Date: 1st April 2022
1. You Could Have Bet on That Group
We were in Pot 4 as the Wales/Ukraine/Scotland ball, called in the occasion the ‘European Play-Off Winner’.
(No mention of Ukraine).
And pot 4 not fair on Wales, currently ranked 18 and higher than Serbia 25, and Poland 26 who seeded above them in Pot 3.
The reality is Ukraine will be in no position to play us in June or any time soon and to Fifa’s shame they have not addressed the plan for what happens when they run out of time.
Anyway we will probably have a bye and a cup final with Wales at Cardiff and a date tbc.
The prize for us to play for is a place in Group B with England, our 1978 opponents Iran, and the Good Ol’ USA.
So a UK derby at the end of November in a far off field, against England featuring us or Wales.
2. The Biggest Fall in Living Standards Since 1956
I wish it was all an April Fool’s story.
But it is after 12 noon as I write, so it’s real and coming our way like a full-speed train crash into the buffers at a crowded station.
Energy, council taxes, petrol, food, and everything else that is soaring will hurt us all.
Overnight, the best part of 1000 real pound notes, after tax, has been taken from every household.
Yours’, mine and all your neighbours’.
Every fan in the country who pays bills is poorer.
Our discretionary spend on things like beer, meals out, fashion, Sky subscriptions, holidays, and all leisure pursuits including football and related spends will immediately and increasingly feel the pinch.
Many homes will actually struggle to cover the basics, and fuel poverty will soar.
Most of us will have no option but spending less on the things we like to do, to balance the books.
Some won’t be able to make up the gap.
The economy will slow down, optimism will slide and any ‘bubbles’ like the current property madness will slow down, halt and could even slip into reverse.
The economics of decline are scary.
We all know it is coming but the first electric and gas bills will send real shockwaves.
An impact that will hurt football at all levels.
Parents won’t be able to fund kids, away travel will be rationed, and season books a decision to be taken.
3. Football Needs Klaveness
I’d seen her play in the excellent Norway sides back in the day, but I hadn’t been aware of what Lise Klaveness was up to since retiring from the game in 2012.
Until yesterday that is.
Lise was elected president of the Norwegian Football Federation three weeks ago and is the first female to hold that position.
A lawyer, advocate, part time judge, football pundit, commentator, and studio anchor, she played for her national side 73 times scoring 9 times from midfield.
Anyway yesterday she spoke at what Fifa’s Infantino had hoped to be the start of his carefully-manicured, self-anointment show, after he announced that he is seeking a further 4 years as well paid big-cheese in Zurich.
He did this to an almost full house of all the 211 Fifa members including our SFA and also the Russian Federation.
They are not suspended from Fifa.
Mr Infantino skirted around the issues like a `Swiss Riverdance Lead’ and was said to have chosen his words very, very carefully.
He did not renounce Russia for their aggression into a fellow member’s country.
Indeed he deliberately sought to diffuse the issue by mentioning that ‘there are other wars in the world’ when he said,
“We were seeing the end of Covid and looking forward to a fantastic World Cup, and war happened.
War with a fear of global conflict with the terrible events in Ukraine – though there are terrible wars in other parts where innocent people are suffering”.
He went on to say, “The Russian World Cup was great sportingly and culturally but did not solve the problems of the world.
Once this terrible conflict is over, and all other conflicts around the world, hopefully football can play a small part in establishing peace”.
He then addressed the Qatar human rights issues by eulogising that the Qatari authorities have achieved “work, that in other countries has taken decades, in just a few years”.
He didn’t mention that Qatar’s security leader, Major general Abdulaziz al-Ansari, had just warned international fans heading for Qatar that ‘Rainbow Flags’ could be confiscated – “for their own protection, – here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of the World Cup”.
(If you didn’t know, same sex relationships remain a criminal offence in Qatar).
And during his presentation, as per normal, a la Trump, Boris, and other populists with power ambitions, Gianni oft repeated his wee personal campaign line, “I have turned Fifa from a toxic organisation into a trustworthy one”.
If he says it often enough, what he wants us to believe might stick with someone who can’t see the wood from the trees for themselves, but most of us are immune.
Statement O’clock from the Russian Delegation
Alexei Sorokin, one of the RFU delegation and ex Fifa council member said,
“We are not hiding.
We have every right to be here.
We find it kind of strange that the Russian team was not allowed to play in our qualification matches”.
Alexander Dyukov, a Russian oligarch who is RFU President, Zenit St P’s president and Gazprom Chairman is an active member of Uefa’s powerful Executive Committee.
The Russians are still well integrated and, in the know, inside the inner sanctums of world football.
And their delegation in the hall then got to watch a Ukraine pre-recorded video from the front.
An Impassioned Message From An Armoured Vest
Andriy Pavelko, head of Ukrainian football said stuff from the streets of Kyiv that we all know
“Football has taken a back seat in our country, and we have received sad news of the deaths of members of the Ukrainian football community.
They have been killed by the aggressors’ rockets from one of the biggest armies in the world.
Our children have suffered terrible psychological injuries.
Perhaps football will help them forget the horrors of war”.
And then he poignantly said,
“Let the battles take place not in the streets with weapons but in crowded stadiums in fair football duel and let the spectators in the stands explode when their favourite team scores a goal, not the bombs”.
Infantino’s Norwegian Nemesis Arrived on the Podium
Lise Stepped Up for Us All Yesterday
Samindra Kunti a journalist reporting from Doha set the scene for us,
“Lise took the floor towards the end of a two-hour congress that had descended into another Infantino-centred show – without dissent or discussion”.
It was a big meeting ahead of today’s draw and Qatar’s prime minister, Sheik Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, and Sheik H.E Hassan Al Thawadi were in attendance.
Al Thawadi, like our heroine Lise, is a lawyer by profession and also the Secretary General of Qatar’s ‘Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy’.
He is responsible for delivering the World Cup.
Lise’s presentation has since been described as a ‘nightmare show’ for Infantino, his Qatar hosts and his member friends.
Addressing the Fifa members present, and the world’s media, Klaveness said the following.
“Fifa must set the tone and lead”.
“There should be inclusion and reparations for families of workers who have died during the construction of world cup stadia”.
“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of world cup workers”.
“No room for leaders that cannot host the women’s game”.
No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety of LGBT+ people coming to this theatre of dreams”.
“In 2010 the world cup was awarded by Fifa in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences. Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting 11 till many years later”.
It was powerful rhetoric and looked easy, but it was a huge step as Lise called out Gianni Infantino and Fifa to do better.
Fifa wisnae very happy at this embarrassing and unexpected outbreak of honesty and dissent from the ranks.
First Jorge Salomon from Honduras Football Federation stood up and tried to save Infantino’s day saying rather stupidly, “This is not the right stage for this kind of discussion, not the right forum”.
Then Qatar’s embarrassed and by then very, very grumpy Sheik Al-Thawadi said “She didn’t attempt to engage in dialogue. We always had our doors open for anybody to educate themselves before passing judgement”.
One other delegate in Doha said two things on social media in response to that.
“If this is not the right forum then what is and when?
And the Qatar doors are only open in the mind and hollow words of Sheik Al-Thawadi.
Try being a dead construction worker’s family who lost their wage earner, or one of the LGBT+ community”.
Will we look back in years to come and say Doha March 2022 was A Klaveness Moment?
I bloody well hope so.
The organisations who run football need a reset and as I wrote some weeks ago I can’t think of anybody better than the Skandis to forge a better future for us all.
The wee guys like us, and Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Ireland etc. etc. should start to unite for change.
If we do it will become a stampede.
And for what it is worth I’ve actually asked the SFA several times today just who represented Scotland in Doha for the congress and the draw.
Probably Rod Petrie and Ian Maxwell but that is just my uneducated guess.
It might have been Rod and Mike Mulraney.
Not sure why it is not a matter of public record.
I do know it is SFA policy to keep a low profile on all matters Fifa and Uefa.
Again I’m not sure why.
I’d personally would prefer we were activists for the good at both Fifa and Uefa and the member nations.
Like Lise and Norway.
She’s done more in three weeks than other nameless heads.
More power to the Norwegians.
More power to Lise.
More power to the wee nations if they ever get their act together and unite.
4. Ninety One Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Three
Sounds like a dream pools win from the 60’s.
But it was the official attendance at the Camp Nou on Wednesday for the second leg of the women’s Champions League Quarter Final between Real and Barca, currently holders.
It was actually a sell out with all 99,354 tickets actually sold, but in Covid times 8% crowd attrition is probably normal.
Barca got it right with ticket prices which varied from just 9 – 15 Euros.
That was clever for a televised match and maybe a ‘learning’ for us too.
It was a wonderful game with Barca winning 5-2 on the night, 8-3 on aggregate and now facing Wolfsburg in the semis before either Lyon or Paris SG in the final.
5. Nae Wimmin in Mashad Crowd
Iran qualified for Qatar on Tuesday (and our group if we win through) with a 2-0 win over Lebanon in regional city, Mashad at the Imam Reza Stadium.
The authorities not only physically barred up to 2000 plus women with tickets from entry.
Pepper spray was also used to repel bona fide fans outside the stadium, whose only offences were being female and wanting to watch their country play.
Iran have previous.
Having been warned by Fifa in 2019 to stop banning women from attending football matches it seems that Iran are choosing their own path.
Human Rights Watch reported the problem and asked Fifa to “use its leverage with Iran to urgently overturn Iran’s discriminatory stadium ban for women and also to ensure accountability for abuses”.
Tara Sehperi Far of HRW also said, “Iranian authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing to go to great lengths to enforce their ban on women attending football. Fifa needs to follow its own global guidelines on non-discrimination”.
Should Iran be allowed to play in the World Cup?
Italy think not and as the highest Fifa ranked non-qualifier would be first to fill any vacancy.
Don’t hold your breath though because Fifa will fudge a solution.
6. No ‘Old-Firm’ Friendly in Sydney
Another blow to my pals in the unofficial ‘Sydney Rangers and Celtic Supporters Club’ in a wee hotel off the Military Road in North Sydney.
Rangers bowed to overwhelming negative fan pressure and claimed a contractual ‘out’.
They released a press release to explain why, but in reality, it explained nothing.
“It became clear the organisers were unwilling to fulfil their commitments to Rangers and we have with immediate effect terminated the club’s agreement”.
‘TEG’ and ‘Left Field Alive’ the joint Australian organisers said,” We were disappointed to wake up this morning to Rangers FC’s statement that it will not be participating. The Rangers Board committed to these matches following extensive negotiations over 8 months. Seemingly in response to negative fan reaction they have pulled out of their contracted commitment. We have acted in good faith and have put the event on sale with a great response from the fans here. In changing its mind, the Ranger’s Board has let down many, many fans in Australia and the Asian region. We will now consult with our stakeholders before determining our response”.
Commentators ‘in the know’ in Sydney have already said, “This will come at a hefty cost for Rangers with a legal bill for ‘breach of contract’ in place in the signed contract, exercisable in the event of a withdrawal”.
Rangers will also miss out on their $5.25M Australian, pay packet, (£3M), and probably have to cover the courtroom costs too and possibly a damages claim.
Whatever happens, it won’t be cheap.
The organisers in the meantime are said to be looking for a replacement.
7. No Relegation from the SWPL This Year
Bottom side Hamilton and others near the base are smiling at the news that the two relegation places this year are cancelled as the league expands to 12.
The new fixture list under the SPFL will see a split after two rounds of fixtures followed by two more fixtures home and away per group of 6 giving a planned fixture card of 32 games per club.
My initial thoughts were a simple question, you might call it the ‘Partick Thistle Conundrum’.
Is it fair to restrict relegation to 2 out of the bottom 6 clubs after only 69% of the season?
And what if the bottom 8 teams at the split are separated by just a couple of points?
I don’t actually think that will happen every year, but it is feasible and a lot can happen in 10 games.
I understand that the elite clubs want to play each other more but personally think three straight fixtures would have been fairer to all.
That’s it for this week.
Have a nice weekend.
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