St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United Football Club has been renamed by owner Mike Ashley. The official title is now the Sports Direct Arena. The decision to rename, or to be more exact, rebrand the iconic stadium in the dreary northeast of England is the latest sign that English football has lost its soul. It is one thing to give a new stadium a corporate name, but not a stadium as historic as St. James’ Park. Sir Bobby Robson is turning over in his grave.
Guus Hiddink is out as coach of Turkey. The 65-year-old Dutchman resigned after he failed to guide Turkey to the Euro finals. The disastrous 0-3 home defeat to Croatia in the play-offs hastened Hiddink’s exit. However, the loss will not damage Hiddink’s reputation although it should. He won’t be unemployed for too long and a number of teams in the major European leagues will be working hard to convince Hiddink to become their next manager. One man who should be looking over his shoulder is Chelsea 03’s Andre Villas Boas.
Celtic have been charged by UEFA for 'illicit singing by their fans during the recent Europa Cup clash with Rennes. There is an element of Celtic’s support that continues to sing songs that glorify the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Some fans will argue these songs are historic in nature and it will now be up to UEFA to determine whether they are or not. The outcome could have ramifications for other clubs throughout Europe including Barcelona whose history is political or ethnic in nature.
Luis Suarez turned in a clinical performance in scoring four goals for Uruguay against Chile in South American World Cup qualifying. His team now sit top of a group of nine teams and Uruguay are on their way to qualifying for Brazil 2014. Their bitter neighbors Argentina are joint top despite a stuttering start to their qualifying campaign. They trailed away to Colombia for most of their game before goals from Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero gave them victory and the all-important three points. The win may have saved former Sheffield United star, Alex Sabella his job.
Jurgen Klinsmann has not had the best of starts to his career as coach of the United States. His experimental line up beat Slovenia 3-2 in Ljubljana on Tuesday to silence his increasing number of critics. Klinsmann’s team were drawn into a group comprising Jamaica, Guatemala and Antigua & Barbuda (who?) for 2014 World Cup qualifying. It is inconceivable to think the USA will not qualify for Brazil, so the German coach has time on his side to get things right.
There was uproar in England this past week when FIFA correctly refused the Football Association’s request to allow the England shirt to be embroidered with a red poppy for the game against Spain. The poppy, a symbol of Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 is worn in the build -up to Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom and signifies support for British troops who have fought and died in numerous wars. FIFA rules are quite clear that no emblem can be added to a national team shirt and the furor caused by the poppy debate was blown out of all proportion in the English media. Had FIFA succumbed to English political pressure then there would be nothing to stop other countries requesting permission to embroider their shirts with similar emblems of political or religious sentiment. For example, what would the outcry be if the Republic of Ireland shirt was embroidered with an Easter Lily in remembrance of IRA dead for a game against England, Northern Ireland, or Scotland?
It was once said of FIFA president Sepp Blatter that he comes up with 50 new ideas each week and 51 of them are bad. This gives some insight into the personality that is Blatter. Yes, he and FIFA have done a lot to promote the game around the world and most of that work has been positive. But there are times when Blatter cannot help himself and his latest honest interview about racism in football may have finally undermined his authority and made his position untenable. In a perfect world Blatter would be fired or forced to resign, but in the politically complicated structure of FIFA that will never happen.