Tuesday, 17 December 2013

There's fight in the old Greeks yet...

Greek football is on the resurgence and having recently qualified for the World Cup in the play-off against Romania with a 4-2 aggregate score, the passion of the World Cup is rippling back again in Athens. Currently in economic meltdown, the years of 2004 and European Cup glory are very far behind the Greeks but they still echo firmly in the minds of those who remember that final against Portugal. 

I’m an Englishman, first and foremost but even I still shed a tear when I re-watch highlights of that final I shed a tear because I know that for the Greeks, football is everything. When Greece won it, I bawled like a baby.

It was Churchill that said after World War Two, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”, and this is true during any of their David and Goliath fights that the Greeks have found themselves up against in the history books, be it football, basketball or any other endeavour.
Mitroglou fires home against Romania.
A small nation, of roughly eleven million people, Greece has never really punched above its weight in international fixtures when it has come to facing the giants of Europe. Terrific derbies versus their old enemy Turkey have been the only worthwhile fixtures in the Greek calendar. But that one sequence of events in 2004, with enough determination and belief ‘the Pirate Ship’ (as they were affectionately known – a term used by Greek sports broadcasters) Otto Rehhagel under the captainship of Theodoros Zagorakis, found themselves in an European Cup final against Portugal. We English-Greeks had to listen to the likes of Lawrenson et al and those dour, useless, for-some-reason-still-employed, English broadcasters moan and belittle the Greek’s presence in the cup throughout the Group Stage, Quarters and Semi finals. We had to listen to their absolute bile through 90 minutes and then through every analysis.

I was deeply offended at the time and felt that their words edged on xenophobia. Even today I hear people criticise the formation and tactics of the Greek team that summer, but really, how did everyone expect Greece to play against the likes of Russian, Portugal (twice), Spain and France? These are the same commentators that give Stoke or Sunderland credit when they dig deep and win one nil at White Hart Lane? Yet these are the same heads that called Greece boring and ‘negative’. Greece are never going to be world beaters but that one year they dug deep and congratulations for doing so. England have the fancy facilities, the Oxygen chambers and their players have millions of pounds in the bank but if the England team is lacking in one thing the Greeks will always have, it’s passion. This is when I first began to see why my Scottish friends so frequently get upset with the English media.

Karagounis expresses his disdain at not being awarded a penalty.
Look at Giorgios Karagounis a man who is the most famous Greek footballer, arguably, of all time. The David Beckham of Greece as he is known, but at 36, his influence as a player will be diminishing and the World Cup in Brazil will definitely be his last competition as a Greek player and whether he chooses a career in management, or coaching, will be his choice. I find him an ideal role model for Greek football worldwide, his mentality in interviews and on the pitch is what any fan wants from a footballer. 

The celebrations for the goals he scores, his eyes, the sheer dedication that radiates from him. His sheers anger at getting booked for diving against Russia in the group stage in the European Finals in 2004 really encapsulated his personality. It was a Gascoigne moment for him. But Giorgios never cried, he roared and screamed and the pain on his face was visible. This was a man who was unfairly denied his chance in a Quarter Final, a pinnacle that he would never expect to achieve in his life time and his passion was exact and not just for the cameras. I am glad he has found at least a small input in a struggling Fulham squad this season but it will be a shame to see him eventually go. His passion still the same as it ever was. He stormed on the pitch to congratulate Mitroglou on that first goal in the second leg versus Romania just last week, despite being a sub and wearing a bib. This is something you would never expect and England player to do. They’d just sit there, smile and refresh their Twitter feed saying something ‘congratulations lads that was a good gole’ (sic.).

Nikos Dabizas squares up to Tottenham's Teddy Sheringham.
Karagounis is an interesting topic. He has had a few starts for Fulham this season, scoring the odd goal in his tenure – but, unfortunately, Greek participation in the major football leagues is thin on the ground. In the Premier League there is Apostolos Vellios for Everton, who is not exactly what someone would call a prolific striker; or Charolampos Mavrias, currently just joined at Sunderland, still looking to make an impression. There is of course Dimitrios Konstantopoulos who is reserve goalkeeper for Middlesbrough, but there is very little point him even being mentioned, as his CV shows very little other than being goalkeeper when AEK Athens were relegated for the first time in their long history. One would look towards the history of England and see Newcastle’s Nikos Dabizas (a moniker I actually used to write under) but still find their countrymen underrepresented in a league that covers such a variety of nations. Theo Zagorakis played briefly yet well for Leicester City while Angelos Basinas felt himself frozen out at Portsmouth and Stellios Giannakopoulos did a fair old stint at Bolton. I raise the question, was the idea of a ‘Greek’ too much of a risk for a league that was increasingly turning to Spain, Italy, South America for their talent pool? Maybe so.
Greece have a wealth of young talent, including Sokratis Papastathopoulos who plays for Borussia Dortmund, as well as Kryiakos Papadopoulos who plays for FC Shalke. Striker Kostas Mitroglou, is top scorer for Olympiakos this season and top scorer in the Greece Super League. With 14 goals already and brimming with confidence he has been garnering interest from England including scouting attempts from Liverpool, who have also shown an interest in Papadopoulos at Shalke too. Mitroglou’s effort at international level has been nothing short of incredible as without his goal scoring, Greece would be nowhere in the competition. All these players are at 25 years of age and this could be a year where Greece could expect to escape the group stage. As the days go by I am reading more about interest from Mitroglou and his ability as a complete footballer is astonishing. His strength, his touch and his ability to shield the ball echoes a Greek Didier Drogba; although he will obviously expect never to rise to the same heights. If, indeed Brendan Rogers does take the risk on Kostas Mitroglou; and a risk it most certainly will be, I hope it pays off.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Breaking News - Idiot spends £3k on baby girl decor, only to give birth to a boy.

Boo bloody HOO.
Yeah, can you believe it? The latest sulky woman to be photographed by the Daily Mail is in the news for the simple reason that she was stupid enough to spend £3000 on baby decorations and personalised outfits only for the baby to be born a different sex. This is apparently newsworthy.

True to absolute form the Daily Mail have done a full shoot with the twenty five year old Sarah Sharples sitting there surrounded by pink clothes looking as if she had just had all of her children die in a house-fire. In reality poor little Lily Mae was simply born with a cock. Mothers are told that the sex test is never 100% and if you can afford to spend £3000 on a baby that's not even born yet, you can afford to lose it like the fucking muppet you are.
Hello, this is what stupid looks like.

Amanda from Durham had it bang on in the comments when she said "I once spent £7.32 on chicken and vegetables for tea then when my husband got home from work he fancied chilli... Where's my story?"

The Daily Mail rewards stupidity too often. Or how about this for a suggestion? Put it on eBay and resell the stuff? Or ideally, get off my computer screen you absolute clown.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The BBC versus

Should the BBC strive to show all major sporting competitions that involve the Home Nations, at least on Freeview? Take the Ashes for example; shouldn't there be a large portion of licence fee money put aside to make sure that ordinary people can support their country without having to subscribe to Sky? The World Cup and Olympics are shown on the BBC, but we have to emphasise the fact that the BBC is a public service and its interests should be in encouraging people to get behind their country in important sporting achievements.

I mean, instead of showing below-par comedies or piling money into terrestrial travesties like 'The One Show' or Gaelic documentaries that only 0.00000000001% of the population can understand, why doesn't the BBC realise that it would be better to show sporting events that the entire population can get behind?

Remember, this is the same BBC that spends £54m on its highest earning stars. Here's an idea, let's put a bullet through Matt Lucas and David Walliams and get the cricket and some Premiership or even FA Cup games on the box. Deal?

Friday, 7 January 2011

Facebook - add me as a friend.

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you've asked someone a question, when you already know the answer from Facebook?

That girl you bump into in the street. Oh so you have a boyfriend now? Knowing full well she does after quietly perusing her Facebook page for hours, berating the fact that you should have asked her out first when you had the chance.

'Oh, so what's he called?' you innocently ask her, despite knowing that he is called Tom, aged 21, lives in Manchester, likes cricket, diving and Charlton Athletic FC and goes by the nickname 'Bugsy' to his closest friends. She doesn't know what's going through your mind, if she did would she even touch you with a bargepole? Would she even look up when crossing you in the street? or would she forever label you as the weird guy who stalked her and her boyfriend on Facebook?

Now you and your friends might be shouting a resounding 'YES' as the computer screen, but this is exactly what Facebook was designed for. If you haven't seen the film The Social Network, which documents the rise of what was initially called 'The Facebook', one large reason why the website is created was to establish whether a girl was 'single' or 'in a relationship' - and this information is now freely available on everyone's Facebook page.

Surely browsing her photos is merely an extension of this? You can imagine the thought process. Now, is X girl single? Yes. Hurdle one completed. Now, I wonder if girl X is as beautiful as I first thought. Yes. Hurdle too is also completely brushed aside. Now, I wonder what girl X looks like in a swimsuit... I wonder if she'll age well? As you furiously try and find her mother in a photo. I put this to you, at which stage is this stalking?

Is this perverse, is this creepy, or is it just the natural progression of what Facebook was initially intended for?

The thing is it's so terrifyingly easy to do. You can be browsing a friends holiday photos, quickly get distracted by a person they'd met abroad in the photo, click through to their profile and soon enough you're going through their sister's cousin's step-mother's adoptive daugher's wedding photos in Trinidad and Tobago unearthing a untold amount of strangers up on your screen. Little do those in the photo know that they're currently being spied upon from someone they've never met in the South East of England.

The thing is, it really is a great tool on checking on old school mates. Whether those girls who you knew back at primary school were pregnant. You know the ones who were always around the boys and would randomly pick one of us every day to give them a kiss. Or whether that guy who always sat at the front of the class got a girlfriend yet. Or whether the guy who always used to come in in a dress had had that operation yet. Things like this make Facebook great.

Facebook brings up very different problems. I was watching an episode of Traffic Cops on the Beeb the other day, and a fifty year old woman was pretending to be her thirty year old daughter in order to hide the fact that she only had a provisional driving licence. The name of the daugher was released freely into the public domain not bleeped out, no nothing. I twigged that the name was a bit of an odd one, so I thoughtlessly tapped it into Facebook to see what I'd find.

Sure enough the daughter popped up and in her main photo she was hugging her mum who I'd just seen being arrested for wasting police time. Isn't this a bit of an invasion of privacy? Or should people just learn to click the 'Make Profile Private' button flashing in their security settings. Or should the BBC learn to not publish names of people that haven't actually committed a crime?

Isn't this so horribly creepy, but then isn't this also the reason people sign onto Facebook - in order to inform those around them of their personal details?

Facebook will remain to be a stalkers paradise, where teenagers and twentysomethings will always push boundaries as to what information they can find out on girls, boys and people they see on TV. At least, this is what my friends tell me they do...

Dave is clearly excited after he's realised Maggie from number 53 is in fact single, a virgo and looks great in a one-piece.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Apprentice

Yes, the Apprentice Series Six is over, and wasn't it a cracker? Um. Well it was basically the same as every other one, but I am a fan of the show and it remains, despite its repetitive nature, hugely entertaining to watch. Other programs take note. Sir Alan/Lord Sugar is still as cringeworthy as usual with his bought peerage and pre-prepared jokes. Watching him speak is like watching a drunk dispraxic elderly lady recite Gareth Gates quotes.

Even though I remain always adamant that all of the candidates are fucking useless, Stella and Chris were probably deserved finalists. But were they really that great? Not really. Could I have done a better job? Probably yes. But of course I'd say that.

I actually could though.

The most irritatingly irritating thing about this show is the fundamental misconception that the successful potential Apprentices are all "brilliant". All of them bastardised the English language, all of them used even basic words out of context and some of them even struggled to use a mobile phone. How about instead of trawling all of East London asking what a 'single gold tikka' is, why don't you tap the word into Google? Even if doing that was banned didn't they realise that there might be a correlation with the word 'tikka' and India? Clearly common sense isn't a pre-requisite to apply for the show.

We had Melissa Cohen who genuinely thought that "karmically" and "retributed" were actual words. Now you can't really pick on just her for being an absolutely huge idiot - well you can, but in the same way you can't call someone with cerebral palsy 'a spastic'. The trend on this years Apprentice was to use as many big words as pysically possible and weren't they used horrifically.

Nick Hewer commented that Chris was the most articulate candidate they'd ever had. Well that's not fucking hard is it Nick?

It's a shame that the candidates are picked purely to make TV. If it was actually a show that was entirely based on skillful entrepreneurs who really were brilliant candidates then I think the show would be equally as entertaining. But I guess it will just continue to be riddled with morons. But then again, who else would want to work for Alan Sugar?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

England Expects to Expect

So England are bundled out of yet another World Cup, which leaves every Englishman, like me, scratching their heads wondering 'What went wrong, again?' - well I'll tell you in a few secs. Don't worry, we will win a World Cup again, we WILL hold that beautiful golden cup aloft, but things need to change. Things cannot keep going on like they are, it just won't work. We're not the butt of the biggest joke in footballing conspiracy, we're just not good enough - and it's not even the fault of the footballers.

Put quite simply English football is the victim of itself. The Premier League is the best league in the world yet our national team fails to even compete adequately at international level whereas the Bundesliga and Germany are the complete opposite. Spat out by a young German team, England really weren't up to it. The Germans made our hardened internationals look like Sunday League amateurs, yet in August the likes of John Terry and Wayne Rooney will return to their club teams and forget the World Cup even happened.

The reality is, the Premier League's success is down to one thing; foreigners. We would be nothing without the likes of Didier Drogba, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, Florent Malouda propping up our league. Where are the English managers? There's only two that come to mind that are vaguely worth their salt, and that's Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson. Foreigners are the main infrastructure of the Premier League and the dependence on foreign imports NEEDS to stop if we're going to see any progress in the national game. Arsenal are the main offenders providing a shocking FOUR PLAYERS to the national pool, and only one, Theo Walcott, was close to making it. Naturally their manager is also not English. How are we going to develop our own players or own staff for the national game when our international team players barely see regular football or regular coaching experience.

When was the last team a foreign manager won the World Cup?

Is there any motivation for the national team? Are they really interested in 'England' or national pride whatsoever? We invented the game, we perfected it, yet we so casually fail at it. A country of 50 million people, 25 million of whom are men and yet we can barely string a decent back four together or even a decent trustworthy goalkeeper. As the advert says, 'Do it for yourselves, the fans, do it for Bobby' - but are the England players interested in either of those concepts? As long as they get home to their £125,000 a week does the dreams and hopes of millions of England fans even affect their mentality to international football?

Probably not. And that's the reality. England 2018 - we might actually win that one.

Anyway, in the mean time everyone in England is back to being labelled as 'British' for the next two years - come on Andy Murray. NOT.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tragedy into Publicity

Poor Gordon Brown's having yet another tough week after it has emerged he misspelt a dead soldier's name on a condolence letter sent to his grieving mother, Jacqui Janes whose son Jamie was killed in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in October. For one reason or another this story has ended up slap bang on the Editor of the Sun's desk and there are now various videos of Jacqui on the Sun website calling it disgusting and other, equally as emotive, superlatives.

So, bearing in mind the guy has ONE eye, and will probably be borderline blind in a matter of years, isn't it a bit of a low-blow to have a pop at his handwriting? Before the Sun got hold of this publicity coup didn't Mrs Janes at least think that her son would rather she didn't make a huge furore? I know I would. I'm not Gordon's biggest fan, nor am I remotely sticking up for the government, but I would say that it's a good idea to maintain a modicum of perspective in this matter - or at least a modicum of dignity. Having my mother weeping on Prime Time television is hardly what I would want.

Frankly, the fact that Jacqui Janes allowed the Sun to the entire phone conversation discussing her dead son with Gordon Brown is the most shameful aspect of this story, not simple misspellings. Then again, grief works in mysterious ways but does it lead the brain to make a quick phonecall to the Sun switchboard?

Gordon done wrong. He knows it. He knows that that letter should have been proofread and spellchecked a thousand times by his team of PA's and advisors before it had been sent out, but maybe his intern was protesting at the lack of pay he was getting and refused to do his job properly?