Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fiorentina V Liverpool – Dr. Joel Rookwood

For the unsuspecting football supporter, the prospect of a European away trip to Italy is usually accompanied by a detailed health warning. As Mirror columnist Brian Reade noted recently: “Spend a night as a football fan in Italy and there’s a good chance you’ll end up eating hospital food. Usually after being stabbed in the buttocks by a youth wearing a crash helmet who does you from behind and then scarpers.” Given their history with Italian clubs, the threat is particularly evident for Liverpool supporters.



AS Roma’s only appearance in a European Cup final resulted in defeat at the hands of Liverpool. In Rome. On penalties. In excess of forty Liverpool fans were subjected to serious knife wounds before and after the match, and the event did little for Anglo-Italian relations. Twelve months later the pinnacle of club football was once again dominated by the men from Merseyside. Although the 1985 final saw Juventus crowned continental champions, the result was rendered insignificant by the events that unfolded in the stands of Brussels’ Heysel stadium. The dilapidated ground was more than sixty years old and proved unable to withstand the fatal stampede by Liverpool supporters towards their Juventus counterparts in the ‘neutral’ section before the game. A wall collapsed under the pressure of fleeing fans and many were crushed, resulting in thirty-nine deaths. It remains the worst hooligan-related tragedy in the history of European football.



The spectre of disorder overshadowed the reality of inadequate, dangerous terraces, ineffective policing and flawed crowd management, as throughout the continent (and particularly in Italy) the supporters of all-conquering Liverpool became synonyms for ‘murderers’. A resultant legacy of antagonism has since developed between many Italian and Scouse supporters. Two decades later in Liverpool’s first post-Heysel European Cup final appearance, the opposition were predictably once again Italian. This time it was the turn of AC Milan to face Liverpool, with the latter miraculously overturning a three-goal deficit, securing the club its fifth trophy in the process. As a consequence supporters of Italy’s most influential clubs typically share strong feelings (with varying degrees of intensity and direction) towards everything connected with Liverpool Football Club.



This argument was validated during recent trips to Roma, Juventus and Milan, experiences which led many Liverpool fans to wonder whether or not their latest European tie in Italy would represent a similar threat to collective safety. However, contrary to previous episodes on Italian soil the venture into the largely unknown territory of Florence proved anything but intimidating for the supporters. The Fiorentina fans seemed to almost hold the Merseyside club in higher regard than they do their own. So keen were they so impress a sense of friendship that they erected a fan zone outside the Stadio Artemio Franchi to mark the official twinning of two Anglo-Italian supporters organisations. A spokesman for the Collettivo Autonomo Viola fan group issued a statement for their Liverpudlian counterparts saying: ‘Florence has always had a strong admiration for Liverpool and their fans. This is our opportunity to create a beginning of a friendship that will last and grow stronger over time.’ Call me cynical, but I was more than a little suspicious as to why.



On the pitch Liverpool’s defence proved similarly accommodating, allowing the hosts to dominate first half possession. A double strike from Jovetic before the interval provided Fiorentina with a well deserved and ultimately significant two-goal advantage. More intriguing than the build up play to the goals however was the response of the home supporters to taking and then doubling their lead. The noise was loud, the flares atmospheric, but the attitude attached to the celebrations was not in the least confrontational. Throat slicing gestures and invitations to engage in sexual encounters with one’s immediate family usually accompany such a reaction from Italian fans. On close inspection the only supporter I saw illustrating a loathing of Liverpool was immediately, forcibly and publicly humiliated by a commanding ultra in the most notable case of self-policing I have ever seen at a football match. The away end just stood and stared in disbelief. No interpretation was required.



With an ostracized American ownership and a growing marginalisation of local support dampening the Anfield mood, increasingly the working class subcultural rump of Liverpool supporters nostalgically wish for the return of a participatory democracy, where fans sensed an ownership or belonging to the club. Conversely Italian ultras continue to demonstrate their influence over their own clubs and those who follow them. The most compelling evidence to substantiate this argument last night presented itself immediately after the players had vacated the Florentine turf following the conclusion of a disappointing night for Liverpool. In an act that would have earned a lifetime stadium ban in England, a huge banner was unveiled at the far end of the ground. Not content at its initial position dominating an entire row of advertisement boards, the ultras holding the banner then proceeded to ignore the ‘advice’ of the stewards and march onto the pitch.



They stopped only when they reached the Liverpool supporters, where they took an almost regal bow and received a bemused applause by an away end clearly adopting a variety of interpretations of the text. The ultras then presented the banner to a Kopite. It read: ‘WELCOME REDS - YOUR STORY IS FOR US A LEGEND’. It may well have said: ‘thank you for killing 39 Juventus fans. The enemy of our enemy is our friend.’ Conversations with a number of Fiorentina fans before the game, including one I exchanged scarves with, concluded with their personal expression of gratitude for Liverpool’s behaviour at Heysel. My memory of a disaster that unfolded when I was barely four-years old is far from clear, yet I know enough to realise it is a source of nothing but regret and shame for any Liverpool fan worth his salt.



The ritual exchange of pleasantries that follows most European ties Liverpool are involved with, singing one another’s team names in a regular show of sportsmanship rarely exposed by journalists, is something I am usually the first to join in with. But with La Viola I was far less enthusiastic, given their rigid and bitter representation of Scouse footballing culture. Using the Scouse trademarks of songs and banners to do it only served to heighten my sense of disapproval. Liverpool’s collection of both are among the most famous in world football, and yet during a strange night in Florence, among the catalogue of carefully considered and crafted Liverpool banners on show, the winner has to be: ‘YER MA’. Only a Scouser could represent the collective attitude towards Fiorentina and get a laugh at the same time, using only five letters. Sound.

Who's in Who's Out?

How will Swansea react to the loss of their talisman Ferrie Bodde who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering his second cruciate ligament injury in the space of twelve months?

Their inspirational player had only just come back into action after being out for ten months with exactly the same injury. The Dutchman has made only ten appearances since being sidelined last season. Tragically the midfielder only lasted 9 minutes before being stretchered off the field of play.

After his highly anticipated come back game, against Sheffield United that Swansea won 2-1, Bodde reassured fans on the club website that this was not an occurrence of the old injury.

"The knee is ok; it's not inside the knee like it was last time."

Unfortunately subsequent scans revealed that the despite the midfielder's optimism his worse nightmare had come true and he will be forced to sit out for the rest of this season.

Swansea now face the rest of the season without one of the toughest tackling midfielders in the Championship who was at the heart of many of their wins last season. The Dutch under 23 international had only signed a new contract with Swansea City in 2008, following rumours of a move to Championship rivals Derby County for around 2 million pounds.

Former Swansea boss Roberto Martinez even turned down a reported 3.5 million pound bid down from Bolton this summer. The sense of dismay in the Swansea camp was echoed in the comments of club physiotherapist who stated how unlucky Bodde had been to suffer a repeat injury:

"It's very rare for this to happen, as the graft is normally stronger than the original ligament."

Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins reflected the thoughts of many fans and club officials when he conceded:

"It's a big blow, not just for the football club but more importantly for Ferrie himself. He is devastated at the moment, but as a club we have told him we will look after him and stand by him every step of the way - as we did last time. He will remain a very important member of this football club. We all feel for him and I'm sure every Swansea fan will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery."

Meanwhile messages have been flooding in from the fans wishing Ferrie the best of luck as he returns to his homeland to await yet another operation. Last night Swansea drew 0-0 away at Doncaster, finding themselves 16th in the league with only 11 points, and wondering how they will cope with the loss of an integral part of their team.

Tom Haw




Harewood Agrees Magpies Move

Football news.
The explosive Aston Villa centre forward Marlon Harewood has joined Championship front runners Newcastle United on a three month loan deal.

There was a hot pursuit for the experienced striker with clubs like West Brom and Middlesbrough thought to be chasing the striker. It was even rumoured that League Two side Notts County were set to sign Harewood as their new owners try to continue to sign big name players.

The jury is still out amongst many footballing pundits as to whether Marlon is a good signing or not for the promotion favourites.

Harewood did have a short spell in the Championship last season with Premiership new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers and having failing to impress at Molineux found himself back at Aston Villa for the start of the season.

Now the former Nottingham Forest and West Ham striker has a chance to revive his career. Temporary Newcastle manager Chris Hughton told the Newcastle United official website, "We're delighted to have Marlon on board."

If Marlon Harewood can find the kind of form he enjoyed at West Ham and Nottingham Forest many football fans across the football league believe this could be a very astute signing.

A die hard Newcastle fan added, "He is a player we need and a player that can score goals for us on his day," so having the majority of Newcastle fans behind this signing is likely to give Marlon the confidence he needs to score goals in the Championship.

Hughton talked up Harewood's ability by saying, "He's got experience, and his record shows he has an eye for goal."

"It's a great challenge for him, he's played for some great clubs but it hasn't worked out for him at Aston Villa".

Harewood himself seemed in an exctiable mood as he could not hide his delight at signing for such an illustrious club.

"I can't wait to get my career back on track."

"I'm fit and raring to go and really believe I'm at one of the biggest clubs there is, this is a great challenge for me and now I just want to play my part."

Harewood also revealed that playing in front of such passionate fans on Tyneside was one of the main reasons for him signing.

"This is one of the greatest things about signing, the potential to play in front of 52,000 fans is a very special one."

If Marlon is given a real opportunity to play regular football he could be a force to be reckoned with and will score plenty of goals to ensure Newcastle United stay top of the table come Christmas time. Pundits are already betting on Marlon Harewood to be one of Newcastle's leading scorers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

J-League Results September 27

J-League Results September 27.
Sunday September 27

Shimizu S-Pulse 1 Vissel Kobe 0
Urawa Reds 1 Yokohama F Marinos 2

Saturday September 26

FC Tokyo 3 Jubilo Iwata 2
Gamba Osaka 2 Kawasaki Frontale 1
JEF United Chiba 1 Montedio Yamagata 2
Kashima Antlers 1 Nagoya Grampus 4
Kyoto Sanga 1, Omiya Ardija 3
Oita Trinita 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Albirex Niigata 2

Kashima Antlers remain top of the J-League but now only by a single point as the season approches its traditionally tight finish.
Shimizu S-Pulse are second followed by Gamba an Sanfrecce. Urawa Reds' poor season continues and they are now 10 points adrift of top spot.

Leading Positions

Kashima Antlers P26 Pts 50
Shimizu S-Pulse P27 Pts 49
Gamba Osaka P27 Pts 46
Sanfrecce Hiroshima P27 44
Albirex Niigata P27 Pts 43
Kawasaki Frontale P26 Pts 43

Leading scorers

For once a Japanese-born player leads the J-1 scoring charts - in fact the top two strikers are both Japanese players. Jubilo Iwata's Ryoichi Maeda has 14 goals so far this season followed by FC Tokyo's Naohiro Ishikawa with 13.

Ryoichi Maeda, Jubilo Iwata 14
Naohiro Ishikawa, FC Tokyo 13
Juninho, Kawasaki Frontale 12
Shinji Okazaki, Shimizu S-Pulse 12
Edmilson, Urawa Reds 11

Previous J-League results & news

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Second Legs Left To Right Perceived Wrongs For Koreans

Second Legs Left To Right Perceived Wrongs For Koreans.
A burning sense of injustice could spur on South Korea's two teams remaining in the Asian Champions League. In the first leg of their respective quarter finals, both Pohang Steelers and FC Seoul suffered defeats on their travels to Uzbekistan and Qatar respectively.

The K-League clubs have a chance to right the perceived wrongs on Wednesday evening in the second leg of their encounters.

Seoul have the best chance of making the last four, as the league leaders are just 3-2 behind Umm Salal with two away goals in the bank.

Seoul traveled to Qatar to face Umm Salal last week and the Korean league leaders raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Jung Jo-gook. The hosts pulled a goal back early in the second half but with around 20 minute remaining, Ahn Tae-eun fired home an unstoppable shot to give Seoul a 3-1 lead.

A first leg 3-1 win away from home in a quarter-final of a continental competition is an excellent result. The only problem was that Ahn’s goal was not allowed. The shot hit the underside of the crossbar and landed a metre behind the goal line before bouncing back out. It was a clear goal and the men in red-and-black celebrated only to see that the game was continuing around them.

The referee and his assistant missed the fact that Seoul had scored. If that wasn’t bad enough, some terrible Korean defending allowed Umm Salal’s Brazilian strike force to score two late goals to give the hosts a narrow advantage ahead of Wednesday’s match. If Seoul learn how to defend in the meantime, they could well turn the game around against a team that does not travel well.

Seoul boss Senol Gunes, a man who regularly voices his discontent at K-league referees - at least he did before embarking upon a vow of silence in post-match press conferences in protest at a rash of red cards - was philosophical about the oversight.

"We started the game well. We led the game 2-0 in the first half and took control of the match. However, a mistake in the second half let our opponents in with a chance,” Gunes said. “Since our opponents did not play a strong game, this was a match we had to win.”

Seoul returned from its midweek travels on Friday and face a tough Sunday afternoon K-League match against an improving Daejeon Citizen team.

Pohang Steelers had to face Busan I’Park on Saturday evening and managed to win 2-1. When it comes to Asia, the south-easterners probably had less to complain than their capital cousins but were less restrained in doing so.

Coach Sergio Farias took his men to Uzbekistan and the home of Asia’s richest club Bunyodkor. Pohang took an early lead only for the hosts to equalize in the first half.

Midway through the second period, the game was finely poised. The Koreans would have been satisfied with a 1-1 tie in a tough away match and would have been confident of winning on their own turf at the intimate Steelyard a week later.

Then, the Saudi Arabian referee brandished a second yellow card in the face of defender Kim Hyung-il, a player who is improving all the time, and he had to leave the field. Even now, nobody is sure exactly why the blonde battler was dismissed but it changed the game. The Tashkent team took advantage of its extra man to score two late goals to take control of the tie.

"It is impossible to win a game when a referee like the one we had today officiates the game. I noticed several poor calls in our defensive zone,” Farias said after the match.

“I don’t have to explain, if you saw the game you would know what I’m talking about. I don’t understand, Bunyodkor players got calls but we didn’t get similar calls. I don’t even know why Kim Hyung-il was sent off.”

More serious was the fact that Pohang complained that home fans at the Jar Stadium were shining laser pointers in the eyes of goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong.

“I’m disappointed that such an incident took place at an important match like today. I think the outcome of the match was swayed by the referee,” said Farias.

There are still 90 minutes remaining in which to rectify the situation.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Football Books September

Taking The Tiss: My Autobiography New football book titles out this month include an autobiography of former Saints' icon Matt Le Tissier Taking The Tiss: My Autobiography, a biography of Eric Cantona Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and a book on African football Feet Of The Chameleon.

Other new books published in September are Celtic's Lost Legend an autobiography from George Connelly and No Smoke, No Fire by David Jones, an account of the false accusations of child abuse brought against the former Stockport County, Southampton, Wolves and now Cardiff manager.

The top 3 selling football books in the UK are Sky Sports Football Yearbook, Jellyman's Thrown A Wobbly and Carra: My Autobiography.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fan Scores Penalty For Spartak

A Russian fan scored from the spot for Spartak Moscow in their recent 2-1 loss to fellow Moscow club Saturn.



Get more world soccer news from Soccerphile.com

Campbell Set For County U-Turn

Sol Campbell could be set for a remarkable u-turn after Notts County admitted that they will not stand in his way if he decides to leave the club.


Campbell has made just one appearance for the Magpies since joining on a free transfer at the end of August. After three weeks of working on his fitness, the former England international made his debut on Saturday, as his new team followed the football betting odds and went down 2-1 to Morecambe. However he now looks set to leave the club and according to reports has already said goodbye to his team-mates.


The news will come as another blow to County, who currently sit in eighth position in the League Two table after a run of three successive away defeats. They had hoped that Campbell would be at the club for the foreseeable future, having signed him on a five year contract worth around £40,000 a week. With former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson also at the club, the move seemed to be positive for all parties.


Indeed at the time, Campbell was full of optimism. Upon his arrival at Meadow Lane he said: “This club has got great ambition and I want to be a part of it,


“Sven played a big role. He's a great man. He's managed all over the world and he knows his football, he's a proper guy. "He has seen the future. It's a challenge but I think everyone connected to the club are prepared for that challenge. It's refreshing.”


Not everybody was convinced by Campbell's reasoning though and his one time manager Arsene Wenger said: “Time will show if it is a good move for him,”


“Maybe it can be a good decision if he wants to build something on the longer term. On the short term, he will suffer a bit because he is used to top level football.


“When you move down, it is always difficult to cope mentally.”


Wenger's caution now seems to have been justified and for the 35 year old Campbell, retirement may just be on the cards.

Kawasaki Frontale chase Champions League crown

Kawasaki Frontale were left kicking themselves after they went down 2-0 to Urawa Reds in front of a capacity crowd at Todoroki Stadium in the J. League last weekend.

Kawasaki Frontale chase Champions League crown.


That defeat was a further blow to the Kanagawa side's chances of winning a first ever J. League title, but for now coach Takashi Sekizuka will turn his attentions to the Asian Champions League.

Kawasaki have reached the quarter-final stage for the second time in the revamped competition's brief history, after Frontale were knocked out on penalties by Iranian side Sepahan in 2007.

This time they face a familiar opponent in the form of fellow Japanese side Nagoya Grampus, with Kawasaki desperate to reach a final played just a stone's throw across the Tama River at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Kawasaki reached the final eight after finishing second behind K-League side Pohang Steelers in their group, before beating defending champions Gamba Osaka in a one-off Round of 16 clash.

Now the upwardly mobile outfit face another all-J. League test, and they'll be particularly wary of former Frontale midfielder Magnum, who these days pulls the strings in the Nagoya midfield.

Nagoya topped their group at the expense of A-League side Newcastle Jets, before seeing off Korean giants Suwon Bluewings in an impressive Round of 16 victory.

Coach Dragan Stojkovic has failed to inspire his side to any great heights in the J. League this season, so the Champions League represents somewhat of a last chance for Nagoya to make a name for themselves.

Australian striker Josh Kennedy could prove a key figure for the Aichi-based side, with the 1.94m striker scoring four goals in eight league games since his switch from German football.

In other quarter-final fixtures, Qatari surprise package Umm-Salal take on FC Seoul, with the Korean side missing captain Kim Chi-Gon and midfielder Kim Han-Yoon through suspension.

Luiz Felipe Scolari will be desperate to steer Uzbek champions Bunyodkor past Pohang Steelers, while Uzbekistan's other representatives Pakhtakor Tashkent take on two-times champions Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

The reverse fixtures take place on September 30.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Championship season kicks off with plenty of contenders

New Championship season kicks off with plenty of contenders.
During the off-season, a sense of expectation rushed through the veins of fans of twenty-four clubs who make up arguably the most competitive league in the world.

There is no big four in this compelling competition - anyone can win it.

With three of the biggest clubs in England relegated from the mighty Premier League, the new Championship season has an exciting feel to it. North-east giants Newcastle United and local foes Middlesbrough will both hope to mount a promotion rival, as will fierce Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest and Derby County.

Not surprisingly, it is Newcastle United who have made the best start to the new season, and going into the recent international break they had opened up a two-point gap at the top of the standings.

Big-name stars Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan are still on their books of the ailing giants, and Newcastle followed a promising draw against West Bromwich Albion with a 3-0 thumping of the highly-fancied Reading.

At the other end of the table it has been a disappointing start for Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane, who in pre-season was talking up his team’s chances of earning promotion to the top flight. He will be frustrated by a poor start that saw his side go down 3-1 to Crystal Palace, before being held to a scoreless draw by promoted outfit Leicester City.

Big spenders Nottingham Forest have been busy in the transfer market, signing no less than 11 new players before the start of the new campaign.

Manager Billy Davies has six strikers to call upon, but it’s at the other end that Forest look shaky, and the failure to sign new defenders means that Davies will be forced to rely on the loan market to plug gaps at the back.

Forest have been charged for Nathan Tyson’s goal celebrations in a 3-2 win over fierce local rivals Derby County, with both clubs also fined for failing to control their players in what is one of the Championship’s most heated fixtures.

Barnsley manager Simon Davey was one of the first casualties of the season after he parted company with the South Yorkshire side just five games into the new campaign.

He was shown the door after collecting just one point from a difficult start, with the battling outfit desperate to retain their status as a Championship club.

Coventry City manager Chris Coleman is another who will be looking nervously over his shoulder, with fans clamouring for a change following their poor finish to the previous campaign.

It’s a notoriously competitive league, and the new Championship season has kicked off with plenty of teams looking to edge their way into contention.

© Tom Haw & Soccerphile.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bolivia refusing to play ball in player power struggle

Every supporter of a team from time to time feels that the squad could do with a shake up and followers of the Bolivian national side have been afforded just that.

The whole of Bolivia's squad have vowed not to show up for next month's two World Cup qualifications games.

Some may argue that they have barely been present in the campaign so far, chalking up ten defeats in 16 matches making qualification for South Africa an impossibility.

The next two matches are scheduled for 10th and 13th October with the Bolivians entertaining Brazil in La Paz before travelling to Lima for a game against Peru.

Just who will be turning out for La Verde for these games is unknown now that the entire national team have announced their withdrawal until reforms are made to way the game is run in their country.

Joaquin Botero the hat trick hero in Bolivia's 6-1 demolition of Argentina earlier in the year and his teammates broke the news through their player's union Fabol.

"Bolivian football is in deep crisis," Read the statement on Fabol's website. "As long as our suggestions are not taken into account and implemented the country's professional footballers resign indefinitely from representing the nation team."

The major gripe of the players is the amount of opposing factions governing the game in the country. Power is divvied up between the FBF, the League and the national associations with few people looking out for the interests of the players.

Fabol's statement went on to say that the three separate governing bodies should merge as one. They believe that this will lead to "the real actors in football, the players, coaches and referees" getting more of a say.

It is also hoped that under a single body administration an increase to government allotted funds could be better deployed.

In light of defeats against Paraguay and Ecuador and the certainity that Bolivia would not be heading to South Africa for the World Cup the country`s president Evo Morales suggested that the game should be "nationalised".

Morales' love of football is well documented and it is the posts he held within regional football authorities that gave him his start in politics. He once famously skipped a meeting with Chilean President Michele Bachelet to skipper a game of football with his mates.

"I've said that some [football] officials live off of sports," Morales said. "I feel that sport has to be nationalised, especially football. What better thing than the intervention of the state?"

"We're sorry about the performance of our team in the qualifiers," Morales went on to tell reporters in Bolivia. "Until now [football] has been [controlled] by private, autonomous entities but they aren't getting results."

The President believes that nationalising the game would restore "dignity" and give it back to the people. Morales already has an impressive record of reclaiming his country`s gas, tin and telecommunications industries and making them a better proposition for his people rather than lining the pockets of multi-national companies.

"Soccer is an integrator," Morales said last year. "It doesn't just have to do with championships, trophies or medals. It means much more than that. Soccer makes us forget the politicians who are our specific problems. Even poverty, if only for 90 minutes, gives way to this social phenomenon."

Any move for his government to run the game in Bolivia would be frowned upon by FIFA who only last year temporarily suspended Peru from international competition after it perceived interference from the government over the FA.

Morales can however be buoyed by his recent victory over the games big wigs in Zurich. When FIFA imposed its ban on matches being played at over 2,500 metres above sea level it was Morales who led his neighbours to rally against "football's apartheid".

The sanctions affected Peru, Colombia and Ecuador but it was Morales who stuck his neck out by declaring the ruling "deplorable" and a violation of human rights.

Sepp Blatter and his cronies were eventually forced to substantially water down their initial ruling and now Bolivia continues to play their home games in La Paz at an ear popping 3,600 metres above sea level.

However Morales' Sports and Health minister Ramiro Tapia did follow his leader’s words of nationalisation with a little hint against total domination of football in Bolivia.

"One should think about improving," Tapia said. "We're not talking about intervention."

As for the players´ strike Fabol´s actions hardly come out of the blue such has been the amount of similar action in South America recently.

As with all industries the strike is a useful bargaining tool and this year footballers in Uruguay, Peru and Argentina have already threatened action to one degree or another.

In March the Uruguayan players' union led by Enrique Saravia forced a midweek round of matches to be called off amid a dispute centring on unpaid wages and bonuses.

In July the Peruvian national team staged a walk out in protest of malaise blighting the game in the country. Their demands were similar to those of their Bolivian counterparts with reforms in how the game was run on top of the agenda.

More recently the start of the Argentine season was pushed back a week as again a players' union pitched battle against the national authorities.

Bolivia's case could pan out slightly differently than their Latin American neighbours as they have a man who takes his football very seriously in the top job. Evo Morales is due to face the polls in December and although he is in no serious threat of losing he can use positive action on football to bolster his populist stance.

Copyright © Tim Sturtridge & Soccerphile.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adebayor set for hefty punishment

Emmanuel Adebayor has been hit with two charges by the Football Association after his role in Saturday's controversial match against Arsenal.

The Manchester City forward has been charged with violent conduct for a stamp on Robin Van Persie and improper conduct, after running the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans.

There had also been reports claiming that Adebayor was being investigated for a clash with Cesc Fabregas that occurred earlier on in the match, however this has not resulted in any further charges.

The Togolese star was making his first appearance against former club Arsenal and was clearly keen to make an impression. Unfortunately, that impression quickly became a negative one, when he appeared to stamp on former team-mate Robin Van Persie early in the second half. The referee missed the incident but Van Persie was left with a cut on his cheek and later claimed that the challenge was "mindless and malicious".

As a result Adebayor is likely to receive a three match ban, unless he decides to appeal against the FA charge of violent conduct.

The second incident, relating to Adebayors goal celebration has divided opinion up and down the country, with many fans and experts taking the side of Adebayor. A large amount of abuse was directed towards the former Gunner throughout the match and he claims that his celebration was a mistake and a spur of the moment decision.


Speaking after the match, Adebayor said: "The emotion took over me, now I just have to say sorry.

"It was silly to run up in front of the Arsenal fans but these people have been insulting me all game. Even in the warm-up they were insulting me. They were saying things that are not nice to hear, personal things.

"I didn't plan it, not at all. I didn't even know that I would score. The way things were going from the warm-up, at the end it came into my head."

A separate commission will consider the charge of improper conduct, with a date to be announced shortly.

J. League to resume rained-out clash


The J. League has announced that the clash between Kashima Antlers and Kawasaki Frontale will be resumed from the 75th minute after last weekend's fixture was halted due to torrential rain.

J. League to resume rained-out clash.


Second placed Kawasaki had taken a 3-1 lead at the home of their league leading rivals when referee Masayashi Okada was forced to call time on a waterlogged pitch.

It was originally presumed that the full ninety mintues would be replayed, but the J. League has instead decided to play the final fifteen minutes on October 7.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rain ruins top-of-the-table clash

Rain ruins top-of-the-table clash.
Referee Masayoshi Okada took centre stage at Kashima Stadium as he called a halt to the top-of-table clash between Kashima Antlers and Kawasaki Frontale.

With Kawasaki leading 3-1, they were left furious when the match was abandoned after 73 minutes as monsoonal rains swept across the ground.

Had the result stood, Kawasaki would have cut Kashima's lead at the top to just four points.

Instead the full ninety minutes will be replayed at a date yet unknown.

Chong Tese had given Kawasaki the lead with a fabulous strike on twenty minutes, with the North Korean international's thumping strike crashing in off the underside of the crossbar.

Kashima pulled a goal back through Marquinhos, but Chong Tese was again on hand to head the visitors back into the lead before the half-time break.


Kashima Stadium.


As the rain pounded the 2002 FIFA World Cup venue in the second half, veteran Kawasaki striker Juninho stunned Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata with a shot that skidded in at the near post.

Just when Kawasaki thought they had made inroads on runaway league leaders Kashima, referee Okada stepped in to abandon play courtesy of a waterlogged pitch.

There were angry scenes at the end as furious Kawasaki players berated match officials for their decision to call time on the clash.

Elsewhere JEF United inched closer towards relegation when they lost 1-0 to Albirex Niigata at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba, while local rivals Kashiwa Reysol kept alive their chances of escaping the drop as they beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2 on the road.

Yosuke Kashiwagi scored twice as Sanfrecce Hiroshima defeated Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 at Big Arch Stadium, while a small crowd turned out at Kamoike Stadium in neutral Kagoshima to see Kyoto Sanga beat FC Tokyo 2-1 - with the capital club losing Brazilian striker Cabore to Qatari club Al-Arabi during the week.

Saturday's other results saw Shimizu S-Pulse beat Omiya Ardija 1-0 at home, while Gamba Osaka defeated Vissel Kobe 3-2 in a Kansai derby at Expo '70 Stadium on the northern outskirts of Osaka.

Sunday's fixtures sees Urawa Reds attempt to end a disastrous seven-game losing streak at home to Montedio Yamagata, while bottom club Oita Trinita welcome Jubilo Iwata to the Kyushu Oil Dome.

League Cup final a local affair
The 2009 Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup final will be a local affair at the National Stadium in Tokyo, after capital club FC Tokyo booked a showdown with neighbours Kawasaki Frontale.

In the semi-finals FC Tokyo saw off last season's beaten finalists Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 on aggregate, while Kawasaki beat Kanagawa rivals Yokohama F. Marinos 3-1 on aggregate.

Yokohama had goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura sent off in the second-leg of his team's tie, and Iikura has subsequently been handed a six-match ban after he was alleged to have pushed referee Kenji Ogiya following his dismissal against Frontale.


J-League Results

September 13

Urawa Reds 4, Montedio Yamagata 1
Oita Trinita 2, Jubilo Iwata 1

September 12

Gamba Osaka 3, Vissel Kobe 2
JEF United Chiba 0, Albirex Niigata 1
Kashima Antlers vs Kawasaki Frontale (game abandoned)
Kyoto Sanga 2, FC Tokyo 1
Nagoya Grampus 2, Kashiwa Reysol 3
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3, Yokohama F Marinos 2

Shimizu S-Pulse 1, Omiya Ardija 0
Previous J-League Results

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ki Ready For Celtic Test

Ki Ready For Celtic Test.
There is always a last-minute move before the European transfer window slams shut at the end of August but the latest deal to be made involving a South Korean star came so late that it will actually take place at the start of 2010.

Ki Sung-yong has signed for Scotland titans Glasgow Celtic but will join the team next January. The 20 year-old is as highly-rated as they come and despite his tender age, is already an established international and one of Asia’s hottest properties.

"I don't see him making a big impact on the team right now. If he does come, then I'd suggest it's something for the future,” said Celtic head coach Tony Mowbray just before the deal was done. "He's a young player with potential. Every player we sign is a big signing, but this kid has potential."

The reason why Ki is staying in the Land of the Morning Calm for the rest of the year is the simple fact that his club FC Seoul was not prepared to sell him before 2010. Seoul is leading the K-League and the team is preparing for the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League. The midfielder is a vital part of the Seoul set-up.

"In the beginning there was talk of a transfer in August, but it was pushed to January because of our team’s circumstances,” FC Seoul General Manager Han Woong-soo said. “Now it’s win-win for both clubs.”

The transfer fee is reported to be around $3.5 million but the player cares only about his next challenge.

I chatted to the youngster recently who is looking forward to the challenge.

“I think that Celtic are a good club for me because first of all, Celtic are a great club," Ki said.

"Also, I think I will get a lot of chances to play and this is important for me because I need to play ahead of the World Cup next year.”

Ki has been linked to a number of European clubs such as PSV Eindhoven, Hamburg and Porto and while he is interested in a move to England, that can come later.

“There was an offer from a Premier League club Portsmouth but I think that Celtic are a better club and I think that I am not good enough to play in the Premier League yet.

"I will get more experience in Scotland and then see what happens. First, I have to adapt to a new life.”

Ki is bursting to show Celtic fans what he can do.

“I am still a young player and have lots of energy to play defensively and offensively. I can also help with set pieces. I met Scott McDonald and he said that Celtic are a very good club and have lots of fans every game and a full stadium.”

For Seoul fans it is a little disappointing as only last month, fellow young international Lee Chung-yong left for Bolton Wanderers in a similarly-priced deal. In the space of a few weeks, the club’s, and perhaps the country’s, brightest young talents have both agreed to leave.

For Ki however, the move is a chance to sample life in Europe and he sees Scotland as an introduction and a stepping stone on the way to the English Premier League – the place where he wants to end up.

He has the tools to succeed. Tall, skilful and technically very able, Ki could be a star. He also speaks English after spending some of his childhood in Australia. The rough-and-tumble of the K-League should prepare the player for the rough-and-tumble of Scotland, though the long winter nights could be a shock to the system.

That will give him time to settle in to Scottish life. Not much is known about Celtic in Korea, Scotland has yet to appear in the collective consciousness of the Korean soccer fan. Most know that Japanese star Shunsuke Nakamura spent four seasons with the Glasgow giants but little else. Celtic, and city rivals Rangers, are huge clubs and regularly play in front of 60,000 fans with millions more spread around the world.

Only problem is for Ki is that if you take the Old Firm out of the equation then what is left is not too inspiring. Scottish football is in the doldrums. Celtic was dumped out of the Champions League 5-1 on aggregate by an Arsenal team that barely broke sweat.

But at least Celtic actually participate in Europe every season and that is a big part of the attraction for Ki.

Whatever happens, it is going to be an interesting chapter in what is sure to be a successful story.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Soccer Shuttle Drills Improve Passing

This shuttle exercise combines a series of excellent soccer drills designed for improving the passing, receiving and conditioning skills of your players. It can also incorporate practising heading and other ball skills.

To begin, separate your players into groups of three. Two of the players should stand 20 yards apart, with the third player in the middle, in between two marker cones. The two players standing at either end should both have a ball at their feet. If the groups are composed of 4 players, then two should stand in the middle.

The next stage is for the middle player to run towards one of the end players, calling for the ball. The end player should then pass the ball accurately towards the middle player’s feet. Once the ball is received on the move, the middle player should control it and pass the ball back to the same player, and then immediately turn and run towards the other end player and repeat the process.

The middle player should be calling for the ball when they are about 3 yards from the end player. They should be developing their ability to receive and return a pass, turn and run. These are essential game skills and a vital part of intermediate level soccer coaching.

The idea of this exercise is to ensure your middle player is running at pace, and maintaining speed and quality control throughout the soccer drill. A good coach must be ready to correct technical faults, especially as the players become tired.

After thirty seconds, the middle player should swap with one of the end players, preferably without too much disruption to the exercise. With plenty of practice, this process will become smoother!

To add some competitive element to the soccer drill, see which group of players can complete the most passes in a minute.

As a coach, the things you should be looking for are rapid passing, smooth and quick turning, and of course hard work. The middle player will be tired after his session, and will have to focus harder on making good passes- make sure all of your players’ efforts are applauded.

Once you feel the players have progressed sufficiently, you can add these developments to further enhance their skills:

a) Increase the difficulty of the exercise by making the middle player use only one touch, increasing the need for concentration.
b) Get the end players to throw the ball at the middle player, again forcing an increased effort in ball control skills. The middle player should either bring the ball down with their feet or volley it directly back to the end player.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Sept 9

World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Sept  9.
In Europe, England qualified for the World Cup in South Africa in style from Group 6 with a 5-1 thrashing of Croatia at Wembley. Two goals a piece from Gerrard and Lampard and one from Rooney meant that England qualified with a 100% record so far in their group.

Elsewhere in the the European qualifying zone Northern Ireland's hopes of making the tournament took a blow with a 2-0 loss at home to Slovakia. Scotland's hopes were dashed when they crashed 1-0 at Hampden to The Netherlands after a late goal by substitute Elia.

There were wins for Germany 4-0 at home to Azerbaijan, Portugal 1-0 away to Hungary, Italy 2-0 at home to Bulgaria. Spain qualified for South Africa with an impressive 3-0 drubbing of Estonia.

Holders Italy, Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland seem to be on course for automatic qualification with France, Portugal, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland hoping to get to South Africa through the play-offs.

The biggest surprise of the night was Faroe Islands 2-1 Lithuania . This was the Faroe Islands' first win in a World Cup qualifying match for eight years.

In Asia, Bahrain advanced through the play-offs after a 2-2 draw in Saudi Arabia with a dramatic late equalizer. Bahrain will face New Zealand is another two-legged play-off to decide which team will appear at the 2010 World Cup.

In South America, Paraguay beat Argentina 1-0 to qualify and leave Diego Maradona's team in serious danger of not making the finals. Paraguay dominated a disorganized Argentina and the second half sending off of Juan Sebastian Veron sealed Argentina's fate. Argentina are 5th in the group only one point ahead of Uruguay who they must play away next month.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Korea Look Good Despite Off-Pitch Problems

Taegukki flying at Seoul

You got the impression that the South Korean players enjoyed scoring against their goalkeeper in training a little too much. The novelty of having coach Huh Jung-moo in between the sticks outweighed the verbal volleys that came the way of the ten men on the outfield.

Huh was gloved up because the national team was preparing for a friendly with Australia that kicked-off three days later with no goalkeepers. There were only ten players in total until Thursday afternoon, just two days before the match.

The reason was both simple and complicated. With a full K-League program set for Sunday, the Korean Football Association (KFA) then arranged the Socceroo show for Saturday. The K-League reacted furiously firstly because, they said, the KFA had gone back on a promise not to arrange matches for the weekend and they Australia match was announced not much more than a month in advance.

Manchester United prepare for battle with Fulham

Huh called up 15 overseas stars with even the likes of past cast-offs Seol Ki-hyeon, Kim Nam-il, Cha Du-ri and Cho jae-jin receiving the summons. Only ten arrived. The K-League reluctantly released 13 players not much more than 48 hours before kick-off.
Lee Young-pyo and Park Ji-sung offered their (or the KFA-approved version, according to some) opinions on the crisis and the recriminations flew back and forth with K-league officials behind the scenes complaining bitterly of how they were being victimized by a KFA that usually gets what it wants.

The only positive to come out of this is that the way in which Korean football is run and the relationship between the two bodies is being discussed at length. The KFA (or ‘The mafia’ as one league official said to me) may have more to lose with this scrutiny.

There was one other positive – the fact that Korea played pretty well. On the night they were too good for an Australian team with a new-look defence and a midfield that had problems keeping the ball.

Australia get ready

In contrast, Korea’s fast and fluid movement caused problems for the visitors for much of the match. Technically also, the Taeguk Warriors looked superior and performed much better on the pitch than Korean football performed off it in the preceding weeks.

It started and ended well for the Taeguk Warriors. Park Chu-young opened the scoring with an assured finish after five minutes and soon after Lee Jung-soo opened his international account with a neat flick. At that point, the Socceroos weren’t really in the game but gained a foothold after 33 minutes thanks to a smart Mark Bresciano free-kick and a close-range Patrick Kisborno header.

It is at the back that poses the biggest problem for Huh at the moment. Quality high balls and tall forwards cause problems. Lee Jung-soo has been in great form in Japan this season and deserves to stay in the centre of defence. The question of who will play alongside him has still to be answered and it certainly can be argued that for all Korea’s famed aggression, the team needs to toughen up ahead of the World Cup.


Familiar stadium, unfamiliar bench

That was apparent as Pim Verbeek's men came back in the second half to cause some problems for the Korean defence. Lee Woon-jae was called into action a couple of times to make spectacular saves from long-range efforts.

At the other end, the hosts though always carried a threat and scored a well-worked third as Park Ji-sung somehow managed, at the end of a long week, a long game and high and humid temperatures to sprint down the left and tee up Seol Ki-hyeon with a perfect cross.

The likes of Ki Sung-yong, Kim Jung-woo and Lee Dong-gook had long gone by then as they had K-league games the following day to prepare for as the realization that Korean football still has many problems started to put a dampener on a good performance and a deserved win.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Sunday, September 6, 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Sept 5

World Cup 2010.
After the latest round of World Cup qualifiers in the European qualifying zone, Northern Ireland are on track for qualification after their 1-1 draw in Poland. Scotland kept their slim chances alive with a 2-0 win at home to Macedonia. The Republic of Ireland secured a vital 2-1 win away in Cyprus.

Elsewhere results went mostly as expected with the big guns Spain and Italy beating Belgium and Georgia respectively. Denmark and Portugal drew 1-1 as did France and Romania.

In South America, Argentina face Brazil in Rosario in a crunch game for Diego Maradona's struggling team.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why England Lose

Why England LoseWhy England Lose & and Other Curious Phenomena Explained

Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski

ISBN: 0007301111

HarperSport;
Hardback, 352pp

After Football Against the Enemy announced his arrival with a bang in 1994, every Simon Kuper book carries a huge weight of expectation.

Why England Lose & Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained keeps his reputation intact as one of the most groundbreaking football writers around. But Kuper is primarily a financial journalist and here he has teamed up with economist Stefan Szymanski to produce a unique take on the game, based on the cold truth of hard data.

Conventional football wisdom is the enemy this time, and the pair apply statistics to explode what they feel are popularly-held myths about the game, starting with the belief that England under-perform.
Their conclusion is that England actually over-achieve, based on their measure of success which takes population, GDP and soccer experience into account. They could do better, they argue, by encouraging more middle-class children to play football and controversially, reducing, not increasing the numbers of Englishmen in the Premier League.

Another tenet of football belief they contest is that changing a losing manager is a wise move, while other chapters take fascinating angles - a transfer policy works best by selling your best players at the peak of their value, regional cities out-perform capital ones at club level for a reason, how the big clubs are anything but big businesses, why teams at the centre of Europe have an in-built advantage and why Japan will one day win the World Cup.

Much is provocative and some of the minutiae fascinating e.g. blond players are consistently overvalued, but the book lacks cohesion, not helped by the graphic design and at times sounds a little smug. In style it resembles popular science hits of recent years like Freakonomics (the US title is Soccernomics) and The Tipping Point, but though you will find yourself picking many holes in their theories, you will be hard-pushed to find a more thought-provoking football book.

Their overall thesis that the received wisdom is unreliable while the figures don't lie may be true, but what a grey sport football would be without its magic, the blind faith and passion of its fans and the possibility of a Denmark (Euro '92) or Greece (Euro '04) coming from nowhere to win a major tournament. Read this book and keep the facts in mind, but keep hoping David still has some stones left in his slingshot.

Sean O'Conor

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fifa World Rankings September 2009

Fifa World Rankings September 2009.
Brazil stay at the top of this month's Fifa world rankings after winning the Confederations Cup in South Africa. Brazil are followed by Spain and the Netherlands England stay in 7th place. Italy and Germany swap places.

France are in 10th. Côte d'Ivoire are the highest African team in 20th. Russia are 6th, with the USA in 11th.


1 Brazil
2 Spain
3 Netherlands
4 Italy
5 Germany
6 Russia
7 England
8 Argentina
9 Croatia
10 France
11 USA
12 Greece
13 Serbia
14 Australia
15 Switzerland
16 Denmark
17 Portugal
18 Czech Republic
19 Bulgaria
20 Côte d'Ivoire

Full world rankings

Last month's Fifa World Rankings

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Dunga and Diego to shape the next Battle of the Americas

Be it a clash in the World Cup finals or a domestic under-17 game, Argentina versus Brazil always gets the pulse racing. The two nations line up this weekend in the north of Argentina for a match which holds the key for the hosts making it to South Africa for next year's World Cup.

The two proud countries have enjoyed contrasting fortunes ahead of this clasico. Dunga’s Brazil were crowned Confederations Cup champions a few months ago. Before heading off to South Africa the seleção picked up maximum points in two qualifiers. A 3-0 win over Peru in Porto Alegre was followed by a 4-0 demolition of Uruguay in Montevideo.

Diego Maradona was called to take up the reigns for Argentina after previous coach Alfio Basile endured a less than inspiring start to the country’s qualifying campaign.

In Diego’s first competitive match Venezuela were dispatched 4-0 in Buenos Aires but this early optimism was dashed with a crushing 6-1 defeat away in La Paz to Bolivia five days later. In the next round of games a nervous looking Argentina edged past Colombia with a single goal in River Plate’s El Monumental before another away defeat. This time a 2-0 reverse away to Ecuador in Quito.

With derbies all over the world the formbook goes out of the window and The Battle of the South Americas is no different. After all Brazil were unfancied in the 2007 Copa America but stunned Argentina with a 3-0 win.
As well as upsets these matches have been liberally peppered with all that is good, bad and plain ugly in the game of football.

In the first knock round of Italia 90 Argentina took on Brazil in Turin. The clasico coming earlier than expected due to Argentina’s poor showing in the group stage, including the holder’s defeat in the opening game in Cameroon. After the game it was alleged that the Argentine trainers gave the Brazilian Branco a bottle of water laced with tranquilisers while he was down injured.

Maradona himself blew the lid on the ‘holy water’ scandal years later during a television appearance. Carlos Bilardo, the Argentine coach at the time, still maintains his innocence in the case.

Eight years earlier at the World Cup in Spain the two teams were placed in the second round with Italy in a true group of death. Italy beat Argentina in the first match before the Albiceleste faced Brazil in a must win game for both sides.

The technically superior Brazil played Argentina off the park in Barcelona racking up a three goal led before Maradona was sent off for a petulant kick on Joao Batista. Argentina did manage to pull one back in the last minute but the holders were nonetheless sent packing from Spain.

Maradona’s inspiration for changing the venue of this latest match from River Plate’s El Monumental to Rosario Central’s Estadio Gigante can be traced back to a game he watched when his homeland played host to the 1978 World Cup. En route to their triumph in the final Argentina were forced to play their second round games outside Buenos Aires due to a defeat against Italy in the first round.

Grouped together with Brazil, Peru and Poland the hosts won their first game in the second round before meeting their old foe next. A tense goalless draw was played out in the game which has since become known as A batalha de Rosário (The battle of Rosario). In the final round of games Brazil beat Poland 3-1 letting the Argentines know that they had to beat Peru by four clear goals when the two played later the same night.
Argentina led 2-0 at halftime but in the second half Peru collapsed and Argentina netted another four times without reply.

Like England four years later Brazil went out of the World Cup without losing a game and their coach Cláudio Coutinho called his team moral champions, accusing the Peruvians of not trying their best in the game against Argentina. Argentina’s military government were especially keen on victory in the tournament and Peru’s goalkeeper Ramón Quiroga had a lot of family in the Argentina, the country of his birth.

Further incidents of a game between the countries spilling into bad feeling are numerous. US President Ronald Reagan had to step in after trouble at a game between Argentina and Brazil almost led to a full blown conflict between the countries in 1986.

A couple of matches in the mid forties were particularly heated, on both occasions bad tackles and broken bones led to full scale riots in the stadia.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War back-to-back games ended in disgrace when in the second encounter the entire Argentine team left the pitch after the referee awarded Brazil a penalty. Brazil won that match 3-2 after the penalty was scored into an empty net.
Two years before the walk-off it was Brazil’s turn to grumble after many Brazilian players were subject to racist abuse from the Argentine fans. The game is still referred in the Brazilian media as jogo da vergonha (the shame game).

Amongst the violence and the skullduggery the game has also played host to some of the finest pieces of skill ever to grace a football field.

Both nations now have a former World Cup winning captain at the helm for this fixture which could guarantee Brazil’s passage as well as denying Argentina a place at the World Cup.

Surely its no overestimation that anyone lucky enough to catch the game can expect fireworks from start to finish.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Bromley Boys

The Bromley BoysThe Bromley Boys

Dave Roberts

ISBN: 1906032246
Portico;
Paperback, 272pp

Non-league football, the heart of the game, where only true fans live and breathe. I used to be one of them, but remember thinking as I stood frozen on the crumbling terraces of another middle-of-nowhere 'stadium', slurping thermonuclear hot chocolate the taste of sewer water, that it helps if you support a winning team in these circumstances.

My team Woking was one of the best, which made my teenage odyssey through England's decrepit amateur arenas a joy. In 1969, Dave Roberts however, followed not only a losing team but a hopeless one. Roberts chronicles his support across a season of almost unmitigated disaster, as Bromley cave in to one team after another and he searches in vain for love and identity.

A hymn to the intrinsic comedy of British football fandom in the spirit of Harry Pearson, The Bromley Boys, if never quite as hilarious as The Far Corner, is charming and humorous throughout and an easy page-turner. His utterly inept heroes who lose, lose and lose again as they stumble to a rock-bottom finish in the Isthmian League are centre stage, with every calamity meticulously recorded.

But the funniest parts of the book are his wry recollections of his own angst and misadventure as a hormonal teenager, which should have formed the core of the book instead of the matches. It is a charming read and a very British one. I can't think of another country which not only tolerates such ineptitude and naffness, but actually revels in it and celebrates it as a badge of cultural honour.

It is healthy to laugh at yourself, but following a losing team is actually the heart of most fans' experience as only one team end up champions each season. When your team is a bigger loser than all the others, your loyalty becomes a thing of true pride non-fans will never understand.

Sean O'Conor

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