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Day: February 8, 2013

The 2013 African Cup of Nations: A Tournament Comes To Life

More often than not, major tournament semi-finals are deep disappointments. Even the best of recent African Cups of Nations have run out of some steam by the time there were only four teams left. So given this year’s deeply disappointing tournament so far – and the prospect of 90-120 minutes of nerve-shredded beach football – imagine my surprise when… Nigeria 4 Mali 1 In the end, Mali had more shots. But if ever a statistic was a damned lie it was that one. From the opening five minutes, when they passed the ball around like a green-shirted Barcelona, to NAME Musa’s disallowed goal in the 65th minute, the Super Eagles were simply magnificent. As Alan Hansen might have said: “Pace, power, technique.” And that was just Daniel Amokachi’s goal celebrations – the ex-Evertonian diverting attention from Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi’s stubborn refusal to CHEER UP with a high-octane attempt at the land speed record for running on the spot. Keshi eventually did cheer up. And who wouldn’t smile after a display like…that? Well…OK…ITV’s Efan Ekoku wouldn’t. But even Ekoku’s calm exterior couldn’t mask his true feelings as the Super Eagles went in at half-time with the game virtually won. In commentary, Jim Beglin invoked “Istanbul,” as any ex-Liverpool player would. More relevant here though was Mali’s comeback from FOUR-nil down with ELEVEN minutes left against host nation Angola in the...

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One-Nil To The Impractical Dreamers

There’s lots of comment today about the Premier League clubs passing a version of Financial Fair Play; some positive, some negative. The first thing to say is that by defining sustainable as losing on average £35m a year, they’ve done us a favour in pointing out just how crazy this environment is. Remember that the next time you hear any club chairman talk about their club as a business, or defer to ‘the market’ as a means by which they will and can be regulated. These are not businesses in any conventional sense (as we’ve always known) and now at least they’ve had the good grace to admit it definitively. Many commentators, especially on the fan activist side, have pointed out that these rules won’t reduce ticket prices; quite so. But they were never going to. But what they do is mean that themain argument that has been used by clubs to refuse to reduce or to raise them can’t be used in the same way. Time after time, clubs told fans that price rises were necessary for the team to be competitive. We know that’s partly true, and partly a very, very easy line to spin in a sector where still too many fans have a default posture of credulity towards their clubs’ tendentious statements. Indeed, as many writers have noted, if wages are capped in real terms,...

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