Posts Tagged ‘football’



So, the Euros 2016 are almost upon us. With some friends at work I am part of a facebook page chatting and, we have to , obvs bantering about the tournament, chances of different teams etc. The group also offers a chance to crowd source opinions for a colleague who plans to gamble on the tournament and hopes to repeat his World Cup heroics of coming out $300 ahead.

I have contributed a fun imagining of England’s performance based upon the many disappointments I have had to suffer since the 1970’s World Cup as an Englishman and football fan. It is just a bit of fun, or is it….

Ok, so 50 years of hurt, though even I’m not old enough to remember ‘66 and the World Cup victory. Based upon the experience of most of the previous competitions England have qualified for, and , remembering the 70’s and 80’s that was not always a given, what do I expect this time?

It has already started with past hero’s saying we ‘have the most exciting team since ‘66.

The hyperbole level has already started rising and it will only get worse as the Russia match get closer.

In the match against Russia we let in a soft early goal and a key player, possibly Joe Hart,(You do not know how much it hurts me even to suggest this) will be injured and out until the next round. We will get lucky and equalise late on when Rooney has gone off and Kane and Vardy are playing as a duo up front.

Not bowing to the clamour from the press Hodgson plays Rooney as part of a front three with Kane and Vardy out wide against Wales. The Welsh clearly want it more than the over-paid, over-hyped English team and win 2-0.

For the last group match Hodgson bows to the pressure from the media and the English public and plays Kane and Vardy up front and England win this ‘must win’ match 2 -1, again coming from behind, to qualify in second place behind Wales thanks to a 0-0 draw between Russia and Slovakia and Wales beating the both of them.

We play the surprise winners of group A, Romania, in the next round, and win 2-1 thanks to a dodgy off-side goal. The media and public are now crowing about how England have beaten the tamers of the host country and pre-tournament favourites, and how we can go all the way.

In the next round,  despite heroics from a fit again Joe Hart, we go out on penalties to France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy.(Take your pick) The players arrive home to opprobrium and vilification and a national newspaper printing Roy Hodgson’s head over a turd and another printing the home addresses of the failures with the headline, “We know where you live” and death threats against them leading to a round the clock Police presence required at their homes.

Just a bit of fun……..

A Sunday afternoon walk


After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

P1140005 P1140009 P1140012 P1140018

I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.

Christmas Part I, or what we did in our holidays


This week I returned to Strasbourg from three weeks in the UK, seeing family and friends for Christmas and seeing the New Year in. If there was a theme for the period it was that we generally did the undoable.

dante%20gabriel%20rossetti%20lady%20lilith%20core_0The first day was spent looking round Walthamstow and the market, particularly to the good value store, and then on Friday we went to the Tate to see the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition. There were some fabulous paintings, a lot featuring women with long red hair, and I learned a lot about the movement, particularly on the impact they had on art, I hadn’t known before they were influential upon the Impressionists. The rest of the day was spent in London before meeting up with a friend who had recently left Strasbourg for Walthamstow.

searchSaturday saw us leave Walthamstow, via the fantastic and well worth visiting William Morris Gallery for more red-headed women, furniture wall paper etc, and headed to the Barbican for Complicite’s version of Bulgarkov’s Master and Margarita. Despite there having been earlier stage versions of the book it was held to be unstageable. Well it was three hours of fantastic theatre and definitely bought the story to life on the stage in an engaging and interesting way, was well acted and the time flew by.

Then I was with my parents for a week and JTO braved the flooding in the west country to celebrate Christmas with her mother, the first time we have been apart at Christmas for almost two decades! I went to see Reading FC play Swansea which was a dire game but they did what had largely been undoable for them before and avoided losing. After a really good night out in Reading with some friends and JTO going to visit her newly arrived granddaughter it was off to celebrate New Years Eve.

Supping, but not cheering, with the enemy


I’m glad I left early to save some space for friends in the Irish Pub for last night’s game as friends and other people I was not expecting joined us, having a table and a lot of stools worked out well. The place was packed and it was hard to hear JTO singing our national anthem pretty much on her own. When it came time for the French national anthem all the, mainly young – the pub is at the edge of the University near the area where lots of students live – people sang it with gusto. It is a rousing song, which despite its name was written here in Strasbourg, and it was good to hear it sung with such passion. It was the only time that there was any singing as the French present with us did not sing for the rest of the match, just some almost Parliamentary banging on the table when something exciting or good for France happened.

When England scored first the group I was with jumped up and cheered loudly. This was of course exceeded in volume when the French team equalised. I was left wondering why Samir Nasri didn’t scored like that more often for Manchester City this last season?

I apologise for the quality of the pictures but they were taken on an iPod and it is not too good when there is little light. The top left is the view of the screen from my seat and the one behind is out onto the terrace and garden behind my seat and the last one is looking through, past another screen on the wall opposite the bar, to the bar.

Before the match started someone came round inviting entries for a competition to win a bottle of champagne. To do so you had to guess the score of the night’s matches. I said 1-0 to England scored in the 48th minute and 2-1 to Sweden. Needless to say I will not be taking up forecasting football results and was happy to lose the chance to win the champagne when England scored first around 30 minutes into the match.

I was pleasantly surprised at England’s positive start to the match and thrilled when they scored. The atmosphere in the pub quietened a bit after that but picked up after the French equalised and then got more tense as they got on top, having more possession, but without scoring. An enjoyable evening with some friends and, having lost the chance to win the champagne I didn’t have to stay on to see the other match.

I did think that by leaving I would lose the chance to see the match as one-third of the games are being broadcast on TF1, one-third on M6 and the remaining on the pay channel bein, the French branding for Al Jazera Sports. The France – England match being on terrestrial TF1 the other was on bein. But I had been reminded by a friend that we could watch matches free to air on German TV so I saw the game on ZFR.

Falling off the wagon


So, at the end of February 1998 I stopped smoking. I survived my birthday, that of JTO and an impromptu holiday in Nice – where it still seemed compulsory to smoke in many of the cafes we visited! The first time I fell off the wagon and smoked was on 30th June 1998. I remember the date and the venue very well.  At the time JTO was an MP and I worked for her in Reading but on the day I had to visit her in The Houses of Parliament. It was normal after finishing work, at the end of the day around 10 o’clock, to go down to the Stranger’s Bar for a quick drink before the last vote and then go home. But this day we had gone there more like 19:30 to reserve a place. I say down because, although it is level with the terrace outside, which looks out over the river, it is actually one floor down from the Chambers of the Houses of Commons and Lords. It also had a dark small cave like feeling. Much like the bar under Nottingham Castle, hacked into the rock, which is supposed to have a tunnel up to the castle and where crusaders were alleged to have had a last drink before departing the country.

Around the House of Commons you see green TV sets, actually called annunciators, and when the house is sitting they display the subject of debate in the Chamber and the name and then in large capitals the constituency of the MP speaking, something which was rather
unfortunate for her and always gave me a giggle when it was Margaret Hodge who represented Barking. The picture at the top is of an annunciator in the House of Lords, which is why it’s red. A secret about these is that you can change the channel on them and you can see a live feed of the debate in the Chamber. You can also get terrestrial TV channels and certain satellite channels, including Sky Sports. We had gone in early to reserve a seat for the England vs Argentina match in the last 16 in the World Cup, taking place that evening at Saint-Etienne in France.

England had qualified for the last 16 coming second in their group after beating Tunisia and Colombia but being beaten by Romania. Then England Manager, Glen Hoddle,(Who interestingly reappeared yesterday saying he wants the job again.) had received a lot of stick for not playing David Beckham and, then 18-year-old, Michael Owen. Both started this game. Six minutes into the game and Argentina get and score a penalty. Four minutes later Michael Owen goes down and England get and Alan Shearer scores a penalty. Then came a bit of Michael Owen magic:

Just before half-time Argentina equalised with a well-worked free-kick. Then, two minutes into the second half David Beckham is fouled and goes down. He does this:

 So a match which had been tense just got a whole lot more tense. England down to ten men. They held out for the second half. Extra time. England hold out for the two periods of extra time, Penalties. Alan Shearer scored the first for England then Berti equalised for Argentina. Paul Ince stepped up and missed. The tension was too much I had to have a cigarette. I took one from JTO’s packet. Crespo then stepped up for Argentina and missed. Relief, or was it the cigarette? The next penalties were taken by Merson then Verón, Owen then Gallardo and all were scored. It was the last penalty before sudden death and it had become sudden death. Any penalty missed now, with the others scoring and it is elimination from the World Cup. David Batty, who had never taken a penalty before, stepped up, shot to his left and the Argentinian goalkeeper guessed correctly and dived to save it. Ayala scored for Argentina. England were out. If you can bear it there is a great Four Four Two recreation of the match in quotes here.

I had done it, I had smoked. I had not enjoyed it much. And I thought, it was a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. It would be four years before it came round again. Just keep up the stopping smoking. Funnily enough the debate in the Chamber on the Finance (No. 2) Bill did not see a vote between the start of the match and the end of extra time.

Sports report


As I said here I missed the last match of Le Racing Club de Strasbourg’s season on Friday. They won 2-0 and stay in third place in the National. As has been the case for the previous three seasons their future waits upon the last day of the season. Contrary to the wishes of the President of the Club, and representative of the London-based owner of it, the doors were open and fans present. There were quite amazing scenes at the end of the last match with the players joining the Ultra Boys in their ‘tribune’ in the stands. See the video here.

When I moved to Strasbourg in 2007 they had just been promoted back to the First Division. It was great watching the best teams in France for 5 Euros. Lyon, Girondins de Bordeaux, l’Olympic de Marseille, Paris St Germain etc. I didn’t know at the time but the manager who had taken them back into the top flight, Jean-Pierre Papin, was replaced by Jean-Marc Furlan and the season started well with le Racing in the top half of the table. A poor second half of the season and they were left needing a win in their last match to stay up. They lost.

The following season, despite the departure of many of the players, they started the season well and led the division at the winter pause. A less than good second half of the season left the team requiring a win on the last day of the season and another team to not win for the boys of Jean-Marc Furlan to return to the top flight. It didn’t happen. Jean-Marc Furlan was sacked and in the following season there were five different owners in six months. Fewer but a number of different managers, and the team required a win on the last day of the season to stay in the Second Division. It didn’t happen and they were relegated to the National a semi-pro league. Le Racing were allowed to stay professional for their first season and, with the departure of all bar one of the previous first team, started the season very badly and were in the relegation positions in the first month of the season and spent the first half of the season in the bottom half of the table. A strong improvement in the second half of the season, despite a ham-fisted attempt to replace the manager, after it had become clear there was a chance they could make the promotion places after all, left the team requiring a win to be promoted. They won. Le Racing also need Guingamp to lose their match next week to keep hold of the third place.

Blue Moon

I can’t let the events of the past week go without saying how thrilled I was for Manchester City to win their first trophy since 1976 and the win the FA Cup for the first time since 1969. Like I had for every game I had my 1969 replica shirt on for the match and watched the second half of the match in the Dubliners in Strasbourg. I am now looking forward to the match this afternoon and the chance of finishing third and qualifying automatically for the Champions League. I am wearing my replica third shird and I hope it brings as much luck today as the replica of the ’69 Cup Final winning shirt did for the cup run. Whilst talking about football I will just say how pleased I was about the victory on Tuesday night for my former home-town team Reading, earning them a match at Wembley in the play-offs for the Premier League. I will be cheering them on against Swansea later this month.

I don’t like cricket..

I love it. Especially after yesterday when Lancashire beat Yorkshire in the Roses match. I was following the game via the BBC and was afraid the match was going the same way as the Sussex match earlier in the season, when the game was drawn because we couldn’t get the last two batsmen out. This time we did get them out but had 15 overs to score 121, which we did with four balls to spare.

Lancashire are now leading the County Championship despite having played a game less than their closest teams. I wonder, will this be the year Lancashire win the County Championship for the first time since 1934? It would be ironic that the season when we are away from our Manchester headquarters, at Old Trafford, and playing in Liverpool would turn out to be our most successful in the County Championship. It would help confirm my view that we can not win the County Championship playing in Manchester because of the rain. I know from living in Liverpool that the clouds pass over there before heading inland to dump the rain on Manchester, before going over the Pennines. I’m sure there is a study to be done about the failure of fantastic Lancashire teams, like those of the 50’s, 70’s and 80’s to win a County Championship whilst winning nearly everything else going, and the number of matches drawn because of the weather.

En garde


This blog hasn’t lived up to its name for some time.  I’ve still been taking part in the Monday night fencing training at the Salle des Armes at Kibitzenau. The last two weeks we have been fighting with the fleuret. Normally we fight with the épée which is the weapon with which I first learnt to fence and the one I’ve used all the time until these last two weeks. The two main differences are that the whole body is the target for the épée and you gain a point for a hit only when you are attacking with the fleuret. I am normally more of a defensive fencer, letting the opponent come onto me. I feel I have developed with the weapon and mow when I fight people I was fighting when I started and was equal to, I beat them quite easily. People who used to beat me I now have a good match with and am their equal. The fleuret has required a change of tactics and I’ve not managed to get my head around the need to attack and have been beaten every time we’ve fought. Next week its back to the épée which is good for my self-regard but it would have been good to get my head around the fleuret and improve the attacking side on my fencing.

The pictures were taken the last time we were using the épée. The first is of an exercise where the fencer in the mask drops a glove in front of the padded target and the aim of the other fencer is to catch the glove on different spots drawn on the target. You might be able to see that the glove was missed and has fallen onto the floor. The next shows a sword that I broke whilst fighting with someone. In the second you can see the two parts of the blade are held only by the wire that makes the connection and identifies a hit. I’ve extra private training on Friday night. Stupid me I’ve agreed to do it at the same time as the last home game of le Racing of the season which the barmy President has said he wants to play behind closed doors – today the ticket office and the boutique were locked shut.

I wish it could be Christmas every day….


So FIFSee full size imageA decided to send the next two World cups, after the first one in South America, to Russia and the Middle East, neither of which have held the competition before.  Seems to fit in with their business plan to me, standard way to grow football plc, inc, gmbh, or whatever you want to call it is to send the most important tournament to get massive coverage in areas where you do not do so well, together with the saturation coverage in the places where you already have good business.  Ah being wise after the event, so easy.  Sorry for the English bid and the ‘three lions of Cameron, William Windsor And David Beckham but Maggie Thatcher your boys have lost again.

Day two of the try to feel more Christmasy, Christmas single extravaganza, brings Roy Wood‘s (wiki) Wizzard(Facebook).  A much underated fellow in my opinion who wrote some sublime pop songs with the Move and then had the taste to not be too involved in ELO before forming Wizzard, or effectively, being Wizzard.  What I loved abou them at the time was their didn’t give a shit attitude and having two drummers, which I thought was cool at the time.  Anyway, here’s their entry to the top seven:

What I know about Sierra Leone II


Some time back I posted up a story about the work Manchester City supporters and Craig Bellamy have done in Sierra Leone.  At the beginning of this month the main person in Sierra Leone, Armani, was in Manchester.  Here is a diary of his time in the UK, and here is a video from the Club’s website giving more information about his trip to the UK:

City in Sierra Leone VIII: Bus update.

What I know about Sierra Leone


Is that for a long time there was a war going on where child soldiers and teenagers fired up on drugs murdered and mutilated in the most appalling way.  That the then British government sent a small force to intervene and that peace and democracy has returned to this abjectly poor country.  I am proud that a Government I voted for and supported intervened to stop the madness that was happening.

Before he became a Manchester City player my view of Craig Bellamy was not good.(wiki)  I thought he was an ignorant thug.  How much snoberry was involved in that view I’ve not thought too much about.  On the inestimable Norm blog he does a profile of another blogger every week where he publishes the answers the blogger has given to a set of questions the Normster has provided.  One of the questions is:

“Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?”

Whilst it is hardly a major moral, political or intellectual issue one thing I have changed my mind about is Craig Bellamy.  One reason could have been that, as most supporters will say about a player for their team, “he’s our thug so it’s OK.”, but its not that.  Exposure for a long amount of time allowed me to see that he was actually a big hearted player who just wanted to do his best.  If he gets involved in trouble its because he’s committed to his team.  I didn’t manage to convince a fellow City fan, I sometimes watch the matches with here in Strasbourg, about this.  Then I saw a video on the fantastic MCFC website about the foundation he had set up in Sierra Leone to encourage school attendance and to improve football in the country.  Here’s the website for the Craig Bellamy foundation.

I can do nothing but admire the humanity of a man who went to a country and saw the problems in one of the Worlds poorest countries and saw a way they could help, and then they did help in a real and practical way, some of it with their own money.

You can see the video of Craig Bellamy talking about his foundation on the MCFC website here.  I’m just sorry eiher my ignorance or their control freakery doesn’t allow me to post the video here.

So I thought that was it for City and Sierra Leone.  How wrong I was.  Did you know the country has the largest supporters club outside the UK?  Nor did I.

A City supporter retired from the Police and he went to Sierra Leone to train the Police force there.  After work he went to a bar on the beach and was approached by someone selling sunglasses and other trinkets.  The City fan refused to buy anything as the local person was wearing a United supporters badge.  The local said that if the City fan returned with a City shirt the local would be a City fan.  You can see more about it here.  The fan returned with a City shirt and it lead to the creation of the Sierra Leone MCFC supporterDo they not look the parts club.  It also led to the creation of a youth and other football teams as you can see here.  The Freetown MCFC supporters were not able to make their away matches because of the lack of transport so the former police officer City fan returned to the UK and started fundraising to get them a minibus so they could go to away matches.  The club and other supporters groups got involved and you can see more about it here.

The bus would not only provide transport to away matches for the team but would also be put to use during the week to provide a couple of members of the supporters club with an income working as bus drivers around Freetown.  Watch further videos about the saga of getting the bus there here, here, here and here.  The bus has now arrived and was even used by the Sierra Leone Football Federation to take the South African team to the stadium for a recent match.  Further information about them can be found on their blog about it here.

It is humbling what a difference two people, together with a number of others, have managed to make in a poor country.  If you can please donate to help either initiative via the website links given. (Hat Tip to MCFC Sierra Leone for the last picture.)

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