A Game Of Three Thirds

Before I get to today’s rant, I ask that we spare a thought for News of the World, the right-wing, populist, Murdoch-owned, British tabloid (think New York Post but even worse) which was founded in 1843 and will publish its last edition this Sunday.  The end of News of the World was inevitable when it was discovered that the tabloid was involved in a massive phone-hacking conspiracy that just kept getting bigger and bigger over the past five or so years.  The media sees itself through self-righteous eyes and generally excuses bad behavior from fellow journalists, but this was inexcusable.  There is no good reason why innocents (famous or not) should have their privacy intruded upon.  A newspaper simply cannot do willy-nilly what law enforcement must get strict court permission and supervision to do.  Rot in hell, News of the World; may you be joined by the rest of Murdoch’s foul empire.

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Speaking of horrible, slimy people, FIFA and Qatar are in the news again.  This time it because the head of the company in charge of designing Qatar’s 2022 stadia (God, it feels painful to write that) told delegates at a conference that FIFA is going to change the rules of the game to accommodate the Qatari heat.  If it gets too hot, the matches will be played as three half-hour periods rather than the two 45 minute halves that have existed since the beginning of the game.  It is so nice that FIFA cares about  players’ safety, but rather than a massive upheaval of the game’s identity, why not change the venue instead?

FIFA have denied this, of course.  They are under enough pressure already and most certainly don’t need anymore.  It has been slightly over half a year since that horrible decision to hold a World Cup in Qatar was made, and it seems that at least once every month or so some new public relations disaster ensues.

I suppose one could legitimately ask what is so important about two 45 minute periods.  If the match still 90 minutes, why does it matter how those 90 minutes are divided up?  It’s a fair point I guess, but part of football’s core identity is being a game of two halves.  It dates back to the earliest days of the game before it became formalized.  Football as we know it was saved from the Industrial Revolution by the British public (private) schools.  The faculty and administration of the schools introduced sport so that their rioting students would take out their aggression on each other rather than on the faculty and townspeople.  Different schools created different rules, and some schools codes (such as Eton’s and Harrow’s) emphasized dribbling with the feet, which others (most famously at Rugby School) allowed handling.  When teams from different schools met, they played the first half with one school’s code and the second with the other school’s code.  They players never saw themselves as playing different sports just different rules.  Hence, a game of two halves.

Association football (“soccer”) was first codified nearly 150 years, the proponents of handling the ball developed their football into its own sport, and the reasons behind two halves disappeared, but it nevertheless became an integral part of the game’s structure.  There is something simple, and symmetrically pleasing about two halves, that one does not get from smaller division such as the thirds and quarters.

In a more modern, television-driven age, a two-halves game with one break in the middle is perfect because it limits the amount of time one has to sit through commercial advertisements (which we are already bombarded by on stadium grounds and players’ kits.)  The half time break allows the viewer to get up, take a break, and ignore the ads that are selling us what we don’t need.  Compare that to sports such as baseball and American football where it feels like there are more commercials than game.

It is important to stress that FIFA denies this conversation took place, but it probably did.  Two breaks in the match instead of one would allow for increased ad revenue, and FIFA doesn’t care in the least about the soul and identity of the game.  This just provides the pretense that they care about the players rather than about the old men of the ExCo who lined their pockets with Qatari bribe money. (Speaking of that, the evidence against Mohammed Bin Hammam keeps mounting, and although it all appears to be circumstantial, he’s done.  Out of FIFA.)

The 2022 World Cup is 11 years away.  Many things could change between now and then, but I suspect I will not be watching it.  Given the way that the international game has faded and the club game has risen, I also suspect I will not be the only one.

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FIFA In Crisis

If you are a longtime reader of this blog you may notice that I generally try to avoid swearing.  My rule of thumb is that if you can’t say something cleanly, you probably shouldn’t say it at all.  But today, I am going to break my own rule because all hell broke loose at FIFA today and the shit has hit the fan.

If you’ve been following FIFA politics over the last several months (and really why would you), you would have known that there is an election for President of that corrupt, wretched organization coming up on June 1.  The two candidates, incumbent Sepp Blatter and AFC head Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, have been campaigning for the top spot.  By campaigning, I mean debasing world football by making ridiculous promises and cozying up to dictators (like the Burmese junta.)

To lovers of the game, this is probably the worst of all choices.  The problems with FIFA go back decades, but it has gotten really bad in the past few months.  For years world football fans have basically tolerated the vileness of FIFA as a fact of life.  This past December though, FIFA chose the hosts for the 2018 and 2022.  The process was so fraught with barely-concealed corruption that the stench became impossible to ignore.  The vote left the English humiliated in their failed 2018 attempt.  Worse, FIFA gave Qatar the 2022 tournament.  Qatar, a nation that cannot possibly hold the largest sporting event in the world both for climate and size reasons.  Not to mention the extreme religious intolerance of the oil-wealthy emirate.  Any of the other four candidates (US, Australia, Japan, and South Korea) would have been better.  FIFA’s own technical committee said as much.  Yet in a secret ballot, FIFA’s bribe-susceptible Executive Committee chose Qatar.  And bin Hammam’s hands were all over it.

Since the vote, FIFA has had nothing but trouble.  FIFA’s ethics have constantly been called into question and the issue of corruption has not gone away.  No one was excited about the Presidential race because it was widely assumed that regardless of who won (and it was assumed to be Sepp Blatter), FIFA would remain the horribly corrupt entity it is.

This month, two things happened in England to renewed the strength of the maelstrom.  The Sunday Times published a whistleblower’s account of how Qatar bribed its way to be the World Cup host, and the runner had (shock of shocks) ties to bin Hammam.  Then Lord Treisman, the disgraced former head of the English FA named names before a Parliamentary committee (where he has immunity from England’s draconian libel laws.)  In particular, he named the heads of CONMEBOL, Brazil, and Thailand.  He also named Jack Warner, the head of CONCACAF and a pantomime villain if ever there was one.  But Warner was a close buddy of Blatter’s, and probably FIFA’s most effective power-broker.  It seemed unlikely that anything would be done.

Today though there was an earthquake.  Chuck Blazer, the general secretary of CONCACAF, and America’s ExCo member brought bribery charges against Warner and bin Hammam.  That a fellow insider brought charges is completely without precedent in FIFA.  That it was Chuck Blazer makes it downright shocking.  First, he has been the man behind Warner’s throne for over two decades.  Warner has been accused of many horrible (and probably true) things, and Blazer never turned on him before.  Second, Blazer is possibly the smartest man in FIFA.  If he brought these charges, they are real, and there will be consequences.

Here’s what happened.  The FIFA presidential campaign has not been going well for either Blatter or bin Hammam.  The continental confederation heads (most of whom cannot vote) favor Blatter.  Many of the actual national FA heads are less enthralled with him.  But they don’t particularly like bin Hammam either.  England’s FA is refusing to vote for either man. Most likely there will be others.

CONCACAF is an extremely important region in this vote, and historically it votes as a bloc.  Which means everyone votes the way Jack Warner tells them to vote.  Blatter got to address the confederation in Miami when CONCACAF shamefully reelected Jack Warner.  Bin Hammam was denied as visa, so Jack Warner–remember Blatter’s “good friend”–set up a special conference for him and the CFU, the heads of the Caribbean nations of FIFA (25 of CONCACAF’s votes).  No other CONCACAF nation was invited (i.e. the US, Mexico, Canada, etc.)

Thus far has been undisputed fact.  Allegedly at this meeting, Warner on behalf of bin Hammam offered $40,000 to each CFU head.  This is a major violation of FIFA law.  Some CFU heads complained to Blazer and he went to John Collins, a member of FIFA’s legal committee.   Supposedly there are multiple affidavits from witnesses.  Bin Hammam and Warner are going down.

The good news is that Warner, FIFA’s greatest crook, will be gone.  The bad news is that Blatter will win.  (Both Warner and bin Hammam noted the unusual timing of the accusations, and implied that Blatter was behind it.  Truthfully, he may have been just a tiny bit worried.)

There are so many questions that need to be answered.  Right now, I would suggest reading this article or Bill Archer’s blog, the best FIFA-watcher blog out there.

The big question now is what will happen with the 2022 World Cup.  It has been fairly obvious for some time that Qatar should not be allowed to keep it.  I imagine that Blatter would be only too happy to strip the Qataris and bin Hammam of the World Cup.  But whether that happens or not is a completely different story.  This is not going away soon.

Get the popcorn, the soap opera has just begun.

In other news, Jose Mourinho won his fight against Jorge Valdano.  Valdano has been sacked from Real Madrid.  It was pretty well-known that one of them would be gone by the end of the season.  Madrid made its choice.  It may be the right one, but expect the football world to turn on Madrid next season.  Mourinho is a virus, and he has infected Madrid with his bile.

Qatar Close To Buying Manchester United

I wrote about this before, but it according to ESPN, the Qatari royal family takeover of Manchester United is near complete, although the Glazers are still denying it.  I’ll refer you to my earlier post for a fuller take.  These oil-garchs already own too much of England, and now they are buying yet another football team.  Worldwide football as a whole will be all the worse with a Qatar-owned United.  I’m sure FIFA is thrilled, but worldwide football is all the worse off with FIFA too.

For all the flaws of MLS, and they are legion, I have to say that there is something to be said about having a smaller league that oil-garchs ignore.  Perhaps I should start buying some new Philadelphia Union gear, especially since I will never ever buy a new Barcelona jersey.

No Way Around It

No way around it.  This is just going to be a football-heavy week.  Sorry for those who would rather read about other things.

I saw this terrifying news story, and for the love of the game I had to comment on it.   Mohamed bin Hammam, the head of the AFC, has all but announced his intention to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.  Bin Hammam claims he has not made up his mind and wants to see if anyone else will run–but yeah, he’s running.  The gist of his comments are that FIFA is seen as corrupt because Blatter has been there too long.  He’s also advocating for goal line technology.  Is there any other way to interpret this than a presidential run?  It goes without saying that bin Hammam completely ignores that the reason everyone is saying FIFA is corrupt is because of the horrific Word Cup bidding process which led to Qatar 2022–bin Hammam’s home nation and the bid that he championed.  (Bin Hammam also has the gall to defend to FIFA ExCo members who were suspended after being caught asking for bribes.)

If (when) bin Hammam does challenge Blatter, I have no idea how this would play out, but no matter how it does, football will be the loser.  Both Blatter and bin Hammam are awful choices.  Bin Hammam will have the entire AFC behind him, but beyond that I don’t know who else would support him.  Blatter was never completely honest about his whole “spread the World Cup around” philosophy.  Yes, he it takes the World Cup to new places, but it has always been in part a way to shore up his own power base.  The 2010 World Cup was a way of winning over CAF, and turning back a challenge to his reign the last time.  A Qatari World Cup bid was supposed to align the AFC behind Blatter.  It probably would have except that Qatar was a such a spectacularly bad idea that FIFA has almost nonstop had to deal with the fallout.  Blatter, as is his wont, opened his mouth and let the terrible ideas flow.  World anger did not abate, but this enraged bin Hammam.

I cannot imagine that Jack Warner would do vote against Blatter given how much power Warner now has, and CONCACAF does what Warner tells it to do.  I can see a lot of UEFA nations, particularly in Western Europe taking the opportunity to get revenge on Blatter for what they saw was a corrupt and unfair (and humiliating) process.  Platini does not exert the same control over UEFA that a Warner or a bin Hammam does over their respective regions.  If anyone has more insight into OFC and CONMEBOL, please share.  I can see OFC being divided (i.e. New Zealand on one side, the rest of OFC on the other), but the relationship between Blatter and CONMEBOL is a mystery to me.  Certainly Blatter has warm relationships with those aging jackals of Brazil (Ricardo Teixeira) and Argentina (Julio Grondona), and he deflected and then attacked when the BBC show Panorama reported that Teixeira and CONMEBOL President Nicolás Léoz were taking bribes.  Also Blatter was the protege/handpicked successor of João Havelange, who naturally claims that FIFA is pristine as the driven snow.

A bin Hammam candidacy is ever more indication of Qatar’s attempt to completely hijack the sport, which I have discussed numerous times.  Blatter has not helped his own case though.  Given the sustained negative attention focused on FIFA for the past two months, there is blood in the water.  FIFA is nothing if not full of sharks.

Platini Has A Point

I was not planning on writing anymore about football so soon, but this story is far too important to ignore.

If you are hearing screams right now, let me assure you that you are probably not crazy; the screams you hear are coming out of Manchester.  According to the ever-reliable British press (already a red flag), the Qatari royal family, through its investment arm Qatari Holding, has put in a £1.5 billion bid to take over Manchester United.  United is denying that the club is for sale.  Besides, the owning Glazer family will not sell for less than £2 billion.

So the screams.  There are actually two different kind.  The screams of joy are from the red side of Manchester who want the Glazers far away from their beloved United, and screams of despair are from the blue side (Manchester City).  You have to feel sorry for City fans.  Ever since the oil-garch takeover of City, the fans have been hoping that the curse that appeared to have been laid on them had finally lifted. Nevertheless, every time City came this close to Champions League qualification, the squad fell apart. Overpriced talent only added insult to injury.  Just this weekend, City lost to Aston Villa, and now they are third in the standings: behind United and Arsenal, with Chelsea and Tottenham not far behind.

Despite all these setbacks, City fans still had hope.  Over the past few years only Chelsea could spend as freely as City, and Roman Abramovich has tightened the purse string of late.  City had a plan: a Champions League berth this season, the EPL title next season, European and home domination forever after.

But now the Qataris have put a bid in for United, City’s most hated enemy.  The Qataris are oil-garchs (and natural gas-garchs) who may be even wealthier than City’s owners.  The Qataris already own a club (Spain’s Málaga CF), and more significantly, they will be Barcelona’s first ever shirt sponsors–a subject which is very sore for me.

The Qataris are doing this because of their love for football; they are doing it because of a love for themselves.  By flashing their money around, they believe they are showing how important they are (and in a capitalist economy maybe they are right.)  This self-importance was the driving motivation behind Qatar’s successful World Cup bid, and it is why they are trying to buy European football.  The bigger the club, the more important the Qataris think they are.  Málaga is a nothing club really, but a Barcelona shirt sponsorship–and the first in that club’s history–that is a big deal.  Owning the legendary Manchester United would be real clout; no need to worry about the “minnows”–West Ham, Newcastle, or Everton.

Qatari ownership of United is a very frightening prospect.  First, it further drains the already steadily eroding joy out of the sport.  It’s already bad enough when the ultra-rich buy one club as a personal plaything.  How much worse will it be when they buy multiple clubs?  Second, between an Abu Dhabi-backed City and a Qatar-backed United, the already out of control races in the EPL and Europe  would spiral into football version of the nations of Qatar and the UAE–extreme wealth at the very top and extreme poverty everywhere else.  For all those people who constantly complain that La Liga is an extreme version of Scotland, just imagine an EPL that is only United and City.

In the meanwhile, fans of Liverpool FC must be wondering what is wrong with them and their club.  When Hicks and Gillett were in charge, Liverpool fans were desperate for a sugar daddy like at Chelsea or City.  Not a word from the Qataris.  Instead Liverpool got John W. Henry and New England Sports Ventures.  The Scousers are suspicious of the new owners because (1) like Hicks and Gillett (and the Glazers), Henry is American; and (2) Henry is the owner of the Boston Red Sox, and while Henry knows baseball, he has little knowledge about football.

If the Qataris were to take over United, the only saving grace may well be the UEFA financial fair play rules that Platini successfully championed.  Those rules forbid clubs from entering European competition (Champions League or Europa League) unless the clubs at least break even over a rolling three year period.  In other words, extravagant spending may be all well and good at City or Chelsea (or Barcelona, Madrid, Inter, Bayern, etc.) but those club must earn at least the amount they spend.  For the top teams (and their owners), who want European success, which is the ultimate prize, this is a real threat causing real worry.

If somehow the financial fair play rules do not go into effect–or prove to be less than successful–then what is already a limited competition will be closed off to all but those clubs who are backed by the super-wealthy.  Eventually the super-wealthy will get bored of these clubs.  The clubs will then be sold, accumulating massive debt in the process that can never be paid off (football club ownership bears more than a passing resemblance to a Ponzi scheme.)  If that happens, clubs like City, Chelsea, and yes, maybe even United, will fall and fall hard.

Qatar Fallout

I hate to harp on this topic so much, especially since there are 11+ years left of this disaster, but I cannot let this one go.  Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have been shooting their mouths off trying to defend FIFA’s asinine decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar.  Again.

First Blatter has been suggesting to anyone who would listen that the 2022 World Cup should be moved to the winter.  Platini, for his part, is playing up the idea of Qatar’s neighbors also holding matches for the 2022 World Cup.  Neither a Gulf State tournament nor a winter tournament is new idea; those suggestions have been thrown around almost immediately following the 2022 blunder.  Now however, the FIFA leadership is really playing it up.  Platini in particular has taken umbrage to the (completely correct) assertion that FIFA is trying to move the goalposts.  Despite Platini’s faux ire, FIFA is clearly restructuring the bid on its own in a way that really cheapens the whole process, and shows exactly how much time, energy, and money Qatar’s fellow bidder wasted.  The pressure over the Qatar decision (as well as FIFA’s dubious ethics reform) must be really high because FIFA is seriously considering video replay technology, something it has resisted for years.

The world is very unhappy about Qatar because the bribery and cheating were so transparent.  FIFA, made of old men who think they are invulnerable (largely because no one has ever held them accountable) were not prepared for the backlash and are trying to do major damage control.  However, the damage control has only further alienated everyone.  Yes, the English are bad losers, Sepp, but calling them out for it, especially when everyone knows they are right, does not deflect attention from FIFA’s failings.

Now Mohammed Bin Hammam the (Qatari) president of the Asian Football Confederation, and the major proponent of the Qatari World Cup bid (as well as the only serious potential challenger to Sepp Blatter’s continued presidency) has come out rather forcefully against Blatter’s and Platini’s suggestions.  I am actually surprised to see this, both because it is a direct challenge to Blatter but also because who knew Qatar would be intransigent?  I would have thought once they got the bid, they would let FIFA do whatever it wanted.

It will be very interesting to see what happens if Bin Hammam stands against Blatter for the FIFA presidency because of this, although he probably will not.  Giving Qatar the World Cup was supposed to reduce the challenge, and Bin Hammam will probably be the next FIFA president anyway.  I personally fear a Bin Hammam presidency.  If Rous, Havelange, and Blatter have already been terrible blights on the sport, I can only imagine the damage that Bin Hammam and the oil-garchs will do.

As always with a Blatter interview, there is a money quote and this time it is his claim that the FIFA ExCo members “vote more with their heart than they vote with their head.”  Who knew that they all kept their wallets in their breast pockets?  (This is a not-so-subtle admission that FIFA corruption really screwed the pooch this time.)

By the way, the attendances at the Asian Cup in Qatar are terrible.

On a completely unrelated (and shallow) note: John Rooney, now of the NY Red Bulls, is far hotter than his brother Wayne.

Weekend Roundup

Marriage Equality Train: Next stops–Maryland and Rhode Island?

That both states are very close is not much of a surprise.  Maryland has been a blue state for quite some time, and its proximity to DC–where same-sex marriage is already a reality–had put added pressure on the state to legalize same-sex marriage.  All the more so after the Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler released an opinion recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages (and after Governor Martin O’Malley won his reelection bid last November and pledged to sign the bill.)  If the bill passes, there could be a referendum.  The good news is that getting a referendum to overturn an LGBT rights law in Maryland has not been successful in the past.  The bad news is that equal rights supporters have a very poor track record in state-wide referenda.

Rhode Island is, quite frankly, just a matter of time.  If not now, then soon.  Before this week, Rhode Island had a very homophobic governor in office.  Now Lincoln Chafee is governor.  Governor Chafee is undoubtedly a (to quote a now-infamous remark) “fierce advocate” of LGBT rights.  He was when he was in the Senate, the lone Republican one could say that about.  Lincoln Chafee’s ouster in 2006 was a tragedy.  Had he turned independent, Rhode Island would still have a great Senator rather than a future great Governor.  However, he was loyal to the GOP in a year when the country was sick of Republicans.  Despite an approval rating of over 60%, he lost his seat.  When I heard he was running for Governor, I told anyone who would listen that I hoped he would win.  After his election he refused to meet with the anti-gay bigots from NOM, and then he called for a marriage equality bill in his inauguration address.  That, my friends, is fierce advocacy.

Perhaps if marriage equality is successful in Maryland and Rhode Island, the LGBT rights movement can recapture the momentum that it lost after the failures in New York, New Jersey, Maine, and California.

Future Heartbreak? This Sunday Showtime will air the episode of its new series Shameless, which is an American version of a British series of the same name.  One of the characters is a gay teen named Ian Gallagher.  I have not seen the British show, and I had never heard about either the original or the American version  until today (I don’t have Showtime, but I will watch Shameless the next time I visit my parents.)  Having said that, I am excited and terrified at the thought of this show.  I am excited because British shows are usually very good at creating gay characters (Beautiful People, the British Queer as Folk).  It seems like people really enjoyed the British version, which is now on my Netflix queue.  I am terrified because American shows by and large make gay characters horribly one-dimesnional.  While I have not watched Showtime lately, their track record with gay shows has been appalling (The L Word, the American Queer as Folk).  On the other hand, this is not a gay show, it is a show where one of the central characters is gay.  That’s an important difference, and every once in a while, in that paradigm American television does do a gay character well.  Maybe Ian Gallagher will be among the lucky few.  (Although can we talk about this Ian Gallagher as the anti-Kurt Hummel thing that Vanity Fair and Towleroad are pushing?  Gay people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; to define a gay character as an antithesis of another gay character is to denigrate the entire community, because there is an implied superiority.  Kurt and all effeminate/fey gay men around the world are just fine the way they are; the same is true of not-effeminate/fey gay men.)

I’m a little hesitant to watch this show because I am afraid of what would happen if I like it and then Showtime cancels the show?  My heart was broken by Beautiful People, and I’m still a little gun shy about new relationships with television characters.

edit:  I have been watching the British version on YouTube.  It’s funny, but this whole Ian Gallagher as the anti-Kurt Hummel is complete bollocks (as the British say.)

Turkish Orders Another LGBT To Close: Dear Turkey, do you really expect to join the EU?  And given that you pull this kind of thing all the time, do you really want to join?

Johnny Weir Comes Out: No, really.  I know you’re shocked.  And (what incredible timing!) he’s just about to start selling his autobiography/memoirs.  But it really was because gay kids are killing themselves.  I don’t want to hate on Johnny Weir; I liked his personality, and I liked his skating.  But his desire to play the victim now (Big Bad Gay Media made me stay in the closet!) rings hollow given his constant need for the spotlight–including television shows and a movie about his “outrageous” personality.  Additionally, after all of his complaining about the constant probing into his sexuality he outed his rival/enemy Evan Lysacek on Chelsea’s Hendler’s show.  Dear Johnny, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, even you really do hate Evan Lysacek.

Politics: President Obama selected William Daley as his new Chief of Staff, and progressives are up in arms.  I share their disappointment that the President appointed someone who believes the Democrats went too far to the left, but we need to be rational about this for a second.  No progressive legislation is going to be passed in the next two years, Daley or no.  As of this past Wednesday, the Administration is unofficially at war with Congress.  In the face of inevitable investigations, government shut-downs, and the 2012 election cycle, nothing progressive was going to get done anyway.  The White House needs a general right now and one who is not afraid to fight.  (But it would be nice if the Obama White House branched out and employed someone from outside of Chicago.  The rest of us are not incompetent.)

League Football: Tomorrow Barcelona plays Deportivo La Coruña in A Coruña.  Depor has not had a great season thus far, but they are still dangerous, especially at the Riazor.  Barcelona barely got past Athletic Bilbao at the Copa del Rey this week, and squeaked by Levante last week, so there is clearly some rust.  That needs to be fixed ASAP given that Real Madrid is always lurking.

For weeks I have been hearing non-stop bashing of La Liga.  The whiner complain that it is boring because only one of two teams is going to win, and that’s only because the rest of the league is so weak.  It denigrates an entire league, whose overall quality is just as good as any other (and team-by-team there is better technical quality in La Liga than anywhere else in the world.)  The bashing is usually from the English (of course), and all they talk about is how only two teams exist in La Liga.  Let’s examine why the detractors are hypocrites.  Every major league in the world has its big two, three, or four.  Spain has Barcelona and Read Madrid; Italy has Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter; England has Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea (and previously Liverpool–sometimes); and Germany has Bayern Munich and occasionally a team that is not Bayern (this year it is Borussia Dortmund.)  Ligue 1 has been more competitive of late, but almost no one pays attention to Ligue 1 because the quality is just not there.  And we won’t even go into the problems with the leagues in Portugal, Scotland, Holland, and the rest of Europe.

Here are some facts.  Since the 1992-93 season, the beginning of the English Premier League, there have been 5 different winners in Spain.  There have been 5 different winners in Serie A.  There have been 6 different winners in the Bundesliga.  There have been only 4 winners in the Premier League.

From the 2000-2001 season to the 2009-2010 season there have been 3 different winners in La Liga, 4 in Serie A, 5 in the Bundesliga, and 3 in the Premier League.

From the 2005-2006 season to the 2009-2010 season there have been 2 different winners in La Liga, 1 winner in Serie A, 3 different winners in the Bundesliga, and 2 different winners in the Premier League.

In the 18 completed seasons since the formation of the Premier League, the top winner of La Liga (Barcelona) has won 8 titles; Serie A has a three tie for the spot as Juventus, Milan, and Inter each have 5 titles (but a lot of suspicion because of the Calciopoli scandal); the top winner of the Bundesliga (Bayern) has won 10 titles; the top winner of the Premier League (Manchester United) has won 11 titles.

This season as it stands, Barcelona leads La Liga by 2 points;  AC Milan leads Serie A by 5 points; Borussia Dortmund leads the Bundesliga by 10 points; and the most thoroughly mediocre Manchester United in recent history leads the Premier League by 4 points with two games in hand.

Meanwhile there actually a race in La Liga with two stellar teams (one possibly among the greatest of all time.)  In the other three major leagues, there is a lot of mediocrity at the top, which is why the league leaders lose and draw so many matches.

Can we please give lie to this canard that La Liga is boring?

World Football: Chile is probably out of a national coach.  The election for head of the Chilean Football Association head was held again, and this time Sergio Jadue won.  Bielsa has said he would resign if Harold Mayne-Nicholls (who did not run in the recontested election) was voted out.  There is a new head.  According to local media, Jadue will try to convince Bielsa to stay, but that probably will not happen.

And FIFA head Sepp Blatter, to the surprise of no one, is now calling for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be held in the winter.  When will Sepp Blatter go already?

The Asian Cup has started in Qatar.  Qatar lost 2-0 to the powerhouse that is Uzbekistan.

Women’s Football: Kristine Lilly finally retired, and it is a sad day for American soccer, men’s or women’s.  Lilly participated in five World Cups, and was on the winning side in two of them.  She is the most capped player of all time, men or women, and the second highest scorer in women’s history.  She saved the US in the final match against China in the 1999 World Cup.  It is truly the end of an era, and the US team is all the better for her having played on it.

Music I listened to: Well none, but I did listen to a World Football Daily podcast.