Saturday, August 31, 2013

Upgrade Kudos

Congratulations to the following Massachusetts referees for their upgrade to Grade 7 (Referee 1st class):

Cara Pember, Watertown, Grade 7

Mohamed Fnine, Fitchburg, Grade 7

Friday, August 30, 2013

You make the call ... monsoon version.

Special thanks to Elie for bringing this one forward.

So ... what's the call?




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blatter: We may regret picking Brazil

Blatter: World Cup in Brazil could be mistake

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 17 (Xinhua) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Wednesday it may have been a mistake to choose Brazil to host next year's World Cup.

His comments follow nationwide unrest during last month's Confederations Cup in which hundreds of thousands of Brazilians expressed anger that public money was being spent on stadiums instead of vital services like health, transport and education.

Blatter said he planned to raise his concerns with Brazil president Dilma Rousseff in September. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Xinhuanet.

Kicking Back Comments: What is sadly hilarious are Sepp's comments. He is already laying blame at the feet of Brazil. Now I for one believe that there will be significant protests during the World Cup, and based on his comments, Sepp is going to lay it right at the feet of the Brazilian government.

He forgets to give the citizens some credit, as while yes, the Brazilian government bears some responsibility for inviting FIFA (and the IOC) into their homes, these organizations have some responsibility back to the citizens (not just their government) for allowing the privilege.

FIFA courts are going to have their hands full in 2014, and certainly well beyond any "ambush marketing."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wait for it ...

FIFA to move 2022 WC from summer?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter expects his executive committee to decide soon that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be switched from summer.

Blatter told The Associated Press on Sunday that an Oct. 3-4 meeting in Zurich should approve the change, and begin consultation on the best time for Qatar to host the tournament.

''I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the ExCo will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in Qatar,'' Blatter said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual charity football tournament in his home village. ''What will be following, this would be then decided later.'' ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: From even a neutral perspective (i.e. without regard to nationality), this is a joke as Qatar did not suddenly get really hot in summer. This leads me down the path of (a) FIFA is really, really dumb in not recognizing this fact, or (b) FIFA knew exactly this tournament was unsustainable in the summer and had designs to changes the dates all along to accommodate the bribes country that won the vote.

As a US national, this ticks me off as if this was really on the table, it should have been so up front for a level vote between Qatar and the US. Instead we get the FIFA ExCo strong-armed to vote in October in moving the World Cup. I have to believe it would have been a different result if everyone was honest upfront about what their intention was, or at least going in knowing a concession would need to be made for the heat.

Something tells me that the vote would have been very different had that been disclosed up front.

 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy millennial Kicking Back!

So I looked down the other day and was amazed to see that our 1000th post was at hand.

Since Monday May 31st, 2010 with West Virginia ... or Bust  we have plumbed some pretty odd depths to be sure.

A few local, state, and regional tournaments, a World Cup, some Tour de France, and even some local bike races, all with FIFA bashing in between, and a fair amount of odd commentary from me.

I have to say honestly this has gone in some directions I never expected, yet have discovered that there are many things about our game that intersect with real life. Far more than I ever really knew of, or understood.

While it is a personal goal of mine to do a bit more soccer reporting, or at least writing in the days ahead, I can only hope we will continue on this path for the foreseeable future.


I have to say too, as the graph above indicates, our readership has increased steadily over the last several years ... please note however this is from 2010, not 2007 as the graph indicates. Even with that, we are doing well I think.

We have seen visits from referees of all grades in the US and abroad. FIFA referees and ARs checking in. Pro referees from the NHL, NFL, NBA and tennis jumping in every once in  awhile. It has been pretty awesome.

What is next is anyones guess.

I have played with thoughts on format changes to things like "FIFA Friday's" to limit my bashing to a day a week ... or "Monday Mania" where we go over a decision from the weekends matches.

Some folks have asked for more interviews with referees of all walks, and I am inclined to oblige as there are some really cool referees out there.

Some have asked for more instructional material as well, and there too is a good thought as at its core it has always been an intent to share about our game ... but I find there is a wider canvas.

I dunno, but in all events I would like to keep it fun, and tangentially insightful.

So there it is, and off we go, to our next millennial.

Thanks for reading as I recognize it is you all who make Kicking Back what it is.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Upgrade Kudos

... and as if by sheer coincidence from my question of "does one want to remain a youth referee forever?" comes the following announcements from the Massachusetts Refereeing Committee.

Hearty congratulation to the following individuals for their significant accomplishments:

Erl Burns, Belmont, Grade 6

Damian Bell, Westminster, Grade 7

Cassio Ribeiro, East Bridgewater, Grade 7

Maynard Sangster, Duxbury, Grade 7

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Up, Up, and Crap ... More Up

Well the time has come of one of my last events of the year, the first, and hopefully annual, White Mountain Gran Fondo.

Here is the really gross profile of the ride:


It is certainly one that does not favor me at all as I am way more at home on a flat, or in a sprint. In plain english, I am just too big to be effective in the hills.

That said, I will at least make a good show of it and throw myself against the hills and see what comes of it while riding for my team.

While I can't take claim to why I'm doing this with "... because it's there ..." as George Mallory famously did when he was asked why he was climbing Everest, I can say that I am significantly inspired to continue to progress without regard to where I am chronologically in my life.

As you may have guessed, this is a prelude into a bigger topic, as just today I received an EMail from US Soccer regarding what I would consider, significant changes with a serious impact to future referees.

Does this make it too easy to be, and stay, a youth referee, forever?

Is this good?

It makes me wonder ... and wonder I will as I slug it out in the mountains of NH Saturday.

I'll be "off line" until early next week ... but as JAFO has shown recently ... there is no shortage of controversy to discuss. Don't be surprised on an appearance, or just enjoy the archives on the right.

We'll be back at it Monday for certain.

Thanks for reading!
PK


Friday, August 23, 2013

From Humble Beginnings

Rejection, tragedy and billions of dollars - The story of FIFA

“EA didn’t give a shit about FIFA.”

Neil Thewarapperuma (or Neil T to his friends) isn’t a man to mince his words. He was the European marketing boss for EA Sports back in 1993, the year the publisher would launch its first ever football game.

He wasn’t wrong. EA didn’t care about FIFA, or soccer at all for that matter. The US publisher had no interest in a sport that was practically non-existent in its home country.

But the persistent bloody-mindedness of EA’s European outfit made FIFA happen. And it was this team who would go on to work alongside a small group of talented developers some 5,000 miles away, to build what would become one of the biggest video game franchises in the world.

This is how they did it. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MCVUK.

Kicking Back Comments: Art imitating life I think.

This is really an amazing article for both the gamer in you, and a fan(atic) of The Game.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why JAFO was right, and how MLB agrees

So if you happen to miss it yesterday, JAFO and I went point - counterpoint on the Dempster - A-Rod issue from Sundays Red Sox - Yankees game.

Take a look here, for a brief recap.

I enjoyed JAFO's analysis, and as often occurs when we interact, I learn something by looking through a lens I had never before. I am learning to call it the "JAFO Effect."

Interestingly enough, almost immediately after JAFO posted the piece, Dempster was suspended, and from it, for me, it was more clear than ever that MLB through that suspension and fine, agreed with JAFO, and condoned the action of Dempster.

Let me start by agreeing with JAFO that Dempster was not trying to hurt A-Rod. If he tried to hurt him, he would have hurt him. My biggest beef was Dempster playing the "MLB Enforcer" role, then ducking the issue completely when asked directly. Yeah I know you get suspended when you make such statements, but I think it may have gone better if he said something.

Well, JAFO noted, and I agree, that a message was sent, and through the lack of direct reaction from both teams, they were "ok" with what happened.

I'll go further and say given the suspension that MLB handed down to Dempster today, they too were "ok" with what happened. Why do I say that?

Well, consider the role of a starting pitcher, with a start approximately every (5) days. Between starts these guys don't do anything and if a team happens to have a day off, well that's just gravy.

Now, Dempster was suspended for exactly (5) days by MLB, and when given the opportunity,  to appeal his suspension, he chose not to, thereby not extending the time which the suspension would be served. Oh did I mention that the Sox have a day off coming up next week?

So think about it, MLB suspended Dempster only for the exact amount of time he would have had to sit anyway, resting for his next start. Pretty strange coincidence huh?

Further, the "undisclosed amount" he was fined was reported to be $2500. Further indication that MLB was "ok" with the incident as such a fine is hardly punitive for a player making $13.25M this year ... oh yeah ... and he still gets paid during this time. That part is of course typical for on field incidents. Even Giardi was fined more at $5000 for "doing the right thing" yet here too I agree that while traditional, it was practically the wrong way.

So while both teams showed great apathy to the beaning (except for Girardi, who needed to respond the way he did), MLB has followed suit and I would opine, through their action, essentially said "nothing to see here" by appeasing the yahoos like me who genuinely believe that Dempster was wrong in playing the enforcer (yet traditionally right as JAFO noted) by a suspension and fine, and also appeased whoever is left supporting A-Rod as he prepares to face his arbitration hearing.

One guy who may feel a bit funny is O'Nora, who saw MLB go over his head to "do the right thing" (albeit meaninglessly punitive).

Something tells me he is ok with it too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Point - Counter Point with regard to A-Rod


I read my esteemed colleague's comments this morning with great appreciation, but as he so clearly admits, he is not a baseball guy.  Let me offer a different perspective.

The act of hitting a guy in baseball is not cowardly.  It is an accepted part of the game and has been since the beginning of time.  You might rail at such a juvenile (or perhaps Neanderthal) method of addressing issues, but it works.  There is an unwritten code about how the game is to be played, the standards of behavior and what the players themselves will tolerate, especially when it comes to showing up the game.  Baseball is a non-contact sport, so throwing at hitters is one of the only ways that players have to police themselves. 

(Incidentally, the same holds true in almost every sport.  Hit the opponent's goalkeeper in hockey and you will find yourself in a fight on the next shift if not sooner.  We may not see it, but there are a lot of scores that are settled during the point-after try in a football game.) 

 I am not here to discuss what A-Rod did.  However what he did clearly went over the line as far as the players were concerned, and it is still their game.  So let's look at the actions of Dempster, Girardi, and O'Nora a little more closely.

First and foremost, did the action of hitting the batter work?  I would argue that yes, the action achieved the mission.  How do I know this?  Because there was no bench clearing brawl in the game.  Fights in baseball (or any sport) generally occur only when players do not have any other method of obtaining justice.  No fight = we are okay with the way things are.  (Read a little more into this folks: even the Yankees are not that fond of what A-Rod has done.)

 There are ways of hitting players that send totally different messages.  Dempster was not trying to injure A-Rod.  His first pitch was a fastball behind his knees.  His second and third pitches were inside to let everyone know that the first pitch was not a mistake.  And when he finally hit him, it was with a fairly benign off-speed pitch in the middle of his back.  If he wanted to really do damage, he would have zipped a fastball about six inches behind his ear, and let A-Rod duck into it.

Did O'Nora say something sotto-voce to the catcher?  I don't know but don't assume he didn't.  Saltilamacchia just might have decided to ignore the warning and let nature take its course.  Sometimes players just have to work things out and Salty may have instinctively known that he would lose his pitcher and the rest of his teammates if he intervened.

Should O'Nora have tossed Dempster after he hit A-Rod?  Maybe, but from a management point of view that might have been worse.  Remember that this game was in Boston.  He surely would have ended up tossing out Farrell too, and then yes, I am pretty sure we would have seen a fight at some point. 

So why did Girardi come out to defend his player, and why was he then tossed?  Everyone has a role to play in this theater.   When A-Rod gets plunked, there is a challenge to Girardi just as surely as if he was in the batter's box.  Girardi has to defend his players, even the unlikeable ones.  Even more important is that the team sees that he is defending them.  This is no different than a soccer referee defending his AR from dissenting players, even when the AR blew the call.  (Heck, those are the ones we defend the most vehemently.)

Lastly, why was Girardi fired up enough to be tossed?  I think Girardi was upset most that his pitcher (Sebathia, who is not shy about hitting batters and would have surely retaliated) was being warned without having done anything wrong.  Girardi was upset that the option was taken away from him.

So there you have it.  Another perspective on the game within a game.  Hey, I paid my 25 cents for this seat, so I am just as entitled as the next guy to have an opinion!

Chicken S%!t and Chicken Little went to a Red Sox Game ...

Sounds like a joke worth hearing, right? Well I can do better. Here is the joke, it's worth the 3 mins:



So in this saga, Ryan Dempster is Chicken S%!t on many levels.

First, is the cowardly play of plunking Alex Rodriguez. I happen to believe that the act of intentionally hitting a batter, and lets be clear, this was an intentional act, is the act of a coward.

Yes, yes, yes ... Dempster was sending "a message" to A-Rod. Maybe it was about his suspected PED use, maybe it was because of the Red Sox - Yankees rivalvary, maybe it was because A-Rod stole his girlfriend.

We'll just never know because Dempster, in his second act of cowardice, refused to admit he threw at A-Rod intentionally. You would figure all that honor in protecting the game he would at least say why he did it.

Nothing.

Coward.

Farrell came down a peg too, actually backing his pitcher. Not just saying something like, he was heated ... we are always emotional ... but actually affirmatively defended the act in some twisted buffoon like statement.

Pahlease.

Finally, who the does Dempster think he is, the MLB enforcer? What act of ego makes this man think he can summarily take things into his own hands and throw fastballs at an open target?

By the way, he really sucked at it as it took him (4) tries to finally land one. Keep that stat in mind, and the fact (3) other Red Sox were hit AFTER this travesty.

Enter Chicken (too) Little, Brian O'Nora. It pains me to write this honestly as I think he is a hell of an umpire. He really blew this one IMHO however, as the only one ejected, was the guy who did the right thing, the NY Manager Girardi, for defending a defenseless player from being intentionally thrown at.

So lets look at the facts again.

Obviously A-Rod is in some deep crap with his impending arbitration hearing regarding the use of PEDs. His day is coming soon.

Clearly there is no love lost between the Sox and Yanks anyway, and if your humble host knows it, the whole universe should as I am not what I would call a baseball guy. With this rivalry, the umpiring crew should have been on alert anyway.

Well when A-Rod got up and the crowd reacted as they did, the crew really should have taken note, if they did not already. But, as thing so, so far, so good, as the crew can not prejudice a decision.

Well, after Dempster's fist pitch is where is goes downhill ... as the video shows, he threw behind A-Rod. Now this was not an off speed pitch that got loose, or something even close. Dempster was looking to plunk A-Rod, and everyone knew it ... even the crowed who roared in appreciation. Just listen.

Right there ... RIGHT THERE ... O'Nora should have warned Dempster. A shot across the bow to let him know that he was going to do something to keep things under control.

A warning RIGHT THEN to Dempster may have saved this game.

As we know, O'Nora did not, but had a 2nd and 3rd bite of the apple with pitches 2 and 3 which were WAY inside. One at the waist, one at the knees.

While O'Nora missed his moment of truth with pitch 1 ... he could have recovered, and even if he didn't want to make a show of it, have a word with his catcher and say that if he hits A-Rod, he goes ... then call a time out to let the catcher walk out to pass on the message.

None of that happened, and pitch 4 came, and plunked A-Rod.

So how did O'Nora immediately respond? Not by dealing with the guilty party, the Chicken S%!t coward Dempster, he warned both benches.

What?!?

Here's a pro tip boys and girls, if you deal with what caused the issue, you will have to deal with the fall out a lot less.

Do we think if O'Nora tossed Dempster at the 1st attempted to hit A-Rod, this would have happened?

I would opine not, not even Farrell getting ejected. What is the argument, he didn't mean it?

Again Pahlease.

So what are we left with now, a pitcher who intentionally threw at a player is not suspended, his manager that condoned the action is not suspended, and a manager that defended a player who was intentionally plunked was suspended.

Oh, and both benches were warned ... which was meaningless as (3) more Yankees were hit after this whole thing. While they were truly not intentional, this crews credibility was already lost to me as we had come to the point in a match that not even a send off meant anything.

It was a stunningly poor decision from O'Nora who is an exceptional umpire.

It was also the very first time in my life I was really happy to see the Yankees beat the Red Sox.

Oh was a conflicted day I had.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm sorry ... who did you pick?

FIFA picks Boyce to lead World Cup ref selection

ZURICH -- FIFA has appointed Vice President Jim Boyce to chair its referees committee, which chooses match officials for World Cup duty in Brazil.

Northern Ireland official Boyce replaces another FIFA Vice President Angel Maria Villar, who oversaw training and selection of referees for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

FIFA is currently preparing 52 refereeing teams for the World Cup. It typically selects 30 for the tournament. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Miami Herald.

Kicking Back Comments: I almost immediately though of this hotel chain when reading this announcement:









Read mo
re here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/13/3559356/fifa-picks-boyce-to-lead-world.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/13/3559356/fifa-picks-boyce-to-lead-world.html#storylink=cpy


Now Mr. Boyce is certainly a seasoned sportsman based in his background when can be gleaned from this interview. No issues with him at EXComm as he certainly fits the bill by all accounts.

But like the above commercial for Holiday Inn Express, even if looking the part, does he have the technical expertise to choose World Cup Referees?

From all of his sporting history it would seem he is not educated in officiating at all, never mind at the very pinnacle of refereeing on the planet Earth.

Is this a good idea?

Now, he may have a technical staff appointed to him to actually make the decision for him, and he rubber stamps it, but if true, it would seem too great an opportunity for some collusion.

How many referees from Ireland are we going to see at the World Cup this year? In future years?

This is not to imply that these folks if selected don't deserve the honor, but it will beg the question from others, putting unnecessary doubt on a qualified referee, or in the alternative, sending potentially unqualified ones (like Koman Coulibaly) into the FIFA witness protection program. I mean we haven't even seen him on a milk carton.

Why even monkey around, get Massimo Busacca on the job? He is in Dubai right now training folks for 2014 ... it would seem like a reasonable choice to me.

Why is FIFA choosing someone who is not truly qualified for the job?

Maybe he makes a mean panini.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

FIFA has questions ...

FIFA Asks WCup Host Russia to Explain Anti-Gay Law

IFA has asked authorities in 2018 World Cup host Russia for "clarification and more details" about a new anti-gay law, joining the International Olympic Committee in seeking answers from Moscow.

Legislation prohibiting "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors" has provoked an international furor since President Vladimir Putin signed it off in June and sparked growing concern at the IOC leading to the Sochi Winter Games in February.

The two most influential organizations in world sports are both now asking Russia how the law would be enforced during their marquee events.

See the whole story here, courtesy of ABC.

Kicking Back Comments: IOC aside, where there is clear political posturing on the part of the candidates, Russia certainly will have some 'splain to do to FIFA, and should be prepared to have its sovereign law changed for the duration of the tournament.

Some of the comments were funny as people actually think sovereign law is just that when FIFA comes to town. Sorry to say, it is not, and for 4 weeks in July, we will see (I am guessing) a kinder, gentler, Russia.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Angel on (The Rays') Shoulder

There are relatively few opportunities for real trickery outside of feigning fouls in soccer.

One could certainly be penalties, or kicks from the mark. Another may be pass back to the goal keeper. There may be some opportunities during some set plays too, particularly corner kicks where I have seen some trick set plays used, at times with some success.

In all cases however, a referee has to be ready for it, and know what the appropriate result needs to be, without regard to what everyone else thinks.

Take a look at the clip below from the Rays v. LA the other day, and how nearly everyone in the park, media included, got it wrong, and it took super, duper, extra slo mo several times for folks to figure it out. Some I'm sure still don't get it.

The Rays of course, pulled it off to perfection, and Angel Hernandez had it the whole way, finally to the credit of the media, even without instant replay or some elaborate sensing device to tell us where the ball was.

Hat tip to Angel Hernandez for an outstanding call.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That Bites

Suarez refuses to say sorry and still believes Liverpool have betrayed him over broken promises

Luis Suarez's relationship with Liverpool will hit a new low this week when he refuses to apologise for his controversial attempts to engineer a move to Arsenal.

Sources close to the Uruguayan believe his relationship with manager Brendan Rodgers is beyond repair after the bitter transfer wrangle that has overshadowed the Merseysiders’ pre-season.

Suarez is training alone at Liverpool’s Melwood HQ, and Rodgers insists he will not be allowed to rejoin his team-mates until he apologises for last week’s public outburst, in which he made it clear he wanted to quit Anfield for the Emirates. ...

See the whole story here, from Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: With obvious sarcasm regarding Suarez biting incidents x2 (see below video), I have to tip my hat to managers as well. We talk about player management here a fair bit, but sometimes neglect the actual managers of these folks.

I can't even begin to imagine the nightmare that is going on inside Liverpool right now with this issue. Also, I'm sure it does not help that there is more than a few rumors about the sale of Suarez, and for that matter Liverpool themselves.

While everyone in the organization is saying "... we're not selling ..." it would seem clear that with some of Henry's other deals, and the fact that Liverpool is not doing as well as was expected, I would not be surprised to hear Liverpool on the block soon.

Now, imagine a manager of that team ... out of control players, owners not happy, and a team not doing well.

Yipes ... makes looking like managing (2) teams for (90) minutes fairly pale.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We are the Borg ...

... come on, say it with me.

For any like me who are fans of Star Trek, we know the Borg as a ruthless culture that assimilates everything in its path. They usually entered with a greeting as shown from the below video.



I had this palpable thought that referees are going in this direction when I saw the video from the 2013 MLS all star game, seen below.



So lets take a quick tally:
  • Beeper flags to get signals from ARs - check.
  • Headset to communicate with ARs and Alternate official - check.
  • Stereo microphone to record sound during the match - check.
  • Headset camera to record video during the match - check.
  • Goal line technology to indicate when a ball crosses the goal line - check (soon).
This is crazy folks ... are we referees, or are we simply puppets for all this technology?

Seriously though, do we really need all of this to manage a match?

I get that some of this, like the camera, is for entertainment purposes, for now. But when will we start using it for "instant replay" or even when it gets much better, real time discipline.

Don't think so? Just wait another 10 years and see what we get. By the 2022 World Cup, I think we will see less human, and more Deus ex machina.

It's funny too, FIFA and other cry, and cry for "less mechanical referees", yet right before our eyes we see the opposite. Just have a look.

We are the Borg ...
Locutus of Borg circa 24th Century
Professional soccer referee circa 2013


Monday, August 12, 2013

Laser focus ... at 16?

So as many of you know, I am an amateur bike racer on the weekends ... well actually a lot more given the amount I train ... but compete on the weekends.

I was at a local criterium series the other day, and in the race I compete in, there are usually a group of very talented junior teams. These kids, and they are kids, are 14 - 17 years old, and are already tremendous riders that are very well coached.

I was talking to one of the coaches in what they are looking for in a young rider, and attempting to glean a parallel to young referees.

I was not disappointed.

He mentioned the #1 quality was that of commitment. Not genes, not "raw athletic ability", not a fancy bike that was bought for them, commitment and a desire to get better.

I reflected on my own career growing up and how, at times, I was supremely un-focused at 16 years old with my refereeing.

It can be somewhat "unnatural" in have someone at such a young age, have such a laser focus, particularly for something that will take a very long time to develop, like refereeing.

For the referees out there who are youths themselves, I salute you. It ain't easy growing up, and being asked to have such focus at such a young age.

For the referees who are a bit more seasoned, and working with these young referees, take some extra time and look out for these younger referees.

You might just make their day knowing they have a friend who has been there.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Again ... No "plan B" from FIFA

US not approached to host World Cups
The United States has not been approached about hosting the 2014 or 2022 World Cups should concerns about security or weather force them to be moved.

After widespread protests marred last month's Confederations Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said additional unrest during next summer's World Cup could mean that Brazil was the wrong choice for host. FIFA also has had concerns about the pace of construction, fearing that some stadiums won't be ready in time for the tournament. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: It's too bad actually, as I think FIFA should, just as part of doing business, have a Plan B for the World Cup. While I am bias and think the US is ready made for the opportunity  there are certainly other countries capable at the drop of a proverbial hat to do this as well.

By there way, in the article it tossed in there that Mr. Gulati sits on FIFA ExComm. While he was not approached to host in lieu of Qatar, he is a very, very skilled politician, and one who I believe has the best interests of The Game at heart.

Keep a sharp eye out there folks ... I think we will see more.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cheers to the FA!

FA anniversary friendly at Wembley will honour English referees

England’s friendly with Scotland as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary will also celebrate the high esteem in which English refereeing is held around the world.

The four officials all hail from nations where English referees have overseen World Cup finals. The FA has invited the German referee, Felix Brych, to oversee the first ever international in Europe with Hawk-Eye goal-line technology. Who said the FA does not have a sense of humour?

England are the only nation to have provided four World Cup final (or final game) referees: George Reader in Brazil 1950, William Ling in Switzerland 1954, Jack Taylor in West Germany 1974 and Howard Webb in South Africa in 2010. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Telegraph.

Kicking Back Comments: A fitting tribute for a talented group of referees.

It is an opportunity lost however for US Soccer in its own centennial year. How amazing would it have been to honor such greats such as Socha, Mauro, Angeles, Baharmast, and Hall among others ...

While the US does not have a World Cup final to its name, it has far less to do with ability than it does politics.

Too bad too, as US referees at that level are, measure for measure, some of the very best in the world.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hey look at me ...

Jamaican Soccer Player Suspended by FIFA for Failed Drug Test

World soccer governing body FIFA provisionally suspended a member of Jamaica’s national team for failing a drug test during World Cup qualifying.

FIFA said in a statement the player and a Jamaica team official, neither of whom were identified, were banned for an initial period of 30 days and that an investigation has been opened.

The player tested positive in his “A” sample for a prohibited substance following a qualifying match in Honduras on June 11 and has waived his right to have the “B” sample analyzed, FIFA said. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Bloomberg.

Kicking Back Comments: With all the doping news going around right now, I wonder if FIFA just wanted a headline to show they were doing "something about doping."

Who knows ... but I am curious, if this was a case of PEDs, or the other recreational drugs (that are WADA prohibited).

Either way, the timing of the two stories from FIFA ... and all the other doping news is ... interesting. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

FIFA on the big screen

Depardieu back in Paris for FIFA film after fallout with French

Veteran French actor Gerard Depardieu is shooting a film in Paris for the first time since he sparked a huge outcry by leaving France for tax reasons and taking Russian nationality.

In an exclusive interview with AFP, the 64-year-old film star said he did not move out of the country to escape the taxman but to flee "the way governments use the money they take." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Yahoo! Entertainment.

Kicking Back Comments: While I have no public comment of the reasons for Depardieu's departure from France, I am excited (yes excited) to see this movie. I have great respect for Jules Rimet and am curious to see how they portrait one of the greatest men in The Game.

I expect it will be a straight to BluRay deal, and out in time for the 2014 Jules Rimet World Cup.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, please join me in congratulating
John Eckart for the achievement of attaining Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Well done!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is getting boring

FIFA warns Brazil's WC organizers

With the World Cup less than a year away, FIFA pledged to increase its monitoring of stadium construction in Brazil. The world governing body wants all 12 stadiums ready for the June 2014 kickoff of soccer's showcase event, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Friday.

There were several delays in stadium delivery for the Confederations Cup this year, and FIFA has made it clear that it will not tolerate the same problems again. Brazil needs to deliver the final six World Cup venues by the end of the year. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Can we just jump to the end when a couple of the stadia are not complete and FIFA is left scrambling? I hope I am wrong, but this seems to be the inevitable outcome here as there seems to be no end in sight for this.

What really stinks, is that FIFA really would seem to have no other option than whip the organizers, then distance themselves when it all goes wrong. I would find it hard to believe that FIFA has, and Brazil has accepted, a second source for getting these stadia completed in time.

While there will certainly be a happy face on it, I am sad to think there will be many failings of the host country to complete their obligations, and FIFA impotent to help in any way. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

I'm Baaaaaaaack ...

Well folks I am happy to be back and certainly will have a few interesting stories from a week in the mountains.

One was on the drive back today and listening to (sports) radio and catching up on some of the other goings on in the world.

As you can imagine, I was keenly fixated on A-Rod and others who later today (August 5th, 2013) should be receiving "punishment" from MLB for violating the PED rules.

Given my recent stance, and in large part my current stance, on Lance, which I will expand on, I am finding the whole incident farcical.

What was even funnier was FIFA's recent (August 3rd, 2013) reaction to the "doping scandals" that seem to be rocking every major sport right now, which was (it's only) cocaine and marijuana that the majority of players are getting caught for.

Wow.

See the whole article here, from Yahoo! Sports, and the statement directly from FIFA stating (in their opinion) "... their is no systemic doping ... ."

I found three things interesting.

First, from the FIFA article was the clear link to cycling and doping and how FIFA seems to be taking some queues from it. It is odd that cycling is "leading the way" in cleaning up all sports from such activities ... at least non-US sports.

Second, was the statement from FIFA CMO Jiri Dvorak who stated that:
"For me as a scientist I believe in facts and figures, not in speculation: We have no evidence that there is systematic doping."

I don't know how hard they are looking honestly. If there are no biological passports in place, as their is with the UCI, and FIFA is relying on "random" drug tests, as an engineer looking to solve problems (not a scientist who seeks the truth through experimentation), is FIFA looking to monitor, or just turn a blind eye to what really might be going on?

Finally, the blasé statement that most of the (70 to 90 out of 30000 samples) come back with "recreational drugs" and that does not alarm FIFA. Listen, I'm no prude, and certainly not a fool, but a few things came to mind.

First, are these recreational drugs on the banned list? While I don't think marijuana is a PED, except maybe for a brownie eating contest, I am not so sure about cocaine. In fact a very quick check of the WADA site indicates ... these substances are banned at all times. So while there may be no rampant PED use ... there is certainly a significant about of abuse of WADA banned substances.

Second, as the FIFA CMO, where is the outrage that this stuff is bad for you? I mean come on ... my sports heroes as role model fantasy left the station years ago, but a MD and CMO should at least have thrown in a ... you know kids this is not good for you ... statement.

Third, how is this not a problem? .3% Are popped for a WADA drug violation ... where is the line?
In my head it is ZERO. Anything bigger is an issue. Now, is there a PED epidemic in football? I dunno, but unless FIFA starts looking they won't ever know ... and that may be the plan (a la MLB). BUT, what about all the other drug use? Why isn't that considered systemic? Should it be?

Again, I dunno, but for FIFA I think they need to at least acknowledge the non-PED drug use.