Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA: Blatter leaves more questions than answers in press conference

Posted in International Football by peterbein on May 30, 2011
Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter's answers did not satisfy many at today's press conference

Just when FIFA President Sepp Blatter had the chance to reassure any sceptics that he is the right man to lead world football’s governing body for a fourth straight term along comes a bizarre performance from him in a specially arranged press conference at FIFA House in Zurich this evening.

With allegations of corruption and civil war breaking out within the upper echelons of what Blatter himself calls “the FIFA family”, today’s press conference was supposed to show the world that the president elect was on message and would reassure football fans and the waiting press that he was the man for the job. However once the press conference got under way he put a brave face on the current problems affecting FIFA by stating that the sport and the organisation was “not in a crisis” but only suffering some “difficulties” whilst insisting that any problems would be solved “inside our family”. This was too much to bear for some reporters who shouted him down at the end of what will go down as one of Blatter’s more brazen performances, continually answering most of the journalists’ questions with answers one could only describe as being like a default setting.

Before the press conference began news had come through that the two suspended FIFA members at the heart of corruption allegations, Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, would appeal their suspensions. Later on there was more news involving FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke who will now have to answer questions regarding an email he had sent to Warner regarding the legality of Qatar’s successful 2022 FIFA World Cup hosting bid and which could be used as a stick with which to implicate Blatter in further investigations. The irony about Blatter’s press conference today was that the more he talked about transparency the more he dodged questions about any of the central figures involved in the case.

In the current climate this is a very sad indictment on what FIFA has become and against what FIFA wishes to stand for, Respect and Fair Play.

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FIFA: Changes needed as internal strife continues

Posted in International Football by peterbein on May 29, 2011
Mohamed Bin Hammam

Mohamed Bin Hammam has withdrawn his candidacy for the FIFA presidency

The ongoing story regarding allegations of corruption at the very heart of world football’s governing body FIFA seems to have taken the game to an all-time low. Surely the only way for these allegations to be addressed is for an independent body to look at the crux of the matter and investigate every figure who is alleged to have been involved. With more questions than answers in a case which won’t go away the last thing that FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter should do is to bury their heads in the sand.

Even by the standards of the FIFA scandal there have been some very interesting developments in the last 24 hours. Mohamed Bin Hammam, head of the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA presidential candidate, announced on his personal website that he was officially withdrawing his candidacy, thus giving the current holder of the post Sepp Blatter free reign to win a fourth straight term of office unopposed. This, he explained, would allow him the opportunity to clear his name and he explained that he felt saddened at the state of events because he “cannot allow the name [i.e. FIFA] that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals.”

Then on Sunday afternoon came the news that both Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, the Vice-President of FIFA who is also at the centre of the allegation claims made by CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, have been suspended by the FIFA’s ethics committee who, despite protestations from Bin Hammam and Warner, also stated that “no investigation against Blatter is warranted”. Despite this it is arguably the case that the presidential election, which is to take place this coming Wednesday at FIFA’s 61st Annual Congress in Zurich, ought to be postponed in order to allow further examination of all claims made against each and every figure who has had allegations made against them. Even if it was to be concluded that very little, or indeed no, corruption ever took place the perception of FIFA amongst football fans around the world is the lowest that its ever been with high profile bureaucrats often accused of selling the game’s soul in exchange for huge financial incentives. A shake-up of FIFA from top to bottom and a review of its leadership structure is the very minimum that the organisation needs in order to restore public confidence at the game’s top body.

Sometimes football is a matter of life AND death…

Posted in African Football by peterbein on January 9, 2010
Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor was on the Togo team bus that was attacked.

It is with great sadness that I should have to post a blog today that focuses on off the field tragedy rather than looking forward to on the field matters building up to the African Cup of Nations that begins in Angola tomorrow. However it has been announced that the Togolese national team has decided to withdraw from the tournament after their team bus came under attack from people, whose motives are unknown, brandishing machine guns with which they killed the bus driver and injured two of the squad, Serge Akakpo and Kodjovi Obilale.

Unfortunately it is increasingly the case that people who think that sports stars are immune from the sort of danger that ordinary citizens face in everyday life are incorrect. Other sports have suffered tragedy, most recently cricket has had to face up to a similar horror when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked when about to play in a Test Match against Pakistan in Lahore in March 2009. Several cricket players, including captain Mahela Jayawardene, were injured whilst six policemen and a civilian were killed. In both these tragic cases it happened despite the presence of heavy security and it seems that people who intend to injure, harm or kill others will do so no matter what it takes.

Despite the decision taken by Togo to withdraw from the tournament it has been announced this afternoon by the African Football Confederation (CAF) that the competition will go ahead as planned from tomorrow. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has asked the head of the CAF, Issa Hayatou, for a full report into the incident, no doubt hoping to learn lessons with the FIFA World Cup due to take place in South Africa later this year. Issues surrounding crime and safety have already been brought up in relation to the World Cup as thousands of fans from over thirty countries will travel this summer to a country whose troubles with law and order have been well documented in the last few years and this attack will certainly worry the powers that be as they seek to re-assure fans, officals and players that their safety is paramount.

There will be many people who will say that the only way to ensure that the terrorists don’t win is to go ahead with everything as normal. Of course there is some sympathy for that argument but one must consider that should anything equally, if not more, tragic should occur during this tournament then serious questions will need to be asked and fully accounted for. One can fully understand why the Togo national team has no desire to participate in this tournament despite the prestige that such a competition can give to their nation. Team captain Emmanuel Adebayor convened a meeting with his players after the incident and made a statement later on stating that “most of the players want to go back to their family. No-one can sleep after what they have seen today. They have seen one of their team-mates have a bullet in his body, who is crying, who is losing consciousness and everything….I don’t think they [the players] will be ready to give their life.”

That final point is the most poignant. To many people football, to use that oft-quoted remark from Bill Shankly, is a matter of life or death. Sadly it became, yesterday, a matter of life AND death and it is with this is mind that everybody in the world of football and elsewhere should send their sympathies and condolence to the Togo national team and pray that nothing else happens to compound this truth even further during the next few weeks in Angola.Thilan Samaraweera and
Tharanga Paranavitana were hospitalisedThilan Samaraweera and
Tharanga Paranavitana were hospitalised

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.