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All these re-runs of classic soccer matches, be it the World Cup classics or FA Cup classics on BBC on a Saturday or whatever else, often opens your eyes to previous misconceptions you had about certain games.
A few weeks back (this lockdown has been SOOO monotonous), I re-watched the 1999 Champions League final pretty much in its entirety when it was shown on Virgin Media here in Ireland. I had remembered the game as United clinging on for pretty much the entire game and snatching it in the end (to my delight as an United fan). Re-watching back, however, the game was a lot more end-to-end than I remembered, and United themselves had a fair few chances to win the game, albeit none as clear-cut as Jancker’s overhead and Scholl’s chip.
The same channel broadcast the Istanbul final tonight, and I seem to recall the narrative being that Gerrard dragged his side to victory. On reflection though, while he did score the first goal and won the penalty, it wasn’t quite the Roy of the Rovers stuff that was portrayed subsequently, with Milan’s poor penalty-taking totally lost to history. Carragher’s display was far more inspirational. Gerrard didn’t even take a damn penalty in the shoot-out- was he looking to be the hero by going fifth even though Terry and Ronaldo were criticised for doing the same in similar circumstances before?
If anything, Beckham was more impressive in midfield in 1999, and its surprising he doesn’t receive the same plaudits for that given his status in the game (although he was off the back of the World Cup red card).
Oh, and can anyone else claim to have been part of two of the most famous comebacks in European Cup history, at both ends of the scale, other than Jaap Stam?
The criminal life
It occurs to me, especially given the latest news of Dele Alli being robbed at knifepoint, there’s a thing we have to recognise, if we want the whole measure of a life of a Premier League footballer. That is, there’s an epidemic of crime going on against them. You couldn’t count any longer who’s been assaulted in their own home, in the street, who’s got home from a foreign trip to learn that their family got attacked at their house while they were away. Literally off the top of my head, Vertonghen, Gerrard, Andy Carroll, Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria.
They are, effectively, the most high-profile rich people in the country. Everyone knows who they are, roughly knows their whereabouts at any given moment, and most appealing to these criminals, knows (or thinks they know) they have a taste for expensive consumer items. So it’s worth recognising when you watch them play, especially if having resentful thoughts of how swell life looks for them – that’s part of it. They’re the number-one target in the country of a certain type of scary, violent criminal. I don’t know if any of you have ever suddenly encountered someone in your house who isn’t meant to be there, who intends you harm, or had it happen to your family with you elsewhere and unable to protect them – I never have, but I’m guessing, there are better feelings.
The fuller a picture we can get of other people’s life experiences the better, and right now, who these people are is that – young men, overgrown boys, perpetually hunted by criminals, and you have to recognise that. I wonder if some of them sneakily dream of the time when the bubble is burst and they aren’t so visibly the recipients of money and lifestyles that the rest of the country can only dream about, the utter wonderfulness of it.
When this whole thing started I was determined that the season should be finished. There were only a few games left, ending it now would be too messy and it made more sense to finish what was started even if it affected next season.
I’ve changed my mind.
Starting this in June after a 3 month break is basically it’s own mini season, complete with pre season training. Players who would have been injured have had time to get theselves fit and its going to be more messy to finish now because contracts will expire and the teams will not be a true representation of what started the season. All of this makes a mockery of the finishing what we started idea.
My solution? End it now with everyone’s current position as final and a star in the record books. Give liverpool the title. No relegation or promotion. Start the new season in September and remove the league cup and LDV Van’s trophy (or whatever its called now) to free up some fixture dates.
Money? Pay out as if standings were final for this year and split the remaining broadcasting money equally. The broadcasters and subscribers (of which I am one) can take the hit. Split all of the broadcasting and final standings money for next season with the division below. So for example the champions league money is split with premier league clubs, premier league money with championship clubs and so on down the leagues. This will help everyone get through this and will soften the blow of non promotion.
Kevin (20 years since Marcus Stewart at the Reebok Stadium in the playoffs, TWTD!) ITFC, Vancouver
When to start again
To answer Oliver’s question regarding what my Project Restart timeline might be:
My personal preference would be to wait until there is a minimal chance of infection to players/staff and the people inevitably gathering around grounds or at houses to watch the games. In other words, when cases are massively on the decline and there’s either a vaccine or some evidence to suggest a second wave won’t be as forthcoming as we feel it will be at present.
Of course, I understand that could be months, or even years in happening.
I understand this is a nightmare scenario for football fans, but it’s the only choice, in my opinion, when lives are literally on the line.
People are only now returning to work because there’s an economic need – on their part in many cases, as well as the part of the country – to do so. The majority involved in top-tier football shouldn’t have such a need and so should exercise that lack of requirement accordingly. I take your point when comparing us to Spain and Italy, but my only response to that is that I think they’re making a mistake, too.
I just can’t for the life of me bring myself to argue that football is essential in the current climate, as much as I miss it.
With that said, it looks very much like they WILL restart in the coming weeks regardless, so I can only lend my voice to the millions imploring those who are inclined to gather in their masses and celebrate football’s return NOT to do so.
Dave Allen, IOM
When football does restart it’s going to be very quiet in stadiums (or is it stadia?).
But a few hundred fans can make a lot of noise, in an empty echo-y stadium.
How about setting up a competition for say 200 noisiest fans to attend all their team’s games? These super-fans would become familiar to viewers as the cameras would pick out the same individuals cheering at every match.
I know there’s social distancing etc. But I’m not looking for boring realist types to shoot holes in this proposal.
Rather I’m wondering who you would nominate as a super-fan of your club?
Presumably people who are loud, season-ticket holders who never miss a game, and are also a bit unusual. Who would you recommend ? Or if you’d like to go yourself, why should it be you?
Paul (obviously vulnerable people should stay away, but there are more risky places to be than a 30,000-seater stadium with 500 people in them)
David in London is firmly on the side of Danny rose.
Who does he think should keep paying Danny’s wages?
No doubt many outraged contributors will point out that this is about much more than money. I agree with them on that point.
Someone still has to pay the wages while we’re keeping people safe though.
Who is it?
Bear in mind that if you’ve cancelled your sky/bt subscription in the last two months, your answer is essentially ‘not me’.
Thanks for listening.
Andrew in Huddersfield
During this quarantine period, it appears YouTube is throwing up all kinds of nostalgic throwback videos on my recommended page, and especially when it comes to football. So yesterday as I was browsing, I came across the Ivory Coast vs Zambia penalty shootout in the 2012 AFCON, which Zambia won. That shoot out is an exhibition of world class penalties. Seriously, you have to watch it.
One penalty stood out for me however. Nathan Sinkala of Zambia takes a penalty which is one of the best penalties I ever recall seeing taken in a shoot-out. He walks up to the ball in nonchalant fashion and then calmly side foots the ball into the absolute postage stamp corner of the goal, with power, and a shot that is still rising as it hits the net. No keeper alive or dead would have been able to save that shot.The commentator wonders if he actually mis hit it, but I think that it is disrespectful to speculate like that. The pressure on the guy was unreal, it being a final, and to take such a precise and unstoppable penalty with technical excellence should be applauded.
It got me thinking of some of the best penalties I can remember seeing down the years in penalty shoot outs, and recall a handful that stood out in my mind and I can still remember clearly. There are of course iconic ones such as the Pirlo panenka against England, and the Grosso World cup winner against Germany. Others are welcome to share shoot out penalties that they found to be exceptional for either technical reasons, or due to it being a high pressure situation, or just because there is nostalgia associated with it. To keep it specific, these are penalties in shoot outs only, not during regulation time. Here is my list
1. Nathan Sinkala (Zambia vs Ivory Coast, AFCON 2012 Final)
As already detailed above. See the penalty at 10:40, although I recommend watching the whole shoot out
2. Bolo Zenden (Liverpool vs Chelsea, UCL 2006/07 Semi Final)
This penalty is special more for me because it is from the first year that I started watching football and supporting Liverpool, and is just one of those random moments that always stuck in my mind. I remember this game going to penalties, and surprised to see Zenden step up to take the first one, as I was expecting that surely Gerrard or Alonso would be taking the first one. And then, Zenden whips in a left footed curler right into the far right lower corner, a penalty that was always bending away from Cech the moment he hit it, and hit with power as well as curve. See it at 3:54
3. Nani (Portugal vs Spain, Euro 2012 Semi Final)
It was quite funny to see Nani run over from the centre circle to tell Bruno Alves to take a time out and take this penalty for himself. I wonder if that was a deliberate ploy by Portugal to throw off Casillas in goal, or just a case of them thinking “Shit, Bruno is going to miss this one, Nani you better go take it”. Either way, it clearly did not work because Bruno ended up missing his penalty anyway and Portugal lost the shoot out. Either way, the penalty taken by Nani was of extreme class and quality. The slow run up, the slight stutter, and then a technically perfect shot arrowed into the top left corner with power and precision, all done with a smooth elegance. See the whole incident at 1:25
4. Sebastian Abreu (Uruguay vs Ghana, World Cup 2010 Quarter Final)
This game descended into true madness in the final period. There was the infamous Suarez handball on the line, subsequent red card, and Asamoah Gyan missing the penalty that would surely have pulled Ghana through as the first African team ever to make a World Cup semi final, and that too on African soil. I still remember the atmosphere in that game. There was already a lopsided amount of support in the stadium for Ghana as opposed to Uruguay, and the Suarez handball moment tipped the scales and had every single person who was not Uruguayan rooting for Ghana. The penalty shootout unfolded, and ultimately it fell to Abreu to score the decisive, game winning penalty. After a helter skelter game, filled with drama, high charged emotion, and tears of sadness and joy (both from Suarez from the touchlines), Abreu took a Panenka that is essentially the most effective shush one can imagine in such a situation. The way the atmosphere in the stadium drops as his penalty floats into the goal is surreal, and all you can hear is the Uruguay fans celebrating. Even the vuvuzelas are temporarily silenced. See at 9:10