To cheat or not to cheat?

That is the question.
And it’s actually tougher to answer than you might think.

Luis Suárez is, once again, the centre of attention for his last minute antics in a big football match. Luis rose to international prominence with his goalline handball at Soccer City which effectively knocked Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup. And, though I hate to say it now, I defended him over that (although it was mainly just to pass contrary comment on the stupid people on social media).
Forr me, that handball was an instinctive thing – he was on the line, the ball flew at him, instant self-preservation and desperation set in. Four years of preparation, of blood, sweat, tears and hard work came down to that split second:

I would have stopped that shot with my hand if I’d have been on the line that night. So would David Beckham, so would Lionel Messi, neither would Robert Green.

He might have been a thoroughly despicable, cheating, nasty piece of work, but I maintain that that infamous handball was involuntary.

But then… the biting, the diving, the racism, the diving, the biting and the diving since then?
Less involuntary. More considered. Calculated. Controlled.

Deliberate.

Ugh.

The 90th minute dive which won the penalty which assisted Barcelona through at the Nou Camp was disgraceful. It’s difficult not to look at any incident involving Luis Suárez without cheat-tinted spectacles, but even setting aside any dislike for him and his team of UEFA’s darlings, Wednesday evening may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Suárez’ collar bone did survive though, despite the obvious agony as he fell to the floor having not been karate chopped across the neck.)

Anyway, the main reason for this post is to share one of the excellent newspaper articles and soundbites that this has generated. Silver linings – sometimes you’ve just got to try and find them.

Step forward, then Ewan Murray in the Guardian:

Once again the cottage industry that is the lauding of all things La Liga, and Barcelona in particular, belies what appear to be dark arts. The Barça brand matters more than what should always be established codes of football conduct. Pundits fawn, laughably in respect of former footballers who would rightly be incandescent had they suffered at the hands of Barça’s routinely wobbly forwards.

If the awarding of Barcelona’s first penalty of the night was dubious, Thomas Meunier committing the apparently fatal sin of falling over with Neymar in close proximity, the hosts’ second, which fuelled the fairytale, represented a blatant act of cheating.

Ewan pulls no punches, voicing opinions which many of us have been harbouring for some time now.

If you watch back through the dying stages, Barça’s players are throwing themselves to the floor with such desperation it is comical. The not-so- subtle message, as witnessed by millions including impressionable young footballers? When in doubt, when things get seriously tough, keep the conning of officials at the forefront of your mind. The ruse is even more effective when a team are at home, in such an intense atmosphere as the Camp Nou.

Preach, Ewan! Preach!

Please, can the thing that comes of this be the fast forwarding of video-assistants for the referees. The pathetic extra official on the goal line experiment has had virtually zero positive effect and needs to be scrapped in favour of a rugby-style TMO. Of course, if this were the case, Suárez would be off (having been booked for diving earlier in the game) and Barca would be out. Maybe that sort of thing is why technology hasn’t been introduced. Convenient human error being a great way to ensure your pet team continue to prevail.

But I’m sounding bitter and cynical now (albeit with good reason).

Suárez will go on Suárezing for just as long as he is allowed to do so.
The FA used post-match video evidence to look back at incidents in the ManU v Bournemouth game and Tyrone Mings and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were rightly handed bans for breaking the rules.

What sanction then for Luis and Barca? (spoiler: it’s none)

Now [FIFA] need to allow the reviewing of video evidence after the game for players diving and then suspend them.
Either that or maybe make some more big bucks by researching, developing and marketing whatever it is that allows players like Pedro and Javier Mascherano to miraculously recover and get on with the game 5 seconds after what appears to be a career-threatening injury.

Hmm. It’s (still) time to drag football’s governing body, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Old Skool

I have been reliving the past a bit over the last day or two. These wholly unconnected events happened entirely by chance, but I felt them worth documenting because it brought back some decent memories and made me think about how my life has changed since those memories were made.

It started with a kiss an earworm: The 2002 track Stay Positive by The Streets:

I ain’t helping you climb the ladder
I’m busy climbing mine.
That’s how it’s been since the dawn of time.

that crept up on me one morning in the kitchen, like a beagle hoping for some cheese. I have no idea where it came from (the earworm, I’m all too aware of the beagle’s history), but it selected the soundtrack for the journey to and from work yesterday.

And the memories came flooding back. This was one of the albums that I used to listen to (on my minidisc player, nogal!) on the journeys from Oxford down to London to see my girlfriend (the same one what is now, happily, the long-suffering Mrs 6000). And suddenly, I was there again: back on the Oxford Tube on the M40 – weridly, very specifically at the Lewknor turn off.

At that time, I was living in Headington in Oxford with two really dodgynice… nice, but dodgy scientists. It was a bit of a lads’ house – we had standards, but if I’m completely honest, they did vary in height depending on how lazy we were feeling.
A typical evening in would be a microwave dinner, some red wine and several (or more) games of the latest FIFA release (probably 03). That is, of course, apart from Friday evenings. Friday evenings were given over to Dirty Sanchez on MTV. Now, if you haven’t heard of Dirty Sanchez, I’d advise you to carefully consider your options before looking it up. This was a UK series which took the nastiest and most dangerous bits of Jackass, and somehow made them worse. It was puerile at best, and downright offensively vulgar for the other 99% of the time. Here’s the wiki page, if you really want a starting point.

Last night, with Mrs 6000 unwell in bed, I was left to entertain myself (careful now). Ironically, it was actually as I was looking for my FIFA (15) game in the DVD drawer that I saw the 2005 box set of Series 3 of Dirty Sanchez. My fingers were pretty tired (careful now), and I was already dreading the injury news ahead of Fleetwood Town’s FA Cup first round replay with Hereford United, so the box set seemed like a good idea.
As I put it on, I was in two minds. Would I still find it funny, or had I outgrown it?
Well – maybe my results were swayed because I was consciously being analytical, but probably somewhere between the two. Not much of it made me laugh, but at the same time, I did find myself entertained. And at first, that was a bit worrying. But still quite fun – it seems that maybe I am still hanging on to a bit of my youth, and that’s no bad thing.

And then there was this morning. After an early morning trip into town to pick up some new kit (more of that to follow in due course), I found myself heading to work, breakfastless. And yes, there’s the office park canteen, but – guess what – it’s very much an office park canteen. So I made a last minute stop at the local McDonald’s drive-“thru”, and picked up the Sausage and Egg McMuffin meal that was standard for early mornings opposite the Regent Street campus of the University of Westminster (it’s still there), back in the day. It was my first one in SA, and I’ve been here nearly 12 years.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it tasted pretty much the same as it did back in the late 90’s. And that – much like musicians continuing to produce the same sort of music that made them popular – is no bad thing. It’s not going to win any Michelin stars, but it did stop me being hungry for a few hours. Job done.

The thing is, while I enjoyed being transported back to those halcyon, carefree days with their lack of responsibility and restrictions, I don’t really miss them. Sure, they were fun, but I didn’t realise back then how unfulfilling they were. That’s not my fault – things change as you get older: your needs are different, your goals aren’t the same, you need more stimulation from some things (carful now), less from others.

Put it this way, things may not be perfect right now, but me now would rather be me now than me then, if you see what I mean.

So I guess you could call that progress.

Fikile – u ok hon?

Here’s a statement by our erstwhile Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula over the weekend:

fm statement

and here’s a letter which has popped into the public domain this morning:

fifa letter

Of course, even though the $10 million payment was made to Jack Warner, it wasn’t a bribe, in the same way that that body of water at Nkandla isn’t meant for any purpose other than fighting fires.

And if it was a bribe, why would they have made that huge PR effort and the big song and dance about such a generous donation to such a worthy cause?

Nah, this totally seems legit.

Comedy moments

Today in politics:

Firstly, Sports Minister Fikile “Fickle” Mbalula (see blog passim) reacted to the FIFAgate scandal and the allegation that the SA Government had paid a $10m bribe to bring the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, with this gem:

David Smith on Twitter Mbalula As a nation we will be the first to endorse the fight against corruption wherever it is found. Media is casting aspersions. - Google Chrome 2015-05-28 014812 PM.bmp

Yep. No corruption in this nation. Absolutely not. None.
Here are some other ridiculous things he said, helpfully illustrated by high class rag The Times.

Glad we’ve got that sorted.

Then, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko told us that the R250m upgrades to the President’s residence in KZN were necessary for security purposes and therefore, JZ doesn’t have to pay for them.

CGFpkGnUMAAOBOF

You might think that this is fair enough, but let’s just see how much they had to stretch to get some of the less obvious “security” upgrades into the “security upgrade” bracket:

nkand

And good job too, because those chickens could obviously pose a definite danger to Number 1. And in the event of an emergency, where else are you going to be able to assemble if not in an amphitheatre?

It does rather make you think that they’re taking the piss now. I mean, the signs that they’ve been taking the piss have been there for a while, but we definitely do seem to have crossed yet another line of pisstakery with today’s events.

Quoth Tom Eaton (in a post/column written (I think) ahead of the FIFA or Nkandla developments mentioned above):

They know we’re watching, but they don’t care. We’re just scenery to them now, a fleeting impression to be remembered one day when they’re lying on their private beach, laughing about the old days when they were making their pile.

Yes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get off home to build an animal enclosure next to the firepool to stop the beagle crapping in my amphitheatre.

BREAKING: FIFA announce Suarez ban

NOTE: There’s a more serious take on the calls for a lifetime ban for Suarez here.

But first, read my scoop on FIFA’s report on the Luis Suarez incident:

In an effort to limit the damage done to the otherwise shining reputation of football, FIFA instructed its Disciplinary Committee to move fast in considering and announcing the punishment to be given to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez after the apparent biting incident in the game against Italy on Tuesday.
This order seems to have come from the very top, where Sepp Blatter took time out of his busy schedule to begin throwing stones in his predominantly windowed mansion overlooking Rio de Janeiro to hurry things along. Unsurprisingly, given the gravity of the situation, the outrage across social media worldwide and the necessity to be seen to be doing… well… something, it appears that the footballing body has come down hard on Mr Suarez.

Herewith the important bits of their statement.

We have reviewed the video footage of the latter stages of the Uruguay versus Italy game on Tuesday in Natal, specifically the apparent bite by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on the left shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. In considering any disciplinary action (and the severity of that action), we have taken several factors into account, these being:

  • The injury suffered by Mr Chiellini and the effect on his future ability to play football.
  • The damage this causes to the image of football worldwide.
  • The baying for blood of the ‘pitchfork mafia’ lynch mob on twitter and uninformed people in the USA generally.
  • The fact that once, in the 1994 World Cup, we banned an Italian player for 8 whole games after he deliberately smashed an opponent in the face with his elbow, breaking his nose, leaving him concussed and meaning that he lost over a pint of blood on the pitch; a punishment which gives precedent and a benchmark to this committee’s decision.

We would like to make the following points regarding this incident:

  • Firstly, this was a wholly unjustified, unwarranted and heinous act. There can be no excuses for biting an opponent during a game of football. I know it’s fairly commonplace in rugby, but this isn’t egg-chasing, is it?
  • Secondly, due to this incident, Mr Chiellini’s career is at an end. He will never be able to play football agai… what?… he did? Oh, apparently, he was able to get back up and play on immediately, but surely only once he’d mopped up all the blood off his shir… sorry? …no blood? oh… right.
    Anyway, the mental scars and the slight, rosy dimples on his shoulder will possibly haunt him forever. At least he can get them treated promptly and locally as he arrives back home in Italy with the rest of their squad later today.
  • Thirdly, we’ve had loads of correspondence from well-informed fans around the world, on Twitter and then on Facebook when they caught up with the news today, telling us that we must ban Mr Suarez from football for a season, two seasons, two years, and/or forever. We’ve also had a lot of people telling us that Qatar is a really stupid place to hold the 2022 World Cup, but we chose not to listen to them.

Herewith the sanctions imposed by the Disciplinary Committee:

THESE SANCTIONS ARE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE TOURISM BUREAU OF QATAR.
“Qatar: it’s a great place to be. (Unless you’re a migrant worker trapped in a poorly-paying,
dangerous job and your passport has been taken by your employer.)”

  • Luis Suarez will be banned foreverever. And ever. Seriaas. He will never be allowed to play football again in any professional capacity. Or any unprofessional capacity. Neva, baas! It’s over!
    Nothing less than this will placate the baying hordes, and we need to placate them so that they continue to supply us with viewership and advertising revenue.

But wait… there’s more.

  • Luis Suarez will also not be allowed to watch any football and must wear a blindfold whenever he finds himself in any situation where he might reasonably expect to see a football. Except while driving.
    No. Wait. Even while driving. All the time. All of it.
  • Luis Suarez’s family (including, but not limited to his mother, father, wife, sons, daughters, in-laws, uncles, aunties, cousins, second cousins, neighbours, real friends, facebook friends, plumbers, doctors, the sales assistant in Next in Liverpool who sold him that jumper, gardener and the air conditioning maintenance engineers who worked on his house during or before the time he purchased the property) will also be banned from playing football and – just in case – tennis and possibly golf, as well.
  • Luis Suarez’s cat to be declawed.
  • Anyone with the initials “LS” will also be banned from playing football. We have also received several requests from England fans to extend this ban to anyone with the initials “WR”, too. We are happy to do this.
  • Finally, the Uruguayan Football Association must pay for immediate dental work on their entire squad, so that they no longer pose an oral threat to opposition players. This work must be carried out before the 2-0 defeat that Mr Chen has arranged against Colombia on Saturday.

We believe that these sanctions, though harsh, are completely reasonable, especially when put into context. After all, we gave Zinedine Zidane a three game ban for his 2006 headbutt, Nigel De Jong got a whole yellow card for his chest-high, studs-up, karate-style lunge at Xabi Alonso in the 2010 final and we did absolutely fuck all about Diego Maradona’s 1986 ‘hand of god’ goal.

So a lifetime ban for everyone and everything seems completely reasonable here. It’ll make us ever so popular, too.
And it’ll take the heat off (LOLZ, no pun intended) that dodgy Qatar decision for a while.

That concludes this press conference. Sorry, we don’t have time for any awkward questions.