Les Bleus Les Cheats

19/11/2009

France striker, and record goal scorer, Thierry Henry broke Irish hearts and “handed” favourites France a place in next years World Cup in South Africa. Henry, one of the most respected footballers in the world, added a new notch to his impressive resume, which now reads – Arsenal legend and record goal scorer, France legend and record goal scorer, cheat.

 

On a night when the former world champions were out played and out worked by a spirited Irish team, when France’s world class stars where made to look ordinary, a moment of controversy stole the limelight from what should have been one of Irelands greatest sporting nights.

 

Ireland’s world cup qualifying campaign, in which they’ve punched way above their weight, came to an end in the most bitter of circumstances. Drawn in a group they weren’t expected to get through, a group containing World Cup holders Italy, a Bulgarian team that much was expected of, always improving Montenegro and Georgia, and Cyprus, who have dented Irelands hopes in previous qualification campaigns, the Irish not only finished second, behind Italy, but remained unbeaten in doing so. 2nd place meant a playoff with one of the other 2nd placed teams.

 

They were dealt a blow when FIFA decided in the last week of qualification to change the rules and seed the playoff draw to ensure that bigger teams that were expected to top their groups but failed to do so, teams like France, Portugal, Greece, Russia and at one stage Germany, had a better chance of getting through to South Africa 2010. So the elation of finishing 2nd was quickly replaced by bitter taste shared by the other small teams to get through, Bosnia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

 

Ireland were always going to have to so things the hard way and a draw against France was predicted by most Irish fans and players. To make matters worse they were the only small team to be drawn away in the 2nd leg. This means that should a game go to extra time it would mean the home team in the return leg getting a significant advantage.

 

Ireland were unlucky not to come away with a draw in Dublin with Anelka’s deflected goal going in off the post and giving France a goal lead to take to Paris. In France last night Ireland put in a superb performance bossing their more illustrious hosts and after levelling the tie through captain Robbie Keane, they were unlucky not to finish France off with O’Shea, Duff and Keane having chances to add to the score. On last nights performance a heavy Ireland win would not have been unjust. France had their young keeper, Hugo Lloris, to thank for keeping their hopes alive.

 

With the score after 90 minutes 1-0 to the Irish the game went to extra time. Just as in the prevailing 90 minutes France did little to suggest they’d trouble Given in the Irish goal. With the first half of extra time nearing an end France were awarded a freekick just inside the Irish half. As the ball was played two French players were offside. The linesman flag stayed down. The ball found it’s way to Henry who stuck a hand out to control the ball and then to ensure it didn’t go out he handled it again before playing it to Gallas to nod the ball in to the Irish net with Given and the Irish players appealing for hand ball. The goal was awarded. In a moment Henry’s reputation was tarnished and Irish hearts were shattered. And FIFA rejoiced.

 

Henry has admitted he handled the ball, though he has said it is up to the ref to spot it and not him to basically not cheat. It’s all well an good for players to talk about fair play, and federations such as FIFA to preach it, but it has to be done on the field and not just given lip service. The fact is that with a place at the World Cup up for grabs Henry, and most other players, would have cheated to get their team through. It’s up to the ref and linesman to stop them, as tragic as that is. And the officials did not spot the two players offside, or Henry catching the ball, controlling it with his hand, and setting up the goal. The ref told the Irish players he is 100% sure it was not a hand ball. If that’s the case then he must have been in a good position to see it. Which makes him a liar. And a FIFA puppet.

 

Had Ireland gone out to a legitimate goal, or on penalties, they would have been disappointed, but not so let down and bitter. Remember when Paolo Di Canio stopped play from a goal scoring position because an opponent was hurt? Remember when Arsenal replayed a game against Sheffield United because they scored a goal that was well within the rules but not the spirit of fair play? Henry could have joined the small band of fair play purveyors but made a choice that he must be called out on.

 

The match should be replayed so that a fair result is obtained but there is no chance of that happening. FIFA wanted France to go through and the officials ensured that happened. The game, just like life, is unfair and justice is a hope and not a given. Given that this is a sport, subject to control and scrutiny more so than life, we should expect more. The right thing would be for the game to be replayed, but since FIFA won’t risk France missing out, something their performance deserved, they won’t sanction a replay. They could ban Henry from the World Cup, sending out a message against cheating and doing more than talking about fair play. Again, this won’t happen.

 

Ten years ago, in a playoff match between Ireland and Belgium, Belgium were awarded a throw that was clearly an Irish throw and scored directly from that play, knocking Ireland out. After last nights happenings it seems that Irish luck is merely a myth. The heroes from the Irish team last night had their World Cup dreams shattered by pure and simple cheating. The likes of Given, Kilbane, Keane and Duff won’t in all likely hood have another shot at a World Cup. Where’s the justice? Henry should be ashamed of what happened but Blatter, Plattini and co will be smiling as Irish hearts bleed. Football is a game – fairness should be the least we expect.

 

pic from http://www.teamtalk.com

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Is Sport Institutionally Racist?

06/03/2008

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While South Africa may have the most recent history of sustained racism built into the political fabric of the country, the truth is that just about the entire globe has been beset by racism in its past, through colonialism, slave trade, and the “discovery” of new lands, the blood spilled by racism has seeped through us all. Yet even today, in a time that is supposed to champion equality and freedom for all, we are still seemingly trapped in a pit of distrust and ignorance. Sport, the business of recreation, of play, of games, that has become one of the most popular and lucrative enterprise in the world, has not managed to escape this fall. Sport should be vestibule of equality, where teams come together, forged by all colours and creeds under a unifying flag, and in a spirit of fairness and togetherness, compete for a common goal. Yet it seems, just like everything else where power and money meet, the needs of a few will out weigh that of the mass.

America has, since freeing the slaves, preached all who will listen that they are the land of the free. Yet if you take a look at their sports make up it becomes very clear that it is the land of the white. Forgetting hockey, which is as white as an Olympic swimming final, the three big sports in America, baseball, American Football, and basketball, all suffer from this senseless problem. Baseball, which many see as the national pass time, has a ridiculously low percentage of black players at only 8.9%. With the numbers so low it is no surprise that there are only 2 black head coaches in the league. The problem may not be as racially motivated as the numbers suggest when you compare the numbers of players involved in the two other sports. Baseball just seems to take a back seat to Football and Basketball amongst black athletes . In the NBA 75% of players are black, while in the NFL that number has slipped a bit to around 65%. With by far a majority of its players being black both sports of terribly low numbers in positions of authority and leadership. While there are virtually no black owners in the sports, save the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats Bob Johnson, there are only 6 black head coaches out of 32 teams in the NFL and only 3 general managers, and 11 black head coaches from 3o NBA teams and 8 general managers. How can sports made up of 65% and 75% black players produce so few head coaches and general managers? The NFL also only has around about 5 starting Quarterbacks each weekend. The message they are sending out to the world is that you can do all our running and catching, but nothing that involves thinking. They are mentally handicapping black players by not trusting them with positions of leadership. The NFL has even issued a rule, called the “Rooney rule” after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, that requires owners to interview coaches of colour for coaching jobs. The issue is systematic of the society and culture of the country, one that openly acknowledges that black athletics may be superior athletes, as evidence by their large numbers in the NFL, NBA and track teams, but does not think much of them academically. Until society gets to grips with this cerebral phobia sport has no chance of over coming it – but they can begin to show the way.

The problem is not of course endemic of America alone, and examples can be found in all the leading sports throughout the world. The worlds most popular sport is soccer, and the most popular league is arguably the English Premier League. While black players in England are the minority, as the population is predominantly white, the issue of a lack of black club managers and even coaches is one that has to be looked at. Since the advent of the Premier League, some 15 years ago, and before that the old First Division, the only black managers have been Jean Tigana and Ruud Gullit. Only two black managers in the history of the top flight? That’s a frightening statistic. At the moment there are only 2 black managers in the league, Paul Ince and Keith Alexander, out of 92 teams. Around about a third of players in England are black, yet they aren’t being given the opportunity to manage teams. While it is true that black players have not always been viewed as equal, Viv Anderson was the first black England international and won his first cap in 1978, and thus it should take time for black managers to start coming through, two black managers today, could be 10 in ten years, 20 in fifteen, and so on. That may be a justifiable point, but is offset by the appointment of white managers, such as Gareth Southgate, who don’t possess the necessary required UEFA qualifications. I am in no way saying that Gareth Southgate, or Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, are in any way or form racist, but am simply asking how can it be argued that black managers are not as yet ready when others are being employed without the qualifications? Like in America, it seems that there is an intellectual mistrust amongst chairman, all of whom are white, for black managers. They can run and kick a ball but not tell our players what do do or how to win. In a British society that is becoming more and more cosmopolitan, increasingly culturally and religiously mixed and blessed, this is an issue that has to be faced.

Sport has always had the opportunity to bring people together. It has been the perfect vehicle for anti racism campagins, such as soccers Kick it Out, and Unite Against Racism. While it seems to work on the field it needs to take better care and understanding of its off the field management and thinking, to better reflect society and to ensure that equal opportunity for all is a reality and not merely a slogan. Sport has that power and reach. It now needs the will.


Results

03/04/2007

CWC

New Zealand beat Banglaesh by 9 wickets

 Bangladesh 174 (Rafique 30*, Iqbal 29, Styris 4/43)

 New Zealand 178/1 (Fleming 102*, Marshall 50*, Rasel 1/22)

Eng Prem League

Aston Villa 1-1 Everton


Results

02/04/2007

CWC – Super 8’s

Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 113 runs

Sri Lanka 303/5 West Indies 190

Australia beat Bangladesh by 10 wkts on D/L method

Bangladesh 104/6 Australia 106/0

England beat Ireland by 48 runs

England 266/7 Ireland 218

New Zealand beat West Indies by 7 wkts

West Indies 177 New Zealand 179/3

South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 1 wkt

Sri Lanka 209 South Africa 212/9

Australia beat West Indies by 103 runs

Australia 323/6 West Indies 219

Group Stage

Bangladesh beat Bermuda by 7 wkts on D/L method

Bermuda 84/9 Bangladesh 96/3

Eng Premier League

Tottenham 1-0 Reading

Watford 0-1 Chelsea

West Ham 2-0 Middlesbrough

Newcastle 0-1 Man City

Man Utd 4-1 Blackburn

Fulham 1-1 Portsmouth

Charlton 1-0 Wigan

Bolton 1-0 Sheff Utd

Liverpool 4-1 Arsenal


Results

16/03/2007

CWC – Ireland tied with Zimbabwe
            Ireland 221/9 (Bray 115*, Chigumbura 2/21)
            Zimbabwe 221 (Matsikenyeri 73*, Sibanda 67, McCallan 2/56)

           Sri Lanka beat Bermuda by 243 runs
           Sri Lanka 321/6 (Jayawardene 85, Sangakkara 76
           Mukuddem 2/50)
           Bermuda 78 (Cann 28, 4/23 Maharoof)


Results

15/03/2007

CWC – West Indies beat Pakistan by 54 runs
West Indies 241/9 (Samuels 63, Sarwan 49, Iftikhar 3/44)
Pakistan 187 (62 Malik, Smith 3/36)

Australia beat Scotland by 203 runs
Australia 334 (Ponting 113, Hayden 60, Haq 2/49)
Scotland 131 (Smith 51, McGrath 3/14)

Kenya beat Canada by 7 wickets
Canada 199 (Barnett 41, 2/25 Kamande)
Kenya 203/3 (Tikolo 72*, Ouma 58, Cummins 1/32)

English Premier League – Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal (Diaby)
Man City 0-1 Chelsea (Lampard pen)