Hopefully (or not), my hiatus from On The Futbol has not gone unnoticed by yourself. It’s now been over three months since my last published article, and we’ve now got through an entire one twelfth of 2012 without one! So, following the first snowfall of the year (in England-and Algeria-at least), what better time to post the first of many articles in 2012.
There’s lots to look forward to this year. On an international viewpoint, the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine can’t come soon enough, nor can the 2012 London Olympic Games (where there’ll be representation from Team GB for the first time in almost fifty years). In Spain, it looks like the best player and best team in the world won’t be winning their national league as The Special One continues to split the Madridista’s support, whilst the African Cup of Nations will be drawing to a close in a matter of days, with untraditional African heavyweights Mali and the Chipolopolo of Zambia still in with a shout of springing a surprise and upsetting the power balance of African football.
Closer to home, the Npower Championship is looking closer than ever-just 3 points separate 4th placed Birmingham from 10th placed Brighton-and in League One, the two Sheffield teams continue to battle it out for promotion alongside other big teams such as Huddersfield ‘Alan Lee’ Town and Charlton Athletic. Plymouth, despite the financial instability that has rocked the club for much of the last three years, are still battling valiantly against the drop into non-League football, whilst in a similar vein the coastal town of Portsmouth are fighting to stay afloat. In the Premiership, the relegation battle is hotting up. QPR have got some great deals in the January sales, and that tough Glaswegian Steve Kean is still in a job, and is still probably being given complementary chicken meals from the Blackburn owners. Norwich’s and Swansea’s impressive seasons to date have been refreshing to see, flying the flag of the Football League high in the Premier League and showing that you can play ‘Arsenal’ football without being as defensively deficient or self-implosive as the real Arsenal.
The League Cup has almost reached its climax and the final will be competed between Liverpool and Cardiff City on the 26th of February. Half of the clubs in the semi-finals being Football League may serve as a gentle reminder to the spoon-fed masses that a world does indeed exist outside the Premiership, and also go some way to showing that the ‘magic of the cup’, of which it seems has already undergone its own funeral and bidded farewell to the world, still remains. With the top two clubs in the country (and in Manchester) both out of the FA Cup, this year represents a great opportunity for another team to really take advantage of their absence; be that plucky Stevenage, or Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Sunderland side.
Of course, there is more to football than just what happens on the pitch. Gary Speed’s and Nigel Doughty’s respective deaths pay credence to this fact, and do remind us that sometimes, just sometimes, there are more important things in life than this sport within which we make our vows and devote so much time towards.
Besides these tragedies, other issues have come to light recently, namely racism and homophobia; issues just as rife in society, but when seen in isolation with such a global sport as football, have a spotlight thrust upon them (and rightly so). In both racial incidents that have occurred in English football recently, not many parties have emerged with any real credit; Suarez’ “Evra’s mates call him it” excuse was just as lame as John “I have a black friend, honest guv’!” Terry, with Liverpool and Fabulously Awfello Capello being incorrigible in their public backing of the two accused.
Finally, 2012 represents the start of a ten-year countdown to the already much maligned Qatar World Cup in 2022. I recently visited the country, and you can look forward to a forthcoming article about the future hosting of the World Cup there in the near future, hopefully including an interview with a senior official from the Qatari World Cup bid.
That’s all for now. Once again, thanks for reading, and a happy belated New Year. You know it’s late when even Chinese New Year’s been and gone and it’s nearer to Pancake Day than New Year’s Day. Mais, c’est la vie.
Hope to see you throughout the year.