In For The Hat Trick Elsewhere

Check out my latest World Soccer Talk post. It’s about former soccer broadcaster Steven Cohen’s controversial comments on the Hillsborough steven cohenstadium disaster. Let me know what you think.

On April 13, 2009, two days before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium disaster, Steven Cohen said something stupid. “In this weekend’s Sunday papers in England, where they’re all doing big commemorations about the 96, and why we should never forget, nobody discusses the six to eight thousand who showed up without tickets,” Cohen said on the radio show World Soccer Daily. “I’ll leave it at this: if those people don’t show up, this never happens.”

To the uninitiated, Cohen’s claim might seem plausible: ticketless fans force themselves into a crowded stadium and create a fatal crush. But according to Lord Justice Taylor’s report on the incident, although “small groups of fans without tickets were willing to exploit any adventitious chance of getting into the ground,” the primary cause of the disaster was the incompetence of the police officers patrolling Hillsborough. Moreover, Liverpool fans have spent decades making that very point.

Read the full article here.  


Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic An Arrogant Asshole, Or Is He Just Pretending?

Earlier this week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic got the full New York Times treatment – a lenghy-ish profile by Sam ibra laughingBorden that ran in Monday’s Sports section. It’s a good story, and it raises some interesting questions. For instance: Is Zlatan as conceited as everyone seems to think? Or is he just having a laugh? At one point, Ibra tells Borden about his two sons:

“‘I changed diapers when they were babies,’ he said, adding, ‘I know other footballer may not, but I do.’ Then he shrugged, as if slipping back into character. ‘Of course, I am very good at it,’ he said with a grin.” 

In December, Zlatan claimed that “I don’t need the Ballon d’Or to know I’m the best.” Judging from Twitter, some people thought he was serious. Maybe now they’ll finally get the joke.

Because I Haven’t Posted In A While

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks — I’ve been busy with schoolwork and a longterm project you’ll hear about David Moyes needs a win against Olympiakoslater. Anyway, if you’re looking for something interesting to read, check out this Slate piece about Manchester United’s decline. It’s pretty good, though I think it omits some important details: David Gill’s departure, Ed Woodward’s transfer-window nightmare, etc.

Let me know what you think.


How to Avoid Total Humiliation

Last Tuesday marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to this summer’s World Cup. That means hodgesona couple of things: oversized, garishly colored countdown clocks will appear all over the Internet; and the tremors of self-loathing that always accompany English coverage of the English national team will start to intensify.

I don’t have the technological expertise to place a giant clock on In For The Hat Trick’s home page. But although I live in the United States – where, comfortably insulated from the national trauma playing out on the other side of the Atlantic, I tend to handle tournament disappointment stoically, with a stiff upper lip and only the occasional temper tantrum – I know exactly what Roy Hodgson should do to avoid total humiliation in Brazil. So here goes.

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What’s Happened to Manchester United?

The manager: It seems almost inconceivable now, but nine months ago the media loved David Moyes. David Moyes believes Manchester United need to sign 'one or two' playersFourFourTwo published a fawning profile. Columnists praised him for guiding Everton to fifth place. And in a fit of enthusiasm, an Israeli newspaper erroneously claimed he was Jewish.

Since then, it has become increasingly clear that for all his accomplishments at Goodison Park – and I’m not convinced there were quite as many as some people think – Moyes is neither charismatic enough to inspire a dressing room full of bloated egos nor courageous enough to put his best attacking players in the same XI. Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie, and Mata would probably form a dangerous, flexible attacking unit, but Moyes, whose Everton team won plenty of games but never threatened to entertain anybody, isn’t interested.

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Nicolas Anelka, the Quenelle, and UEFA’s Oppressive Rules

The media rarely misses an opportunity to denounce football’s governing bodies – for corruption, for anelka quenelleincompetence, for awarding prestigious international tournaments to corrupt and incompetent governments. Indeed, over the last few years – amid stories about problematic elections, dodgy sponsorship deals, and nefarious plots to help Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or – anti-FIFA/UEFA harangues have become a staple of football coverage, an easy way for grizzled sports journalists and renegade bloggers alike to stick it to the man.

So it’s more than a little surprising that in the aftermath of West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka’s celebratory “quenelle” – a sort of inverted Nazi salute popularized by a controversial French comedian – football writers have spent far more time complaining about the stupid, immoral, insensitive behavior of pampered players than examining the UEFA rules governing political expression.

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Someone Should Make Howard Webb Talk

It’s been a bad week for Howard Webb. Fans are still parsing his controversial performance in Chelsea’s howard webb2-1 win over Liverpool, and on New Year’s Day, David Moyes called his failure to award Ashley Young a penalty “scandalous…an incredible decision, probably one of the worst I think I saw.”

It’s also been a bad week for Mark Clattenburg, whom Southampton has accused of  “insulting” playmaker Adam Lallana. (Never mind that, as alleged insults go, this one isn’t particularly offensive.) Clattenburg has been through this before. In 2012, John Obi Mikel accused him of racial abuse. It later emerged that Mikel hadn’t actually heard the abuse – he’d merely heard rumors in the Chelsea dressing room – and Clattenburg was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. Mikel, however, received a three-match ban for using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviors” when he charged into Clattenburg’s office screaming bloody murder.

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The Top Three Football Media Developments of 2013

NBC’s Premier League coverage: It’s hard to say whether NBC’s Premier League coverage has nbc premier leagueearned such widespread adulation because of Rebecca Lowe’s slick transitions between games and Robbie Earle’s clever studio analysis, or merely because the network decided not to recruit Warren Barton. I honestly don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that NBC won over a lot of doubters simply by not hiring the superhumanly stupid former defender.

The Ted Lasso video helped, too.

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Ferguson’s Mistake

Flipping through FourFourTwo’s Top 100 Players list, I kept thinking about Manchester United’s pogbamidfield. The list is pretty much a catalogue of players United should have signed or shouldn’t have sold. It was hard not to notice that Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini hadn’t made the cut. And that Michael Carrick languished in the mid-70s. And that in 64th place, making his first appearance on the annual list, was Paul Pogba.

Here’s the thing about Pogba: People knew he was going to be good. It’s not as if he flopped, Zoran Tosic-style; left Old Trafford; and then suddenly turned into the best midfielder in Serie A. United sold Pogba because he had started to believe his own hype, or at least his agent had, and Alex Ferguson wouldn’t meet his salary demands. Unlike Ravel Morrison, who has played brilliantly for West Ham this season, Pogba wasn’t lazy, or volatile, or even an alleged sex offender. He just happened to consider himself the next Patrick Vieira. Pogba signed for Juventus about a year and a half ago and has since proved that a) he may well be better than Vieira; and b) Ferguson shouldn’t have been so stingy.

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Why The Ballon d’Or Rumors Matter

Nothing better epitomizes the current state of end-of-season football awards than the trophy presented blatter picto UEFA’s Best Player in Europe. I can’t decide whether it looks more like the remains of a long-dead scoliosis victim, or a three-dimensional rendition of Rembrandt’s “Carcass of Beef.”

In a sane world, the UEFA Best Player in Europe award wouldn’t even exist. In the past, football’s two most prestigious individual awards – the Ballon d’Or, created by France Football magazine; and the official FIFA World Player of the Year title – occasionally went to different players, which most people preferred to a boring consensus. But FIFA viewed those periodic discrepancies as a disruption in the Force, and in 2010, FIFA president Sepp Blatter merged the two awards to form a new, 100 percent definitive title: the FIFA Ballon d’Or. Just a year later, however, as part of an “initiative…aimed at reviving the spirit” of the old Ballon d’Or, UEFA launched its own award, undermining the merger’s objective.

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