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27 June 2010

English Football

Yesterday it was the turn of the Americans to have a disappointing day on the pitch. Taking their cue, today it was the turn of England.

There were so many things lacking about the English performance today that I hardly know where to begin. Let's list them:

1. The defending was atrocious. Each of the four German goals either involved an egregious breakdown in defense or an English defender beaten by pace. This cannot happen at this level by a team as skilled as Germany.

2. The English team, like the Americans before them, rely much to heavily on a vaunted midfield for scoring. The English strikers are wastrels. Wayne Rooney failed to find the back of the net during the entire tournament, as did Emile Heskey (whose introduction today seemed to amount to a capitulation.) So England's three goals came from a defender, a mid-fielder, and a striker (and Dafoe's goal against Slovenia was just bad goal-keeping, which England know a little about...right Mr. Green?)

3. Fabio Capello is abysmal as a manager (and not because of his choice of Speedos...but serioulsy man..what were you thinking in these pictures?) The penumbra he now finds himself in is his own making. While Wayne Rooney and Heskey were clearly weak links, Peter Crouch spent most of this tournament on the bench. What was the reasoning for this? Would it not have not have been better to be viewed as a mugwump who waffled back and forth between players in search of the right combination than one who stubbornly stuck with a losing formula? Mr. Capello failed to do anything creative to give his team a chance to overcome the lack of cohesion.

4. We have now confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard cannot play together. Why is it that everyone underestimates the rivalries in English football and overestimates the ability of the players who take part in these weekly battles to overcome this and gel as a unit? In some cases it may be feasible, but in the case of Gerrard and Lampard they cannot.

5. Quick question: Was David James selected because, as the GK for Portsmouth, he is used to making do with an incompetent backline? While he did not play poorly, England need to develop some quality goalkeepers in the near future.

The bottom line is that English fans need to adjust their expectations. The non-goal did not cost England this game. They played lousy football. This team is and was always overrated in both talent and heart. Four years is a long time to wait for a chance to ameliorate the stench of this performance.


The Mick and Limey Show Returns to discuss taxes and future World Cups

So my good buddy, Limey, and I have had a discussion over the past few days about FIFA taxes and the World Cup. What spawned this discussion was an article on BBC about the taxes FIFA pays (or does not pay.) With his permission, I am posting our edited comments.

Dear Mick, While I've loved the world cup since I was a little kid but after reading the attached article I am reminded that ignorance is not always bliss. It's about some of the hidden costs of hosting a world cup. Let me know if you think you find it an interesting read or not.

Dear Limey, That is really interesting. I did not know any of that. It is kind of sickening in a way, especially in South Africa. Collecting tax revenue would be a great way to stage World Cups in smaller poorer countries. Thus, it irritates me though I am not sure how much money in South Africa is lost by this since a lot of the sales are going to be in the informal sector anyway and hotels and restaurants are already taxed via VAT.

However, here is where it really irritates and annoys me. Sepp Blatter is a lying if the US doesn't get the World Cup 2018. Now before you dismiss this, follow my logic. According to FIFA policy, there is supposed to be a continental rotation of the World Cup. In 2018, it is the turn of CONCACAF. The US, like Brazil in 2014, is the only federation bidding. That did not stop Brazil from procuring it becuase it was going to CONMEBOL anyway. However, now they are supposedly opening up 2018 to European bids (four of them.) I am not saying that the USA has to have the World Cup again, though it still stands as the World Cup with the highest attendance despite having 8 fewer teams than the current allotment of 32 (and thus fewer matches.) What I am saying is that is should go to CONCACAF...period. I would love to see Mexico, Canada, or a confederation of say 8-10 Carribbean Islands bid. It would be a bonanza. Can you imagine? Matches in Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, etc? Have those teams qualify regularly through the process so obviously not all would make it, but then allow the non-qualifiers to play a tournament for the one host country automatic bid. These islands have the tourism infratstructure to hold the people and by upgrading the stadia, it could work. Why not have a truly Central American World Cup by having a joint Costa Rica/Panama bid. Simple. Because of this stupid greed, the small countries cannot afford it. FIFA is backwards. If the game is going to truly help the world, this tax policy has to go. South Africa made it over the line to host this because they could afford to...barely. Other countries that might be very suitable (Costa Rica and Panama would be amazing as would the islands)...will not be able to do so and that stinks. What do you think?

Dear Mick, I am pretty much in agreement with you although and there is always a but... given the cost of new stadiums there is little chance of the Caribbean or Central American nations hosting the world cup with it being a joint bid. That leaves it to being a North American affair with only Mexico and the US standing a real chance to host the event as attested by the US bid to host the 2018 World Cup. In my heart I would love to see some sort of joint bid within CONCACAF but as that is not likely to happen and I believe hosting the world cup means more to the people here in Europe, especially in the UK, than it would for the average Joe in the US I'm pretty much backing the UK bid. If you ask the average Brit would they trade the Olympics for the world cup the answer would be "Hell YES!"

What really gets my goat is this rumor that FIFA is discouraging joint bids. Without joint bits moving forward how will smaller countries ever be able host a World cup due to the prohibitive cost? The last time a small to midsized nation hosted the WC was back in 1978 Argentina and that was with 16 teams; since the larger format no country with less than approx. 40 million has hosted it. Shoot the last joint bid, which was bad mouthed by the way, had a combined population of 175 million people and were both developed nations (South Korea and Japan 2002). It is bad enough the fact that the last time a small nation won the world cup was back in 1950 Uruguay and the only country with a population of or about 20 million to win was Argentina. Let's face it, the odds are heavily against small nations on the pitch ever winning and now FIFA wants to make it virtually impossible for them to host it. The FIFA World Cup is starting to look more and more like the UN security counsel than the General Counsel in terms of winning and hosting. If not for the qualifying rounds they should not even use the title "World Cup" maybe they should just call it the FIFA CUP.


20 June 2010

British Petroleum and British Attitudes

Ever since the explosion of Deepwater Horizon and subsequent oil spill, I have been glued to news reports about the progress being made to contain the spill, plug the leak, drill a relief well, and clean up the mess. Coincidentally, I was recently reading Collapse by Jared Diamond (which is an excellent book.)

In this book, Diamond is discussing Chevron and some of the reasons the company has taken such a pro-environment stance in New Guinea and why mining companies do not behave in a similar manner. "No one in the oil industry today would deny that spilled oil is harmful, but mine executives do deny the harm of spilled metals and acid." Mr. Diamond, I would like you to meet a scapegrace named Mr. Tony Hayward, CEO of BP.

Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 (yes over two months ago), Mr. Hayward has repeatedly made comments that are repugnant to the senses. For example, Mr. Hayward was quoted as saying, "I want my life back." Well Mr. Hayward, so too do the residents of the Gulf. Unfortunately, your company created a mess that you and your colleagues seemingly cannot deal with.

While I have watched this environmental catastrophe unfold second by second, I am struck by the lunacy of the British public. I have seen numerous interviews on BBC where someone interviewed has stated something like this: "President Obama is treating BP too harshly."

This attitude is ridiculous! Let us think about this for a moment. A company is responsible for a disaster, cannot find a way to fix the problem, and the people affected ask for compensation. Hmmm. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I recently expressed my frustration with BP to a British colleague. His response, "Remember that it was your government that asked and allowed BP to drill there." Fair enough. SAFELY. My astonished response included me asking him whether or not he would like it if Exxon had dumped this much oil in the North Sea, English Channel, or Irish Sea? I also pointed out that had this been a US company, nothing different would be happening. There would still be a public outcry. You would not see Americans discussing how poorly Mr. Obama was treating Exxon. Another difference is that BP stock forms a significant portion of many 401k retirement and pension funds. Therefore, the lack of dividend payouts is adversely affecting these funds. Guess what? If you own a stock, you own a piece of a company. If you own a company, you are responsible for what it does. Here is a newsflash: You own a company with an abysmal environmental record and this was bound to happen. Please stop complaining about the amount of money this is costing BP. It is not as if BP is a company with exiguous resources

In the time it has taken me to write this, approximately 43500 gallons (164,665.4126 liters for you metric types) of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. (Just for the sake of reference, that's enough fuel to drive a Hummer H2, one of the least efficient cars on the planet--using its worst case city MPG--around the circumference of the globe--at the equator--over 15 times.) Until BP can stop the spill, clean up the mess, and compensate those affected by this spill, BBC and the media, as well as the British public need to cease with this ridiculous spin and focus on fixing this mess.


17 June 2010


I am huge football/soccer fan. I love going to matches and watching on television. I am disgusted with the coverage of the World Cup because of the vuvuzela. Why I am disgusted may surprise you.

The beginning of my disgust started last year during the Confederations Cup when Japanese broadcasters complained about the use of the vuvuzela and how it was irritating their listeners. Sepp Blatter, quite correctly, stated that it was not up to the rest of the world to impose their sporting culture and traditions on another country. Fast-forward a year to the 2010 spectacle that is taking place on the shores of the African continent for the first time. What is the focus of the coverage? The vuvuzela.

Come on! The vuv
uzela is a tradition of South African football that is derived from the kudu horn, despite what CNN is reporting (since when is CNN an expert on South African culture? All they have to do is ask any South Africa who grew up in a village about the vuvuzela's origins). The kudu horn was used in villages throughout Southern Africa to summon villagers to a meeting. It is loud for a reason. If one looks closely at the pictures emanating from South Africa, iterspersed throughout the plastic vuvuzelas one might see an actual kudu horn. The tradition of blowing a vuvuzela at a football match stems from the desire of the fans of one team to beckon fellow supporters.

I have heard compla
ints that the vuvuzela drowns out singing. I have two responses to this: First, this singing is part and parcel of football culture mainly in Europe. Like the famous quote in the Wizard of Oz, "We aren't in Kansas anymore Dorothy." We aren't in Europe, so suck it up. Second, have you heard the "harmonizing"? Personally, I'm glad I can't hear some of this singing! Having experienced the vuvuzela noise at many football matches in South Africa including three in packed stadiums, I know what the noise level is like...and love it. I can feel a bit of ruth for fans in the stadium and understand why they leave with a headache and may complain a bit (though I question whether or not these fans regularly attended football matches before the World Cup.) What I do not understand is the complaints of fans who are watching on television. Turn the sound down or deal with it. This is the World Cup. It will all be over in a month. It will not return to South Africa during our lifetimes. Suck it up and enjoy the spectacle for what it is...an African event and a South(ern) African one in particular. At the next World Cup, the detractors can complain about South Americans setting off flares, but until then, let South(ern) Africans enjoy their time on the global stage and show you how they celebrate their football.

**By the way, as I'm writing this, I am watching a replay of Zimbabwe's recent triangular one-day international series (cricket). Zimbabwe supporters, and this was before the World Cup began, are dancing in the stand to drums and blowing their vuvuzelas.