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Archive for March, 2011

INDIA BEAT PAKISTAN IN FRONT OF A GLOBAL TV AUDIENCE ESTIMATED TO BE ONE OF THE BIGGEST IN THE HISTORY OF SPORT

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BY JOHN GUBBA

It is estimated that the biggest TV audience ever to watch a cricket match witnessed India beat Pakistan by 29 runs in today’s much anticipated semi-final in Mohali. Billed as the Mother of All Cricket Matches, the prize at stake was a place in Sunday’s Final against England’s conquerors Sri Lanka.

Rival captains Shahid Afridi and Mahendra Dhoni show warm respect before one of the great sporting contests

Rival captains Shahid Afridi and Mahendra Dhoni show warm respect before one of the great sporting contests

The match, staged in an electryifying atmosphere, was attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, who took turns to shake hands with players from both teams before the match.

It was a match played in the right spirit with captains Shahid Afridi and Mahendra Dhoni showing warm respect before the contest between two of world sport’s greatest rivals.

Not only did India and Pakistan come to a standstill. But so too did Asian communities around Britain. With India boasting the world’s second largest population – one in six of the global count of 6.9 billion – some experts are predicting that the TV audience could have topped one billion.

In February this year a record TV audience of 111 million in the USA watched the Green Bay Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Texas, according to data released by broadcaster Fox – topping the previous year’s record by 5 million. That’s over one in three of the population. A similar turnout in India and Pakistan alone would register an audience of around 450 million for today’s cricket semi-final.

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FA GOT IT RIGHT: GHANA BROUGHT FLAVOUR OF LAST SUMMER’S WORLD CUP TO WEMBLEY. AND TOP MARKS FOR CAPELLO

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Ghana and their fans brought a flavous of last summer's World Cup Finals to Wembley

Ghana and their fans brought a flavous of last summer's World Cup Finals to Wembley

BY JOHN GUBBA

CREDIT where credit is due. The  Football Association deserve enormous praise for bringing Ghana to Wembley for tonight’s friendly international against England. And so does much-maligned boss Fabio Capello for giving the new generation a chance.

Ir was so predictable to hear most sections of the blinkered media pack  jump on the band-wagon of rubbishing Capello for having the forsight to leave out the old guard, who will be involved in next week’s Champions League quarter-finals.

After a series of shocking decisions in his handling of the England captaincy, and giving too much information to a media out to hang him, this was a big night for the Italian. And he got it absolutely spot on with his team selection and tactics. It was good to see Andy Carroll score a stunning first international  goal. And there were outstanding displays from Villa wing men Ashley Young and Stuart Downing in a free-flowing 4:3:3 formation.

But the real story of the night was the quality opposition provided by Ghana – who brought freedom, style, quality, adventure and a flavour of last summer’s World Cup to Wembley.  The passion of their colourful fans was  intoxicating and this was an occasion the likes of which is rarely seen in a non-competitive international.

Written off by  so many so called experts in the national media as a meaningless friendly and a fixture designed purely to help pay off the FA’s huge investment in the new Wembley Stadium, this was a memorable night worth its weight in gold for entertainment, its value to the manager and for re-connecting with England’s disenfranchised fans.

It was everything an international friendly should be. Competitive. Meaningful. A great atmosphere. And a true spectacle between two sides hellbent on getting a result. England hit the heights with their superbly executed team goal so decisively converted  by Carroll to take a 1-0 lead they held until the dying seconds.

But the sting in the tail crowned a marvelous evening. The joyous scenes at the end when Asamoah Gyan waltzed through England’s static defence to slot home a glorious equaliser that sparked wild scenes of celebration summed up what this match meant to the Africans.

Emotional hero Gyan conveyed the mood of the night when he said: “We have been waiting for this game for so long. And we did it for the fans. It was a moment I will never forget”

A rare England match at Wembley worthy of the beautiful game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmdF-K8vi9s&feature=channel_video_title

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FABIO CAPELLO’S TEAM WILL NEVER MATCH THE MODERN-DAY HEROICS OF ENGLAND’S CRICKET TEAM

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BY JOHN GUBBA

ENGLAND go home from a World Cup disappointed to go out in the quarter-finals.  It sounds all too familiar – but this time it is different because our cricketers have done us proud.

When was the last time our over-paid, over-rated English football team beat the best in the world?

England began the year by retaining the Ashes

England began the year by retaining the Ashes

It has been a long five months away from home for the cricketers. But during their long haul Andrew Strauss and his team have gloriously retained the Ashes and finally succumbed to co-hosts Sri Lanka after providing the most thrilling matches of the tournament at the Cricket World Cup.

Lest we forget it was only last May when England’s cricket team was crowned World champions in the Twenty20. What would England’s footballers – underachievers ever since our sole triumph in 1966 – give to be World Champions at any form of the game.

What would they give to have a formidable captain in the mould of Andrew Strauss who has been colossal and a true role model, unlike John Terry  (so permananetly re-instated as our football captain that he will miss Tuesday’s friendly with Ghana)

The big problem with our cricket team is the management who have failed to take notice of the players and insist on flogging our heroes to the brink of exhaustion in search of every last buck they can earn out of them.

May 2010 - England Twenty20 winners are champions of the world

May 2010 - England Twenty20 winners are champions of the world

As Strauss poignantly  said, it has been tough for players to tour Australia for three months and then head straight to the World Cup without any time at home.

“The scheduling is not good, it doesn’t give you the best chance,” he admitted after the 10-wicket quarter-final defeat by Sri Lanka. ”But that’s not an excuse, you’ve still got to go out and play.”

England will not play an Ashes series and a World Cup in the same year in the future. But you can bet the powers that be will not relent in their over-exploitation of our national team.

“Lessons have been learnt, and the cycle is changing,”  adds Strauss. ”Although it would have been better if that had been the case before. It’s a huge amount to ask players to tour Australia for three months, playing as high intensity cricket as you can get, and then go to a World Cup without spending time at home .”

In my opinion,  it is no coincidence that Michael Yardy had to go home suffering from depression – whatever James Corrigan argues in today’s Independent on Sunday

As former England captain Michael Vaughan said on Test Match Special: “I’ve said for a long time that the international cricket schedule is ridiculous, and maybe this will highlight the fact.”

Despite the rigors and partly because of their marathon five-month tour,  England’s cricketers took part in the most exciting  matches at the Cricket World Cup . . .

Titantic tie against India

Fightback beats South Africa

Irish Eyes Smiling

and who will ever forget the amazing scenes when Bangladesh beat England?


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ONLY MORONS BOO NATIONAL ANTHEMS: SADLY THE BRITS ARE THE WORLD’S WORST

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How it should be - Katherine Jenkins sings the Welsh National Anthem before the Ashes match between England and Australia in 2009

How it should be - Katherine Jenkins sings the Welsh National Anthem before the Ashes match between England and Australia in 2009

BY JOHN GUBBA

THERE is nothing in sport that makes me more sick to the stomach than hearing fans boo the national anthem – whatever country we are talking about. And what makes it worse, I am ashamed to admit, is that we the British are the biggest offenders.

This time it was the Welsh who were the first to disgrace themselves with an ear-splitting chorus of boos that greeted God Save The Queen before the Euro 2012 Qualifying match against England in Cardiff.

But England’s mindless morons responded just as badly. And we all know they would have started the booing if the Welsh anthem had been played first.

How pathetic and condescending of England’s tainted captain John Terry, controversially re-instated by Fabio Capello, to infer otherwise when he claimed the boos provided the inspiration England needed to put the Welsh in their place. ‘They were booing the National Anthem and the players were very pumped up because of that,’ he said. ‘The players are very proud and ready for the game but when you hear that you get pumped up even more. We showed that from the start.

‘When you go away you expect things like that but, when you hear it, it makes you stick your chest out even more. You can hear the English fans singing and you want to do it for them as well as yourself.’

OK Terry, we get the point. But why don’t you lambaste the English fans when they do the same thing. What makes it worse on this occasion is that God Save the Queen is the national anthem of the United Kingdom, of which Wales is a part and one shudders to think what our brave servicemen around the world who give their lives in battle think of their own people acting so shamelessly.

But it is not just the football crowd who bring shame on Britain. Ricky Hatton was famously let down by his followers in Las Vegas in 2007 before he was embarrassingly outclassed by Floyd Mayweather Jnr in his WBC World title defeat.

Ricky Hatton was embarrassed by his fans booing USA national anthem before his fight with Mayweather

Ricky Hatton was embarrassed by his fans booing USA national anthem before his fight with Mayweather

Hatton’s British fans loudly joined in when Sir Tom Jones sang God Save The Queen. But when Tyrese, the R&B singer, stepped forward to sing The Star- Spangled Banner, the United States national anthem, he was almost drowned out.

The singer gamely plugged on. But many were rightly outraged. HBO’s commentators were quick to condemn the fans they had been praising moments earlier and one HBO technician in the ring gave a middle-fingered salute to the crowd.

The Americans have their faults. But it is hard to imagine their people lacking the class and dignity so often seen by so-called sports fans from Britain.

It is a sad fact that God Save the Queen is regularly targeted by England’s Celtic rivals back in the UK because it is the anthem used by England.

Embarrassingly, last September The Scottish Football Association was forced to apologise to Liechtenstein after Scotland fans booed their national anthem before a Euro 2012 qualifier – because it has the same tune as God Save the Queen.

At the time George Peat, the Scottish FA’s acting chief executive, said: “I was embarrassed and extremely disappointed by the disgraceful behaviour of some of our supporters during the Liechtenstein national anthem at Hampden Park last night.”

It was poetic that the booing seemed to spur minnows Liechtenstein on, and they took a shock 1-0 lead. Scotland only saved themelves from a humilaiting result with a winner SEVEN minutes into injury time at the end of a match against a team ranked only 141st in the world.


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MICHAEL JACKSON STATUE AT CRAVEN COTTAGE: EVEN WACKO JACKO WOULD SAY ‘THAT’S BAD!’

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Jacko statue to be unveiled at  Craven Cottage - now that's Bad

Jacko statue to be unveiled at Craven Cottage - now that's Bad

BY JOHN GUBBA

MICHAEL JACKSON was the King of Pop and many of us will love his music forever – but to put his statue outside Fulham’s Craven Cottage is a joke.

Jacko famously went there ONCE to watch Fulham beat Wigan 2-0. But do me a favour! This is an embarrassment for the fans of a club that has been graced by many famous players who could have been immortalised with a lasting tribute at the Cottage.

Mohamed Al Fayed commissioned the statue of his friend with the intention of putting it outside the Harrods department store. Now Al Fayed, who subsequently sold Harrods, has decided  he will unveil it outside his Fulham football ground at midday on April 3.

There is no argument that Al Fayed is spot on when he says: “Michael Jackson was truly a legend, a term used too often in this modern world saturated in the hyperbole surrounding celebrity.”

But a statue at Craven Cottage? As Wacko Jacko would have said: “That’s Bad!”

Funny footnote: Asked if he was a fan of Michael Jackson, Fulham manager Mark Hughes said ‘Yes, I’m a fan.” But when the cheeky interviewer quickly asked him to name his favourite Jacko song the red-faced Hughes had to confess: “Haven’t a clue.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x2qyfzMql8?rel=0&w=720&h=585

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CRICKET WORLD CUP NEEDS ENGLAND’S ENTERTAINERS TO REACH THE QUARTER-FINALS

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BY JOHN GUBBA

England's entertainers the most exciting team to watch at the 2011 Cricket World Cup

England's entertainers the most exciting team to watch at the 2011 Cricket World Cup

ENGLAND are doing their best to make the Cricket World Cup interesting – and for the sake of a competition that is far too long every lover of the one-day game must be praying Andrew Strauss and his men make it through to the quarter-finals.

For the sixth match in succession, England were involved in a rollercoaster of a contest. This time it was a thriller against the West Indies which swung back and forth right through to the end before England kept their World Cup campaign alive with a dramatic 18-run win.

Jonathan Trott (47) gave England a fast start but wickets tumbled in the middle overs and they were dismissed for 243. The Windies looked to be cruising to victory at 222-6 in the 42nd over, but amazingly collapsed to 225 all out.

The win means England are through to the quarter-finals-  unless Bangladesh beat South Africa on Saturday and the West Indies get at least a point against India. And that would put England just two victories away from the World Cup final.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan, summarising on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special, said Strauss’s side should not be ruled out in an open tournament lacking a truly outstanding team.

“You wouldn’t think England are playing well enough at the moment to win the World Cup, and they haven’t yet produced an all-round performance – but they’ve proved that in these tight games, all you need is to score one more than the opposition.”

Hosts India need England to stay in a tournament that is far too long spread over six weeks. The Final in Mumbai is not until April 2.

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2011 Cricket World Cup

2011 Cricket World Cup

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WHAT A DISGRACE: TOUCHLINE BAN FOR FERGIE IS PUNISHMENT FOR TELLING THE TRUTH – FA HAVE GOT IT WRONG

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BY JOHN GUBBA

THE PUBLIC debate over Sir Alex Ferguson’s five match touchline ban has been fascinating. the anti-Manchester United brigade on one side and the realists on the other. But the fact remains that Fergie was only telling the truth. And his defiance is actually for the good of the game.

Sir Alex has been harshly punished for critcising referee Martin Atkinson over a diabolical performance that cost United defeat by Chelsea in one of the biggest matches of the season. As the Boss says, football is the only industry where you get punished for telling the truth.

“Fergie Fury Ban” The Sun

It is disappointing to hear influential journalists like Henry Winter of the Telegraph declare that Fergie has been ‘let off lightly’. Former Chelsea midfielder turned pundit Andy Townsend  told ITV viewers United’s manager has ‘crossed the line.” And football phone-ins have been full of so-called experts declaring the 5-match ban is fair enough for doubting the referee’s integrity.

But football owes Sir Alex a debt of gratitude for challenging the outdated rule that the referee’s decision must not be questioned. Why on earth not? As I have said before, in this modern age football is a laughing stock when the watching world can instantly see the match officials have made a gross misjudgmenet.

Ferguson swiftly apologised to clarify that he was not questioning the referee’s integrity. Surely Ferguson and any other manager in the game is entitled to state his opinion when he believes the referee has made a mistake – as Arsene Wenger did when Rob Van Persie was disgracefully sent off in Barcelona and Avram Grant did at the weekend after West Ham’s FA Cup defeat at Stoke.

Both Wenger and Grant are now in the dock and facing punishment (which if football’s governing bodies are going to be consistent will be similarly severe, but that is another story!). But Ferguson, Wenger, Grant and the countless other managers who criticize referees are not doing anything unlawful.

This is 21st Century Britain where we pride ourselves on freedom of speech and fair play. What the Football Association should be tackling is how to improve refereeing standards and introduce technology to make the game fairer for all.

Alex Ferguson criticizes referee Martin Atkinson

Rival football fans often ridicule Sir Alex for pointing to his watch and insisting that injury time is added at the end of matches. But they all have  United’s manager to thank because he is largely responsible for the official introduction of injury time being announced at the end of all matches. And that is far better than the old system when no-one knew how much time would be added on.

Hopefully one day the game will find a way of stamping out bad refereeing decisions and not take the easy option of punishing a manager for telling the truth.

As former manager Kevin Blackwell said on BBC Radio this morning: Fergie was right and if he is being honest even Martin Atkinson will admit he made bad decisions in the Chelsea match.

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TAXI FOR CAPELLO! EVEN THINKING ABOUT RE-INSTATING JOHN TERRY AS CAPTAIN IS THE LAST STRAW – THE ITALIAN MUST GO

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BY JOHN GUBBA

FABIO CAPELLO may have been a successful club manager in Italy – but the England job is just too big for him. And the latest embarrassing saga of whether or not John Terry will replace the injured Rio Ferdinand as skipper is the last straw.

Capello's latest error of judgment has embrassed Rio Ferdinand

Capello’s latest error of judgment has embrassed Rio Ferdinand

The way Capello – who got it so hopelessly wrong at last summer’s World Cup in South Africa – has been manipulated by the media proves it is time for him to make way for Harry Redknapp, the outstanding English manager of his generation.

Even thinking about handing the captain’s armband back to John Terry on a permanent basis is a disgrace. But to chew the matter over with the press and appear to write off Ferdinand before he has discussed it with the player is shameful.

The England captaincy has become a big issue for Capello following February’s friendly against Denmark when Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Ashley Cole all wore the armband at different stages of the match because Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard were both out injured.

“I was really upset about what happened in Denmark, when I saw the players saying ‘who is the captain?’,” said Capello. “After one year of punishment, it was not the best moment for John Terry to see this. For that reason, I need to make a decision – and it will be a permanent decision, not just one game.”

Terry was stripped of the captaincy in February 2010 after reports surfaced that he had an affair with the former partner of England team-mate Wayne Bridge. Ferdinand, 32, was made captain. But has since made only four appearances for England and will miss the upcoming game against Wales because of problems with his back and calf.

Capello wants Terry back - how Daily Mail broke the story

Capello wants Terry back – how Daily Mail broke the story

Now it seems Capello has been persuaded to re-think his stance by “certain London-based media” close to the Chelsea skipper. England’s bungling boss revealed his thinking over an espresso in an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge on Monday. His camp now insist no decision has been made but admit Terry is being considered.

He may be an experienced player. But Terry is past his best and has lost respect within the England team for a series of errors of judgement. World Cup skipper Steven Gerrard was undermined by Terry’s arrogant and ill-advised attempt to hold a players’ meeting to discuss their failings in South Africa.

Now Ferdinand has every right to be upset over the way Capello has managed the situation by floating his idea of re-instating Terry in public. It is not the first time the Italian has embarrassed one of his stars in this way. Last August he told the media David Beckham was finished as an England international and admitted in the same interview he had not even discussed it with the player.

Now it is time for the Football Association to tell Capello that he is finished. And the sooner the better.

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PRESTON CHAIRMAN NAIVE TO THINK HE COULD SACK FERGUSON AND KEEP UNITED’S PLAYERS ON LOAN

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Alex Ferguson with son Darren Ferguson

Alex Ferguson with son Darren Ferguson

BY JOHN GUBBA

Pathetic Preston chairman Maurice Lindsay has been moaning about Manchester United recalling all their players on loan at the club when they sacked Sir Alex Ferguson’s son Darren – but what did he expect?

The Lilywhites sacked Ferguson Junior in December and United immediately recalled loan players Joshua King and Ritchie de Laet to Old Trafford.

Joshua King

Joshua King

Lindsay tells BBC’s North West programme Late Kick off that his side “paid the price for terminating the contract” of Sir Alex Ferguson’s son.

He should have thought about that before he sacked the manager. Preston took advantage of the Ferguson connection when they got the players on loan. And they were also helped out by United with access to their Carrington training facilities.

Ritchie De Laet

Ritchie De Laet

To think there would be no consequences for sacking Ferguson was naive in the extreme.

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TREBLE CHANCE A LONG-SHOT: BUT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WHEN FERGIE SMELLS BLOOD

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BY JOHN GUBBA

WHISPER it quietly around the Southern-biased media, but Manchester United are edging closer to a repeat of their famous Treble of 1999.

While certain sections of the media continue with their mindless obsession of looking for ways to criticise Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s relentless boss just keeps on driving his club forward in the quest for honours.

1999 re-visited: anti-Manchester United media will not stop Fergie's insatiable quest for silverware

1999 re-visited: anti-Manchester United media will not stop Fergie’s insatiable quest for silverware

The Reds will take some stopping now in the FA Cup after condemning Arsenal to their third Cup exit in 13 days. Even the prospect of a pivotal trip to the Emirates in the race for the Premier League is no major concern for the men from Old Trafford.

A bigger test for Fergie is how to avoid a lengthy touchline ban following his remarks about referee Martin Atkinson after last week’s controversial defeat by defending champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

There is no doubt the FA are under pressure from an anti-Manchester United media to dish out a severe punishment for the alleged improper conduct. But United’s boss will rightly fight his corner because he has “not said anything out of place.”

Arsene Wenger – also in the dock after his attack on the referee who disgracefully sent off Robin Van Persie in Barcelona – will never be subjected to the kind of venom directed at Sir Alex.

But Wenger’s underachievers are consistently put on a pedestal by the infatuated Southern media who seem to think the Gunners are the Premier League’s Barcelona.

Unlike Barca, Ars-elona have not won a trophy for six years. And United know they have the beating of their only realistic challenge for the title.

The most difficult leg of the Treble will of course be the Champions League where United are in good shape to overpower Marseille on Tuesday night after a goal-less first leg in France.

Barcelona – currently on a different level from every other team on the planet – are staking their claim to be hailed as the greatest football team in the history of the game.

Real Madrid also look formidable Spanish opposition in a twin threat from La Liga that the bookies are expecting to trump the best of British.

But as we all know, any team is beatable in football. And there is still time for United to find the form to match their latest merciless march towards silverware.

The odds are United are destined to fall short of repeating their remarkable feat of 1999. Manchester rivals City fancy their chances of halting the red machine in the FA Cup.

And yet there is something about Fergie and his insatiable desire to win everything that keeps United fans believing nothing is impossible.

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