Thursday, April 29, 2021

Holes in the Parisian wall

It seems it is not to be the time for Paris St. Germain: in the first home leg of the Champions League semi-final they lost at home to Manchester City. 

In the first half one could not see it coming: PSG were by far the better team and were ahead 1-0 on a header of captain Marquinhos. The Parisians were in control, and were quite a joy to watch; they seemed happy on the pitch! 

But second half turned things around. Manchester City were better, yes, much better, but the Parisians also seemed to welcome the two Manchester City goals. 

First Kevin de Bruyne: what was clearly a cross into the area sailed quietly into goal at the far post. Keylor Navas looked surprised, but I would say that it is always the goalkeeper that should be covering that giant hole at the far post! 

Second, Riyad Mahrez scored on a direct free kick; a wall with holes is not a wall, and while Verrati was lying down to prevent any low shot, Mahrez just fired straight into the wall, where a giant hole led the ball straight into goal and 1-2 for Manchester City! 

PSG were clearly frustrated, and Idrissa Gana was shown a red card to round off an evening that started so well, but end up full of holes for PSG! 

So it seems Manchester City is heading for the Champions League final, where they may face Chelsea, who got a good away result, 1-1, in Real Madrid. But let us see…

Friday, April 23, 2021

FC Midtjylland grasping the title

 I don't have a way to watch Danish football in El Salvador. But I listened to the radio today as I have been grasping to the last straw of hope that Brøndby may take their first title since 2005. But FC Midtjylland has been one point ahead, and looked the stronger side as the Jutland team faced FC Copenhagen today. Ironically, a Copenhagen victory over FCM would give Brøndby a renewed chance for the title, and I must admit that I shortly hoped that FC Copenhagen would win. That said, as I heard in the radio that FCM got ahead 3-0 and were outplaying FCK, I was relieved that at least they were destroying Copenhagen (they ended winning 4-1) A lucky 1-0 victory would have been unbearable.

FC Midtjylland are now 4 points ahead of Brøndby on top of the league. There is still hope, but it seems most likely that they will again take the title. They deserve it, and are probably the most  ambitious professionally managed team in Denmark, and their hard work is rewarded. So a (premature) congratulations to FC Midtjylland, and will continue hoping for another season for Brøndby.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Football 1- Money 0

The Super League lasted only two days, as nine of the twelve clubs involved (except Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus) decided to withdraw after the massive outcry amongst so many people. Since then, some club owners have tried to apologize, while most notably Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez has continued to try to defend the idea with nonsense such as "we will save football". 

Thank God and Fans that the idea has been shelved (for now...).

But one has to wonder: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

These people are hugely rich businessmen, who own football clubs, and say that they want to save football; that they are interested in "dialogue" about how to save the game. But in everything they did with this league-idea is contradictory to this: no dialogue (not even their teams knew about the initiative) and no understanding of the traditions and culture that their business is built on. The total proof that a top 0.1% of the richest and most powerful men (always men) in the world, who think that they are the sole owners of the truth.


Florentino Perez has been talking about the money they have lost during COVID. I am no businessman; no economist; but I do know that sometimes times are hard, so I have an advise to any football clubs: spend what you have!!!! That is what all us normal people do. But you wouldn't know that.

I am happy it is over for now. But I hardly believe it is over. Money has been sneaking into the world of football for decades. Prices to go to a match are eye-watering (and I am one of the people who can afford it, so I won't be a hypocrite and say I haven't) and it seems impossible to find decent prices or unique TV packages where one can follow matches. 

If we want to save football, that is the dialogue one must have. That said, we must also admit that nothing lasts forever. Football has existed and grown to become a global sport for some 150 years. Maybe it has reached its pinnacle; maybe in 150 years from now football will be a funny quirk amongst historical nerds. Nothing lasts forever, but we are many who don't want to see its early demise.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The League of Greed

The news that 12 European top clubs would form their own European Super League has surely shaken the football establishment, with top politicians even commenting on what most football fans seem to consider a stupid, not to say dangerous, initiative for the sport. 

I always try to be open to any idea. A Super League would get encompass 12 strong teams into what would be some interesting matches. However, this is also the only good thing I can think about the initiative, as much as I try: a closed league would destroy competition and the possibility of the little guy beating the giant; it seems more an initiative for these top clubs to protect themselves and the humiliation of losing to the likes of Alcoyano, Aston Villa, Red Bull Salzburg or FC Porto...

I cannot in any way see that the clubs involved in this league are thinking about the best for the game of football; they must have never played or watched the game in their lives! It seems to be only a question  of who controls the money; the eternal human impulse of greed. 

Although the Champions League also gives plenty of money for UEFA the entire conflict seems to be about who gets the footballing millions: Some football administrators or some of the richest businessmen in Europe, with the financial backing of JP Morgan? 

What will probably happen is that they all will reach some lucrative deal to share the millions, while the interests of the fans are put aside; although many fan groups have said they oppose the Super League, I would be surprised if these same fans are not cheering their teams in the very same tournament in a few years. 

As old-fashioned as it may sound I hope the Super League comes to nothing; that the clubs that have taken the initiative are suspended. That fans, managers and players from these clubs come together to reject the greedy plans that threaten to destroy the sport that they all profess to love. 

But I won´t bet on it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Parisian nailbiter!

 The quarterfinal of this season Champions League between Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain was an outstanding drama of last season's finalists. Bayern Munich played like worthy champions in both matches. In the home match they were hampered by the absence of Lewandowski as they created chance upon chance, only to be trumped by Paris St. Germain's efficiency in the form of Kylian Mbappe's efficiency. 

So all the cards were in the Parisians hands before tonight's second leg in Paris. 

At least in the first half the cards from the first match seemed to be reversed as PSG attacked and had numerous chances for a goal, while Bayern Munich only needed one chance for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to make it 0-1, and put the match within reach of the Bavarians.

The second hand was truly a nail-biter, specially if you are Parisian. it was not elegant, but they pulled back with everything to defend the narrow defeat as the Germans pushed forward, and in fact PSG had good chances on the counterattacks to make an equalizer.

Most PSG fans must have no nails left, but they made it. PSG eliminated the defending champions, and took a big step towards their ambition of their first CL title.

Neymar must be happy. He played a very good match, but missed some big chances, and if Bayern Munich had scored a second, those chances would surely have haunted him. Now he only has the next match to look forward to!

Friday, April 02, 2021

Supporting the workers in Qatar

 The world is quietly waking up to the scandalous human rights abuses in Qatar, which have been amply documented by Amnesty International. As the World Cup qualifiers have started, a team like Norway is debating whether to boycott the tournament, while other teams have been staging protests before their matches, most notably Germany and Netherlands. German players, such as Toni Kroos, have been particularly outspoken on behalf of the largely migrant workers who build the stadiums under conditions that should not exist in the 21st century, and even less under the auspices of the rest of the world and FIFA.

Other teams, such as England have been completely quiet, while Denmark or Austria made discreet protests, almost as if they were afraid to offend anyone, but still express support for the workers.

The discussion will fortunately rage on over the next months. But what about the most important thing? The workers? The people toiling under oppressive conditions so that we can be entertained?

It is not clear whether anything for real is being done to improve their lot, and I am afraid that as the qualifiers and the matches progress, their oppression will move to the background. While boycotting the tournament may not help anyone (not even the workers) a more explicit and committed distancing from fans, players and national associations may be more necessary than ever so that we do not get a World Cup stained by the blood and sweat of the most forgotten but most important people in the World Cup.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Denmark riding on a wave

Yesterday I managed to watch Austria-Denmark online, alongside some Danish buddies over Skype, and with some beers at hand. 

Football-watching in COVID-times.

Denmark won 0-4 in Vienna, against the team that many consider the other contender for the World Cup spot. This was Denmark's third victory in a row in what must be the best start for World Cup qualifying for any team (journalists were already getting a bit too excited, proclaiming that Denmark was basically qualified): 0-2 victory against Israel in Tel Aviv, and an 8-0 trashing of Moldova means Denmark has 9 points and a score of 14-0!

But as much as the results of the matches, Manager Kasper Hjulmand is in possession of a lot of depth in his team: he used almost 22 players for the three matches, among them many young players, most notably strikers, a position where Denmark has been weak for years: 20-year old Mikkel Damsgaard from Sampdoria scored two against Moldova, and 21-year old Andreas Skov Olsen from Bologna scored two against Austria, and it appears more established players such as Martin Braithwaite or Yussuf Poulsen must be feeling some positive pressure from the youngsters. But also defense, where Denmark has solid players with international experience, seems to have young players to add to the depth of the team, such as Atalanta's Joakim Maehle.

Interestingly, Denmark u-21 team has also been playing the European Championships this last week, and also won their group with three victories against France, Iceland and Russia. So there is a lot of interesting young players coming up the ranks in Denmark.

Of course Denmark is not qualified yet. Far from it. And despite last night's routing of Austria, one feels that they are still to be tested against quality opposition. But after this last week, even with my un-apologetically biased eyes, I think that there is great cause for optimism about the Danish national team!