Tuesday, March 31, 2009

North Corea

In the World Cup of 1966 in England, the only non-European or South American nation to participate was North Corea. Prior to the tournament the unknown Asians were taunted as not good enough by the established football world, only to shock everyone in their first match, when they defeated Italy in a legendary match, and thus became the first non-European or non-South American team to reach the quarterfinals in a World Cup, where they were only barely defeated by Eusebio (and I am not even going to say Portugal, since he was a Mozambican, and with four goals singlehandedly won the match) by 5-3.
Since then, nobody has heard about football in the small Communist dictatorship.

But now North Corea seems to be on the way to South Africa 2010: in the Asian World Cup qualifiers group B North Corea is ahead, and is tomorrow looking forward to an intense match against South Corea in Seoul. South Corea has done great since their debut in the World Cup in 1986, but will surely have to play their best in a match that is surely about much more than football!

Monday, March 30, 2009


It is very sad when the beauty of football and football passion leads to such a tragedy as what happened in Côte d'Ivoire in a World Cup qualifier against Malawi in Abidjan this weekend.
It is a great tragedy that such events overshadow the fact that Côte d'Ivoire is a fantastic football nation with great footballers and great fans, and this should be decried by all fans all over.
That said, something should be done about such catastrophes that seem to happens too often, the result of mismanagement and corruption (and I won't say poverty, because the people who are responsible are not poor).
Also, in spite of my scepticism against the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I am certain that such events could never take place in South Africa, and that when someone draws parallels to the coming world cup there, it is just a confirmation of stereotypes about "all Africans are the same."


I think Diego Armando Maradona was the best footballer of all time. That said, I still had some scepticism on Mr. Maradona becoming Argentine national coach: it is not a precondition that if you were a great player, you would be a great coach, and Mr. Maradona also had limited credentials as coach.
That said, I hoped that Mr. Maradona's charisma and personality would give the already super-talented side an extra boost, and while it may too early to give a judgement, it raises hopes to see how Argentina under Mr. Maradona has done so far.
Mr. Maradona won his first two friendly matches against Scotland and France, and this weekend won in his first competitive match in a South American world cup qualifier by trashing Venezuela 4-0 and playing a good game of offensive football.
It is looking great for Argentina, in particular for an Argentina-fan like myself, but surely also for anyone who likes good football.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Danish national team

As Denmark prepares to face Malta on a world cup qualifier tomorrow, there has been criticism in the Danish media that people are not interested nor follow the Danish national team as the used to. This has been blamed on the team playing boring (which I personally don't agree on), of lacking results (Denmark has not qualified for the last two mayor tournaments), of lacking players of quality, of coach Morten Olsen having a bad temper with the media, and of a general lack of media attention.

In spite of all these things, I think there is a deeper reasoning in the Danish people's lack of interest: Lyngby Boldklub.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nationalities in football

It is kind of annoying to be a fan of a sport where old-fashioned nationalism thrives: football.

I was just reading an article about Arsenal's Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who after many years in England, is planning to become an English citizen. Since he has never played for his native Spain, this would make him eligible for the English national team (who does have a goalkeeping problem).
Why does this seem to annoy so many people? Examples are so numerous, historically and in football, about the fluidity of nationality, as to make the arguments about football nationality irrelevant, particularly in Spain, who continues to sport non-Spanish born players on its national team, Senna, as well as having done it before: Di Stefano, Puzkas, Donato...
France has a long list of players born in Africa, and Germany has quite a number of players of mixed nationality. Turkey has players who were born, raised and live abroad, while even the Italian defending champions had one on their team, besides having Christian Vieri, whose brother in fact plays for Australia.
Portugal has many Brazilians, besides their big star Deco, as well as having had their greatest star, Eusebio.

In none of these teams, does anybody doubt the nationality of any of the players, and none of the players make any of these teams less "national". In fact, I would even argue that it makes them more so, as it opens up for the changing and evolving cultural structures in national societies, where it is constantly re-defined what it means to be "from somewhere". Football-players like these are important contributors to this.
For many people, and in some countries, nationality is something about the blood or whatever undefineable. I saw a thing on Danish TV3 not long ago about how Zlatan Ibrahimovic would never have had a chance to make it to the national team in Denmark, while in neighboring Sweden he did have the support to become a great Danish star. And this tells you more about Danish society than it does about the football players or the national football team!

Let us forget this, and enjoy football as it is: in truth, the best football is seen in the multi-national club teams of the Champions League, rather than in second-rate national teams that assemble but twice a year. Still, "normal" people (that is, not football-fans) tend to like the latter because it appeals to the lowest common denominators of national tribalism.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The (sorry) road to a South Africa

As we are this week approaching a long list of exciting national qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, I remain unconvinced of South Africa as the venue for the world cup.
The main reason is because South Africa is not a footballing nation and will never really get excited about a world cup (even though they are told they should; whoever gets excited by order!?!?): letting them host a world cup is like giving your best piece of steak to a vegetarian.
However, I must add to this the xenophobia that sadly remains in South African society, together with crime, and now I must add government policy: South Africa refused visa to the Dalai Lama, who was to attend a peace-conference in South Africa, in order not to damage relations to China.
While no direct linkage to football, one is forced to consider what would happen if some country qualifies with whom South Africa doesn't want to damage relations with: Georgia not to damage relations with Russia? Taiwan?

As late as December 2008, there were rumours that due to the fact that South Africa was not meeting organisational deadlines, Spain was being lined up to host the 2010 World Cup instead. Sepp Blatter had to come out and say that this was not true.

Sorry, but I just don't believe South Africa is able to organise a succesful World Cup, and I sincerely hope the teams that are playing this week will be playing somewhere else in 2010.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Valencia finally won a game, 0-1 against Racing the Santander, and although it held hard (Santander missed a penalty in the last minute) it gives hope for at least some satisfactory position for a team in deep crisis. But FC Barcelona remains the ones to beat in Spain: their attacking machine trashed Málaga by 6-0!
In the Premier League the title race drew even closer with Manchester United losing to Fulham, and Liverpool continuing riding on a wave by defeating the top-team Aston Villa with 5-0. As Chelsea lost, the title increasingly seems to be ending in either Liverpool or Manchester.
In Denmark Brøndby kept the pressure on FC Copenhagen by winning against Randers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pelé and his drug problem

Pelé was a great footballer. Besides this, he was uncontroversial, nice, friendly and in control, all great qualities in a person.
Just now, in an interview in Brazil, Pelé has critiziced players such as Robinho, Ronaldo and Maradona for being bad role models for youngsters, due to apparent associations with drugs.
Pelé has a problem, just as everyone who keeps going about sportsmen as "examples". Firstly, Mr. Maradona has suffered his things, and to keep getting back at him for his mistakes is basically just petty gossip; Maradona is now Argentine national coach and has moved beyond his addiction; he does not hide his mistakes, and should instead be admired for being a man that got himself together.
As to Msrs. Robinho and Ronaldo I cannot understand that this is not slander: has anything been proven? But not withstanding this, what is Pelé expecting? Everyone is different, and these young lads want to live their life, make the mistakes we all make, and learn from it. The examples for youngsters should lie with the parents, and not with some footballer! If kids take drugs "because Maradona did it", not only the kids have a problem, but more so the parents and even society at large. I loved Maradona when I was a kid, even when all his drug-problems came out - but it never made me want to try drugs!
I don't understand where Pelé wants to go with this, but it is nonsensical slander and takes attention away from the real drug-problems in the world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Aalborg out of the UEFA

The did well Aalborg B: they played wonderful matches in the Champions League and after two stunning victories against Deportivo la Coruña (who as all Spanish teams nevertheless always underestimates any team from any other country but England and Italy) they faced Manchester City. The Danes put up a great fight, and after winning 2-0 in the second leg forced a penalty shoot-out that the English came out of victorious.
Still, for a small irrelevant league like the Danish, the northern Juts' achievement is quite extraordinary, and they certainly have the best record of any Danish team in Europe. I think this achievement is due to hard work, modesty and knowledge of own limitations and forces, some things that the bigger and arrogant Danish teams from FC Copenhagen and Brøndby IF know nothing about.

So congratulations and thank you to AaB although I must add that as a football fan, I would any time prefer to see Manchester City progress to the next round, with its big stars, than the charming but unknown second-rate players from some unknown faraway corner of northern Europe.

Riquelme and Maradona

It seems strange to me that Boca Juniors fans seem to have taken on their former idol, Maradona, now national coach of Argentina, in a very strange controversy with Boca captain Juan Román Riquelme. Apparently Maradona, in an interview, said that if Riquelme didn't play quicker, he couldn't use him on the Argentinean national team. Apparently this was too much for Mr. Riquelme, who promptly announced that he would not return to the Argentinean national team, and refused to take Maradona's phone calls as he was trying to reach him to reconsider. At a later club-match in Boca, Boca-fans turned against the national coach.

I don't believe that what Maradona said was awful: it has been heard before that coaches use the press in order to push players to play better. And as elegant a player Riquelme is, he is certainly not quick, something that may not fit with the style Maradona may be wanting to play on the national team, using the speed and technique of small quick offensive players - Mr. Riquelme in my view does not fit in there. And since Mr. Riquelme seems to be so arrogant and self-centered that he could create split on the Argentinean national side, I thin Maradona would do best by not calling this guy any longer, but just use the many better Argentinean players for the World Cup qualifiers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Champions League Quarterfinal draw

With the teams left in this 2008-2009 season of Champions League, any result of the draw was bound to be interesting. And indeed it has become very interesting with the following matches to take place in a few weeks in April:

After a short periodn where the amazing attacking machinery of the Catalonians seemed to be weakening, they have apparently returned with force to pose as serious candidates for this years trophy. However, Bayern Munich is never to be underestimated: although not doing overly well in the Bundesliga, they seem committed to showing their strength in Europe.

Surely a difficult match, but I believe Barcelona will prevail.

This is becoming an almost classic encounter, and will be a repeat of last season's semifinal, where Chelsea prevailed after John Arne-Riise's own goal in the first match. In the Premier League Chelsea is behind Liverpool, and has not looked as awesome this season as last, although the arrival of Guus Hiddink as coach may have given them new momentum.

Liverpool on the other hand increasingly looks as the team to defeat after their pounding of Real Madrid and Manchester United in the CL and Premier League respectively. I also think that is why Liverpool will prevail.

This is a repeat of the 2006 Champions League semifinal, which was a first for Villarreal, but where Arsenal prevailed and made it to their first ever Champions League final (where they eventually lost to FC Barcelona). Arsenal is pretty much out of the fight for the English league title, but has a young team that are wanting to show what they can do in Europe. However, their striking force seems to be very poor, and I do believe that Villarreal, although not a strong team themselves (and with awful tendencies to underestimate their opponents) will win.

Manchester United is looking awesome this season (in spite of their recent 1-4 loss at home to Liverpool in the Premier League) and in my point of view are still the favourites to lift the trophy in Rome. Against a confident and always-underestimated FC Porto they will nevertheless face difficulties. FC Porto is still a very strong team and they have managed to upset the Reds before: in the 2003-2004 Champions League season, when FC Porto ultimately won the title, the Portuguese champions eliminated Manchester United in the quarterfinals.

Still, I think Manchester United will prevail this time: the team this season is on a completely different league!

Back online

Without the problems of a bad provider hosting my previous page and with the irrelevance of tons of statistical information on my previous "fodbold-fanatic" (as well as poorly designed) I am now back with my football blog only, without the statistics and information.
Cheers and go Brøndby.