Archive for the ‘ Football ’ Category

Who said what? Round One: Sir Alex Ferguson vs Comrade Nikita Khrushchev

“Dissent is for losers”, apparently: an outlook that Sir Alex Ferguson happens to share with Nikita Khrushchev, former First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.  And it’s not the only one. Couple that with their beautiful mugs, and it can be hard to tell them apart. So, who said it, Fergie or Nikita?

1) “We have to swallow this bitter pill… The weak complain against the strong; the strong pay no attention and continue their insolent action” – Fergie, upset at Thierry Henry’s 90th minute winner in a 2007 league game OR Nikita, after the Soviets failed to shoot down a US spy plane?

2) “He could start a row in an empty house.” – Nikita on Lyndon Johnson, OR Fergie, on Dennis Wise?

3) “He was certainly full of it, calling me “Boss” and “Big Man” when we had [a] drink… But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.” – Fergie on José Mourinho after a Champions League game, OR Nikita, after a landmark meeting with Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David?

4) “We will bury you” – Nikita, referring to agents of international imperialism, OR Fergie, referring to Roberto Mancini’s Man City?

5) “If you start throwing hedgehogs under me, I shall throw a couple of porcupines under you” – Fergie, speaking to the media, OR Nikita, speaking to the media?

6) “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in your own field. It’s a fact. Right? And it never really works out that way.” – Nikita, in reference to why East Germany would regret reunification with its seemingly more prosperous neighbours, OR Fergie, in reference to Wayne Rooney?

7) “[This] question has stuck like a dead rat in the throat of some people – they are disgusted with it and yet they can’t spit it out” – Fergie, when asked about the BBC’s allegations about his son Jason, OR Nikita, when asked about Soviet intervention in Hungary?

8) “Though you are a fiery young man and I am no longer young, I can still compete with you” – Nikita to an American talk show host OR Fergie in a touch-line encounter with Andre Villas-Boas?

9) “[so] I decided to add a little more heat. I took off my shoe and pounded it…” – Fergie, in reference to David Beckham’s forehead, or Nikita, as he made a point about General Franco?

10) “They are the inventors of the smokescreen.” – Nikita, in reference to Americans, OR Fergie, in reference to Italians?

11) “He’s not [x], he’s a piece of shit” – Fergie, (missing words “the Great One,”) in reference to Jose Mourinho, OR Nikita (missing words “the foreign minister”) referring to the Soviet foreign minister?

12) “He’s a bully, a fucking big-time Charlie”. Nikita, referring to John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, or Fergie, referring to Paul Ince?

13) “Could that come under the description ‘desperation?’ I’ve got plenty of ammunition, don’t worry. They can try.” Fergie, speaking figuratively in reference to Carlos Tevez playing again for Man City, or Nikita, speaking literally about a possible NATO-led military solution to the Berlin question?

14) “What am I going to do without work? How am I going to live?” Nikita after his very real, enforced retirement OR Fergie musing on his potential, always-imminent but never arriving theoretical retirement?

15) ‘It’s getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.’ Fergie, in reference to the tension of the end of the season, or Nikita, in reference to the tension of the potentially world-ending Cuban Missile Crisis?

Answers in the comment below…

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In good Kompany

Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist. I’m only in journalism for the puns, dontcha know?

Anyway anyone who’s read Vincent Kompany’s views on his tackle and the debate over video technology may think we differ entirely on the matter (or may wonder what the hell my views are; see here). I am hugely respectful of his views and he put them across very coherently. The basic gist seems to be that the opportunity for redress by video means that every tackle with intent would be punished retrospectively, and that there would be ridiculous numbers of suspensions. Just to assuage your worries though (and I’m sure they’re harboured by hundreds); Kompany and I in fact have entirely  consistent views. Taking an NHL style approach to discipline doesn’t mean you can’t still beat each other up, or take them out completely. We just need to agree on what the rules are. Half of Kompany’s frustration is that there is this inconsistency, with a tendency to move towards a status quo which penalises  aggressive tackles. That doesn’t need to happen for us to use video technology. The debate about what is allowed and what isn’t is separate to how we decide if someone has done something wrong. So we could decide that in all cases we should allow two-footed tackles, but still use video evidence to determine if someone has headbutted someone in an off the ball incident. The two issues shouldn’t be conflated. Good? Good. Hope that’s set your mind at ease.

Accountability and Technology in Football: Lessons from the NHL

If you saw the Kompany tackle on Nani last Sunday, or, for that matter, the Joey Barton “headbutt”, or, for that matter, choose to care even an iota about football on any given weekend, you’ll know that the current method and standards of refereeing are, shall we say, controversial.

Let’s not beat about the bush; I think the argument for use of replays is fairly uncontestable, and the two main arguments against it – that it would take too much time and would not be applicable throughout the footballing world – don’t really bear close examination. What, so the amount of time wasted haranguing and surrounding referees to put across your point of view forcefully (despite the fact your valiant plaint isn’t going to take back that red card) and the subsequent harassment of refs by fans when some European referee is adjudged to have dumped England out a given international competition isn’t worth the 5 seconds that it takes to consult a video replay? Not only is it time saving but it is culture changing; why swear and curse the official who is going by empirics-supported video review? It doesn’t undermine officials, it helps them. As for the inability to implement video review at all levels, that is simply a nonsense. Okay, so not every game would have video review, but then not every game has as much monetary value attached to it as a Champions League or international fixture. Pragmatically alone it seems to be easily justified. But on a purely theoretical basis the reasoning doesn’t hold up either. So changes need to be cost effectively implemented at all levels? Can the behind-the-goal-line-official, of Europa League trial fame, truly be said to fit this criteria? Playing at a low-level, I know how hard it is to get linesmen for football games, let alone fourth officials, let alone fifth or sixth ones. And notwithstanding the fact that these officials spend the whole game doing very little and then seem to make non-decisions when you may think they could helpfully have helped their colleagues out, is it really likely that every Blue Square Premier-style division would find it cost-effective to use them? Well, at least theoretically they could. But I don’t see how an investment to supply such officials and an investment in video technology differ, especially given the broadcasting on television of ever more lowly leagues thanks to Premier Sports and the like.

But, despite the lengthy drawn-out diatribe to start this post, its purpose is not to go over well-rehearsed  and oft-repeated points on the matter of the use of technology. Indeed, it is worth noting that even on watching replays, neither the Kompany nor Barton decisions lend themselves to indubitable decisions one way or another (to Mr Platini’s delight I’m sure…) Rather, the point of this post is to highlight how football could improve its accountability, without exposing individual referees to unwanted attention for their decisions.

The NHL has taken a new approach to disciplinary procedures in ice hockey this year. Whenever a player is thrown out of a game, each decision is reviewed and a suspension is given (or the decision reversed) on the basis of that review. When this decision has been made, the NHL releases a snazzily edited video with former-Red Wing Brendan Shanahan explaining the panel’s decision (of which he is a lead member).

Football could take a number of things from this. Imagine a world where rather than moaning about it on the MOTD sofas, Messers Hansen, Shearer or Lawrenson could be given input into disciplinary matters? This may be a scary world. But in Shanahan the NHL have found an ex-player with unquestioned credibility whose career is distinguished and suitably violent to immediately subdue those who think that the NHL is softening up. The “30 years ago that would get you a contract extension” argument doesn’t wash with him; he knows the difference between what’s hockey and what’s dangerous. Thirty years ago that hit to the head would get your opponent a concussion, just like it does today, so you better sit out a few games. Or you’ll have to argue it with Shanahan himself. (If only…)

But the most refreshing thing about the NHL’s new approach is how wonderfully open it is. This player broke rules here, here and here. It wasn’t and accident, look here and here. He’s done this before. The victim was injured on the play. Put it all together and whaddya have? An 8 game suspension! It’s precise, transparent and explanatory. Everything that football lacks.

Sometimes technology won’t be enough to solve football’s problems, and even with hindsight decisions will come down to different interpretations of individuals. But with reasoning and explanation, ice hockey has shown how interpretations can be justified without exposing on-ice officials. So Kompany’s challenge can be shown to be dangerous by examining how he left the ground at this point, his intent was there, how Nani took action to avoid him, necessary to avoid a broken leg. Or the decision can be reversed. But any justification would ultimately need to make use of the copious video evidence we have at our disposal. Ice hockey does it, so does rugby, tennis, cricket… and it’s a minimum step before the structural standard of football officiating rises anything above a farce.