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Saturday, December 31, 2011


The end of another year in the wonderful world of football is nigh, as is the first full year of the one-man operation that is Pat's Football Blog. To say that this blog is not widely-known is an understatement, but that, I would say, is no bad thing. It means that I can write what I think about the subjects which interest me, and if what I write both interests and informs you, dear reader, then I am happy.

This blog has, in my mind, two purposes: I write about what interests me because it is insufficiently available elsewhere on the internet, and because I want to practice the craft of writing articles - features, opinion-pieces and so on. Well, it has three purposes, the third being that it might interest and inform those who read it. As I said earlier, the blog doesn't have a wide audience, but the two people who have regularly read it over the past thirteen and a half months or so have been quite complimentary about its contents, which is always nice, and it makes me feel as though I might be doing something right. 

More importantly, perhaps, it gives me the feeling that those individuals and organisations who have assisted with the collation and writing of articles on this blog have done something right - they have often helped in others becoming aware of football in the more obscure parts of the globe - and I feel that is only proper that I should thank them here and now for their help, kindness and patience in helping me compile article after article.

To begin with, thanks and praise are due to Leon Glass (Tristan da Cunha FC) and Nick Stevens (Saint Helena) for their contributions - we got there in the end, and I sincerely hope that SHIFT (Saint Helena International Football Team) will one day get to the Island Games, and that TDCFC will eventually venture overseas, and keep on winning in the meantime! Congratulations to Rovers and Herts for winning the Saint Helena League and Cup recently, by the way.

The help of those such as Andrea Sheridan, from the 2011 NatWest Island Games Organising Committee, Kay Batty, Secretary of the Island Games Association and Priscilla Duncan, Head of Media Communications at the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) was invaluable, not to mention much appreciated, in the compilation of several articles during the year; the OFC website is an essential tool for those wishing to know more about football in the South Pacific region. (Website address:

Someone else who went over and beyond the call of duty was Brett Maluwelmeng. The name might not mean very much to the average bod, but Brett is the media rep for the Guam FA. Not only that, but he is also the goalkeeper for the Guam national side, and a nice bloke to boot.

Thanks are, on a smaller scale, but no less valid, also due to Brazilian columnist Juca Kfouri, the indefatigible, not to mention incorrigible (in the positive sense of the word!) Andrew Jennings - the man who causes Sepp Blatter, Jack Walker et al sleepless nights - and Danny Lynch from the Football Association's Kick It Out! campaign.

I have immensely enjoyed researching and compiling every blog I have written, but none have given me the pleasure, sense of fulfilment nor sadness experienced whilst writing the two-part blog (plus the auxilliary article concerning two sets of goalposts) on the life and times of the former Brazilian goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa. I am not ashamed to write that tears were shed during the compilation of the blog about the man who only played 20 full internationals for Brazil, but who should be named among the best goalkeepers ever to appear for everybody's second-favourite football team; a man who was, by all accounts, first-class in every way. He was scandalously treated by the Brazilian media and football authorities..not to mention by a large percentage of the Brazilian population, and that for merely conceding a goal in the deciding game of the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay. 

I consider it an honour to have been helped every step of the way by Roberto Muylaert, author of "Barbosa - Um gol faz cinquenta anos" ( a rough translation being: "Barbosa - a goal lasts for fifty years"); Tereza Borba, the woman (incorrectly) assumed by many to be Barbosa's adopted daughter, was of wonderful assistance, as were Gudryan Neufert and Luiza Tanabe Novaes from Rede Record TV and António Napoleão from the CBF. Many thanks, too, to Rosilda de Fátima Tristão Santini for her help with the article on the two sets of goalposts from the Brazil : Uruguay game in the 1950 World Cup. Good luck, too, to Javier Robles with his project on Moacyr Barbosa. Let me know how it goes!

Ireland qualified for the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 2002 (happiness!), and thanks are due to John Hogan for his kindness in letting me pillage information on the Irish team's history in play-off matches.

This is the perfect link to the second part of this article, which deals with some of the best in blogs and websites discovered and read by yours truly over the past year or so, and John's website - - is one of the most informative I've come across in a long time. If you are interested in football on the southern side of the Irish border, then Soccer-Ireland, an obvious labour of love, must be your one-stop shop for statistical information.

If it's a good story you're after, then only one website will do: In Bed With Maradona. The site is stocked full of entertaining and informative reading from near and far; why settle for a fish-supper when a caviar-stuffed pork fillet with sauté potatoes will do? With writers such as Iain Macintosh, Steve Menary and Janine Self, IBWM surely can't be a bad bet for some bedtime reading. Website address:

Footysphere is, in comparison, a one-man effort run by Karl Smout, and an absolute delight it is, too; a veritable sweet-shop full of footie goodies from recent times and yesteryear, culled from various sources (including this blog! - well, sort of..) and also featuring some of Karl's own creations. Website address:

A blog definitely worth a look is Girl On A Terrace, which is the gospel according to a Rochdale fan called Sarah, and it is written in a refreshingly chatty style. It's another blog where you don't know what you're going to read next; the roof blowing off the stand at Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park to a collection of the worst football shirts of all time. Sarah is the queen of the football blog, and you, esteemed reader, will find and enjoy her blog under:

A definitely more club-orientated blog is Arsenal Territory (, and I consider this to be a good read and an intelligently-written blog. It pains me a little to say it, but another well thought-out blog is one which concentrates on (gulp) Manchester United, and is written from an American perspective. The Busby Babe is the name (the web address is and is not your average hysterically anti-Liverpool rant, but one which is written with a little consideration for the subject at hand. To redress the balance somewhat, the Liverpool Offside has everything the discerning Liverpool fan will ever need (

There are many media outlets whose reading material is readily available on the internet, and which make for essential reading, such as The Guardian, World Soccer, BBC, RTÉ , Huffington Post and The Independent. For those of you who like to play about with an online translator, Placar (Brazil), France Football, Fotbólti (Iceland) and Voetbal International (Holland) are some of those which are more than worth the effort.

Time is of the essence, and to include every single website perused by your correspondent over the past year would leave this article unfinished until the end of January. Many thanks to all those who have been kind enough to offer help and advice; your assistance is much appreciated. A Happy New Year to you all.

All being well, there will be more to come in the New Year. A brief snapshot of the subjects which will be covered (all being well) includes: Gibraltar, the Channel Islands, a belated look back at some tournaments which weren't covered at the time, goal-line technology (zzzzzz..), football after the credit-crunch in Iceland and, to start off the New Year, the life and times of the late, great Sócrates. The year 2012 will be an interesting one.

Also, in finishing, Pat's Football Blog is now on Facebook, where the links to each article on this blog are within reach, and a few other bits and pieces are also on show. As ever, as via the blog itself, comments are more than welcome. If anyone should like to write a guest article for this blog, kindly get in touch and, well, who knows?

For now, though, dear reader, thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and I wish you and yours a very sporting and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


The Liverpool player Luis Suárez was found guilty by the FA on Tuesday of using insulting language with racist overtones against Manchester United's Patrice Evra during the game between the two clubs at Anfield on 18/10/11, and received punishment consisting of an eight-match ban plus a fine of 40000 pounds (€48000). It was alleged that Suárez repeatedly used the word "negrito" (literally translated as "little black one") against the French international; Suárez has admitted using the term, once and once only, and said that it was meant jocularly. Evra, on the other hand, alleged that the Uruguayan used the term at least ten times during the game; he and Sir Alex Ferguson approached the referee after the game and informed him of what was alleged to have happened. The FA have also apparently stated that Suárez was not a racist.

It was mentioned on this blog last month that if Suárez was found guilty of racial abuse, that he should have the book thrown at him. The FA didn't throw the book at Suárez as the complete edition of the latest version of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. It was also mentioned in the the blog that "negrito" does not have the same pejorative meaning in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina as it does in other parts of Spanish-speaking Latin America; in fact, generally speaking, the meaning of the word in southern South America lends itself to altogether friendlier connotations.

It has also been noted across the media that Suárez uttered "negrito" out of earshot of everybody else on the pitch except for Evra. Evra stated during an interview after the game with French television station Canal Plus that Suárez had called him "negrito" ten times during the game, and said that television pictures would back him up. These pictures have not been made public, should they exist. Evra has also admitted calling Suárez a "Sudana", an apparently pejorative term in Spanish. Many have tried to defend Suárez by saying that the charge was based on "hearsay", but since Suárez admitted calling Evra a "negrito', that theory went straight out the window.

What to make of it all? Liverpool, who are noted for their anti-racist stance and cross community-work, have defended their man to the hilt, to the extent that the club released a two-page statement - which was a little over-the-top in its content - to the press after news of the verdict on Suárez was made public. The Daily Mirror newspaper went so far as to print the following one-word headline on the back page: "Racist." The Daily Express also printed the same headline with regard to Suárez recently, apparently. Interesting times might lie ahead for both publications should Suárez decide to sue for defamation; both the FA and Evra himself are of the opinion that Lúis Suárez is not a racist. The press coverage of the Suárez case highlights the hypocrisy of publications such as The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express in their attitude towards the Liverpool player in portraying him as a racist; all three newspapers have been consistently anti-Irish, anti-immigrant, anti-black and anti-Muslim down the ages.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has also gone public on several occasions in defence of the Uruguayan, and, as a result, has found himself ridiculed in the gutter press and on various internet fora. The club also came in for a lot of criticism after the team sported T-shirts in support of Suárez, with his picture on the front and his name and number on the back, before Wednesday evening's 0:0 draw away to Wigan Athletic. 

This course of action has drawn criticism from several black players,  both past and present, including Blackburn Rovers' Jason Roberts and ex-Irish international Paul McGrath, who was quoted on the BBC website as saying that if he was in (Suárez's Liverpool team-mate) Glen Johnson's shoes, he "would have thrown the T-shirt to the floor." Johnson's reply, delivered via Twitter, to McGrath's riposte was short and to the point: "I will support who I want when I want! There are a lot of reasons why I'm standing by Luis Suárez!" Former Liverpool and England star, John Barnes, meanwhile, described the verdict and the storm around Suárez as a "witch-hunt" during an interview aired on BBC Radio Merseyside.

Barnes went on to say: "From a cultural point of view, [Suarez] has been backed by people from Uruguay saying the word he used is not deemed as a racist term. As much as we will say that ignorance is no excuse, ignorance is an excuse."

"Twenty years ago in England, the same people in England now condemning him were ignorant as to what racism is. Why don't they condemn themselves?"

Suárez has, rather predictably, also been vilified as a racist across the length and breadth of the media, by journalists, pundits and many football fans, and it may be a surprise to learn that the majority of those fans pouring scorn on the Reds' number 7 pledge their allegiance to Manchester United. The words "goofy-toothed cunt" have been widespread on Man U-friendly websites such as; surely this is discriminatory against those of us with less than perfect teeth - a case of molarism, perhaps? In all seriousness, however, the question should be asked: is Suárez really as despicable as he has been painted out to be?

He has been noted as a first-class diver, in the class of Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben, but precious little of this ignoble art has been present during his performances on the pitch so far this season. He earned notoriety in football circles following his  goal-line handball in the last minute of extra-time against Ghana at the last World Cup, for which he was red-carded, and also for his celebrations in the players' tunnel following the missed penalty which followed. Many neutrals (and African football fans, not to mention Ghanaians) were furious with him, but they would probably have done the same thing if they were in a similar position. 

It has been mentioned across the internet that, late last year, during his last season with Ajax, Suárez sank his teeth into the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven player Otman Bakkal, and was suspended for seven matches as a result. It should, however, be said that Bakkal spent the whole match provoking Suárez, treading on his feet on a number of occasions during the game.

This was scarcely mentioned in the media, and the fact that Suárez sank his chops into Bakkal's shoulder should not be regarded as acceptable, but Bakkal's actions were little better, as he was continually attempting to goad the Uruguyan whilst causing him physical discomfort. What also wasn't mentioned was the fact that Bakkal approached Suárez at the end of the game, shook hands with him, and that the two of them walked off the pitch together, arm in arm.

During the course of discussions with other football lovers following the verdict on Suárez, comparisions were drawn with that handed down to Nigel de Jong, who "only" received a three-match ban following his leg-breaking tackle on Newcastle United's HarimBen Arfa at the beginning of last season was repeatedly raised, as was the opinion that Suárez didn't actually physically assault Evra, and that the sentence passed down was disproportionate to the ofence caused. Also raised was the possibility of Evra facing FA punishment after his abusing of Suárez; the Liverpool player has not passed on any complaint about the Frenchman's behaviour, and it would be unlikely that Evra would face FA charges in any event.  

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said that the FA made "the right decision" in imposing the ban and fine on Suárez, and added that the issue "wasn't about Manchester United and Liverpool", but rather about "an individual situation where one person was racially abused."

Fergie also referred to an incident involving Evra at Stamford Bridge in 2008, when he had a set-to with a Chelsea groundsman after a United victory against Chelsea. Evra received a four-match ban after the altercation, which is said to have started after the groundsman racially abused Evra. This is what Ferguson had to say.

"Patrice got that suspension for the incident down at Chelsea when no one was there, just a groundsman and our fitness coach. He got a four-match ban and we had to wait two weeks for the evidence to come through. We were quite astounded at that. A four-match ban?"

He concluded by saying: "We thought it was well over the top for a trivial incident."

A trivial incident? The FA, in issuing Evra with the ban and a fine of 15000 pounds, said that Evra had struck the groundsman, Sam Bethell, on the side of the head, and Evra himself admitted that he had also pushed another groundsman with his chest. But, that's football for you. One man's "trivial incident" is another man's serious offence. John Barnes had to put up with sustained racial abuse throughout his football career; he knows the difference between a "trivial incident" and something more serious.

Evra, like Suárez, has also found himself in no end of scrapes. Apart from the assault on the Chelsea groundsman (let's face it, an assault it was), the Frenchman also earned himself a little notoriety after the sending-home of Nicolas Anelka by the French FA during the 2010 World Cup finals. Anelka had allegedly rowed with French national team manager Raymond Domenech at half-time during one of the  World Cup games and had refused to apologise to the coach; news of this had been leaked to the media, and Evra, as team captain, reacted badly. He described the source of the leak as a "traitor" who should be eliminated from the team.

Evra and the rest of the French team refused to train the day after Anelka's expulsion, and he himself ended up having a public, full-scale row with fitness coach Robert Duverne. Evra later said that he regretted what had happened, describing the débacle as "clumsy", but was not spared from the public condemnation of events in South Africa and was eventually banned by the FFF (Fédération Française de Football) for his part in the controversy.

Two years earlier, immediately after the 2:0 defeat to Italy which saw France's elimination from the Euro 2008 finals, he was allegedly involved in a fracas in the tunnel with team-mates Anelka and Éric Abidal, though the video of the incident was inconclusive. Regardless, Evra is not one of football's most popular characters, but it is to be hoped that he shall not suffer any abuse for his part in the Suárez case.

It was almost inevitable that Suárez would face punishment after the FA's three-man Independent Regulatory Commission inquiry, but the sanction handed down seems to have veered towards extreme. One feels that the man has been a victim of the FA looking to set an example, to be seen to be doing something after Sepp Blatter's now famous denial of racism existing on the field of play, which was made during two television interviews last month. (Blatter did later apologise for any misunderstanding caused, but still..) Although the inquest was held outside of the public glare, it still felt a little like a show-trial, with the result never in doubt; just about the only question remaining was how heavy the sanction would be. And heavy it was.

Lúis Suárez is one of those players about whom every football supporter has an opinion; some love him, others loathe him, but football would be a duller place without him. What he did might have been correct in Uruguay, but it is frowned upon in English football so a ban and a fine were certainly justified. However, the size of the ban is perhaps excessive; he did admit to calling Evra a "negrito', after all, but that may well have come as a result of sheer ignorance of English football culture and that could well have been a cause for mitigation. Who can say for certain, and who amongst us is perfect?

That is not to say that racism is justified, though in Suárez's case, a  slightly shorter ban, a heftier fine and a course in anti-racism and English football culture might have sufficed. (It might be an idea for the FA to introduce such a course in the future, and make it mandatory for all foreign players to attend same.) Liverpool are expected to appeal the FA's decision, and were given 14 days to do so after their receipt a of a letter stating the reasons behind the Commission's findings. The letter has yet to be sent, but is expected to be made public when received by Liverpool. There are several options for the FA to decide with regard to the severity of Suárez's punishment come the (probable) appeal and verdict; this is, of course, a matter for conjecture and the verdict will be waited on with baited breath by a great many people, it seems, as well as the vultures who have been circling round during the past several weeks.

Suárez has, according to the statement released this week by his club, been a notable giver of both time and money to charity, and has also done much work for cross-community, multi-racial charities; he does have "previous", but a lot of the reaction to this latest episode involving Evra has been knee-jerk, tribal, potentially slanderous/libellous and of the "give a dog a bad name" variety. That in itself is just as damaging to the game of football as anything Suárez said to Evra (or vice-versa); it does neither Suárez nor Evra any good.

If the ban and the fine imposed on Suárez are upheld, the FA know that this case will, whether they like it or not, be used as a benchmark for any others which end up on their desk, and, if any players charged in the future are found guilty, that it will be expected that they shall also feel the full force of the FA's wrath. There is no room for double standards. But, the case of Lúis Suárez still has a little way to run, and it would be prudent for the lynch-mobs on both sides of the argument to wait for the FA's findings to be made public before they make for their ropes.


Saturday, December 3, 2011


The draw for the finals of the 2012 European Championship was held this evening at the Palace of Arts in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev (or Kyiv, if you prefer), and interesting times lie ahead for both Ireland and England. The teams, per group, were drawn during the live draw as follows (top seeds in italics):

GROUP A: POLAND, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia
GROUP B: HOLLAND, Denmark, Portugal, Germany
GROUP C: SPAIN, IRELAND, Croatia, Italy 


8/6/11   Poland : Greece (18:00, Warszawa)
8/6/11   Russia : Czech Republic (20:45, Wrocław)
12/6/11 Greece : Czech Republic (18:00, Wrocław)
12/6/11 Poland : Russia (18:00, Warszawa)
16/6/11 Czech Republic : Poland (20:45, Wrocław)
16/6/11 Greece : Russia (20:45, Warszawa)

An interesting group, this one; Russia should come top, though it will be a tight battle for the runners-up spot, as the other three nations are just as capable as each other of finishing in second place in the group. When push comes to shove, in spite of your correspondent's admittedly uninspiring record with regard to predictions, Greece may well just nudge it in front of hosts Poland and the Czech Republic. Euro 2004 all over again. More I dare not say.


9/6/11   Holland : Denmark (18:00, Kharkiv)
9/6/11   Germany : Portugal (20:45, Lviv)
13/6/11 Denmark : Portugal (18:00, Lviv)
13/6/11 Holland : Germany (20:45, Kharkiv)
17/6/11 Portugal : Holland (20:45, Kharkiv)
17/6/11 Denmark : Germany (20:45, Lviv)

Four very good teams in one group; only two can go through to the quarter-finals. It's Germany's to lose, with Holland to finish second, but only just. No room for either Portugal (to not have to witness so much of the heavy histrionics after the group stage would be a relief for a great many people - we'll probably still be stuck with the Dutch, however) or Denmark to progress, unfortunately; anyone who watched Germany's recent demolition of Holland would not bet against Der Mannschaft finishing top of the pile in what has already become known as this tournament's Group of Death.


10/6/11 Spain : Italy (18:00, Gdańsk)
10/6/11 IRELAND : Croatia (20:45, Poznań)
14/6/11 Italy : Croatia (18:00, Poznań)
14/6/11 Spain : IRELAND (20:45, Gdańsk)
18/6/11 Croatia : Spain (20:45, Gdańsk)
18/6/11 Italy : IRELAND (20:45, Poznań)

It's ten years since Ireland qualified for a major tournament, and acknowledgement of the quality of the opposition which the Boys in Green find themselves up against may well lead to quaking knees among the Irish support. On the positive side, if Garth "Beg The Question" Crooks can remain a roving reporter for the BBC's Football Focus programme, there is still hope that Ireland can get through to the second round of the European Championship for the first time ever, in only their second-ever appearance in the tournament's final stages and their first since 1988.

Irish fans will be looking at the game against Spain and thinking of revenge for the penalty shoot-out defeat to the current world champions back in the 2002 World Cup Finals. That may prove to be a bridge too far, but a positive result against Croatia might prove more of a possibility. Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Damien Duff will remember the agonising 1:0 defeat (courtesy of a winner scored against them in the fourth minute of injury-time) against the Croatians during the Euro 2000 qualifiers, and it is perhaps time for the Irish team to finally serve up that cold dish called revenge; it is certainly not past its sell-by date.

And then there is, of course, the prospect of Giovanni Trappatoni locking horns once again with his countrymen in what could be the decider in Poznań on 18/6/11. Italy never seem to be named among the absolute favourites to win a tournament, but they are the most dangerous of outsiders, and may well turn out to be so again this time. Discount Croatia at your peril, though; the manner of their sweeping-aside of Turkey in the play-offs should be enough for the warning-lights to be a-flashing for the rest of the teams in the group.

Spain should win the group, with (and it pains me to say so this time) Italy finishing as runners-up in what will be another tight group. Ireland and Croatia will probably be fighting it out for the wooden-spoon, though I sincerely hope I'm wrong; if Ireland can avoid defeat against the Spanish, though, things could get very interesting. A win against Croatia in their first fixture is imperative if they are to have any hope of making progress, however.


11/6/11 France : ENGLAND (18:00, Donetsk)
11/6/11 Ukraine : Sweden (20:45, Kiev)
15/6/11 Sweden : ENGLAND (18:00, Kiev)
15/6/11 Ukraine : France (20:45, Donetsk)
19/6/11 ENGLAND : Ukraine (20:45, Donetsk)
19/6/11 Sweden : France (20:45, Kiev)

England should qualify for the quarter-finals, if only because France are not the side they were a few years ago, Sweden are difficult to beat but not the most fearsome opposition, and while Ukraine will not figure among the favourites to lift the European Championship trophy, they will still prove dangerous opposition on home soil. England and Ukraine to go through.

21/6/11 1A : 2B (20:45, Warszawa - A)
22/6/11 1B : 2A (20:45, Gdańsk - B)
23/6/11 1C : 2D (20:45, Donetsk - C)
24/6/11 1D : 2C (20:45, Kiev - D)


27/6/11 A : C (20:45, Donetsk - 1)
28/6/11 B : D (20:45, Warszawa - 2)


1/7/11 1 : 2 (20:45, Kiev)

Who to stop the Germans from lifting the trophy in Kiev on 1/7/11? If Holland can escape from the group, they are certainly in with a shout, though Spain are, in the eyes of many, still the team to beat. Italy are certainly dangerous outsiders, but their ending the tournament as winners would be viewed as a long shot. As said earlier, it's Germany's to lose.

LIST OF STADIA (capacities are approximate):
DONETSK: Donbass Arena (51504)
GDAŃSK: PGE Arena (44000)
KHARKIV: Metallist Stadium (39000) 
KIEV: Olimpiysky NSC (68055)
LVIV: Lemberg/Arena Lviv (35000)
POZŃAŃ: Stadion Miejski (43000)
WARSZAWA: Stadion Narodowy (58145)
WROCŁAW: Stadion Miejski (42771)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The football community around the UK and further afield has reacted with shock and sadness at the news of the more than untimely death of the manager of the Welsh national team, Gary Speed, at the age of 42 yesterday. It was reported on the BBC and CNN yesterday afternoon that he had taken his own life, having apparently been found hanged at his Cheshire home a few hours earlier.

Speed, who played for several clubs including Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers, started his career with Leeds United, and won the League Championship with the club in 1991-92, the last season before the inception of the Premier League. He won 85 caps for Wales between 1990 and 2004, and ended his playing career with Sheffield United last year before briefly taking up the manager's position at the club.

He left The Blades at the end of last year to take up the Wales manager's post, vacant after the departure of Speed's predecessor John Toshack. He seemed to have stopped the downward spiral of the national team's fortunes, with the team winning 5 out of his 10 games in charge of the side, and 3 out of Wales' last 4 competitive matches at the tail-end of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2012 European Championships. Speed's last match in charge was on 8/11/11, when Wales defeated Norway 4:1 in a friendly in Cardiff.

Tributes have been pouring in from near and far for Gary Speed, who was just as highly regarded off the field as he was on it. Regarded as tenacious (and, occasionally, a little over-physical) and talented on the pitch, he was also considered to be highly articulate and intelligent off it. He was also a regular guest on various football programmes, and his last public appearance was on the sofa on Saturday's Football Focus programme, broadcast on BBC1, where he appeared alongside his former Leeds United team-mate and good friend, Gary McAllister.

The death of Gary Speed, MBE, is a sad loss for football, for those connected with the Football Association of Wales (FAW), and, above all, for his family and friends, especially, of course, his wife and children. It would be nice to think that Speed's family circle and close friends will be allowed by the media to have the time and space to grieve in private. They deserve the sympathy, respect and understanding of one and all.

There was another sad story to report over the weekend, one which was no less tragic than the passing of Gary Speed, but one which was only briefly reported on both CNN and BBC News channels late on Saturday night. It was of news which emanated from the West African country of Togo, a land which has had more than its fair share of sporting tragedies to mourn over the past few years and where another one took place on Saturday morning.

A bus carrying 32 players and staff of local Première Division club Étoile Filante, based in the capital
Lomé, was bringing the team to play Sémassi Sokodé when a tyre apparently burst, after which the bus lost control, somersaulted and plunged into a ravine at the small village of Gléi, just to the south of the central city of Atakpamé, at around 11:00 local time on Saturday morning. The bus was reported to have burst into flames upon impact at the bottom of the ravine. Six of those travelling in the bus were killed, and all were reportedly sitting at the back of the bus when it burst into flames. 

Initial media reports of the accident were, to say the least, confusing. It was widely stated that six players were initially reported to have been killed, with several more injured, then it later emerged that no players had died, but two had been seriously injured and 26 other people, 19 of whom were listed as players, required hospital treatment. Several websites also later reported that 8 people had died, and that 70 people were on the bus at the time of the accident. More than 48 hours on, it is still not totally clear as to the number of casualties, nor has the total number of people on board the bus at the time of the accident been established.

The dead include Étoile Filante's assistant trainer (and ex-Togo international) Isidore Koumah, club general-secretary Christophe Dagbovie, plus the club physiotherapist and cook. Former international goalkeeper Charles Balogou (one of the club's technical staff) and a camerawoman, named on the Actu-Afrique website as Yolande Améyo Adabra, who were travelling with the team, were also named among the dead. The two seriously-injured players were named as Nigerian attacker Joseph Okewo, and the experienced Tchagbele Agouda. They and the other survivors of the crash were taken to hospital in Atakpamé.
"Most of the victims died in the fire," according to FTF (Fédération Togolaise du Football) spokesman Aimé Ekpe when interviewed by CNN on Saturday night. The Togolese president, Fauré Gnassingbe, later ordered the survivors to be flown by helicopter to the military hospital in central Lomé. Some of the injured, it was reported, were evacuated by ambulance from the scene of the accident; the ambulance was accompanied to the crash-site by a delegation headed by Togo's Sports Minister, Christophe Tchao.

One of the survivors, Les Météors' goalkeeper Mama Souleyman, told Togo national television in an interview from his hospital bed: "We do not know how we managed to get out of the accident. Most of the players got out of the bus before the officials could do so because they were all in the front row of the bus."
"The officials and technical staff were trapped..when the bus somersaulted several times and caught fire."
In a statement published on the Togolese government website yesterday afternoon, the FTF "expresses its condolences to the Étoile Filante team and the bereaved families and hopes for a speedy recovery of those injured."
British newspaper The Sun also published the above statement..and then showed that it doesn't always do its homework by displaying the emblem of Burkina Faso side Étoile Filante Ouagadougou (presumably culled via a copy-and-past exercise from Wikipedia) on its website alongside the article; an example of crass, lazy journalism. The Étoile Filante, club involved in this sad episode, meanwhile, have won their country's league championship seven times in total, but haven't won it since 1992.

The club, the name of which translates as Shooting Star in English, was founded in 1932. The Lomé side were due to play their first match of the season at Sémassi as a dispute between several clubs and the FTF had recently been solved. Shortly after news of the accident became known, the FTF decided to postpone all football action due to take place in Togo over the weekend as a mark of respect to the dead and injured, and to the families of those affected by the tragedy.

Earlier today, in a statement, Spurs player and Togo national team captain Emmanuel Adebayor expressed his condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy and his wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured, and said that he "hoped that Togolese football would be spared any more such drastic ordeals in the future."

Saturday's bus-crash was the third tragedy to affect Togolese sporting circles in recent years. In 2007, the Togolese sports minister Richard Attipoe and several Togolese fans were on a helicopter carrying 22 people which crashed on the way to Lungi International Airport, just outside the Sierra Leone capital city of Freetown after an African Cup of Nations between the two countries. There were no survivors. 

In January 2010, three people travelling in the Togo team bus which was on its way to compete in the 2010 African Cup of Nations finals were shot dead by gunmen belonging to an insurgent organisation in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda. The bus was ambushed just inside Cabinda, having just crossed the border from the Congo. The Angolan-born driver was killed instantly; the Togolese assistant manager and press-officer both succumbed to their injuries the next day. Seven other people were wounded in the attack.

One note of good news to report was that the German referee, Babak Rafati, who had attempted to take his own life in his hotel room just before a Bundesliga game nine days ago, is recovering well. He was found by his two linesmen,with his wrists slashed, in his hotel bathroom shortly before he was due to officiate in the game between 1FC Koln and Mainz 05. The game was called off less than 45 minutes before kick-off.

However, that was tempered by the news that Belgian linesman Chris Schelstraete attempted to take his own life an hour before the second-level game between AFC Tubize and FC Molenbeek-Brussels. He was found in the toilets, with his wrists slashed, by the match referee, his fellow linesman and a steward, and was reportedly dicovered clutching a photograph of his girlfriend. Apparently, Schelstraete had been having problems in his private life, which, even though there are rumours appearing on various websites, they are uncomfirmed and so shall not be appearing here, and that goes for Babak Rafati as well. One wishes both Rafati and Schelstraete a full recovery and every assistance with their personal problems.

Indeed, it has been a sad weekend for football, with the, as said at the beginning of the piece, more than untimely demise of Gary Speed, the attempted suicide of Schelstraete and, by no means least - perhaps, in its own way, at the forefront of the weekend's misery - the multiple deaths as the result of the accident involving the Étoile Filante team-bus on Saturday morning.

It is too late for Gary Speed - who knows what may have drove him to take his own life? - but the world of football should rally round and try and offer support not only to his next of kin, but also to Barak Rafati and Chris Schelstraete and others like them and not try to pretend that depression, stress and mental illness do not exist within the confines of the game. They do, and very much so. Last, and definitely by no means least, sympathy and support should be offered to those bereaved and injured by the carnage in which the Étoile Filante team found itself. In the long run, they may just need that little bit of extra help.

Needless to say, condolences, sympathy and best wishes are offered to those affected by the weekend's tragic events, and it would also be hoped that the mainstream media, wherever they are, keep a respectful distance and leave those in need in peace.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: With regard to the tragedy in in Gléi, Togo, several websites etc. have published/released erroneous information over the past 48 hours or so, only some of which was of their own making; much of the incorrect information came from various sources. Apologies if any of the information contained in the above article is proved incorrect; every effort has been made to use authoritative sources in order to provide the facts. published the following, taken from, which includes a list of (most of) the dead and injured (in French):

Link to Afriscoop article:

Link to Sports Illustrated article:

Link to CNN article:

Link to The Sun article (and, no, they still haven't changed the badge; it's still that of the Burkinabe Étoile Filante which appears on the page below):

Thursday, November 24, 2011


In the midst of all the brouhaha in the game of football about racism, the Champions League, the lifesyles of footballers' wives and girlfriends, corruption and much more, some things occur which put a more normal spin on things; things which make you realise that football is, after all, only a game, but a game which is living proof that every footballing dog (don't take it too literally, dear reader) has its day.

On those sorts of days, pundits much better than yours truly can be made to eat their words; yesterday was one of those days - it happened to your correspondent, who is quite happy to tuck into some humble pie - as, while much of the football-loving world lay tucked up in bed, a tiny set of islands in the South Pacific had something to celebrate.

I am, of course, referring to American Samoa, who, in the wee small hours of yesterday morning (GMT, BST and CET) took on Tonga in the opening match of the OFC Nations Cup/2014 World Cup preliminary round qualifiers. Prior to very early yesterday morning, which was still Tuesday afternoon in the Samoan capital of Apia, where all of the preliminary round matches will be taking place this week, American Samoa had never won, or even drawn against, FIFA-member opposition.

However, 22/11/11 will live long in the memory of football fans in American Samoa, because not only did their national team not only come away undefeated against the Tongans - whose manager, 25 year-old Australian Chris Williams, is probably the world's youngest national team coach - but they actually beat them by 2 goals to 1, gaining their first-ever points in a qualifying tournament, not to mention their first-ever victory.

It was, by all accounts, a very competitive game of football, with the American Samoans taking the game to their Tongan counterparts for much of the first-half; Ramin Ott's 33rd-minute free-kick which hit the bar was the closest American Samoa had come to scoring a goal for over four years, until the same player's speculative long-range effort which beat the flapping Tongan goalkeeper, Kaneti Felela, two minutes before the break signalled not only in the end of the American Samoan goal-drought, but also was to result in a surprise half-time lead for the tiny American territory. It was Ott's second-ever goal for his country.

They didn't rest on their laurels, the American Samoans, and after an end-to-end start to the second-half, they took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored again in the 74th minute through Shalom Luani, when he lobbed Felela after latching on to a through ball.

American Samoa almost gained their first-ever clean sheet in international football, but Unaloto Feao pulled a goal back for Tonga, heading the ball home at the back-post from a Lafaele Moala cross with two minutes to go to set up a frantic finish. Almost straight from the re-start, Moala came close to putting Tonga back on level terms, but his shot was easily saved by Nicky Salapu, who then came to American Samoa's rescue with seconds to go, saving again from the same player before Timote Maamaloa's goalbound sidefooted follow-up was blocked by Salapu's team-mate Johnny Saelua. The game was up for Tonga, and American Samoa could finally celebrate their first-ever official victory.

The victory was a sweet moment, a kind of redemption, for Nicky Salapu, who was the American Samoa goalkeeper when Australia defeated them 31:0 in that world-record defeat ten years ago. The 33 year-old was quoted in the New York Times as saying after the game against Tonga: "I feel like a champ right now. Finally I’m going to put the past behind me."

This result, sweet revenge for a 4:0 loss to Tonga at this summer's Pacific Games, which were held in New Caledonia, has indeed helped put a little bit of his, and American Samoa's, past competitive international footballing history to bed; in losing all of their previous 30 games, the team had conceded 229 goals while scoring just 12 themselves. The victory against Tonga was Salapu's 13th official international appearance (he also played in the 4:0 defeat to Tuvalu at this year's Pacific Games; Tuvalu's FA has not yet joined FIFA, so this match was not recognised as an oficial fixture), and he is widely regarded as being one of the country's best players, and possibly the best-known outside the American territory.

It was an historic day in another sense, not just for football in American Samoa, but for football around the world as defender Johnny Saelua, who made his début for the American Samoan side yesterday, also became what is believed to be the first transgender footballer to take part in a full international football match. Saelua is what is known in both Samoas as fa'afafine (males who, from a very young age, behave in a manner more traditionally associated with females), which, in Samoan - and Polynesian - culture, has long been regarded as a third gender. Saelua said that his team-mates had been very supportive of him: "The team accept me and we have that mutual respect, which is great. It’s all part of the culture."

Saelua's national team manager - and former boss of the USA under-20 side - the recently-appointed Dutchman Thomas Rongen said: "I’ve really got a female starting at center back. Can you imagine that in England or Spain?" Probably not, but one could probably imagine the headlines that will more than likely appear soon in The Sun, The Daily Mail or Bild, for instance.

Regardless, Saelua's inclusion in the American Samoa team is an encouraging step forward in (slowly) helping football recognise that it needs to become an all-inclusive sport. Johnny Saelua, whether he realises it or not, has moved mountains all by himself, and it is good to see that his inclusion in the American Samoa team has, if it has far from brought about the death of homophobia in football, perhaps brought the subject of tackling homophobia in the game that little bit higher up the footballing agenda. Everything has to start somewhere. It may also help the stature of fa'afafine, not only in American Samoa, but throughout the rest of Polynesia.

Back to matters pertaining to the fortunes of the team, and the arrival of Thomas Rongen in American Samoa shook things up somewhat for the nation's footballers. Rongen, a native of Amsterdam, was a youth-team player at Ajax and later played for some of the bigger clubs in the now-defunct NASL (North American Soccer League), only joined the American Samoan set-up at the end of last month after being recommended to the local association by US Soccer, who had actually sacked him as manager of their under-20 national team at the beginning of May but still had him on their pay-roll.

"When I got here, I had never seen a lower standard of international football," he said this week. He soon set about trying to change that. Prior to leaving for Apia last Saturday, the American Samoan national side had spent four days cooped up in a training camp at the national stadium in Pago Pago, and previous to that, Rongen had been busy viewing potential squad members and holding daily training sessions since his arrival in American Samoa on 27/10/11.

There are others besides Rongen who are showing an acute interest in the American Samoa side. A film-crew has been following the American Samoa team's progress over the past couple of weeks and will shortly be compiling the best bits into a documentary; the project, a collaboration between two independent British organisations, Agile Films and Archer's Mark, is called "Next Goal Wins", and, all being well, there will be more news of that on this blog to come.

In Tuesday afternoon's other game in the OFC/World Cup preliminary round, hosts Samoa defeated the Cook Islands 3:2 in what was a see-saw encounter. Luki Gosche put the Samoans in front after 20 minutes later, and it could have been 2:0 to Samoa seven minutes later after the Cook Islands' goalkeeper, Iona Lupena, fouled Desmond Fa'aiuaso, but Lupena immediately made amends for his eror, saving Silao Malo's spot-kick. 

Campbell Best tapped in the Cooks' equaliser sixteen minutes later, but the parity was far from constant; just a minute after their equaliser, the Cook Islands found themselves a goal in arrears once more after Gosche scored his second for the Samoans. Gosche's second was identical to his first; netting after finding himself in a one-on-one situation with Lupena.

Best was on target again with just five minutes left to level things up once again after latching on to a fumble from Lupena's opposite number, Masi Toetu. However, but Pati Bell scored a dramatic winner in second minute of injury-time, firing a shot across Lupena, to settle matters in Samoa's favour and break the hearts of the Cook Islanders.

It will be the Cook Islanders who are next in American Samoa's sights in the Thursday afternoon kick-off in Apia. For the Cooks, managed by New Zealand ex-international Shane Rufer (brother of the more famous Wynton, who played professional football for several years in Europe and appeared at the 1982 World Cup Finals), defeat will mean elimination from both the OFC Nations Cup and the World Cup. Before the prelims kicked off, this game would have been regarded as American Samoa's best chance to get something on the board. Now, it has become an opportunity to help turn Saturday's game against their near-neighbours Samoa into a potential winner-takes-all contest.

Meanwhile, Samoa take on Tonga in Thursday's late kick-off at the Tofeoloa JS Blatter Field in Apia, and it would be hard to envisage anything other than a hard-earned win for the Samoans. However, a win for Chris Williams' Tongan charges would not only be a compensation of sorts for Tuesday's defeat, but it would put them back in the frame while blowing the whole group wide open.

Although the American Samoans are still understandably buoyant after their victory against the Tongans, Thomas Rongen still has his feet firmly on the ground, and had this to say on Tuesday: "We still have two good teams to play in Samoa and Cook Islands, both of whom we respect tremendously. I have only been working with the players for three weeks which is not a long time to put a team together but long enough to make a change. I hope that we can improve our standings in the FIFA rankings and get into the hundreds. We are 204 at the moment [on the FIFA ranking-list] and the win will have helped."

Rongen is right, of course, to remain realistic, but at least Nicky Salapu and the rest of the American Samoan squad finally have something to celebrate, and their first-ever victory will see them move up the FIFA ranking-list next month for the first time ever, modest as the improvement will be. A victory against the Cook Islands on Thursday afternoon will simply leave them in dreamland, and leave this humble scribe's pre-tournament prediction looking even more ridiculous. 

Will American Samoa's win on Tuesday prove to be a turning-point in the history - not to mention the status - of football in the islands or merely a fluke? The players and staff certainly enjoyed the moment; Rongen has provided the know-how and the kick up the backside that the game in American Samoa patently needed. There may be more days for the dog to enjoy in the future, but the rest is up to the players and those running the FFAS, not just in a few hours' time or even on Saturday, but in the months and years to come. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's back to the humble-pie, which is going down quite nicely this time around..

AUTHOR'S NOTE: As ever, thanks are due to the OFC and Priscilla Duncan in particular; visit for more information about the dual-purpose qualifying series and football in the Pacific island nations in general. Other info was culled from articles in the New York Times; here's the link to their take on American Samoa's victory:

For those with gender issues who wish to find out more about the fa'afafine, there is an article covering the subject on Wikipedia, the following links to fa'afafine organisations are below, the first relates to one in Samoa, while the second organisation is based in American Samoa:

Match highlights can be viewed here (courtesy of the OFC via YouTube and also thanks to Stefan Cerrocchi):


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is already well under way in the Americas, Africa and Asia. And now, Oceania joins in the four-yearly fun with the OFC preliminary round, which will involve American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga. 

The fixture-list (and predictions as to how the group will pan out) is contained in a previous blog:



1 Nicky SALAPU, 23 Chin Fu TAASE


2 Llatame AMISONE JR., 3 Uasila'a HELETA, 20 Shalom LUANI, 5 Tala LUVU, 18 Justin MANA'O, 19 Rawlston MASANIA'I, 16 Johnny SAELUA, 12 Terrence SINAPATI, 4 Daru TAUMUA


10 Kid BARTLEY, 7 Ismael D'ANGELO HERRERA, 8 Moe Casper KURESA, 22 Fitiuta MAIAVA, 17 Natia NATIA, 
9 Ramin OTT, 21 Suani UELESE


6 Roy ULANI, 15 Gene NEEMIA, 11 Diamond OTT, 13 Faimalo "Rambo" TAPUI III, 14 Frederick "Charlie" UHRLE






2 Mii JOSEPH, 3 Nikorima TE MIHA, 4 Tahiri ELIKANA, 5 Nathan TISAM, 18 Paul EIJK, 19 Teriiahoroa FRAMHEIN


7 Grover HARMON, 8 Roger MANUEL, 10 Gichin FUHINIU, 14 Junior PUROKU, 15 John QUIHANO,
16 Taylor SAGHABI, 17 Paul TUREPU, 21 Junior PUROKU


6 Paavo MUSTONEN, 9 Campbell BEST, 11 Joseph NGAUORA, 12 Twin TIRO, 13 Emiel BURROWS






2 Andrew STEFANO, 3 Charles BELL, 4 Vaalii FAALOGO, 5 Silao MALO, 6 Albert BELL, 7 Jarrell SALE,
15 Ray VICTOR, 16 Sapati UMUTAUA


8 Penitito TUMU, 9 Mason HOEFLICH, 11 To'o GOSCHE, 13 Lionel TAYLOR, 14 Joseph HOEFLICH,
18 Jared CURTIS, 19 Shaun EASTHOPE, 20 Peni KITIONA, 21 Ethan ELISAIA


10 Luki GOSCHE, 12 Mike Saofaiga FOAI, 17 Des FA'AUIASO




1 Soane FAUPULA, 22 Kaneti FELELA


2 Sione TOVO, 3 Ilalio LEAKONA, 5 Samisoni MAFI, 6 Folio MOEAKI, 16 Petesa ONGOSIA, 19 Aleki FEHOKO,
21 Vitolio LATU


4 Fineasi PALEI, 7 Pio PALU, 8 Neo FEAO, 11 Lafaele MOALA, 12 Timote MAAMALOA, 17 Siosifa MOIMOI,
20 Beni PAU


9 Kinitoni FALATAU, 10 Malakai SAVIETI, 13 Pila VAITAKI, 14 Lokoua TAUFAHEMA


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Squad-lists courtesy of the OFC; please check for more information via the OFC website,

Friday, November 18, 2011


It hasn't been a particularly good year for FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and it may just get worse after his latest comments regarding racism in football, broadcast yesterday on CNN and Al-Jazeera. In an interview with CNN sports reporter Pedro Pinto, Blatter stated that he did not believe that racism existed on the football pitch, and basically said that players abused during the course of a game should simply shake hands with the abuser at the end of the game and there let the matter rest.

During the interview, Pinto asked Blatter whether he believed that racism was evident on the pitch, Blatter replied: "I would deny it."

"There is no racism. There is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it's a game, we are in a game."

"At the end of the game, we shake hands; this can happen because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination."

Blatter continued: "The whole world is aware of the effort we are making against racism and discrimination. And on the field of play, sometimes you say something..that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better."

Meanwhile, Blatter, in an interview with Al-Jazeera's Lee Wellings, said this: "During a match you make a movement towards somebody..or you may say something towards somebody who is not exactly looking like you, but at the end of the match it's forgotten..On the field of play, I deny that there is racism."

When questioned by Wellings whether any action against racism on the pitch should be taken by football authorities or the police, Blatter said that it was an internal matter: "When it happens in the league, they have to make an investigation and they should come to a solution. And what would they say? They say: bring the two people together and they say 'shake hands.'"

The subject of racism was not the only matter discussed in the interview between Pinto and Blatter, but Blatter's seeming assertion that players who have been the victim of racial - and, presumably, by extension, sexist, religious and homophobic - abuse (should) turn the other cheek has caused ructions and has, quite understandably, not gone down at all well with anti-racist organisations and individuals involved in the world of football.

Both interviews touched on events which are currently unfolding in the English Premier League. Investigations are ongoing into alleged incidents of racism allegedly perpetrated by John Terry and Lúis Suarez in recent weeks. The Metropolitan Police are looking into claims that Chelsea captain Terry is alleged to have racially insulted QPR's Anton Ferdinand, while Suarez is faced with having to deal with the accusation that he did likewise to Manchester United player Patrice Evra during the 1:1 draw at Anfield last month, and was charged by the FA for racial abuse.

An excerpt from the FA's brief statement, posted on their website yesterday, is below.

"It is alleged that Suarez used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra contrary to FA rules.

It is further alleged that this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra."

As anybody who occasionally reads this blog will know, your correspondent is a Liverpool fan, but if Suarez and Terry are found guilty of the charges laid against them, then they both deserve to be upbraided for their actions and have the book thrown at them. No excuses, no exceptions. If, on the other hand, both players are exonerated, this may leave Evra and Ferdinand open to full-blown abuse. That is also to be condemned in the strongest terms, should that happen.

Suarez allegedly called Evra a negrito (roughly translated as "dear little black one"); Suarez agreed that he did say this to Evra, but not in malice. Negrito is a diminutive of negro, and in much of Spanish-speaking South America, it is a term of endearment, meaning "friend" or "pal", which has now encompassed racial barriers. Brazilian Portuguese uses the word neguinho as a term of endearment, and this has also transgressed all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

To give an example of this, in Roberto Muylaert's book on the late, great, former Brazilian international goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa, "Barbosa - Um gol faz cinquenta anos", Barbosa was addressed by his "unofficial" daughter, Tereza Borba, as "neguinho". Barbosa was black, as was she. (In assisting with research on the two-part story on Barbosa, Moacyr Barbosa - A Miserable Life, Indeed, published on this blog earlier this year, Ms Borba also referred to Barbosa as "neguinho.") Only Suarez will know whether he used negrito pejoratively. In any case, Liverpool are standing by their man, at least for the present. The jury is out as to whether Terry will be charged by the FA; there is, as yet, no sign of that happening.

Blatter's comments were aired less than a day after the play-offs for the final four places at Euro 2012 were completed, with Ireland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Croatia managing to qualify. Try telling Croatia's Eduardo da Silva that there is no racism in football. The former Arsenal player came on for Croatia as an 88th minute substitute against Turkey - in Zagreb - to a chorus of cheers; however, mixed in with the cheers was an audible dose of "monkey-chants." Not very edifying for a country whose national football team was in the last throes of qualifying for the final stages of a major competition. To give Blatter his dues, however, he did say during the course of the interview with CNN's Pedro Pinto that racism was often evident among those attending football matches.

Evra's United team-mate and brother of Anton Ferdinand, Rio, weighed in the growing controversy via Twitter: "Tell me I have just read Sepp Blatter's comments on racism in football wrong … if not then I am astonished.

"I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism…it seems it was just on mute for a while. Just for clarity if a player abuses a referee, does a shake of the hand after the game wipe the slate clean??"

Ferdinand also left a message on Blatter's own Twitter page: "Sepp Blatter your comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?"

A statement was issued yesterday by Kick It Out (an English anti-racism organisation funded and supported by the FA, the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League) regarding Blatter's comments during the interviews, and this is the text in full:

"These comments are worryingly out of touch. Shaking hands to compensate for a racial slur is not what the game has signed up to, and trivialises the work of campaigns like Kick It Out, which has been in the vanguard of rooting out discrimination and unacceptable behaviour in our game for the best part of two decades.

"High-profile incidents have brought the issue of racism back into sharp focus. But complaints are still being lodged at grass roots level. Shaking hands doesn't resonate with the zero-tolerance approach we encourage and certainly wouldn't resonate with the victim of the abuse.

"Report the incident to the regulatory body, and the investigation process begins. If it's found to be proven, action must be taken. New challenges and questions are being posed in this field every day. But leadership is needed to make headway. And comments like this don't help in the ultimate goal of kicking racism out football and making it a discrimination free-zone."

In response to the criticism that was coming his way, Blatter released a statement on FIFA's website last night, which contained the following text:

"I would like to make it very clear, I am committed to the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society. I have been personally leading this battle against racism in football, which FIFA has been fighting against throughout the past years through campaigns in all of our competitions such as the “Say no to racism” campaign.

"I also know that racism unfortunately continues to exist in football, and I have never denied this. I know that it is a big problem in society, and that it also affects sport. I strongly believe that we should continue to fight all together against racism on and off the field of play, in order to eradicate this plague.

"My comments have been misunderstood. What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have “battles” with your opponents, and sometimes things are done which are wrong. But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologise to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over. Anyone who has played a football match, or a match in any sport, knows that this is the case.

"Having said that, I want to stress again that I do not want to diminish the dimension of the problem of racism in society and in sport. I am committed to fighting this plague and kicking it out of football."

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, tonight echoed the call from his Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, and that from PFA leader Gordon Taylor, for FIFA's president to resign, but Sepp Blatter won't listen to a man who is just as inept as he is, and who is a bandwagon-jumper par excellence to boot. (Poppygate and the botched attempt to oust Blatter at this year's FIFA Congress will suffice as examples of this for now. It's a shame bandwagon-jumping isn't an Olympic event; the Great Britain team would have at least one gold medal in the bag.)  Would Cameron have been more disposed toward calling for Blatter's resignation had the television interviews taken place and been broadcast in the days after either incident involving Roberto Carlos?

Blatter's English is not quite up to the Queen's standard, that's true, but his remarks came across as plainly absurd and were, at best, ill-considered and a classic case of burying one's head in the sand to an issue which still needs to be addressed. The racism issue has overshadowed one or two other potentially interesting items which were up for discussion during both interviews.

When CNN's Pedro Pinto asked Blatter what he considered his personal low point of 2011 to be, Blatter said this: "The lowest point for me was the week before the election [for the FIFA presidency] was a low point in my life.. [though the result of the election] gave me the power, gave me the confidence."

Regarding FIFA's release of the documents relating to the ISL trial, he said: "We don't want to open the case, we want to close it." (And not before time, too.) The documents are expected to contain evidence of fraud relating to the collapse of ISL in 2001. ISL, or International Sport and Leisure, assisted FIFA with its marketing strategy, and allegedly bribed high-ranking FIFA members in return for ISL being awarded broadcasting rights for FIFA tournaments throughout the 1990s.

In his interiew with Wellings, Blatter added that he had not considered resigning his post after all of the corruption scandals within FIFA, and he had been given "total confidence by" FIFA Congress. The Al-Jazeera reporter ended the interview by asking Blatter what he would like to be remembered for when he eventually steps down from football's highest post, and Blatter's reply was: "What I want to realise is at the end of my mandate is that I could say that football is part of our society, especially in the social-cultural part. Football is more than a game; it is a school of life."

If the treatment meted out to Eduardo by a section of his own supporters is anything to go by, then the school of life that is football is a very hard one indeed. He is not the only one to have suffered the monkey-chanting routine. And then there was the case of Roberto Carlos, now playing in Russia for Anzhi Machachkala, who, in a set of throwbacks to the bad, ugly, spiteful old days of hooliganism in England during the 1980s, had a banana thrust at him by a Zenit St. Petersburg supporter in March of this year, and three months later, a banana was thrown at him by a Krylya Sovetov supporter.

By no means every Russian who goes to a game is an avowed neo-Nazi, but it can hardly be denied that there is a significant racist element among Russian football supporters. Power, corruption and, erm, bananas. A heady mix awaits any foreign football fans planning on journeying to Russia for the World Cup Finals in seven years' time. Bet you all can't wait..

And, just in case you missed the interviews; here are the links, starting with Blatter's chat with CNN's Pedro Pinto:

This is the link to the Al-Jazeera interview with Lee Willings:

Andrew Jennings, the scourge of Sepp and friends and the man behind Transparency In Sport, only had this to say this evening on the man that is Blatter: "The torrent of long overdue corruption revelations are destabilising Blatter. He still clings to his fantasy that he is football, football is perfect – thus he must be."

It might not be the cronyism or the collection of corruption allegations that might be the undoing of Blatter. It might not even be this latest in a series of gaffes; this is the man who once said that he would like to see women footballers wear tighter shorts, the man who suggested that homosexuals would be better not to travel to Qatar to watch the 2022 World Cup if they were intending to indulge in any hanky-panky, the man who is unable to say that he is wrong, the man who doesn't know the meaning of the word crisis, the man who can only say that his comments are misunderstood by one and all, the man who doesn't realise that football is rotten to the core.

Blatter himself would be well advised to engage brain before mouth before he steps in front of a microphone again. The question is: will the next time he steps in front of a microphone be his last? His time is almost up and he really should think about leaving FIFA. There won't be a shortage of people to help him pack and hold the front door of FIFA House open for him.