Archive for the sports Category

Bring Technology to Football

Posted in Football, sports, technology, World Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by kemgooner

So far this World Cup has filled with me with plenty of joy, just one instance was watching my home country the United States make it out of their group in dramatic fashion before being knocked out by Ghana, but it has also left me questioning this sport I love so much.  It seems like the real highlights and memories of this tournament are going to be questionable to incorrect refereeing decisions, and that is a shame because while there have been some dull matches, overall this tournament has seen many displays of great football.

I understand that officiating errors have always been part of the game, and I have experienced both sides of calls that have changed and influenced matches.  In the past, there was nothing that could be done about this, but now we have technology that can put another set of eyes on the field and give refs the ability to replay key moments.  Personally, I do not understand why any  fan of the game would not want this, the best games are always the ones with little controversy, where the footballers are the ones who do they talking with the way they play.  If something can be done to help keep the ability to win matches at the feet of the players than steps should be taken to make that so.

One criticism of technology is that it would slow down matches.  However, I would offer yesterdays match between Mexico and Argentina as an example that matches can be stopped by players surrounding officials and berating them for what they felt was a wrong decision as well.  The time it took to get everyone back to their positions was longer than a quick replay would have been.  All that is needed is an extra referee in a booth with a television, it takes about 10 seconds for the replay to be seen on tv, and usually that makes it perfectly clear whether a call was correct or not.  ESPN even has a clever little line that they can pull up to measure where the defender and the attacker are.  If it is not perfectly clear whether the decision should be changed, then all that needs to be done is say the call is too tight and carry on with the match. And if the decision is made to change the call the extra official in the booth only has to send down his decision through the communication that is already used between officials.  This would make decisions such as the one that cost Mexico against Argentina a thing of the past, and all the whining and what ifs that go along with clearly wrong decisions could be left out of the picture.

Another criticism that technology faces is that there would have to be regulation on when it can be used, otherwise everything will end up being looked at.  Goal line technology would obviously be used in situations like its name describes, when a decision needs to be made about whether the whole football has crossed the goal line and a goal should be awarded.  Apparently, this technology already exists in a fashion that it could almost immediately be brought into the game, and if so it really should be.  Having a clear goal ruled out, or having a non-goal ruled as a goal has got to be one of the most infuriating things that can happen in football. Players are left screaming at the officials and fans are left screaming at their tv or computer, “How could you NOT see that!” If a team has done everything right, scored a good goal, and only has it ruled out because a referee and his linesman just simply can not see everything, it is unfair to the team and player affected. The only way to rectify this problem is to implement something that will  take the decision out of the hands of a referee who is only human, and into a technology that can quickly and easily be referenced.

While the players and team that are on the wrong side of a decision are obviously the clear losers of the situation, the referee is as well.  Usually when a controversial decision is made players on both teams will surround a referee or linesman and yell and argue with them. The referee is basically helpless in this situation, left only with the ability to say “that is what I thought I saw” and questioning whether they were right.  They understand fully just what implications their decisions can have, yet they have no way of knowing until they themselves see a replay whether it was the right decision.  Referees have a hard enough job as it is, using technology to make it easier should be an easy decision to make.

Apart from use in goal line decisions and offside/onside calls where a clear verdict can be made, I would say there is no other need to use replay in football.  Red/yellow cards and other disciplinary action is already looked at again after matches, and referees are able to say that if they would have seen something in real time they would have done something different.  Sepp Blatter and others say that the controversy surrounding refereeing decisions is what makes the talking points in football, but I know I would rather be talking about  the magnificent performance of a young German team than a goal that was clearly over the line and should have counted which could have hypothetically “changed everything”. Players, coaches, referees, and fans all want to see technology brought into football, and in the end, the only controversy is why the FIFA officials won’t institute it.

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“Supporters” and “fans”

Posted in Arsenal, Football, sports, Welcome! with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2008 by GooneRC8

I grew up watching football both at the stadium and on TV. In fact, some of my earliest memories are from when the Chilean National Team played in international competitions. I remember the crowded room; 6 people in a tiny apartment celebrating and suffering the fate of ‘La Roja’. One memory stands out; I’m being held by my mother, who is protecting me from the sheer euphoria emanating from a post-goal frenzy. She was the only one who paid attention to me at such moments… she obviously wasn’t as fanatical as the rest of the people in the room.

When things are going well, the behaviour of all football aficionados is essentially the same. They go to the stadium, they love to brag about being the best, they get on the internet or buy the morning papers to find out about the latest news involving their beloved teams – You’d swear all of those interested in ‘the global sport’ are a homogeneous mass of invariable behaviour. But you’d be wrong. Just like you may think all brides and future husbands are the same if you only watch them during a wedding, people, even those who follow the sport closely, can be fooled by the seemingly die-hard attitude of the people who “the others” refer to as Glory-Hunters.

Football followers can be divided into a number of sub-species, but I think the most essential and definite line to be drawn is that which separates “supporters” from “fans”. The roles of these 2 different kinds of followers are very different, as is their behaviour both on and off the terraces. Nowadays, with high ticket prices, metro-sexual players, celebrities, and impressive stadiums, football has become (regrettably) fashionable. 75% of the people who watch football every week would agree that football is ‘just a sport’. And many of them are only “fans” when their team is enjoying the sweet taste of victory, whilst they suddenly ‘lose interest’, generally due to unrelated factors (yeah, right) when the team experiences a rough patch.

People from all over the world “randomly” pick a team to follow and stick with it as long as it is successful or has a chance of being successful. Because they don’t have a real link with the team, they team represents a choice, a bet, so to speak, that they want to win in order to brag about their good taste or prediction skills. And just like with these examples, there’s always a space to make a step back and say ‘I was wrong, I’ll change my prediction for next time’.

That’s exactly what’s going through the minds of those that switch from ManU to following the Chavs in a matter of months and without further remorse. This may seem to be completely ilogical for a real supporter, but for someone who does not feel a sense of belonging at a club, there really is nothing tying him up to the cause. Likewise, I know a couple of Arsenals fans who’d probably stop supporting the club if we started playing ultra-defensive football. This is because the sole reason they like Arsenal is because of the football they play, and should it stop, they’d stop feeling identified with the club. Sadly, this is not only a foreign phenomenon; many of the people who go to matches in England and around Europe think like this, as do many of the South American “clasiqueros” who only turn up for big games.

A supporter, in the other hand, is someone whose ties with a club are so difficult to torn apart that in all likeliness this person will feel represented by the institution for as long as it exists (and even ’til after it ceases existing in some cases). Supporters don’t go to the stadium to see if the team wins, they go to try and collaborate with the collective objective of actually helping the team obtain 3 points. They don’t go to watch a show or be entertained (even though it’s really nice when that happens), they go to help making sure that efforts of ‘their people’ are rewarded. Effectively, a football team is like a nationality – there are certain values that are inalienable to both the club and yourself, and that make this sport all the more interesting.

Football is, or used to be, a mean for the people to express themselves in an official stage where the superiority of one of the contestants could be proven over the other. Football makes the poorest soul wealthy, because it gives it something to lose. While the higher classes prefer to feel identified by what they own, those who do not own anything significant only have their honour (in the shape of their local representatives) left to lose. It’s a damn shame that those who are there to enjoy a show are now taking that away.

I didn’t become a supporter up until I met Highbury and its people. That’s when I truly became part of a community of people whose will for something that’s essentially out of their hands captivated me to the point of no return. I now know that irrespectively of what happens from now on, I’m condemned to die a Gooner, and to suffer or enjoy whatever happens to the pride of London for the rest of my life.

Fans can be turned into supporters, but first of all they need to learn that football, above all, is about identity and representation.

If football is just a sport, my heart is just a muscle.

AC Milan vs. Arsenal: A masterclass in football

Posted in AC Milan, Arsenal, Football, sports with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2008 by marooner

One of the most beautiful exhibitions of football you will ever be likely to see was executed on Tuesday night in the first knockout round of the Champions League. The victim was an unlikely AC Milan side, current holders of the prestigious title, yet struggling to keep the pace this season in Serie A, even with names like Kaka, Pirlo, Maldini, Nesta and the young Pato (among a whole host of impressive talents) to boast. It took eighty-four minutes of slick, fluid football from their opposition for Milan to come undone- at none other than the cage of intimidation that is the San Siro- but when it happened it felt as if only the smallest degree of justice had been served for the travelling side’s hard work. The executors of such magnificent football? Arsenal.

Dismissed early on in the season as being a team of ‘kids’, criticised for trying to walk the ball into the back of the net, discredited for their absence of English players and ultimately disregarded as a top-four-finisher at best, who might finally fall below the apparent ‘emergence’ of their bitter North London rivals, Tottenham… All these qualms, much like their Italian opponents, fell apart on Tuesday night.

Arsenal stole the show in all areas of the pitch. Playing the four-five-one formation Arsene Wenger’s lately grown rather fond of in the Champions League, with Alexander Hleb sitting in the hole just behind Emmanuel Adebayor, ultimately it was Arsenal’s midfield which truly bossed the game. Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini, in particular, had the best of nights. Statistics from the match showed that Fabregas covered seven and a half miles in just ninety minutes, while Flamini covered over eight. Hardly surprisingly. The two of them were truly ubiquitous; while Fabregas drove forward and kept looking for that goal which seemed to threaten at all times, his partner in crime hung back, his presence overwhelming Milan’s renowned attacking force. The Frenchman had Kaka- hailed the greatest player in modern football, and with good reason, too- in his pocket virtually all night. There was a period of ten or fifteen minutes in which Arsenal sat back slightly and allowed Milan to see more of the ball, win a few corners and exert their presence- but Arsenal’s defence was outstanding, and when the brief period of Milan dominance ceased, it was hard to see how the result could go any other way.

And yet, when the goal finally did come- a low, fierce shot from Cesc Fabregas, thirty yards out- it was almost as if the goal had been dreamt. Silence engulfed the predominately AC Milan-filled stadium while Fabregas stormed, wide-eyed, towards the man who justly put faith in the young Spaniard two years ago in a series of Champions League fixtures already hugely reminiscent of Tuesday night’s glories. Memories flashed of the then-eighteen-year-old ‘kid’ sliding the ball past Buffon in a piece of vintage Arsenal class. Two years later, and he is back to storming down a pitch that he had, for the past eighty-four minutes, owned. One-nil Arsenal, and it would take two unlikely Milan goals in ten minutes to undo Arsenal’s blissful performance.

But if another goal was going to come, then it was inevitable that it would belong only to Arsenal. Theo Walcott, brought on with twenty minutes left to play for the yellow-carded Emmanuel Eboue, showed a mere glimpse of why Arsene Wenger splashed out on a virtually unknown sixteen-year-old more than two years ago. It’s been a long and, most likely, frustrating journey for the English starlet, who turns nineteen in less than two weeks, but one in which the road seems to be widening. Two minutes into stoppage time, Walcott made a bursting run down the right flank, shrugging off Kaladze to square the ball in to Emmanuel Adebayor, who promptly slid the ball home, scoring his first Champions League goal, and securing Arsenal- and an English team’s- first ever victory against AC Milan at the San Siro.   

It would be foolish now to begin hailing Arsenal near-definite favourites to steal the double, to go on and win both the Champions League and the Premier League. Let’s not get carried away. A host of strong, talented European teams still remain in the competition, and all is still to fight for back at home. Yet, after a series of disappointing results in the domestic league, beating AC Milan with such relentless class may well give the team the boost needed to achieve their very obvious capabilities. Wenger himself commented prior to the match how he thought his team had forgotten how good they were; perhaps this was the victory they needed to remind them.

And maybe the pundits were right when they said you can’t win anything with kids. But if the same side who pulled apart Milan turn up for the rest of the season, then Arsenal will only be looking to win things with men.