Monday, March 31, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Arsenal have made a couple of impressive performances lately with the win over a desperate Vorskla being followed by an away drubbing of high flying Metalist. So you might think that there would be reason for optimism, as second place Shakhter come to town this weekend.
However, that is the problem, Shakhter are in second. Their lead before the winter break seemed unasailable, as Dnipro were starting to buckle and Dynamo looked a shadow of their former selves. Dynamo are now top and in fine form, although Shakhter still have a game in hand. After losing to Tavriya last week they are going to be angry and God knows what form of punishment their lunatic, billionaire, political manipulator and club owner Renat Akhmetov has subjected them to.
In the past after humiliations in Europe he has allegedly had them doing push-ups on the plane home and ordered a steamroller to crush all the cars belonging to the players in the car park.
This season he has brought together one of the most expensive teams in the World, and most of the players who were tempted by the money are still there. One exception being Christian Lucarelli, who took the money, set up a newspaper in his home town of Livorno and then buggered off to Parma. Again European glory has eluded them, Akhmetov said qualification from the group stages was a bare minimum, however after a bright start they failed to even gain a UEFA cup space. I doubt that failure in the league will be tolerated.
To be fair to him, he has had to buy players who will play in the Ukrainian League and live in Donetsk, which is why the outlay for some of the players has been over the top to say the least. They also have one of the best training grounds in the World, which bizzarely includes an aviary for the players to chill out by looking at a cockatoo, or something like that.
Of the current crop of recruits hoping for a move to Western Europe, Brazilian Brandao looks the best, however despite being to be able to beat any player he sometimes comes unstuck on crappy pitches, and last time I saw him he beat 3 players only to lose the ball in the snow.
The pitch on Sunday should be in better condition, and although I hope for an Arsenal win I am not holding my breath.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
This week's music/ football crossover is from The Sultans of Ping FC.
The Sultans are/ were a band from Cork who were Cork City fans. They were most popular in the early 90's and their single Where's Me Jumper? was a hit on the student circuit at the time. However, unfortunately most people can only name this song although the Sultans released 3 albums.
Apart from their name being football related they also have 3 songs related to football: I'm in Love with a Football Hooligan, Back in a Tracksuit and best of all Give him a ball and a Yard of Grass.
This song is about ex-England, Forest and Liverpool midfielder / striker Nigel Clough. During his time as a footballer I didn't have much time for him at all, mainly because of my dislike for the clubs he played for. However, as boss and sometime player of Burton Albion he has done a great job and the Brewers are looking good for the Conference play-offs this year, so well done to him. He has stayed loyal to Burton over the years despite being continually linked to the Derby or Forest job every time one of them has a bad run of results, so that's every couple of weeks.
In the song the Sultans sing He's a nice young man with a lovely smile, well he's a grumpy old sod nowadays who annoys fans of ex-league clubs now in the Conference under the pseudonym of Newark Colin, when writing on the Net, which earns him more plaudits.
I also remember in a Burton programme he was asked What advice do you give to young players? His response was My dad told me to sign for Liverpool. Never listen to your dad. Sound advice if your dad was Brian Clough, but that's another story.
If you fancy listening to the Sultans of Ping there are plenty of MP3s including Give him a Ball and a Yard of Grass at: http://ping.fishtank.org.uk/
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
I don't subscribe to most of the rubbish that is said about the decline of society in Britain. I mean all this rubbish about ASBO and binge drinking, also gave the likes of Disraeli and Gladstone a headache, they just didn't have the jargon to know what to call it. However, the new subbuteo is pretty indicative of the rise of the individual and the selfish attitudes that were set all those years ago by Thatch. You might ask am I still blaming her for some of the crap things that happen? Well, yes I bloody well am.
Anyway, what annoys me about the new subbuteo is that kids are encouraged to collect a team of superstars, so there's no more Yeovil, Bournemouth or Plymouth to collect and apart from Gareth Barry and Micah Richards, there's probably no Villa, Man City or Portsmouth, just a team of Galacticos . Let's hope it is as successful for them as it was for Real Madrid.
Subbuteo has been around since 1946, when it was just a set of cardboard men on plastic bases, a bit like its latest incarnation, it probably reached the height of its popularity in the 1980's when there were hundreds of teams produced from around the world including some of the bigger non-league clubs of the time like Yeovil and Blythe Spartans, it also featured in a song by Half Man, Half Biscuit and on t-shirts for The Farm.
However, more difficult times were around the corner, as computer games came out and sales dropped culminating in the sale of the original company and the recent developments.
On a brighter note subbuteo seems to still have enough popularity to fuel a cottage industry of a kind with Zuego, Santiago (see picture) and Astrobase teams being produced in the UK and Italy and leagues continuing across Britain, Holland, Germany and Italy, although I suspect that alot of the players should be old enough to know better.
My own personal memories of subbuteo are playing with my mates, or my ex-nextdoor neighbour, who was in his 30's and who beat me even after 6 cans of Special Brew. He was always Coventry and I was always Villa, so I suppose subbuteo on these ocassions really was about as far away from reality as it could be. I also remember collecting tokens from Match to get free teams. I imagine that at the time Subbuteo were trying to tap the French Market, as I got Monaco, St.Etienne and Auxerre. Needless to say the Anglo-French cup was big in our house.
I suppose next time I'm at home I'll introduce Sean and Nadiya to old school subbuteo, as I still have a fair old collection in the attic. Let's hope that crap like the new subbuteo and Pro-evo soccer fall out of favour and that Zuego can corner the market for football games, although I some how doubt it will happen.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
A few weeks ago I was talking about the Zidane album by Mogwai. This time it's George Best by The Wedding Present.
Never has a band and a footballer been so paradoxical.
Best burst onto the football scene after being discovered by Manchester United's legendary scout, Bob Bishop, who said the club had to 'sign him at all costs'. He was born in 1946 and made his debut in1963. He is generally regarded as one of the best footballers of all time and won the league in 1965 and 1967 and the European Cup in 1968, where he performed excellently. However due to alcoholism and his other vices his career was over by 1975. He also played for several American clubs, Bournemouth, Fulham and Hibs.
The Wedding Present ironically haven't been so 'rock and roll' in this respect. They were formed in 1985, made their first Peel Session in 1986 and released George Best in 1987. Rather than being glamorous they have been steadily successful and have produced some good albums. There is even a Ukrainian link as they produced some Ukrainian Folk Tunes for John Peel in 1988. We won't split hairs about some of the songs being Russian, as it was a brave move for an indie rock band associated with the C86 movement. They are still going today and will produce their 21st album this year (if you include Peel Sessions and Compliations) and will appear at the Indie Tracks Festival in Derbyshire in July.
The Wedding Present were the first band I saw live and their live performances continue to be energetic affairs. At that gig support was provided by a noise-rock band called The Boo Radleys, who later came on to be kings of the Britpop scene and The Real People, who should have done.
Here's a link for the album, if there are any objections I'll take it down quicker than George Best could turn lager into piss
Dynamo take on Kryvbas and Obolon take on Prikarpattiya on the same day. I was unaware that Obolon were playing this weekend, as most of their games tend to be on weekdays, due to them being in the first division, although they are looking good for promotion. The only reason I found out was that I saw the Horse from the fan club in the street. However, I don't have any clue regarding the kick off time and a phone call to Andriy and a browse of their website didn't shed any light on the situation. Furthermore their ground is situated at the arse end of town and even the football daily Komanda prints kick off times for the Vische League wrongly, nevermind the first league. That said, it will test my resolve to go to Obolon and give Dynamo the elbow a bit if and when Obolon get promoted.
I find Dynamo pretty annoying, most of their fans tend to be football tourists coming from the sticks to Kyiv for a day out and taking photos with brand new scarves, so I'm hoping Obolon can get promotion and provide a decent alternative for when Arsenal are away. The plus side for Dynamo is that their stadium is situated a 10 minute bus ride away and to be honest I have had a season ticket for them in the past. Probably the biggest reservations I have about Dynamo's game this weekend is the fact that the opposition is Kryvbas.
Kryvbas have been hanging around in the top flight since the Ukrainian League started. They have reached the cup final once and once finished third, for the rest of the time they have hung around in mid-table. Their tactics seem to be that of a ficticious football club I read about years ago: try to win every home game 1-0 and get a 0-0 draw away. They have become my footballing nemesis. I have seen them on numerous occassions including on a trip to Metalist Kharkiv and I have never seen them concede a goal or score one. The trip to Kharkiv was before the express train was running so a round trip of 24 hours for no goals wasn't that great, on top of this me, Sean and Ewig probably encountered one of the worst 0-0 draws of all time when they took on Arsenal at the end of the first half of the season ( it wasn't actually the worst game I have seen that would have been back in 1997 when Torpedo Luzhniki took on Zenit in the Russian league, there were about 4,000 fans in a 90,000 stadium the police made me sit in the right seat and the game was so dull the journalist from Sport Express who was covering the match fell asleep- presumably he made the report up after, I doubt he sat through a video of it)
In fact the only 2 times I have had a chance of seeing any goals in a Kryvbas game have been denied me.The first was when we planned to go to Kryvyy Rih to see them take on CSKA, it was purely for football reasons, the town isn't known for its tourism. We had bought our train tickets only to be informed by the guy in the cloakroom at work that the game had been postponed for a week, so not only did we lose our money as we couldn't go on that day, but CSKA won 2-1. The second time was a fixture in Kyiv between the same 2 teams, this time Komanda and its dodgy kick-off information was to blame. The paper and infact the press office at CSKA told us the kick off time was 3 o'clock, so we met at 1:30 and had a few pints in the cheapo bar over the road. We then ambled over to the ground to find that the kick off time had been 2pm and CSKA were 3-0 up at half time, and that's how the result remained.
To be fair to Kryvbas they have been punching above their weight for years and continue to finish mid-table despite financial mishap after mishap, including almost being closed down in 2006.
My prediction is that Dynamo will beat them 2-0 on Sunday, although I doubt it will be pretty and hopefully I'll organise the trip up to Obolon and Andriy will get off his arse and come. At Obolon you can drink cheap beer straight from the brewery, when Kryvbas come to town you wish you had stayed in the pub, either way football is back and I might even get in 2 games in one day (maybe)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
A few years ago the site, which is above Respublikansky Stadium, where the 2012 final will take place was just a running track and a badly maintained grass pitch which was occassionally used by non-league teams. The running track remains, as do other facilities for athletics, but they are now flanked by 2 astroturf pitches with stands and the House of Football.
The main pitch is often used for youth internationals including the under 18 tournament also named after Bannikov and some of the matches in the Lobanovskiy tournament, which has morphed into an under 21's tournament since in recent years.
The whole complex is named after Victor Maksimovich Bannikov who died in 2001 at the age of 63. He was both a player and a coach for the USSR and won the award of best goalkeeper in the USSR in 1964 and 1970. Later in his career he became one of the leading lights in the foundation of the Ukrainian League and Football Federation and held the post of first vice-president of the Football Federation of Ukraine when he passed away. He also won plaudits and awards from UEFA for his work in physical training.
It is of little surprise then that the House of Football contains state of the art technology and video facilities to help players and coaches analyse performance. It also serves as a meeting place for experts in the field of football and has recently held seminars on coaching methods and refereeing matters. It has also served as a place where some of the commercial considerations for 2012 have been discussed and decided.
The complex was opened in December 2006 and also houses a museum.
Photographs to follow
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I was wrong about the crowd at the game as it drew a very respectable attendance of 14,000 +. On the other hand the congratulations to Ihor Surkis on the Dynamo site was changed to a congratulations from him to all the women at Dynamo, maybe he read my post, although I somehow doubt it.
The cup in Ukraine also has a familiar feel with Shakhtar and Dynamo somehow avoiding each other yet again in the semi finals. At least things are going to be different in England this year with Barnsley putting Chelsea out and Pompey winning at Old Trafford. Thank God for that, I used to love the FA Cup, but of late it's always been won by one of the big four, but not this year.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
It's a bit of a shock that the PFL haven't thought about rescheduling the games today. Most men will be doing something for their wives and girlfriends, and those who don't have one will probably be doing something for their mothers. It's not a sexist statement, but football just isn't that popular with Ukrainian woman to the extent it is in Western Europe and East Asia. Added to this Monday is a bank holiday and people will have nothing to do, so there is every chance that playing the games on Monday would have boosted attendances rather than reducing them, which is the effect a Saturday kick off will do.
Actually, the stupidity of the PFL is nothing new, as was illustrated in November when the Dynamo v Shakhtar game (one of the most important in the football calendar) went ahead despite one of the worst blizzards I've seen. I went but plenty of people stayed away and the game was practically a farce, and this is just one example.
More work commitments and foolish kick off times will probably lead to me missing more games this half of the season, which is pretty annoying. You can understand a bit off meddling due to TV commitments, as that's a problem everywhere, but as far as I can make out the clubs aren't getting a great deal from that either.
On the subject of Women's day and football foolishness a trip to Dynamo's official site tells us that Dynamo have installed a new PA system, as if the old one wasn't annoying enough and as if the money wouldn't have been better spent on ground improvements. There is also a picture of some cheap flowers wrapped in newspaper to commemorate the day, but do they congratulate the women fans? No they are there to congratulate president of the club, Ihor Surkis, who unless he's had a sex change during the winter break isn't a woman........ No wonder the women are staying away from the ground.