The not so beautiful game – The treatment of Sulley Muntari

Yet again football in Italy has failed to properly deal with the racism issue. This time Pescara midfield Sulley Muntari was the victim in a Serie A game between his club Pescara and Cagliari. Having received abuse, the Ghanian and former Portsmouth player went over to the fans who he had identified as those ones shouting racist chants. Having confronted the racists, I chose not to call them fans as decent football supporters don’t result to such levels, Muntari spoke to the referee. Thinking that the referee would deal with the matter, he was surprised to be on the receiving end of a yellow card. What was he given the yellow card for? dissent. I mean come on, if a player gets punished for reporting racism to a match official, then we are in trouble. Naturally the player walked off the pitch letting the game carry on.

It is appalling but yet not surprising to see the Italian FA failing to deal with the racism problem once more. We have seen time and time again that the racism problem raises its dirty head once more. Another example of failure to deal with racism is the treatment of Mario Ballotelli. The football enigma has been often a victim to the disgusting racism with the n word and monkey taunts. On one occasion was seen to be crying whilst on the bench having been on the receiving end of abuse. The response by his manager, Clarence Seerdorf and his players? Nothing to do with racism, but his passion for the game causing him to get upset.

What it needs is for a ban of some sort by either UEFA or FIFA on the Italian Football Association to make them realise that they need to take things more seriously. Handing out fines will simply not do.

World Cup to 48 – No thanks

 So the reality of an expanded World Cup moves ever closer. FIFA voted on Tuesday 10th January for a 48 nations in 2026. If you thought Russia and Qatar being handed the World Cup Finals was a crazy idea, then expanding to 48 seems one step too far. Of course it will all be about making it more profitable and making more money. It is all very well making things profitable if the actual product improves. Sadly it is very unlikely that the football will improve. The  reality is that the teams from Europe and South America will continue to dominate whilst African nations keep their toes dipped in the pool as it were. It is very unlikely that other than Japan, South Korea or Australia,the Asian teams or even those from Oceania (should they qualify) will be nothing more than adding numbers to the loss column. There were five options available for the member nations to vote for but it seems

  • Keep The Existing Structure
  • Expand to 40 ( 8 Groups of 5)
  • Expand to 40 (10 Groups of 4)
  • Expand to 48 (16 Groups of 3)
  • Expand to 48 (Opening 32 play off round)

As you can see there are five options. The first one is the if it aint broke dont fix it option, you then have the increase to 40, this was an idea that the former UEFA man Michel Platini had suggested, which could have been bearable and then finally the 48 option.

It is one thing to make the World Cup bigger but to choose the most ridiculous option of 16 groups of three is just bordering on pointless and with two going through. The last time the World Cup finals saw groups of three was when Spain hosted the World Cup in 1982. Back then it saw just the group winners make it into the next round. That idea seemed to have been quickly thrown away as the following World Cup finals format returned to group then knockout rounds. If the idea of three team groups was a bad idea then, why in gods name does anyone think it’s going to be better in 2026. I guess in the post Qatar fall out anything might seem bearable.

The Scottish FA seem to support it, I guess anything that enhances their chances of qualifying can only seem good. That said they dont seem to be able to make headway in a group that contains Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania. I guess though anything that keeps the Scot’s somewhat happy. The not so happy people included the European Club Association, who opposed it and called it regrettable and merely for political reasons. The Spanish La Liga are also against it.

There may not be any reversal in the decision, but one can only hope that before the competition has reached it’s centenary year, the tournament may have seen its enjoyment tarnished.

Champions League – Last 16

The Champions League draw took place this morning and England’s three remaining representatives were hoping for a easier start to a possible run to the final. For Arsenal and Man City it was familiar ground but for Premier League champions Leicester, this was still new ground. In fact for the Foxes, they were the only debutants in the knock out stages in this rounds competition.

Having snatched the group on the final round of group games, Arsenal found them meeting their Champions League nemesis, Bayern Munich. Having lost to them at the same stage in 2013 and 2014, Arsene Wenger will hope it’s third time lucky for the Gunners. Bayern, who finished second in their group will look to progress to the final having lost to runners up Atletico Madrid.

Leicester City find themselves in at the deep end as they face Spanish club Sevilla, who won last seasons Europa League final against Liverpool. The Spaniards came second to Juventus in their group and in their domestic league are flying in third place. The fortunate thing for Leicester is that they will be at home in the second leg and if they are yet again flying in Champions League form and still within a shout, it could make all the difference.

Man City will hope to make it to the Semi finals again and will see their chance of progression the easiest out of the three home clubs Whilst they face French club Monaco beat Tottenham twice, they wont be easy. City will hope that their form has turned round by the time the two clubs meet.

In the other last sixteen fixtures Real Madrid look favourites against Napoli, despite the defending champions finishing second in their group albeit behind Borussia Dortmund. Benfica face a tricky tie when they face Borussia Dortmund. The Portuguese club will need to be tight at the back against the strong German club. PSG’s failure to top the group with a final round draw sees them face Barcelona. The French club will host Barcelona in the first leg and travel to Spain for the second. It should prove to be a mouthwatering tie with both teams looking to reach the final.

All too late? – Fifa’s move for change

Fifa appear to be finally learning from the mess that has engulfed the organisation and brought the end of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini. They have appeared to decide to make a U turn on the decision not to have fixed terms along with more stronger checks on how the organisation is run.

 Fixed term appointments are not a bad thing, but they should have been put in place years ago. Had this been done, we may not have been in this position to begin with. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing.

In my opinion though the whole of the FIFA executive committee should be scrapped and started again. As it stands the Executive committee consists of one president, one Senior Vice President, seven Vice Presidents, sixteen members one Co-opted member for Special Tasks and the General Secretary.

Frankly that seems a ridiculous amount of members in the role of Vice President on an executive committee. Does FIFA actually require seven Vice Presidents? Im not sure it does to be honest. They should instead have one outright president, one deputy president and two Vice Presidents. The members should consist of three members from each of the Associations. An equal balance within the associations would mean equal balance and fairness in FIFA.

Openess should have always been the case with FIFA, especially with such a big organisation. In 2015 it should be the norm without hesitation. Whilst it is is positive, it is very much shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

Notably with the recent events, the changes in FIFA, may require investigations within the other affected to root out any possible issues. Trouble wont be sorted with just an investigation at the highest of the organisations. It needs change all over. We shall though have to wait and see.

We don’t have the time to wait – The Fifa debacle continues

Today at a news conference, briefly interrupted by Simon Brodkin (More commonly known as Lee Nelson), Sepp Blatter announced that FIFA had taken some important decisions, one of those decisions being that the extraordinary committee will elect a new president. That’s the good news, the bad news is that this election wont take place till February 26 in 2016. Which means we are lumbered with Blatter for another seven months. It always too good to be true when Blatter said he would stand down, that it would actually be straight away.

Football fans around the world will be hoping that these seven months will pass quickly. The mess that FIFA finds itself in, means that having to wait till 2016 for definite change, is unacceptable. With the legal action and various arrests taking place, the organisation cannot seriously move forward with a clear vision whilst Blatter leads. How long will it be before more sponsors call time on FIFA.

Ideally who ever takes over as the FIFA President, will be someone who is more game focused and not leaning towards any national association for favours. Whilst the successful candidate may not be able to change the World Cup 2018 process,  they will have the chance to sort things out and reopen the  2022 World Cup host selection before its too late. The reason why it will be too late to change anything is due to the fact there are four days till the draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifying takes place.

In 2016 we will see either the death of FIFA or the raising of a new organisation that brings a positive new organisation.

Time For Genuine Change – FIFA needs more than just Blatter gone

Despite the election then resignation intent of Sepp Blatter, it is going to require much more than just his resignation to get the organisation back to where it should be. In theory FIFA as we know it, should be shut down and a new organisation set up with fair impartial elections a brand new committee to drive the organisation forward in a positive manner. Ultimately it would see the removal of Russia and Qatar as the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.

The removal of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the World Cups they were selected for, may to some seem unfair. In reality though it is the only thing to be done. Whilst Russia could have claimed  legitimate reasons for hosting the World Cup, their stances on certain aspects, would make it difficult for an enjoyable competition. 

In the case of Qatar, there is no justification for the country to be hosting the prestigious tournament. There is no football heritage, there is no proper football history or decent football set up. How can a nation whose summers are far too hot, no World Cup history, socially backwards, even be genuinely hosting a World Cup. There was talk that the competition could be moved to the winter to enable reasonable conditions. No bloody chance. UEFA with a backbone would kick up a fuss.

With the investigations picking up, word would appear that there were allegations that both Russia and Qatar bought votes, the possibilities of FIFA stripping the current 2018 and 2022 hosts of their award are becoming ever more realistic. The rightful thing would either be to have a new process or award it it to one of the nations that had missed out before. The 2018 World Cup could come to England and the 2022 World Cup could go to Australia.

Until Blatter has departed and the many of the remaining officials removed, we may not get to see what the fans truly deserve, the beautiful game being enjoyed for the on field delights and not the off field nightmares.