Category Archives: World Football

Can we please stop talking about England’s Harry Kane?

By Tim Todd, American English National Team Advisor

England were a delight to behold, soon delivering the most expansive football seen since the thrashing of Germany in 2001. The David Beckham era is over, the Walcott era has begun. – Henry Winter, 2008

Eighty odd thousand fans welcomed his introduction with incredible warmth. At that moment it became obvious that Kane is not just ‘one of our own’ to Tottenham fans but has also somehow become a national favourite before even kicking a ball for England. – Alan Smith, 2015

Henry Winter described Theo Walcott’s introduction to the English national team using the metaphor of a comet. Walcott streaked across the field, Walcott sparkled, and sputtered, and sure enough, Walcott’s brightness on that day, the day he scored a hattrick against Croatia, might have caused the ancients to marvel. Though, I’m not sure the ancients would have painted Walcott on their cave walls because as it turns out Walcott couldn’t repeat his sparkling feat and was more meteor than comet. And now England turns their collective hopes to a shining new extraterrestrial body, Harry Kane.

It’s an interesting phenomenon about England, they tend toward a heroization of individuals in the context of a collective game. If Gordon Banks makes a great save, he wins the game. If Charlie George scores a goal, he wins the cup. If Theo Walcott scores a hat trick against 10 men Croatia in a World Cup qualifier, he’s the next best thing since David Beckham. If Harry Kane is left unmarked at the far post in the last 10 minutes of a game that England has already won 3-1 and he heads the ball right at the keeper while the hapless defender looks completely disinterested, he’s the next Lionel Messi (even if he looks more like the next Peter Crouch). But the Harry Kane story isn’t so much about Harry Kane, it’s a story about how desperate the English national team supporters are for a hero and how little they really need one.

Harry Kane is now everything to everyone in English football an is even being held up as a symbol of what English football clubs “ought” to be doing to bring young Englishmen up through the ranks and ultimately improve the English national team. The FA are so desperate for a savior that Greg Dyke wondered:-

How many other Harry Kanes are around in the youth teams of Premier League clubs?

Here’s a clue, none. He’s a one-off. He wasn’t discovered by “chance” plying his trade in some stock room. He worked his bollocks off to get where he is and was repaid when he was given a chance at Tottenham by Pochettino. And here’s another clue, Harry Kane isn’t even that good. His technique is no better than Andy Carroll, he just applies himself better. He tries real hard and the English love a good tryer.

Harry Kane is a lark. He’s not part of a Tottenham pipeline of young English talent being brought through the ranks. He’s one guy, who applied himself after being rejected by Arsenal,

Harry was always someone who was going to get better just by the sheer volume of work he was willing to do, and by the mentality he would demonstrate on a daily basis to invest in himself. He had a fantastic desire to improve and would always want to do extra work at the end of a session,” recalls Inglethorpe. “He became obsessive about his finishing in all its various forms and would dedicate a huge amount of time to improve these aspects of his game.

That individual work ethic is much lauded in English coaching circles and it has to be, because truth be told the academies aren’t doing their jobs.

And so while Hurricane Harry Kane wreaks its destruction through the English football landscape the one true model of how English clubs and academies actually ought to be operating is left almost forgotten in a little town just north of the Isle of Wright.

England is a football crazy country. There are more clubs, academies, and fans than any country in the world. And yet, it’s telling that the Football Association is proposing what amounts to Affirmative Action quotas for Englishmen in order to cover up for the failings of the academy system in England. They want to, as Wenger says, “protect the mediocre” instead of producing the best.

Wenger’s proposed solution is to plow money into academy coaching, to hire the very best youth coaches and have those folks develop the millions of young kids who are playing football in England. As Wenger might say, what England needs is fewer Harry Kane stories and more stories about academy successes like Southampton.

I agree, it’s not the one percent rare talent that England need to produce more of — if we agree that Harry Kane is one of them (I don’t) then we could use Harry Kane as an example here. Those people will naturally produce themselves, because those folks already have that drive and desire to be the very best. What England need to produce¹ is more top level talent throughout the entire ranks of English football. This is essentially what Southampton have done and continue to do.

Southampton have a fraction of the resources of a club like Tottenham and yet they count among their graduates Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and Calum Chambers. Southampton produce quality and a lot of it. That’s what England needs more of, quality academy players fighting for places against quality foreigners, playing in the best league in the world. If you manage to do that, I’ve no doubt England could win a World Cup.

The other main thing that England need to produce is fewer journalists prone to hype. The hype machine in England seems to be going non-stop all the time. Look at the careers of any player hyped by the press: Walcott, chosen for the World Cup as a 17 year old, dropped as a 21 year old; Rooney, tipped as the best footballer of his generation, more likely to get a red card in a big match for England than a game winning goal; and now Harry Kane, goal poacher extraordinaire, literally called a “hero” in the article above written by Alan Smith.

What did Harry Kane do to win the title “hero”? Did he save a village in Afghanistan from the Taliban? Did he get arrested taking a stand for minorities? Did he don a cape and mask and rescue people from evildoers? Nope, he scored a few tap-ins this season; one of them for England, well after the match had already been won by Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck. I don’t know much about many things, but I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of the word “hype.”

Qq

¹This same argument holds true for Major League Soccer in the USA. Too much focus is on acquiring star players when it should be on raising the level of the game entirely.

Diaby-Essien

Chelsea and PSG commit 20 fouls each — Mourinho demands ironic justice

“Eden Hazard was fouled NINE times in Chelsea draw at PSG… Laurent Blanc’s men should be ashamed of themselves” screamed the Daily Mail
“Mourinho calls for cards to halt Hazard fouls” blasts ESPN.uk
“Yes but both Chelsea and PSG committed 20 fouls each and Mourinho has some gall demanding cards for fouls on creative players.” pined 7amkickoff

It was a welcome relief for Chelsea fans this morning as they woke up to the news that their player, Eden Hazard, has been fouled a record number of times both in the Premier League and in the Champions League. And that he was fouled nine times in their match against PSG on Tuesday. Most of the major shock-top newspapers have run with the story and are supporting Chelsea and their manager, Jose Mourinho’s, campaign “Justice for the 9 fouls”.

Chelsea fans have been under pressure since Tuesday when their supporters were filmed shouting racist abuse at a black man in Paris prior to their match against PSG. After they shoved the black man and refused his entry onto the train, they then started singing that they are Chelsea, they are racist, and they are proud of it. The man who was abused is pressing charges and police in the UK and France are actively pursuing a case against the fans in that railway car.

Also swept under the rug is the fact that Chelsea were abject in the match against PSG, managing just one shot on goal in 90 minutes as they elected to park the bus rather than try to attack PSG and win the match outright.Chelsea were so poor in this match that their goal was scored when a center back crossed the ball to another center back who flicked on for the fullback to score. After they scored the go-ahead goal, Chelsea sat back and defended. When they did try to get the ball forward, it was Hazard who was the main outlet.

PSG spent the entire match attacking Chelsea and when they did lose the ball often tackled the one Chelsea outlet, Hazard, to win the ball back. It is no surprise that Hazard was the most fouled player on either team, he was Chelsea’s lone outlet. I’m sure if Chelsea had taken a more balanced approach to counter attacking Hazard might have had a teammate to pass the ball to, instead he was often left to go it alone and the result was that he was involved in a lot of duels.

In fact, the stats show that both teams committed the exact same number of fouls, 20, and Chelsea’s two main central midfielders, Matic and Fabregas, combined to commit 9 fouls of their own. PSG’s Verratti has been singled out by Mourinho because he committed 5 fouls and most of them were against Hazard, but Chelsea’s opposite central midfielder, Nemaja Matic, also committed 5 fouls.

The stats show that yes Hazard was fouled 9 times but that both Chelsea and PSG fought equally hard and fouled each other an equal amount. As a Liverpool fan who was watching the game with me put it, “both teams were fouling too much.”

The biggest irony, however, is that Chelsea under Jose Mourinho have serially targeted opposition players who, like Hazard, play with the ball at their feet. These players who like to dribble, players like Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, are routinely targeted by Chelsea midfielders not only for the same rotational fouling that Hazard suffered against PSG, but for absurd and over the top lunges.

cahillHere is Gary Cahill attempting to break Alexis Sanchez’ leg with a lunge that should have been a red card but instead was only called a foul.

Diaby-Essien

And here is Chelsea’s Michael Essien destroying Abou Diaby’s ankle. Another foul that didn’t receive a red card or command a peep out of the Chelsea manager.

What’s most incredible, however, is how quickly the British press lapped up Mourinho’s milk and uncritically published his remarks about the PSG match. Every single one of Jose Mourinho’s teams have been criticized for their brutality and ugliness. He was essentially fired from Real Madrid, he last job prior to returning to Chelsea, because he had turned them into the most expensively assembled Crazy Gang in the history of the sport and the players revolted against him. It was clear that the players were right, since they went on to win the Champions League playing a much more aesthetically pleasing brand of football.

In the end, this is just Mourinho doing what Mourinho does: redirecting the press away from a poor team performance, moaning ironically about how his team are cheated, and adding to the fan’s feelings that Chelsea are persecuted. The only wonder is why the British press publish this stuff uncritically.

Qq

Questions to ponder: dribblers like Hazard, Wilshere, Diaby, and Sanchez are often fouled because they tend to have the ball at feet more than any other player. Is this fouling “just part of the game”? Is this something that “needs to be stamped out” of the game? Consider the NBA and their movement in the early 90s toward a more dribble-happy sport. They changed the rules so that players could no longer put hands on the opponent when playing face to face. This encouraged dribblers and turned the NBA into a sport where one player would often be seen standing at the top of the key dribbling and trying to break down the opposition defense. Do we want football to go more in that direction? More leeway for dribblers? Or do we want to encourage teams to play a more team oriented sport, with passing rather than one-v-one dribble duels all the time. My feeling is that encouraging more dribbling will make the Mourinho tactic of parking the bus pay significantly higher dividends because you can sit back and hit the opposition with a dribbler, who is systematically protected by the referees.

I believe I can dive

Wayne Rooney’s patented dive beats Preston and sets up FA Cup tie with Arsenal

Manchester United got lucky cheated three times, to beat Preston North End in their FA Cup tie at the Deepdale on Monday: Rooney was clearly in an offside position and interfering with the keeper for United’s first goal; Fellaini clearly fouled his marker, pushing him in the back, to win the header for the second goal; and Wayne Rooney simulated a foul to earn a penalty for the third goal. Referee Phil Dowd allowed all three goals to stand and the end result is that the Football Association gets a big-name cup tie between Arsenal and Man U at Old Trafford in early March.

United were abject in this match. They got zero shots on goal in the first half and Preston North End harried and frustrated a team that is one of the most expensively assembled teams in the Premier League. Preston took the lead in the second half when fullback Scott Laird fired home the first goal but United stormed back through a series of fortunate incidents and eventually won the game.

United’s first goal was scored when Wayne Rooney stood in an offside position. The ball was shot at Rooney, he moved at the last second to get out of the way, the keeper was frozen by this little bit of movement, probably expecting the ball to ricochet off Rooney, and the ball nestled into the net as the keeper dived too late to get to the ball.

United’s second goal was scored by Fellaini. Since his move from Everton, Fellaini has ceased pretending that he was ever a footballer and has instead taken up the position of “Battering Ram”. His main function in the Manchester United lineup is to stand up front, win headers, elbow people in the face, and shove defenders to the ground. He shoved Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs to the ground in the United win over Arsenal in November and he did it again to Preston. This is what he does, he’s not actually a very good leaper and he’s also not actually very good at winning headers, what he is very good at is getting away with shoving defenders in the back. He does it every single game and somehow he keeps getting away with it. It’s incredible, really, to watch him shove a defender in the back and then not only not get called for the foul but have people defend him “there was hardly anything in that.”

And United’s third goal came from a now patented Wayne Rooney dive. Wayne Rooney has a specific way that he dives. He kicks the ball away from himself and then pretends he is going to chase after the ball. If there is a defender anywhere near him? He falls over, back curled, arms spread out in his Jesus Christ pose, legs in the air, and always (and I mean ALWAYS) looks back at the referee. Here is a short compilation of some of his dives:

He did the exact same dive against Preston and conned referee Phil Dowd into giving a penalty. He anticipates contact and falls over despite no contact being made. It was a shameful act of cheating.*

That is how I would report the facts in that game. There is, however, a debate over whether Rooney did dive. Which is incredible. If you watch the video, and know that Rooney always does this move where he kicks the ball away and then dives, there can be no debate: that is a stone-cold dive. But crucially, you have to be able to see the video of the dive and of his previous dives in order to make that connection.

That is how I did report the facts in that game on twitter and on Vine. I posted a clip of Wayne Rooney diving to win the penalty, with my voice-over, which went viral. Stan Collymore tweeted my Vine (without including my twitter handle) and within minutes of that happening, the Vine was taken down and my Vine account suspended.

But the video is still here:

IMG_1771

And here:

And I still have the video on my phone. And I have a right to post that video under the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Laws in the United States of America.

“quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Boom… first sentence “excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment”. I am illustrating how Wayne Rooney dives. It is a pattern with him and he continued that pattern against Preston. I also had a clip of Marouane Fellaini shoving down a defender to score the second goal. Again, this is fair use, you cannot take that clip down, because it is illustrative of a pattern with Fellaini where he simply fouls defenders by shoving them in the back, in order to win headers in the box.

This censorship, however, is a pattern with the FA and with fans. They don’t ever have a problem with videos of players scoring goals but if you post a single video of a foul or of a referee getting a foul call wrong, your video will get taken down for copyright infringement within seconds. It’s a blatant attempt to expunge the records of any foul play. Rooney is a serial diver. He has a pattern to his dives. But because the record has been expunged of most of the evidence for his diving there is still some debate about whether he is a diver or not. In fact, after the match, several of the pundits on Sky (including his former teammate) claimed it wasn’t a dive. And on twitter, and among fans, there is a debate over whether he took a dive or not.

But there can be no debate. Wayne Rooney performed his patented dive in order to win a penalty against Preston North End. It is a shameful moment from the England captain. He should apologize and Man U should offer Preston a replay. A replay not just because of the dive, but because of the obstruction, the shove, and the dive.

But it won’t happen, because there is no honor in Manchester. Instead, the cover-up will begin, the FA will expunge the record, and people will debate about whether Rooney took a dive — even though that’s not really the debatable point.

Qq

*It was a shameful act of cheating which would have been caught if the FA implemented my idea of having two referees on the pitch. One in front of the play and one behind the play. Players get away with so much of this cheating because the referee is almost always behind the play. The simple solution is to have two referees, one in each half, each responsible for calling fouls as they see them.