European Football 2014 style

21 07 2014
UMF Stjarnan 4 Bangor City 0,
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg,
3/7/14

Hope was in our bones, we were definitely going to get something tonight, we were going to have one of those “great European nights”. You can tell I was gushingly positive from my facebook status;

As I can’t watch Bangor City in Iceland I’ve decided to do the next best thing and listen to Radio Bangor in the Prestatyn Branch of the Iceland supermarket chain. It wasn’t easy but I’ve managed to secure a lock in with full access to one “Savoury Pastry Assortment” and a single portion dessert of my choice. I can tell it’s going to be one of the great nights…..Bangor in Europe…… The blue army in full voice…… Unfettered access to some partly defrosted food……… and most importantly…….. I’ll be doing it all in comfort, Iceland’s freezers provide the optimum height for laptop stability and safety. Actually, now I think about it it’s going to be a great night. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave’s ingenuity gave us both a live match commentary and pictures via a webcam. Tonight was the first time I had watched a match via a webcam. It was all fine to begin with, Dave’s words were clear, the pictures were sharp and most importantly Bangor were comfortable on the ball.

Aug 20 001

Then the buffering kicked in, then an anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay used the chatbox to remind us that UEFA run minute by minute reports in their match centre. I couldn’t resist clicking on the killjoy’s link.

The spell was broken, anyone that clicked on the link immediately knew that Dave’s feed was about 10 minutes behind the action. Yeah thanks for that you anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay, thanks for diluting my sense of excited anticipation, thanks for ruining my evening.

Having said that without  UEFA’s match centre I would not have found out about the innovative formations that Bangor and Stjarnan were deploying. Stjarnan favoured the Pitchfork whereas Bangor opted for the Circle / Piggy In The Middle.

Aug 20 011

I can’t say for certain that our anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay caused Bangor to concede two goals but it clearly was his fault. If we’d all just carried on watching the images from Dave’s webcam Bangor would not have conceded those goals. These anonymous killjoys from Colwyn Bay ruin everything, and with my evening already ruined it was no surprise that Bangor conceded two more goals.

When the people that were there reported back, via our main message board, it seemed as though Stajarnan’s first goal was a highly disputable penalty and their second goal was directly preceded by a foul on Johnno. This may not have been one of those “great European nights” but photos posted on facebook showed that it had been a good trip, how many times will travelling fans use a walkway between tectonic plates?

Bangor City 0 UMF Stjarnan 4,
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg,
3/7/14

Most Bangor fans seems hopeful that we could get something out of this match but then humans are resolutely positive, we generally hope for the best.

As long as the score remained goalless the hope remained, and we’d had a couple of good chances in the first half and who’s to say we would score five second half goals. By the by, the Icelandic fans seemed rather loud, friendly and drunk.

Sadly Stjarnan scored their first goal in the first minute of the second half. By the end of the half another 3 goals had fallen in the gap between semi-pro fitness and Icelandic professionalism. The Icelandic fans sportingly took their shows off as they left to generous applause.

Aug 20 014





Yeah it’s like soooo been the “best world cup EVER”

13 07 2014

A few days ago I saw, or was it read?, that this edition of Blatter’s world cup was the “best world cup ever”. It was like Italia ’90 like never happened.

Here are the “best world cup ever” lowlights of a moaning cynic.

The worst team - Brazil

My choice isn’t based on their mistakes or disappointing lack of relative glamour, it’s their demeanour. Brazil managed to combine an unsubtle tendency to throw their weight around with an ability to dive while wearing a look of sweet innocence. David Luiz, Oscar, Fred, shitbags the lot of them. Lest we forget, this bellend supported Brazil.

BqcOGo9CUAAEkGo

The worst kit - Brazil home

Seeing the granddad-esque collar was a trip back to the Primark ubiquity of 2012.

neymar_r_2903945b

The worst presenter – Adrian Chiles

It’s the hope I can’t stand. The gap between the end of the adverts and hearing Adrian’s words has become a horrible time.  We’re only seconds away from incredulity wrapped in a matey demeanour replacing the hope of something uplifting again. Despite the obvious clues I began to think that Adrian wasn’t actually sat beside a world famous beach in a country that’s hosting a world cup.

The worst co-commentator - Andy Townsend / Robbie Savage

Thank the fates that these two are on different channels. Come the revolution one of our first duties will be to cast Townsend and Savage in to exile on St. Helena. During their extended stay they’ll be able to angrily dissect each other’s behaviour, like why the chores aren’t being done as they should be, to their heart’s content.

The worst pitchside adverts – Budweiser

If you’re involved with a company that’s been accused of trampling over local customs and traditions at previous world cups because you’ve served fans weak piss that’s masqueraded as beer don’t worry, you can always make up for it. All you need to do is advertise the local beer of the markets that feature in a televised match. Hey presto, you’ll have convinced the world that you’re a cynical multinational that seems to produce most of the world’s beer rather than a heartless multi-national conglomerate that produces alcoholic drinks.

The worst feeling – Cynicism

The adverts, the branding, the people, the players, the brightly coloured boots, the stage managed spectacle, the blue sheeting that covered concrete, the slogans, the special ball for the final, the words, the criticism, the words, the words, the words. FIFA’s slogan was actually “Football For Hope” which as someone said to me on twitter, is not really a slogan more of an offer from FIFA; “We’ll swap your hope for our football”.

I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy a world cup ever again. I’d love to be able to just watch the football and relive van Persie’s header or Rodiguez’s volley but I all see Blatter’s fucking face.





The banter doesn’t work – THE FACTS!!!!!!!

9 07 2014

Last night’s 7-1 football feast definitively proved that “The Banter” doesn’t work.

Cast your mind to the day when Spain were knocked out knocked of Blatter’s world cup a couple of weeks ago. If you’re like me you can still taste the bile that rose when this twat and his fucking tablet appeared on our television screens;

BqcOGo9CUAAEkGo

If anything’s an avatar for what’s wrong with that modern football it’s him.

Last night I prayed that the camera would capture him rocking slowly backwards and forwards in his seat, his once prisitine yellow shirt ruined by a dripping mix of tear water and facepaint. This scene would have been the highlight of my world cup. Sadly the camera didn’t find him, and to put it frankly, I feel cheated.

Last season two things happened amongst many other things. Firstly Manchester United managed not qualified for Europe for the first time in ages. Secondly Aberystwyth Town managed to qualify for Europe for the second time in their history. Naturally the person that controls Aberystwyth Town’s official twitter account saw an opportunity to use “The Banter”.

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Those with a sense of humour proclaimed legendary banter, those with an ability to use polysyllabic words despaired. Having said that Twitter doesn’t have the space for;

 “Manchester United had a tough transitional season under two different managers whereas Aberystwyth qualified for Europe mainly because they were lucky enough to draw a third tier team in their Welsh Cup semi final and then play the already qualified for Europe Welsh champions in the Welsh Cup final”.

Twitter obviously can’t handle the truth. Anyway, Aberystwyth lost 4-0 away to Derry City, you know just like Manchester United would not have done.

Judging by this banter-driven bollocks Aber’s officials need to be more careful with their time. They’ve obviously been hanging around with the wrong Welsh club officials at the European draw.

 





Looking on the bright side, thanks to Bangor City in the UEFA Cup

3 07 2014

I can’t watch Bangor City in Iceland tonight so I’ve decided to do the next best thing……listen to Radio Bangor in the Prestatyn branch of the Iceland supermarket chain.

It wasn’t easy but I’ve managed to secure a lock in with full access to one “Savoury Pastry Assortment” and a single portion dessert of my choice.

I can tell it’s going to be one of the great nights………….Bangor in Europe…………The blue army in full voice…………Unfettered access to some partly defrosted food…………..and most importantly…………..I’ll be doing it all in comfort, Iceland’s freezers provide the optimum height for laptop stability and safety.

Actually, now I think about it it’s going to be a great night. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

See Platini, you may stop me watching my teams, you may stop me going to other countries to watch my teams, but you’ll never get me down.

I’m free in my head, and you can’t buy that lad, you can’t buy that.





European football is rather exciting!!!!

29 06 2014

Last Sunday Bangor fans were rather excited. We knew we could draw any of the following team in Monday’s draw;

Fola Esch
Crusaders
Sant Julià
Shirak
Veris Chișinău
Gabala
Mika
Sioni Bolnisi
Hibernians
Sliema Wanderers
Čelik Nikšić
Astana
Fram Reykjavík
Jelgava
Víkingur
Kairat
Laçi
Turnovo
Dundalk
VPS
Stjarnan
Banga Gargždai
Daugava Rīga
Lovćen Cetinje
B36 Tórshavn
UE Santa Coloma
Sillamäe Kalev
Atlantas
ÍF
Glenavon
Libertas
Santos Tartu
Folgore
College Europa

The appetites of discovery were whetted. The draw covered nearly every corner of Europe; from Gibraltar on the outer edge of the Mediterranean to within touching distance of Chinese border in Kazakhstan, from the edge of the Arctic circle to the shores of the Caspian, from the Baltic to Dublin Bay.

Well I say all appetites were whetted but mine wasn’t, the date of the first qualifying round matches meant I would’t be able to go. If we get through to the 2nd qualifying round I’ll only be able to go to the away match if we’re away in the second leg. Never mind though, it’s been like that for the last 5 years and I’m used to it. Having said that it still hurts when you see people discussing travel plans on facebook, nothing every quells that pain.

By Sunday evening we knew of Bangor’s subgroup in the draw. We were in group 6;

Seeded Clubs

1 Aberdeen FC (SCO)
2 AS Jeunesse Esch (LUX)
3 Tromsø IL (NOR)
4 FK Ekranas (LTU)
5 Myllykosken Pallo-47 (FIN)
6 Bangor City FC (WAL)

Unseeded Clubs

7 Dundalk FC (IRL)
8 Stjarnan (ISL)

9 Crusaders FC (NIR)
10 Tartu FC Santos (EST)
11 ÍF Fuglafjørdur (FRO)
12 FK Daugava Rīga (LVA)

Sadly we’ve missed the chance for a linguistic derby with Lithuania’s Banga. I’ve noticed a metaphorical slight of hand at this level of European football,  sides might look “beatable” but you don’t know what to expect. Even clubs from the “weaker” leagues can play a bit. Consequently I wasn’t sure what to hope for. The Estonians and Latvians are probably skillful, the Icelandic team are probably tricky and the Northern Irish side will be up for it.

In the end we drew Stjarnan. Stjarnan? Who are Stjarnan? A you tube search uncovered  a load of rehearsed goal celebrations.

I’m not sure what these clips tell us about their footballing abilities. Anyway it doesn’t matter I can’t go, I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland as well. UEFA also made drew the next round and the winners of Stjarnan v Bangor City will play Motherwell.

That was more like it!!! Then I noticed that if we got through we’d be playing away in Motherwell in the first leg, which means I couldn’t go. Bollocks. Bollocks to it all. I mean that’s just bloody typical that is.

Even though I won’t be able to take a full part in this season’s European adventure I was still excited by the prospect of EUROPEAN FOOTBALL IN BANGOR. Exotic international visitors, summer evenings, a chance of glory, aaaaaaah European football. Europe brings the stuff that makes the trips to Aberystwyth, Afan Lido and Airbus worthwhile.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this banner on the Internet a couple of days later.

Europa League

Finding stuff in foreign languages about Bangor City is why I love European football.





When world cups start to feel familiar

28 06 2014

As good as this world cup has been there’s been something of the slow puncture about it. The actual football’s been rather good and FIFA’s commercial angle was expected so I’m not complaining about either of those. I’m referring to the world cup’s backdrop; the grounds.

The convoluted logic of corporate sport tells that the world cup has to take place in massive and futuristic grounds that cost billions so each organizing committee builds their own set of massive and futuristic grounds that cost billions. Over the last fortnight I’ve wondered why Brazil bothered.

The design school that Brazil employed – “The logic of corporate sport stadium design school” - means that I can’t tell the Maracana from Manaus. It’s not just that they all look similar either, it’s the sense of dejavu they present.

On television the grounds of Brazil appear to look like the grounds of previous tournaments from certain angles. For example I find that Belo Horizonte’s ground looks quite similar to the Parc Des Princes….

Belo Horizonte

Parc Des Princes

…and Porto Allegre looks similar Port Elizabeth from the last world cup.

Porto Allegre

Port Elizabeth

This isn’t really a surprise because “The logic of corporate sport stadium design school” only employs a cabal of worthy architects. The ground in Natal was designed by the same architect as the new Wembley, Ashburton Grove, the new Stadium of Light in Lisbon and the Friends Arena in Stockholm. The grounds in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Manaus were designed by the architects that designed the new national stadium in Warsaw, the redeveloped Olympic Stadium in Kiev and Durban’s stadium for the last world cup.

It seems a shame to go to the effort of building all these lovely new grounds when they’re identikit. The grounds can be distinctive. In Italia ’90 all the grounds were distinctive.

Bologna

Genoa

san-siro

In France ’98 all the grounds were distinctive.

Stade_de_la_Beaujoire

Lyon

stade

In this world cup I can only remember three distinctive grounds out of the twelve; Cuiaba with its floodlit corner pillars, Salvador with its asymmetrical goal end and Sao Paolo with its the open ends.

Even when they redeveloped old grounds they became idenikit. Here’s a before and after view of Belo Horizonte;

 

externo_mineirao

 

Why did they go to the effort and expense of redevelopment and not create something more distinctive? I look at the grounds and wonder where the flavour of the host nation is, for example the Maracana had its distinctive charm removed during its redevelopment. Without the commentators or the corporate branding how do we even know we’re watching a Brazilian world cup?

The international trend of homogenization is leading inexorably to a smooth corporate version of football where Munich, Wembley, Athens and Istanbul become indistinguishable. By creating these tournament archetypes they remove the national idiosyncrasies that make world cups interesting. If we take identikit grounds to a logical extreme the process of awarding the hosting rights to different countries becomes meaningless.

Grounds are utilitarian buildings for holding large crowds. The synthesis of function and form is desirable but function is preferable. If pre-existing grounds are big enough why not use them? Would the fans really mind if they had visit characterful older grounds rather than glossy new pleasure domes with ergonomic handrails? I suspect they wouldn’t, and the tournaments would be cheaper to host as well.





World cup history repeating

21 06 2014

The pictures from this world cup are a continual reminder that we are watching matches taking places in brand spanking new stadia. It seems apposite to repost a post I wrote In October 2011……

 

I’ve spent the last few weeks casually watching the rugby world cup and one match has remained with me; Scotland v Romania in Invercargill. The main reason this outwardly unremarkable match lodged in my memory is that it was played in what seemed to be a country fair showground.

Some people accuse rugby of nasty things like the fact it’s an arena for needless brutality and behaviour requirse a tolerance for drinking pints of vomit. Fortunately I’m a man of the world and I know that there is a lot about rugby that is sort of charming; the camaraderie, the respect for officials, Max Boyce, drunk people in sparkly cowboy hats, morons waving at the camera during the national anthem when they see themselves on the big screen, the quintets of people dotted around the Millennium Stadium all wearing those daffodil shaped balaclavas to prove how “wacky!!!!” they are, etc, etc.

Speaking seriously for a moment, one of the better things about rugby is that  in comparison to the olympics and football the sport has a sense of its size. Rugby’s administrators seem to realise that their sport doesn’t need to be the biggest sport in the world, or even merely gigantic. Generally they don’t see the need for legions of PR execs or flashy architects.

In terms of the stadia rugby tend to adopt a “make do and mend” approach. This approach was visible in Invercargill; some parts of the crowd sat in temporary stands whilst other parts of the crowd stood, yes stood, down one side of the pitch.

I have become so accustomed to the placing of sporting events on the escalator of perpetual enlargement and brilliance that I struggled to remember that I watching a match in an international tournament from the 21st century.

I was transported into the past………

….. It was 1958 and I was in Sweden, Vasteras to be exact, and what a charming venue it was!! Scotland were playing and the pitch was thronged by locals. Cherubic youngsters were sitting cross-legged around the perimeter, aaah the good old days, jumpers for goal posts, rickets and casual racism…

Ahem …… Let’s get back on track. Yes, rugby lacks the need to describe itself as the biggest event in the universe.

A few hours after the Scottish match the most populous rugby nation on Earth, England, played their first match in a flashy new ground built for the tournament. This flashy new ground was small compared to the new grounds built for football tournaments.

From just these two pieces of evidence you can argue that rugby union does things differently. I know you could argue that rugby is played in fewer countries than football, and therefore they don’t need the massive facilities, but there doesn’t seem to be much of desire to change the situation and there’s certainly not much desire to make billions in profit.

Rugby is charmingly out of step with the logic of major championships and a throwback to less stressful times. Piecemeal changes – A clean-up, a coat of paint and a few corporate banners – plus modest new grounds suffice. Other governing bodies need a touch of rugby’s humility. Football used to be like that, FIFA used to have the quaint idea of using stadia that were already there for events.

The contemporary approach taken by tournament organising committees is one-eyed one-upmanship. The next tournament WILL be the BIGGEST and BEST EVER and most importantly, it WILL make the host country look fantastic. Let’s call this approach the “Showbiz Outlook”.

All stadia MUST look futuristic and fantastic because the “Showbiz Outlook” sees a competition/tournament as a shop window for a country. The shop window WILL automatically entice lots and lots of money in to the shop.

The preachers of the “Showbiz Outlook” sell us their dream by telling us that it’s our dream. They tell us that the competition will transform a country by bestowing development and goodness simply by taking place. Facilities will be built, airports will be built, roads will be built, the money will flow!!! Here’s Ricardo Teixeira about Brazil 2014;

“Over the next few years we will have a consistent influx of investments. The 2014 World Cup will enable Brazil to have a modern infrastructure,” Teixeira said. “In social terms will be very beneficial. Our objective is to make Brazil become more visible in global arenas,” he added. “The World Cup goes far beyond a mere sporting event. It’s going to be an interesting tool to promote social transformation.”

Similar claims about the last world cup’s transformative powers on South Africa (and Africa by natural extension);

If all this will happen it’s no wonder countries pay for new stadia, they’d be mad not to!!!

There are a couple of points that go against the “Showbiz Outlook”. Firstly we must dispute the accepted logic. Will massive positive changes naturally flow from hosting a major sporting event. Will a country see any real change?

The main motivation for taking this path is conforming to a bloated and misguided image of how things should be. This kind of development diverts funding (actual and potential) away from more vital social policies. Forcing a relatively poor country like South Africa to build massive stadia is hardly the moral position;

Africa also falls into the trap of the “Showbiz Outlook” with the Africa Cup of Nations. Why should poor countries be forced to fit in with a logic directed by rich countries?

If your country is “civilized” like Ricardo Teixeira’s Brazil then why would it wait for a world cup or olympics to develop a decent infrastructure?

This thinking not only falls short on the moral level, it also falls short on the basis that they’re sold to us; there is no evidence the new stadia encourage economic growth. The academic economist, Rob Baade, found that there is no economic case for new stadia and has written many books and articles stating his case, here the abstract from one piece of his research;

“Sports leagues, franchises, and civic boosters tout the economic benefits of professional sports as an incentive for host cities to construct new stadiums or arenas at considerable public expense. Past league-sponsored studies have estimated that new stadiums, franchises, and mega-events such as the Super Bowl increase economic activity by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in host cities. A detailed regression analysis of taxable sales in Florida over the period extending from 1980 to 2005 fails to support these claims. New stadiums, arenas, and franchises, as well as mega-events, appear to be as likely to reduce taxable sales as increase them. Similarly, strikes and lockouts in professional sports have not systematically lead to reductions in local taxable sales.”

When there was a rumour that the Penguins NHL ice hockey team relocating from Pittsburgh to Kansas City Dr. Baade give the idea short shrift.;

“The idea that Kansas City could support yet another professional sports team seems to be unrealistic,” said Rob Baade, an economist and author at Lake Forest College in Illinois whose research includes the economic impact of professional sports teams on metropolitan areas.”

It was simple logic as the other sports clubs in Kansas City were suffering from poor attendances;

“The AL’s Royals and Major League Soccer’s Wizards are struggling at the gate, and the Blades and indoor-soccer Attack also rank near the bottoms of their respective leagues’ attendance charts.

Only the NFL’s Chiefs consistently draw large crowds.”

This example highlights the power of  spurious ideas. Despite Dr. Baade’s simple ideas Kansas City still wanted a professional Ice Hockey club and the mayor actually invited the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins for discussions about moving.

In the end there are two similar questions that beg to be asked; why do we have to have these brand spanking new stadia? What’s wrong with using the existing facilities? The rugby way is the way forward.

A major problem with the “Showbiz Outlook” is the problem of “The White Elephant”

Take Italia ’90. On a surface architectural level this tournament was impressive All the stadia were breathtaking, Milan, Turin, Rome, Udine, Bari. They all made you want to be an Italian fan. A couple of decades after the event and the breathtaking stadia don’t seem so useful – Turin’s ground was demolished, refurbished and re-opened a few weeks ago with a better design, Cagliari have done away with their athletic track by building stands on it, Bari’s stadium dwarves their average gate, the Milan pitch is frequently ruined etc etc

Sporting competitions from the past tell us of the danger of white elephants. In Euro 2004 there was Faro, in Germany 2006 there was Dresden, in Euro 2008 there was Klagenfurt. In Korea and Japan there are a whole host of stadia that we too damn big for sensible post-tournament usage. None of these stadia was built cheaply. Take the Daddy of all costly stadia; the Montreal Olympic Stadium. It took Montreal 30 years to pay off the cost and they’ve now lost their main tenets.

The hubris of yesterday is often floodlit by the economic catastrophe of tomorrow. Next year’s European Championship is already showing signs of not making ends meet.

The cost is the nub of the problem. It’s rather amoral to spend billions and billions of pounds/dollars/euros on facilities that will be used for 4 weeks at the most (or a fortnight in the case of the olympics). Even if they are used by a club after the event it’s still an extortionate amount of money. It’s bad enough when this happens in rich countries but it’s positively obscene to divert public money toward stadia in poorer countries.

The situation becomes even more obscene when western governments shackle themselves to the Thatcher/Pinochet model of public spending (a severely limited budget that must be balanced). Chuck in the present economic difficulty and the situation appears even worse.

If a stadium is passed fit, and they have to be passed fit to host football matches, why can’t it be used for hosting big matches if the ground capacity is suitable? Why does it need redevelopment? Most football championship before 1990 seemed to manage with existing stadia and what was wrong with this approach?

Football needs a bit of humility but….

“Premier League clubs should be able to do their own television deals abroad, Liverpool’s managing director has said.

Ian Ayre fears English sides will be left behind by their European rivals if overseas revenues continue to be shared equally between the league’s 20 clubs.

Ayre said: “The other European clubs just don’t follow that model. They will create much greater revenue to go and buy the best players.”

Ayre believes that Liverpool – along with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – deserve to receive an increased share.”

Sadly the premier league looks on the world in the same way that the East India Company did. You wonder what needs to happen to make people change their minds.

Bollocks to Blatter’s world cup.








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