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Found 2 results

  1. 8 Amazing Stadiums Such a bad World Cup? Today, I have decided to look at the positives emanating from Qatar. None, you say? That’s not quite true. Yes, there have been a million denunciations, complaints, and gibes about corruption. We all know what happened. But I feel there are positives to be gleaned from the reality on the ground. There are potentially lessons which could improve the notion of what a World Cup is, and where it should be held and how. Fifa may have accidentally have done something right So what is good from Qatar? I have figured out several aspects which they, and the setting, have got right, and even the restrictions imposed may be useful. First up is the proximity of the stadiums, many are close to each other and even the furthest is 2 and a half hours by public transport. This is excellent, truly a boon for fans, and footballers. Some of my brothers went to America in 1994. The distances were huge and their ability to watch any other matches than Ireland were very limited. And even within the group there was long travel. One really huge plus for Qatar. I will come back to this later. A fairer World Cup? A small country doesn’t have any real home advantage, which in a sporting sense, puts a lot of previous World Cups under scrutiny. Do the real World Champions emerge from a big team winning at home? I will get back to this as well. No Alcohol = No Trouble? The alcohol restrictions? In one sense the Qataris have done the stupid football fan a favour. I have been at many matches where hooligans have run riot, fuelled by the demon drink. In a country such as Qatar, lots would have ended up behind bars. They would have no tolerance for public drunkenness. Wembley at the Euros would have been a big wake up call for the Qatar regime. I suspect they decided long ago about this strategy, and they would spring it too late for any real protest to emerge. They should have been upfront about this but I suspect, judging by the evidence thus far, this will be a peaceful World Cup. And something to think about for future World Cups. Fans can celebrate at home, get drunk and their own authorities can deal with it. So far there is little evidence that the colour and joy of the World Cup is diminished by a lack of alcohol. Is alcohol mandatory? They have thrown it up for debate. Let’s have this discussion. I do like having a pint at matches myself but I would be happy to give it up if it meant no hooliganism. Soccer is pretty much the only sport associated with it. The Olympics can be held with fans of all countries intermingling which means small spaces like cities can host them. Closer is better all round Let’s get back to my first point – that all matches should be close together and easily accessible by public transport. It means fans and players can get to matches without any big hassle. You could probably go to all four matches a day if you were so inclined. This was not possible at previous tournaments. So small countries (or countries where the citizens are too poor to turn up in large numbers) can have a greater fanbase at their games, and certainly attendances at such matches seem bigger to me. I have often seen half empty stadiums in the past. These seem reasonably full. They have allowed their own citizens much lower prices so that it is little economic burden to go to matches for the locals. Around 5 euros for restricted vision and around 10 euros for the rest of the cheaper seats. As opposed to 26 to 65 euros for international fans. I wouldn’t fancy restricted views if I have travelled that far so 65 euros per match could mount up a bit but still, taking in some extra ones seems feasible. It is one huge argument though, for having the stadiums close together and easy to access by metro, etc. The closest World Cup ever The teams can have one training ground for the whole tournament and no crossing of timelines as can happen in America, for example. The countries would love that. It makes for a fairer tournament as home teams are often based around their capital city and other countries have arduous travel. This is something that for sure should be open for debate. There are many pluses to having the stadiums close together. How can it be achieved? Now there are 2 obvious ways to do this, one is only have the trophy in a small country like Qatar. Singapore and Hongkong strike me as possible in east Asia. In Europe, maybe the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg could organize enough decent grounds to make this possible. Some of the oil rich Arab states in west Asia could also do it. I am not sure of what candidates there are in Africa, North and South America and Australasia. However we could select 2 from each continent and that brings us to 12. 48 years before a country gets to host it twice so it keeps things fresh. I would envision that you could have big countries being the nominal host alongside the small country if that is deemed important. There is a debate here for sure. These guys dictate that venues must be far apart and they are winning That brings me to my second option. Have the Cup in the bigger countries but insist on a geographically small area like London, Birmingham or around Liverpool and Manchester in England. Scotland may also be feasible in this regard. I am sure Germany, France, Italy and Spain could also find a way to have enough top stadiums close enough to make this work. 8 stadiums is what we have in Qatar. If we include Twickenham, London could surely do it, for example. There would have to be a strong debate about security, though, if all fans are geographically close together and are allowed drink. Such places could, at best, have restricted alcohol sales. A small country may be able to have a strict regime. Singapore as I mentioned earlier, has. A massive World Cup up next with no complaints. Why? Of course the next World Cup is going to be a big bloated nonsense of which there seems little protest. The USA, Canada and Mexico? 48 countries? Madness for sure. You would need very big pockets to follow just your team all the way to the final, or maybe even for the group stage alone. Many matches will struggle for attendances. Teams will face tiring plane trips. Lucky Dennis Bergkamp is retired. And next time we go way too big The other area I highlighted is home advantage. England got their sole win at home. Teams try to make it as easy on their own players and as difficult for their opponents. Qatar found no real home advantage and from a sporting viewpoint this must be good? The best team in the world should win, yes? Small countries are much better in this regard. Debate is crucial So, Qatar has opened up a potential debate on a World Cup that is good for players, for fans, for attendances, for banning alcohol and thus probably hooliganism, and for sporting spirit. Will we have this debate? I doubt it. Fifa are only interested in money. The fact that their greed has allowed a World Cup to happen that is far different from all others is inadvertent. Good things have been shown, a better way is possible if we have a serious discussion. Instead we get a humungous, interminable, USA, Mexico and Canada which is surely the antithesis of any sporting ideals. We need to decide what type of World Cup do we want and can we apply the good things highlighted here in the context of, say London? However sometimes I feel I am the only one arguing for a better way. Because I don’t feel we will have any debate, will we? The fans don’t have any say. Thus it has always been.
  2. This week I am going to take a break from my usual and reflect on The Euro finals. It was a good finals with plenty of exciting matches although 2 teams with a cautious approach got to the final. But that is not what I want to talk about. It is racism and bad behaviour. Is England to blame? One of the earliest major incidents was the Christian Eriksen one. It turned Denmark into the neutrals favourite and meant a level of respect was shown by fans and players alike when playing them, except for England who booed their national anthem and their players as they did other teams. A great player no matter what team Several teams got beaten on penalties, but I didn’t hear of any scapegoating of players or racist abuse because of it, except for England. I have watched many finals of all types since I started watching and I have never seen players taking off their medals before, except for England. England take the lead in the dark side England rightly take pride in being the home of football. They seem to take a perverse pride in also being the worst in bad behaviour. I started going to matches in England in the 70’s and it was a revelation how much police there were and how tight the security was. The bile between opposing fans and the many hooligan firms that cropped up was frightening. Now pubs could erupt in sickening violence if a stray innocent(s) from the wrong side popped in. This was in general contrast to Ireland where I remember being at an Ireland match in Lansdowne road and a group of Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers fans were congregated in a pub. They started singing songs slagging their opponents and the reply was always an even wittier song which seemed to be made up on the spot. It was great fun. Are England the worst? Now, only an idiot would suggest that bad behaviour in football is confined to England but are they the worst? I say yes. If I am aware that England fans are about, I am cautious and ready to get out quickly if necessary. I have also had great times with England supporters and have been in many grounds in the home section without getting into trouble as an away supporter. I learned to jump inside. I have seen England fans wanting to take on the home supporters though when in the same situation and I cannot understand their logic at all. They take a perverse pride in standing up for their colours. This whole area is complicated, though. Football has slowly but surely become a place where cheating and bad behaviour is tolerated. I saw Robbie Savage of Wales commenting on the Euros recently and he wanted the Wales players to start kicking their opponents to stop them going up the field. A commentator should never encourage cheating but it happens all the time. The players need to be clever is often the euphemism for cheating. Pull a jersey slyly, take a dive, back into a player and go down so you get the foul, surround the referee, claim everything, play mind games and probably others that I am not even aware of. It is endemic and it is not going away soon. Can we show love instead? Would you do that to your own kid? So now we have Bukayo Saka as the touchlight for the darkness that is in football? Nonsense, surely? It seems like he has done 2 things wrong, he missed the last penalty and he is black. 2 things he can do nothing about makes it acceptable for him to be abused? Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce memorably missed crucial penalties for England and got hammered for it, yes, but not for the colour of their skin. It is horrible for any player to be abused for something they can do nothing about. They make a mistake on the pitch and get hounded, sometimes for the rest of their career. Emmanuel Eboue was one such at Arsenal. He fell foul of the wrong type of Arsenal supporter and his career never recovered. When you are playing, you have been selected by the manager and will try your best. But you will miss goals and passes, give away fouls, get sent off, score an own goal, miss a penalty, fail to stop a player or move to an opposing side and myriad other things can happen even to the best players. This can mean you get booed all your life. And if you are black or a race that is not white, you get that anyway. It is certain and inevitable even if you are a big superstar who is well liked like our own Wrighty. What’s the answer? So what can be done? First thing to look at for me, is the waters that this abuse swims in. It is racism, it is hooliganism, it is cheating, it is club and country tribalism, it is bad behaviour. There have been so many efforts to curb racism and it is difficult to say with what success. The same with all the other elements mentioned. Some progress has been made but mostly in the area of security, banning and punishments. I feel that we need to reach people’s hearts first. The only way I can think of to do so is to imagine the people being abused are our own children. I would be heartbroken at the abuse Bukayo Saka is receiving if I was his parent. My beautiful fun teenager who has stupendous talent is given horrific abuse because a goalkeeper made a good decision, and he is black? It is nonsense, surely? My pride in his amazing achievement at being selected as the crucial penalty taker for his country is dependent on sporting achievement being suspended? That he has to win? If, in any sports, only one person or team can win, it is not a sport. We have to be able to accept that the other side can win, and congratulate them, and determine that next time it will be me, us. Our Children? They ARE our own children so we should treat them as such. We feel their pain, we let out a collective groan of disappointment that we couldn’t win but we rush over to hug them, to show we love their courage and we support them no matter what. Did he know he would get such hate when he grew up? I pinpointed England at the start. We must not be fooled, though, it is in all countries to a greater or lesser extent. We need to call out our own fouls, stop applauding any cheating, stop booing players, countries and refs, and finally, start treating all participants as if they are our own children. Can we make a start? Can we stop calling Tottenham shit? Can we stop saying we hate them and standing up to show it? Have fun with the opponents, but remember they are somebody’s children and an accident of a different sort could have made us Spud supporters. Or is that too much to ask? Gareth Southgate showed us the way
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