A few odds and ends that I noticed today and that I wanted to briefly note:
First there is this story; the Iranian football club Sepahan Isfahan has cancelled its match with the Serbian club Partizan Belgrade. Now there are a lot of good reason that Sepahan Isfahan could have cancelled its match, not the least of which is the violent, racist, and terrifying Serbian ultras, who are arguably the worse in the world. Partizan’s manager, Avram Grant, has given a different reason though; he said he was told that Iranians cancelled the match because Grant is an Israeli. At this point, this is just a charge, but I have no doubt it is true. Hatred of Israel is why Israel plays in UEFA rather than in the AFC. It’s why Partizan is preparing in Turkey (where the match with Sepahan Isfahan would have taken place) instead of Dubai where Partizan normally prepares during the winter. It’s why Amr Zaki of Zamalek refused to move to the Premier League.
No doubt, FIFA, driven by its “Say No To Racism” campaign, is gearing up to investigate. Oh no wait, this is FIFA. FIFA is like the schoolyard bully; it flexes its muscles against the weak but cowers before the unafraid. Nations who are either powerless (like tiny Caribbean island) or who have functioning governments (any truly democratic nation in FIFA) are wary of FIFA sanctions. Dictatorial regimes like those in North Korea or Iran don’t care one bit, and therefore get free rein. Sepp Blatter needs them more than they need Sepp.
In other news, spare a thought for the eloquent, elegant midfielder Yael Averbuch (formerly of WPS champion Western New York Flash) who is going to Rossiyanka Russia to ply her trade. Averbuch, whom I adore, seems to be eternally on the cusp of playing for the US Women’s National Team, but never quite makes it past the final cut. I wish her success at Rossiyanka, although I wish more that there were a top-level American league for her to play in. Perhaps this is what she needs to finally break through and play regularly for the national team. I hope so. Good luck, Yael!
The third story is more is far more well-known: the continuing decline of Arsenal who are virtually certain to finish yet another year without a trophy of any kind. For most clubs, a seven-year absence of silverware is not such a big deal; for a major superclub like Arsenal this is a disaster. In fact, Arsenal is on the verge of no longer being a superclub and instead just being a large but mediocre club with delusions of grandeur (like Newcastle United). It was bad enough for the Gunners when Chelsea, who are suffering their own decline, passed them by; now they have to suffer the indignity of being surpassed by bitter North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Jonathan Wilson does a very good job of deconstructing Arsenal’s woes and explaining what is obvious to even Arsenal fans: Arsene Wenger is at the root of the rot and his continued reign will bring only more failure.
Speaking of Tottenham, the British press continues to drum up the candidacy of Harry Redknapp as England manager. All I can wonder is why? What has he actually done? At the top-level he led Portsmouth to the FA Cup and Tottenham to the Champions League once (probably twice after this season ends). There is no sustained success, no Premier League titles, certainly no Champions League titles. So as I see it, in nearly three full decades of team management, he’s won exactly one important trophy and had two good seasons at a top club. If you want to be generous, he also won three lower league titles and led Tottenham to second place in the 2009 Carling Cup.
What exactly makes Harry Rednapp special? He’s English. It definitely fair to say that he is the best English manager in the country and arguably the world (only Steve McClaren could quibble and his time as national team manager was a disaster). On the other hand, being the best English manager in the world is akin to being the tallest midget. He’s also shown incredible disdain for non-Champions League, European competition, although I am not sure if that is a plus or a minus for the press. It’s not like there are so many English managers at the highest levels and few are being groomed, but it speaks volumes of both the expectations and the delusion of the English press and fans that Harry Redknapp is being continually touted as the perfect choice. (One could argue he is the only choice.) Redknapp for England smacks of incredible nativism and blindness to the obvious fact that the Premier League has destroyed the English game at all levels.