Asian Games which meant India became the first team to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. India had not won gold since 1998, so this was a huge achievement. Then to round off the year the senior team beat Australia in a test seres in Australia, and finished fourth at the Champions Trophy to the same opponent, while their junior counterparts won the Sultan of Johor Cup becoming the first team to retain the title; most of that side having never been outside of India before the tournament.

The benefits of the Hockey India League are already becoming clear, and they go beyond the Indian players. The money the Australian players earn means that they can dedicate themselves to the task of keeping the Kookaburras as the number one ranked team in the world. Their financial reward for such an achievement pales into insignificance compared to their counterparts in sports such as cricket, rugby, AFL or football. Sadly that is unlikely to change in the near future. Something that mystifies the Indian hockey fans, that a World Champion team is not lauded and given the rewards due to them.

The Hero Hockey India League is crucial to the game on so many levels, and not just to Indian and Australian Hockey. The game itself needs the exposure, and the revolutionary coverage that Star Sports have invested heavily in, in order to make it more appealing to a wider audience. The reality is when India Failed to qualify for the Athens Olympics no television network would pay for the coverage of Hockey. That is why the eight year deal between the FIH and Star is crucial to lifting the game as a whole, just as Kerry Packer’s World Series has proved to be for Cricket.

There are plans for the League to expand in 2016 and if it does it is vital that the Franchises have access to their foreign imports earlier in order to enable them to help market their franchise earlier than ten days before the tournament starts. The Franchisees have invested in their teams and need to be given the best opportunity to see a return on that investment, or like many other Franchise based leagues they will pull out and leave what is proving a hugely successful and high quality competition struggling for credibility.

The future looks bright for what is undoubtedly becoming the best hockey league in the World, but if as Jamie Dwyer has stated it is to thrive all parties must work together for the greater good of the competition.

January 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

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