The best football writing of 2012

2012 has been a great year for football writing, quasi football writing and anti-football writing. Here are just some of the best examples I’ve read in the last 12 months. Some may have more literary merit than others, but all are great for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Has the transfer market become self aware? by Andi Thomas for The FCF –

Muamba: underneath the sensationalism is a genuinely positive story for football, at last by Michael Moruzzi for Regista Blog

AFC Wimbledon: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by Jamie Cutteridge for The Real FA Cup

Rafa’s Chelsea: A Journal by Rob Brown for The Carvalho Peninsula

Coming up for air by Charlie Anderson for The Carvalho Peninsula

12 ways in which Fulham are ace by Max Grieve for Magic Spongers –

The Danger of Mob Mentality by Ally Moncrieff for Balls, Boobs and Blow

Robin van POINTLESS by Magic Spongers

#34 – Emmanuel Frimpong by The 100 Worst People on Twitter

Nobody wins QPR ping-pong tournament by John Foster for Four Four Two

Gary Neville’s punditry is the best, but others need to raise their game by Michael Cox for The Guardian

Antisemitic chants are sickening – and West Ham fans must show they care by Jacob Steinberg for The Guardian –

The Trial Of John T by Greg Theoharis for Dispatches from a Football Sofa ­

Scott Murray on Cesar Luis Menotti’s Triumph by Surreal Football

An idiot’s guide to the Ballon d’Or shortlist by Tom Adams for Eurosport

New advert for the Premier League is actually a terrible ‘advert for the Premier League’by Nick Dunmore for Fisted Away

Paul Jewell and the further decline of Ipswich Town – by Gavin Barber for The Two Unfortunates

Manchester United And Liverpool, Still Suffering From Their 2009 Hangover by Callum Hamilton for SB Nation

Return of the rascal king by John McGee for Bring me the head of Keith Mincher

Soccer under the Swastika: Football’s forgotten Holocaust victims by Kieran Dodds for In Bed With Maradona

The whistleblower left out in the cold by James Horncastle for Eurosport

2016-17: The Season in Review by Rob Langham for The Two Unfortunates

My First Game for Manchester United by Robin van Persie’s inner child for Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed

Why ‘Vile’ Football Can Look Olympics In The Face by Jack Howes for The Daisy Cutter

The Last Championsby Juliet Jacques for The New Statesman


Leading figures setting a terrible example

Luis Suarez will return from his ban for racist abuse to face Manchester United

Players banned for racist abuse, fans arrested for racially abusing opposing players, politicians channeling colonialism to make racial generalisation… Rich Ward tries to make some sense of it.

The past few weeks have seen racism dominating the headlines in the world of both football and politics, with the abuse of Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi by a Liverpool fan – who has since been arrested and bailed – the latest ugly incident in a series of ugly incidents.

However, the real problems began as far back as October last year when two separate events involving notorious striker Luis Suarez and England captain John Terry, who is no stranger to controversy himself, put racism in the spotlight.

For Terry, his fate awaits him in court on February 1st, but for Suarez the FA has already meted out an eight game ban.

This, ironically, will see him play against his victim Patrice Evra’s Manchester United side in his first away game back from suspension, with Liverpool asking to hold crisis talks with their opponents beforehand.

Aside from players making racist remarks in the heat of battle on the football pitch, what has been even more disappointing as the racism row has rumbled on are the rather more calculated comments by leading figures that have set a terrible example for fans and players alike.

First, there was FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s infamous “handshake” suggestion for how on-pitch racism could be settled, followed by his cringeworthy attempt to diffuse the situation by appearing in a photo with the anti-apartheid campaigner Tokyo Sexwale.

Then came “King” Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool’s incredible t-shirt stunt, when the entire squad was seen sporting tops emblazoned with Suarez’s image.

Even in the face of the Uruguayan’s ban, which the FA explained in a detailed 115-page report, including citing inconsistencies in the striker’s evidence, the Liverpool manager and the club remained totally unrepentant.

Glen Johnson pledged his support – it would be interesting to know for certain if Suarez calls him “negro” as has been suggested – Dalglish said “let him not walk alone” and the club insisted there was no evidence (even though Suarez openly admitted using the term) and also attempted to discredit Evra – ignoring Suarez’s own extensive rap sheet in the process.

Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, these gestures seem to have been the catalyst for the abuse of Adeyemi last Friday when, after the player confronted a member of the crowd shouting racist abuse, fans began signing Suarez’s name, some wearing replica Suarez t-shirts.

Alongside this football-related incident, politicians have been inadvertently joining the discourse of racism in recent days.

Diane Abbott

First, it was the turn of shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott to hit the social media self-destruct button by posting an apparently racist tweet on Twitter – her excuse that she was referring to colonialism tempered somewhat by her use of the present tense.

Even then, referring to colonialism seems to be a very regressive way of thinking – much like the mentality of those who defended her online by saying it is somehow acceptable to be racist if you are black.

If racism is ever to be eradicated from society respect must surely work both ways and disparaging references to another person’s skin colour – whichever colour that may be – not tolerated under any circumstances.

This is where I feel the comments by Alan Hansen – the football pundit who himself ploughed into the storm of controversy with his unintelligent reference to “coloured” players – differed, as he was making a positive statement about the influence of black footballers on the Premier League.

Abbott’s leader Ed Miliband then proceeded to compound Labour’s political own goal with a gaffe of his own, unbelievably tweeting a “Blackbusters” tribute to TV personality Bob Holness.

But where does this linguistic melee, which we have seen these past months, leave us?

Well, there have been two footballers charged – one banned for eight games as we know and the other facing a trip to court – and one fan arrested, whose fate has yet to be determined.

However, a FIFA president, a Premier League manager and a leading politician have made shocking comments – all of which could be construed as racist and at the very least naive and provocative – yet not a single one of them has been punished in any way whatsoever.

If society is to progress, it is high time that these kinds of powerful figures started leading in a much more progressive and positive way when it comes to racism.

Then maybe, just maybe, we can avoid a repeat of the shameful scenes at Anfield that left Tom Adeyemi in tears.

Find Rich on Twitter at @richjward

Links for 09/01/11

With other distractions consuming my attention over the Christmas and New Year period, it has been a while since the last Pele Confidential reading list. As a result, I will bring you an extended selection of articles, from the holiday period as well as the last week.

David Beckham signing for LA Galaxy in 2007 (photo: Jeremy Ryan)

LA Galaxy deserve better than Beckham by me at Footy Matters – Would fans of English clubs stand for the way the former Manchester United man has treated his MLS club?

Why Aston Villa would be the perfect fit for Omar Cummings by me at Footy Matters – A look at how the Jamaican forward would fit into the set-up of the club where he is currently on trial

Major League Soccer should welcome Guille Franco with open arms by me at Footy Matters – An examination of what the Mexican has to offer to the league

Chris Wondolowski: The Carlos Tevez of the MLS? by me at Footy Matters – An assessment of whether the deep-lying forward could replicate his club form to provide the United States with a new avenue of attack

Teal Bunbury will gain a lot from Stoke City rejection by me at Footy Matters – A look at how young talents pften have more to gain from not getting a big move before they are ready

Togo's national team at the 2006 World Cup (photo: the weaver)

In Togolese memoriam by Gary Al-Smith at In Bed With Maradona – an emotional look at the Africa Cup of Nations one year after the tragic attack on the Togo team bus in Cabinda


Sir Alex, El Tel and Barca: What If? by Alex Dimond at In Bed With Maradona – a thought-provoking assessment of one managerial decision on the whole spectrum of European football over the last 23 years.

Has transsexuality in football turned a corner? by Chris Ledger at In Bed With Maradona – a revealing analysis of an issue which perhaps has been given insufficient coverage in the past

The revolution must be televised by Juliet Jacques at In Bed With Maradona – an rallying call for the English broadcast media

The saddest thing in football by Domm Norris at In Bed With Maradona – a sensitive approach to the agony felt by fans of Russian club FC Saturn Moscow Oblast

Former Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved (photo: Mike Brown)

Juventus – Team of the Decade by Liam Apicella at Footy Matters – The best eleven players to have graced the Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin

Why David Beckham to Spurs makes sense by Andrew Fitchett at Footy Matters – What the North London club would have to gain from the introduction of the former England captain

Stevenage have come a long way since they last met Newcastle by Joe Tyler at Footy Matters – An assessment of the progress made by the League 2 club in the decade-or-so since they took yesterday’s Premier League opponents to a famous FA Cup replay

Break-ups to make-ups: On Rooney, Tevez, and letting go by Greg Theoharis at Just Football – The impact on fans of their favourite players moving to pastures new

Why write about football? by Dominic Pollard at Polly’s Pause for Sport – the title says it all, really. A must-read for any budding football writer.



Beyond their means – Portsmouth’s journey to Wembley

Let me take you back to Sunday morning.

Tottenham fans up and down the country were looking forward to their day out at Wembley, many believing their FA Cup semi-final against relegated Portsmouth was a foregone conclusion.

After all, Avram Grant’s side were without arguably their best player in Jamie O’Hara, and had lost much of their squad over the last 18 months.

Fast-forward a few hours and Spurs fans take to the forums, complaining that Pompey were playing by their own rules, bringing the game into disrepute, and didn’t deserve their place in the final. Sour grapes, or do they have a point?

Portsmouth’s financial woes have been well documented over the 12 months since Alexandre Gaydamak sold the club, but the problems may go back even further than that.

Sulaiman Al-Fahim is one of several owners to have taken the reins at Portsmouth this season

David James revealed the punishing effects of unexpected bonuses when Pompey lifted the FA Cup and qualified for Europe in 2008, and one might argue Gaydamak did well to sell up and get out while he could.

But since the Russian’s departure the club has had numerous owners, none of whom managed to arrest the seemingly inevitable slide into administration.

They have since struggled to pay players, and some would say they acted beyond their means in fielding a senior team against Tottenham.

The main case in point is Aruna Dindane. The Ivorian’s appearance in the semi-final ought to have triggered a £4m payment to former club Lens, but Grant’s team managed to reach an agreement with the French outfit.

But Lens surely would not have agreed the original sale if they knew Portsmouth had absolutely no intention of paying for the international striker. This is particularly pertinent when you consider Les Sang et Or are also allegedly owed payments for the 2008 transfer of Nadir Belhadj to the south-coast side.

Furthermore, due to the constraints of administration, Pompey did not apply for a UEFA licence. Now they have reached the final they are seeking to appeal a decision which they essentially made themselves, in an attempt to qualify for a competition one of their own players has admitted helped orchestrate their downfall.

Harry Redknapp’s side have the right to feel aggrieved about the Dindane fiasco. The fact that he won the clinching penalty is academic, however. The important thing is Portsmouth reaching this stage of the competition is founded on ‘buying’ players they could not afford.

Ghanain midfielder Muntari has since moved to Inter Milan

But was this not also the situation when Redknapp himself was manager at Fratton Park? Rumours have been circulating that the club still owe Udinese £4m for the signing of Sulley Muntari during Redknapp’s tenure, and multi-million pound sales of Muntari himself and Lassana Diarra have been insufficient to generate the funds needed to pay a backlog of transfer installments.

Is the significant difference between Portsmouth and so many other Premier League sides simply the fact that other owners are willing to continue bankrolling debt-ridden clubs when the going gets tough?

Tottenham themselves were shown to be £65 million in debt, according to figures published last year, yet chairman Daniel Levy continues to fork out multi-million pound fees on fringe players such as Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker.

Without such a benificent owner, Tottenham might find themselves in the same situation as last Sunday’s opponents, at which point talk of ‘existing beyond their means’ could well go out of the window.