Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

I love good sports writing as much as I love sport. There’s plenty of media attention consumed by football in England, which means plenty of interesting analysis (generally) to absorb, even if some is obscenely detailed/complex (the Guardian, home of crazy graphics.)

Since I have arrived in my current flat, complete with Sky Sports News, I’ve really enjoyed some heated conversations with my English housemates about the strengths and weaknesses of the Premier League.( To avoid hate mail, I’ll not have the argument here, but enough to say the absence of almost all games from free-to-air television, and the obscene price of tickets is something to behold.) I have loved watching some big matches in the pub (we don’t have Sky at home), and am planning a trip to Goodison next season as a major investment. Many locals are far from swayed by my arguments for refrom, but to date no-one can tell me what’s so great about having a wealthy man in another country own your football club with a keen profit motive (other than a deep squad…) – at least for me, the passion exhibited by fans has always seemed at odds with the profit motives of owners.

(Clearly posting twice at the end of a long week has lead to these rediculously long intros. Sorry.)

What I just wanted to include here was a link to this incredible piece by David Conn (an excellent football writer) in Wednesday’s Guardian, about FC United, a football club formed by disgruntled football fans after Glazer’s takeover of Man U in 2005.

The contrast to the Premier league is stark: (a few quotes, because I am pretty sure pasting in the whole thing is not kosher)

“You hear […] bemusement that fans of other clubs have not protested against their takeovers – “Not even Liverpool,” the FC fans all murmur. Here they have moved on, to building their own club according to the principles they argued for when campaigning: supporter-ownership, with members (2,500 of them) voting for the board and policies; ticket prices affordable at £7 for adults, £2 for under-16s, and an agreement with stewards that supporters can stand. The club has established a youth policy which seeks to work with junior clubs who often feel exploited by the way professional clubs’ academies trawl for the best players. FCUM have also made partnerships with social welfare and community organisations, seeking to welcome marginalised groups and introduce football as a good presence in their lives.”

“The Formby match was designated a youth day, with under-16s allowed in free and young people before the game taking part in drama, banner-making and working with the Touch of Class rap collective, which promotes an anti-gun message. Thomas Cullen, a coach at Trafford Athletic Club, brought a group; he said he believed one lad had just been saved from being excluded by his school. “His teacher is here and she saw a different side of him,” he said. “This is great for them. They’re mostly black lads from Hulme and Moss Side but not one has ever been to a match at Old Trafford because they can’t afford it.

Bill Evans, manager of Rochdale Children’s Rights and Advocacy Services, brought 30 children, all in local authority care, saying it was a “positive way for them to feel included“. Maxine Seager of the Tameside Youth Service, a disaffected “Big” United fan herself, came with 70 kids – “Two coach loads,” she said, grinning and rolling her eyes. “They’re loving it, buzzing. They get so much out of this and we work our programmes, on anti-racism and social cohesion, around coming to the game.”

I felt inspired during my snatched lunch break anyway – worth noting that FC United has already developed a few players that are now up in the Championship, the squad is predominately English, and isn’t making a profit for anyone overseas from the contributions of fans. One imagines the changing room has fewer over-priced numptys, but probably some chav-ish WAGs??

[M, clearly this post is meant for you – see the reference to “lentil-eating social worker” in the main article….]


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Because this blog is something I dash out during my lunch-break or after work, I worry that too often I use it to relax – with a rant. Life is generally really pretty good – awesome in fact, so here’s a few positives I missed recently.

  1. Jaffa Cakes – very English, very addictive, have decided to overlook the fact that the English cricket eats them, but can’t keep a whole tube in the flat. Still a mystery to me  how a nation of complete choc-orange lovers could be a stranger to the Jaffa….
  2. Drinking outside – meant to snap a shot of everyone standing around the Clerkenwell Green yesterday arvo, enjoying the early evening sunshine (such a novelty after the darkness of just 10 weeks ago…) and chatting over a pint (mostly cider, which I will discuss another time!) There are huge problems with drinking in this country – alcohol related illness and deaths are on the rise in the UK, and there are waaay too many alcohol outlets for good taste. That said, when it comes to being sensible about drinking on footpaths from a glass, these Poms are on to it. All related to sunshine appreciation I guess.
  3. The rollercoaster that is the English sports fan – more fickle than an Aussie counterpart. Just by beating Bangladesh (not by much) – the same pessimists who’ve been telling me their campaign is over now all think England are peaking at just the right time in the Cricket World Cup! (At the same time, they will call for the blood of a football manager without any thought about the availability/affordability of a replacement… cripes!) It is silly, and stupid, but the optimism, in the face of some rather shabby play, is cute.

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Apologies for the lack of posts – a brutal combination of the weekend, laziness, studying for an exam and a massive drinking binge with corporate sponsorship intervened.

I did over the weekend catch up with some more Australians (trying not to be one of those Australians that just hangs out with other Aussies all the time, but they’re so addictive!) over the weekend, and discussed some of the following differences between life back home and here in the Old Dart.

You know you live in a globally important (but still terribly British) city when…

  1. Your Economist magazine arrives on a Saturday – this means your postie delivers 6 days a week (even if they do that in NZ too, perhaps undermining the argument), and you find out two days earlier how much the readership cares about the UK than your own, much-missed-but-not-that-important country (whole sections cf single article occasionally, generally unflattering…)
  2. People openly admit to loving the racist and embarrassing method your government uses to process illegal immigrants, rather than pretending to be offended/outraged and then privately (but compulsorily!) re-electing the perpetrators. It is alarming how many Poms would like to put all Eastern Europeans into a Woomera-like centre. Alarming too, how open they are about it, for a reserved people.
  3. The media is so unapologetically smutty, all the time. Crikey, get some clothes on! Have a few more women on telly who are more than bubbly/hot, co-hosting with an older, funnier, fatter, cooler man! As well documented by Kate Fox, even though Poms are highly reserved and private about their own lives (and even about those of close friends) the level of intrusive, smutty and sensationalist information about others in the avalanche of trashy media is boggling.
  4. Everyone has given a truly bizarre holy-cow-like status to things that don’t seem to deserve them. Trying to discuss institutions that perhaps could do with somereform do not go well – people respond with disbelief when you suggest that the Premier League, the crazy amounts of packaging on food or even the size of coins here are anything other than perfect. The number of people who can’t detect the kitsch value of the Eurovision Song Contest is enough to tell you people are taking the wrong things seriously!

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Life is super just now, quickly turning on the trials at work last week. Lots and lots of good news, V-fans:

1. London is a hub – of visitors and friends

Lots of text book quality time this weekend, trying new things and catching up with favourite people – a good goss on the phone with Damien and Dad’n’Rose, a trip to a new market (Exmouth Market, in EC1) with Beck on Saturday morning, my regular Marylebone High Street Markets with Elizabeth and Louise, Andrea’s rock-star sister on Sunday morning and then (the real pièce de résistance) Alex to stay last night, and a girls night in dinner party with Kate and Beck too. Hooray! And Mum arrives tomorrow for a week, and the visitor calendar is continuing to fill! Lucky me, and lucky London to have so many awesome guests and residents.

2. Magical weather – novelty and a good attitude can turn shitty to schweet

I got up rather early this morning (5am – aka hideously early!) to take Alex to the tube (she flew to Paris – sigh), and we walked through some sleet. But instead of being what one would expect with such an ugly word, I like to call all not-rain-not-quite-snow a snow flurry, as it was more like rain flirting with being snow in the darkness. Yes we were cold, but it really was magic and a little bewitching.

Bizarrely, it turned all gorgeous today around lunchtime when I was coming back from site to my office (I stopped and ate my lunch in a little park in the sunshine, in just shirt and mac!) – and the only downside to this was that I was worried I will miss out on some more snow! To think I’d be lamenting sunshine already! But now that I’m safely at my desk, we’re back to good looking sleet stuff (that just might clear up if I go out tonight. Yay!) Looks like any snow is off though, for the time being, so should see more from the London Eye.

3. Sporting results roughly reflect my wishes

Despite the heart-break of the 6 Nations for Ireland (good quality time with John, my only housemate not on holidays over the weekend), they had success over Pakistan, and other underdogs, including giant-killers Bangladesh, also doing well. England not doing well in cricket or rugby leads to less teasing for me, plus my Australian cricket team are really getting it together at the right time, with the Victorian in fine form, even if the selectors will probably still leave him out. Bless – including a win for my Toffees over Arsenal, the football team my neighbour at work supports, sport is almost perfect just now. Ahh.

4. Madrid – and perhaps a sneaky sidetrip to Segovia??

Am off to Madrid next weekend for lots of jamon, sangria, real Zara, tapas, art, walking, sunshine, churros, some Spanish conversation practice and general adventure with Mum. If I can get to my favourite structure in the world, Segovia’s stunning aqueduct, then my life really will be perfect. My week is already flying by.

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 Australia v Denmark

Since these photos were taken at the Australia v Denmark friendly, England have recorded a shock win in the cricket (arrived to desk after meeting to find A3 scorecard taped across my screen…) –  but can only really manage one loss per entry, so here’s an update on the friendly. Snow and cricket (rarely used together in a sentence, I imagine!) to follow.

I really enjoyed the friendly – so exciting to go to a Socceroos game even though it wasn’t a World Cup qualifier, or in an Australian ground that I know. It really did feel like a home game – the crowd vibe was distinctly Australian (we sang “you’ve got no Kangaroos”) and seeing your own team close up was cool.

I met DD and some Oxford types (including Simon) at the tube and walked in to Loftus Road, the home ground of QPR (Queen’s Park Rangers) that Australia uses as it’s ‘home’ ground in London. Given the huge Aussie population in the area, even in the streets around the stadium, this means that more than three quarters of the ground was filled with green and gold.

We got some Fosters cans (patriotism makes fools of everyone! – I’m pretty sure it is Crownies though over here…) and made our way past the merchandise stalls and into the ground. It was weird to go to such a small, suburban stadium (in recent months I’ve been spoilt by the ‘G, clearly) – we had a great view and everything was pretty cheap for in-ground food and drink, but it was all pretty low-tech.

As soon as the game got underway, Australia had an early attempt at goal. Once the excitement cleared, DD asked me: “where’s the big screen?”, because there wasn’t one – shows we’re all reliant on the replays. Without commentary or screens, general lack of short term memory/vision became clear – lots of “what happened?” and “who was that?”, much like an retirement home dinner. The use of security cameras to bust people who smuggled beer into the ground was extensive (and annoying!) and there were a lot of people guarding the linesman who was nearest to us (possibly justified…)
Because of the dominance of Australian voices, the anthem was great – the ground easily drowned out the b-grade celeb who was hired to sing. Sadly, this also meant that the abuse of the ref (choruses of “bullsh*t!”, etc) also carried, as did the generally negative attitudes. Yes, we were missing a lot of defensive players, but a few of the young guys playing have little or no international experience, so good that they were blooded with the Asian Cup coming up. Also, the Danes were good – in particular, Jon Dahl Tomasson
was in awesome form. A lot of Aussies were really negative in the stands, but it was a good game, Tim Cahill was excellent (in both sorts of form) and we’re still looking good for the future.

I also caught up with Dave “Dacka” Dack – an engo mate from UNSW/the Kensos. As you’ll see in the top photo, the rumours about he and Dave Winterton being a pair of doppelgängers are entirely true. Eerie.

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