Last week may have seen the first significant news of the football off-season, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Following the retirement of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, and David Moyes’ arrival at Old Trafford as his successor, there has been plenty more big news in the past seven days.
The tragedy of legendary England footballer Paul Gascoigne is one that has unfolded over many years and continues to be vividly played out on the front of tabloid newspapers and on 24-hour television news channels.
Mercurial as a player, “Gazza” became a sporting icon as well as a supremely talented player capable of destroying opposition defences, but since his career ended, the 45-year-old has been slowly destroying himself.
Alcohol problems and mental illnesses have blighted Gascoigne during the last decade, and only this week his agent, Terry Baker, told BBC Radio 5 live that the ailing former star was “dying in front of us” and in need of urgent help.
In the opening monologue of the movie, Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise elucidates about the bristling excitement that comes with unearthing new sporting talent. Think of the anticipation that was palpable with the arrivals of Rory McIlroy, Andrew Luck or Lewis Hamilton onto the sporting scene. But the monologue comes with a warning, “There’s genius everywhere, but until they turn pro, it’s like popcorn in a pan. Some pop. Some don’t.”
As we reach the closing stages of the 2013 African Cup of Nations, this paradigm is particularly pertinent.
It would be logical to review football on a season by season basis, but 2012 was just a bit special. As well as the European Championships, Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic Games, all the usual competitions provided thrilling moments.
Rather than document everything that took place, I have attempted to break down the last 12 months into a series of awards.
However, I will not focus on the more obvious categories, such as “most goals scored” (Lionel Messi, with 91) and “most prolific tweeter” (Joey Barton).
The recent examples of racist abuse at the highest levels of domestic and European football have sent shockwaves through the sport. High-profile incidents have cast doubt on the instruments of justice and guardians of the game.
Not only this, but the reappearance of racism on what is now a world stage is beginning to undermine all the progress made towards eliminating such egregious abuse – once endemic – from modern football.
All around us politicians, footballers, supporters, victims and others are calling for action to be taken. The question is, who should be taking this action, and what can actually be done to truly kick racism out of football?
Last night in international football: one game out of a scheduled two for England’s senior and under-21 sides, a Polish farce and a Serbian tragedy.
The senior England team will belatedly kick off last night’s World Cup qualifier against Poland in Warsaw this afternoon, after stunning scenes in the new National Stadium last night, while if Stuart Pearce and his squad have their voices heard, it may be some time before an international kicks off in Serbia again.
It’s that time of the season again – the international break and all around us there are sighs of disinterest …
A fellow scribe here at The Armchair Pundits, James Rabey, wrote recently on the dire need to change international football; indeed the press is awash with disinterest and boredom at the prospect of the internationals with the popular Guardian podcast, Football Weekly, and The Times’ equivalent, The Game, both culprits.
However, I intent to convince you that the internationals are full of joyous entertainment and drama, the problem, is that such entertainment rarely lies with our home nations.
Platini, though, isn’t my target. I am going to discuss the fact that international football is becoming increasingly meaningless.
My dad reminds me that whenever an England squad is announced that not so long ago, a player had to be among the select group of best players in England’s top flight to be called up to the national team. And although he does not necessarily disagree with giving young players a chance to show their worth in friendlies, he, like me, believes that international football needs a major reshuffle.
Chelsea captain John Terry brought his England career to an end yesterday evening by retiring from international football at the age of 31.
Terry feels the FA has made his position as a member of the national team “untenable”, which paraphrased seems to suggest that Terry believes himself to be the victim of a malicious smear campaign, designed to make it as difficult as possible for him to return to his duties for England.
They appear to be the coming force of European football. Young Belgians are turning into stars across the Premier League and, indeed, across Europe over the past two years. So how long is it going to take this talented young group to lead their nation to the summit of world football?
Perhaps a stupid question, perhaps not. After all, Belgium are being treated to a ‘golden generation’ that perhaps dwarfs the one the English rags spent so long raving about during the noughties.