Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Is the Football Association Bringing Our Great Game Into Disrepute?

Following the debacle of the Carling Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea I can sympathise with Arsene Wenger entirely at the way the Football Association conducted their "investigation". In the now well screened handbag incident it would appear that the linesman (sorry referee's asssisant) was telling porkies when he said Adebayor had thrown a punch. It could mean that the assistant needed to change his optician because he certainly couldn't tell the difference between a player with a kind of dreadlocks hair style and a player who has been almost scalped. Adebayor had every reason to be angered, refusing to leave the pitch after a dismissal that was blatantly wrong. So too did Wenger after the FA had failed to accept the television evidence to back their appointed "line judge" instead. Wenger was further angered by the suggestion that the two managers had trespassed on to the pitch without permission in order to add to the incident. From my viewpoint in my comfortable lounge at home I immediately came to the conclusion that the intention of both managers was to try and separate the players and not to add their weight to the fisticups.

But isn't the truth something the Football Association always tries to avoid in favour of their own version of what they decide has happened? The Association, it has to be said, does tend to favour a certain club from Manchester while Arsenal (and I admit to a certain biase) are always branded the villains. Arsene Wenger is often accused of allowing his players to be out of control, an endearment that has led to so many red cards over the last ten years. But, if we are honest, and we stop to analise each and every one of these incidents you have to reach the conclusion that a high percentage of the dismissals were completely unjustified. How many times can we also conclude that the referee brandishing one red card after another has got it completely wrong? Referees however are rarely brought to task for their mistakes; to the contrary the FA will back their trustees to the hilt.

The problem of money; far too much of it, must be introduced to the equation. It has become far too important and this has created a win at all costs attitude amongst managers and their players. Of course football is a business, a business that plays to high stakes like Monopoly money and players will fight each other in order to win an advantage. But although this might be the case very few football "punch ups" are serious and most are caused by a rash, spur of the moment, action by one player on another. If a player is through on goal and is pulled back by the cuff of his shirt then surely it is little more than a human reaction to turn and retaliate? Ask yourself; if somebody pulled you away from a bar by your shirt tails as you were about to buy a drink wouldn't you turn on that person in anger? I think so. Football is and has always been a highly charged game that is played by men (sorry girls)and a certain level of retaliation has always been, shall I say, a "healthy" part of the game. In the 1960s when i first started to take an interest in the game you could witness some appalling fouls but seldom did anyone get sent off. The first time I saw a player dismissed, in fact both were given their orders, was when Ron Yeats of Liverpool and the late Joe Baker were sent off at Highbury after the former pulled the other down in the centre circle. Baker's natural reaction was to swing a punch at the Liverpool centre half because little Joe would have been through on goal. This was the only time I saw a player dismissed in a period spanning many years. But now of course almost every match has at least one player given his marching orders and the dismissals are ruining the game. Is the game any more violent than it was fifty years ago; I think not. It is probably true that modern day players have become a little bit more crafty, able to con the officials more easily, but violent, no.

I think that it is time that the FA took a break and stepped back to review the conduct of the players that fall within its' jurisdiction. They should take stock of the situation and review the hows and whys of red card incidents to reach a conclusion as to whether or not they were all really necessary. The great game is certainly losing out from players recieving bans, more especially those players that are subsequently proved to be unjustifiably sent off or cautioned. With every decision resulting in a fine for those deemed responsible everything becomes answerable to the cash cow. Results obviously suffer when clubs are missing key players and the fans are also deprived of seeeing the strongest teams being fielded.

I believe that the time is right for the FA to withdraw from the process of punishing clubs and players. Instead I propose that any disciplinary measures should be metered out by a body that is independent of any FA biase. Perhaps this way the system might become a good deal fairer although it would lead to a lot less money from fines falling into the Football Association's laps.

Driving in India Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The British government's attempts to bring the road accident rate down to zero can only work if they achieve what I believe they are trying to achieve ... by taxing every form of travel to the hilt. That way they can ensure that we all stay in one place so that the politicians and the thought police know where to find each and every one of us. I firmly believe that the latest form of control from the Labour party is trying to restrict our movements. How long will it be before we are banned from going abroad? With this in mind spare a thought for the Sub Continent where l something like 93,000 people die on the roads every year.

By comparison the accident rate in most European countries can be seen as fairly minor and in Britain I think we have one of the best standards of driving in the world although at times it might not seem like it. But India is something else. Take a taxi ride, even in one of the more laid back states such and Goa or Kerala, and you will be in for a roller coaster ride that leaves you begging to get out of the car. Don't get me wrong; Indian drivers are good, but they are just downright dangerous. By "good" I am referring to the way that they can fit their cars into the tightest of gaps to avoid a collision at the very last second when carnage is about to ensue. Indian drivers cannot accept that orderly driving, one vehicle behind the other, should be the acceptable norm. For this reason every vehicle in front has to be overtaken and this is achieved regardless of what is coming at you in the opposite direction. It is a truly frightening experience but you will not find any tour operators with India on their agendas advising you not to take their transport from the airport! So, dear traveller, if you intend to visit anywhere on the Sub Continent you should be prepared to risk your life when going on the roads.

The buses and truck drivers are the worst especially those that drive the interstate buses for ten or more hours at a stretch non-stop. The Bombay to Goa bus for example sits in the middle of the road and will move for nobody. Argue with it at your peril but the local drivers will and when their luck is out they leave a trail of death and destruction. It seems there is no penalty for killing somebody by dangerous driving in India and life being generally cheap means that nobody seems to care. It is not uncommon for half a dozen people to be killed in a single accident yet even this does not deter the Indian from behaving like a suicide jockey.

I was recently told that the State government in Goa had recently introduced a law to force motor cyclists to wear crash helmets but only on major roads. The rule seemingly does not apply to their passengers (yes, plural because I have seen an entire family of four on a single moped). They recently had a purge but it made little difference if the rider was wearing a helmet because the police officer that stopped him would insist he was breaking the law. A hundred or so rupees however is usually all it takes to guarantee that the officer doesn't write a ticket.

Driving is all a bit of a game really in India; sometimes you win, often you lose. It is certainly not a pastime to be enjoyed by the feint hearted.