Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wembley Saga Drags On

Today the builders of the new Wembley Stadium admitted it was only 70% likely to be ready in time for its first scheduled event, the FA Cup Final in May 2006.

Wembley Saga Drags On


It should be noted forthwith that safety for fans is more important than anything so another delay is far from the end of the world but this is yet another chapter in the troubled tale that has been the replacing of the old national football ground. There were prolonged and bloody political squabbles over whether to include athletics or not, and anger at the exorbitant cost of purchasing the land, demolishing the old ground and constructing a new one and now there are regular concerns being voiced over cost overruns and put back completion times. Nothing strange there you might think, as this is often the case with the birth of grands projets, niggles that are soon forgotten once the Colossus is up there looking out over Rhodes’ harbour.

The English football world is already so jaded by the saga of Wembley’s rebuilding that no one really cares whether the Cup Final will be at Cardiff for another year. In fact, given the positive experiences of fans visiting the Millennium Stadium, an impressive arena located in the heart of a vibrant city a stone’s throw from a mainline railway station, there cannot seriously be many fans dying to return to the grimy industrial estates of the grubby and uninspiring outer suburb of London that is Wembley.

A Cup Final is about having a day out as well as watching the game itself and a trip to the area surrounding Wembley was nothing if not disappointing, particularly given the chronic lack of hostelries within walking distance of the stadium. I traveled to Wembley several times over the past quarter of a century for football matches and not once did I have an experience as magical as the self-styled ‘Venue of Legends’ would have had us believe. The complex itself sat amidst a sea of concrete and was home to overpriced and unpleasant food & merchandise, rude and ignorant stewarding and above all inadequate sightlines, courtesy of a 1920s athletic stadium stands having seats bolted on to them without thought for views of the football field.

My abiding memory of the Wembley experience was of sprinting to the stadium just in time for a delayed kick off for an England v Poland World Cup qualifier in 1988 after Wembley plc had forced everyone to collect their match tickets at Wembley Arena in a barmy and never-repeated experiment in ‘efficiency’. As I ran breathless up the multiple flights of stairs to a seat so high up that the roof only just fell short of covering the field in my sightline, England fans stood urinating against the walls of the stairwells as ‘God Save the Queen’ boomed out over the tannoy.

Even more frustrating than the views and underwhelming experience was the Football Association’s commitment to signing exclusive contracts for England matches with the private company who ran the creaking, smelling dinosaur that was Wembley. While countries like Italy and Germany played their national team games across the country, England, the birthplace of the sport, stayed marooned at what effectively was a neutral ground, which conspicuously failed to replicate the atmosphere English football is famous for.

When the obsolete old place blessedly closed at long last in October 2000 after 78 years of football and two Olympic Games, England took their home games around the country for the first time in living memory. The experience has been positive all round, especially for fans from the football hotbeds of the North for whom a midweek trip to London is out of the question. But it was a time-limited beano, a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been.

Now a new Wembley is almost a reality again, and although the projected sightlines on the official website do not appear that much better than those of the old ground, at least there will be plenty of tickets available, 90,000, for casual fans, (or 70,000 after the corporate parasites have had their fill) and the edifice itself looks more impressive than the old, twin towers and all.

Drive along London’s North Circular Road and the silhouette of a magnificent fortress appears on the horizon ahead, commanding awe from all around and distracting drivers’ attention away from Ikea at Brent Cross. I for one will try to feel hopeful that the 757 million pounds spent on this project will have been worth it and that world-renowned architect Norman Foster has not made another wobbly bridge out of this millennium dream.

It would be churlish not to feel some optimism about a new home for the England team but how telling it is that such an expensive and apparently magnificent creation has failed so singularly to inspire the nation’s fans, whatever the Wembley PR men might tell you.
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Romario on the way to 1000 goals

PSV takes nine goals off Romario!

Brazilian statisticians too "loose" for European taste
PSV zakinuo Romarija za devet golova!?

Romario je pet godina igrao u PSV-u s fantastičnim učinkom od 98 pogodaka u 109 ligaških nastupa.
Unatoč tome što je pomogao klubu u osvajanju triju prvenstava, PSV mu se "odužuje" tako što je proglasio devet njegovih golova - neslužbenim, a onda i nevažećim!

Romario je dan prije 40. rođendana postigao još jedan (službeni) pogodak za Vasco, u porazu od 1:2 protiv Americe u regionalnom prvenstvu Rio de Janeira, što je po brazilskoj statistici njegov ravno 950. gol u karijeri. No, istovremeno je ostao "kratak" za devet pogodaka iz razdoblja 1988.-1993., kad je branio boje "elektroničara" iz Eindhovena.

Prije nekoliko dana, PSV je objavio da Romariju priznaje samo 165, a ne 174 gola, koliko on smatra da je postigao. Nizozemci su objasnili da je devet od tih golova postignuto u neslužbenim prijateljskim utakmicama, koje ni klub ni Nizozemski savez ne vode u svojoj evidenciji.

No, budući da Brazilci uvažavaju "sve žive" utakmice, uključujući i malo ozbiljnije treninge, razumljivo je da se Romario pobunio protiv stava svog bivšeg kluba.

Ipak, s obzirom da je Romario Brazilac, nema dvojbe da će njegovi sunarodnjaci i dalje voditi i tih devet golova kao službene. Naime, u spomenutih 950 golova ubrojeni su i mnogi Romariovi golovi iz prijateljskih utakmica u Brazilu, koje Europljani također ne bi priznali kao službene.

Romario, koji je sam sebe proglasio najboljim igračem u povijesti iza Pelea i Maradone, primio je posebne počasti od prijatelja i rođaka prilikom izlaska na teren protiv Americe, drugoligaškog kluba za koji strastveno navija njegov tata Edevair. Iako je priznao razočaranje porazom u utakmici regionalnog prvenstva, koji mu je pokvario rođendansku proslavu, najavio je da će nastaviti igrati barem toliko dugo koliko mu bude potrebno doseći brojku od 1000 golova. Pitanje je samo - po čijoj računici!

Opravdani su prosvjedi europskih nogometnih povjesničara, koji ispravno primjećuju da su i Pele i Romario većinu golova postigli protiv osrednjih ili slabih momčadi, za razliku od europskih strijelaca, koji tijekom godine imaju mnogo nepovoljniji omjer jakih i slabih protivnika.

HNL: Naslovi se osvajaju u gostima
Dinamo ?eli rekordnu seriju
HNL - Usporedba s pro?lom sezonom
Dobro je zvati se Dinamo
Neka ?vedska strahuje
Najbolje gol razlike u europskim ligama
Usporedna ljestvica
Argentina ili Hrvatska, pitanje je sad

Monday, January 30, 2006

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - The five pillars v Two jumpers and a goalpost

Woken this morning by the call of the muezzin, blaring out "Allahu akbar" on a microphone at 5.30a.m. This got me thinking further about the similarity between Islam and football. The muezzin will call people to prayers five times a day every day, at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. The timetable for these calls can be found in the daily papers. A more flexible timetable is adopted for football but details can also be found in the paper, for many everyday people participate in this form of religion through the television. Our TV listings page will show, Soccer AM, Football Focus, Match of the Day any live games and late night football from overseas. Other more devout followers, will also turn to the fixtures section and answer the call, sometimes by travelling vast distances.

Islam means 'submission' and the people are expected to observe the five pillars which form the basis of the religion. The first pillar is to publicly declare 'there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet'. In football we will tell anyone that our team is better than anyone else's, no matter what our current league position is.

The second pillar, is to answer the call of the muezzin, and pray five times a day. (I answered this mornings call by asking him to be quiet). In football it is important to get your daily fix and an innovation of recent times has been the great ball in the sky - the satellite which provides non stop information.

The third pillar is to give alms for the propogation of Islam and to help the needy. In football this can be done by paying exorbitant amounts of money in the form of either match day admission fees or satellite subscription fees.

The fourth, states that Muslims must fast during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan. We must attempt, during the season which can run all year round, to watch every game we can live, if not then on TV and also read all about it in the various forms of media available. It is also important to ensure any conversation we have in the pub is based around our religion.

The fifth and final pillar is the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. In football we all, wherever we are have a dream that one day we will be able to stand on the terraces and see our team in the final of our country's premier competition. With Islam there is a specific name given to those that have made such a journey, in football those people who attend such an event are known as 'lucky' by those who didn't get a ticket.

On a recent free morning, (my first and only to date) I took a walk down to the Citadel, built by Saladin in the 12th century. There you can find the mosque of Muhammad Ali, (I was attracted by the name as I am sure I have heard it somewhere before). The police presence outside was strong and inside police with guns were highly visible. The mosque itself was rather bland from the outside but inside its domes are decorated like a faberge egg. Outside in the courtyard you can see ( when it is not covered in scaffolding an ornate clock which was given by King Louis-Phillipe of France in exchange for the obelisk that stands in the Place de la Concorde. The clock was damaged upon delivery and has yet to be repaired!

The mosque dominates Cairo's skyline, but an even better view was had from the Muqattam hills which look back over the citadel. In the distance through the haze I had my first sight of two toblerones in the distance.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

FA Cup 4th Round: Charlton Win London Derby

FA Cup 4th Round: Charlton Win London Derby.
Before a smaller than average crowd of 22,029, Charlton Athletic avoided becoming Leyton Orient's second Premiership FA Cup scalp with a narrow 2-1 win at the Valley on Saturday.

The Addicks advance to the 5th Round came courtesy of a last-minute winner from Jay Bothroyd after Lee Steele had cancelled out a 7th minute opener from Jonathan Fortune.

The 'O's, a full sixty one places below Charlton in the pyramid at start of play, certainly did not disgrace themselves and although never looking like they would win the game, came within seconds of forcing a replay at Brisbane Road.

In the opening minutes the contrast in styles between the divisions soon became apparent, Orient announcing their visit with some meaty challenges and quick balls over the top characteristic of England's lower leagues.

But for all the measured build up and superior movement of their Premiership hosts, the Os looked far from overawed, Shane Tudor getting a shot on target in the first minute and forcing a corner in the second.

What they and their 6000+ travelling fans (Orient's average home gate is 4,500) surely did not want was to concede an early goal but they fell into that trap in the 7th minute.

Darren Ambrose far out on the right curled a free kick into the box where center back Jonathan Fortune, finding unaccustomed space between two defenders, stooped to nod past Glyn Garner in the Leyton Orient goal.

If the Os had an Achilles heel for the Addicks to exploit then it certainly looked to be in dealing with crosses.

After Fortune was granted time and space for his goal, Shaun Bartlett arrived scandalously unmarked in the box from another Ambrose center in the 17th minute, the South African guiding his header inches wide of the post.

Charlton were dealing with the Orient attack quite comfortably, Herman Hreidarsson looking particularly imperious in the air, but were far from fluid and rather error-strewn in midfield, Radostin Kishishev being a particular offender.

The home side threatened to double their lead in the 34th minute when top gunner Darren Bent whipped in a cross which Darren Ambrose connected with but could not keep from flying over the crossbar. Three minutes later Bent again turned creator, laying off to the onrushing Kishishev, whose shot flew high and well wide.

Orient were keen but toothless up front, while Charlton looked content to let their visitors play while staying threatening on the break. All seemed to be going to form therefore until a late flurry at the end of the 1st half gave the Os' fans their voice back and Charlton supporters a reason not to rest on their laurels for at least another 45 minutes.

Four minutes before the interval Orient carved out their first real chance, Gary Alexander, scorer of 14 goals this season, meeting a Matt Lockwood free kick from far out on the left and steering his header inches wide of the diving Myhre and the goal frame.

Another sign of life came in the 44th as Alexander's dipping shot from the edge of box dropped marginally over the crossbar.

In the last minute of the half Alexander's shot on the turn flew dangerously across the face of the goal and there was still time for Lee Steele to spring the offside trap and pull it back for Joe Keith, whose sidefooted effort skimmed the bar as Orient finished the half the stronger.

Eight minutes after half time the East Londoners drew level. From a Joe Keith through ball, Lee Steele pulled free of Charlton right back Luke Young and shot straight at Myhre, the ball just seeping under the Norwegian’s body and over the line.

For a couple of minutes then it was all Orient, the visitors’ momentum whisking their team goalward towards their vocal fans and their 'East, East London' chants. In the brief onslaught, Steele and John Mackie had shots charged down by an anxious Charlton defence.

When danger man Alexander powered a header two yards wide in the 63rd minute, Alan Curbishley had seen enough and made a triple substitution, a radical move with half an hour to play.

The three players replaced – Kishishev, Shaun Bartlett and Brian Hughes were all cheered off with approval by the disgruntled home fans but luckily the gamble paid off as the three attacking replacements Alexi Smertin, Jerome Thomas and Jay Bothroyd all caused Orient problems and turned the match in Charlton’s favour.

While Bothroyd went up front to partner Bent, Thomas weaved his magic on the left wing with a display of feints, stopovers and shuffles that sold a showroom of dummies to the Orient right back Justin Miller while Smertin pitched camp in the hole just outside the Orient box as an irritant who would not go away.

Three minutes after his entry, Thomas proved his worth by turning inside Miller and Daryl McMahon and hitting the side netting. Then he drew a one handed save from Garner in the 72nd after collecting a lay off in the box from fellow sub Bothroyd.

Seconds earlier Bent looked to have won a penalty when hauled down by the backtracking Gabriel Zakuani but referee Alan Wiley ignored the appeals.

Orient had been forced to take second billing again, though roared back in the 77th when Keith picked out McMahon with a diagonal pass that the midfielder headed powerfully, but straight at Myhre.

The closing minutes were dominated by Charlton, Bothroyd, Bent and a deflection from his own player Michael Simpson all testing Garner and Ambrose seeing a goalbound shot blocked by Zakuani with a minute and half left on the clock.

The referee’s assistant had just replaced his board signaling three minutes added on when Charlton won a free kick in a dangerous position twenty yards from goal.

Matt Holland tapped the ball sideways to Bothroyd who let fly with a grasscutter that appeared to take a slight deflection as it bounced off Garner’s prone body and into the roof of the net.

It seemed harsh on Orient to have conceded only seconds from a money-spinning replay at Brisbane Road, but Premiership class, with a helping of lady luck, told in the end.

Post match, Addicks boss Alan Curbishley seemed relieved to have won through to the 5th Round of the Cup although paid tribute to his plucky visitors.

“It was a great game and Orient played fantastically well. I did not want another game so I am pleased to be through,” he told reporters.

Admitting his triple substitution was a gamble that paid off he added, “It nearly backfired on me because Matty Holland then took a knock.”

Opposite number Martin Ling felt the pain of a near miss after a gallant effort.

“It is heartbreaking,” he confessed after the match. “I do not like being a glorious loser but over two Premiership ties we will take a lot of credit.”

The East Londoners sit in fifth spot in League Two, four points behind leaders Wycombe and three divisions below their 3rd Round victims Fulham and conquerors Charlton. The Addicks, currently eleventh in the Premiership, resume their league campaign at home to 16th placed West Brom at the Valley on Tuesday night.

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AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Say a little prayer for Mi-do.

Whilst watching one game I was befriended by a local, who I noticed had a small dark patch on the middle of his forehead, I thought nothing of this, at the time.

During conversation he asked if I knew about Allah, concentrating on the game I explained that I didn't know about Islam. In response to this he turned to face me and made it clear that it was his job to tell me all I needed to know. Again that was easy - I was watching the match and didn't need to know anything.

He wouldn't let go.''You must know about Islam, what is you religion?'' Still being serious at this stage I tried to explain that I was not religious, but he was having none of it. ''OK, I am an atheist, an agnostic.'' He wouldn't let it lie. At this time the Guinea fans were entering the Tunisian end and amusing everyone with their antics and colourful costumes. Joining in the hilarity I confessed, ''my religion is football''.

''OK, so do you know about Mohammed?''
''Kallon?
"Mohammed, the prophet!''
''Profit. Yes I know he's been to a few clubs over time, I'm sure a profit has been made.''

By now the Guinean fans were packed into our section and we were having to stand to follow the game. The section was overflowing but there was a carnival atmosphere. He looked distinctly worried by the scenes of chaos unfolding in front of him. Seconds later it began to rain, this quelled the crowd and sent some dashing for cover beneath the stand. He turned round once again and said "See Mohammed made it rain for safety"

''Do you have a mobile phone?" (A question I am often asked. )
''Why are you going to call him?"

No explanation was given, to this and I can only assume that Mohammed has a premium line phone number that is a good money earner here in Egypt.
Relieved once again that I did not have a phone, he continued to look for an angle that he could engage me in conversation.

Finally he invited me for a cup of tea after the match finished, I declined his offer and held back on inviting him for a beer.

Later I noticed more and more Egyptians with a mark on their forehead, after wondering why this was I now have come to the conclusion that is a carpet burn, from overdoing the praying.

Egypt's performance against Morocco has emphasised the fact that this is a difficult group to qualify from, despite not scoring a goal the Moroccans have played well and could have won both games. Whilst Egypt fear the physical presence of the Ivorians.

During the half time break at the Morocco game the prayer booths in the stadium were subject to a heavy police presence as Egyptians swarmed into them and called on help from Allah to see their team win.

Those booths are going to be even busier today (Saturday 28th) as Egypt will need all the help they can get to secure a win that sees them into the Quarter Finals and avoid meeting Cameroon.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Euro 2008 Qualifying Draw

Euro 2008 qualifying matches kick off on September 2, 2006.

The top 2 teams qualify from each group - there are no play-offs.
Austria and Switzerland qualify automatically as Euro 2008 joint hosts .

Group A

Portugal
Poland
Serbia & Montenegro
Belgium
Finland
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan

Group B

France
Italy
Ukraine
Scotland
Lithuania
Georgia
Faroe Islands

Group C

Greece
Turkey
Norway
Bosnia
Hungary
Moldova
Malta

Group D

Czech Republic
Germany
Slovakia
Ireland
Wales
Cyprus
San Marino

Group E

England
Croatia
Russia
Israel
Estonia
Macedonia
Andorra

Group F

Sweden
Spain
Denmark
Latvia
Iceland
Northern Ireland
Liechtenstein

Group G

Holland
Romania
Bulgaria
Slovenia
Albania
Belarus
Luxembourg

England are early 5-1 favorites with
Ladbrokes, The Netherlands are 6-1, Italy & Germany both 7-1, Greece at 40-1


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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Whale Meat Again?

It’s been a sad week for all animal lovers. When I heard that a huge mammal had to be rescued from the Thames, my initial reaction was to ring up McDonalds to check that the wife was OK. Unfortunately, the creature in question was a northern bottle-nosed whale. Bloody trouble making Northerners.

On a brighter note, there’s money to be made on the weekend FA Cup football. Opposing Arsenal away from home this season has been a nice little earner; that trend looks set to continue as the Gunners visit Bolton.

The week started well for Wenger, the Arsenal board splashed out 12 million pound on an exciting teenager, that’s more than Mark Oaten. The feel good factor quickly evaporated as a defeat at Goodison Park was followed by Carling Cup heartache. Arsenal were easily beaten in Bolton last month; with Wenger resting Henry, Lauren and Campbell, another Reebok shoeing awaits. Back Big Sam’s men at 5/2.

Paul Scholes has been ruled out for the season due to blurred vision, maybe my mother was right.

Man U could be in a spot of bother when they travel to play a side managed by tambourine banger Glenn Hoddle. Paul Ince has no real opposition in the middle of the pitch, United are in poor form away from home and only an exceptional Reading team have left Molineux victorious since September. The ingredients are all there, let’s put this bad boy in the oven. At 13/2, the Wolves are ready to pounce.

The match between West Ham and Blackburn will probably be the most exciting tie of the round. The signing of Dean Ashton was expensive business, £7m for a Canary seems high (I can get my hands on a whale for a monkey), but quality costs. These two have already met twice in the league; home advantage was the key in both games. The form of Benayoun edges me towards West Ham; the signing of Ashton clinches the deal. Pal up the Hammers at 5/4.

Stuart Pearce thinks it’s stupid to suggest he should be considered a contender for the next England manager, and if Psycho says it, I wholeheartedly agree. A derby day win is a flimsy wallpaper for an out of sorts City; Wigan on the other hand are a lot like my wife, they refuse to lie down. The Latics are a confident choice at 2/1, well as confident as you can be on a match that involves Man City.

In the week that the FA confirmed that Sven will not last beyond the summer, long time talking-horse Steve McClaren looks to be on the verge of receiving his P45. The Boro team have been sent to Coventry to revive their season, it’ll be an unhappy trip. Dennis Wise misses the tie due to a ban, taxi drivers throughout Coventry are appealing to the FA. Get on the draw at 9/4.

With Sven’s allegations of corruption hogging the headlines, I feel obligated to confess the following; Charlton’s forward line is completely Bent. Marcus is cup tied, but Darren can win the tie for the Addicks, the weekend good things at 2/7.


There’s a handful of weekend specials, well a Jeremy Beadle handful.

“Back from the dead” – Wolves to win from behind 25/1
“Here O’s” – Leyton Orient to score one goal or more 11/10
“Stinging the Blues” – Reading to score in both halves 11/4
“Remember the Whale” – Wayne Rooney to score a hat-trick 16/1

Quote of the week:

“There wasn’t much in it, but he was clearly offside.”

Trevor Francis: the reason why a mute button appears on a remote control.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

The big guns are struggling. Man U haven’t won any of their last five matches away from home; Arsenal have only scored one goal in five league matches on the road.

Acc of the week:

Aston Villa, Charlton, West Ham, Bolton and Liverpool are the five best bets on the coupon, the accer pays out at 18/1.

Weekend Betting:

Cheltenham v Newcastle Saturday 28th January 12.30 Live on BBC

Cheltenham 11/2
Draw 12/5
Newcastle 1/2

Get on: Draw

Newcastle’s recent form: 1 point out of a possible 15. The Robins are flying high in league 2; you can’t touch the Geordies at odds on.
Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 6/1

Aston Villa v Port Vale Saturday 28th January 15.00

Aston Villa 2/9
Draw 4/1
Port Vale 9/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Villa have drawn the Potteries side four times in the FA Cup, the Villa qualified at the first time of asking every time, scoring an impressive 18 goals. Only the Hammers have beaten the Villans since Man U left the Midlands with three points eight games ago. Banker home win.
Match Special:
Steve Davis to score at any time 5/2

Charlton v Leyton Orient Saturday 28th January 15.00

Charlton 2/7
Draw 7/2
Leyton Orient 8/1

Get on: Charlton

Charlton have scored exactly two goals in five of their last six home matches; dull, but true. The O’s have scored 12 goals in their last five matches on the road; they can find the net, but it’ll only be a consolation.
Match Special:
Darren Bent to score a hat-trick 12/1

Coventry v Middlesbrough Saturday 28th January 15.00

Coventry 7/4
Draw 9/4
Middlesbrough 5/4

Get on: Draw

Boro have conceded 12 goals in 3 games, even Nuneaton bagged a couple. Coventry put six past Derby in their last match, even at juicy odds against, you can’t back the Boro.
Match Special:
Match to finish 2-2 14/1

Everton v Chelsea Saturday 28th January 15.00

Everton 11/2
Draw 11/4
Chelsea 4/9

Get on: Chelsea

The last five matches between these two have produced two goals or less. It’s six consecutive wins on the road for the Champs; they couldn’t win at Goodison in the league earlier in the season, they’re due.
Match Special:
Chelsea to win 1-0 6/1

Man City v Wigan Saturday 28th January 15.00

Man City 11/10
Draw 9/4
Wigan 2/1

Get on: Wigan

Wigan are on a high after securing a date in Cardiff; Man City have just one win in six league matches. The Latics beat City 4-3 at the JJB last month; they’re value for a repeat.
Match Special:
Jason Roberts to score two or more goals 8/1

Reading v Birmingham Saturday 28th January 15.00

Reading 6/5
Draw 9/4
Birmingham 9/5

Get on: Draw

It’s now 29 matches undefeated in the league for the Royals, they’re smoking. City’s five goal demolition of Pompey will add a little confidence, they’ll hold on for a draw.
Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 11/2

West Ham v Blackburn Saturday 28th January 15.00

West Ham 5/4
Draw 9/4
Blackburn 7/4

Get on: West Ham

Interestingly, West Ham have won their last three matches by a 2-1 scoreline. Blackburn lost at Upton Park earlier in the season, they’re set for another Hammer blow.
Match Special:
Benayoun to score at any time 7/2

Bolton v Arsenal Saturday 28th January 17.40 Live on BBC

Bolton 5/2
Draw 9/4
Arsenal 10/11

Get on: Bolton

Bolton are unbeaten at the Reebok since August; the Gunners are struggling to find the net on the road. You’ve got to side with Big Sam.
Match Special:
Bolton to keep a clean sheet 9/4

Wolves v Man Utd Sunday 29th January 16.00 Live on Sky

Wolves 13/2
Draw 10/3
Man Utd 1/3

Get on: Wolves

Hoddle’s men are unbeatable at home, Fergie’s men are struggling to win away. A home win is the answer, with a little saver on the draw.
Match Special:
Paul Ince to score the only goal of the game 200/1

Portsmouth v Liverpool Sunday 29th January 18.00 Live on BBC

Portsmouth 9/2
Draw 12/5
Liverpool 4/7

Get on: Liverpool

Liverpool’s loss at Old Trafford is there only reversal on the road for three months; and they were robbed. The stats say that Pompey have lost only one of their last five home matches, Gerry says get on the Pool.
Match Special:
Gerrard to score at any time 7/4

Football Tickets

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Libya, ''go home''.

Libya became the first team to be eliminated from the competition after giving a good account of themselves against a strong Ivory Coast team. Libya fell behind to a Drogba tap in. With the ground virtually full the Egyptian supporters realised that if the result stayed as it was their team could be in trouble, as they have not beaten Morocco in the last 20 years. Chants of Lib-ya, Lib-ya, came from all parts of the ground,and the players responded managing to equalise and even go looking for a winner. Ivory Coast, upped the tempo and forced a winner.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Libya, go home.


During the warm up to the main event Egypt v Morocco, the noise sounded out once again but this time the home supporters were chanting for their own team. When the game kicked off the fans roar reached its peak after 13 seconds when the first chance of the game went begging. After this Morocco took control and dominated the first half. The Egyptians vented their anger and chants against Libya started during half time. Exchanging of pepsi bottles took place from Libyans below and their Egyptian counterparts above. Then the police moved into action using formations dating back to roman times. Firstly they lined up 3 to 4 deep at the bottom of the stand and then advanced en masse towards the retreating Libyan supporters who were quickly making an exit for themselves by removing seats and throwing them towards the police.

The police campaign came to a halt half way up the stand as they stood their ground the Libyans were becoming more adventurous but were being showered from above.Then the right flank charged up to the Libyans and quickly retreated. Two minutes later the section was empty and then the rest of Libyans quickly followed suite leaving the police to protect an area of empty seating.

This left the Libyan's as the first team and supporters to make their exit from the competition.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Around Egypt in 3 days.


The first round of matches have now been completed and I have followed the tournament as it has unfolded around the country.

Everything has fallen into place, sometimes more by luck than judgement, with a great deal of persistence thrown in. I opted to take the train out of Cairo to Alexandria, on Sunday and spent 10 minutes finding the correct place to buy my ticket. I approached what I understood to be the correct counter at Ramses station. After taking some time to get myself understood the clerk called a colleague over who instructed me to try the other side of the building. I left somewhat bemused and searched for this place. A member of the public came to my rescue and pointed me back to where I had come from! I made a beeline back to the same clerk who straight away produced the ticket I had asked for and even confirmed what I had asked for in English.

Taking the football out of Cairo has opened up the competition to other football hot beds in Egypt. In both Alexandria and Port Said the locals were out in force and provided competition for the visiting fans from other countries with their chants of Masr(Egypt).

The best support so far has come from the Guineans who entered the Alexandria Border Guard Stadium whilst the earlier game was still taking place. The terraces were already crowded but they poured in to the end behind one goal occupied by Tunisians. The Tunisians showed their disapproval by booing and waving the Guinea supporters away but led by a witch doctor and what looked like Babar the elephant, they continued to flood in packed this part of the stadium still further. They held their own and joined in the chaos that ensued with lots of chanting going on, once again, irrelevant to what was happening in the game. The local Egyptians being led by cheerleaders. Rent a crowd (from now on to be known as Guantanamo supporters due to their uniforms) cheering when ordered to. Finally the Tunisians who were delighted with what they saw after a shaky start and had some clinical finishing by Dos Santos to thank for the margin of their victory. The Zambians had by now disappeared back into the crowd and were not heard after they took an early lead.

Before the next match the Guinea supporters made their way to the other end of the stadium where their drums provided a lively background to a dull game. Whilst at the front of the stand a line up that any team would have been scared of danced away. After initially thinking that the South Africans should win this game I found myself hoping that the Guinea team would hold on, as their support had won me over. Even to the extent that I would rather we had the tournaments first goalless draw than South Africa score. This wasn't to be as the Guineans scored two late on for a memorable victory. On the way out a Minister from Guinea was seen being driven out and the crowd went wild, three of the supporters were on the front of the car as it tried to leave the stadium.

In Port Said, a town with a much more relaxed feel, the locals once again came out in force, although the majority of one end was left for the Guantanamo fans. The town used to enjoy a tax free status, but I was informed this was abolished in 2002. This act has affected the popularity of the President and during the second game whilst Senegal were struggling to break down Zimbabwe a poster of Hosni Mubarak himself was pointed out whilst a fan shouted 'we let Hosni in the stadium and the football is bad'.

Opted to take the coach back from Port Said to Cairo as the train would take four hours. The bus should take three. They didn't tell us that the time may vary according to the driver. As I watched from the front of the coach we went past all traffic, in either lane on the straight dual carriageway. Our drivers skills were such that on this same road he managed to negotiate a tricky chicane (which I couldn't see) whilst weaving in and out of two cars. The journey from Port Said to the Military stadium, which lies on the outskirts of Cairo had been done in two hours.

Now I have two days rest in Cairo before doing it all over again.

Flights To Egypt

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Accommodation in Egypt

Budget Hotels in Egypt - Hostelworld.com

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Thompson Departs For Europe

After protracted negotiations between Melbourne Victory and PSV, Socceroo striker Archie Thompson has joined the Dutch champions on a six-month loan deal. Despite some public spats between the player and his former employers over the move, Melbourne refused to be bullied into accepting PSV's first proposal, ultimately negotiating a deal that appears to suit all parties. Thompson will now link up with international boss Guus Hiddink at the Eindhoven club for the rest of the Eredivisie season after which they will decide whether to make the transfer permanent.

There were a number of facets which complicated Thompson's move from Melbourne. Foremost was the 27-year-old's desire to maintain fitness ahead of the World Cup in June. With the A-League season ending in early March (and with Melbourne's likely participation in the finals series diminishing), Thompson risked losing his World Cup berth to a European-based rival. As the only regular member of Hiddink's Socceroos squad based at home, he was clearly the most at risk.

Melbourne understood and a six-month loan deal with PSV was quickly agreed. Hiddink convinced club officials that Thompson was being drafted for his versatility and work rate at a time PSV were aiming to regain the Dutch championship and make the latter stages of the Champions League. The reality that the transfer benefited Hiddink's international employers as much as his domestic bosses never appeared a sticking point.

What was causing consternation was Melbourne's insistence that the transfer fee for a permanent switch be negotiated at the end of the initial six-month deal. PSV wanted a specific (and possibly lowly amount) written into the terms of the loan agreement. Melbourne, eventually, got their way and now must hope that Thompson's efforts for club and country reward their belief in his ability.

During the wrangling on the details of the transfer fee, Thompson's dream move almost capitulated. The player blamed Melbourne's management, particularly chairman Geoff Lord who maintained the club would not be "pushed around and bullied into taking the first offer that came our way".

He unwisely made public his angst during a media-covered Victory training session. In his outburst, for which he immediately apologised to Melbourne fans, the striker implied that should the deal fail to go through, he would have to seriously reconsider his future at the A-League club.

"It's just been so emotional, frustrating and stressful," Thompson said. "It's just such a huge opportunity, the World Cup, I don't want to throw it away and I feel that they are … they are the ones that are holding this deal back.

"I won't want to play. It will be hard to be motivated. They are just going to have to pay my wages and I am just going to turn up and go through the motions.

"I have done everything right for the club. I have had a good hand in promoting football in Melbourne, especially in the A-League. They will reap the rewards in the end … what more can you ask for than to be playing under a national coach leading into a World Cup?"

Fortunately PSV bowed and the deal was signed. Thompson and his young family headed for Holland the day after the striker had scored the winner at Queensland to keep Melbourne in finals hunt. He departed as the A-League's leading scorer and unquestionably one of its star performers. The domestic scene - especially Melbourne Victory - has had its lights dimmed as a consequence.

Thompson - the player who had only just signed a four-year contract with his hometown club in the close season - has much to thank Hiddink for. He admitted to being "flabbergasted" that a club of the stature of PSV Eindhoven even showed an interest. Without Hiddink's recent relationship with Australian football, they almost certainly never would have. "I'm still living a dream at the moment - I can't believe I'm actually here playing for PSV," Thompson told the club's own TV station upon his arrival.

That dream has the potential to turn sour if the Australian fails to force his way into the starting line-up on a regular basis. He joins a hungry group of forwards at PSV who - like him - are fighting for their own World Cup tickets, notably Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Ivory Coast's Arouna Kone. If Thompson was ever coasting in the A-League, the next three months will be toughest of his career.

Hyundai A-League Summary Round 19

Adelaide United (42 points) sealed the premiership with three rounds to play after beating Perth Glory and watching closest rivals Sydney FC only draw with the Central Coast Mariners. The chase for the remaining finals places has gained intensity in tandem with Sydney's form slump since the Club World Championships. The Newcastle Jets are now second (32 points), Sydney third (30) and the Mariners fourth (28) but only seventh-placed Melbourne are completely out of the running.

Monday, January 23, 2006

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Ire In Cairo

The tournament is now well underway and regarded as a success here in Egypt with deserved praise being given for the opening ceremony. However claims that Egypt is in the grip of football fever and that grounds are packed to capacity much to the delight of the organising committee, seem somewhat hollow in reality.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Ire In Cairo


The Cairo International Stadium can be reached by taking the Metro to Kubri-el-Qubi, then cross the tracks and follow the flyover for a walk of around 20 minutes. I did this and still made it to the stadium before 4p.m. on the opening day and sure enough the majority of the crowd were already there.I spoke to someone who got in at 4.15, but haven't heard whether or not the gates were closed at any time. It was noticeable that the ground hardly filled up after this time as seats were left vacant for the participants of the opening ceremony. The Libyan section, whilst boasting a strong contingent of around 2,ooo had room for many more.

There have been arrangements made to fill the grounds in Egypt by the same organising committee that issued the above statement. The people doing this are instantly recognisable by the different colours, they are wearing. Just think of the seats in Portugal, but this time they are human beings, conducted from the front of the stand. At last nights DR Congo v Togo game there was a constant din, in front of what was a crowd of around 4,000 interested spectators and maybe 7 or 8,000 members of rent a crowd. Who were of course making lots of noise totally out of keeping with what was happening on the pitch.

Looking back on the last few days I was interested to read some comments in the Egyptian press. - Mido 'the terrible'. (I know he missed a penalty, was substituted and hadn't scored in the previous two Nations Cups, but I feel they were a bit harsh on him!)
Then there was the case of the Libyas Brazilian keeper, Agustini. Who showed his Latin temperament to get sent off. If only he had kept quiet they wouldn't have known he was Brazilian and he might have stayed on.

As for my tickets , and hence the ire. I returned to the Ministry of Youth expecting to walk in and walk out. It wasn't to be. The warning signs were there when I was immediately offered a cup of coffee. I was able to talk to other spectators and members of the media that I had also seen the previous day. So I wasn't the only one having problems. After three hours and one orange juice my remaining tickets, somewhat bedraggled were produced. By this time it was 1.15 and kick off for the Morocco v Ivory Coast was 2. Faced with no choice I had to give in and get the taxi there.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Politics, Business and Soccer

Help! They're killing soccer as we know it!

Slučaj Oulmers - Novi, još strašniji Bosman!?

Na pomolu bi mogao biti novi "Bosman", koji će ovaj puta naškoditi ne klubovima, već savezima. Točnije, profitirat će bogati klubovi, koji imaju najviše reprezentativaca, a nadrapat će siromašni savezi, čiji igrači igraju u - pogodili ste - bogatim klubovima.

Novo pravilo zvat će se Oulmersovo pravilo, po Marokancu Abdelmajidom Oulmersom. Njegov je belgijski klub Sporting Charleroi tužio sudu FIFA-u jer je Oulmers ozlijedio ligamente na prijateljskoj utakmici protiv Burkina Fasa. Charleroi traži od FIFA-e odštetu, a pomažu mu brojni veliki klubovi, koji u ovome vide priliku da više ne budu obvezni puštati reprezentativce njihovim savezima. Proces će početi u ožujku na belgijskom građanskom sudu, a kasnije će se sigurno preseliti na Europski sud pravde.

Charleroi nije sam, jer i Lyon potražuje odštetu od Francuskog saveza nakon što je njegov branič Eric Abidal slomio stopalo na prijateljskoj utakmici Francuske i Kostarike.

Ishod je jasan: EU će odobriti klubovima da potražuju odštete od Saveza za svakog ozlijeđenog igrača. Ako se, primjerice, Milanu ozlijedi Ševčenko na utakmici Ukrajine, Ukrajinski će savez morati platiti Milanu odštetu - bude li imao sredstava. Budući da će se siromašniji Savezi plašiti mogućih ozljeda za koje neće moći platiti odštetu, suzdržavat će se od pozivanja igrača za prijateljske utakmice, a možda i za službene. Kao posljedica, sada će i reprezentacije siromašnijih zemalja ostajati bez najboljih igrača - koji, naravno, igraju za najbogatije klubove Engleske, Italije, Njemačke, Španjolske i Francuske. Točnije, za najbogatijih 20-30 klubova tih zemalja.

Još gore, možda će EU odlučiti da klubovi uopće ne moraju puštati reprezentativce, osim ako sami ocijene da im se isplati nekog igrača postaviti u "izlog". Ili će od saveza za svoje zvijezde potraživati iznose koje neki savezi neće moći platiti. Tako bi Hrvatska, nakon što je izgubila jake klubove, mogla ostati i bez reprezentacije.

- "Nogomet na reprezentativnom nivou će sigurno trpjeti dobiju li klubovi sporove." - ne dvoji Lars-Christer Olsson. - "Ove slučajeve nazivaju 'Bosmanom dva. Možda će tako biti, no mi se nadamo doći do sporazuma prije no što se to dogodi."

Friday, January 20, 2006

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Ministry of Youth

You knew, I knew, that it just wouldn't be simple to collect the tickets.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Ministry of Youth.


After various problems ordering the tickets online as I was told my browser not compatible. I ended up placing the order from Tokyo, and then having opted for the package available for each ground I realised when I counted the number of match tickets I had ordered that I was 2 short. Yes I had only ordered 30 instead of 32.

A quick check and I realised that I had initially forgotten the one off games that are to take place in Ismailia and Alexandria Stadium, so I placed a further order after the deadline for Internet orders had passed, this time I encountered no problems, when I expected the order to be rejected.

The information I received was that tickets would be posted to Egyptian addresses and that everyone else would have to collect their tickets from The Ministry of Youth, in Cairo. I set off early this morning to find the building my request for directions was met with the address being sent back to me - Floor 11, Meet Okba 26 July Street, Cairo, Egypt. Now I could have hailed the nearest Taxi and given him this address, but no I decided to follow the map and head off for 26 July Street.

The street itself looks to be at least two mile long but for some reason I felt it was the other side of the river and so from the Nile Hilton I walked up the Corniche and met 26 July Street. It proved to be a busy dual carriageway which was at times elevated. I stuck to the roads at it's side and kept going, over the island in the middle of the nile. Just when I when I felt the Zaragoza syndrome coming on (A sense that you ought to give up looking and jump in a taxi after all. But then find the taxi driver tells you to get out and walk as the building is right in front of you) I spotted a sand coloured block , (they are all sand coloured, it would appear they have given up fighting with the elements and that all buildings just merge with the landscape) with the words Ministry of Youth draped at the top.

Walking round I could not see an invitiing entrance as it appeared there was no one around. I then spotted an elderly gentleman sitting in a gatehouse between us, a firmly closed gate. I beckoned him over with my best egyptian "Can you help me", and showed him my football schedule. He opened the gate and told me it was the 11th Floor. Eureka.

Arriving on the 11th Floor, ther were a handful of people there. At first I was asked who had sent me, and then why was I here. I explained to three volunteers that I was here to collect tickets. They beckoned me to sit down and said that this would be sorted later. After some 30 minutes a gentleman asked me for my order he took one look and said no, not today! I explained that I at least needed the ticket for todays game. He went away again and came back with some 20 odd tickets and told me to come back tomorrow for the rest.

As I talked with the volunteers I found out that Hosni Mubarak, the president would be attending todays game. He would be arriving at 5p.m and the gates of the stadium would be shut at 4! The game kicks off at 7 o'clock.

I also asked the volunteers for advice on how to get to the stadium their immediate reply was, get a taxi. We'll see......


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AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo

TALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN!
Set off from Nottingham, England for Egypt on Wednesday evening. As is normal for myself the journey is not something that everyone would put up with, but hey, here am I am now in Cairo ready for the start of the competition.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo


The journey involved catching an overnight bus to Heathrow, due to arrive in plenty of time for the 6a.m flight. Although, this was in doubt around Luton when the driver was heard asking passengers for confirmation that he was on the right road, a quick 360 degree turn at the next roundabout saw us back on track. Any hope anyone had of a reasonable kip were thwarted by the drivers announcements as he arrived at his latest destination and yelled, without using the intercom. 'Are you all awake, well you will be now and we've just arrived at....'

The journey involved a change of planes at Milan, where joining the queue an announcement was made 'Please note that your flight may be delayed or cancelled due to strike action here in Italy'. This would not be the first time that I had been affected and so it was no real shock. On this cheery note I set off to check the departures board to find that a number of flights had been cancelled but that God willing, the flight for Cairo was due to depart on time. Worryingly a flight to London around the same time had been cancelled.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo.


There were a number of bona fide French and Italian journalists on boardand the flight made good time and arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule. There were a number of posters advertising the football competition and even a welcome desk, but it was unattended. Coming off the plane we were straight into a throng of people queueing at Passport control. This became a bit of a melee as I realised that I needed to purchase a visa before I could join the main throng. A scramble had developed as some people realised they needed to prioritise which queue they joined first.
I noted that the exchange rate given for the Egyptian pound at the airport here in Cairo was much better that anything I was able to obtain at home about 10 Egyptian to 1 British pound. In fact a number of High Street Banks did not have the currency in stock. A visa was purchased for 90 Egyptian Pounds and two small stamps were given to me. Someone else in the crowd handed back the stamps thinking they were ordinary postage stamps....only to return later. It took over an hour to clear customs, not something I had bargained for.

After this I made my way through the mass of people waiting in the arrivals hall, and was accosted by a number of taxi drivers offering their services. Me jump in a taxi, and be driven straight to my hotel, in a country I've never been to before and don't speak the language. No way. Off I went out into the car park where I understood that there would be a bus - Number 356 to the City Centre. There was no sign of any bus so I sloped back to the terminal building and found that I needed to get the Car Park bus to terminal 1 and from there I could pick up a bus that would take me downtown.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo.


As I got off the bus at the car park I saw the 356 pass by. I had studied my egyptian numbers and at least I now knew where to catch the bus from. As I walked towards the spot on this roundabout I enquired if I could catch any other bus. I was informed that there were any number I could catch and that if I wanted to come with my new found friend he would ensure I got to my destination. As a bus approached he shouted at me to 'get ready', as it drove past us he shouted "run' and we jumped on the bus as it sped off. I had no idea what bus number I had got on, due to the speed at which things had heppened and the fact that I had only mastered the numbers 3 5 & 6 to enable me to spot the right bus.

My new found friend asked if I was OK, on this bus as we could get an air conditioned one if I wanted. I was fine and simply opened the window so that I could see what was going on. The bus was rather old, not quiet the 50's American school bus type but probably something built just after then and whatsmore it hadn't been washed since then either. My new found friend then insisted on paying the fare - 25 piastres (3 pence). Indebted to him for this I found that he too was going to be watching the football and "inshallah" (God willing) he felt that Egypt as hosts were favourites for the competition. After this brief exchange he called over an elderly gentleman and gave him his seat, he waved farewell and said he knows where you are going.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo.


I then sat back and watched the chaos on the roads. I had been aware that ever since I had been on the bus I could hear car horns regularly giving single beeps of the horn. As I looked out of my open window I could see that drivers were correcting their steering and criss crossing between lanes. In fact there were 3 lanes of traffic to my left filled constantly with 4 cars. I then heard one long beep of the horn as a car managed to speed past the traffic. So I gathered,1 beep is for watch out I'm here, and the long beep seems to be saying get out the way I'm coming through. I then saw a car on the other side of the road reversing at speed as he had missed a fork in the road, all this while cars were still travelling at speed towards him. I also noted the number of pedestraians risking life and limb crossing the roads in the middle of all this chaos.

I noted that my guardian had now fallen asleep. The bus by now was crammed full and I noted also that it was starting to get dark. I got out my guide book to try and work out where we were, but I had no idea from looking at the road signs. I did gather that we were near Heliopolis as I saw the old trams I had read about. I knew that I had a big river as a landmark so I just waited for the bus to either pass the River Nile or arrive at its terminus. After one and a half hours the bus came to a halt. I wandered off and looked around. Immediately I spotted the Nile Hilton (written in English), no problem I knew where I was just 5 minutes from new home. But wait, how do I get from here, to the other side of the main road. Oh hell, just go, and there I was dashing in and out of the traffic with the locals.

So god was willing and I made it here in one piece. Tomorrow morning the next instalment will see me go to collect my tickets for the competition from The Ministry of Youth, this is bound to be straight forward as I had all the incidents one could cope with in Lima when I collected my internet order there.

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - Cairo.


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Up a creek, without a Kanu

Here’s something for all you trivia buffs; Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece ‘The Colour Purple’ may well have been inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson. After last weeks derby shambles, Fergie’s face was the brightest shade of purple since Barney overdosed on grapes and Ribena, in an unusually depressing episode of Barney & Friends. Somebody will pay for Fergie’s bruised ego, that somebody is Liverpool.

The Scousers may be Champions of Europe, but they’re still not amongst the domestic elite. Their recent form looks impressive at first glance, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that their opposition were easier to beat than Joe Cole. Their record against the big 3 this season is dismal; played four, won zero. A wounded Man U are a dangerous animal and the Pool are easy prey. Get on at even money.

Bookmakers were excited to hear of the training ground spat between Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo. One leading odds compiler immediately offered 8/13 Van Nistelrooy in the ruck; explaining that a horse should always be favoured over a one trick pony. Van the man should be backed at 5/4 to score against the Reds.

Arsenal are what is known in the betting industry as a nailed on, in the bag, raging certainty. After hitting Boro for seven, they travel to Goodison to play a side they walloped 7-0 just last year; the Gunners are the weekend nap at 8/13. Alexander Hleb broke his goal scoring duck for Arsenal last weekend, the RSPCA have been informed. Goals are like buses, the Belarusian is 9/2 to repeat the feat against the Toffeemen.

Sam Allardyce was not a happy bunny after last weeks draw with Blackburn, he whipped out a set of stats that suggested Mike Riley favoured the team playing at home. Next week; Big Sam hints that the Earth may revolve around the Sun. Here’s another obvious fact, get on Bolton at 6/5 to beat Man City. Trevor Sinclair believes that scoring a goal is better than sex, he must know my wife. Trevor’s boys will find goals hard to come by at the Reebok, back Bolton to keep a clean sheet at 7/4.

West Brom are odds on for relegation, their best player is away at the African Nations Cup and they blew a 2-0 lead against a Championship team before being booted out of the FA Cup in midweek. The better bettor knows the first rule in Premiership punting is to avoid Sunderland; at 4/1 against a depleted West Brom, meet the exception to the rule.

It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks for Joe Cole, the future of English football. First, Jose threatened to drop him from the first team due to showboating; then a misunderstanding over a page 3 model led to Cole receiving two black eyes. Young Joe may have had his knockers, but he’s worth an interest at 13/8 to score against Charlton, or at 7/1 to bag a nice pair.

A pensioner from Tyne & Wear passed on last week after Newcastle lost away at Fulham. I was shocked to hear that Graeme Souness’ team selection was a factor; the police said it was an assisted Souey side. Some doubt the existence of zombies; yet Souness is undoubtedly a dead man walking. Blackburn have this Toon nailed; get on at 9/5.

The always popular weekend specials return.

“Big brother” – Gary Neville to score with a header 50/1
“Celebrity big brother” – Rio Ferdinand to score with a header 22/1
“Barry Moore” – Gareth Barry and Luke Moore both to score 20/1
“Pool Balls” – Liverpool not to score 5/4

Quote of the week:

“You f…… cheating b……, you’ll need a police escort to get out of here.”

Sir Alex Ferguson is quite amiable to Steve Bennett.

Gibberish of the week:

“They’ve got injuries to come back, which they’ll obviously be looking forward to and are desperate for.”

Graeme Le Saux loses the plot.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

The busiest goal keeper in the Premiership is…Thomas Sorensen. The Villa keeper has made 72 saves in the Premiership, a whopping 10% clear of his nearest rival, Shay Given.

Acc of the week:

Arsenal, Birmingham, Man Utd and a Middlesbrough draw make the weekend accer; the 4 fold pays 19/1.

Weekend Betting:

Everton v Arsenal Saturday 21st January 12.45 Live on Premiership Plus

Everton 7/2
Draw 13/5
Arsenal 8/13

Get on: Arsenal

Arsenal have won their last four matches against the Toffees, scoring 16 goals in the process. They’ve warmed up nicely for this one.
Match Special:
Thierry Henry to score a hat-trick 14/1

Birmingham v Portsmouth Saturday 21st January 15.00

Birmingham 10/11
Draw 9/4
Portsmouth 5/2

Get on: Birmingham

Birmingham’s last three matches at St Andrew’s were Fulham, Wigan and Man U, the Blues earned seven points. It’s five consecutive defeats away from home in the league for Pompey.
Match Special:
Birmingham to win 1-0 6/1

Bolton v Man City Saturday 21st January 15.00

Bolton 6/5
Draw 11/5
Man City 15/8

Get on: Bolton

It’s two clean sheets on the bounce for Bolton; City have taken one point out of a possible nine on the road in recent weeks. A home win is the answer.
Match Special:
Stelios to score at any time 15/8

Middlesbrough v Wigan Saturday 21st January 15.00

Middlesbrough 6/5
Draw 9/4
Wigan 9/5

Get on: Draw

Boro are without a league win since November, it’s three league defeats on the bounce for the Latics; a paint dryer awaits.
Match Special:
No Goalscorer in the match 8/1

Newcastle v Blackburn Saturday 21st January 15.00

Newcastle 6/5
Draw 9/4
Blackburn 9/5

Get on: Blackburn

Newcastle’s recent form is dire; they’ve earned just 1 point out of 12. It’s seven matches unbeaten in all competitions for Blackburn, you can’t argue with those stats.
Match Special:
Pedersen to score at any time 2/1

Tottenham v Aston Villa Saturday 21st January 15.00

Tottenham 8/13
Draw 12/5
Aston Villa 4/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Tottenham have lost their last two matches, including a capitulation to a mediocre Leicester side. It’s only one defeat in six matches for the Villa; I smell value.
Match Special:
Aston Villa to score two or more goals 10/3

West Brom v Sunderland Saturday 21st January 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

West Brom 4/7
Draw 13/5
Sunderland 4/1

Get on: Sunderland

Sunderland’s recent form is better than the bare stats suggest. They’ve lost three of the last four, but all by a single goal. The Baggies equalised in the 90th minute at the Stadium of Light, revenge will be sweet for the Mackems.
Match Special:
Julio Arca to score at any time 9/2

Chelsea v Charlton Sunday 22nd January 13.30 Live on Sky

Chelsea 1/6
Draw 9/2
Charlton 12/1

Get on: Chelsea

It’s ten consecutive league victories for Chelsea; Charlton have lost their last four matches on their travels in the league. It’s definitely not brain surgery.
Match Special:
Chelsea to score a penalty 6/1

Man Utd v Liverpool Sunday 22nd January 16.00 Live on Sky

Man Utd Evs
Draw 2/1
Liverpool 5/2

Get on: Man Utd

United have won their last three league matches at Old Trafford by three or more goals. Arsenal and Chelsea have both seen great runs of form end at Old Trafford; a similar fate awaits Liverpool.
Match Special:
Van Nistelrooy to score two or more goals 11/2

West Ham v Fulham Monday 23rd January 20.00 Live on Sky

West Ham Evs
Draw 9/4
Fulham 9/4

Get on: Draw

The Hammers have won their last two on the road, but lost their last four at Upton Park. Fulham are magnificent at home but useless away. Something’s gotta give.
Match Special:
Match to finish 2-2 14/1

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African Cup of Nations

African Cup of Nations

African Cup of Nations.


Group A

Egypt
Ivory Coast
Libya
Morocco

Matches

20 January
Egypt v Libya: Cairo International Stadium (1700)

21 January
Morocco v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1200)

24 January
Libya v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1515)
Egypt v Morocco: Cairo International Stadium (1800)

28 January
Egypt v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1700)
Libya v Morocco: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)

Group B

Angola
Cameroon
DR Congo
Togo

Matches

21 January
Cameroon v Angola: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1515)
Togo v DR Congo: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1800)

25 January

Angola v DR Congo: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1515)
Cameroon v Togo: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1800) 29 January
Angola v Togo: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)
Cameroon v DR Congo: Cairo International Stadium (1700)

Group C

Guinea
South Africa
Tunisia
Zambia

Matches

22 January
Tunisia v Zambia: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1515)
South Africa v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1800)

26 January
Zambia v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1515)
Tunisia v South Africa: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1800)

30 January
Tunisia v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1700)
Zambia v South Africa: Alexandria Stadium (1700)

Group D

Ghana
Nigeria
Senegal
Zimbabwe

Matches

23 January
Nigeria v Ghana: Port Said Stadium (1515)
Zimbabwe v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1800)

27 January
Ghana v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1515)
Nigeria v Zimbabwe: Port Said Stadium (1800)

31 January
Nigeria v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1700)
Ghana v Zimbabwe: Ismailia Stadium (1700)

Quarter-finals

3 February
Match 1
Winner Group A v Runner-Up Group B: Cairo International Stadium (1700)
Match 2
Winner Group C v Runner-Up Group D: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1300)
4 February
Match 3
Winner Group B v Runner-Up Group A: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)
Match 4
Winner Group D v Runner-Up Group C: Port Said Stadium (1300)

Semi-finals

7 February
Winner Match 1 v Winner Match 2
Cairo International Stadium (1700)
Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4
Harras El-Hedoud Stadium (1300)

Third Place Play-off

9 February, Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1600)

Final

10 February, Cairo International Stadium (1600)

Flights To Egypt

From the USA with Expedia
From Europe with Expedia
From Europe with Air France

Accommodation in Egypt

Budget Hotels in Egypt - Hostelworld.com

We salute you for entertaining the troops behind and everyone else throughout the tournament. African Cup of Nations, 2006, Fixtures
African Cup of Nations - A Look Back
Mark Bright's View on the African Cup of Nations
Talk Like An Eqyptian
False Gods in Cairo
Health & Safety
Only Fools & Camels
Filling An Arab
Five Pillars, Two Jumpers and A Goalpost
Say A LIttle Prayer For Mido
Libya "Go Home!"
Around Egypt in 3 Days
Ire in Cairo
Ministry of Youth
Cairo


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Monday, January 16, 2006

World Cup Tickets - Japan Games

6,399 tickets for Japan's three group games against Australia, Croatia and Brazil went on sale yesterday in Japan.

Supporters can apply via the JFA website from 10am Sunday 15 January to 6pm 22 January, 2006.

Phone inquiries: 0570 03 2006

Correction: Arsenal 7 Middlesbrough 0

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Arsenal 7 Middlesborugh 0

I'll be at the bottom of the canal if anyone needs me...


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Friday, January 13, 2006

Unite Against the Bosman Ruling!

Unite Against the Bosman Ruling!
Why Bosman Ruling Is Wrong

Uz deset godina "Bosmanovog pravila"

Kako je EU ukrao navijačima emociju
Svijet nogometa (dijelom i drugih sportova) prošlog je mjeseca obilježio desetgodišnjicu donošenja "Bosmanovog pravila". Zamalo smo napisali "proslavio desetgodišnjicu", međutim slavili su malobrojni. Većina je tugovala.

Sljepilo sudaca Europskog suda pravde, koji je presudom ukinuo odštete za igrače kojima je istekao ugovor, svelo je sportaše u ekipnim sportovima na obične (doduše dobro plaćene) radnike, što škodi razvoju nogometa u velikoj većini zemalja u kojima se taj sport igra. Također, Europski je sud - neovisno o samom predmetu vezanog za izvornu tužbu Jean-Marca Bosmana, ukinuo pravo nogometnim savezima da ograničavaju odlazak i dolazak sportaša preko državne granice, što je usmjerilo rijeku najboljih igrača prema najbogatijim i najpohlepnijim, osakativši većinu nogometnih prvenstava.

Neki promatrači vjeruju da je "Bosmanovo pravilo" pravedno, jer ide na ruku neposrednim "proizvođačima" nogometa, to jest igračima. To je zabluda iz nekoliko razloga.

1. Nogometaši nisu najvažniji likovi u profesionalnom nogometu i drugim navijačkim sportovima. Najvažniji su navijači, a stotine milijuna navijača prošle su i prolaze lošije krivnjom Bosmana i Europskog suda.

2. Dobro prolaze samo najbolji nogometaši, a uz njih i potpuno nezasluženo njihovi menadžeri, većinom bahati, polupismeni i beskrupulozni tipovi čije blagostanje ne bi smjelo biti u interesu poštenog i civiliziranog društva.

3. Gomilanje najboljih nogometaša u nekoliko klubova nekolicine zemalja vodi prema dosadnoj i natjecateljski nezanimljivoj nogometnoj NBA, usred pustoši zemalja u kojima je nogomet upropašten.


Umjesto da se samo Bosmanovim zahtjevom za slobodan prijelaz iz Liegea u Dunkerque, EU je proučila sve UEFA-ine pravilnike i utvrdila da se niz propisa ne uklapa u europsko zakonodavstvo.

Budući da država članica EU ne može spriječiti liječnika ili postolara da preseli u drugu državu i tamo obavlja posao, mudre su glave iz EU-a zaključile da takva ograničenja ne mogu postojati ni u sportu.

Klubovi su dobili tretman običnih tvrtki, a sportaši običnih radnika, za koje vrijede ista pravila kao i za bilo kojeg drugog građana EU-a. Nitko od sudaca iz Europskog suda pravde nije pomislio da, za razliku od običnih tvrtki, sportski klubovi imaju navijače, čija emocija i duševno blagostanje ovisi o tome igra li igrač X u ovom ili onom klubu; da navijači jednog kluba nisu manje vrijedni od navijača drugog, kao i da ljubitelji nogometa u jednoj (siromašnijoj) zemlji nisu manje vrijedni od poklonika ovog sporta u drugoj (bogatijoj).

Nogometni zakon džungle

Budući da je morala prilagoditi svoje propise za klubove koji djeluju unutar EU-a, UEFA i druge krovne sportske organizacije naredile su i sportskim savezima izvan EU-a da promijene propise u skladu s time.
Tako su u kratkom roku pale sve rampe koje su dotad priječile zakon džungle da stupi na snagu. Jer, zakon koji dopušta bogatom i moćnom da oduzme siromašnom i nezaštićenom što god mu se na njemu sviđa ima sve odlike zakona džungle. Pod krinkom zaštite "prava pojedinaca na slobodan izbor radnog mjesta", i "pravo slobodnog ugovaranja", milijuni su navijača rumunjskih, bugarskih, mađarskih, hrvatskih, čeških, srpskih, poljskih, švedskih, okradeni, kao i milijuni navijača manjih klubova u bogatim zemljama. Ono što im je ukradeno nije bio Božić kao u priči o Grinchu, nego emocija.

Da bi se zaštitili interesi mnogo, mnogo veći od interesa skupine pohlepnih sportaša, nezajažljivih menadžera i amoralnih vlasnika klubova, bilo bi pravedno vratiti malim klubovima mogućnost da debelo naplate igrače koje stvaraju, kao i skromnijim zemljama da pruže svojim državljanima radost gledanja kvalitetnih igrača u vlastitim ligama.

Međutim, povodeći se za ideologijom nesmiljenog kapitalizma, u kojemu ne najbolji, već najsuroviji i najbešćutniji uzimaju sve što žele, suci Europskog suda pravde dali su slobodne ruke bogatima da postanu još bogatiji čerupajući one koji se nemaju čime zaštititi.


Učinci "Bosmanovog pravila"

* Budući da nijedan klub ne želi ostati bez igrača i bez odštete, raskidaju ugovore prije isteka, tako da bi mogli naplatiti bar nešto. Tako je efektivno trajanje ugovora smanjeno za 6-12 mjeseci od nominalnog roka.

* Igrač i menadžer mogu lakše spustiti izlaznu odštetu zahvaljujući mogućnosti ucjene: ne pustite li me u taj i taj klub za onoliko novca koliko je ovaj voljan platiti, pauzirat ću do kraja ugovora i onda otići besplatno.

* Mladi igrači mogu si priuštiti, ili barem misle da to mogu, višemjesečni prekid igranja dok im ne istekne ugovor s matičnim klubom i potom prijeći u bogatije klubove kao slobodni igrači. Zahvaljujući tome, takav igrač može sklopiti bolji ugovor zbog toga što njegov novi poslodavac ne mora trošiti novac na odštetu.

* Ista je tehnika primjenjiva kad se radi o pregovorima za produženje ugovora. Igrači sada lakše dobivaju što žele, a to je u mnogim slučajevima neumjerena i nepošteno visoka plaća.

* Savezi koji okupljaju siromašnije klubove više nikako ne mogu administrativnim mjerama zadržati igrače u državnim granicama, što je dovelo do pustošenja nekoć jakih prvenstava i klubova, naspram gomilanja nekoliko stotina najboljih svjetskih igrača u par desetaka klubova.

* Klubovi su uvelike izgubili nacionalni, da ne spominjemo regionalni i gradski identitet. Danas Arsenal može postaviti jedanaestoricu bez ijednog Britanca, dok u belgijskom Beverenu igra praktično cijela mlada reprezentacija Obale Bjelokosti.

* Mnogi pravi nogometni navijači okrenuli su leđa svom omiljenom sportu, upravo zbog gubitka identiteta momčadi te zbog guranja rezultata u drugi plan, u usporedbi sa "spektaklom" i značajem pojedinca kao glavnog mamca za publiku i sponzore.

* Besprizornim zgrtanjem bogatstva i najvećih zvijezda, nekoliko je desetaka klubova steklo milijune površnih poklonika izvan matičnih zemalja - poklonika koji za dotični klub "navijaju" iz šminke, bez prave strasti, recimo zato što im se sviđa frizura nekog od igrača.

* Klupska scena u Europi približila se nogometnoj NBA, što je deset koraka natrag u odnosu na raniji nogomet, u kojemu se stotinjak klubova moglo ravnopravno boriti za domaće i međunarodne trofeje. Jedna Steaua, Dinamo, Zvezda, Slovan ili Goteborg više nikada neće moći osvojiti europski pokal.

Copyright Soccerphile/Zri Sport

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Very Merry Gerry

As long as man walks the earth, the battle between the old wrinkly master and the young brash pretender to the throne is as inevitable as tomato sauce on a sausage sandwich.

Stuart Pearce v Alex Ferguson fits perfectly in this category. He may be a considered a psycho, but you can’t argue with eight Premier League trophies. Pearce is the up and comer while Sir Alex has been there, done that and banned the t-shirt. Pearce’s time will come, but for now, the old guard retains the edge. United are 4/6 to master the Manchester melee; get on.

Now that Roy Keane has left the country, the Manchester derby just won’t be the same without a career threatening challenge or two. David Sommeil misses the match due to Essiening a Tottenham player, so we’ll have to rely on Alan Smith and Joey Barton to remain true to the memory of the departed Keano. A player to be sent off is a 5/2 shot.

Graeme Souness threw all his eggs in one basket when he signed Michael Owen, there’s a moral there somewhere; buy more baskets. Here’s another moral for you; back Newcastle without Owen? A fool and his money are Soun parted. Fulham receive the nod at 5/4.

What Alan Shearer lacks in pace, he makes up for in elbow piece. If we accept that Newcastle will lose the match, backing Shearer to be booked is a logical follow up. Big Al is more likely to connect with a jaw bone than a cross; he’s 4/1 to see yellow, 50/1 to see red.

The arrival of a Russian billionaire has allowed Harry Redknapp to buy himself a big Pole; Emmanuel Olisadebe. I saw Emmanuel on video a few years ago, a fantastic scoring record. Portsmouth v Everton is a relegation six pointer, back Pompey to take all six points at 11/10.

Clyde were 20/1 to beat Celtic, Leyton Orient were 8/1 to beat Fulham, both won easily. Sunderland are 11/1 rags at home to Chelsea; can they make it a treble of upsets? No. Conventional wisdom would suggest that you can’t back a Premier League team away to another at 1/5. I repeatedly slap the bald head of conventional wisdom; Chelsea have the points in the bag.

If Ian Wright was Thierry Henry, he’d have to consider leaving Arsenal. If I was Mr Henry, I wouldn’t have time to consider a move abroad; I’d be too busy getting Merry. Take 2/7 on the Gunners beating the Boro, it’s a step on the road to happiness.

The weekend specials revolve around the Manchester derby.

“Cole industry” – Andy Cole to score at any time 15/8
“Rio, the Jan Hero” – Rio Ferdinand to score at any time 7/1
“Do the Bart man” – Joey Barton to be booked 7/4
“I, Van the terrible” – Van Nistelrooy not to score 8/11

Quote of the week:

“The pitch wasn’t the best, but I’m not gonna make excuses.”
Steve Bruce after Birmingham were outplayed by Torquay.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

Sunderland’s recent home record to Chelsea makes interesting reading: the last seven matches have produced a Chelsea win, a draw and five victories for the Mackems.

Acc of the week:

Man Utd, Aston Villa, Charlton, Fulham and Liverpool are the pick of the Premiership action; the accer pays 22/1.

Weekend Betting:

Man City v Man Utd Saturday 14th January 12.45 Live on Sky

Man City 7/2
Draw 12/5
Man Utd 4/6

Get on: Man Utd

It’s three league matches without scoring a goal for City, United are the Premiership’s top scorers on the road. A comfortable away win.
Match Special:
Van Nistelrooy to score two or more goals 4/1

Arsenal v Middlesbrough Saturday 14th January 15.00

Arsenal 2/7
Draw 7/2
Middlesbrough 8/1

Get on: Arsenal

Boro led 3-1 at Highbury last season, and still got spanked. McClaren’s men haven’t won a league match since November. Home banker.
Match Special:
Henry to score a hat-trick 12/1

Aston Villa v West Ham Saturday 14th January 15.00

Aston Villa 10/11
Draw 9/4
West Ham 5/2

Get on: Aston Villa

The Hammers last won at Villa Park in 1995. O’Leary’s men are finally finding their stride; they’ll avenge a 4-0 beating earlier in the season.
Match Special:
Mellberg to score with a header 20/1

Charlton v Birmingham Saturday 14th January 15.00

Charlton 10/11
Draw 11/5
Birmingham 13/5

Get on: Charlton

The Blues have only scored one goal away from home since November, a consolation in a 4-1 bashing at Manchester City. Darren Bent scored the only goal of the game at St Andrew’s earlier in the season, a repeat is a possibility.
Match Special:
Darren Bent to score the only goal of the game 25/1

Fulham v Newcastle Saturday 14th January 15.00

Fulham 5/4
Draw 9/4
Newcastle 7/4

Get on: Fulham

Fulham have been impressive at home in the league recently, five wins and a draw from their last six matches. The Toon Army have only scored in one of their last six matches away from home. Enough said.
Match Special:
Fulham to score three or more goals 9/2

Liverpool v Tottenham Saturday 14th January 15.00

Liverpool 8/11
Draw 9/4
Tottenham 10/3

Get on: Liverpool

Liverpool have won eight out of ten at home this season, only Chelsea and Man Utd left Anfield with more than a beating. Spurs have recently been beaten at the Hawthorns and the Walkers stadium. Home win.
Match Special:
A Liverpool player to score from inside their own half 200/1

Portsmouth v Everton Saturday 14th January 15.00

Portsmouth 11/10
Draw 9/4
Everton 2/1

Get on: Portsmouth

It’s seven points out of nine at Fratton Park for Portsmouth since the return of Mr Redknapp. Pompey have only scored eight goals at home this season though, a Premiership low. 1-0 to Harry’s mob.
Match Special:
Portsmouth to win 1-0 6/1

Blackburn v Bolton Saturday 14th January 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Blackburn 5/4
Draw 2/1
Bolton 2/1

Get on: Draw

A strange meet up on the Premiership, they’ve met nine times and the home team has never won. The last three meets between the two has produced a total of two goals. A goalless draw is the only conclusion.
Match Special:
No Goalscorer in the match 13/2

Wigan v West Brom Sunday 15th January 13.30 Live on Sky

Wigan 8/11
Draw 9/4
West Brom 10/3

Get on: Wigan

The Latics squad is down to the bare bones, but they still look a stronger team than the Albion. The Baggies have not won on the road all season and they haven’t scored away since November. It has to be a home win.
Match Special:
Jason Roberts to score the first goal 9/2

Sunderland v Chelsea Sunday 15th January 16.00 Live on Sky

Sunderland 11/1
Draw 4/1
Chelsea 1/5

Get on: Chelsea

The gulf in class could not be wider. Sunderland have only won once in the league this season, Chelsea have only lost once. The Mackems haven’t scored a home goal in the league for 360 minutes; only Man U have kept a visiting Chelsea team off the score-sheet. A virtually risk free away win.
Match Special:
Crespo to score a hat-trick 12/1