Monday, December 31, 2012

Kicking Back's Best ... and Worst of 2012

Well folks, it is that time again.

To look back on the year and give my opinion of the best and worst, some of which is even soccer related. Nothing scientific, nothing objective, it's pure speculation and opinion on my part. Your opinions will certainly vary.

So without further adieu:

Best and Worst of 2012:

Goals:
Best Goal of 2012: Danny Welbeck, England v. Sweden Euro 2012.
Unbelievable touch on this one to win the match for England.



Worst (should have been a) Goal of 2012: Neymar, Brazil v. Colombia.
I think this ball is still in low earth orbit and being tracked by NASA.




Fan(atic) (Re)Action:
Best Fan Action: Placing fans' names on Real Sociedad jerseys'. Credit: The 91st Minute.
I actually really like this idea. While it could go horribly wrong, I think it is very clever.





















Worst Fanatic Reaction: Live explosive thrown on pitch in Asian Cup Quarterfinal.
The #40 in yellow is lucky they are not calling him "Righty" now.



Commercial:
Best Soccer Commercial: Nike Football - My Time is now.
Very "Matrix" like, and very cool.




Worst Soccer Commercial: EA Sports - FIFA 13.
This was a huge letdown from the FIFA 12 commercial which was great.




On Field Brawl:
Worst Brawl (there are no "good" ones): Bahia v. Vitoria U-13(!) Match.
There are places in the LOTG that speak of "grave disorder", this is such a case.




Referee:
Best Referee (while there are no "bad" referees ... save me this year) to me is Mark Clattenburg. This man was involved in a heated exchange after a Chelsea match, and was hung out to dry as a racist for it.  While all seem to be moving on without any finding of racism whatsoever, the taint remains, and remains on a man who by all evidence has done nothing wrong, and a world class referee who should be destine for the 2014 World Cup. Time will tell of the rubbish spewed after this match hold over to the final selection of referees.

Based on a recent issue involving Clattenburg, it is clear some will continue to use this falsity in any way they can to advantage themselves.


Assistant Referee:
Best Assistant Referee is Richard Nieuwenhuizen. If any who have been living in a cave, or have tragically short memory, Richard is the parent, father, volunteer, and AR, who was working his son's match, when he was beaten on the field, after the match by (3) teenage players, and later died due to his injuries.

A tragic loss by all accounts, and one that will haunt The Game for years to come.

There is simply no other choice to me, Richard Nieuwenhuizen for his selfless service to The Game, that he gave his life for, demonstrates the best in humanity, and the game he clearly loved so much.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Busacca: We must give referees all they need

Busacca: We must give referees all they need

Massimo Busacca was a referee for 22 years and officiated at more than 100 top-level international matches, with the 2009 UEFA Champions League final among his most notable. The 42-year-old finished his active career this summer to become the Head of FIFA’s Referees Department. FIFA.com spoke with him about this past year and some of the hot topics in refereeing. ...

See the whole story here, from FIFA.com.

Kicking Back Comments: A good interview with one of the greats. There are some interesting tidbits throughout the article, but the best summary is his conclusion ... it is spot on, and far more fundamental than any administrative construct that FIFA hands down.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Did you ever notice ...

... FIFA's "Happy Birthday To You" segment?

Most recent from December 23rd 2012 can be found here, courtesy of FIFA.com.

Did you ever notice that referees are not on there? In fact I have never seen one, ever.

I could be wrong, and hope that I am, but I would think FIFA could find a refereeing legend worthy of posting in this segment, yes?

If you look at the list of FIFA referees for the US here, (notice the new additional folks!) it gives birth year only ... why not  announce happy birthday for those folks around the world that have made it to the FIFA ranks, and those who continue to serve in an active advisory capacity after their active service on the field.

Would seem like a common courtesy to me ... but then again, I may have missed something.

Well, I do know one retired FIFA AR who was born in December, and he is a class act, and longtime friend.

Happy birthday Tommy!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

... and Speaking of American Football(ers)

Friedel extends Tottenham contract

Veteran American goalkeeper Brad Friedel has extended his contract with Tottenham Hotspur until 2014, the Premier League club announced on Wednesday.

At 41, Friedel is the oldest player in the Premier League and he is also the only man in the history of the division to start 300 consecutive matches. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: This is great to see Brad still at it at the tender age of 41. His time in the MLS while too short, was great. A quality guy and a class competitor.

Glad to see players from the US carrying the good name abroad.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gotta Love St. Stephen’s Day!!

Games and More Games on Day After Christmas

After the confinement and tiring etiquette of Christmas Day, the prospect of soccer on Wednesday offers something of a refuge for Britons. An opportunity to escape the family, the simmering tensions and the dinner table strife, and breathe a sigh of relief, Boxing Day games are a tradition that Britain holds dear. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: I can think of (almost) no better way to start the time off between holidays, than with a whole day of football.

I know what I'm going to be doing today!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas soccer in Philadelphia, 1912

Christmas soccer in Philadelphia, 1912

Memories of Thanksgiving soccer matches were being replaced with anticipation of more holiday matches in the minds of area soccer fans as Christmas 1912 approached.

Christmas fell on a Wednesday that year and so provided a rare opportunity for a midweek match. The previous weekend had seen some 21 games across three leagues and several different divisions as well as eight exhibition games. Among those exhibition games were teams from the city’s Pennsylvania League and American League, who had no league game scheduled because of the first round of Philadelphia Challenge Cup ties. In cup play, Pennsylvania League champions Tacony were downed 2-1 by current league leaders Victors at Third and Lehigh, their second victory over the Sawmen of the season. Earlier in the year, the Victors had advanced as far as the semifinals of the 1911-1912 American Cup, playing eventual Cup winners the West Hudsons to two draws before losing the third game 1–0 in extra time. ...

See the whole article here, from Philly Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a great article! I have to say there are times when we forget that soccer in the US has some significant roots too. Also, in poking around this blog, there seems to be some real quality stuff there.

A welcome Christmas present!!

From all of us here at Kicking Back, have a very happy holiday season!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Be Careful FIFA

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, feeling heat over UEFA U21 in Israel, promises to rebuild bombed Gaza stadium

World football boss, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, is feeling pressure over the 2013UEFA Under 21 tournament scheduled to be hosted by Israel, though he thinks the tournament will go ahead.

There has been growing opposition to allowing Israel to host the tournament, including from top world players, following Israel’s November attack on Gaza which killed more than 170 people and injured more than 1,200.

Blatter also promised that FIFA would help rebuild the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City that was badly damaged in the Israeli attacks. ...

See the whole story here, from The Electronic Intifada.

Kicking Back Comments: Careful here ... FIFA is barely able to maintain its own house, never mind wander into the complex situation such as the Gaza conflict.

I am a little surprised FIFA started the ball rolling in the first place ... but am curious what they do now.

Be careful FIFA, as I have said before, this is not your fight, don't go picking sides.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I dunno ...

So this is a story that stems from my recent moving experiences.

I have a contract with a national internet service provider, and lets just say they screwed up my service pretty badly during our move, and made life a lot more hectic than it ever needed to be. (In a nutshell they cut us off accidentally ... I will not comment if I think this was a FIFA conspiracy).

Throughout the process I was on the phone for hours ... yes hours ... trying to unscrew the screwed up situation.

With a couple of the conversations, I would ask a question, and the representative on the phone would say "... I don't know, but hang on and I'll find out ...", followed by several more minutes of awful hold music.

This was repeated (5) times ... yes I counted ... it was five.

Now, I am a HUGE fan of saying "I don't know, but will find out ...", if you are asked a question you don't know the answer to. If you try to make up an answer, it will nearly always backfire on you.

However, there is a point when being honest and saying you don't know, turns into a competency issue. After a couple times of "I don't know" when you are in a position to know, is an issue.

Be very careful with this, as a referee in that position you are expected to know *everything* about the LOTG. Now I'll also say that is an unrealistic expectation as the volume of information is huge and includes not only the text of the LOTG, but also IBD's, position papers, addendum, guides ... you get the point.

Like I said earlier, if you don't know something, you should say "I dunno", but please be careful when you do, as with my service provider who said it over and over, they looked like know-nothing fools by having to repeat it over, and over again.

The flip side is take the time to learn from the experience. If there is something you don't know, find out as quick as you can. I wish I could tell you how many times I have asked a colleague at half time if "... I got it right ..." or "... did you see something different ...".

Now I would not recommend thumbing through the LOTG in plain view at half time, but in a locker room to check on something ... or after a match is certainly fair game.

In all cases, future "I dunno's" on the same topic should not happen. Once you have a chance to learn something new about The Game ... embrace it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

FIFA and Facebook, a costly combination

FIFA suspends agent over Facebook insults

ZURICH (AP) -FIFA has suspended a players' agent for two months for making insulting comments on his Facebook page.

FIFA says the case of Brazilian agent Paulo Teixeira is the governing body's first disciplinary action in which "a member of the football family has been suspended/fined for using social media.'' ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of SI.

Kicking Back Comments: I facilitated a group discussion earlier in the month regarding professionalism, and dedicated a slide to social media being so dangerous as generally, there is nothing stopping anyone from saying anything about anyone.

I have to admit though, even this one surprises me to a degree.

One thing to be aware of is that an individual may be bound by an agreement that would prohibit communicating certain opinions, or for that matter facts about a situation. This particular agent may be in such a situation. Keep in mind too that while the 1st Amendment to COTUS allows me to freely shoot my mouth off, that protection does not exist outside the United States, or to be more specific, such protection is based on sovereign law of the land the author is communicating.

Believe me, even with these rights afforded to United States citizens, you can still get in hot water, or just get challenged for your speech as I have encountered personally from a variety of thin skinned folks since beginning Kicking Back.

To those who may be insulted by my musings ... please relax, read the legal stuff page, and recognize it is just an opinion folks.

SEPP .... DID YOU HEAR THAT ????!???

Ah well, no distinguished service award from FIFA for me ....

Friday, December 21, 2012

Another New Women's League

A new league and another new dawn for US women's soccer

Here we go again: The United States Soccer Federation has announced that a new league known as the National Women's Soccer League will launch in 2013 administered by US Soccer.

The league will begin with eight clubs, the four left over from the recently-extinguished Women's Professional Soccer league (Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, Buffalo) and four new clubs. The names range from overly regional minor league names (Western New York Flash) to cheeky (Portland Thorns FC) to names that have survived all three women's leagues (Boston Breakers). Those clubs will join the Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, and the as-yet-unnamed Seattle club. ...

See the whole story here, from The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: Three strikes and your out, or third time's a charm?

I hope it is the latter, but given the track record of women's professional soccer in the US, I'm not so sure.

Clearly US Soccer is WAY behind this (as is Canada and Mexico) as each National Organization is subsidizing their entire national teams salaries in the league.

My questions go to what will be different this time? We have tried to ride World Cup winnings in the past, and the league (WUSA) spent itself into oblivion.

For the WPS there were some very committed owners, and some, well one, that seems to have intentions outside of The Game. That said, Wambach and Solo still believe that Mr. Magic Jack is good for the women's game. I'm reserving judgement for right now.

There is no question in my mind that such a league is good for players, youth soccer, US Soccer, referees ... the whole nine.

But ... but ... if they fail this time, are we done? Is this the last time we will try to create a viable women's league for a few generations?

My thinking is yes. 

Again I hope it succeeds wildly (it will be very slow growth though), because if it does not, I don't think we will be seeing women's professional soccer for a long, long time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did it really happen?

The Knowledge Christmas special: Did world war one matches really happen?

"Did the Christmas football matches between British and German troops in the first world war trenches really take place?" wonders a sceptical (sic) Sandy Brook.

As you imply in your question, Sandy, most folk raise an eyebrow nowadays at the thought of Tommy and Jerry getting together for a spot of festive soccer on a patch of no-man's land so churned it made the Baseball Ground circa 1972 look like the gardens of Tresco. It seems highly improbable, especially to modern minds conditioned by social media, that petty grudges could be set aside in the name of peace and goodwill to all men. But some contemporary reports suggest that's exactly what happened on Christmas Day 1914. ... 

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: A fun twist on a classic story. Funniest part was this line:

There was no referee, and no score, no tally at all. It was simply a melee – nothing like the soccer you see on television.

I love that personally. If true, you have two countries, nay, a world at war, and you don't need a referee for the match.

A large part of me thinks that referees are horrible for football. I think we may all be surprised what players of good conscience will do when left to their own devices.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ex Post Facto?

So for the law geeks out there the clause, from COTUS Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3, states (in the most coarse terms) that an adjudicating body can't go back and change the consequences for a crime after the fact.

Like everything else, it is way more complicated than that, but you get the point.

So I was reading that Bin Hammam has been banned by FIFA, for a second time, after being held "not guilty" by CAS (in a 2 - 1 vote).

Take a peek at this article from Business World. Of particular note was the following:

(The first life ban) was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July, but FIFA handed out another life ban on Monday and said he would never be active in organized football again.

I had to laugh at this. So Bin Hammam gets "cleared" by CAS, and FIFA turns around and as soon as he walks out the proverbial door, slaps him with another life ban. Nice.

Why ever would they do that?

This suspension was not in connection with bribery allegations during the election campaign but for "conflicts of interest" while he was president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Now this one was just about laugh out loud funny. How many conflict of interest issues have other members of FIFA, like Sepp, been involved with? Clearly we must be talking about something current, right?

"That report showed repeated violations of Article 19 (Conflict of Interest) of the FIFA Code of Ethics, edition 2012, of Mohamed Bin Hammam during his terms as AFC President and as member of the FIFA Executive Committee in the years 2008 to 2011, which justified a life-long ban from all football-related activity."

So if I'm reading this right, FIFA banned him for life, again, after banning him the first time, and having that overturned by CAS, and based on conflict of interest violations that occurred in 2008 to 2011, yet were only considered conflict of interest violations in 2012.

What?

How seriously can we take these clowns at FIFA?

Really ... I know this is a harsh statement, but come on. Is there a procedure to be followed? This one is such an incredible stretch that it loses all sense of credibility.

Listen, do I think Bin Hammam was caught up in some unethical behavior? My sense is yes, without any evidence, but there is enough smoke circling around to get a picture. Even CAS in their ruling hinted at what they thought was unethical behavior. (Not that I hold CAS in any high regard after the Contador affair ...)

BUT ...

FIFA has to play by the rules here. Clearly they wanted Bin Hammam out, and if I had to guess it was because he had the audacity to challenge Sepp for the presidency. How pathetic is that to take retribution out on a previous opponent by banning him for life, twice, for some procedural, fabricated, rubbish.

How seriously can we continue to take FIFA?

Now is there anything stopping FIFA legally from doing this? Nope, and I recognize that. They can do it.

I also recognize that it is nonsense, and they should really be embarrassed by their conduct.

I suspect they will not be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Cowards Way Out

Friends,

I have to tell you that I am deeply effected by the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Little Ms. is about that age of those children who were needless murdered, Jr. is not far ahead of her, and Madame X is a local school administrator in Massachusetts. For those who are following this story, it was these very types of people who were targets of this absurd violence.

To say it has me grateful for their safety and re-thinking about their future safety is an understatement.

I am however making a conscious effort NOT to discuss the matter or tragedy here, save this note. It is for no other reason that I am not emotionally equipped to discuss the matter with the rational mind it needs to see it through.

So while we will continue with our nonsensical rantings about The Game we all love, I am taking the cowards way out regarding the recent shooting at Sandy Hook, to acknowledge the tragedy and contemplate on the topic silently.

We will keep at it however ... happy warriors through the larger game of life.

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Nuff Said

Uefa’s cowardly reaction against Serbian racists takes European game several steps backwards

It’s unbelievable. It’s scarcely credible. It’s the 21st century yet dear old blinkered, blazered Uefa is at it again, failing to fight the fires fanned by the racist Serbs. Again. There are good, diligent, conscientious souls within Uefa but the organisation’s cowardly reaction towards the serial bigotry of the Serbs shames all at Nyon. This embarrassment has gone on too long. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Telegraph.

Kicking Back Comments: Like the title said ... 'nuff said. I think The Telegraph has is right.
Even more right are some of the comments to the article. Here is a good, and true, one.

Commenter's avatar
FIFA
Brown envelopes
Goal line technology
Qatar World Cup in 2022 (Yeh, right!)
No need to retreat 10 yards - the 'ceremonial' free kick
UEFA
Bendtner underpants
Serbian riot
FA
Late stamping on metatarsals
Blocking the runner
Rugby tackles and holding
Intimidation of officials
The 'accidental' flailing arm
The 'accidental' collision of the attacker's heels and the defender's shins
Continual blind eye towards offences missed by officials
But don't worry, the game's in good hands.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Every Paycheck is a Fortune

Referees must get greater respect from the Football Association and game in general before it is too late

The comment is slightly harsh, overlooking the work done by diligent staff in the FA’s refereeing department, but it reflects the dark mood of some referees.

Not a naturally militant breed, some of the elite Professional Game Match Officials group of referees sound frustrated.

“We get £75,000 a year,’’ said one referee. “It seems good money but is it worth the grief? Some of us are only doing it for the mortgage.” ...

See the whole story here, from The Telegraph.

Kicking Back Comments: So 75K sterling pounds is equal to about $121K USD. That is a pretty good wage all things considered as the average in the US is just over $46K.

Does anyone know what MLS referees are being offered currently? Well it's about $27K per year for a (2) year contract, that does not include the match fees themselves.

That's pathetic.

So if we think $121K per year is worth a load of crap, how about $27K?

Not so much.

Folks complain about referees, often ... but does anyone actually realize just how pathetic their pay is?

It should be clear that these guys are NOT in it for the money, but rather the chance to work at the highest level of The Game, domestically.

I can't logically think of any other reason why they would.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

#RESPECTforRichard

Please Join The Respect for Richard Campaign

In tribute to slain Dutch referee Richard Nieuwenhuizen, referees around the world will change their avatars or profile photos to the logo of the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). The tribute will be timed to coincide with a silent march in Richard’s hometown of Almere on Sunday, 9 December 2012, at 17:00 local time (16:00 UTC; 11:00 AM EST in North America). ...

See the whole request here, courtesy of @dutchreferee.

Kicking Back Comments: Kicking Back will be honored to join #RESPECTforRichard the week of the 9th.

Friday, December 7, 2012

@dutchreferee on the BBC

Jan ter Harmsel (@dutchreferee) has found himself as a focal point for many, many supportive messages from around the world.

If you have a Twitter account, take a second and message him, he will appreciate it.

He has done a good job with a story here at his blog dutchreferee.com and recently made an appearance on the BBC discussing the recent criminal act that led to the death of Richard Nieuwenhuizen.

A worthy read, both regarding this particular incident, and generally.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

For kiddies of all ages

FIFA 13 Wii U Review

You may have heard how great FIFA 13 is on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The annual soccer franchise launched with a host of new features, enhanced graphics, and improved intelligence engine on those platforms. Unfortunately, EA’s first crack at FIFA Soccer on the Wii U is not this game. In fact, it’s a bad port of FIFA 12, which is a big letdown for soccer fans looking for a comparable experience on the new console. Differences from other consoles aside, FIFA 13 on the Wii U is the first high definition soccer experience for Nintendo fans, and the best that the franchise has ever been on this platform. ...

See the whole review here, courtesy of Attack of the Fan Boy.

Kicking Back Comments: Pretty cool stuff! Looks like another platform for the home soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dutch assistant referee killed by youth players

I am sad to report this is not a gag headline, or some clever turn on words that I am using to make a point about The Game.

This is a disgusting attack by (3) youth players, on another human, a father, a husband, a son, and assistant referee Richard Nieuwenhuizen.

Photograph via Facebook and ABC News
Serving as a volunteer assistant referee at his son's youth football match, he died after being kicked and beaten by several players. Nieuwenhuizen, 41, was shaking players’ hands when the three players, two 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old, surrounded him, pushed him to the ground, and began attacking him.

Authorities haven’t given a possible motive for the attack. The three boys accused in this case are in police custody, and will appear before a judge behind closed doors on Thursday.

Action taken was swift and included a lifetime ban from soccer in the country for the players arrested for the beating, and all upcoming Nieuw Sloten games have been canceled, the club where these criminals hail from. A number of teams, including all those based in Almere, have stated they will refuse to play any games against Nieuw Sloten.

Nieuw Sloten said in a statement on its website that it had banned the players involved and pulled its team out of the league. The statement said such incidents "do not belong on a football field". Both clubs cancelled all training scheduled for Monday.

This seems like a reasonable start.

To complete this, these boys should be thrown in jail to rot.

I am concerned about Norway's "restorative justice system" that generally is very gentile where I believe that (21) years is the maximum sentence for anything other than war crimes, or genocide.

Anyone remember Anders Breivik who only received (21) years for killing (77) people? Yep, that's about 100 days per murder.

Restorative huh.

Now from my criminal law days there are several reasons for punishment:
  1. Deterrence (for others).
  2. Retribution (for what they did).
  3. Rehabilitation (so they won't do it again).
  4. Incapacitation (so they can't do it again).
I'll be honest, I am going with 1 and 2 on this one and quickly followed up by a suit in tort for the families of each of these little murderers.

A strong message needs to be sent here, by the Dutch courts, Netherlands Football, and yes, FIFA. It needs to be stronger than what Sepp said the other day.

You want to make an impression, condemn the activity in the strongest possible terms. Be shocked, be sad, and be mad as hell that these punks did this, and promise swift and severe sanctions for all involved, the club, the league ... everyone, who takes such actions, or inactions.

It is times like this that I struggle with such barbaric actions, receiving humane treatment. It's the civilized thing to do, but I'll be honest folks, it is not coming easy for me personally on this one.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Canadian Officials Do Well in MLS Cup

Canadian Officials Do Well in MLS Cup

Silviu Petrescu of Waterloo, Ontario was the first Canadian to receive MLS Referee of the Year honors and he officiated the 2012 MLS Cup final. This was a surprising choice for me but Petrescu and the two assistant referees –– Daniel Belleau of Sainte-Hélène-de-Breakeyville, Québec and Darren Clark of Kamloops, British Columbia –– can be very happy with their performances. Los Angeles had two penalty kicks and two goals disallowed, all very important decisions, but a reason the media are talking about the players and not the officiating is the refs had all these calls correct. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Soccer America.

Kicking Back Comments: I'm with Randy here. I thought our neighbors to the North did well with this match. As a whole, these referees as a team, and as individuals did what they needed to to keep this match entertaining and focused on the players.

While there are always things to change, correct, or question, the folks at US Soccer, CSA, and PRO, should all be proud of the job done.

Well done guys.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Valcke's "First Time"

I would much rather be talking about the recent MLS final, where Beck's exited in classic style (is LD going to stay though?) and the refereeing crew led by Silviu Petrescu did well, despite "premonitions" of the opposite.

A telling article with quotes is here, where while Houston was not happy with everything, it was clear they were not laying the issue at the feet of Petescu ... as they should not.

Enough about that however ... my eyes were on the Confederations Cup draw, led by our Brazilian insulting friend, and FIFA VP, Jerome Valcke.

Now from the jump, after what happened during World Cup voting, I would think that FIFA would be particularly sensitive to gatherings by FIFA when decisions are made.

I know, I know, this is not a "voting situation", it should be as simple as picking names from a bowl. I mean (8) teams were being picked into (2) groups of (4), and no (2) teams from the same region could be in the same group (Spain and Italy, and Brazil and Uruguay had to be in different groups). Easy peasy. Even Valcke declared as much by saying, "It's an easy draw ..."

How that one work out?

Not so good, as Uruguay was placed in the same group as Brazil, who was rightly atop Group A as host nation. A circus quickly followed, the full details of which can be read here, and here.

Ah poor Jerome, red faced in front of a worldwide audience for picking names out of a hat. I had to wonder how he would do as a referee.

His excuse, “It’s sad these things happen in life, this is my first time,” he said afterwards.

Well his boss was nonplussed about the whole thing saying, (the Confederations Cup is) "... not a rehearsal - it is a tournament of champions."

Way to tick off you boss Jerome.

Now listen, I am not picking on him because he made a mistake, we all do at times. My comment comes into play because FIFA needs to get this stuff right. Voting, selections, pairings, in front of a world wide audience needs to be done the right way.

This is the guy responsible for the WORLD CUP in about a year, and he can't get (8) teams straight, and ticks off the Brazilian government when cowering under a "translation mistake."

Come on.

I think we need a goal line technology equivalent for FIFA's EX-COM decisions to put them equally on display for the mistakes they make.

Maybe something like Veruca Salt ran into from the original Willy Wonka.
In this clip Mr. Valcke is player by Ms. Salt. Result of her decision is obvious.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Get your a$$ out there ...

So as many of you know, I am trying to transform myself from professional soccer referee, into amateur bicycle racer.

In the former life I was training 4 or 5 days a week during the season, and 5 or 6 days a week in the off season, working with a professional trainer.

This generally included cardio, flexibility, and strength training days, with a rest day or two in there as well.

In my "transformation" I have taken up a similar pattern by utilizing a professional trainer (specific to cycling), and find myself training 5 or 6 days a week for anywhere between 1 to 3 hours a day. I would love to do more, but real life is getting in the way ... and has the priority which was not always the case when I was a professional referee.

This training can get particularly lonely, especially as pictured above, you are out in the cold for 3 hours at a time, and no one else is crazy enough to go with you. This would happen as a referee too, wind, rain, snow, cold ... but it was critical to train outside.

Why?

Well, in both sports you don't always get the luxury to compete in 70 degree, sunny weather. It can rain during a match, or a race. Just the other week while spectacular weather for the NEOTHSL finals, there was a snap in the air as there should be in November here in the Northeast.

To train seriously and really be ready for the season, you can't hide indoors all off-season.

Take a look at "Personal Best - Winter Training - Faster and Safer Indoors?" from the NYT.

The fact that training indoors can be up to 10% easier than outside is intuitive to someone who has trained in both places. Consider this however ... for those of us who live in the Northeast of the US, it can be hard to train year round outside, yet it is reasonable to be "called on" at any time to referee around the world as a FIFA referee. Even for those National referees, there are off season training camps with mandatory fitness tests.

Refereeing (or racing) requires year round fitness.

I'll say this too ... while refereeing is not (as) competitive as racing, there is certainly competition ... usually friendly in nature. I was just reminded of the fact that BIG gains can be made by training hard in the off season. When so many have their bike (or running shoes) away, an athlete can make big strides during this time when others will struggle in the spring.

This is somewhat my mantra as I mount my bike in the early morning cold and snow. "You want to be a big time bike racer, you have to train in the winter."

Referees need to take a similar tact to be ready for the big time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All hail Sepp!!

FIFA head hails goal tech advances

SAO PAULO — FIFA president Sepp Blatter hailed technical advances in the game Friday as the organisation prepares to try out goalline technology at the upcoming World Club Cup in Japan.

"There is no revolution in football -- there is evolution. There will always be errors from referees because they are human beings," said Blatter. ...

See the whole story here, from AFP.

Kicking Back Comments: He goes on to say in the article this is the only technology he wants to see in The Game. To that I say (a) I don't believe him as he will turn on the referees again in the next crisis, and (b) he will only continue to hail it so long as it works. First time it fails, he'll be done.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hawkins tries (and fails) to hock the Hawkeye

As most of you know, I am not a particular fan of goal line technology, so from the jump I have a bias.

I was painfully reminded of FIFA's impending implementation of goal line technology in "FIFA tests balls that 'know' when they're in goal", courtesy of 9 News. A link to the associated video can be found here which shows a brief interview with Thomas Pellkofer speaking about "GoalRef". Interesting technology with some interesting challenges in implementation (speaking as one familiar with the art and science).

In the article Pellkofer gives an articulate and balanced quote detailing GoalRef:

"The referee will get a signal when the goal has been clearly achieved. I'm convinced this technology will help the game to become a fair game, on one hand," Thomas Pellkofer, GoalRed operational manager, said. "On the other hand, I see that technology like other technologies in cars for example, these days, you have the brake controls, which will become the usual thing for the future."

I don't agree, but an articulate message. Think about red and yellow cards and their introduction in the 1970 World Cup from Sir Ken Aston. I do not know, but have to believe that such a change was likely not welcome either and may have even been seen as "an intrusion on the referee's authority."

Now lets shift to Paul Hawkins of the Hawkeye system, and his quote:

"You need to put the destiny of the match in the hands of the players. Officials are not there to be at the center stage there," Hawkins said. 

It was likely at this point Hawkins heard what an ass he was being and finished up with this:

"They're there to actually - you know a great official doesn't get noticed and this is simply technology to help them do their job."

Nice save Pauly, but not quite. Your distaste for referees was on full display.

Somehow making the argument this technology is needed is farsical. Why stop with goal line? Why not all decisions made by the referee? As I have opined before, what about penalty/no penalty? Almost like a goal, right? Caution v. Send off, sure that too! 

Where all this ends with a whimper is when the technology fails, as it always does. (Take a look back at "After the batteries die") I would not be so employable as an engineer if this stuff worked all the time. All it's going to take is one decision.

If FIFA still supports the technology after it is tried, and fails, it has fully tipped its hand in wanting to neuter the role of the referee in The Game as we know it. It's my opinion they have nibbled around the edges of that with some of the changes made to The Game, and restrictions and expectations on their referees, but this to me would be a very clear sign.

A little conspiracy theory-ish. Yeah maybe ... I may have turned a bend on this one. But like anything else, if you over regulate it, you make it so that no one will want to participate. Especially the artists on both sides of the whistle that just want to play.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

And I thought FIFA were crooks ...

... they have nothing on the ACC.

ACC sues Maryland over $50 million buyout

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh went on record earlier this year saying he did not think the $50 million Atlantic Coast Conference exit fee would hold up in court.

He will now get a chance to find out for certain. ...

See the whole story here, from USA Today. 

Kicking Back Comments: So let me get this right ... you have to pay $50M to leave the league? What a (beep)ing joke.

Here is their mission statement:

"The Atlantic Coast Conference, through its member institutions, seeks to maximize the educational and athletic opportunities of its student-athletes, while enriching their quality of life. It strives to do so by affording individuals equitable opportunity to pursue academic excellence and compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics competition in a broad spectrum of sports and championships. The Conference will provide leadership in attaining these goals, by promoting diversity and mutual trust among its member institutions, in a spirit of fairness for all. It strongly adheres to the principles of integrity and sportsmanship, and supports the total development of the student-athlete and each member institution's athletics staff, with the intent of producing enlightened leadership for tomorrow."

Why exactly does this cost $50M? Is this their "providing leadership" fee?

It continues to amaze me how much money is thrown around for sports. I certainly got it for international and professional play.

These are college kids folks. Again, lets put it in perspective.

$50M for leaving ... what a farce. I will follow this one in earnest through the courts.

By the way, this "fee" is about the GDP for Montserrat, the British Territory in the Caribbean (source).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interesting, yet misguided

So I was cruising Blogger the other day and purely by accident ran across e-Diski.com. In particular I got into reading "The European managers complain but refs have it easy", and found it interesting, informative in spots, but also misguided.

Of interest to me was the particular detail that the author cited percentages of issues. For example, "According to the results, 83 per cent of managers feel the handball law requires further clarification." I am particularly curious to see the source of this (and other) data cited. It was actually very interesting, even if not scientific.

The author does go into some good detail about this in a cursory analysis of what should, or should not be handling. I was particularly amused with the authors line regarding discerning intent and the "... gender of a goat." Trust me and read the article.

Where the author and I disagree is in regard to technology. He is a proponent, I am not. I think there are good points on both sides of the equation, I just happen to come down on the side of the human element deciding matches, not a NFL type review on even critical plays.

Where the author leaves his senses is here:

"Look, anything that gives advantage to the attacking team and good football should be encouraged. High level managers should be crying about the disallowed goals due to wrong offside calls from referees. Video technology should be employed for this and maybe even questionable offside decisions by referees should be punished. While I understand the speed of the game and the quick decisions they make, I distaste that with all my good heart. Managers and coaches also lose jobs because of those wrong decisions, the tactical mistakes they do and even the bad decisions players make.


Why should referees have it easy?"

He's kidding right? 

Assuming the paths to get to that level are equal, and I do not believe they are personally (as I think the number of correct decisions that are required to be made is much higher for a referee) it is more likely that a referee will not be given many "bites of the apple" at the higher (not highest) level before they are dismissed.

A manager, would really, really have to screw things up to get dismissed in a year. I can cite some MLS managers as examples ... 

A referee gets a very limited time in which to adjust at the higher levels. Let me share a personal story.

My first MLS match, I failed the assessment ... badly. I should have as well. I missed a wicked tackle that I gave only a caution for ... what should have been a straight send off. It was so bad that at the very next stoppage the manager substituted the player who committed the foul because he knew that I blew it, and anything close to a caution was going to get that player sent.

First MLS match a joyous occasion after in the locker room ... not so much.

It was clear, and I was told after ... adjust, or out you go.

This was reasonable to me as while there was some flexibility in getting acclimated to that level, no one referee is worth the "product" any league is selling. Certainly not a in a league that was struggling financially.

So I adjusted and had several more years in MLS with much better results. Learning along the way, but far smaller "teachable moments."

I have seen one and done referees, or a season and done referees. The "half life" of a referee is much shorter than that of managers, and is accelerated by not only incorrect, but also correct yet unpopular decisions.

Remember Esse Baharmast in the 1998 World Cup? Vilified for his penalty decision in Brasil v. Norway, even after the photo came out of a Brazil player with a fistful of jersey. How was his career impacted by that (correct) decision?

I have cited in the past, Koman Coulibaly, and how he remains in the "FIFA Witness Protection Program" to this day. Never seen since that match at any significant level.

While it is true that referees make decisions that can effect managers jobs, and we need to be sensitive to that, it is also true that referee's jobs are far more fragile on a match to match basis that anyone else who is involved in The Game. Player, General Manager, Manager ... no one.

The very best know that, and react accordingly to every challenge laid down before them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Emirates to fly the FIFA coop?

Emirates airline gauging FIFA anti-corruption moves, public mood before extending sponsorship

LONDON — Emirates airlines wants evidence FIFA is eradicating corruption and the scandal-hit organization’s public image is improving before renewing its sponsorship.

The Dubai-based carrier’s $195 million, eight-year sponsorship of world soccer’s governing body expires in 2014. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: I am actually surprised that other title sponsors are not being more public about this. You can see the full list of sponsors here, and given who is on that list, I would think others would follow suit regarding FIFA's ethics practices.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Schopenhauer’s Law of Entropy

This "law" states in relevant part:
“If you put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel full of wine, you get sewage.”

Sounds like what can happen to a match if the referee is not careful.

Take a look at Reviewing MLS Officiating in 2012 by Randy Vogt which goes through some of the decisions made by MLS referees over this 2012 season. While I don't always agree with his analysis, the overall point he makes gets closer to accurate, which reads:

"I understand that one game does not make a season but we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks if the high quality of that performance led to Geiger being assigned the MLS Cup Final."

If you look carefully, this statement is actually a contradiction, as a referees last match, especially at that level, certainly impacts their next. Said another way, one match can end a season. Just like one spoonful of sewage spoils a barrel of wine.

This is one of the sad truths of refereeing at the very highest levels, where one mistake, a single mistake, can close out an opportunity to do "the next game." Think about tournament play. Something happens to a referee in the "qualifying rounds" and they may get lucky to move forward. Anytime after that however, not likely. 

Don't believe me? Ask Koman Coulibaly.
Who? Yes. Exactly. FIFA still has him in their "witness protection program" more than (2) years later.

Trust me on this one too, as I have lived it.

Now, the further away one drifts from the highest level of The Game, the less likely mistakes of any type will adversely impact a career, as less experienced referees are expected to make mistakes as they learn. In fact I would opine they need to.

One sad fact is that the mistakes are generally all that is remembered. It was not the spectacular advantage a referee gave to allow the game winning goal. It was not the hair splitting offside decision to allow play to continue to force overtime. It is the "bad" call that cost the home team the game ... even if they were already down (3) goals in aggregate play. 

Randy's article does well to point out this fact as well as the (however anecdotal) statistic of 9::1 good to bad decisions. I actually believe it is much, much higher than that. Remember the decision to NOT call a foul is at time more critical than TO call a foul.

Long story short is that there is opportunity abound for someone to pour that spoonful of sewage into your match. Guard each jealously as to do otherwise invites more trouble than you need.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"It's Thanksgiving"

For a backstory on the video, take a look here from the Daily Beast.



Why would I do this to you all?

Two reasons:
  1. To wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving first and foremost.
  2. The soccer connection is that Nicole's dad Scott is a former professional player for the Tulsa Tornado, Oklahoma City Stampede, and Detroit Express, where he was named Rookie of the Year in 1983 and currently is a coach as Presentation College.
Say it with me ... soccer is life.

... and please don't shoot the messenger.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An American in Qatar?

Fifa to investigate new allegations over Qatar 2022 World Cup bid

Fifa has confirmed that the recently appointed chief investigator of its ethics committee will look into new corruption allegations surrounding Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar, which hugely outspent its rivals on its campaign to win the right to host the 2022 tournament in December 2010, had discussions about a $1m sponsorship deal for a gala dinner organised by the son of a Fifa executive committee member later banned from football for three years.

The Sunday Times, which conducted the undercover investigation that led to the Nigerian Amos Adamu and other Fifa officials being banned in the runup to the vote on the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, revealed that Qatar's bidding committee entered talks to sponsor a gala dinner arranged by his son, Samson, on the eve of the South Africa World Cup in 2010. ...

See the whole story here, from the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: "The investigator" the article is speaking of is Michael J. Garcia, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. My question is ... who picked him? He has some amazing experience based on his bio (I did find the time with ICE and Interpol interesting). Why him?

It looks like if given the proper authority he could do an excellent job. So why was he picked?

Ironic too that an American is looking into these matters. Why not name someone in the UK? They were equally as scorned as we were over the loss of a World Cup bid. An olive branch of sorts?

Makes me wonder ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HANDBALL!!!! Are you sure?

Monday Postgame: Handball law and order up for debate

A pair of 4-2 aggregate wins on Sunday sent the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy back to an unexpected rematch of the MLS Cup 2011 final. The Dynamo got a first-half goal from Boniek García and absorbed a late strike by D.C. midfielder Branko Boskovic to professionally see out a 1-1 draw that was good enough to advance.

LA saw their 3-0 aggregate lead threatened by a fired-up Seattle side, which took a 2-0 lead before a disputed penalty delivered a pivotal goal to the visitors, who advanced despite losing the second leg 2-1.

In today’s Monday Postgame, John Bolster takes a closer look at that penalty decision, and the handball rule in general, which is surprisingly misunderstood. ...

See the full story here, from MLS.com

Kicking Back Comments: A very good article indeed. One telling passage was this:

"The trouble is, most fans, coaches, and players — even some at the professional level — really do forget all about it. Or, more accurately, they’ve never looked at the letter of the law as it’s written."

... and the author is right. Just because one is a professional player or coach, has absolutely no bearing on if they understand the LOTG. It has been my experience many do not.

This is not a knock on players, and just a little one on coaches as their focus is winning games, not mediating them. That said, I would think a healthy understanding would be good for that audience. After all, referees at the highest levels are expected to know the personalities, tactics, and antics of the players and the coaches. I am surprised that many on "the other side" do not take the same time to understand our craft.

Next time you hear a player or coach, at any level, cry "handball", it is fair to pause and add a healthy dose of skepticism before rendering a decision. As you know, it is much more than meets the eye.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Now THAT'S Pressure

So I spent part of the day yesterday at the New England Over The Hill Soccer League championships in Lexington MA.

It was a spectacular day for soccer and the atmosphere showed it. There were people everywhere as the whole park was full, and you could hear goal scoring celebrations erupt at various times all afternoon.

In addition to the soccer, there was a very interesting exercise going on with some of the registered assessors. For many of them (myself included) it was a time to meet some of the requirements of the badge, and assess a match ... the same match.

Now this will provide an excellent measurement opportunity for the Mass Ref staff as it will provide a side by side analysis of the very same match. It also gives the Mass Ref staff and excellent opportunity for mentoring its assessors ... as it was designed.

Speaking as an assessor, this is a tremendous opportunity to be able to get some feedback on how I'm doing and how another saw the match. If we go really crazy, we can take the scores, and do a full analysis like mean, median, and standard deviation. This will actually paint a nice picture of just how "differently" we see The Game.

Even beyond that, and in reference to the title, it can be hard enough on a referee knowing there is an assessor out there, never mind a small army of them.

It was actually a funny sight, assessors lining and circling the field like we were in an Official Sports aquarium. You had to see it.

I personally give the referee great credit as it was clear, he saw us circling around during the match and responded well to it.

It is something to consider as an assessor in how a referee is going to react to different stresses we provide them, intentionally or not. Also, for referees, that flows downhill to players. What stress do referees put on players, intentionally or not.

Is there something we can, or should do to lower these tensions?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The nonsensical ravings of another in the media

FIFA: The art of defying logic and progress

Last month, FIFA decided to hand Christine Sinclair, captain of the Canadian womens' soccer team, her punishment for comments made during the 2012 Olympic semi-final match.

The only explanation they gave her for the four game suspension and the CHF 3500 fine was 'unsporting behaviour towards match officials'.

The alleged act was commited during a game marred with questionable calls. The US team whom they were playing, were even surprised at the turn of events. It left many a Canadians with a bitter taste in their mouths in the aftermath of the cliff hanger match where Sinclair scored all three goals owned by her team that day. ...

See the whole story here, from HITC.

Kicking Back Comments: I'm not quite sure where to go with this. It was actually pretty funny in spots since it is so misplaced ... so incredibly misplaced. Ms. Pradhan is clearly out of her depth.

I actually thought I was reading a piece in the Examiner on soccer for a second.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Check you rights at the schoolhouse gate?

Looks like BC star Stephanie McCaffrey had to check her rights the other day when she was suspended from playing against Penn State. A detail of her internet activities can be found here. READER WARNING for adult content.

The title comes from the case of Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) where it was made clear by SCOTUS, that a student can retain their rights within the school to protest (black arm bands in the case of Tinker) provided a safe environment is maintained. A good brief is here.

Now, should she be suspended in expressing her 1st Amendment rights, however vile they were?

Yes, I think she should be, not only for the reason that sports are not "core" to school and as such Tinker would not directly apply. Sports are considered outside the curriculum and as such are generally governed by other agreements made between the school and student athlete and include things like morality clauses.

Why do I bring this scenario up?

Well, aside from the lesson we should all know that if you write it electronically, it is forever in this day and age. We can go right to the recent scandals rocking the CIA for that lesson, not some 18 year old at BC.

More importantly, as referees we are in a position of great responsibility at all levels. It may not feel that way when you are out in a town match doing U-6 ball, but it is true. We are judged all the time as referees, on the field or off, and have to be careful (the more careful the higher we go). Silly things on a Twitter account can cost you big time.

Granted, this is a silly incident, and I personally think to hang McCaffrey out to dry misses the larger picture that who she was talking about is a convicted child molester. Doesn't make her action right, but come on folks, lets put it in context.

Bottom like is as a referee, you check some rights at the door at times, and have to be careful how to share your opinion, especially if it is controversial.

I think we will soon see McCaffrey again, with a bit more sense about her.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Plan B?

Auto-Rickshaw and driver in India
I am a pretty lucky guy. I have a great family, good job, terrific friends, and get the opportunity to travel internationally.

On several occasions I have been to India and have always been amazed by the culture ... and the traffic.

While I would NEVER drive in India, I have had the pleasure to ride in an Auto-Rickshaw for short trips around Bangalore and always wondered what it would be like to live that life.

Well, enter M B Santosh Kumar who is living that dream. FIFA referee and Auto-Rickshaw driver. Take a look at the full story here, from The Times of India.

It is a stark reminder that refereeing is really a hobby, not a vocation. Anyone who choses this path generally knows that going in, and that it is a brutal balance of work/life/refereeing.

Some are fortunate to have careers that pay well, and allow flexibility, such as medical doctors, lawyers, or independent business owners. Others, like me, who were career minded, have a tough time balancing the work/refereeing scales, as the more responsibility you get in your job, or in your refereeing, means more time you need to put in. A vicious circle.

I was really reminded of that fact in this article when Kumar hopes for a job when he retires from FIFA, in recognition of his service to the country of India.

Be assured, there is no such tribute here in the US. When you are done, you are done and left to your own devices. 

Like my dad used to tell me, "You are not going to be able to make a career out of refereeing in the US. Do it for fun ... but have a career."

I'm glad I listened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Due Process?

Fifa tells Asiagate protagonist Sunday to cool it

BLACK Leopards' former coach Sunday Chidzambwa has been warned by Fifa that he faces further sanctions if he persists with a court action he brought last week.

Chidzambwa wants to clear his name in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal in his native Zimbabwe. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of sportive.co.za.

Kicking Back Comments: If true, this hardly seems equitable. Why would FIFA not allow the coach to go to a recognized court of sport like CAS? Honestly, why wouldn't he after a lifetime ban from the country?

Do as I say, again?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Safety First + Hat Tip To HK Referee

So on this long weekend in the US, we completed our outdoor season. We were treated to an excellent match on the road, and while we did not come away with the win, the match was a microcosm of everything the boys learned over their playing careers to day. They executed very, very well as a group of 11 year olds.

There was one incident though that was of concern. In the 40' a keeper saved a ball, it rebounded into play, was shot again, and knock the keeper in the head - HARD.

The ball careened back into play and the referee allowed play to continue, despite the keeper being down, motionless, on the ground. It was a little bit scary frankly as we were unsure about the players condition.

Play was eventually stopped a minute or so later, and the coaches allowed to enter, after being admonished by the SAR to not enter into the field with out permission (technically correct, but practically wrong at the U11 level with a head injury), and all was fine after a throughout checkover by a medical professional.

So, what's the lessons for this youth level match?

  1. For a head injury to a player, stop play, and immediately let the coaches enter. Let them deal with the injury. DO NOT assist (medically) an injured player.
  2. If you are an AR, allow this entry to happen right away. Have the guts to take the heat from someone (like an assessor) who is dumb enough to challenge you on this point at the youth level.
  3. Know thy restart. A player was attended to, do they need to come out? Was the ball out of play? Are there any special circumstances for the keeper? Know these first, as in my scenario, there was a 2 minute discussion between the referee and ARs over what should happen. Restarts need to be automatic at all levels ... yes even U11.
Player safety is a concern at all levels. Granted at the professional and international levels there is gamesmanship that is used, and the injuries can be much more serious.

Keep in mind too that a referee is responsible for ALL the participants safety. There is no more clear example of this shown recently by Hong Kong Referee with his piece, An Explosion On The Soccer Pitch.

It is an excellent post. For those who do not read HK Referee, I strongly suggest you do, as the skill shown in breaking down critical incidents is top shelf.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Follow Up on the BFA

Politics, money and polemics shame country

Bangkok was designated in 2010 to host the top-flight competition, beating strong candidates China, Iran, Azerbaijan and Czech Republic. The BMA had promised to build a new stadium in Nong Chok District, east of the centre of the capital city.

However, things turned sour for the BMA and the project was only on paper for a long period of time. Critics blasted the poor selection of the construction site, deemed to far away from downtown. Many obstacles, including a change of government in 2011, budget cuts, delay in releasing money and massive flooding contributed to construction shortcomings. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Nation.

Kicking Back Comments: I am still wondering what FIFA will do if faced with similar challenges in Brazil.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Veterans Day

With thanks to those who are serving, or have served.


Cartoon courtesy of Jeff Parker

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Best Comment Ever

Take a look at this story from Wired, How Game Developers Tackled the Soccer Slide in FIFA 13.

Pretty standard stuff, right?

Well take a look at the comments ... first up is below.

Absolutely classic stuff.

Funny thing is of course, it is a consideration in FIFA 13.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

That flushing sound you just heard ...

... was $40M going down the drain for Thailand.

Fifa pulls plug on Futsal Arena

Fifa has decided not to use the Bangkok Futsal Arena (BFA) to host the 2012 Futsal World Cup competition, including the final match, due to safety concerns.

"Although further significant progress has been made, including the installation of a pitch, the key criteria laid out following the committee meeting on Oct 31 have not been sufficiently met," Fifa Futsal Committee said in a statement posted on the world football governing body's website yesterday.

"The safety of spectators, teams and all other visitors to the stadium are of paramount importance. Fifa and the local organising committee therefore concluded that such a fundamental issue, as well as the functionality of core services and facilities, cannot be compromised." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Bangkok Post.

Kicking Back Comments: Substitute the word Thailand for Brazil, World Cup 2012 for World Cup 2014, futsal for football ... and what do we have?

A prediction on what will happen in Brail?

It will never happen ... but unless something changes, the situation will potentially exist based purely on the media reports.

That will be $5.25 Million please

Calciopoli referees fined millions

An Italian court has ordered the referees involved in the 2006 match-fixing scandal to pay $5.25 million in damages to the Italian Football Federation.

Referee selector Paolo Bergamo received the heaviest fine of $1.31 million on Wednesday, while colleague Pierluigi Pairetto has to pay $1.05 million. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: And well deserved I may add. Sounds like a NBA case from recent history. That guy got what he deserved too. Jail time and all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Black Eyed Peas Not Allowed At World Cup!!

Yes, it's a play on words, but is absolutely true. From the story below, you can see just how much money comes into play in the World Cup as traditional Brazilian fare won't even be allowed to share a stage with the far more common place McDonald's ... a key sponsor of FIFA.

I would think that FIFA would be generous enough to have an "appropriate amount" of local vendors serving local foodstuffs. Heck, this is part of the reason some travel to the World Cup in different countries, to experience things just like this ... not something they can get around the corner.

FIFA urged to allow Brazilian food at Cup

SAO PAULO: FIFA is under pressure to allow sales of a native Brazilian sandwich in stadiums at the 2014 World Cup amid allegations that the governing body is bowing to corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s.

The row centers on acaraje, an iconic black-eyed pea fritter from the northeastern state of Bahia, and a FIFA regulation that bars street vendors within a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) radius of World Cup venues.

A petition circulated by the Association of Bahian female acaraje vendors (ABAM) is demanding that FIFA guarantees space inside stadiums for its members. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Peninsula.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Late to the party?

Sport’s experts meet at FIFA to discuss concussion

Top international sports experts representing the IOC, FIFA and several other international sports federations met at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on 1 and 2 November 2012 for the Fourth International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport. The objective of the two-day event was to discuss and find a consensus on the best way to manage and prevent cases of concussion in sport.

Professor Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer said: “What we are expecting is to develop very practical, simple, easy to use tools that could be applied for coaches, for the paramedical personnel on the sidelines and in grassroots, where there is little medical attention. So we’re trying to develop simple educational materials for all involved in football and disseminate them through FIFA development programmes. With such powerful partners like FIFA, the IIHF, the IRB, the Equestrian Federation and the IOC we can make a big impact. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Joy Online.

Kicking Back Comments: I am a little surprised FIFA is so late to the party here. The NFL has been aggressive in its campaign about concussions (after being sued). Other sports have followed in step in the US.

So much so that I was required to pass a concussion safety training course, and provide evidence of same before I was allowed to coach this year. The course is on-line, provided by the CDC, and can be found here.

While largely common sense, it is worth referees to take a look to at least be familiar.

Looks like FIFA's work is done ... just take a cue form the US guys.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

You of all people would know

FIFA president Blatter said English soccer ‘run by idiots,’ according to Coe

LONDON FIFA president Sepp Blatter once described English soccer as being “run by idiots,” according to Sebastian Coe.

Coe, who headed the London Olympics, worked with Blatter as chairman of FIFA’s ethics committee before taking a role with England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of thespec.com.

Kicking Back Comments: What's that expression about glass houses and throwing stones?

Actually I take that back, it would seem the opposite, that Sepp knows exactly what he is doing, and that, sadly shows malice, not incompetence.

Just a humble opinion.

Coe's book may be worth a read for this, and so many other reasons.

Friday, November 2, 2012

They should have sent a poet ...

How does that go .... truth is better than fiction. File this one there:

Sean Penn given a long to-do list by Bolivian president

LA PAZ, Bolivia — It's not clear whether Sean Penn knew ahead of his visit to Bolivia of the missions he'd be asked to assume by President Evo Morales.

Cabinet chief Juan Ramon Quintana told reporters after Tuesday's meeting that Morales asked the Oscar-winning actor to defend the chewing of coca leaf before the United Nations, lobby Chile to restore Bolivia's long-lost access to the Pacific Ocean and help persuade the United States to extradite a former Bolivian president. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Oregon Live.

Here is some video of the charity match, just for fun, from CBS News.

Kicking Back Comments: Between the story and the pictures, I was struck like Jodi Foster in "Contact" and had so many thoughts running through my head, I knew they should have sent a poet to write this entry. (gag)

This is not a dig at Jodi, or "Contact" which is a great movie, a clip from that particular scene is below, but a testament to silly "charity" events, when there are far more serious things to be concerned about in the world than the legalization of the coca leaf. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

US Soccer names new women's coach

US Soccer names new women's coach

The U.S. women’s national team has a new head coach.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, Tom Sermanni will lead America’s pre-eminent women’s sports team.

Sermanni, a 58-year-old Scot who had a modest professional career, currently coaches the Australian national women’s team, which he has brought to international respectability in his eight-year tenure. He previously spent several seasons coaching in the old WUSA women’s professional league in the U.S. ...

See the whole story here, from Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Welcome aboard Mr. Sermanni. Sadly, there is nowhere to go but down, as the best he can do is stay the same. No small challenge there.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This might leave a Mark

Meet Mr Controversy: Clattenburg is referee who loves the spotlight

As a top-class FIFA and Barclays Premier League referee, Mark Clattenburg is no stranger to controversy.

He is one of the new breed of celebrity officials, always happy to be the centre of attention in a world of glitz and glamour.

Even as he was warming up at Stamford Bridge before Sunday’s explosive game, he was aware that he was the centre of attention.

See the whole story here, from the Daily Mail.

Kicking Back Comments: At 37, Clattenburg, while reported as a smug son of a gun, is also one of the very best in the world right now and would seem to be on the precipice for an appointment toBrazil. These current allegations of racism may act toward sinking his ship regardless if they are true or not.

What stinks, is this would seem to be a no win for him. If he did it, he's out, and should be for such behavior. If he didn't, he may be out just with the taint of such an issue.

This one chaps me the wrong way and serves as a reminder just how fragile reputation is at the highest levels. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Will the US sue FIFA?

Exclusive: FIFA regulations could rule out a Qatar 2022 winter World Cup

Ever since the tiny Gulf state's upset victory over four other candidates in an often heated bidding contest, pressure has grown to take the unprecedented step of staging the tournament in winter, disrupting European fixture schedules but dodging sweltering mid-summer temperatures.

UEFA President Michel Platini is one of those leading the call for a November-December tournament but Qatar officials, who have continually faced unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, have repeatedly stated they would consider making the switch only if formally requested to do so by football's world governing body. ...

See the whole story here, from Inside World Football.

Kicking Back Comments: A line that caught my eye in the article was:

"Sources close to the bid process say any attempt to alter these conditions could result in a legal challenge by any of the four losing 2022 candidates, which could justifiably argue that they spent money, time and energy on their campaigns under the impression that they were bidding to host the World Cup in summer – and only in summer."

Now do I really think US Soccer will take action on FIFA ... no. In fact, heck no. In fact I don't think any "losing" country will as doing so would not please FIFA, and only England, Bin Hamman (who won his case against FIFA), and the media, have had the courage to stand up to FIFA.

Looks lime it is going to be a very, very hot World Cup in 2022.

I'm sure it will be fine ... it's a dry heat.