Tears…

One part joy, two parts relief.
Well done, boys!

More tomorrow…

It’s tomorrow, and here’s the match report, featuring some sporting words from Preston manager Alan Irvine:

I can’t speak for previous play-offs and it wasn’t down to luck this time in any case.
Sheffield United were better than us in both games and deserved to go through overall.

Compare and contrast that with Didier Drogba…

Written on my Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 after one of the most nerve-wracking 45 minutes of my football-watching life.

Not sour grapes…

…but when your team goes out of the FA Cup because of this:

GOAL Hull City 1-0 Sheffield United
It’s an unbelievably controversial goal and the Blades will be furious about that one. A cross from the Hull right is for some reason headed against the underside of his own crossbar by Kyle Naughton and the ball bounces down on to the line and away. The whole ball isn’t over, though, so it shouldn’t count. Poor decision from the assistant referee to award it.

and then this:

Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp is booked for diving in the Hull box – but replays show his right foot was kicked away from him by Kamil Zayatte. Should have been a penalty. More poor officiating.

All of which leads to this:

Referee Peter Walton has apologised for his performance in the Blades’ 2-1 FA Cup defeat at Hull on Thursday.
“The officials have to live with their mistakes but, to be fair to Peter, he rang and admitted he made major errors and that’s big of him,” said [United Manager] Kevin Blackwell.

…it makes me wonder why football can’t institute the kind of technology which has worked so well in cricket and rugby, both of which I’ve been watching over the past couple of days and neither of which has been ruined by a 30 second delay while a decision is referred “upstairs”.

And it makes me bloody annoyed as well, obviously.
The fact that someone then chose to replay the “goal” on the big screen at the stadium was amusing though:

Naughton’s 24th-minute goal was controversially shown on the big screen inside the stadium, meaning the crowd were aware that the goal should not have stood, but referee Walton was unable to act. Controversial incidents cannot be shown on big screens under Premier League and Football League rules, but in FA competitions it is usually left to agreement between the clubs.

Hull boss Phil Brown admitted that controversially showing a replay of the incident inside the ground “could have started a riot”.

Yeah, but deep down, I reckon Hull boss Phil Brown isn’t all that bothered, really.

It’s here!

Tonight sees the start of the 2009 7-a-side Corporate Soccer League (Cape Town, Wednesdays, Season 1) and I’m itching (not literally) to get back on the field so that I can be all screwed up in a ball of agony by this time tomorrow.


Your host taking on some rotund Italians last year

Things have changed a bit since that photo was taken. I’m probably very slightly slower, the Italians never returned after we beat them 2-0 and I had major surgery in October to remove the Let’s Play banner from between my shoulder blades.
Yes, this year will be a challenge: I’m older than I have ever been before and I haven’t kicked a football in anger since November. But you never forget how – it’s like riding a bike, albeit nowhere near as dangerous.
Doesn’t mean I won’t give it my all as usual, though.
Just means it’ll hurt more tomorrow.

(Check twitter [in sidebar] later this evening for a score update)
(Assuming we win)
(Otherwise I probably won’t bother)

MiniEdit: Tools of the trade via TwitPic

SA crime – the moaning continues

Sadly, South Africa is known, amongst many other things, for its high crime rate. But there came some good news on that front today with the release of the latest crime figures, which show a marked decrease, especially in many of the more serious crimes: murder down 4.7% and robbery with aggravating circumstances down 7.4%, for example. Well, I think it’s good news, but others aren’t happy.
Once again, (I always have to clarify this bit before I talk about crime in SA), I do recognise that South Africa has a problem with crime and I do recognise that something needs to be done about it and that people have a right to expect the government to do something about it. 
However, with the murder rate down to its lowest level in six years and a overall decrease in crime, I think that it is obvious that the initiatives and efforts which are being put in place to combat crime are beginning to work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are very few people who seem to recognise this, though.   

A lot of the negative comments I have read on various SA websites and forums on this subject fall broadly into four categories, which can overlap Venn diagram style, to allow maximum pessimism.
Firstly, there’s the Mugabe reaction: these people have read and heard that crime has decreased, but they are simply ignoring the news and pretending it hasn’t happened. That way, they continue to have something to moan about and a reason to live.
Secondly, the negative optimist approach – and no, that’s not an oxymoron. These people note that crime has fallen, but are not happy that there is still crime happening. In the negative optimists’ world, there is no murder, no robbery, no vandalism and everyone obeys the speed limits. These people should have listened to Safety and Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, as he was presenting the report this morning: 

He told media in Pretoria during the presentation of the annual crime report that even though the statistics indicated a steady decline, crime levels were still very high and “unacceptably so: Government wanted to see a more drastic decline.”

 See? He agrees with you. Crime is still unacceptably high. But it’s down.

Next up, my particular favourites: the nit-pickers. They will pick and choose the worst stats to illustrate just what difficult circumstances South Africa finds itself in: Yes, murder is down, rape is down, robbery is down, but what about truck high-jackings? Did you see that truck high-jackings were up?
Finally, the never-believers. They stand by the words of Mulder & Scully. Trust no-one. These stats are all made up by the Government to make us feel better, when really, crime has sky-rocketed. They cite the fact that these figures are only for reported crime. Which is absolutely correct. However, I defy any government, worldwide, to present accurate statistics on unreported crime, because, you see, it’s unreported.
However, in the unlikely event that the Government has completely fabricated the figures presented today, then I feel that they could have done a much better job on reducing truck high-jackings.

So, there you have it. Once again, I’m fed up with people moaning instead of doing something proactive, like joining their neighbourhood watch. I’m fed up with people only looking for the bad news instead of being happy that there’s actually some good news. I’m fed up with people having foolishly high expectations and feeling angry when they are unfulfilled. Bring forth your predictable and ill-thought-out comments.

One final thing – I’m also growing a little tired of Italians ruining my weekends. This time, the act was repeated by the utterly appalling one-sided refereeing of the Euro 2008 Final by Italian Roberto Rosetti.
Yes Roberto, handball and headbutting are against the rules in football.
German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann thinks the Euro 2008 final was fixed:

“The referee was a catastrophe and sometimes I think it is fixed when I see such a referee, who is biased and not correct in his decisions.”
For example, A Spanish player (David Silva) head-butted our player (Lukas Podolski) and the referee saw it and the linesman saw it.”

Now, I’m no fan of Lehmann’s, but I’m in full agreement that something weird was going on with the refereeing last night. One dodgy decision after another – all in Spain’s favour. How strange.