Category Archives: World Football

The Summer Of Punishment

By Anthony Pope

Yes so it appears that the most specialist of occasions has arrived on our calendar again this month. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or Scotland these past few weeks it’s been hard to get away from the build up to the 19th World Cup Finals. I myself, like any respectable and decent Englishmen will be putting my hand on who’s ever broken metatarsal is on the front page, donning plastic St.George’s flags to an automobile and sending death threats to whichever South American official is to blame for our heroic quarter final exit. As our boys do battle out in South Africa a nation will once again hold it’s breath as yet another golden generation flatter to deceive at yet another major competition.

Of course this time around we pin our hopes not on the majestic right boot of our talismanic captain nor will it be on a blubbering flawed genius but instead it’ll be The Godfather himself, Fabio Capello. The burden of reasonability lies squarely on the Italians’ shoulders, good luck my friend, good luck. The disciplinarian has banished the ghosts of Super Steve‘s and El Tel‘s orchestra of managerial buffoonery and appears to have assembled a side who have half a chance at winning the bloody thing.

At this moment in time there are two distinct set of England fans, those convinced that this year is the year, England’s name is on the trophy, it’s a cast iron guarantee, come July 11th Stevie Gerrard will be hoisting the trophy and come July 13th we’ll be reunited with Sir Stephen Warnock, Sir Robert Green and Sir Emile Heskey. On the other hand there will be a fair proportion of doom mongers who think we’ve got about as much chance as John Terry and Wayne Bridge settling their differences and starting a Jedward tribute band. I tend to change from day to day, normally depending on which inspirational advert I’ve seen on the tele, once Kit Kat have finished telling me to cross my fingers and Carlsberg have given probably the best team talk in the world I’m fully convinced that Glen Johnson vs. Lionel Messi is an even contest and we’ll end all those years of hurt we keep singing about.

Talking of songs I’m bitterly disappointed that there will be no official World Cup anthem this year as Fabio ’If your late I’m taking 3 of your fingers” Capello has banned it, which quite frankly has robbed us of the potential of Shaun Wright Phillips’ rapping. I see this almost on par with the injustice the Irish must feel after Thierry Henry’s handball, now that Sean St.Ledger won’t be at this years World Cup I feel it’s hardly worth watching. The only question that reminds is who will join the elite group of Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate, David Batty and Darius Vassell of having to trudge back to the half way line after sending England crashing out as back home England weeps into their Stellas.

Personally I reckon it’ll be Michael Carrick or Aaron Lennon, there’s something about them that just screams “I’m gonna crumble under the pressure and scuff it.” I feel bad ending my first blog entry on such a negative note before a summer of optimism and expectation so I’ll end by saying that England have just as good a chance as anyone, Rooney could shine as Gazza did in Italia 90’, that Gerrard can boss the midfield like Robson and Ince before him, John Terry can inspire the heart of the defence like Moore or Butcher and that on their day they have the ability to beat the Spanish, Argies, Germans, Brazillians and the French and finally bring football back home and win the World Cup.

But they probably won’t.

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North Korea & the World Cup

By David Wills

North Korea and the World Cup

North Korea is going to the World Cup this year. That’s something of which many of you may not be aware. However, I live in South Korea and am thus subjected to such information as though it were of any grand importance.

It may not grand the attention of the average sports fan. In fact, even I can’t name a single North Korean player.

But they’re going to be there, and pundits are expecting the worst performance in World Cup history. If the Norks manage to grand the title of Worst Team Ever, they’ll have to contend with their kimchi-fuelled brothers to the South, who took that dubious honour in 1954, conceding 16 goals in 2 games.

In some sense, then, people will care about North Korea. If you know want to watch a team vie for the position of Worst Team Ever, then you won’t want to miss a single game…

However, for the rest of us, it’s no big deal. There are plenty of shitty teams make it to the finals ever four years. North Korea have the honour of being the Evilest Team and the Poorest Team, but that’s not going to draw big crowds.

Which raises the question: Who will watch North Korea play?

The answers are a) whoever is playing against them, and b) South Korean fans. The possibility of banging in 10 goals in a game will surely have the Norks’ opponents glued to the screen. And in the South, shared blood is enough to compel viewers.

But what about North Koreans?

North Korea is famously poor, and its leadership has always denied the people the right to know what goes on outside its borders. Kim Jong-il wouldn’t want the people to see their team lose, for one thing.

More importantly, however, most North Koreans can’t afford a TV. If they could afford it, what channel would they watch? ESPN and BBC don’t broadcast in the most isolated state on earth. The football just wouldn’t be on screen.

Seoul had long ago promised to pay for North Korea’s World Cup coverage – to be broadcast to the people in town squares and such. But since the sinking of the Cheonan – when 46 South Koreans were killed by a North Korean torpedo – Seoul has refused to broadcast the football.

Which is a fairly tame response to the murder of 46 human beings and the sinking of an expensive warship.

But football is important even in hermit states, and no one wants to miss the World Cup. But without TV, the Norks will never get to see their team, regardless of whether they win or lose. The face is, no one in North Korea can afford to travel to South Africa. Besides, if anyone could afford to leave, they’d be denied a visa. The government doesn’t let anyone leave except for diplomats and the football team.

Instead, North Korea has given its tickets to an army of hardcore communist Chinese, who will cheer on their politically retarded brothers.

Chinese supporters aren’t exactly what you’d want at a World Cup match… China has never actually managed to score a World Cup goal.

Group of Death: The Exes of Evil

By David S. Wills

The phrase “Group of Death” has been used in football since 1954, when England, Brazil, the Soviet Union and Austria were drawn together in the World Cup. In 1970 it was used again to describe the group consisting of Brazil, England, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

After that the phrase burst into the lexicon with use in most knock-out competitions. Anytime more than two good teams find themselves drawn together… “Group of Death.”

(Perhaps it’s my nationality that once again blinds me to reality… But looking back through the history of the “Group of Death,” I can’t help but notice how frequently Scotland are that sad fourth team, doomed to play against three of the best teams in the world. In 1992, the term “Group of Certain Death” was coined, specifically for the purpose of describing Scotland’s plight.)

It seems a little bit on an exaggeration. Very rarely to players die on the pitch, and even when they do the pundits hardly predicted that was going to happen.

But football isn’t always a particularly civilised sport. One could apply the phrase “Group of Death” to competitions in Africa, South America and the Middle East, knowing that an actual death is more likely than in the pansy Premiership.

Throughout history there have been teams for whom football hasn’t been about fast cars and loose women so much as avoiding torture or death. Ever wonder what happened to Wimbledon?

Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq football team was encouraged to win matches by way of “motivational lectures.” These included having players’ legs cut off, and punishments were set for missed penalties and own goals.

In 1994, at the USA World Cup, Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the United States and sent his team back to Colombia. He was shot dead upon arrival, with his murderer screaming “goooooooal!” for each of the twelve bullets fired.

Death and football sadly have a little tighter relationship than we are accustomed to thinking. We don’t necessarily see the downside to football when we read about the massive contracts and the hot wives.

Today the groups were drawn for the 2011 Asian Cup. Group D (for Death!) is comprised thusly:

Iraq

Iran

North Korea

UAE

This, to me, seems like sitting a recently separated couple together at a dinner party. A couple with a history of extreme violence. A nuclear-enabled couple. And not just a couple… a veritable orgy of pissed off exes.

The exes of evil…

Back in Asian qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup, three of these teams were drawn again, albeit in a more regional-specific clusterfuck of a league:

Iraq

Iran

Saudi Arabia

North Korea

South Korea

Japan

This was actually dubbed the “Group of Death” by numerous humorous media pundits. The group consists of two of the most fearsome threesomes in recent history. Nations who’ve gone to war, never gotten over the horrors, and were somehow thrown into FIFA-sanctioned competition once again.

Thankfully there were no deaths on the pitch, but when a rogue camel ate a pot of kimchi it exploded and gave birth to modern terrorism.