Monday, January 30, 2012

Speed inquest sheds light, BBC Fashanu doc

Gary Speed

The mystery surrounding the death of Wales coach Gary Speed unraveled somewhat today at the official inquest.
Gary Speed
While the coroner concluded there was not enough hard evidence to record a deliberate suicide, instead of just a cry for help presumably, we did learn that Speed and his wife had been having problems in their marriage and had rowed on the night he died.

His children were in bed and his wife had driven off following the argument and spent the night sleeping in the car when her husband failed to return her phone calls. Shortly after 6 am she saw his body hanging in the garage.

This news corrected the initial statements issued to the press, which had left everyone bewildered how someone so apparently happy and successful could end it all in a flash.

Now we know there were warning signs, not least in a text he sent the week before when he spoke of a desire to kill himself. Friend Alan Shearer confirmed Speed had mentioned his marriage was in a rocky patch, but added that it was nothing unusual in long-term relationships.

Speed's mother gave perhaps the most touching testimony, describing her son as a "glass half-empty person" and noting sadness in his eyes shortly before his death.

It is still a tragedy with no happy ending, but at least it makes more sense now. Speed's many clubs have given him moving tributes, while Wales' friendly with Costa Rica next month should be a fitting send-off.

Speeds' death came in the same week that 'A Life too Short', the tale of German international goalkeeper Robert Enke's suicide, won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. Author Ronald Reng had previously penned an entertaining chronicle of another German goalie Lars Leese's year with Barnsley in the Premier League - 'The Keeper of Dreams'.


If admitting depression remains somewhat of a taboo in soccer, Stan Collymore aside, coming out as gay still seems hopelessly impossible. Tonight BBC4 screened a documentary optimistically called 'Britain's Gay Footballers', where Amal Fashanu, the 23 year-old niece of the much-traveled Justin Fashanu and daughter of ex-Wimbledon legend John, asked why no gay players had come out since her late uncle more than twenty years ago.


The most poignant moment was when Amal confronted her own father about his famous ostracising of his brother. John Fashanu came close to admitting he was wrong to have done so, but could only confess he could have done more to help and at the time believed Justin had brought shame onto the family by revealing scurrilous details of his sex life to Rupert Murdoch's Sun.

Predictably, her quest for some sign that English football is about to exit the dark ages ended fruitlessly, with one voice after another expressing the mantra that gay men still cannot feel comfortable in soccer. Most players, depressingly, refused to even discuss the issue on camera with Amal, though QPR bad boy and twitterer extreme Joey Barton said he expected to see openly gay players within a decade.

A chat with self-outed Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas and a visit to Sweden where Glenn Hysen's gay son plays fourth division football with no obvious problems, confirmed we have no excuses left in the game's homeland. Homosexuality has been legal in England and Wales for 45 years after all.

The FA, UEFA and FIFA need to take more of a lead however and eradicate homophobia as passionately as they campaign against racial discrimination. The authorities' relative silence on the issue is sending the wrong message to a sport which revels in the full glare of modern publicity but in its social makeup and entrenched attitudes still inhabits a bygone age. Awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals to homophobic nations certainly did not help, but there is time for everyone to change for the better.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We're not Racist - Twists of the Scouse-Manc debate

"We're not Racist" - Twists of the Scouse-Manc debate

Anyone tiring of the Suarez racism saga? Me too, but I'm breaking radio silence to offer a few thoughts, just as Suarez serves the final week of his ban and in light of yesterday's fiercely fought battle between Liverpool and Manchester United - the second epic Scouse-Manc cup battle at Anfield this week.

You might not agree with some of this - but remember, this is an issue of opinions and loyalties...

I don't understand football as a non-participating spectator sport. But the comments offered in today's press are not about armchair fans, so I'm discounting them. I doubt a decent appreciation of the rivalry between Liverpool and United is possible until you've walked out of the away end of either ground and got the train home - and not as a one off.

The meaning of match-going fandom is intertwined with rivalry, identity and place. It's an issue of localism and tribalism. 'Language' is often employed to deny outsiders access (including fellow 'fans').

I'll let readers figure out your respective stance in that context. If you define identity as semantics only and not syntax, you miss the point. In other words, as an example, part of what it is to be a Liverpudlian is to not be an Evertonian, definitively. That has both negative AND positive consequences.

In a chant that's been building for weeks, yesterday Liverpool fans en masse sang "We're not racist, we only hate Mancs." This is a way of saying that although a minority despise Evra for being black (the now infamous non-Scouse monkey poser for example), a majority despise Evra for being representative of Mancs.

The latest saga (it used to be darts in the eye and tear gas on the team bus when I was a kid) is really a collective demonstration of that philosophy. It's tongue in cheek - we know what racism is. When one of your own puts an axe through a lad's head because he's black (Anthony Walker in 2005), and with our legacy of being the former world slaving capital, and the Toxteth riots in 1981 - and then with the popular demonisation of Scousers over the last four decades - our consciousness is heightened.

Like most of the footballing world, many fans seem to have a very narrow implied definition of race, so how are you supposed to offer valid opinions on racism? (Reading that report (or just claiming to have done) is no qualification).

Race is a subjective categorisation of human beings used in the past by imperial powers to justify subjugation of 'native' peoples and now used by the PC left (to criticise anyone who raises concerns about immigration for example). Political correctness is a disease of disproportion and distraction, and it seems many have been infected. Time to climb off the bandwagon.

Making derogatory comments about Scousers or Mancs is essentially the same as making derogatory comments about blacks and is therefore 'racism'. Through that song Liverpool fans were all being 'racist' today, but of course no one really comments on that - because racism is actually a function and expression of any football rivalry you have heard of anywhere in the world. It's not confined to skin colour.

The point many miss is that Evra is a grass. In some respects it's not about what was said between him and Suarez, or the 'right' to complain and seek 'justice'. It's about being a snitch.

Few Mancs worth their salt will respect Evra for complaining, but they will love him for contributing to Liverpool's horrific season (punctuated by some excellent results). Of course, Scousers and Mancs understand our similarities. That's why I can speak for them, and they for us in this respect. If we were talking about Glen Johnson and Wayne Rooney instead (deliberately selected examples), reactions would be similar.

Oh, and in case you think I'm a racism sympathiser, I'm not. I've travelled the world and have been battered and bruised for my skin colour, accent, race, footballing allegiances and more besides. I just loathe political correctness - and for me, the real issue concerning rivalry and hatred in contemporary 'British' fandom is the manipulation of disasters. This was my Facebook status yesterday morning: "A celebration of another club's tragedy pollutes the respectful remembrance of your own. Rise above it Scousers. Unify your standards."

© Dr. Joel Rookwood

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fifa World Rankings for January 2012

Fifa World Rankings for January 2012.
Fifa World Rankings for January 2012

Fifa's World Rankings for January 2012 were published yesterday at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

2010 World Cup winners Spain remain on top followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Copa America champs Uruguay. England are in 5th.

Ranking Team
1 Spain
2 Netherlands
3 Germany
4 Uruguay
5 England
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
8 Croatia
9 Italy
10 Argentina
11 Denmark
12 Chile
13 Russia
14 Greece
15 France
16 Switzerland
17 Sweden
18 Côte d'Ivoire
19 Bosnia-Herzegovina
19 Japan

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Monday, January 9, 2012

Korean Transfer Window Well And Truly Open

Korean Transfer Window Well And Truly Open.
K-League Transfers

The turn of the year has seen the transfer market in the K-League gather momentum. Players and coaches have returned from their end of season vacations and teams are starting their winter training camps.

The first week of 2012 saw two big deals involving midfielders who may not be quite automatic starters for the national team but are never too far from the first eleven. That is certainly the case for Kim Jung-woo. The 29 year-old was a feature of the 2010 World Cup when the Taeguk Warriors made the second round in South Africa and has scored his sixth goal for the national team in Korea’s 6-0 win over Lebanon in qualification for the 2014 World Cup in September.

Kim has spent the last two seasons with Gwangju and then Sangju Sangmu, the league’s military team. He was one of the stars of the 2011 season, scoring 15 goals for a team that usually struggles. His return to Seongnam Ilhwa coincided with the end of his contract. Kim was perhaps the most highly sought after Korean player of the close season and was on the wishlist of a number of clubs but ended up with Jeonbuk Motors.

“I am overjoyed to join Jeonbuk, last year’s K-League winners and one of the most distinguished clubs in Asia” he said. “I will do my best to meet expectations and do my best for the image of Jeonbuk,” said the 29-year-old. “I have experience playing with (Jeonbuk's) Lee Dong-gook and Kim Sang-sik at Seongnam. I think we will able to play well if we adjust together through communication. I have many good memories with the two at Seongnam.”

Seongnam fans will be consoled by the fact that the club has shelled out not far shy of $2 million to add Yoon Bitgaram to their squad. The midfielder is 21 and has already made 13 appearances for the national team. Glasgow Rangers had bid around $1.3 million for Yoon, who captained Korea’s team at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup and then spent a few weeks with Blackburn Rovers in England, but his club Gyeongnam preferred to sell him to Seongnam for a greater fee.

"We have signed Yoon Bitgaram to be part of our challenge to win the K-League and the 2012 AFC Champions League," Seongnam said in a statement. "Naturally, he will strengthen the team and help us increase our fan base."

Suwon Bluewings go through players at an alarming rate and have also been busy in the past weeks. The club said goodbye (again) to talismanic defender Mato Neretljak and replaced the tall Croatian with the even taller Australian in the shape of Eddy Bosnar. Bosnar has spent the last four plus seasons in Japan with JEF United and Shimizu S-Pulse.

Like Neretljak, he takes a mean free-kick but it remains to be seen if he can become as big a favourite with the fans. If he can’t be the new MAto, he’s hoping he can be the new Sasa Ognenovski who fought his way into the Australian national team after impressing in Korea for Seongnam.

"If the move goes ahead I think it gives me a good chance of getting back in the Socceroos picture," said Bosnar. "The facilities at Suwon are better than anything I have seen in Japan and it would give me a chance to play at a higher level."

Pohang Steelers have also been shopping overseas following the departure of Brazilian star Mota but have been doing business in Eastern Europe. Hwang Sun-hong led the team to second in the K-League in 2011 He has picked up former Romanian international Ianis Zicu and ex-Serbian U-21 defender Zoran Rendulic.

Zicu arrives from CSKA Sofia and has experience in Serie A with Parma while the big defender Rendulic has played in Austria and France.

“Zicu doesn’t just have UEFA Champions League and Romanian national team experience, we expect him to become an important part of our attack,” Hwang said. “Rendulic isn’t just a great defender, he can prove useful in attack too.”

“I wanted a new challenge so I decided to come to Pohang,” said Zicu. “I know that Pohang are Asia’s most prestigious team and I want to help the club challenge in the AFC Champions League again.”

2010 champions FC Seoul have been fairly quiet so far but it likely to change over the coming weeks while Ulsan Horangi, who made the final of the championship play-offs are also in the market for new players after losing out to Jeonbuk in the race for Kim.

More on the K-League

K-League temperatures rising