Football: FIFA Women’s World Cup

All I keep hearing is how the men are “much better than the women.”

How the women “wouldn’t be able to compete with the men.”

If you are one of the people who keep doing this, then please take this moment to realise that you are simply an idiot.

You know who you are…

You see, all of the factors that make men “better” than women are simply based on genetics and nothing else.

The male body is designed to be faster and stronger than a woman’s. As football is a physical sport, these two major advantages are more than enough in helping males be “better” than females. 

I simply cannot believe I am having to explain this…Sigh!

So, let’s take genetics out of this, and have a look at the entire game solely based on ability and knowledge. 

Both men and women:

  • Understand the game equally well. 
  • Train equally hard.
  • Play the same amount of time.
  • Use the same size pitches and goals.
  • Follow the same rules.

The only aspect in which men trump women is in decision making as they are more clinical in and around the opposition box. 

However, women are more honest and don’t dive around as much. This aspect alone makes the game more entertaining as there’s no time wasting or “professionalism” as it’s referred to. 

No mate, it’s just plain cheating. 

Let’s call a spade, a spade.

If anything the women’s game has less stoppages simply because the players just get on with it.

Then there’s the people referring to USA’s thumping victory against Thailand as something that would never happen in the men’s game.

Actually, that’s not entirely true…

Yes, the 13-0 win for USA is a record victory in the Women’s World Cup, but that’s not too different to the 10-1 win for Hungary against El Salvador in the 1982 Men’s World Cup finals. What’s interesting is that the largest margin of victory during World Cup qualifying for the two sexes were the 21-0 victories attained by 4 different nations in the women’s game (Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada) all in the late 90’s, which is a colossal 10 goals fewer than what the Australian men notched up when they beat American Samoa 31-0, in 2001.

So don’t tell me it doesn’t happen in the men’s game.

Is the Women’s World Cup worth watching?

Honestly, it’s been great so far.

As the group stages have come to a close, it’s clear that the women’s game has come a long way in the last four years alone. The physical nature of the players, their fitness levels and aggression is excellent. And these ladies can play.

The games between Australia and Brazil (3-2) and Germany against Spain (1-0) have been two of my favourites. Pure end to end football with no let-up by any team.

Now, I have to admit that I used to tune into the Women’s World Cup for the same reason I used to watch the African Cup of Nations (The major men’s continental tournament played amongst the African countries), the goalkeeping was shambolic.

Any Ideas who these goalkeepers are? (Via WikiCommons)

This time round though, I have been incredibly impressed with the goalkeepers. The Chilean keeper, Christiane Endler, has been unbelievable. Some of the saves she pulled off against the Americans were good enough to rival any male counterpart.

Moral of the article…

Stop being an idiot.

Instead of trying to come up with a reason to ridicule something, enjoy it for what it is. A good-old-fashioned game of football, played at a high level, by people who are proudly representing their nations for the entertainment of millions.

After all, football is a game for everyone, and that’s why we love it!

A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part Two)

Yesterday was the release of the first of a three part blog about the magnificent summer that awaits English sport’s fans. If you missed it then don’t worry, it’s never too late to read it. A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part One)

So today marks the start of another huge tournament with the first match played between favourites England and perennial “chokers” South Africa.

Icc_cricket_world_cup_trophy
ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy (Via WikiCommons)

 

Cricket World Cup 2019 (May 30th – July 14th)

The blue ribbon event of the cricketing world is upon us again. Originally contested by eight nations in 1975, this year’s event will witness the top ten cricketing nations fighting it out to be crowned world champions. All of the partaking nations will play each other in a round robin tournament, with the top four going on to contest the semifinals. The cricket fest will come to an end on July 14th at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London.

The nations in order of world ranking:

  1. ENGLAND
  2. India
  3. South Africa
  4. New Zealand
  5. Australia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Bangladesh
  8. West Indies
  9. Sri Lanka
  10. Afghanistan

The main pavilion (left), and the media centre at the home of cricket. (Via WikiCommons)

Do England deserve to be the favourite?

England are easily the best ODI (one day international) team in the world. A combination of aggressive batting, and above average bowling has helped the creators of the sport become the best at it. Since the last World Cup in 2015, England have won around 70% of all ODI’s played. A feat that no other nation can surpass. In the meantime, they have also accumulated four of the largest run totals with the relentless stroke making abilities of their top order batsmen. In the likes of Jason Roy, and Johnny Bairstow, England has the most destructive opening partnership in world cricket. Follow that up with Jos Buttler, a man on a mission to demolish every bowler’s self-confidence. Buttler scores big and scores fast, an important asset when it comes to limited overs cricket. In fact, only on five occasions has a nation scored over 400 runs in an innings since the last World Cup. South Africa once and England four times (Usually a score over 300 is deemed good, depending on the conditions).

Jos_Buttler_2017
Jos Buttler (Via WikiCommons)

However, that same aggression when batting can lead to a massive collapse on the wrong day, which is where the bowlers need to step up. Something that they are more than capable of doing with the likes of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and the recent addition to the squad of Joffrey Archer. The latter has made a name for himself in recent years as a specialist of the short-game (T20/ODI).

With all this firepower, a smart leader is necessary. Enter Eoin Morgan. Ironically, Morgan is Irish-born, but captains the three-lions after switching allegiances in 2009. He is one of only two players to score a century – 100 runs in an innings – for two different nations. The other being Ed Joyce, who went from England to Ireland. Eoin Morgan is labelled as a “finisher” thanks to his hitting ability towards the end of a game, and that nickname may get put to the test on many occasions during this tournament.

Who are the other possible champions?

Australia:

Most final appearances (7), most wins (5) and the reigning champions. Australia have won four of the last five tournaments and have long been a force in all formats of the game. However,  in recent years, this cricketing nation has been hit with major issues. Most recently, Steve Smith, who captained the Aussies in all forms of the game, and vice-captain David Warner, both received lengthy suspensions for ball-tampering. This is basically the equivalent of when Tom Brady may or may not have reduced the air in the football’s being used when playing for the New England Patriots.

DAVID_WARNER_(11704782453)
David Warner (Via WikiCommons)

Both Warner and Smith have served their suspensions and are back in the squad, which could prove a huge factor as they both come into the tournament on the back of some great individual performances. I expect Warner to be one of the leading run scorers in the tournament, and Smith to aid current captain Aaron Finch in making the right decisions.

India:

The only country to snatch a World Cup from the Aussies when they won on home soil eight years ago. The chances of another success seems unlikely. However, any team with Virat Kohli in their ranks, has a chance. He is a messiah in the world of cricket. He is Ronaldo and Messi combined when it comes to hitting a ball with a bat. Backed up by the enigmatic MS Dhoni, India always have a chance. Unfortunately for Indian fans, this team are definitely much better in the kind of conditions expected in the sub-continent. England and Wales don’t really fit that bill. Nonetheless, you can never count them out.

Pepsi IPL 2015 - M37 CSK v RCB
Virat Kohli (left) and MS Dhoni facing off for their franchises during the 2015 IPL season. (Via WikiCommons)

New Zealand:

Now this is a fantastic team, built with a great foundation and the ability to destroy opposition batting line-ups. Every other nation is definitely better at batting than bowling. Same can’t be said about the Kiwis. New Zealand have named six specialist bowlers. Four of those are world class, two are good. Their opening bowlers Trent Boult – who I think will be the top wicket-taker in the tournament – and Tim Southee have on many occasions ripped through the batting line-up of the opposition.

Trent_Boult_bowling_3
Trent Boult (Via WikiCommons)

Don’t get me wrong, they have decent batsman who can score big, too. The likes of captain Kane Williamson, opener Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro can all go big, but relying on them to consistently score heavy is not a smart move.

Other players to watch (Not included in the aforementioned nations):

Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn (South Africa): The pair have been the linchpin for the Proteas bowling attack. Two stars for a team that lacks the quality of previous generations.

Chris Gayle (West Indies): The phrase “fetch that” is perfect for this man. Chris Gayle has one of the heaviest bats in the game, and when he swings his wood, balls go flying.

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Watching Rashid Khan bowl is a joy. He is a spin bowler with the ability to spin the ball both ways, and that makes for some exciting viewing. I am a huge fan!

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh): Tamim has had to change his batting in recent years as his team relies on him to bat deep into the innings. Yet, he is still an exciting batsman who likes to smash the bowlers around.

On their day, any one of the teams could go a long way and essentially win the tournament. No matter what happens, an exciting five weeks awaits; full of runs, wickets and drama, as long as the British summer allows for it.

Football: What a Week!

In a week where football has shown why it is the number one sport in the world, there are still people who continue to remind us of the violence and corruption that will continue to lurk in the shadows, waiting to emerge its ugly head once more. So what better way to enjoy the good and bad of this fantastic sport by having a quick look at the top events from the week.


He’s Back!

Talking of the ugly side of the game, let’s begin with Sepp Blatter.

Sepp_Blatter_(2009)
Sepp Blatter (Via WikiCommons)

Since being removed from his position as the president, ringleader and king of the fraudsters, Sepp Blatter has been a little less common on publicly circulated media forum and outlets. Clearly not happy, he decided to make himself relevant by coming out and stating that “money is at risk of ruining football!”

Really Sepp?

Blatter went on to add that, “people already pay a lot to get into the football stadium. Prices are getting higher and higher because clubs need more money.”

“When all of this (law case against FIFA) is done, I want to write a book – my memoirs, more or less.” Hope he title’s it, “My Confession by Sepp Blatter!” 

Two things immediately come to mind…

  1. He doesn’t realise that money has ruined football already, hence why the same teams, from the same leagues are always taking the trophies.
  2. Immediately after hearing the comment about ticket prices, does he not realise people will want to know how much a ticket to see a World Cup match is?

The answer to the latter question is $105 for the cheapest seats in a group match, to a whopping $1100 for a ‘Category 1′ ticket at the Final. Same category ticket at this years’ Champions League final is $660 and $140 at the Europa League Final – otherwise there’s no way anyone would go all the way to Azerbaijan, where the final is being held, to watch Arsenal and Chelsea fight for the trophy.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with Blatter that ticket prices are high, but it’s ridiculous to hear him say it knowing full well that the organisation he ran for 17 years charged astronomical figures for games.

Dummkopf!


Give Me Your Kit!

This season has been a bust for many teams that had high hopes and for one team it couldn’t have been worse. Grasshoppers Zurich of Switzerland have officially been relegated from the Swiss top division for the first time in 68 years!

During the final league game, Zurich players consistently made unbelievable errors and were losing 4-0 at F.C. Luzern. The fourth goal seemed to be all that the traveling fans could take. As a whole, they moved pitch-side and threatened to storm the pitch. As a result, the referee had to stop the game, giving the Zurich players a chance to go over and calm their fans down.

Which they manage to do after some of the players partly succumbed to the demands of the fans in order to prevent the situation from escalating.

Unfortunately, those demands were to hand over their shirts and socks, and crawl back to the changing rooms in just their pants.

As you can imagine, the game was abandoned.


How The Hell Did That Not Go In???

Football is all about fine margins. Ultimately, those fine margins have been the decider of what has been an incredible Premier League season.

January 3rd 2019, Man City vs Liverpool. Man City won 2-1 but the talking point was the 11mm that cost Liverpool dearly…

Man City vs Liverpool talking point

Then a similar incident occurred, once again benefiting Manchester City, when they played Burnley…

Title deciding goal

Either one of those go the other way, and Liverpool – came second by one point – would would have become the Champions. Instead they have created history by accumulating the highest ever points total for a team that finished runners up.

Obviously, no one is silly enough to pinpoint one or two moments in an entire season but if we could then surely these two moments would be it.

What a week it has been, and that’s not even considering the comebacks in Europe. More of the same next week please…

World Earth Day – Green Sports

A few weeks back, my partner Alexandra decided to log a few important dates on to our shared calendar, and the first one popped up yesterday. World Earth Day. Immediately, she then decided to come up with a way for me to link it to sports. It didn’t take her long.

“Hey, I wonder if any sports do anything to help the environment!”

To which I replied, “I bet they do.”

It is actually very impressive how many sporting organisations are actively trying to reduce waste within their day-to-day runnings. Interestingly they all seem to be located in America. Many teams utilise solar panels or some form of renewable energy for daily operations. Recycling and composting systems are available at practically all the major stadiums.

Le_Lincoln_Financial_Field
Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles (Via WikiCommons)

According to CBS news, the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) are one of the most active teams. Their Lincoln Financial Field accommodates 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines that have been generating since 2015. The Eagles are currently in the midst of a “Go Green” campaign (Launched in 2003) that has seen them reduce water and electrical use, among many other improvements they have made. The most incredible fact is that they have increased their recycling rate by 209%.

Wherever you look, you will see improvements. Many of the American stadiums use rainwater to clear their stadiums, and are making conscious decisions to improve. The Seattle Mariners (MLB) installed a scoreboard in 2010 that uses 90% less electricity when compared to the previous one.

What about the rest of the world?

There is a lot of catching up to do, and it shouldn’t be too difficult if the right people put their minds to it. Take the footballing world for example. UEFA has a financial fair play rule which is in place to stop clubs from spending beyond their means, yet there isn’t such a push when it comes to the environment. Biggest issue right now is that aesthetics is more important than the planet for most teams. I’m not silly enough to think that English football stadiums should have solar panels, as we don’t enjoy enough sunshine, but a few wind turbines would be a huge positive, even though they look “ugly.”

Furthermore, match-day programmes could be digitalised or printed on recycled paper, and the governing authorities could financially reward the teams that help the environment. After all, money is what it all comes down to for most of the owners!

As much as there are potential steps that could be taken in some sports, others are just plain awful for the environment. Near the top of the list is one of the most pleasurable yet infuriating sports I have ever played; Golf! All around the globe, golf courses require approximately 4 billion gallons of water per day! I don’t think that’s being used on any course that I’ve ever played at if truth be told.

There’s also the small matter of the amount of times players and teams need to travel via planes, which add to the pollution levels.

golf water
Wasting Water (Via WikiCommons)

 

Whatever way you look at it, the sporting industry as a collective could do a lot more than what it is doing right now, apart from in The States. I will be one of the first to admit that whenever I think of American sports, I always sigh and go on a rant about how they refer to the winners of their domestic league as “World Champions.” However, when it comes down to being eco-friendly, World Champions they definitely are.

 

Misunderstanding My A*#e

“Kepaze”

Surprisingly, the first word that came into my mind was the Turkish word for “shameful,” and/or “scandalous”. This word has the perfect letters and meaning to describe the actions of Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

(Ironically, Kepa’s surname is very similar to the Turkish word Ariza, meaning “defect”.)

Look, we have all have moments in our lives when we haven’t wanted to do something our boss wanted us to do, but like most people, we end up doing it, because that’s what grown-ups do. Yet, football players seem to think that normal rules don’t apply for them.

What happened?

For the people living under a rock, or who have no interest in sport, the basics are that, during the Carabao League Cup Final on Sunday between Chelsea and Manchester City, the Chelsea goalkeeper, in an act of defiance, refused to come off the pitch in the face of head coach Maurizio Sarri’s clear annoyance. Roughly 82,000 fans packed into Wembley Stadium, and the millions watching on television, caught a glimpse of what can only be seen as disrespect.

With extra time coming to a close, and penalties beckoning, Maurizio Sarri and his team wanted to make a tactical substitution by bringing on Willy Caballero. This was clearly a pre-determined decision, and one that could definitely be vindicated when considering Caballero’s excellent reputation as a specialist at saving penalties. The only problem was that Kepa clearly didn’t get the memo, or more likely, didn’t care about the memo.

(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Maurizio Sarri was overcome with rage, and who could blame him? He was shown great disrespect in front of millions.

(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Sarri wasn’t sure what to do, and he ended up having to give in. This was yet another example of a player’s defiance paying off, and Sarri was not happy about it, to say the least. (The faces of the players on the Chelsea bench say it all.)

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 13.27.09

(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

As soon as the final whistle went, it was clear which team was feeling more like a collective. Kepa wouldn’t even look at Sarri, and Sarri was out for blood. Most importantly, Caballero had to be consoled by the team coaches.

The Outcome and Aftermath

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 14.09.57
Man City win the first of a possible FOUR trophies (Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Man City went on to win 4-3 on penalties. Kepa saved one penalty, but made a huge mess of another, which he should have saved from Sergio Aguero. But the talking point was clear, and the  press were waiting for Sarri with questions about his goalkeeper’s refusal to come off.

Sarri, as expected, came out and faced a bombardment of questions about the incident. He said that Kepa was right to want to stay on, but wrong to conduct himself in the way he did.

Sarri went on to say that it was a substitution based on injury, because he thought Kepa was injured, and he wanted a fully-fit keeper in goal for the penalties. Apparently, Kepa wasn’t injured and hence refused to come off.

Sounds plausible.

Yet, before the penalties, even after the doctor’s words, both Sarri and Caballero were very upset. Caballero was having to be consoled by team coaches, while Sarri was being held back by Anthony Rudiger.

It was clearly a tactical substitution.

Still not convinced?

There is footage before the penalties of Kepa studying information on a phone. I guess he got a very important message from his mother about something. Or, more likely, he was being given the information that Caballero would have memorised and trained for throughout the week leading up to the game.

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 17.36.07
Just some revision, maybe… (Via The Ultimate Chelsea Fan TV on YouTube)

After the loss, Sarri reportedly went back to the changing room and sat there by himself for a good amount of time before going to receive his runners-up medal.

What happens next?

Coming into the game, Sarri was under huge pressure. He made changes, and his team played fantastically. But that refusal has over-shadowed the entire performance. In professional football, when your number comes up, you go off and that’s it. What kind of message does this send to the rest of the footballing world?

The Chelsea board have some huge decisions to make regarding Sarri and Kepa Arrizabalaga. They seem to have sided with Maurizio Sarri at first glance, and rightly so. Kepa – Chelsea’s record signing at £71.6m –  has been fined a week’s wages (a reported £195,000), which will be donated to the Chelsea Foundation. An amount that is, truthfully, just a drop-in-the-ocean for the Spanish goalkeeper. But this will not be the end of this debacle, and many people will be interested to see who starts in goal in the next few games.

Next up for Chelsea is a big game against local rivals Tottenham in the league on Wednesday evening (Feb. 27). Tottenham are currently in third, while Sarri’s team – including Kepa, I guess – are in a battle for fourth (the final Champions League spot) with Arsenal and Manchester United. A defeat could signal the end for Sarri, especially after the incident on Sunday.

I guess if Maurizio was to depart, not everybody would be Sarri to see the back of him.

 

Oi Referee, What Was That For?

For any individual who has played sport, there would have been an instance when they were perplexed by a certain decision made by the match official. With a mixture of feelings – anger and injustice to be the most likely – the player in question would likely have approached the official in charge, only to be dismissed with a shrug and a cold-shoulder. If players aren’t given an explanation, then what chance do the fans have?

Well …

That was until a decision was made by the NBA to allow fans to get in touch with NBA officials over Twitter, to ask them any question they have. NBA fans will be able to send their questions over during two live games this week. The first game will be on Monday (Jan. 21), when Golden State Warriors visit the Los Angeles Lakers. The second game will be on Wednesday (Jan. 23) during the San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers match-up.

How to get in touch?

Via Twitter, fans will be able to tweet at the account @OfficialNBARefs or use the hashtag #RefWatchParty to garner responses from officials who will be following the games in real time.

Is this a good idea?

I’m a fan of the NBA, and all of the extra-curricular activities that the players are obligated to do. I’d say it’s about time that referees were thrown into the mix, too. It’s no secret that most fans of the league question the integrity and impartiality of those officiating. Although such feelings will still be present, the gains from such a publicity act far outweigh the negatives.

So, can the “World’s Game” learn from other sports?

Personally, I can understand why football referees don’t want to slow up the game. But what I can’t understand is that those same officials are never held accountable for decisions they have made incorrectly. Decisions that have clearly affected the outcome of the game and, in turn, have caused disappointment for a huge group of people – or an entire nation.

Moreover, professional referees are forbidden from addressing the media directly until  they retire. Yet the same geniuses who forbade the referees made it compulsory for the manager of a club to attend press conferences.

Seems fair, right?

Surely it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try something in football that would help eliminate the schism created between officials and the rest …

Having said that, I am very much against the concept of contacting referees via Twitter, as Twitter attracts mindless “trolls” who will just hurl about abuse. (Though admittedly, some referees deserve all the abuse that they get.) If this were the case, the governing body of the sport would surely just shut down the account, and never again entertain such a channel for fans and officials to communicate.

Their reasoning: “We tried it, and it didn’t work!”

Yeah, well the Financial Fair Play (FPP) hasn’t worked either, has it?

Twitter is a no. What else?

Another option could be for referees to speak to the media. After all, it would be a safe environment. The questions would be delivered by a professional sport’s journalist, and the majority of what they are to say would help appease angry players or fans who could then try to understand the official’s point of view.

Win, win and win.

Nigel Owens (one of the best Rugby Union referees) dealing with players.

If this is not possible, then why not mic-up the referees, like they do in rugby and the NHL? In cricket, rugby and NBA, they even mic-up the players, which has led to some amazing moments.

NBA players chatting to one another.

Such a change would allow fans to eavesdrop on what is being said and actually understand what is going on. Eventually, (hopefully) you could begin to see change in football culture. Which, truth be told, is a culture based on bias, abuse, distrust and corruption, from top to bottom.

I realise that one issue this presents is that the language footballers use is atrocious. However, with the referee mic’d-up, the players would be held accountable and fined per F-word. That money could even go to a children’s charity. Even the dumbest footballer would eventually make the connection.

“I say F-word, money go down.”

“I talk nice, money stay.”

Whatever way you look at it, the NBA, NFL, NHL, rugby and cricket have shown that allowing the outside world onto the pitch is both doable and effective. Maybe it’s time for football to take some steps towards allowing the true sufferers of the sport – the fans – a chance to be involved. After all, without the fans, the game wouldn’t exist.