Tuesday, January 4, 2011

World Football: Villains of 2010

The highs and lows of 2010 have been extreme to put it mildly. From gun toting separatists in Africa last January to an Octopus called Paul in June and possibly the greatest team of all time in November, 2010 has been a year to remember, or forget depending upon which team you follow.

Here, we look at some of the villains of the last 12 months. Some stories have been covered by every media outlet under the sun and some have just slipped past their mighty radars.

However, each and every one is just as important as each other as they thread a careful weave through the labyrinthine tapestry that is the footballing year of 2010.

January’s Villain: CAF

The football year kicked off in the worst way possible when, just two days before the African Cup of Nations commenced, the Togo team bus was attacked by extreme separatists in Angola.

With two members of their delegation murdered in the ambush Togo, under the guidance of their government, understandably, decided to pull out of the tournament.

However, the CAF (Confederation of African Football) looked upon this move poorly and duly decided to fine the Togo FA $50,000 and ban them from playing in the next two ACN competitions.

February’s Villain: Harrods

With Roy Hodgson’s Fulham going great guns in Europe (I know it seems so long ago…) they welcomed Shaktar Donetsk to Craven Cottage.

The then-current Europa League holders decided to do a little bit of shopping before the match. As Mohammad Al-Fayed owns Fulham and the world famous department store Harrods, Shaktar’s players, some of the highest paid in Europe, wanted to go to spend some of their well earned mulah.

They hadn’t counted on Harrods security though, who refused entry to the entire Eastern European delegation because they looked “too big and suspicious.”

The players all clad in tracksuits, tried to explain who they were but to no avail, so they spent their money elsewhere…

March’s Villain: San Luca

It has been a rough old year for Italian football. A flagging league, racial tension at matches, and San Luca added to the whole messy pile.

16 players from Italian amateur side san Luca were suspended for two matches after they wore black armbands to mourn the death of Antonio Pelle, a local mafia boss…

Aprils’ Villain: Sir Alex Ferguson

The great manager that is Sir Alex Ferguson put all of his eggs in one basket in April when he gambled Manchester United’s entire season on Wayne Rooney’s injured ankle.

Rooney was in obvious distress from the very first moment he took to the pitch in the return Champions League Quarter Final against Bayern Munich.

Had Ferguson rested Rooney, who knows what the rest of 2010 would have given us?

The ramifications from that night in early April ran on through the rest of United’s season as they drifted off Chelsea’s pace, through England’s World Cup in South Africa and then it planted the seed of disharmony between Ferguson and Rooney that ultimately led to the striker seeking a new contract.

May’s Villain: Jose Mourinho

To their credit, Inter Milan deservedly won the Champions League in 2010. They were by far the better team.
That is where this argument lies.

They were so much better that Bayern Munich that the lack of ambition they showed in the final against an opponent of such lesser quality was an insult to the game.

Mourinho’s decision to play a counter attacking game off Bayern’s weaknesses rather than his own teams attacking strengths left a legacy of defensive tactics that will inspire unimaginative coaches all over the world.

June’s Villain: The Jabulani

Aero grooves, 3D triangle panels, less panels on a ball than ever before, more aerodynamic than ever before, blah, blah, blah.

The Jabulani was an unmitigated disaster for FIFA and more importantly, the World Cup.

There were obvious problems with the ball right from the off and FIFA’s and Adidas’ marketing people have a lot to live up to for Brazil 2014.

Put your money on a retro return to a 1970 style black and white Telstar for 2014.

July’s Villain: Holland

Howard Webb and Bert van Maarwijk are close to pushing Holland out of the villain seat for July but the thuggish manner of their play in the World Cup Final means that nobody would even get near to pushing them out of their rightful throne.

The only real surprise from the final is that only one Dutch player was sent off, Johnny Heitinga, when in reality at least three if not four players could have walked.

Augusts’ Villain: Lokomotiv Moscow Fans

Peter Odemwinjie played for Lokomotiv Moscow for three successful seasons between 2007 and 2010. The Tashkent born Nigerian-Russian helped his side win the Russian Cup for a record fifth time in 2007 and was instrumental as Lokomotiv finished fourth in 2009 in what is rapidly becoming one of the most competitive leagues in Europe.

However, the $14 million signing from Lille was unhappy at the regular racial abuse he suffered from not only opposing fans but his own fans as well so in August 2010 he moved to West Brom on a three year deal.
The following weekend, his old Lokomotiv fans unfurled a racist banner thanking West Brom for taking Odemwinjie off their hands.

Incidentally, Lokomotiv lost 3-0 to Dynamo Moscow while Odemwinjie scored on his debut for the Baggies.

September’s Villain: Neymar

In the eyes of many he is the most gifted Brazilian player since Pele. However, he has none of the legends attitude or class.

The famous tantrum incident with Dorival Jr., his manager, came about after the youngster was taken down for a penalty against Atletico Goianiense. With Neymar having missed Santos’ last three penalties, Dorival decided to chose another player for the vital spot-kick.

As the penalty was scored Neymar berated Dorival and his team mates on the bench from a height in a tantrum that a two-year-old would have been proud of.

Dorival Jr. was sacked a few days later…

October’s Villain: Ivan Bogdanov

In October the Euro 2012 qualifier between Italy and Serbia was called off after just nine minutes after Serbian fans threw flares at Italian goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.

The game had already been suspended for 30 minutes as police struggled to control the crowd.
Ivan Bogdanov was one of the main ring-leaders on that ill boding evening.

The mastermind climbed the fence before producing a wire snips and then proceeded to cut the netting so flares could be thrown onto the pitch.

On leaving the ground, aware that he was public enemy number one but happy because he had concealed his face, he decided to hide in the boot of a car just to be sure that Italian police would not arrest him.

They searched high and low for the Serb and eventually found him and identified him through his tattoos…

November’s Villain: Jose Mourinho

November was most definitely a month to forget for Jose Mourinho, as the Portuguese makes his second entry into the villain list. Not only did he suffer the greatest defeat of his career (Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid) he also diminished his own great standing in the game by ordering two of his own players to get sent off in a Champions League match against Ajax.

There can be little doubt that Mourinho shamed not only his own legacy but the game in general by resorting to such a base approach to football.

December’s Villain: The FIFA Exco

What would a football villain list be without Sepp Blatter?

In December the FIFA Exco. met and awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Arguments can be made both for and against these choices but that is not why the Exco made the list.
While it can be said that these particular choices were the right ones it is apparent to all who watch football that there is something wrong at the very top in FIFA. The very system the game’s governing body employs actually promotes cronyism and corruption and should be changed "for the good of the game."

Although given Blatter has continued on exactly where Joao Havelange left off a couple of decades ago it looks very unlikely that change will come around any time soon.