Tag Archives: Football

2018 FIFA World Cup: Kick off

Dear readers,

It comes around every four years. It lasts for a month, and in that time we become almost offensively patriotic and xenophobic, blurting out a rich array of mindless slurs and insults against opposing nations, ghetto-blasted even louder by sections of the media. It builds the tension and hype before games, while also giving fans a nervous complex, with finger nails gnawed to the bone.

Funnily enough, it’s a tournament that is supposed to bring the world together; in a period when it really needs it with political tensions vibrating around the globe. I remember an old drinking friend from Birmingham once suggesting “we could settle wars with a game of footy”. If that were the case, the world might be ruled by Brazil, or dare I say it, Germany.

This year it takes place in Russia, after winning an alleged rigged bidding process back in 2010. There is a lot negativity said about the country, whether it be the widespread homophobia, hooliganism, slaying of political dissidents and journalists (or attempted poisoning of former spies), military aggression against neighbouring countries or trying to influence elections. I’ve never been there; it’s knowing what to believe. We live in a period where truth and real journalism is under attack by fake news and propaganda; it’s very hard to believe much in the Western media or the Russian media, especially where politics plays a hand. However, I don’t think there’s another country quite as controversial to hold a major global sporting event right now. Let’s hope it runs smoothly.

For the last two world cups, I have followed two teams; my country of birth, England, and my country of residence, Honduras. Unfortunately only former made it this year. Honduras missed out, not only due to playing terribly against Australia in the playoffs, but also the ghost goal Panama (who England face a week Saturday in the group stage) scored against Costa Rica affectively taking Honduras out of a direct qualifying position and knocking USA out all together, not forgetting conceding late in at least three games while in winning positions during the qualifiers, costing six points in the process.

I’ve not been in England since 2014. I can only gauge the mood about the team’s chances through the media, but there is a distinct lack of hype about this team, especially compared to the 2006 and 2010 world cups, when on paper England had arguably one of best teams on paper (apart from the goalkeeper), yet they all failed to show up apart from the Canadian born Owen Hargreaves in 2006.

Can England win it?

In short, I doubt it, and I’m guessing much of the world feels the same. There’s less hype, with good reason; it’s an inexperienced squad with a distinct lack of depth of top quality players. Don’t get me wrong; there is talent, yet I’m not sure they possess the character to change games when things are going wrong, nor the wisdom and aggression needed to win ugly. There is less scandal and interruptions like in previous years, with Alex Chamberlain being the only noticeable absentee through injury. The England camp has highlighted the team’s new identity, which I’m not sold on just yet. We have to wait and see when the competition kicks off against Tunisia on Monday.

Of course, it’s not impossible. You need a winning mentality, and with the young lads coming through, I’m sure they want to win it, and of course I hope they do. They seem more hungry and prepared than previous generations.

Some have said that they hope England just play well. Yes. That’s how low expectations are. It’d be nice to make the quarter finals, but if we exit sooner, it wouldn’t be a surprise. To be an England fan is to be eternally disappointed. Don’t feel sorry for us. We’re used to it.

At the same time, there is the returning stink of arrogance brewing up in our naive mentality. Fans are saying England’s group of Belgium, Tunisia and Panama is easy, yet I see plenty of banana skins. Then in the second round, if England make it through the group, we could face Colombia or Poland, which sections of the media have labelled “favourable”; a dangerous mentality to possess, in my opinion. Just at Euro 2016, when England finished second in another relatively easy group, only for England fans to celebrate getting Iceland in the next round and then losing 2-1. It’s a scar on English football, yet we don’t seem to learn from this precariously weak mentality. Opposing teams are watching and listening. When you call a team easy, you know you’ve an even greater battle on your hands; they’re out to prove themselves, especially Panama and Tunisia. The England team is often seen as a representation of the UK government in such events, which has hardly coated itself in glory in recent years; yet another incentive for many. England cannot just raise their game against Belgium. They need to be careful throughout. Under-estimating teams wins you nothing, yet nor does fear. Respect is right mentality.

It might be time England to adopt a Leicester City mentality, rather than believing we’re a global superpower.

Who will win?

One of the usual suspects. Germany has the mentality, while Brazil and Spain have an abundance of skillful talent. France has a wonderful squad, while Argentina have Messi and Aguero. After that, I doubt any other team is strong enough.

After England, I hope for a Latin American team to do well. Not just because I live in a Latin American country; moreso that the World Cup has been dominated by European teams. It’s time for a change.

Advertisements

Honduran national team, the weather and derbies

Dear readers,

Some of you might already know, but I’ve been doing some reporting for Fox Sports Australia in the run up to World Cup playoffs between Honduras and the Soccerroos. Going by the name of my blog, there’s no guessing in who I’m following.

I’m enjoyed it and so far, pretty much so good. My first story was a big miss due to a mis intepretation of various nuances from some sections of the media. However, a third story seemed to be a massive hit, which has landed me interviews on television and radio, which I will go into in a future post. I feel quite overwhelmed by the positivity I’ve received, and I’ve learned an awful lot about patriotism and the power of words, as well as how sensitive Hondurans feel about how they are portrayed globally. I already knew about it, but this has been a great reminder and a very good learning experience. I’ve gained a lot of friends so far, such as the Barra Brava Catracha group, who I will write about more in a post coming up soon.

I wrote this post yesterday for Fox, but they decided not to run with it. I have therefore adapted it and publishing it here.

Enjoy.


HONDURAN NATIONAL TEAM

With Eddie Hernandez out the playoffs, Jorge Pinto was left sweating after his first choice goalkeeper Donis Escober and Choco Lozano were taken off during their respective teams, Olimpia and Barcelona B. was taken off with a muscular injury in Olimpia’s derby game with Motagua. However, it seems they will be fit for Honduras’s crunch games against Australia.

In the meantime, Jorge Pinto has left fans and media guessing about his select 11, adding that he has a plan for Australia.

The press and social media were surprised by the omission of Ronny Martinez and Rubilio Castillo, and the call up of some lesser known players from Honduras’s provincial teams like Juticalpa. Los Catrachos will be buoyed by the return of Carlo Costly and Mario Martinez, but how the latter fits into a team already boasting a range of talent in defensive midfield remains to be seen. The one surprise omission which has brought little news is Roger Espinoza, also known as El Chino, a utility midfield man with Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, who won the English FA Cup with Wigan Athletic in 2013. The Honduran born, US citizen has been a fans favourite over the years, scoring a few golazos along the way. Pinto obviously sees enough talent in the squad to leave him out.

DERBY GAMES

What did my home city Birmingham and my adopted city Tegucigalpa have in common this weekend? Derby games! Both cities boast fiery rivalies in the city, with Birmingjam and Aston Villa and Olimpia and Motagua respectively. Yet this weekend, both derbies ended in 0-0 draws. Yes, the bragging rights mean everything to the fans in both cities, and both clubs want to claim the throne of el papá de ciudad. That’s where the similarities end though. Both Tegucigalpa’s teams are fighting to take top spot in the league, while Birmingham are locked in a relegation dog fight in the 2nd tier in the English leagues, while Villa, which now stars ex-England man John Terry, are in a rat race to return to the Premier League.

Back to the Tegucigalpa derby, both Olimpia and Motagua represent two of the country’s most powerful clubs, in which anything is possible.

Drama surrounds this fixture, and this weekend will be no different, giving supporters some reprieve of thinking about the play off with the Soccerroos. Just last season an Olimpia supporter invaded the pitch, collected the ball, dazzled two or three Motagua defenders before putting it away, while at the same time, Olimpia team took advantage of Motagua’s confusion and also scored, all of it taking place in injury time. Surprisingly, the goal stood and game finished 2-2. Click here to see the video.

While Olimpia could be labelled the Manchester United of Honduras, playing in very similar colours and being by far the most successful club, yet Motagua have won the previous two titles and currently sit four points clear at the top of the league, while Olimpia are 3rd.

The club’s supporters were mocking each other on the sport’s radio show La Potra Hn on Friday night, who called me while on air to talk about an article I’d written, about Olimpia beating Santos of Costa Rica penalties to claim  the Torneo Liga Concacaf the night before, with Motagua supporters were raining on their counterpart’s parade, claiming the victory was only region’s 2nd tier cup, the Europa League of Central America.

WEATHER

Talking of rain, Tropical Storm Selma entered Honduran territory on the Pacific Coast on Saturday evening, bringing torrential rain to the south side of the country. Honduras has already experienced heavy rainfall throughout the country, with has brought flash floods, landslides, overflowing rivers and reservoirs, one of which left a dam on high alert. It’s brought considerable damage to some poorer neighbourhoods in and around the northern towns and cities, claiming a number of lives.

That being said, emergency services have been quick to react and civilians have been helping one another. Australian fans coming over will be kept well away from the more precarious areas and the game shouldn’t be affected; just remember to bring your waterproofs.

 

 

 


Futbol en Barrio Chile y “skinning a rabbit”

Hola todo

I thought I would do an update on the Casa Alianza football team. They have been playing in a Saturday league team and, as far as I know, they have been steam-rolling through the games like Man Utd have been doing in the Premiership this season. I have seen them play before and they have fantastic squad, playing in a similar way to Spain and Barcelona: total possesion. They play with each other every day in Casa Alianza and know each others game back to front. I’ve said it before, many of these kids could break into professional teams. They’re so cunning and very technically gifted. Scouts from Olimpia and Motagua, the two clubs of Tegus, have been to look at them, but because the kids don’t have the enough resources or capital to support themselves, they can’t take them on, because the clubs can’t, or won’t, pay for it either.

I have been with them twice to where they place in Barrio Chile, which sits just on the other side of the Rio Choluteca from the city centre area. I pass it every day to and from work, and it’s sat just at the bottom of Cerro Grande where I live. It’s quite a dangerous neighbourhood and not a place for me to go wandering around with my camera alone. I hear Mara 18 are the ruling gang there and there are often grizzily stories of people being chopped up and put in the river there. What’s great is the huge cliff face just behind one of the goals. It’s very photogenic and the pictures could be put in some footy art books or something. Sometimes cows stroll on to the pitch, and the gangs look on, not to rob or kill, but because they are generally thrilled to watch the kids play. Normally I can’t take pictures of the kids and put them on my blog because of security reasons. I can, however, if the kids faces are unrecognisable, so, here you go.

The last time I went, there just so happened to be a gang there skinning a rabbit. It’s certainly an alternative ending to Watership Down, but for me it was certainly educational, especially if I find myself stranded in the woods one day, I’ll know exactly what to do (although I’ll have to catch the little f–ker of a rabbit first). I did get twenty minutes of video footage, but WordPress is being shite and asking me to download a programme for $60 or so to do it (which I refuse to, sorry WordPress and animal haters), and it’s taking up to five hours to download it onto You Tube. I took a couple of pictures, which aren’t as grotesque as the video, but if you’re an animal lover or skirmish, don’t scroll down!