Date: 6th May 2022
This Week’s Sting
Quote of the season:
“10 Years ago, we were playing East Stirling”.
1. Legionnaires in Castrum
This week saw the Russian Women’s team finally thrown out of this summer’s Euros in England by Uefa.
Portugal Women who they defeated in a group play-off have been given their place.
The same Uefa move also blocked Russian teams from next season’s Uefa competitions and handed, likely champions Celtic a Champions League group stages spot, likely runners up Rangers a seeded round 3 qualifier spot, and Hearts a berth in the Europa Cup League stages.
Good news for Scottish football.
Russia have been all over the Fifa and Uefa power centres like a cheap suit for years and are not happy bunnies that they have been treated this way.
They really thought their influence that had been built up for many moons could stave off any restrictions.
Thankfully they were wrong.
There has been significant progress at the Ukrainian men’s training camp in Brdo, Slovenia which opened a few days ago on May 1st.
There is an ‘open media day’ today with a mix of live and zoom and the world will find out that nearly all the Ukrainian first choice players have arrived and are ‘up for it’.
They see it all as making a real and serious point about Ukraine the nation.
Their stoicism reminds me of the old Bill Shankly quote, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.
Ukraine will demonstrate that sport and politics is inseparable.
It’s true that they have not had the best of preparations, but a mix of intensive training and friendlies is preparing their side for our Hampden match.
Just 27 days away.
Having made the decision to commit fully to the game from the very top down, the Ukrainians will need no motivation.
They will be more than ready, and crave and deserve the attention the international stage will give them.
Here are the prophetic words of their national anthem that will raise our Old Lady’s roof
‘The glory and freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished
Luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.
Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,
and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.
We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom
and we’ll prove that we brothers are of Kozak kin’.
Just one short verse.
Just one shorter chorus.
The national anthem of Ukraine on a bagpipe in Scotland – YouTube
Only adopted in 1991 following the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.
The same anthem will also ring out in Poland on June 24 when Scotland’s Women’s National side play our rescheduled world cup qualifier at the Stadion Miejski in Rzeszow, Poland instead of 100 miles east in still shelled Lviv.
The Ukrainian women were mostly playing in their domestic league before the Russian invasion but that stopped and team coach, Lluis Cortes, ex Barca Femeni, has since arranged placements across Europe with 5 players in Spain and 6 in Turkey.
It is a big game for us too, in a tight spot for 2nd and a play off.
2. Blue and White Friends in Seville?
Seville woke up this morning to the news that Eintracht Frankfurt will play Rangers at the 40,000 capacity Stadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Wednesday May 18.
Tickets will be like hen’s teeth, and the city will be full of many extra fans just wanting to be there and planning to enjoy the sun and a few beers.
Frankfurt will come with at least 50,000 of their ‘White Army”.
A previous winner in 1980, the club have not had a consistent year sitting 11th in the Bundesliga and this final is their only chance of European competition next season.
But dangerous opponents on their day.
Ask Barca and West Ham, both dispensed with by Frankfurt to reach Seville.
And a wee further insight.
A few weeks ago Frankfurt’s white shirted fans turned their club’s 3,000 official ticket allocation at the Camp Nou into 30,000-plus inside the ground, in the ‘wrong’ places and very visible and noisy.
It was said to be more like a home game for them than Barca.
Their fans also dominated the city, mostly good naturedly too but they are well known to have an ‘ultra’s element in their ranks.
That is a worry, and I don’t know it will play out.
Rangers will have similar numbers of fans coming from all over and descending like they did on Manchester in 2008.
I remember that night well but not in a happy way.
It wasn’t a good advert for Scottish football and that doesn’t refer to the game.
An estimated 150,000 Rangers fans brought what a judge said afterwards was ‘the worst night of violence and destruction suffered by Manchester city centre since the blitz”.
Seville is a beautiful but smallish city of circa 700,000.
An easy prediction is more than 100,000 Rangers fans, mostly without tickets, will congregate centrally and make segmentation and control very difficult.
Self-Policing is Best
The Tartan Army have it perfected to the point when it is not even visible and seldom needed.
I hope that our Scottish fans see this visit to Spain as a chance to adopt the good natured attitude that makes the Tartan Army welcome wherever they go.
And maybe the vastly increased presence of women and kids in both camps will help soften the atmosphere.
Someone has to win on the night.
I hope it will be Rangers.
But it might not be.
And maybe the actions of both sets of fans can demonstrate that football is a power for uniting us.
3. Human Rights on Our Watch
Everyone knows Gianni Infantino is the Grand Fromage at Fifa.
He is now a resident of Doha, Qatar but earlier this week was speaking at the Los Angeles, Miliken Institute’s Global Conference.
Obviously an important, and very self-important chap too, his invitation was to have a conversation on “Managing the beautiful game”.
The actual conference intro-bull had said, “Join us as we cover his work to promote equality in professional sport, on and off the field, consider the rising role of technology, and we’ll discuss ground-breaking tools, and explore the power of sports unifying people across the globe’.
International non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigate and document human rights violations and advocate policies to prevent such abuses.
They watched and later summed up his wee talk in a statement.
“Infantino insulted migrant workers in Qatar and shockingly downplayed deaths and hardships of those migrants who have literally built the 2022 World Cup”.
When he was later asked whether Fifa would support families of migrant workers who had died building Qatar’s World Cup stadia, he decided to answer a different and unasked question and supported his new hosts Qatar saying,
“When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride”
(Maybe he was also thinking about his favourite film “Bridge over the River Kwai’ when Colonel Saito kindly gave work to the inmates of a Japanese POW camp).
HRW finished off their summary of his appearance by saying, “Fifa (and Infantino) should step up and meet its human rights responsibilities instead of covering up for ugly labour abuses behind ‘his’ beautiful game”.
In the meantime Infantino is also expected to return from Qatar to Switzerland later this month to be interviewed by two special Swiss prosecutors in a criminal investigation into his own conduct.
What goes around and all that.
4. Pyramid Politics
Believe it or not the chaps who run the Lowland League are now trying to find a way for 3 guest clubs to join them next year!
Having allowed Celtic and Rangers colts to join for 1 year only they revisited that agreement and first finagled a vote to allow 2 guest clubs for another year.
For a wee fee.
Deal was done, until Hearts also applied on behalf of their colts side too and for a while it was 3 into 2 wouldn’t go.
An advert was constructed and clubs were asked to apply to be a ‘guest’ in the Lowland League.
Having knocked back all the boys clubs and brownie pack teams who subsequently applied, the LL Board now want to admit Celtic, Rangers and Hearts and I will share their appeal to members from their website, typo and all.
“Cleary the inclusion of three guest clubs would require the current format of the Lowland League to be altered so the board has entered into a period of consultation with member clubs to gauge the collective appetite for such a move – while talks with other key stakeholders would, naturally follow before any conclusion could be reached”.
I like the phrase. Every business has them.
Most listen to them.
But I don’t think the LL Board’s meaning of Key Stakeholders is the same as mine.
Here are some suggestions of Key people they should have been keen to speak to as stakeholders in their league and place in the pyramid.
Key Feeder Clubs for The LL to Consult?
How about Darvel or Auchinleck who head up the West of Scotland League?
(Darvel lead by 4 points with 2 games to play and just need to beat Killwinning or Irvine to be worthy champions)
Or how about St Cuthbert’s Wanderers who lead the South of Scotland League by 10 points?
Or Tranent or Penicuik, fighting out to win the East of Scotland Premier division with 2 games left.
The eventual winner of each feeder league will go into a three way round robin to replace Vale of Leithen in the Lowland League.
(I can sadly guarantee that the Lowland League will speak to none of these stakeholders).
The SFA/SPFL Stakeholders?
Stewart Regan’s vision was a clean and vibrant pyramid.
What we have isn’t.
It is also a hard, ugly, and self-harming fact that there is no Reserve League in Scotland and that under 20 sides playing other under 20 sides don’t bring our kids on enough.
A task well above the LL Board pay grade but not the SFA/ SPFL
Ian, Neil, do something about that and form a Reserve League.
Think creatively about how to make it a good one.
(But in the meantime the LL Board won’t speak to the SFA either and have no link to the SPFL, such is Scottish football).
In the Meantime Bonnyrigg Rose Sell Out
Not in a bad way like when Dylan went electric at the Isle of Wight.
(I don’t mean that, but he was accused of such).
Unlike other LL clubs Bonnyrigg Rose asked their community and voted against the LL Board plans.
And having beaten Fraserburgh 3-2 on aggregate the Rose have now sold all their tickets for tomorrow’s match with Cowdenbeath.
It will be a great game and should be on TV live too.
Not sure why it isn’t.
The real nonsense is tomorrow Rose should be in a play-off with second bottom Elgin City and Cowdenbeath, as wooden spooners, should already be in the Lowland League.
When you look at the energy that recent new entrants Cove and Edinburgh City have brought to our game it is embarrassing how those hanging on to power are trying to prevent change for the common good.
And there has to be an easier and fairer way back for Berwick, Brechin East Stirling and other clubs in the future too.
It is a two way street.
5. What is £688.94 Between Old Friends?
The price of a bottle of Barca Vella Red.
It is Jose Mourinho’s favourite tipple.
If you can find one for sale, the 2008 vintage will deliver “an intense harmonious and complex bouquet, ripe red fruit, floral lavender notes and spice”.
Said to be the best of the Douro.
The story is Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers gifted one to his old Chelsea boss Jose last week when Roma played Leicester in the Europa Conference semi.
They were due to share it last night after the match where Roma shaded it 1-0 to reach the final.
I hope they still did, and that it hadn’t soured.
Football can be about friendship as much as rivalry.
As always feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football and I’m happy if you want to send me bottles of Barca Vella Red too.
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