Archive for the ‘football’ Tag

Help kick ball-boys out of football   Leave a comment

Chesterfield-20130122-00610Eden Hazard was guilty of violent conduct in the match against Swansea and was rightly sent off.  It doesn’t matter what Charlie Morgan did as the player clearly interfered with the ball-boy which is a sanctionable offence.  I am surprised that any can defend the Chelsea player.

I won’t suggest that the Swansea City ball-boy acted entirely properly; I see it is reported that he has apologised for his part in the incident,  However Hazard must know that in football you have to sometimes endure that which is unfair; the defence of provocation is never a successful one.  Had Morgan spat at Hazard, struck him or impugned his Belgian nationality it would not be a defence to striking him.

Some feel the fall and subsequent reaction to the kick were exaggerated.  There might be something in this view but we seem to be in a football culture where making the most of any touch or infringement is the norm.  That said the bottom line is that you don’t touch the ball-boys!  There is precedent for bans when players have pushed those kids fielding the balls so there is no excuse.

My view on Morgan and his colleagues is that they had no interests in returning the ball with any haste.  However in most cases having a ball-boy makes the game quicker than not having one despite that in all stadia where all sides are occupied there is no need for the pitch side assistants.

If there are delays because of the conduct of the ball-boys that is for the match officials to assess.  It is possible- even probably, that sluggish ball-boys might prevent the losing team from taking quick restarts when they are chasing the game but in this case it was actually a Swansea restart.  The ball-boy in question seems to have reacted slowly to the ball going out for a goal-kick.  He then got between the Chelsea player and the ball when Hazard wanted to move it to the goal area.  Morgan then fell on the ball when the player touched him resulting in Hazard kicking the ball from under him.

The contact with the ball-boy was enough to penalise Hazard, his kicking at the ball under Morgan made it an automatic dismissal.  Had the ball-boy been a defending player who shielded the ball and fell under contact then it is likely that Hazard’s kick would have been a sending-off issue with the ball out of play.

In retrospect what the Chelsea player should have done was just make sure that Chris Foy noted the delay and added on time.  That added time is an issue in football and the lack of understanding of the rules and inconsistent application might be one of the reasons Hazard over-reacted.

The laws of the game say:

  • Many stoppages in play are entirely natural (e.G. Throw-ins, goal kicks). An allowance is to be made only when these delays are excessive.
  • The fourth official indicates the minimum additional time decided by the referee at the end of the final minute of each period of play.
  • The announcement of the additional time does not indicate the exact amount of time left in the match. The time may be increased if the referee considers it appropriate but never reduced.

In terms of checking the time played the referee never actually stops his watch.  He usually communicates with his senior assistant or fourth official if he is adding time.  Normally there will be no time added for the natural stoppages in the game but he will note when a physio comes onto the pitch, where there are unnatural breaks or where there is time-wasting.

In terms of the latter, if it is a player then his first option is to caution the player involved.  For instances where the crowd or even ball-boys delay the game then it is down to the officials to add time on.  Where a substitution is not instant (it is after all part of the game) or where there is a goal celebration that is prolonged then time will be added.  Thirty seconds is a rule of thumb and is probably correct  where the leading team finds the withdrawn player as far from the bench as is conceivable- if it is the losing team and the player runs off then the process will not take that long.

The time signalled by the fourth official will always be a “minimum” figure.  If the referee determines two minutes 50 seconds then it will be indicated as two minutes.  You couldn’t have the game ending before the added time has elapsed.  With delays and time-wasting becoming more common towards the end of the game then it is always possible that there will be added time on the added-time!  If any team questions that added time the fourth official will have noted the significant stoppages.

In the case of the Swansea match I guess that potentially the actions of the ball-boy would have meant a delay of a few seconds.  Had Hazard waved his arms and complained then he might actually have caused a few seconds more to be added to the stoppages for what seemed to be futile efforts by his team.  In pushing and kicking the ball-boy the player was sent-off and deserved that sanction.


Posted January 24, 2013 by dalekpete in football, Uncategorized

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Why I am a Spanish speaking Muslim who supports Brazil   Leave a comment

You might know I am a football fan.  The national team I support is England.  My football following siblings also support England as do almost all my friends.  I do have a colleague who looks firstly for the Scotland result and a bare handful of friends with allegiance to other nations.  For example I play football with two who support Italy.

I think it is an amazing coincidence that all of my family and practically all of my friends follow the same team as me.  It must be a statistically anomaly.

Now I wouldn’t claim England are the best team in the world.  They are consistently in the top ten nations and usually make the knock-out stages of the global competitions.  However if I were to make a logical choice I perhaps currently ought to support Spain whose results are better and who certainly play a much more attractive style of play.  If I was looking throughout my lifetime then Brazil with three World Cup wins would be my best choice to follow.

Why then do I support England?  Basically it is an accident of birth, the same reason as everyone I know.  I was born and brought up bang in the middle of England; this means I support England in every sport.  Had I been born in Spain I would support the current World Cup holders.  If my place of birth had been Rio de Janeiro then I would be following the most successful international team.   My friends who follow different teams were either born in those countries or have a family heritage linked to them.

Of course had I been born in Spain my first language would be Spanish and in Brazil, Portuguese.  This would have been another factor determined by my birthplace and culture.  It would have no basis in logic.  I am probably best sticking to English as the international language of commerce and of the internet.  However a case might be made for Spanish or Mandarin as useful additions

All of my family and most of my friends were brought up Christian.  All of those I know that came from that tradition that worship do so in the Christian Church.  I don’t think I know any practising Jews but all those I know who are Muslim or follow the South Asian religions are first or second generation immigrants to the United Kingdom.  They are rather like my “Italian” friends in that respect..

With a true statistical spread a quarter of my family would follow Islam; none of my family is a Muslim.  However had my birth been in Pakistan or parts of the Middle-East there is every chance that every one of my family would be Muslim.  There is no logic to it at all,  While a small number of the religious start to follow a faith other than the one they were born into it is rare.  Almost every religious person follows the faith of the culture they wre born into.  No god selects them as special people, their faith is as much an accident of birth as their language or national football team!

So logically we should all support Spain.  We should speak and write in English with a smattering of Spanish and Mandarin.  And of course if we are being totally rational we should worship no gods at all.

Derbyshire’s first “black” England International   Leave a comment

The Kick-it-out campaign celebrates the contribution ethnic minorities have made to the national game, whilst continuing the call for equality.  As such it is a celebration of diversity in our national game.

While what has happened in Serbia and in recent court cases highlights that there is still work to be done it seems right to celebrate how far we have come and how much non-white players have brought to the British game.

However I am aware that the first non-white player to turn out for our national team lacks any real recognition.  Most will immediately think of Viv Anderson in 1978 as the first of many England players with an Afro-Caribbean heritage.  I want to go back further than that to teams that featured Stanley Matthews, Denis Compton, Frank Swift, Joe Mercer, Stan Mortensen, Tom Finney and Matt Busby.  The only problem was that the nine games played by Hong Y Soo were war time internationals and so not recognised as full internationals.

Frank Soo was born in Buxton in 1914 of Chinese and English parentage.  His Father was a sailor based in Liverpool.  He made his name as an inside forward with Stoke City.  When the war came, as was the custom, he guested firstly for Everton and then Chelsea before being selected for the England team in 1923 when he played against Wales at Ninian Park.  He played seven more times against the home nations including a 6-1 win against Scotland at Hampden Park in front of 133,000.  He also played against Switzaland in a 50th anniversary match staged in 1945 in Berne that was at the time regarded as a full international.

His last match was a war time international some months after hostilities had ended.  After this point Soo was not selected again as he moved the Leicester City and then Luton.  When he retired he went into management with Padova in Italy as well as several teams in Scandinavia.  He did have a spell in charge Scunthorpe United in 1959.  In the early sixties Soo became an international coach when he managed the Israeli National team.

It took a further thirty years for a non-white player to represent his country but no East Asian player or footballer from the Indian sub-continent has come close to repeating Soo’s achievement.  Before Anderson officially became the first black England player there were black players turning out for Chesterfield.  One of those was of Asian decent in Ricky Heppolette who turned out more than fifty times in the early seventies.

The Spireites’ first black player was Peter Foley who joined Chesterfield on trial having made his name at Workington, then a league side.  He played two games for us in the 1969-70 Championship season.  He later returned to the Cumbrian club as their manager.  It is somewhat fitting that Foley is involved with the Kick it Out campaign and in 2003 was awarded an MBE for his services to race relations.  The first black player to come through our ranks was Jim Kabia.  Kabia was an apprentice at the club and in two senior seasons made eleven appearances, scoring at Hereford in 1974.

Now we can put out a Spireite eleven with more than half the players being non-white while seven black players have played together for England.  While this is representative of the mass immigration from the commonwealth in the fifties and sixties our football now benefits from an influx of players from all over the world.  Recently we have seen many Africans and more recently a number of players of East Asian heritage like Frank Soo was.

Less than two decades ago I remember black players being accepted for their flair but the view prevailing that they were not suited to central roles; it being suggested that black players would not make good keepers or central defenders.  It was also thought that blacks would not make coaches, managers or administrators.  This now seems like a view from the dark ages.  No one I know comments on race when England picks a squad.  The days of Anderson’s first cap, Blisset’s first goal or Ince skippering the national side are now part of not only black history but also British history.

Brendan Batson is now a big player with the PFA while Anderson, Keith Alexander and Chris Kamara have all managed league teams.  When Ruud Gullit was appointed Chelsea manager much was made of him being from abroad and his supposed lifestyle, no one mentioned that he was the first black manager in the top flight.  Of course the England and Great Britain women’s manger, Hope Powell, is black.

It is right that we still make a stand against racism in football and in all of our society.  However it would be nice if we could reach the point where rather than fighting intolerance we can celebrate diversity and recognise the part played by the likes of Frank Soo and Peter Foley in football and society.


The photograph heading this article is, for once, not one of mine.  In 2006 there was a collection of unwanted football shirts by Chesterfield FC to be sent to Tsumeb in northern Namibia.  This season the collection is being repeated.  Any shirts, Chesterfield or otherwise, will be collected and if suitable sent to benefit potential players in Africa.  Any shirts can be taken into, or sent, to the Chesterfield FC Superstore at the Proact Stadium.





Olympians- the true sporting heroes   Leave a comment

The Olympics is certainly the primary global celebration of sport.  I will write about my overall views later.  However much has been made of the differences between those competing in this marking of the 30th Olympiad and other “professional” sport.

Those competing for medals are often professionals.  By professional I am not talking about the football or basketball stars who might be paid millions of pounds just to turn out on the pitch or court but athletes  who get financial support to back their training.

I am involved with English lower league football and know that British Olympic boxers get far less than the average fourth tier footballer for leaving home and being put up in dormitories to train.  I expect for many fringe athletes the same is true.

British Judoka Gemma Gibbons, now a silver medallist, put out a public appeal for help to buy a second-hand car so she could continue to train.  Peter Wilson lost all his funding for a while in the run up to London 2012 before he won the gold in the double-trap shotgun.

Now these are not sports that automatically attract public support but the BBC coverage has shown that all of these sports can be compulsive viewing. There is already a groundswell of interest in the established sports such as Track and Field as well as the less fashionable in the UK like Handball.

‎What has struck me is that there are “ordinary” athletes out there who are battling for the resources to continue competing who do not have the egos associated with some of our well known stars.  I have seldom seen a football star apologise after a poor performance; I have got used to Olympic stars breaking down in tears of regret after super-human efforts.

Defending Olympic champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter finished second in the lightweight men’s double sculls.  Hunter had to be helped from his boat by rowing legend Steve Redgrave and his doctor wife; the skuller was so physically drained that he was sick into the water and unable to walk.

In his interview Mark Hunter said: “We gave everything, we tried everything, we wanted to win so badly, sorry to everyone we’ve let down.”

Yes some of the stars of the Olympics make silly money from the advertising and sponsorship but in the main they deserve it.  Others pick up the minor gong from the Queen and go back to battling for the money and recognition for their sports.  Many are just an indication of all the unsung heroes in British sport nurturing talent and going out of their way to make a difference to people.

Back to Mark Hunter and his, “sorry to have let everyone down!”  That is a double medal winning Olympian apologising not only to his coaches, colleagues and family but to the general public for disappointing them.  By the general public I mean those of us watching the Games from the comfort of the sofa.  Those of us who pay twenty-plus pounds a time to watch footballers who are not fit to oil Hunter’s rowlocks!

John Terry-justice done?   Leave a comment

I think the decision to prosecute John Terry for saying “fucking black cunt” to Anton Ferdinand was the correct one.  I also feel that the decision of the Chief Magistrate to acquit was the right one.  The case is significant for society and football but it also leaves the FA in a quandary.

Essentially we had the England football Captain accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words within the hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress and those words were racist.  This is actually a comparatively minor summary offence that can only be heard in a Magistrates Court and for which the penalty is a fine that any Premier League footballer could pay out of his petty cash.

However we could all see that a conviction for using racist abuse could be a taint that would kill a career, particularly at international level.  In an age where progress is being made by projects such as “Kick it Out” to be labelled a racist is a very serious issue.  That said, this was not a case to determine whether John Terry is a racist.  Just as in the Suárez civil case before the FA, the question was whether the player uttered abuse that had a racist element rather than whether that player was a racist.  The Judge in Terry’s case pointed out that all the character witnesses showing Terry’s inclusive nature were irrelevant to the substance of the case; it wasn’t a question of being a racist just using racist abuse.

As a summary matter this case could not go to the Crown Court and play in front of a jury.  For all we treasure the trial by jury as a significant part of our justice it is good to see a senior Justice at work.  In the Magistrates Court a District Judge can sit in the place of a bench of lay magistrates.  In this case it was a Senior District Judge, the Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle.  Judge Riddle was able to carefully explain his thinking in finding John Terry not guilty.

As I read Judge Riddle’s judgement he was certain that the CPS was right to bring the prosecution; John Terry had a case to answer.  There was no doubt that Terry had said, among other confirmed abuse, “fucking black cunt” to Anton Ferdinand.   He found Ferdinand and Terry to be good witnesses but there was confusion over the context in which Terry has said the “offensive” phrase.  Terry stated at the time that he thought Ferdinand had accused him of saying it and so had repeated the phrase back to him to highlight how ridiculous it would be for him to say that. He maintained this account throughout.

The exchange was part of a cycle of tit-for-tat abuse between the two players.  Most of the exchange, that the players couldn’t remember in detail, seemed to involve remarks about Terry’s sexual improprieties.   From a football perspective it is telling that the remark that ended up in court seems to be just an element of a “slanging match” that was part of a game of professional football.  In an age when football authorities are campaigning for respect on the football field this is telling.

John Terry isn’t a racist.  Although the Judge questioned his explanation of his uttering the offensive phrase, there was enough doubt to find that he had not committed a criminal offence.  However Ferdinand and Terry were involved in outbursts on a football pitch that have no place in the modern game.  There is still racism in our society and our national game but every reasonable person knows it is irrational.  The work done to combat this bigotry in and out of the game is why this case could be brought to court.

The admitted abusive exchanges between professional footballers shows that we have a long way to go in terms of the Respect Programme. As someone who has gone into classrooms to sell the principles of fair play and respect in sport and so in general life, it is galling to see the message trashed by those appearing regularly on the children’s televisions.

The FA suspended its investigation when the CPS suggested that there might be criminal action.  An acquittal in a criminal case where the test is one of reasonable doubt doesn’t mean a test on the balance of probabilities for a similar matter cannot succeed.  I expect that the FA will have to consider both the  “racial” of what John Terry said and the wider question of the two players’ exchanges on the pitch at Loftus Road.

It might be argued that there is sufficient evidence to find John Terry of at least bringing the game in to disrepute.  Anton Ferdinand was the victim in the criminal case but also seems to have a case to answer when we are looking at fair play in our national game.  It will be interesting to see how the FA takes this forward.

My religion is football…   Leave a comment

Being British I am always stunned by the extent of religious influence among our immature cousins over the pond.  (I am also stunned when soccer is used to describe football but needs must.)

I am particularly shocked by the image given of the reach of the church in communities and of the fact that non-believers hide their atheism and have to encouraged to come out of the vestry.  Even in provincial England the churches have only a marginal influence on communities and certainly don’t have a monopoly over charity or community groups.

When it comes to religion in four facets of my life I still don’t see it being significant.  These areas are family, work, leisure and community involvement.

Yes my family is religious, with my mother holding a significant position in the Methodist Church.  Some of my brothers and their families are regulars in church but my wife and children only go, under protest, to weddings, funerals and special events.

Away from my family religion is hardly a topic, except when I am criticising it!  I know the beliefs of none of the dozen people on my team at work only that several have anti-religious views.  I am not sure any attend church  Within my cricket club I know there are some who are religious with one actually running another team in a league for churches.  The ironic thing about this is that he supplements his squad by drawing on the Pakistani strength in the game with a link up with a local mosque!

My community work primarily revolves around the charitable trust linked to my local football club.  There funding for any projects usually demands inclusion and so means any overt religious influence is prohibited.  That doesn’t stop work with churches and other projects with a religious background but faith has never been a factor, except to rule out a leaning to any specific religion.

Rather than me existing in a faithless world it is more probable that it is more a question of religion not being a significant factor in my dealings with people.  However this is a bit of an assumption so I am turning to somewhere that my friends and contacts have stated their religious beliefs- Facebook.

The social media site gives me a sample of 178 friends.  It is worth stating how these were selected.  Unlike twitter where I select the influential for their quality of opinion, I know all of those on Facebook.  I do not request friendship, or respond positively to requests unless I know the person.  I do however usually accept requests from supporters of my football club because I have a public role there and have met them even if I wouldn’t call them personal friends.  That said there is no bias among the selection based on my beliefs or because I have any direct friends based on my beliefs.

This means that about 70% of my Facebook friends live in or around my town with the rest in the UK with the exception of a couple in the States and a handful in continental Europe.  There is a range of ages but the skew towards the young due to the demographics of Facebook and the inclusion of football friends and those linked to my daughters.  There is a large majority of male friends due to a bias among football fans and the fact that most of my cricket friends are fellow players.

Facebook offers the opportunity in your profile to offer information about your personal philosophy- this includes religion.  Only 41% of my friends included such information.  I don’t know whether this percentage is unusual but note that some I consider the most religious to have not expressed a preference.  I know there is an established trend to complete a box and express a positive that usually skews UK census information so I did think almost 60% not completing this a little odd.

This leaves 68 entries for religion that I can consider:

20 non-religious of which 9 named my football team as their “religion”

19 Atheist

8 Christian (excluding Catholics)

8 anti-religious

5 Catholic

3 Jedi

2 Agnostic

2 Humanist

1 spiritualist

For me this gives three-quarters that specify a religion offer a joke or no deity as that religion.  This rises to almost 80% if you also include the Jedis despite this being as equally valid a religion as Christianity.  The Pope will probably be content that those pesky Jedis still rank just below his lot.

I would be interested to know whether this lack of region (only 7% admitted they followed an established religion) is a factor on Facebook.  For my, mostly British selection, it is at odds with responses in the Census.  Particularly I would be interested to know whether there is a UK/USA difference.

Bottom line: in a sample of 178 Facebook users more see their religion to be Chesterfield Football Club than profess to be Christian!

The power of prayer or the power of football?   Leave a comment

I am glad to see Fabrice Muamba is making a remarkable recovery from his cardiac episode.  It was fascinating to hear the medical practitioners given such a matter of fact account of their efforts to keep him alive without a heartbeat for well over an hour.   One can only hope that Fabrice’s progress continues even if a return to elite sports participation is a long way off.

Of course I wouldn’t call Muamba’s survival a miracle, certainly not in the theological sense.  I don’t believe in any external intervention in the medical process.  What is significant is scientific and medical progress and the fact that sportsmen at this level have doctors and paramedics to hand.  In the case of White Hart Lane there was even a consultant cardiologist in the crowd.

What I find interesting about the incident is the reaction within the football community and the #PrayforMuamba hash-tag.  There is a culture of inclusion via social-networking to any newsworthy event where everyman can clamber aboard a particular bandwagon and express support or opposition to any issue.  The fact that this often seems more a fashion rather than carefully considered opinion doesn’t necessarily devalue the impact of the groundswell.

In the case of tragedy on the football field I can see that there is a vast number of supporters of various teams that empathise with a footballer, particularly a young, popular one being struck down.  Many of us who follow teams know or feel we know the players and such a public striking down of a hero hits hard.  Current footballers are of an age that social networking is the norm and so add an “official” side to the outpouring of electronic emotion.

Any news event tends to generate a hash-tag.  In the case of Muamba’s struggle for life it was #PrayforMuamba.  A large number of those using twitter to support the footballer incorporated this tag in their tweets.  This included the official tweets from several football clubs.  I don’t think that my Club put out a tweet but, while I would support this as part of the “football family”, I would be uncomfortable endorsing that tag.

I understand that Fabrice and his fiancé are Christians.  I am led to believe that his fiancé derived comfort from the theist messages and has praised her God as Fabrice has made progress.  With Muamba being sedated I realise that this prayer would not have even a placebo effect.  The credit belongs to the medical staff and the remarkable human body, particularly one at the peak of physical fitness with dilated blood vessels full of muscle boosting enzymes.

Where Fabrice and his fiancé seem to be practicing Christians I wonder how many of those using the hash-tag were.  I certainly saw one tweet that started, “I am not religious but…” and ended with the tag.  It is possible that many subscribing to the hash-tag were not believers in any deity but just wanted to show their support of Fabrice.  Where there might be those genuinely praying for the stricken player I guess many if not most went no further in their devotions than tweeting.

Muamba isn’t the first player to be struck down on the pitch. Foe, Jarque and O’Donnell have died recently.  Equally significant are the likes of Daniel Yorath who represents the many who are not yet elite sportsmen who die before any condition is suspected.  Those within the pro game are now usually screened repeatedly although this doesn’t cover every potential condition.  What I hope is that the routine screening is extended even wider into the Academies and Centres of Excellence.  I also hope that defibrillators are made more available in public places to save lives whether of footballers or any person who suffers an arrest.

The Fabrice Muamba case has shown the public reaction that football and footballers can generate.  The positive power of football can be used to champion health issues that don’t always find public support.  In particular football can reach the male population that don’t usually react to health campaigns.  I hope Fabrice gets well soon and that the legacy of his episode is that more people at risk are helped by the influence of the Beautiful Game.

Posted March 24, 2012 by dalekpete in atheism

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