cricket was left out

The government was determined to drive up productivity in British factories as the country tried to get back on its feet after the second world war, and felt that eliminating the distraction of midweek sport would help in that endeavour (cricket was left out because it didn’t distract many people of working age). (The Guardian)

Unwelcome Distraction

Mandeep Sanghera writes that Željko Buvač’s departure from Liverpool right before the second-leg of the Champion’s League Final will be “an unwelcome distraction for Klopp and Liverpool when they went sole focus to be on events in Rome on Wednesday night.” But one can also see it as a welcome distraction; giving other people something to talk about while the players focus on the game.

Salah and Laporte

The retired Austrian footballer Roman Mählich is not as dumb as he looks. Witness his intelligent analysis of Mohammed Salah’s goal in the Champions League Quater-Final against Manchester City. He shows why Guardiola played Aymeric Laporte at left-back, and why it didn’t work for the Salah goal. Not because “centre-backs can’t play full-back” or some such superstition. But simply because Laporte had been sent forward to attack the ball at a set-piece.

Zidane Returns to Turin

Juventus should have won the 1998 Champions’ League Final against Real Madrid. But they didn’t. Their line-up featured Edgar Davids and  Zinedine Zidane in midfield (with Antonio Conte on the bench!), and a front two of Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro del Piero. They were the dominant side in Europe, high on confidence. Whereas Madrid were full of fear. Even Mijatovic was full of fear, even though, as Sid Lowe describes, he also had a premonition of victory:

Predrag Mijatovic was hit by a revelation in the middle of the night before the 1998 European Cup final. Unable to sleep, he walked into the bathroom at the team’s hotel in the woods outside Amsterdam, looked in the mirror and, standing there, ‘saw’ it: Madrid were going to defeat Juventus and he was going to get the goal. He splashed water on his face, climbed back into bed and said to Davor Suker: “Davor, we’re going to win 1-0 tomorrow.” And that was exactly what happened. Mijatovic looks on that game as something mystical. He should not even have played: he had hidden an injury from his manager, refusing to practise a penalty at the end of the final training session, telling Jupp Heynckes they would not need a shootout. “Better to look arrogant than injured,” he recalls, but he feared tearing his calf.

The game marked a decisive shift in the balance of power in European football— arguably the end of the Serie A’s glory days.

Zinedine Zidane was in that losing Juve side, but a few years later he would transfer to Madrid. Now he returns to Turin as Madrid manager. Madrid ought to win. They have been one of the two dominant sides in Europe for some time now. Whereas Juventus merely dominated a Serie A which is now arguably only the 4th best league in Europe. But I have a feeling that Madrid and Zidane will lose.

Update: Clearly my premonitions are less reliable than those of Predrag Mijatovic.

shifts in the intensity of time

Yet what happens in our experience of football is that time accelerates and decelerates – when you’re watching football you experience these kind of shifts in the intensity of time. And that’s very interesting, because that’s a very good illustration of the way time is actually experienced. We don’t experience it as a continuum; it’s a series of intensities that morph in shape and develop, and there can be periods of intense boredom and then periods of instant acceleration. The odd thing about football is that it reveals something really important about the malleable quality of time, I think. (Simon Critchley)

In Memoriam Football Weekly

To cries of WHAT? NO! around the globe, James Richardson has left The Guardian Football Weekly. The end of an era. A sad day. Football weekly was simply the best. As Richard Whittall put it so well:

I’d stumbled on the sort of conversation I’d always wanted to have about football… Hosted by Italophile pun-spinner James Richardson and side-kicked by Irish buzz-kill Barry Glendenning, featuring a rotating cast of international scribes like Rafa Honigstein and Fernando Duarte, the show regarded football both as a matter of life and death and a mere trifle, in other words, as it is. And, contrary to my expectations, everyone was as funny as hell—I would be often caught sniggering like a schoolboy while listening to the pod on the streetcar in my Toronto neighbourhood.