Tag Archives: Football

Why is sectarianism still a problem in Scottish football?

In the past month, the ugly issue of sectarianism in Scottish football has been making headlines again.

Kilmarnock’s former Rangers striker Kris Boyd was struck by a coin and called an “Orange bastard” while he warmed up in front of travelling Celtic fans at Rugby Park.

At Ibrox, Boyd’s manager Steve Clarke had chants of “sad Fenian bastard” aimed at him during a Scottish Cup replay against Rangers.

The roots of sectarianism run deep in both Scottish football and society in general, and its most obvious manifestation is in the heated rivalry between Glasgow’s Old Firm rivals.

But why does it continue to disfigure the beautiful game north of the border when the religious divide that spawned it is no longer prominent in most people’s lives?

A city divided or united?

Located on the River Clyde, Glasgow grew to become a shipbuilding and steel-making powerhouse in the industrial revolution; its citizens take pride in the city’s history and what it means to be Glaswegian.

When tragedy strikes, its inhabitants are united. In recent years, the city has pulled together after the George Square refuse lorry accident (December 2014), which left six people dead and 15 injured.

The same community spirit was to the fore a year later when a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Bar, killing 10 and injuring 31. In between these sad events, Scotland hosted the Commonwealth Games using the slogan of ‘People Make Glasgow.’

All the stranger then, that an animosity borne out of differing religious beliefs still features in the life of this cosmopolitan, cultured city.

Of course, other football teams are available in the greater Glasgow area, but for most, it’s a case of being either Celtic or Rangers, green or blue, Catholic or Protestant.

For a good many, the rivalry will be confined to jokes and banter, but for others, it’s all about recalling famous battles in the 1600s or the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Sectarianism

One simple definition of sectarianism is “excessive attachment to a particular sect or party, especially in religion.”

The anti-sectarian Scottish pressure group Nil By Mouth defines it as: “Narrow-minded beliefs that lead to prejudice, discrimination, malice and ill-will towards members, or presumed members, of a religious denomination.”

Essentially, it’s a form of hatred, and Rangers and Celtic fans have a long and inglorious history of hating each other.

Even today, the politico-religious undertones still persist. Rangers current third strip is bright orange, while Celtic’s away shirt features a cross on its crest rather than the usual shamrock.

But both clubs only date back to the late 19th century. The Catholic-Protestant animosity extends back to the Reformation of the 1600s and was later fuelled by waves of Irish migrants, first fleeing the potato famines and then searching for work in the newly industrialised west of Scotland.

For much of the 20th century, Catholics in Scotland – particularly those of Irish descent – viewed themselves as an oppressed minority and Celtic as a symbol of their identity.

Rangers, meanwhile, were associated with Protestant unionist-loyalist values. Their first major signing of a Catholic player only came in 1989, when ex-Celtic striker Mo Johnston joined them.

Still an issue

That was 30 years ago now, and things have moved on, particularly since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 mostly ended the Troubles.

Throughout this era of conflict in Northern Ireland, it was common knowledge that in Celtic supporters clubs, money was raised for the IRA, while Rangers fans were associated with loyalist political and paramilitary groups.

Orange walks, in the build-up to the June 12th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, were huge affairs that would happen across Scotland and still do in some Protestant areas.

These links to the hostilities across the Irish Sea fuelled the violence that was once commonplace at Old Firm games but is now becoming a thing of the past.

Safe seating and better policing have played their part in this, as have broader changes in the make-up of Scottish society mirrored in football.

It is also ironic that in a survey in 2017 that almost three-quarters of Scots identified as atheists. With religion supposedly going into remission in Scotland, why are over 100,000 Scots indulging in pro-Catholic or Protestant songs and chants every weekend?

Some would argue that sectarianism, and other forms of hatred, have simply migrated online with the advent of social media.

Anonymous

Social media platforms have allowed bigots of various kinds to hide behind made-up names and share their toxic views and/or aim abuse and threats at others.

Some commentators believe this web-based bile has led to a rise in sexism and misogyny towards woman in football, as well as racist remarks made to black players.

Of course, you could argue that being part of huge crowds at Ibrox or Parkhead also offers a degree of anonymity which makes people behave in ways they wouldn’t outside of a football stadium.

Calling someone a ‘Fenian’ or a ‘Hun’ dehumanises them. As Jon Ronson discusses in his book So, You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,  we hurl abuse at people with whom we have so much in common – the only thing that really separates us is our football teams.

Ronson also claims: “A crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. Exaggerate, affirm, resort to repetition, and never attempt to prove anything by reasoning.”

A football fan can shout and swear for 90 minutes and then return to their normal life. Both Old Firm clubs have supporters who are civil servants, lawyers, doctors and other professionals who will sit among those shouting what amounts to vile hate speech – maybe they will even join in with some of it.

Society’s problem

A rise in hate crimes and hate speech haven’t only affected Scottish football or Scotland itself. From 2016- 2018, hate crimes in the UK increased by 40%, seemingly demonstrating a growing lack of tolerance for other people’s views and values.

Roisin Wood, chief executive of the anti-racism group Kick It Out, has become concerned with the rise of hate crime in football especially in England’s top divisions. There were more than 500 reports across the top four league last season. Five years ago, there was under 100.

‘How do you remove something from the game that has been there longer than the sport itself?’

Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings, on loan at Aston Villa, said: “On social media its all too easy to be racist. Just hide behind a fake picture, fake details and get away with it?”

It is difficult to find a solution to the rising tide of hate crime that isn’t only blighting football in Scotland but throughout the UK. With diverse communities behind each club, it is difficult to treat them all the same.

Pundits have suggested that the clubs should take more responsibility for rooting out the problem and if they fail to do so face either financial sanctions or point deductions.

But, in the context of Old Firm matches, how do you police or punish thousands of people in a stadium for singing sectarian songs or using chants that incite hatred?

Liverpool legend John Barnes recently said: “We all discriminate, and we have to admit it. Why I say that I discriminate unconsciously is because the environment that I’ve been brought up in shows me that and continues to show me that.”

Discrimination and sectarianism may be a part of everyone’s daily lives. However, it is something that we should strive to eradicate from our society as we strive to build an equal and free-thinking country.

It needs to be done on an individual basis, one by one, changing views and attitudes.

The hardest thing with sectarianism and its links to Scottish football is that anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant sentiments have existed since the 1600s. How do you remove something from the game that has been there longer than the sport itself?

Changes have to be made now. There has been far too much finger-pointing and blaming others from clubs who don’t accept that their own fans have issues. Clubs and fans need to accept that they have problems with racism, sectarianism and general discrimination and fix those from the bottom up.

AUDIO: The Elephant Sport Podcast – Varsity Edition

As Varsity 2018 approaches, the Elephant Sport Podcast brings to you a special edition from the LCC studios.

Hosted by Sam Taylor and Harry Dunning, the boys preview the upcoming games whilst chatting to a few prominent figures at UAL Sport.

All making their final Varsity appearances, Danny Olashore, Ed Kraurup and George Mitchell feature in the discussion. Each contributing to paint the Varsity picture.

East Midlands rivals battle to derby stalemate

Nottingham Forest and Derby County played out a first goalless draw since October 2002 in this hotly-contested 102nd East Midlands derby.

Despite almost 16 years having passed since that day, with 23 full- time managers between them and leagues swapped a handful of times, the passion of the rivalry remains, as confirmed by an attendance of nearly 30,000.

Before kick-off, the Upper Trent End was a sea of red and white as a massive banner of Giuseppe Garibaldi – nodding towards the founding of their colours – was erected, along with the words that read ‘The Garibaldi we wear with pride was made in 1865’ as the lower tier waved their scarves and flags to create a sight to behold.

The City Ground was rocking

Footage of Forest under Brian Clough and Peter Taylor was shown in a hair-raising and emotional showreel – whilst also stirring the Rams’ emotions of the great man also leading them to glory.

The atmosphere was electric as Mull of Kintyre blasted around the ground, with the players entering the pitch fully pumped up.

The scene was set for a thrilling Championship encounter. Unfortunately, the football that follows doesn’t always match the build-up.

Despite some meaty challenges, an intriguing battle ended in stalemate. Certainly no-one would have predicted a first 0-0 in a derby match at the City Ground since 1906.

“It’s been an emotional game, an emotional derby. I’m pleased because we’re improving,” said Forest boss Aitor Karanka, whose team are 15th in the table and unbeaten in six matches.

“I am pleased for our young players because of the way they’re improving.”

Pantilimon to the rescue

Forest made one change to their line-up as Lee Tomlin replaced Kieran Dowell in midfield, whilst Derby made two as Bradley Johnson and Ikechi Anya replaced the injured Joe Ledley, with Kasey Palmer dropping to the bench.

The opening was cagey and short of any real quality, with some heavy challenges from both sides as they battled to take control.

Andi Weimann saw a shot well blocked by Danny Fox, who was superb all afternoon, before Joe Lolley went on a surging run but his through ball just eluded Matty Cash for the home side.

Those two then linked up again, with the former whipping in a ball for the latter, but his header at the near post was too far in front of anyone.

As the game got into its rhythm, both sides had their chances, with Tom Lawrence flashing a shot wide before Tomlin found some space outside of the box but his shot was well off target.

Costel Pantilimon made a succession of vital saves in the 0-0 draw

Lawrence was booked for simulation, but Derby could have felt themselves unfortunate not to be ahead at the break.

Weimann got in behind Ben Osborn and his fierce shot was parried away by Costel Pantilimon, who the Reds were indebted to for keeping them level.

After his initial save, a combination of the Romanian and Tendayi Darikwa somehow kept Lawrence’s goal-bound effort out of the net.

The resulting corner was almost whipped all the way in by the former Leicester man, but Pantilimon was alert to push the ball out and away from danger as the two sides headed into the break level.

Rowett feeling the pressure

Forest failed to register a shot on target in the game, but they really should have done so with their best chance of the game shortly after the restart.

Cash hounded the Derby defence into a mistake just inside their half and played the ball through to Ben Brereton. The striker used his pace to power forward. The Trent End stood to their feet in unison, as they held their breath.

The 18-year-old should have shot and made himself the hero, but he instead chose to try and square to Cash who had continued his run, but his cut back was weak and allowed Scott Carson to gather, to the groans of the home fans.

He then rose highest to meet a cross, but under pressure he headed over.

With the Rams fifth in the table, without a win in six and only two victories in 2018, their automatic promotion hopes were fading – and they were looking over their shoulder of the chasing play-off pack.

With that in mind, they started to take control as they attempted to find an elusive winner.

Johnson’s powerful free-kick looked destined for the back of the net with 15 minutes left to play, but it was superbly blocked by the Reds wall.

Derby huffed and puffed, camping Forest in their own box. There were a few scrambles, but nothing every truly troubled the hosts’ back five.

Huddlestone saw red for Derby

With 81 minutes gone, the Rams were reduced to 10 men as Tom Huddlestone was given a second yellow for chopping down Tomlin after the on-loan Cardiff man had taken the ball past the midfielder.

It set up an interesting final few minutes, but the home side never looked like pressing home their numerical advantage.

Darikwa powered into the box, but his heavy touch resulted in him lunging into a tackle and giving away a free-kick. Ben Watson almost played in Daryl Murphy, but his through ball was just cut out.

The Rams’ disciplined defence dealt with everything thrown at them, and in the end both sides had to settle for a point.

At the end of the game, Rowett came onto the pitch to remonstrate with the referee about the sending off, before he, Watson and Tomlin had a little shoving match with the Rams gaffer clearly annoyed and displaying the signs of a man under pressure.

The managers’ thoughts:

“Forest have got nothing to lose in some ways, but they look to me very happy with a point,” said former Burton Albion and Birmingham manager Rowett.

“The fact is, Scott Carson had nothing to do all afternoon. We just couldn’t take our opportunities.

“I’m really pleased with the effort, just disappointed with the result.

“It’s another game where we’ve been the better team but we just can’t turn that draw in to a win.

“But the reality is, I’m not sure we could have done an awful lot more.”

Forest manager Karanka added: “We managed the game in the right way. Six weeks ago we weren’t a team. Now we feel a team. Now at least, once again, we are a team on the pitch.”

Teams:

Forest: Pantlimon, Darikwa, Figueiredo, Fox, Osborn, Watson (c), Colback, Cash, Tomlin, Lolley (Dowell 77′), Brereton (Murphy 85′)

Unused subs: Kapino, Mancienne, Bridcutt, Vellios, Worrall

Bookings: Colback 33′, Watson 75′, Figueiredo 79′, Darikwa 90′

Derby: Carson, Wisdom, Keogh (c), Davies, Forsyth, Huddlestone, Anya (Palmer 66′), Johnson, Weimann, Lawrence (Hanson 84′), Nugent (Jerome 66′)

Unused subs: Roos, Pearce, Thomas, Bogle

Bookings: Lawrence 28′, Huddlestone 78′, 81′

Sent off: Huddlestone 81′

Referee: Jeremy Simpson

Attendance: 29,106 (1,995 away)

 

 

Betting shop

Football’s addiction to betting sponsorship puts fans at risk

When Leicester City announced a new ‘official betting partner’ in August 2017, few would have begrudged the former Premier League Champions their deal.

This close and special relationship with Dafabet was, according to the club website, going to allow the club to “build its international profile” and “help engage Leicester’s huge worldwide fanbase.” Well, what was the purpose of Walkers Crisps, then?

Just a week later, the club took to the website once again: “Leicester City announces Ladbrokes as new official UK and Ireland betting partner for 2017/18.” Yes, that’s right. One club, one season, two separate gambling company sponsors.

Jason Puncheon advertises Crystal Palace’s betting partners

My discomfort at the close bond between football and betting, unfortunately, does not stop with Leicester City. It is the bombardment of ‘price boost’ adverts everywhere you look.

Gambling on the shirt

This season nine out of the 20 Premier League clubs have bookies’ names plastered across their famous jerseys in deals worth a combined £47.3 million. Gambling is also infiltrating the supposedly sanctimonious BBC.

Research conducted by University of London, Goldsmiths, showed that during one episode of Match Of The Day on April 15 2017, out of 85 minutes of total programme running time, gambling brands were visible to viewers (through shirt sponsors, pitch-side billboards or post-match interview backgrounds) for 33.5 minutes (39%).

The figures balloon when you look at broadcasts on commercial channels.

We assume that technology is making our lives better, but is it really? Many will argue that having the option to watch at least one elite level European match every day of the week is a good thing.

Whether all-consuming football makes you happy or not, the fact is it’s done so the clubs can generate as much exposure for their shirt sponsors who pay millions for the benefit.

How many of those in favour of midweek mediocre mid-table clashes such as Swansea versus Watford actually watch for the love of Troy Deeney’s insatiable goalscoring appetite? Maybe they’re just praying for a return on their hours spent researching Watford’s away record at the Liberty Stadium.

Getting hooked

FA rules ban replica shirts in child sizes that display products considered, “detrimental to the welfare, health or general well-being of young persons.” So what message are we sending out to our young people by making the beautiful game synonymous with gambling? If we, as adults, can’t enjoy football purely for what it is, how ever will we get our children to grow to love it?

Newcastle United players model their famous black and white jersey for the 2017-18 season

In the 2002-03 season, Fulham became the first English club to emblazon their shirts with a bookmaker’s name, the fairly innocuous Betfair. Since then it has snowballed and now logos include words like ‘fun’ and ‘man’, they’re target markets obvious.

It’s not to say there is anything wrong with an occasional flutter, but gone are those days when a well-gained insight gives way to a hunch. The constant reminders and promotions, on commercial TV and radio alike, encourage incessant wagering on an unnatural scale.

Martin Calladine, author and football blogger who also works in advertising, believes there are even darker motives at play: “I don’t think there is any doubt that the plan for bookmakers is to hook football fans in with betting on matches they attend or watch on TV and then move them onto more profitable forms of gambling, like FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals).”

These FOBT machines in bookmakers allow punters to stake large amounts on casino games like roulette.

“It’s a classic marketing strategy,” Calladine explains, “for industries concerned that the truth about where their profits come from would be publicly unpalatable — you promote a product that feels homely and unobjectionable to protect your image.”

Barton ban

One man who knows all too well about football and gambling is Joey Barton. The much-travelled midfielder fell foul of FA rules banning players from betting on the sport and was banned for 18 months, effectively ending his career.

Joey Barton playing for Burnley and advertising another bookmakers

Barton, along with many others, was angered at the severity of the ban.

“I think if they found out everyone who had been betting and cracked down on it, you’d have half the league out,” declared Barton. “I think 50 per cent of the playing staff would be taken out because it’s culturally engrained.”

How hypocritical of the FA to, on one hand take sponsorship money from bookies like Ladbrokes, and then act surprised when it realises there is a negative culture existing.

A public backlash in 2017 led to the FA abandoning its partnership with Ladbrokes after just one year. It also reduced Barton’s ban by five months.

Clearly the FA was accepting some responsibility for the mess, but for the Premier League and Football League to follow suit would be unlikely considering the appetite for increasing annual revenues.

These days, it might seem a bizarre suggestion to look across the pond for wisdom. However, attitudes in the United States against gambling are so strong that, in 2015, the NFL banned players from attending a fantasy football event in Las Vegas merely because it was being held in an exhibition centre adjoining a casino.

Of course the US is a different beast because of different gambling laws throughout the states and nobody is calling for measures that draconian.

It may be wise however, for the football authorities to consider how the entanglement of football and betting will impact on the sport and its fans down the line.

Betting shop image by Kake via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A gay pro coming out? ‘Media intrusion is putting them off’

After a weekend of football supporting the rainbow laces campaign and LGBT equality, it’s clear the sport is committed to making football accessible for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.

From the Premier League down to League Two, players, managers and officials including Spurs star Eric Dier, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and referee Martin Atkinson endorsed the campaign.

Corner flags usually adorned with a club’s crest were replaced with ones bearing the rainbow colours. Twitter profile pictures of the EFL, Premier League and clubs were all transformed to support the cause.

It was a clear sign of support for the LGBT community, with many clubs also supporting LGBT groups and the Premier League having a three-year deal with Stonewall, the LGBT rights group.

And yet not everyone was visible in backing the campaign. Not one player at the London Stadium wore the laces as West Ham played Leicester on Friday, and you only need to look at Twitter to see some of the vile comments generated by the weekend’s activities.

‘I don’t know when it will happen’

Homophobia is still rife in the game, and Wycombe midfielder Matt Bloomfield admits he has no idea when the first gay player will come out.

The 33-year-old became the first player to sign the government’s ‘Football against Homophobia’ charter in October 2011 on behalf of the Chairboys. The aim of the charter is to provide a backing and show that people’s sexuality is not an issue.

But six years later, Bloomfield says the day that a male professional footballer comes out as gay in this country could still be some time away.

“I’ve got no idea when it will happen,” he says. “When I signed the charter in 2011, I hoped it would be soon. It’s not looking like it’s going to be imminent, but I hope it will be soon.

‘In 2017 being gay is part of common life, so it’s shame there’s no openly gay footballers’

“I’ve no right to say when a player should come out. They should be able to live their life as they want, and they should feel comfortable and confident.

‘’I haven’t come across any gay players, but [if I did] I hope they would confide in me. I have no issues with it, but unfortunately no one has been confident enough to do it yet.

‘’In 2017 being gay is part of common life, so it’s shame there’s no openly gay footballers.’’

Intrusion

In the past few years, former Aston Villa defender Thomas Hitzlsperger and Leeds United player Robbie Rogers have both confirmed they are gay, but only after ending their playing careers, with  with the former revealing it would have been “impossible” to come out whilst playing.

Bloomfield, who has racked up over 450 appearances for Wycombe, agrees with the former Germany player. “There would be a lot of media intrusion,” he agrees. “Particularly in the Premier League, there would be great intrusion into their private life.

“They would be followed to training, watched to see what they’re getting up to at home and wherever they go, and their private lives would go. They would be followed everywhere and they’d be put massively into the spotlight.

“That could trickle onto the terraces and into the changing room, and they may well suffer some abuse over it.

“They wouldn’t be able to focus on their career, and I think the fear of that is putting a gay player off from coming out. They want to focus on playing and don’t want the hassle it would bring.”

Fashanu

Fashanu remains the only high-profile footballer to come out whilst playing

Justin Fashanu was the first openly gay player in the 1980s, but it was reported his Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough would abuse him for being gay.

Arriving from Norwich for £1m in 1981, the striker was sold on the cheap across the Trent to Notts County a year later.

He struggled with his career amid his sexuality, playing for a further 17 clubs. In 1990, The Sun revealed he was gay. Just eight years later, amid sexual assault allegations, he committed suicide.

Whilst Bloomfield believes LGBT rights are becoming more widely accepted, he says Fashanu’s sad story still acts a case in point in putting players off from coming out.

‘’It was 30-odd-years ago, so we have moved on. LGBT acceptance is better now than then and will get better in the next 20, 30, 40 years,’’ he says. I’m pleased with how things are as acceptance is becoming the norm.

‘’But until a gay player comes out, Fashanu will still be a reference point and it’s a shame.

‘’A player will be massively in the spotlight. Fashanu would have been better off now, so it’s really sad. Hopefully we will see a gay player very soon.’’

Education

The ex-England youth international is a part of the Justin Campaign, set up in 2008 to remember Fashanu and to provide a message that football is open and there is acceptance. In recent years there has been a clampdown on racial abuse due to education, and Bloomfield believes education is important.

“I was at an event the campaign had set up and I was speaking to a Nottingham Forest fan. He was saying how he hears homophobic slang and abuse, yet racial abuse is frowned upon,’’ he says.

“There’s no difference between racist and homophobic abuse. Both are abuse.

“My uncle was gay, so from my own point of view I have always seen being gay as normal. That upbringing has shaped me as an adult. Some people have different upbringings and those influences can rub off on you, making them narrow as an adult.

“Children and young adults may hear slang and think it’s acceptable. Both adults and children need to be educated, because it’s unacceptable.”

Stereotype

Bloomfield is also a qualified journalist, having completed a degree in sports writing and broadcasting at Staffordshire University, and has written about around homophobia in football on the BBC website.

There was a time, he said, when he put his name into Google and it would come up with ‘Matt Bloomfield gay’. Whilst he says he has no issues as he is comfortable in his own skin, with his wife and children, he believes stereotyping of footballers may well be a hindrance.

Ex-Chelsea player Graham Le Saux became – in his words – the “non-gay gay icon” just because he didn’t fit the stereotype.

“Just because he is well-spoken, read books and had other hobbies people, just thought ‘oh, he is gay’.”

‘’He did play 20-odd years ago when there wouldn’t have been as much acceptance, but footballers have a stereotype as being uneducated,’’ he says.

‘’Just because he is well-spoken, read books and had other hobbies, people just thought ‘oh, he is gay’. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

‘’He can’t be a proper player because he is smart and enjoys other things in life. It’s stupid.

‘’But newspapers want to sell copies, so they will run nonsense like that. That’s life.

‘’Players want to concentrate on playing. They have enough to deal with in personal life without the media intrusion.

‘’The case of Le Saux does put pros off from coming out.’’

Support

In a recent Daily Star interview with former Stoke City player Carl Hoefkens, the Belgian claimed that a household name at the club did bring he boyfriend to training.

Bloomfield said is surprised by such comments, but believes the Professional Footballers Association will help players to reveal their sexuality as and when they want.

“I was really surprised to see such comments, because he was so open. The identity could have easily been leaked, they could have been followed and snapped, and with social media anything can be spread at the touch of a button.

“But I feel they do have they support they need. The PFA and FA have taken great strides in helping to deal with the stigma of mental health. Yes, more can be done, but they are committed to helping players and supporting them in their decisions.

“They are trying to get rid of the stigma and support openly gay players. I hope it happens soon.”

For more information about Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, click here.

Eagles spurred to first win by sudden death of club founder

Letchworth Eagles Ladies paid a fitting tribute to club founder Vince Paige by gaining their first points of the season with a 3-0 win over Sandy Ladies.

Their fine victory over the table-toppers came just days after Paige, who established the Eagles in 1979, died from a heart attack.

A statement on the club’s website said: “How do you replace the irreplaceable? Vince will be sadly missed by his many friends in the football world.”

All three senior Letchworth teams won their respective games over the weekend following Paige’s death.

Every single Letchworth side – men, women, boys and girls of all age groups – started their games with a minute’s silence followed by a minute’s applause in his memory.

Momentum

The Eagles, who hadn’t won or drawn in their previous eight matches, started strongly against Sandy with a strike from Amy Atsma after just 10 minutes.

The black-and-blues kept up the momentum and continued to pile the pressure on the league leaders, who had only lost once going into this fuxture.

Two more goals followed in the second half. Ellie Watson slotted home just after the hour mark, and Louise Mylles sealed their first win of the season in the 85th minute, showing quick reactions following a saved shot.

Sandy came up against an Eagles backline in resolute form, and Letchworth manager Warren Shimell said: “That’s why I run a team, for days like today.

“On the way out, their manager came over to me and said he hasn’t met a defence like ours all season. It was such a solid performance from everyone in every position.”

Letchworth’s captain Tasha Reynolds added: “The win was more than deserved, and I’m very excited to see what we can pull out of the bag for the rest of the season.”

The FA Cup’s Top 5 ‘Cupsets’

cupset

n. (context sports British slang English) An upset in a cup competition.

After the heroics of Lincoln City and Millwall in this season’s Emirates FA Cup, Elephant Sport delves through the archives, and looks back at our top 5 cupsets of all time.

5: Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United – FA Cup 3rd Round – 8/1/1984

Division Three strugglers knock out holders

Third division strugglers Bournemouth, managed by fledgling boss Harry Redknapp, upset the odds as they dumped cup holders Man Utd out of the competition.

The Reds, then managed by Ron Atkinson, were rocked by goals from Milton Graham and Ian Thompson as their star studded line-up, including the likes of Arnold Muhren, Arthur Albiston and England Captain Bryan Robson, were dismantled by the Cherries.

Trouble ensued on the terraces, but Bournemouth held on to record one of the biggest FA Cup upset’s of all time, on a day billed by Harry Redknapp as “The best of my life”.

4: Leicester City 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers – FA Cup 6th Round – 10/3/2001

The tale of the Teletext striker

Record fees, big wages, cheesy medical photos and managers hanging their heads out of cars. Those are some of the answer’s you expect to receive if you were to ask the regular football fan about the transfer window.

But take a trip back in time to 2001 and things were a little different for Wycombe Wanderers. With an injury list including SIX strikers , Wycombe manager and Cup hero Lawrie Sanchez turned to Teletext to fill the breach left by his depleted forward line.

The solo reply to his message came from Roy Essandoh, a forward who’s career had taken him to Scotland and Finland, via Austria. His impact as a second half substitute would send him into FA Cup folklore and the Chairboy’s into the semi-finals.

In an action-packed game at Filbert Street, Wycombe took the lead through a Paul McCarthy strike, and whilst Muzzy Izzet equalised for the hosts, Essandoh won it for the Chairboys.

Wycombe would go on to be knocked out in the semi-finals by Liverpool, with Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler cancelling out Keith Ryan’s opener.

On a sadder note, the world of football lost McCarthy this week aged 45 with tributes pouring in for the former Wycombe and Brighton and Hove Albion defender.

YouTube Preview Image

(Video Courtesy of FA TV)

3: Lincoln City vs Burnley – FA Cup 5th Round – 18/2/2017

Non League underdogs shock Premier League opponents

Lincoln City were history-makers as they broke a record dating back to 1914 by defeating Sean Dyche’s Premier League outfit.

The Imps, managed by brothers Danny and Nicky Cowley, struck in the 89th minute through a towering Sean Raggett header to take the non-leaguers through to the 6th round of this season’s Cup, a feat that had last been achieved by non-league QPR in 103 years ago.

But the Imp’s FA Cup story didn’t start in the 5th round, as they successfully negotiated their way through rounds 3 and 4 leaving Ipswich Town and Brighton & Hove Albion in their wake.

A champagne tie at the Emirates Stadium awaits them this weekend, which will no doubt boost the finances of a club that has seemingly steered itself out of troubled waters.

YouTube Preview Image

(Video courtesy of FATV)

2: Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley – FA Cup 5th Round – 16/2/2008

Lets talk about facts

Barnsley, then managed by Simon Davey, head to Anfield languishing in the lower echelons of the Championship. The 90 minutes of football that ensued would be remembered by football fans across the nation.

Already under pressure following his failure to deliver silverware at Anfield, Rafa Benitez fielded a line-up that featured international pedigree including Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Sami Hyypia and John-Arne Riise.

However the tricky Tykes were not star-struck as they levelled the game through Stephen Foster following Kuyt’s opener.

A string of saves from former Manchester United goalkeeper Luke Steele kept Barnsley in the tie, with Brian Howard winning it in the final minute to send them into Round 6.

Whilst Liverpool’s Cup campaign faltered, the Tykes then took another Premier League scalp in the form of Chelsea.

Kayode Odejayi netted the winner to dump the holders out of the cup that day, and send the Tykes to Wembley for a semi-final showdown with eventual runners-up Cardiff City.

A year later, Davey was sacked, and following spells with non-league Darlington and Hereford, has never managed professionally since.

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(Video courtesy of BBC/Barnsley FC)

1: Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United – FA Cup Final – 5/5/1973

“There is no way that Sunderland can beat Leeds”- Brian Clough

The big-spending Leeds United of the 1970s were simply a football machine, featuring some of the country’s finest footballing talent in their ranks.

They took on lowly Second Division Sunderland, managed by the charismatic Bob Stokoe, at Wembley and what followed would be widely classed as the greatest FA Cup shock of all time, and produced Sunderland’s solitary piece of post-war silverware.

The tie would be decided by two moments of brilliance, buoyed by Leeds’ instability. Sunderland took the lead through Ian Porterfield who slammed the ball past David Harvey in the Leeds goal.

A Leeds onslaught followed, with Sunderland keeper Jimmy Montgomery pulling off a string of fine saves, including one from Leeds maverick Peter Lorimer, to keep the Mackems in the game.

Sunderland held on to take the Cup and in turn send ‘Dirty Leeds’ back to Yorkshire without the trophy that they had clinched the season before against Arsenal.

It was a result that sent shockwaves through the footballing world.

Q&A with Fanfair co-founder Connor Reddy

In today’s footballing world, much of the real action is in debate and discussion across social media platforms. 

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to name just a few, have become the home for fans’ views, opinions and knee-jerk reactions across the globe.

A new app, Fanfair, dedicated solely to football, hopes to join that list. Shortly before it went live, Fanfair’s co-founder Connor Reddy spoke to Elephant Sport about the app and what he hoped it would add to the existing market.

What is Fanfair?

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©Fanfair

Fanfair is a new live-streaming platform that brings live football news and opinions together to spark discussions amongst fans. It seeks to be a live football community bringing fans from all around the world together to voice their opinions in a live environment with other like-minded fans.

How did the idea come about?

One evening watching the same old pundits rambling on Sky Sports, we began to wonder why it was only their opinion getting a platform and yet the average guy has to scramble together a 140-character message and hope not to get lost in the thick of it.

Surely the fan on the street had has much of a say as these guys being paid to churn out the same lines week in, week out?

What did you use as your inspiration for how Fanfair would work? 

©Wikimedia Commons

We looked at a company called Twitch that specialises in video game live-streaming, the reason being because they managed to build a community out of the passion of gaming, instead of just creating another social network or streaming application.

They really brought together a community, and that’s what we want to do with Fanfair.

They created a medium for true fans to interact with each other over a shared passion but also provide a stage for anyone and everyone to showcase their skill irrelevant of experience.

What makes Fanfair unique in this era of social media where football is already heavily discussed across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube?

In essence, Fanfair aims to be the sole social platform dedicated exclusively to football fans.

On a feature front, our unique audio commenting allows fans the chance to engage with one another like never before on a live-stream. We as football fans ourselves love to have ourselves heard when we’re raising our point to our mates, and this is what we are trying to recreate.

Traditionally, people have phoned into radio talk shows to have their say on the game, and we’re trying to simplify that process. We feel by using speech comments, we give passionate football fans the chance to really get across the emotion of what they’re feeling about the final score.

What do you aim to accomplish with Fanfair?

©Fanfair

Ultimately, we want to change the way fans interact with one another and make that a simpler and more emotive process for them to engage with one another.

Over the long-term, we want to develop Fanfair into a wider idea that transcends simply a football discussion app.

This has the potential to take form in an all-singing, all-dancing sports platform for fans of various sports and develop a fan-led content platform for the digital era that takes over traditional mediums such as radio.

With a younger, digital-savvy generation on the rise, our overall vision for Fanfair would be to see it become an innovative and interactive version of sports radio shows, where fans curate the content and have their say on the biggest talking points from the game.

Can you tell us more about a couple of Fanfair’s main features?

We decided to integrate live news into the app to help stimulate the conversation. A lot of live-streaming apps out there seem to be struggling to answer why to go live. We’re providing our community with a catalyst of live news to spark discussion.

Our audio comment feature gives fans the chance to voice their opinion so they can finally be heard. We noticed that all the other live-streaming apps out there focused heavily on the video aspect, whereas we want to place the emphasis on the actual engagement between fans and 140 characters just doesn’t constitute engagement in our opinion.

We’ve also implemented a ranking system that rates from: bronze, silver and gold with everyone starting from bronze irrelevant of their external background. The reason for this was because we wanted to allow validation for people’s opinions from other fans but also encourage those who want to build their own profile within the community.

What would you say is your favourite feature or aspect of Fanfair and why?

Definitely our audio feature, as we really want to be able to capture the real emotion that someone’s feeling when they’re talking about their team or a topic that resonates with them.

Why should football fans download Fanfair?

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©Fanfair

Football fans should download Fanfair and join the community because they’ll finally have an interactive way to discuss with fellow fans about the game they love.

We’re taking the football discussions you have with your friends and connecting you to other people who share some of the same ideas! If you’re sick of hearing the same old pundits using the same old clichés, then Fanfair is for you!

Heated football discussions can sometimes provoke the wrong kind of passion. People can go from simply disagreeing with a point someone’s made to eventually insulting or even threatening them. How does Fanfair plan to combat this and, ultimately, keep the environment a civilised place?

We strongly believe that the platform needs to be real and authentic. For that to be the case, we have to allow people with differing views to interact with one another. We have our own moderation team who will block and delete content that we feel has crossed a line, and we are clear that we do not accept abuse and threats from one user to another.

Fanfair was born from the passion of football and we want to harness that to unite people and accept that you can disagree with someone else’s view, but that doesn’t mean you can’t respect them.

Much like with any social media platform, ultimately it comes with the territory that you are going to have to moderate the content. We allow users to block others and report inappropriate content and are looking at measures to put in place going forward, which will put the emphasis on users who are constantly engaged with the platform to moderate the community as well as the team in the back-end.

Where can those interested in trying out Fanfair download the app?

You can join the community via the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. We’re always looking to improve the app so it benefits our community, so feel free to send us feedback at team.ff@fanfair.co as we’re always willing to listen to new ideas and opinions!

Featured image: ©Fanfair

Elephant Sport Podcast – The Rise of Online Streaming

Mike Newell and Lucas Chomicki investigate why more sports fans are turning to internet streaming to watch live events.

The increasing availability of illegal feeds is a growing problem for broadcasters anxious to protect their multi-billion pound investments in sports rights.

Sky and BT Sport paid £5.1bn between them for the current Premier League deal, but what happens when fans aren’t prepared to pay for what they view?

This vox pop features anonymous interviewees because of the subject under discussion.

 

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Q&A With Di Stéfano author Ian Hawkey

Ian Hawkey has recently published his second book, Di Stéfano, following the critical success of his debut outing Feet of the Chameleon. 

Elephant Sport caught up with the esteemed author and journalist to talk about the book.

First of all, congratulations on writing one of the best sports books of the year. How different was the writing process of this in comparison to your debut book, Feet of the Chameleon?

The subjects were very different. Feet of the Chameleon was very wide-ranging, covering a continent, Africa, and well over a century of football there, so in some ways I had to be more selective from the start in that.

A biography is a different beast, although Alfredo Di Stéfano led such a full, varied and fascinating life that I also ended up with more material than there was space for.

That’s a good position to be in, in many ways, of course, but it means one of the challenges is to decide what’s most relevant to the way the man was, his circumstances, his influences, his habits, while giving the right weight to his achievements, which were phenomenal.

You are the first person to publish a book on Alfredo di Stéfano in English. Does that come with a lot of pressure? To get his story right; to enlighten a bigger audience?

I certainly thought there was a gap, in that a book on Alfredo Di Stéfano didn’t exist in English.

He is arguably the greatest individual in the world’s most popular sport, and the other candidates for that status have all been written about extensively in books in English (Pele, Johann Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi).

As for pressure, any biographer – and every journalist, I hope – feels a duty to represent their subject fairly, so that’s a pressure in a way, but the process of discovery is very rewarding.

If you could pinpoint one exact moment where you thought “I need to write about Di Stéfano,” what was it?

I suppose it was when I first met him. I was working in Spain, covering Real Madrid a lot and, although he was in his 70s, he still had a huge influence on the club because he had lifted it to greatness, and set standards that every generation since of Madrid players, coaches and fans measure the club by.

He was the honorary president in those years, and though he wasn’t always that approachable, he was fascinating to talk to, and very in touch with modern football.

He had done so much to shape it, I soon realised, which drove me towards the idea of an in-depth book about him. Happily, Ebury, my publisher, shared that idea.

In the book, we learn about Di Stéfano almost as a celebrity – one of football’s first. The parties he held at his house were one of the many indicators. How do you feel he would have settled into this age of modern football?

bookThat is a very good question. In many ways he was the first global superstar of the sport, I would say, in that he had this instant recognition – we can call it celebrity – outside the pitch and well beyond the borders of wherever he was playing.

Much of what he did on and off the field broke the mould of how football worked in his era.

On the playing side, he did things tactically that were very innovative and he had all the physical and technical assets to shine in any era. I think he’d have been a star in the 21st century on par with a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Messi.

He could be confrontational off the field, standing up to his bosses, and certainly having a clear idea of his value.

Footballers in his era were certainly not the multi-millionaires that so many are today, but his challenges to what he perceived as an unfair balance of work-and-reward in favour of those who ran the game and not those who played it had a long-term effect in terms of making the player more free to choose his employer and to earn more.

He also did things in terms of advertising and marketing that hadn’t been done before. Put it this way, if Di Stéfano was around now, you’d see his image on all sorts of things, from Playstation to the latest boots, to various fashion accessories.

What is it about Di Stéfano that makes him such an interesting character to write about? Is it the success? The goals? His family life?

I think with all very successful individuals, there’s always a curiosity about what drives or drove them. Sometimes with sports people, it’s hard to specify beyond their exceptional physical gifts.

With Di Stéfano, he had a fierce competitive impulse, and when I say fierce, it could be quite alarming, even for seasoned professionals who played alongside him.

He also had that creative imagination that captures public interest, the ability to improvise on the pitch, and thrill a crowd.

“Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi influenced the way football is played as much as Di Stéfano. He was as brilliant as any of them, so, with his legacy taken into consideration, he’s number one.”

That takes a certain non-conformist attitude to achieve, I think, and that’s fascinating to understand. He was charismatic, too, even if he could be a bit grumpy sometimes.

In his life he faced a number of setbacks and seeing how he responded to those was one of the main points of interest.

His professional training didn’t prepare him for many of them – for events like being kidnapped by guerrillas in South America for example.

It may be blasphemous to some, but do you think we will ever see a player of Di Stéfano’s ilk again? Someone with a rebel-streak who is also outrageously gifted and successful?

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Ian Hawkey

That’s a very good question. There is a tendency these days to believe there is something a bit robotic about very successful modern footballers, or maybe all elite athletes in team sports, and maybe because of that to romanticise the flawed geniuses of the past, like Maradona or George Best.

I suppose you might characterise a footballer like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, because he is outspoken and sometimes anti-authoritarian, in that ilk, although Di Stéfano was a better, more influential player than Ibrahimovic, I would confidently say.

You travelled around South America when working on the book. Did you at any point get any ideas for a different book? Perhaps a different player, maybe?

It’s hard to be around South American football and not recognise hundreds of great stories that would make a book!

Certainly, in the period that Alfredo Di Stéfano was playing there – in Argentina in the late 1940s and in Colombia until the early 1950s – it was turbulent, often brilliant and gloriously unpredictable.

The whole episode of the rebel Colombian league, which, out of nowhere, brought in some of the best players in the world, including from Europe, in the late 1940s, would make a great book.

Pele said Di Stefano was the “greatest” player of all-time. What does Ian Hawkey himself think? Is he the “greatest”?

This will sound like a fence-sitting cop-out … but, it is genuinely hard to compare across eras.

Watch the footage of Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid of the 1950s and 1960s now and you can appreciate why they were setting new standards, but you also note how slow the pace of their games are compared with modern elite football.

Now, I believe Di Stéfano would have had no difficulty living with that speed, assuming he trained like a modern player, well into his 30s. More than that, he’d have thrived in it, because he was so quick-minded and for most of his career, exceptionally quick on his feet and as strong as an ox.

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Di Stéfano and Pele

The other issue is that we don’t see that footage very often, whereas we still get exposed regularly to colour television images of Pele, Cruyff, Maradona exhibiting their brilliance.

It’s that above all that maybe makes them more appreciated than Di Stéfano, who had the other disadvantage, usually for reasons of bad timing, to have not played in a World Cup.

And, in my view, none of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi influenced the way football is played as much as Di Stéfano. He was as brilliant as any of them, so, with his legacy taken into consideration, he’s number one.

Elephant Sport would like to thank Ian Hawkey for his time. Di Stéfano is published by Ebury Press, hardback £16.59. For more details, click here.