The English Enigma

Every now and again football fans in England are given a glimpse of something rare that makes them sit up and take notice. A handful of times in a generation, through skill or luck, the football clubs in this country produce an enigma. A footballer you cannot help but get excited about, a player whose traits are anything but typically English and more suited to the flare of South America or the Iberian nations.

Rarely however do these players go on to fulfil their early promise and the nations enormous expectations. There are of course a few exceptions. Whilst never breaking into the top tier of world footballs elite, Wayne Rooney has won plenty at club level including the Champions League and many regard ‘Gazza’ as the most talented player to don an England shirt. More often than not though these players fall by the wayside, after promising so much early on, few go on to achieve the hallowed ‘glittering’ career.

Joe Cole came through the ranks at West Ham and looked as though he could rule the world. This precocious youngster played the game his way, with barely a care in the world Cole showcased silky skills and the ability and talent to beat a player which is rarely shown by Englishmen.  After an impressive spell under Mourinho at Chelsea Cole’s career has since stuttered and he has faded into the famous ‘what if’ category so many English players do. 

Cole never quite realised his potential

Cole never quite realised his potential

Jack Wilshire signed for Arsenal in 2001 and had pundits studying youth football cooing almost immediately. Having broken into the first team in 2008 Wilshire has struggled with injuries and has never really had the run of games needed to fulfil his potential. Paul Scholes famously said that the Arsenal starlet had failed to improve between his debut and now.

Wilshire has shown a lot of promise

Wilshire has shown a lot of promise

Sir Alex Ferguson once stated that Ravel Morrison was the most impressive 14 year old he had ever seen; high praise from the man who nursed the career of ‘Fergie’s fledglings’ from the class of 92. A series of off the pitch misdemeanours led to Morrison first being booted out of United and then West Ham. At the age of 22 he is without a club but Lazio are said to be interested according to the Telegraph.

So far his career has been one of self destruction

So far his career has been one of self destruction

All of the above players have been in the press for the wrong reasons in the past which begs the question; are they being managed properly? There is a fine line between mischief in a fine player and over stepping the mark. When you look at the managers these players have and still play under it is hard to believe that they are being mismanaged. So why do we fail to get the best out of the most talented individuals in this country? Is it down to the workmanlike, team mentality which is encouraged in England or does it go deeper than that? Until we see one of these English enigmas flourish and succeed the answer will remain a mystery.

International Football at its best

Last night saw hosts Chile beat Ecuador 2-0 at the start of the 2015 Copa America, an international football tournament with a difference. Flare in this part of the world is a by-product of the expansive, quick game most sides in South America play. It isn’t thought of as unnecessary or an act of showboating, no flare in this part of the world is just another tool to get the ball in the back of the net.

Logo_Federación_de_Fútbol_de_Chile

Fans of Pep Guardiola style possession football might want to give this display of pacey, through the pitch football a miss though. The ideology of most sides in this tournament is to get the ball from back to front with blistering pace and no side in world football showcases a talent for the style more than the current Chile squad with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez spearheading their attack.

The only drawback to feasting your eyes on such a spectacle of pacey, frenetic football is the time difference which means most games will be played at 00.30am at the earliest. If you are a night owl you are in for a very special treat.

Whilst the world cup offers a rare insight into many sides and players you would not always be able to see, it cannot offer the quality of games played in the Copa America. Every game, it would seem is played as though each side’s life depends on it. Absolutely nothing is left on the pitch.

As well as providing an opportunity to see established super stars such as the Barcelona front three playing for their respective countries, the tournament showcases future raw talent. Make no mistake Premier League sides will have sent their scouts here on mass and it would be no surprise to see some previously unheard of players lining up for sides across the country next season.

Despite their humiliation at the hands of Germany at last year’s World Cup, this tournament offers Brazil the chance of redemption. They can banish the awful memory of that semi-final defeat on home soil with a win here in Chile. Brazil will always attract viewing figures; they are a far more robust side under Dunga and still the samba kings whilst in Neymar they have a successor to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo’s crown.

Then there is Argentina and Messi. The little magician is back to his frightening best after finally overcoming his injury problems. He is due a big performance for his country and given how he finished the domestic season who would bet against that happening in Chile?

In spite of the late nights to come there is plenty to look forward to in this tournament over the next month. Your boss probably won’t thank you for it but missing out on a few hours of sleep has got to be well worth it. Let the football fiesta begin!  

Does football need a Kerry Packer?

Kerry_Packer

In a time where much of Europe, the Americas and Australasia have had enough of football’s governing body is it time for a breakaway federation to be formed? And who will be brave enough to take on such a mammoth task?

Last week was a truly exceptional week for world football’s governing body FIFA not only were seven high ranking officials either arrested or indicted but the divisive  president Sepp Blatter was re-elected right in the middle of the FBI led storm.

It would be fair to say the re-election of Blatter for a fifth term was not well received here or in many other European nations where Blatter is seen as complicit in the corruption that has enveloped FIFA. It must be pointed out however that amongst much of the world’s football associations and confederations he is an immensely popular figure credited with spreading the message of the beautiful game far and wide. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa being the first to be held in the continent of Africa provided Blatter with huge support from CONCAF the African equivalent to UEFA European football’s governing body.

Whilst UEFA president Michel Platini openly called for Blatter to resign his national football association in France backed and voted for Blatter along with the Spanish. All of this would make a break away from FIFA a monumental task and it remains to be seen if anyone is brave enough to take the first step.

There have been vague threats of boycotting the next World Cup as a result of last week’s election from some in UEFA but this seems a very unlikely step given that not everyone is unhappy with Blatter at the helm.

In 1977 an Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer took on the world’s cricket boards which he saw as stuck in the mud and set up World Series Cricket. Whilst the venture did not last particularly long Packer managed to attract most of the games top players and Word Series Cricket two year revolution is credited with giving the game a much needed shake up.

Whilst a boycott of a World Cup might send a message to FIFA, the threat of a break away tournament would send shockwaves around the world of football. It may take someone like Packer who comes from outside the game to form such a tournament but if the world’s best teams and players could be attracted then FIFA would have to stand up and take notice.

As things stand no such person has stepped forward and the danger is that unless the FBI investigation goes much further the beautiful game’s name will remain tarnished by those at the top sweeping corruption under the carpet.

Someone with true entrepreneurial skill and foresight will be needed to take on FIFA and the pull of the World Cup but if history tells us anything nothing is impossible in sport. Football’s Kerry Packer may just be around the corner waiting to give the international game the lift it so desperately needs.