The land of make believe

SOMETIMES, it feels as though football is on the road to self-destruction, that the ideas, formats and decisions being formulated are not necessarily made in the interests of the game as a whole, its future or sustainability. Notwithstanding the madcap decisions made around hosting World Cups, or the bloated and low quality concept of a 48-team competition, club football seems hell-bent on marginalising large segments … Continue reading The land of make believe

The damage being done to Argentina’s football

THE Libertadores Cup final second leg may (or may not) be played in Madrid, giving the game an unprecedented level of profile, and not just because of the adverse headlines that the twice-aborted clash between Boca Juniors and River Plate has attracted. Madrid is not a terrible choice, it is certainly better than any Middle-Eastern or US location – games played in the desert do … Continue reading The damage being done to Argentina’s football

The Final: I’ll do my crying in the rain

A SHAMBOLIC presentation it may have been, but not even Moscow rain could dampen the feeling that the 2018 World Cup was a resounding success. It’s too early to assess the competition in terms of “best ever” claims, but after a series of very mediocre events and finals that failed to please – it is  a struggle to name a decent final after 1986 – … Continue reading The Final: I’ll do my crying in the rain

Guest Slot: Why African football has flopped at the 2018 World Cup

IN 1977, Pelé predicted an African team would win the World Cup before the end of the 20th century. It was and remains a bold prediction: it wasn’t even until the following year that an African country, Tunisia, actually won a match at the tournament. Over the following decade, African football experienced a steady progression, culminating in Cameroon’s near-miss in 1990, when they came within … Continue reading Guest Slot: Why African football has flopped at the 2018 World Cup

Why we long for a decent World Cup

WHAT will we take from this year’s World Cup? Too often, the great FIFA bunfight fails to deliver something really lasting, certainly in more recent times. Arguably the most striking thing about 2014 was Brazil’s dramatic capitulation to Germany – that 7-1 defeat is still really hard to believe. In the long and distant past, World Cups were eagerly anticipated, but all too frequently, the … Continue reading Why we long for a decent World Cup

Democratic football party

WHEN Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked-off the World Cup, the game was not just between the two lowest ranked countries in FIFA’s rankings, it was also a meeting of the two nations with the worst rating for political freedom among the 32 participants. According to the Freedom House annual survey (, Russia and Saudi Arabia scored 7, representing the lowest level of freedom. The next … Continue reading Democratic football party

Magical month or attritional 31 days?

THE problem is, we have so many distractions, both football and non-football, and that’s why the FIFA World Cup no longer captivates us like it once did. Globalisation has made us over-familiar with the stars of international football, has elevated club football to a level that pushes the World Cup into the shadows. No longer do we marvel at players from the far corners of … Continue reading Magical month or attritional 31 days?

CONIFA comes to town

I HAD never met anyone from Tibet before, never heard of Abkhazia or Karpatalya, but the CONIFA World Football Cup can open your eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of a very different football perspective. It started with the arrival of the 16 teams in London when young players from Matabeleland and Tibet were unloading their equipment and trying to navigate the student … Continue reading CONIFA comes to town

The political game

BACK in 1980, when the Moscow Olympics opened, hundreds of white doves were released as a symbol of peace. BBC commentator, David Coleman was quick to remark, “look at how they are all flying west…somehow symbolic” – or words to that effect. The Olympics were heavily boycotted that year, in protest at the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, in a tit-for-tat response, the … Continue reading The political game

Russia can easily afford to stage the World Cup, says UBS

RUSSIA may be one of the lowest-ever ranked hosts of a World Cup, but a successful competition will enhance its brand value as a tourist and business destination. A new report by Swiss bank UBS, Investing and Football, notes that Russia’s low level of public debt, the second lowest among the 32 nations competing in the 2018 World Cup, means the country can easily afford … Continue reading Russia can easily afford to stage the World Cup, says UBS

Guest Slot: Should Russia be hosting?

WHEN Russia was awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it wasn’t totally unfair to dismiss the reaction – particularly that of the English – as sour grapes. After all, there was a certain expectation among the England camp that it was their moment: a feeling of entitlement that it was their chance to win the tournament in the home of football … Continue reading Guest Slot: Should Russia be hosting?

Club of the Month: CSKA Moscow

AMID growing political tension between the west and Russia, CSKA Moscow will travel to London to face Arsenal in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League. (April 5). It’s not quite a cold war climate, but the tie does act as a prelude to the forthcoming World Cup, with Russian and English fans coming up against each other as the politicians continue to posture … Continue reading Club of the Month: CSKA Moscow

Tinker, tailor, soldier, footballer – the Russia house has no smiley people

HOW the US must be kicking themselves. They cannot boycott the World Cup because they didn’t qualify, but surely Donald Trump would just love to tell the world, “we’re not going” as the diplomatic arguments become more and more intense. This World Cup is up to its neck in problems, but this could be the new normal for FIFA’s flagship competition. We’ve got Qatar 2022 … Continue reading Tinker, tailor, soldier, footballer – the Russia house has no smiley people