Day: June 15, 2009

The Confederations Cup: Italy 3-1 USA

It starts off as a low whining sound. You turn the sound down on the television wondering whether the washing machine is playing up or whether the cat is ill, but the sound goes away as you mute it. Are the speakers playing up? Is there a problem with the reception? It can’t be. In the all-new digital television age, there’s no such thing as a bad picture. It’s either a perfect picture or no picture at all. And then you remember. It’s those bloody horns. They sound like somebody has managed to capture the sound of tinnitus and they’re playing it at a slower speed. South Africans are very fond of them, apparently. Sepp Blatter should ban them before the World Cup finals, unless he wants the tournament to be watched with the mute button pressed down worldwide. Today has been a good day for The Confederations Cup – the opposite of the disastrous start that it had yesterday. This afternoon, Brazil scraped their way past Egypt with the aid of what looked like referee Howard Webb using the fourth official and, by extension, a television replay to give a last minute penalty. Tonight, meanwhile, we saw a thoroughly knockabout contest between Italy and the USA, a game with four goals – two of which are likely to be replayed as being amongst the finest of the tournament...

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Tony Kempster

We had been warned that his illness was terminal, but this didn’t make his passing much less of a shock. The death of football statistician Tony Kempster, reported this morning, brings to a close the story of a man that arguably has brought more than anyone else to non-league football over the last ten years or so. Born and raised in Harefield, Middlesex he graduated in Mathematics and Statistics from Bradford University and spent most of his adult life in Yorkshire. Awarded the FSF’s annual award for Services to Supporters last year, Tony had been fighting cancer for a year before succumbing to the disease. He kept his followers on his website informed until the very end, and died yesterday evening at 7.45. What, though, was so special about his site? After all, there was no jazzy design and to the end it was so unassuming that it didn’t even carry a name other than being “Tony’s Non-League Football Site”. The skill was all in the detail. Kempster seemed to revel in the statistics that bring the game alive, as if he could read as much into a team sheet, an attendance figure and list of the result and the goalscorers as you can into any amount of florid description. Moreover, “Tony’s Non-League Football Site” was impartial without being aloof or distant. In an era in which it seems...

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The Confederations Cup: Brazil 4-3 Egypt

There is a reason why matches like this one are rare.  More, perhaps, is the pity.  But it is not just bull-headed, brass-necked conservative imperialism which sees 50 percent of the ten South American teams qualifying for the World Cup Finals, whilst just six of CAF’s 55 members will represent Africa next summer.  The relative quality and development of football is such that, for the most part, a significant gulf still exists in the relative standards of play and according expectations.  It is, in other words, statistical probability as much as geography which keeps Brazil and Egypt apart on football fields. Herein lies the real joy of a Confederations or World Cup, of course.  Nevertheless, it is perhaps only natural that one nation will dominate the build-up chatter, with every prediction or assumption seeing them as comfortable winners.  For better or worse, Brazil loomed so large over this tie that on paper, it was tempting to forget about Egypt entirely.  It’s fair to say that such a luxury will not now be afforded to Italy, their next opponents, in the build up to their match on Thursday. Focusing on Brazil was not such a bad idea, though, as their relationship with the Confederations Cup is a complex and textured one.  Two tournaments ago, in 2001, a struggling Seleção arrived in the Far East facing perhaps their first ever failure...

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