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Football & Travel for the big tournaments including World Cup, European Championships, J-League, K-League, A-League, Premiership.



Last Build Date: Wed, 24 May 2017 06:58:38 PDT

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One night to shine in Sweden

Wed, 24 May 2017 06:58:38 PDT

UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL 2017Manchester United v AjaxFriends Arena, Stockholm 19:45 GMTThe heat appears to be on Manchester United tonight, or more specifically Jose Mourinho.The club is bigger and richer than Ajax and demands success so winning the Europa League against a lesser side is expected at boardroom level.Louis Van Gaal was given two years and did not deliver so was sacked, Mourinho is well aware.But the so-called special one has so far failed to apply his Midas touch to the Red Devils since arriving last summer and has even managed to finish lower than Louis Van Gaal did during his two-year reign at Old Trafford.Mourinho has jettisoned any humour or wit in the past few weeks for earnest seriousness as he has homed in on the Stockholm final for his make-or-break 90 minutes this season.Fielding below-strength sides should in a perfect world incur a penalty but sympathy for the logic of the manager's stance is axiomatic.The former Champions League and Europa League winner is clearly under tremendous pressure to win in Stockholm so we can cut him some slack.Man Utd shelled out a fortune last summer, not least £89 million on Paul Pogba from Juventus, yet have failed to qualify for the Champions League from the Premier League.Despite their youth, Ajax have been the far more impressive team in the knock-out stages, winning big with an elan and fluency the Man U fans can only remember wistfully after the error-strewn David Moyes era, two years of possession-marinating under Van Gaal and another fitful, stuttering season this time around.Then to cap it all, United players have been dropping like flies to injury. Were centre-backs Eric Bailly and Marcus Rojo as well as former Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the field, one would surely tip the English side to overcome the Dutch one.Yet the now the outcome hangs decidedly in the balance.Have no doubt,  despite their injury headaches, Man U's pre-match analysts have been working long into the night with Mourinho to hatch a plan to defeat Ajax.United have lumbered through the lesser of UEFA's two big club competitions winning few admirers with their lone-goal aggregate victories while failing to provide any rousing victories for their home supporters.Mourinho is well-known for putting results before style however and as a master tactician for the big occasion he is probably without comparison, but this winner-takes-all tie is his biggest test yet.In United's favour of course is their superior experience, a factor boosted by Ajax's near collapse in their semi-final second leg when they scraped through 5-4 on aggregate having led 4-1 from the first leg.At their best this young Amsterdam side look irresistible, as in their home wins over Schalke and Lyon. The club best known for valuing style over results tonight meets the manager proud to preach the opposite.Memories inevitably hark back to the glorious kids of 1995 who won the European Cup, but that side and its system was quite regimented as befitted its coach Van Gaal, a man who clashed with Johan Cruyff and his footballing philosophies.Ajax's current manager Peter Bosz however takes his cue from his mentor Johan Cruyff's desire to let flare into the equation.Patrick Kluivert who scored the '95 winner is back in the form of his son Justin, while Edwin Van der Sar and Marc Overmars are part of the back-room staff alongside Dennis Bergkamp and Winston Bogarde.Will this side of starlets go the same way as the '95 outfit and be cherry-picked by bigger, richer European sides than Ajax?Danish teenage striker Kasper Dolberg, Colombian centre-back Davinson Sanchez and midfielders Davy Klaasen and Hakim Ziyech are already firmly on the radar of other teams.Perhaps then the pressure is just as much on Ajax tonight as after over twenty years of restructuring, internecine disputes and struggle, the club has finally reached another European final.If they win, the lure of the Champions League may be enough to keep their side intact. Lose, and another wonderful Dutch dynasty could be over just as it was getting started.(c) [...]



Cardiff's big night of the Champions League final

Sun, 14 May 2017 11:24:41 PDT

I am delighted Cardiff, the first city I made my home, is hosting next month's UEFA Champions League Final, but I am also keen it puts on a good show to the continent and increasingly the world.Whilst no-one can deny the impressive 74,500 Millennium Stadium is a fine venue for any soccer showpiece, eyebrows everywhere have been raised at the realisation that Cardiff is a little on the small size as a city (population 340,000) and does not have a major airport nearby.Cardiff-Wales airport flies a summer timetable largely to beach resorts. Hopefully there will be extra flights laid on from Madrid and Turin, the two finalist cities.Whilst the Welsh capital has experience of dealing with F.A. Cup finals, Football League playoffs and football and rugby internationals, the tens of thousands expected for European football's showdown will be coming from overseas via London so there must be plenty of transport options before and crucially after a game which could go on through extra-time and maybe penalties.Given local hotel rooms for the night have been jacked up to outrageous rates, a depressing occurrence whenever a big sporting event happens, most will be leaving Cardiff the same night.With only 4000 hotel rooms, all booked up some time ago, there is little option other than car hire and hotels further afield, or in one of the tents specially erected in a city park, Pontcanna Fields.The now customary Final Festival will take place around a mile away in Cardiff Bay as the Millennium Stadium itself sits in the very tight streets of the city centre, which of course is a fabulous location for so big a venue. Fans arriving by train at Cardiff Central will see its looming stands and cantilevers as soon as they exit the station.Unlike at Wembley or other out-of-town venues, there are plenty of bars and eateries within a stone's throw of the stadium. If it is a sunny day, Cardiff's ample urban parkland, particularly Bute Park beside the castle will provide a great place to relax and have a kickaround.The centre has two main avenues. Fans will probably stroll down the pedestrianised Queen Street but not linger in the shops. St Mary Street leading to the castle is mostly bars and restaurants and will be buzzing on final day however.The castle, originally Roman but added to by Normans and others, most notably the C19th coal baron the Marquess of Bute, is the one photo stop every visitor will make, its impressive outer walls now surmounted by a blue UEFA dragon clasping the Champions League trophy.There will be road closures and plenty of police but if everyone is relaxed the visiting supporters will enjoy the occasion.I have travelled to Cardiff from London by train on big match days before and found long queues at Paddington Station for passage to the Welsh capital. Pre-booking is of course advised but the fact so many Italians and Spaniards will be landing that day in London none the wiser will surely mean the railways and bus lines need extra capacity.21 post-match trains to London have been promised and I hope that will be enough.In changing the final from Wednesday to Saturday and adding a festival for a few days around it, UEFA have consciously tried to ape the Superbowl, increasing the price of tickets concomitantly, to make it a global event.As much as I love Cardiff, it is not a city on the large side. Only Gelsenkirchen, the 2004 host, was a smaller place but Schalke's home is close to several other German cities in the most densely-populated part of that country.Near to Cardiff there are only other modestly-sized cities like Swansea, Bristol and Bath. The only realistic result is that many will hop back on the London train after the match, meaning four hours of travelling on the day instead of soaking up the atmosphere of the host city.London remains the major pull for overseas fans like it is for visitors. Travelling around Euro '96 it was clear many foreign fans were basing themselves in the capital and returning from Birmingham and Nottingham if not further afield after matches finished.I am sur[...]



Real's familiar machine motors on to Cardiff

Tue, 09 May 2017 10:26:26 PDT

Real Madrid maintained their march of glory in Europe by thumping city rivals Atletico 3-0 in their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg last week.Cristiano Ronaldo scored another hat-trick and bagged yet another record, the first man to reach 50 goals in the knock-out stage of the competition.Barring an almighty upset Los Merengues are heading to Cardiff to defend their trophy on the 3rd of June. But are we excited? Not really.Real of course have won two out of the last three Champions Leagues and FIFA Club World Cup and successfully moved out of the intimidating shadow of the Barcelona renaissance.And yet there is still something underwhelming about Real being the world's top team. Perhaps it is because the core of the side have been there for some years there is no excitement of expectation of the future, or maybe it is because Barça invented a new form of football - tiki-taka, which defied conventional wisdom by attacking through the middle and most congested part of the field with short passes.Real by contrast use the conventional weapons of spreading passes wide, putting balls frequently into the box, and piling in on corners and crosses with aerial threats like Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo and the muscular Karim Benzema.In Ronaldo they also posess the best accelerator in the game and perhaps the best aerial attacker. Gareth Bale we also know has exceptional blessings of pace and power to penetrate the best defences.But a lot of their side underwhelm when considered as footballers alone: Keylor Navas is able between the sticks but not one of Europe's top ten goalkeepers.While Pepe and Sergio Ramos (combined age 65) are evergreen, the rest of their back line do not excite: Fabio Coentrao, Danilo, Nacho and Rafael Varane seem reliable but not exceptional defenders, while Marcelo, a useful crosser of the ball in the final third, has long been error-strewn.In midfield Real seem solid rather than skilful. Toni Kroos is an adequate but unexceptional holding midfielder and even his more creative partner Luka Modric is not as inventive or penetrative as his replacement at Tottenham, Christian Eriksen, who is surely on the Bernabeu radar.Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic has made 24 starts this campaign but only scored once, while Brazilians Casemiro and Danilo hardly get the heart racing either.Young Spanish attacking talent in the form of Isco and Alvaro Morata have played minor roles this season, with 16 and 13 starts this season respectively.Meanwhile James Rodriguez, golden boot winner at the 2014 World Cup for Colombia, has made only 12 starts and eight substitute appearances in 2016/'17, although his eight goals make a decent return.Obviously the system employed by coach Zinedine Zidane works like a treat, based around making the most of Ronaldo's talents and if they are both fit, Bale and Benzema. The midfielders work hard to make sure the back four is not exposed at the other end.And they also have strength in depth, as evinced by their comfortable 4-0 win away at Granada last weekend with a second eleven, a strength which makes up for the lack of galacticos in every position.Clubs with big pockets can afford to have big squads to navigate a variety of competitions and whatever injuries come their way, so what keeps Real ahead of the pack is probably settled players and a simple system, a manager they trust and the high quality of their attackers.There have been more remarkable dynasties in the Champions League/European Cup - think of the Real who won the first five, Cruyff's Ajax of the 1970s, Liverpool of the early 1980s, Milan a decade later or Pep Guardiola's Barça for starters. There have also been some stellar one-off winners: Red Star in 1990 (although they played for penalties in the final they had dazzled on their way there), Louis Van Gaal's youthful Ajax of 1995 and Jose Mourinho's Porto in 2004.But the current crop from the Bernabeu, albeit less obviously outstanding, still deserve to be remembered as dominatin[...]



Fifa World Rankings April 2017

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 07:05:16 PDT

Fifa's World Rankings for April 2017 were published on April 6 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is: Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Chile, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Belgium, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.England are 14th, unchanged from March, still behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales and Poland in 11th. Egypt are the top African team in 19th place.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 50th place; Japan are in the 44th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in the 43th place.The USA are in 23rd. Wales are 13th. Scotland are in 59th position. The Republic of Ireland in 26th place level with Northern Ireland also in joint 26th position.1 Brazil2 Argentina3 Germany4 Chile5 Colombia6 France7 Belgium8 Portugal9 Switzerland10 Spain11 Poland12 Italy13 Wales14 England15 Uruguay16 Mexico17 Peru18 Croatia19 Egypt20 Costa RicaFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer Books & DVDs [...]



Dutch in the ditch

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:55:27 PDT

The latest round of European World Cup qualifiers went largely to script.The big boys all won comfortably - Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and England all registered victories. Surprise European Championship semi-finalists Wales drew again and struggling to make it to Russia next year have probably reverted to type.Only Switzerland and Germany have 100% records after five games. Gibraltar, Lichtenstein, Malta and San Marino kept up their pointless campaigns. As it stands the seven automatic UEFA qualifiers will be France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium and Croatia. In the playoff berths are Sweden, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Montenegro, Slovakia, Italy. Greece and Iceland.Happier days for Dutch fans at World Cup 2010The one stand-out story has to be the demise of the Netherlands, who lost 2-0 in Bulgaria and sacked coach Danny Blind afterwards.As if failing to make it to Euro 2016 was not stunning enough for the doyens of classy soccer, the country which has produced Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullitt, Dennis Bergkamp and Arjen Robben and who finished third at the last World Cup, now languishes fourth in their group behind France, Sweden and Bulgaria.All is not lost. For a first half of the campaign, two wins, a draw and two losses is not qualification form but recovery is still possible. The Dutch sit only three points behind second-place Sweden and a play-off spot.Their rocky road to Russia in Group A so far:06/09/16 Sweden 1:1 Netherlands07/10/16 Netherlands 4:1 Belarus10/10/16 Netherlands 0:1 France13/11/16 Luxembourg 1:3 Netherlands25/03/17 Bulgaria 2:0 NetherlandsThey will surely take three points at home to Luxembourg in their next outing before a tricky trip to Paris at the end of August, where they really need to avoid defeat. Three days later they will have to take revenge at home to Bulgaria before winning in October in Belarus, a side who have surprisingly beaten the Dutch before in qualifying.It looks however, like the fight for the playoff spot will all come down to the final day when the Netherlands host Sweden. What has gone wrong with the Netherlands? It seems to be a classic case of being caught amid an inter-generational transition. Only four of the players who came third in Brazil in 2014 were on the pitch in Sofia: Defenders Bruno Martins Indi and Daley Blind and attackers Arjen Robben and Georginio Wijnaldum.Attention has centred on Danny Blind's fielding of 17 year-old debutant Matthijs De Ligt at centre-back, which even by the Netherlands' standards of developing young stars seemed recklessly premature.The risk turned duly sour as Bulgaria raced into a two-goal lead after twenty minutes and De Ligt was hauled off at half-time. Blind, skipper of Ajax's youthful European Cup-winning team in 1995, may have seen something similar in the young Ajax defender, but it proved his downfall as manager.Fred Grim is the caretaker choice but the KNVB will surely ring up Ronald Koeman to see if they can tempt him from Goodison Park, which seems unlikely.Frank De Boer, most recently Inter coach last season, is a more likely possibility, or maybe Philip Cocu of PSV. One name surprisingly doing the rounds is Louis Van Gaal, who took them to third in WC 2014.Looking at the young faces in Blind's side, none seem obviously to be of the same calibre of the great Dutch players of the last quarter-century, a revival which began with the Euro '88 triumph and featured consecutive Champions League finals for Ajax in the mid 1990's, World Cup semi-finals for the national team in 1998 and 2014 and second place in 2010.Their domestic league was never powerful but now looks increasingly lightweight compared to England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. As with good players, its best managers are easily tempted away. In 2011, Martin Jol wasted little time in swapping Ajax, the great Dutch club, for lowly Fulham in the Premier League.Three years later Ro[...]



Yu keeps the Chinese Dream Alive

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:38:45 PDT

* China kept their slim hopes of making it to Russia 2018 alive with a 1-0 win over South Korea 1-0 in Changsha in their AFC World Cup qualifier this afternoon.Yu Dabao of Beijing Guoan got the only goal for Marcelo Lippi's side in the 34th minute, his nation's second win over Korea in 32 attempts.With four games to play, Iran 1-0 winners in Qatar, remain four points clear of the Reds at the top with Uzbekistan, who fell to a last-gasp penalty away to Syria, a point behind in the playoff position. Despite a 100% home record, Uli Stieleke's Korea have only point in their three matches away from home.China is scattering money around its domestic league to attract overseas stars and its hour must surely come, but fifth out of sixth, their national team's next realistic hope of World Cup participation is at Qatar 2022.In Asia's Group B, Saudi Arabia and Japan occupy the top two slots with 13 points, and Australia are third with ten.The Saudis won 3-0 away in Thailand, Japan won 2-0 in the U.A.E. but Australia could only draw 1-1 in Iraq. The top two in each group go to Russia with the two third-place nations playing off against each other home and away before another two-leg tiebreaker with CONCACAF's fourth-best for the final ticket to Russia.*The South American qualifiers kick off later with Argentina and Colombia, fifth and sixth respectively and out of the automatic qualification spots, desperately seeking home wins against Chile and Bolivia respectively.Elsewhere, second play first in Montevideo where Uruguay host Brazil.* Lukas Podolski's rocket against England last night was the perfect swansong, a Roy of the Rovers winner even every Englishman watching had to doff his cap to and applaud.Germany's wonder goal and result should not make the world champions lie back with confidence they can defend their crown in 2018: For the first half England were clearly the better team with a superior shape and excellent pressing.But for Adam Lallana striking a post and Dele Alli letting Marc-Andre Ter Stegen off the hook with a tame shot, the visitors would have led at the break.In the second half, the usual routine of multiple substitutions altered the nature of the game wholesale.Gareth Southgate can nevertheless leave thrilled by his experimental formation which bodes well for the future. 3-4-3 seems to be the formation flavour of the month, much like 4-2-3-1 was in 2010.* In a rare moment of sanity, FIFA have talked about limiting squad sizes to help increase the competitiveness of top leagues. When Premier League leaders Chelsea can send a whopping 38 players out on loan, something surely must change to even things up.(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile [...]



Fifa World Rankings March 2017

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 06:58:30 PDT

Fifa's World Rankings for March 2017 were published on March 9 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Colombia, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 14th, down one, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales and Poland in joint 12th. Egypt replace Iceland in 20th and are the top African team, ahead of Senegal, who are in 28th place.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 55th place; Japan are in 51st spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 40th place.The USA are in 30th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 24th place, Northern Ireland are in 39th position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 France7 Colombia8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales12 Poland14 England15 Italy16 Croatia17 Mexico18 Peru19 Costa Rica20 EgyptFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer Books & DVDs [...]



New Chelsea Stadium Gets Green Light

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 13:16:59 PST

Chelsea's new 60,000 seat stadium has received final planning permission and should be ready for the 2021-'22 season.The 'matchstick cathedral' design by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, who designed the Beijing Birds' Nest Olympic arena and renovated London's Tate Modern, got the final nod from London Mayor Sadiq Khan today.It will certainly be a distinctive stadium with 264 bent brick piers giving a skeletal surround with no sliding roof although one wonders how much sunlight will penetrate, as with many modern arenas.Best known for the Bird's Nest, possibly the greatest Olympic arena of all time, the firm has also designed football stadia before: Munich's Allianz Arena, Basel's St Jakob Park and Bordeaux's stadium.On the plus side, Chelsea are staying on their historic Stamford Bridge site where they have played since 1905. After a long quest by owner Roman Abramovich to find a new home, a search which included Battersea Power Station, Earls Court exhibition centre and allegedly even an enquiry about Hyde Park, the club is staying put after all.The new stadium will along with Arsenal's Ashburton Grove and Tottenham's rebuilt White Hart Lane be the third club ground in the capital coming in at 60,000 seats (Spurs will have 61,000).As with Tottenham, Chelsea will have to decamp to Wembley while their new home takes shape. Tottenham are due to play at the national stadium from next season but have hinted at waiting an extra season. That might eat into Chelsea's plan to play three years away from home before moving back to the Bridge.Stamford Bridge is the closest London stadium to the city centre, accessible by tube and surrounded by housing, albeit expensive apartments and Georgian avenues rather than the working class terraces which usually accompany English club grounds.It has the wealthiest location of any London club, as part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, although the adjoining Fulham Road was traditionally more blue collar than the neighbouring King's Road and its exclusive boutiques.Unlike at Tottenham, where club owners have slammed City Hall for not subsidising transport improvements to London's most famously hard-to-reach ground, Chelsea has a tube station Fulham Broadway close by and several bus services calling outside the stadium, meaning getting to and from their new home should not be a problem even with an increase in crowds.The name Stamford Bridge refers not to the English Civil War battle but to a crossing of a long-vanished tributary of the Thames, the Stanford or sandy creek.60,000 is a significant increase on the current capacity of 42,000 and will boost the club's coffers as they stake a claim to return to being one of the leading sides in the Champions League, which they won in 2012. As it stands, Arsenal make substantially more money in matchday income.The new capacity will fall short of the ground's record attendance however, 82,905 for the visit of Arsenal in October 1935.London clubs record home attendancesChelsea - 82,905 v Arsenal, 1935Charlton - 75,031 v Aston Villa, 1938Tottenham - 75,038 v Sunderland, 1938*Arsenal - 73,295 v Sunderland, 1935West Ham - 56,985 v Sunderland, 2016Crystal Palace - 51,482 v Burnley, 1979Fulham - 49,335 v Millwall, 1938Millwall - 48,672 v Derby, 1937Brentford - 38,678 v Leicester, 1949Orient - 38,219 v Tottenham, 1929QPR - 35,353 v Leeds, 1974* At White Hart Lane; 85,512 watched Spurs play Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League at Wembley in 2016.(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile [...]



Fifa World Rankings February 2017

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 05:50:35 PDT

Fifa's World Rankings for February 2017 were published on February 9 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Colombia, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th.Senegal are the top African team in 31st place.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 54th place; Japan are in 52nd spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place.The USA are in 29th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 25th place, Northern Ireland are in 39th position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 France7 Colombia8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Poland15 Italy16 Croatia17 Mexico18 Peru19 Costa Rica20 IcelandFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer Books & DVDs [...]



Five Ways To Deal With Bullying

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 20:19:11 PST

When you're a coach, your biggest goal isn't just to win games. Rather, it's to shape the minds and lives of the young people who you work with. This comes from fostering a sense of teamwork and ensuring that all of your players get along.However, when you spot bullying, it can be hard to keep a feeling of teamwork alive. In order for you to keep your team at their very best, here are five ways that coaches can deal with bullying.1. Make It Clear To Everyone That Bullying Isn't ToleratedIf you've been noticing bullying at meets and practices, you don't have to go to the perpetrators directly, at least not right away. Instead, have a quick chat at the beginning of practice about how bullying harms everyone, both as individuals and as a team. Sometimes one of these simple group meetings is all it takes to nip bullying in the bud.2. Talk To Perpetrators DirectlyUnfortunately, not all students will respond to meetings about combatting bullying. If some team members are still participating in hurtful or mean activities, talk to them directly. While a group meeting might not reach them, a one on one discussion can often do the trick.3. Talk To The ParentsAs nice as it'd be if all kids would listen to their coaches and teachers the first time, sometimes it takes the stern voice of Mom or Dad to really drive the anti-bullying message home. If a student continues to bully others despite being spoken to about it, either call the parents or schedule a meeting. Chances are that the parents will take action.4. Administer Disciplinary ActionIf one student doesn't respond to notes home or one on one conversations about the dangers of bullying, it might be time to administer disciplinary action. If a student continues to pick on or abuse others, bench them from a practice. If the behavior continues, bench them from a game or meet.5. Contact The School or Recreation CommitteeSadly, there will always be a few students who don't respond to discussions, notes home or disciplinary action. When you have a student who's caused you to hit a wall, talk to the school or to the recreation committee that oversees your league. If all else fails, suspending the student from a season or indefinitely might be the only option. While we'd like to accommodate all of our players, once in awhile you might encounter young people who simply aren't ready or fit to play team sports.Bullying is a sad reality of youngsters' lives. However, it doesn't have to be an inevitable part of childhood. As long as teachers, school administrators and coaches take an active role in combatting bullying, we can all reduce the amount of harm that our children experience. Ultimately, you want to teach your kids about teamwork and the importance of supporting one another instead of tearing each other down.Jessica Kane is a writer for SteelLocker Sports. A leading provider of sporting goods and training programs for coaches, players, parents and institutions with a primary focus on youth sports. [...]



Two Weeks in Gabon

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 04:58:21 PST

After the final Gabon group match in Libreville six of us went to a nearby restaurant in the dimly lit night. Though it was hard to read the menu, there seemed to be a lot of options.We called the waiter over and he explained that the restaurant's speciality was wine.There were four items on the food menu, and two of them were off.(Do not trust this menu!)That should have made the choice easy, we took so long to decide that I suspect that next time we appear there will only be one item on the menu.The choices were sausage and pork. We ordered 4 sausage meals between us.We waited patiently (I have saved this phrase so I can type at the touch of one key). Eventually after they caught whatever they served they arrived with two plates. One sausage and one pork.The waiter explained that the chef had just told him that this was all they had left.We amicably agreed who would have what, before they arrived with two more plates of pork.Meanwhile we heard a screech of car brakes and a crash. I turned round to see a telegraph pole wobbling.Settling the bill seemed to take as long as the food, as firstly food that they didn't have was added to the bill. Then the adding up was clearly wrong. Then the Germans sorted out who had had what and announced how much person owed based on what they had - well you can't imagine Germans going Dutch can you?Later we waited patiently for a taxi, and flagged one down just near the teetering telegraph pole. He he took a left turn round the roundabout to reach us. (Yes you guessed they drive on the right in Gabon.) Of course he wanted far too much for the fare and if that's how he drives then we made the right decision to carry on waiting patiently.The next day I decided to stay in Libreville and had a lazy day. That was after my morning run and swim, sitting around under the palm trees at the Tropicana, attending Tunisia v Zimbabwe in the evening along with 1,800 others.The final group matches were being played at the same time so now there is only one match to watch each day and tomorrow the action moves to Port Gentil and Oyem for two days.I chose Oyem and made plans on how to get there. Of course I looked to see if there was a flight, but confirmation of these sometimes does not come through until after 9pm in the evening. I confirmed where the local bus left from and found that I should leave at 6am to get to Oyem for 2pm.Thankfully the email confirmation came through in the morning saying I was booked on the next day's flight from Franceville to Oyem at 3pm.Arriving at the airport terminal, the first thing I noticed was that the flight had been changed to 3.30pm. Then when on the plane they announced the flight time as 30 minutes. I was sure it had taken longer last time. Have you ever got on a bus and been unsure if it was taking you where you wanted to go? Have you ever been on a plane and sat there thinking this is not going where I thought it was!Sure enough we landed at what appeared to be a military base in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea. We then disembarked our plane and walked across the tarmac to the waiting helicopter. This must be the helicopter that was out of service four days ago! Inside it is just a shell with fold down seats along the sides. I quickly found a seat and attempted to fasten the seatbelt. It fastened, but it was for someone at least three times my size, and it didn't appear adjustable. There was some luggage and it was stacked loosely in the middle of the helicopter. Now all the seats were taken and it was standing room only for about twenty of our party.Not sure what make it was but it was Russian, at least second hand and at least 40 years old.The overhead blades started to rotate and we seemed to taxi forward to get some momentum, then we slowly ascended over the trees and made our way to Oyem ai[...]



A week in Gabon for Afcon 2017

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:19:37 PST

I have been here in Gabon for 14 games of the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 now, but it seems like just over a week. I have managed to make my way around the country. Not by the different modes of transport I intended but by flights that I have found that were not available to book before I came.We have completed the second round of matches and the games have gone from Libreville to Franceville, Oyem and then Port Gentil. So have I. But I have had to go back to Libreville, the capital, every time in order to make the next destination.When I last wrote I had lost the two Germans I met earlier as they failed to make their scheduled flight back to Libreville.No worries. Thirty minutes after I got back to our apartment they turned up. They had got a lift and arrived at the other airport terminal.Instead of walking 50 metres to the terminal that they arrived from, they caught a different plane which departed after mine.The next morning the heavens opened and the rainy season has shown itself for the first time in Libreville. We tried to wait for a gap in the weather but there didn't seem to be one.Outside the stadium we met a group of Burkina Faso supporters. One was keen to practice his English. He was a big man with body paint depicting his country's flag. (I have a picture somewhere but am struggling to download photos at present.) His opening words: "I am from Burkina Faso."At the end of the match I heard a shout in English, I turned round to see it was him. He was delighted with his team's performance and gave me a big hug. I looked at my arm and saw red. His body paint had rubbed off on me.My trip to Franceville was uneventful, although this time I went with Sebastiane.We agreed to meet at the end of the second match to catch the shuttle back to the airport. With 10 minutes to go, a shout went out that all journalists for Libreville should go to get their bus now.There was no sign of Sebastiane (from DRC), so I waited in the stadium and watched the game while looking for him. He sauntered over towards us slowly after the final whistle. Unaware that we had nearly gone without him. I can't lose anyone else, can I?The next day the football moved to Oyem and this time I received confirmation for the Oyem flight, returning the next day. So no helicopter, that was for CAF officials.Before leaving the Tropicana, where I was staying I advised them that my room would not be used and they could sell it again if they wanted.Went for my breakfast at the airport, croque monsieur, and then to Afrijet terminal about 11.00. Plane wasn't due to depart until 13.30.Sebastiane was there, but had some bad news. There was a problem with the helicopter and the CAF delegation were now going to join us on our flight.At this stage we weren't sure of the implications, but an hour later they advised us that no journalists would travel.So Sebastiane and I went to the airport terminal to try and book a flight to Oyem. All the flights for Oyem had left, there were no more today.We were offered a taxi who guaranteed he could get us to Oyem in time for kick off. With less than five hours to go. We declined, and went back to Afrijet.I was in the throes of sending an email to a travelling companion who was in Libreville to ask him where he was and where he would be watching tonight's games. I didn't finish the email. We heard that a request had been put to the CAF president to pay for a flight for the journalists. But it is not that simple, how do you get a plane that is ready to fly immediately from your point of departure.The media scrum followed the person in charge round the room. Eventually an announcement was made, the gist was there were eight places available to journalists from the competing nations. I had already been enlisted to help Sebastiane at th[...]



Africa Cup of Nations 2017 Images

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 06:00:06 PST

Enjoy these images of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.Check back as we add more each day. Click on the image to enlarge it.Ghana fans enjoy Afcon 2017Uganda fanGabon fansStade de l'Amitié, Libreville, GabonMali fans at Afcon 2017Stade de Franceville (capacity 22,000) in FrancevilleGabon mascot & dancing girlsGhana fans give their team a big handMali manStade de Port-Gentil (capacity 20,000) in Port-GentilBurkina Faso FansIvory Coast Fans [...]



Fifa World Rankings January 2017

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 05:39:25 PDT

Fifa's World Rankings for January 2017 were published on January 12 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. These are the first rankings of the year.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is the same as last month: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th.Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place, no change from last month.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 44th place; Japan are in 46th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place.The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs [...]



Afcon Three Down

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 04:45:39 PST

Four days of the Afcon 2017 tournament and I am now three down.On the eve of the opening game we had been assured by the local volunteers that no tickets were available for the opening game and that the ground would be full.On the day of the game you would not have believed that as the opening ceremony began with only a few thousand in attendance. People kept coming even after Gabon kicked off the competition. There was a healthy attendance, but it was not full. Keyboard warriors have been busy opposing the tournament and have allegedly been organising peaceful protests and asked people to stay away from the tournament. There have been no sign of any protests so far, although I have spotted police wagons loaded with police positioned in strategic places, but at ease.Although nothing happened in the first 45 minutes, the football fayre improved considerably over the next 135 with the group ending up level and every team in with a chance of the next round after two draws.The next day I went to the airport in the hope of sorting out my travel arrangements for later in the week. Instead of doing that I just got a plane to Franceville to watch that day's games. I was assured I would also be able to return that night.I met Maher an Algerian as I went in to the departure lounge, he was stopped before we entered and they took his bag, to put it in the plane.There were people waiting to go to Port Gentil as well as Franceville and Maher then started to wonder where his bag was going. They hadn't asked; he hadn't told them.Anyway, we boarded after checking with a porter who thought he remembered seeing a brown bag.The stewardess asked which team we were, "FC Bohemia" I replied.Trying to sort out a schedule is proving impossible, so I was talking to others, about future days.Planes seem to be added to schedules at a moments notice.The conversation went along the lines of"What time should you be at the airport?" One hour before the flight?"What time is the flight?"I don't know."So what time do you have to be at the airport."So you will gather that I still have no firm plans.During the day I booked the hotel that I had stayed at the previous two nights online.The stadium was about 20 kilometres from the airport, and the windy country roads were decorated with game for sale.... tortoise, fish, ape and others! During the second game I made enquiries about how I would get back to the airport. I was told there would be a shuttle after the match and just to come to the reception.Sure enough I went to the reception, and asked. Now I got a quizzical look. There no longer seemed to be one. An official was called over and he said he would arrange it. I was told to follow a volunteer and led outside and across the road.I waited as he went down to a car park and returned 10 minutes later with a mini bus. For me.We waited as convoy of CAF officials left with a police convoy, and joined the end of it hastily making our way to the airport. I had noticed on the journey there that the cars have a tendency to drive in the middle of the road and put their hazard lights on.As we climbed windy roads the convoy could be seen for some way into the distance.I presented myself at check in, and they checked the list for my name. They double checked, triple checked and still couldn't find it.They questioned how I had got to Franceville and luckily I found the boarding card I had been given earlier in the day.With this they added my name to the list and I was on the plane eventually landing after one in the morning.Staying at the same place meant getting a taxi and directing them was no problem.I eventually arrived at the hotel at 1.45 and presented my email confirmation of my bookin[...]



One down and we haven't kicked off!

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 15:57:01 PST

Three of my favourite books Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Trial by Franz Kafka and Rates of Exchange by Malcolm Bradbury. Imagine if you merged these three and moved the setting to Central Africa. I wonder what would happen? Of course they are all works of fiction but This is Africa.My journey took a familiar path starting with playing football the evening before, calling into the pub afterwards and walking into town to catch the 23.30 bus to Heathrow.The weather forecast is currently grim and snow is expected. News reached me earlier in the day that 80 flights from Heathrow had already been cancelled. As the coach was leaving Milton Keynes a passenger shouted to the driver. "The luggage side door is still open." He quickly stopped and closed the door.Spent the journey waiting for us to hit the bad weather. On the M1 after Milton Keynes the gritters were out, but I could see by the signs saying 18 miles in 18 minutes that traffic was flowing.We made it to Heathrow on schedule with no sign of any bad weather whatsoever.I was the only passenger getting off at Terminal 4. The bus driver had a perplexed looked as he searched for my luggage. "You don't think I'd put anything in there do you?" I said.At Heathrow as we were about to board I was asked for my visa, which I duly provided and was allowed to proceed. I mentioned the visa process earlier and had advised a friend what to do. He chose to ignore me after he had booked his flight and received an accreditation to act as a photographer at the tournament. He wasn't allowed to board his plane and won't be coming.Changed planes in Paris, no one asked to see my visa. This is France.We waited over an hour on the runway as the plane was de-iced.Upon arrival in Libreville the plane seemed to take a swerve that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would have been proud of. But we emerged unscathed ready for the next challenge to collect the visa.We were ushered from one queue to another and eventually a hand took my passport along with my paper confirmation of my evisa. I could see a pile of passports on a desk the other side of the glass and photocopies being taken. We all waited, impatiently as time passed. It was 90 minutes after we landed before we were reunited.The next day I met a German friend who had arrived that morning after missing his connection in Paris, by seconds - I didn't make it worse and tell him about the de-icing. He had been rerouted via Morocco and arrived at 4am. He applied for his visa at the airport! [...]



Africa Cup of Nations 2017 Managers

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:46:09 PST

A list of the coaches of the participating teams at the Africa Cup of Nations 2017.Black managers have a hard job getting a look-in at clubs in England, they also have a struggle to manage their own national sides. Only 4 teams at the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 have native African coaches: DR Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Zimbabwe.France provides the most managers with four followed by Belgium with two.The coaches most known to an international audience include Hector Cuper who had spells with Valencia and Inter and Avram Grant who managed Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Ham in the Premier League.Ex-Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho has managed Real Madrid (twice), Benfica (twice), Espanyol (twice) and the China national team. He is remembered for having very sweaty armpits during the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. Camacho, who has one only trophy in his career as manager, a Portuguese Cup with Benfica in 2004, might find the weather in Gabon a challenge for his shirts.Frenchmen Herve Renard and Claude Le Roy both have connections with Cambridge United back in 2004. Renard has won the trophy twice with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.Group AGabon - Jose Antonio Camacho (Spain)Burkina-Faso - Paulo Duarte (Portugal)Cameroon - Hugo Broos (Belgium)Guinea-Bissau - Baciro Cande (Guinea-Bissau)Group BAlgeria - Georges Leekens (Belgium)Senegal - Allou Cisse (Senegal)Tunisia - Henryk Kasperczak (Poland)Zimbabwe - Callisto Pasuwa (Zimbabwe)Group CIvory Coast - Michel Dussuyer (France)DR Congo - Florent Ibenge (DR Congo)Morocco - Herve Renard (France)Togo - Claude Le Roy (France)Group DEgypt - Hector Cuper (Argentina)Ghana - Avram Grant (Israel)Mali - Alain Giresse (France)Uganda - Milutin Sredojevic (Serbia) [...]



Gabon hosts Africa Cup of Nations 2017

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:26 PST

So, who would have thought it. Gabon will host the African continent's biggest tournament for the second time in 5 years (Yes, that's right they also hosted in 2012, when they shared hosting with Equatorial Guinea).The bidding process for these things started back in 2010 when Botswana, Cameroon, DR Congo, Guinea, Morocco, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe first expressed an interest. In the end only three countries put in bids - DR Congo, Morocco and South Africa. 2017 was awarded to South Africa.Now just to complicate things further in 2011, due to the Libyan Civil War, South Africa agreed to host the 2013 competition, which was due to be held in Libya that year, with Libya hosting in 2017.Now unfortunately the Libyan Civil War has lasted longer than we hoped and in 2014 Libya was withdrawn as the venue. There was interest from Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania and Kenya discussed a joint bid with Rwanda and Uganda. In the end seven countries submitted bids: Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya (alone), Sudan and Zimbabwe.In April 2015 Gabon were named as hosts.So when bidding began in 2010 there were 53 African countries and 20 of them have expressed an interest in hosting this tournament. There are of course now 54 African countries with South Sudan being the newest formed in July 2011.This tournament was originally going to be held in South Africa, then Libya and now Gabon - although CAF  (Confederation of African Football) were forced to issue a statement on 25 November 2016 denying the fact that the venue was to be changed again.So, with Gabon having hosted in 2012 the infrastructure will be there to hold another successful Championship.The first obstacle to overcome will be to get into the country - for which you need a visa. To make this easy Gabon announced the introduction of an electronic visa from January 2015. However to complete the visa you need details of your accommodation and of a contact in Gabon.So I duly went out and bought the only guide book there is on Gabon. I went through the whole book and took note of all the email addresses and sent an email introducing myself and that I was looking for help with my trip.Yes, those are the replies I got above...over 30 of them. You might think this was strange. Well let me tell you a little more. Last August there was a Presidential election where incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba ran for re-election against the former Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Ping.The election is decided in a single round by plurality that is, the person with the most votes wins regardless of whether they have secured an overall majority.On the day after the elections Ping (whose supporters had collected results showing him winning by 59% to 38%) said that "he was waiting for the outgoing president to congratulate me."The result were delayed a day and Ali Bongo was announced the winner with 49.80% against Jean Ping's 48.2%.Results from Haut-Ogooue, Bongo's heartland showed that he had secured 95.5% of the votes in a 99.9% turnout.As you can imagine chaos ensued. As a result a media blackout was introduced. I believe that may be the cause for my returned emails.Now to get this visa a contact in Gabon would be really useful. But if I haven't got that then the other way would be to book a hotel that could help. I was told that the Le Méridien Rendama would help with visas, but I decided against this even though there was a 20% price reduction as I felt £215 a night was a bit much.So how is everyone else getting on with their visa applications: Jonathon Wils[...]



Portimonense Sporting Clube

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:40:01 PST

Portimonense Sporting Clube are the major football team in Portimão, a fishing port and former sardine canning center on the Algarve coast of southern Portugal.Founded in 1914 by students returning from England, Portimonense S C are presently in the second division of Portuguese football, the Segunda Liga, but are hoping for a return to their glory days of the 1980's when the team were a presence in the top flight and even competed in the UEFA Cup in 1985-86. Portimonense, nicknamed Alvinegros, were last in the top flight in the 2009-2010 season.The team is presently top of the Segunda Liga after 20 games with a good chance of promotion as they are four points clear of second-placed Aves and 14 points clear of third-placed Santa Clara.Portimonense play in black and white stripes at the 9,500 capacity Estádio Municipal de Portimão, right in the center of the town. One stand at the ground is covered.www.portimonense.ptwww.facebook.com/PortimonenseSC [...]



Fifa World Rankings December 2016

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 04:50:07 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for December 2016 were published yesterday at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. These are the last rankings of the year.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is the same as last month: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th.Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place, no change from last month.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 47th place; Japan are in 45th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place.The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs [...]



Club World Cup Final 2016

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 18:52:34 PST

I acknowledged earlier that the current set up does not produce the greatest games. The final people want to see is Europe v South America. Now wasn't this the previous competition. So here we have the team that finished 11th in the second half of the J League one match away from being named the best club side on the world.FIFA President Gianni Infantino has talked about moving the competition from December to June and increasing the number of teams to 32. Currently the teams from Europe and South America play two games, the renewed format could possibly mean three more games for them. He has also hinted that domestic leagues should feature just 18 teams. That is all well and good for the teams that qualify for the FIFA tournament but the majority will lose income. The fact that Kashima Antlers will earn US$4m for reaching the final is the holy grail clubs look for, and the reason it may happen .I have no doubt the format will change, with FIFA looking to increase their income at the expense of national associations.I met Ángel (pronounced Anhel) with a Spanish accent as I checked in my hotel in Tokyo. He said I could call him Angel, but I declined.He was here to support America, but had to be back at work on Monday so couldn't stay for the Final on Sunday. He had somewhat overdone the shopping and showed me his bags asking for advice on how to check it in. My best suggestion (for this time of year) was a Santa sack.Anhel had decided he was going to visit Mount Fuji. I was interested, but confused as I knew he only had one day left. My idea of going to Mount Fuji is climbing the mountain and planting a flag.He had found that he could get take a three hour trip by train and a bus and get to a spot where he could take a photo of the mountain. I mentioned that it had been visible on the train from Osaka to Tokyo, but he hadn't seen it. After a late night I woke up and found that Anhel had gone. The time 10.15 Oh dear, I have a meeting with an old friend in one hour across town!I got up and went straight to the subway and contemplated the route that would get me to my destination on time. Despite wanting to run, I am aware of the Japanese etiquette and calmness they personify, even when in a rush. Also there are plenty of signs around the subway stations saying "Don't run."Remember I told you I had mastered the Tokyo subway. I have. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare. At exactly 11.15 I could see a figure in the distance I could see a figure running in my direction now, even though you couldn't make out who it was. I knew it was Yoichi. He was also the only Japanese salaryman I saw without a tie on. Yoichi took me for an early lunch as he had a meeting at 1. We approached a building that looked distinctly closed. When he announced, look it says it is open. Of course it does!Here there were no plastic meals and no photos. But Yoichi ordered - Sukiyaki and Sashimi. I have since learnt that it was served in the nabemono style, with a flame burning under the meat pot, and the meat and vegetables dipped in a beaten egg.I used to play football with Yoichi a few years ago and he showed me the pitch where he now plays right in the middle of this urban jungle, near Osaki station. The rate - US$ 200 an hour. After this I headed to the Samurai Museum. Now normally I am not keen on Japanese museums as they have in the past neglected foreigners.This was different. It started with a samurai giving a demonstration of sword moves. When he moved to attack he let out a scream, which made a young ch[...]



Club World Cup 2016 Semi Finals

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 18:57:35 PST

A rare occurrence for me - two days off! As I hadn't been to Osaka before I thought I would stay locally. The weather wasn't great, cloudy about 8 degrees with a cold wind. So I set off by foot for Osaka Castle.As I wandered through the streets I noted the shape of the vehicles on the roads, they are increasingly becoming box like. Which when you begin to think about it is much more practical. OK, not elegant.But for all those adverts that boast about the space inside, how much of that can you actually use? The use of space was becoming a theme. As I noted a bike rack suspended in mid air above those parked on the ground. Then a building no more than three metres wide, but five stories high. The petrol pump suspended in mid air, giving more room on the forecourt. The next observation was of the intricate network of roads, pedestrian walkways and train tracks above the ground. I reckon somewhere here there must be a noodle junction!Osaka Castle was originally built on this site in 1583 but has been destroyed twice - the latest reconstruction was built in 1931 and survived the war intact. In the grounds of the castle I saw a jumper approach me, it was a mixture of colours, obviously hand made and one which you might expect to see a student with long hair in the 70's wearing. This jumper belonged to Kenji, now retired but had been an artist. He used to make and design the curtains that would hang outside shops, with the bright colours and calligraphy. He travelled to Europe back in the mid 70s (I didn't ask if that was when he got the jumper) at a time when the exchange rate was good for the Japanese yen. At that time he didn't speak English, but right now he was keen to practice. He had always lived in Osaka, his family had a house in the centre of Osaka, that was destroyed, along with much of the rest of the city in the Second World War. His parting shot was that he realised that Japan was changing and that customs were dying out. I walked back and headed to the Umeda Sky Building, two 40 storey towers connected by bridges. Underneath the German Market was in full swing. Later in the evening I headed for Dotonbori, an area full of restaurants.The great thing (for me) about Japanese restaurants is that they will also have either photos or a plastic replica of the food they offer. Despite this I still couldn't always tell you what I had eaten. The weather forecast was getting worse and with little to do in Osaka, I decided to head to Nara, capital of Japan in the 8th century. I wandered round the sights in the rain for a few hours before taking the 50 minute journey back to Osaka. By now the rain was much heavier and didn't look like it was going to stop anytime soon. This reminded me of Rabat, Morocco two years ago when the rain was so bad they moved the venue for Real Madrid's semi-final. Seeking refuge I noticed a sign saying Japanese Buddhist food. Who could resist? I was greeted with a smile and after taking my shoes off shown the seating area and kitchen. I would say 4 would be the maximum seating capacity and definitely room for only one chef. My host explained, with the help of a photo that there was a set vegetarian menu. There was no other photo. This time I could tell you one course was Mushroom and Cabbage, oh and Rice of course. The next day was the day of the first semi final. Surprisingly the visitors from Colombia brought more supporters to the game than Kashima Antlers, from Japan. During the first half I saw an incident in the penalty area i[...]



Club World Cup

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 07:50:15 PST

Off to Japan for my 5th Club World Cup and 4th visit to Japan, this time via China - must have been the cheapest flights on the dates I wanted.So how did the teams get here. Well they won their respective Continental Premier Cup competition and the hosts provided their Championship winner. I was a little worried when I noted that the Japanese were to be represented by Kashima Antlers who had finished 11th (out of 18) in the second half of their domestic Championship. In Japan they have a split season. Kashima won the first half and beat Urawa Red Diamonds (winners of the second half) on away goals in a play off to win the League (despite being 15 points overall behind them) and qualify for this competition.How did I get here?Arriving at the check-in desk you would have thought you were in China already as there was only a handful of other Westerners on the flight, whom it transpired were all on transit to other international destinations. This feeling was confirmed as we bordered the plane as all the chatter was in Chinese and no one moved out of their way to ease the congestion as people tried to make their way to their seats. At this stage I thought to myself of the similarities between the Polish and Romanians in the UK and the Japanese and the Chinese (am I allowed to think that?).My young companion was grateful to me for pointing out his errors in his Sudoku puzzle, not once, but twice. I noticed he was struggling so had to have a look....didn't I. But not a word was said.I noticed the initials PEK on my boarding card and am also sure I heard the pilot describe our destination as Peking. I remember that was the name of the Chinese capital I knew. So I did a bit of research and found that in 1979 the Chinese came up with a new system for interpreting the pronunciation of Mandarin, known as Pinyin. So the local name hasn't changed at all, but it has in English.The nine hour flight was overnight, so I tried to rest while keeping an eye on our route and the local time. I learnt that whilst China covers five time zones it only has one. Do you remember the day when people would dash to a certain pub across town as they had later licensing laws for maybe 30 more minutes drinking time, well in China they could get an extra five hours by nipping over the border.When it came to breakfast time the stewardess kindly enquired whether I would like a Western or Chinese breakfast. She handed out omelette and bacon to those around me and I replied "Chinese". She shouted it back at me clearly indicating that she thought I had made a mistake. She delivered congee a Chinese rice porridge with fish!Arriving in Beijing's impressive airport, designed by Foster & Partners for the 2008 Olympics, the signage was a little confusing and the foreigners gathered together as we worked out exactly where to go. Once we did we presented ourselves for a security check. I spotted the usual notices for liquids, but noticed they wanted cameras removing from bags. I didn't notice on the other side of a wall that they also wanted any battery chargers. Which, of course were spotted and I had to remove them while they had a good look. Paranoid?In the airport there were posters announcing that wifi was available to all but that they would need to capture the user's details in order that you could use it.I did try to log on, but they didn't seem to like me.I noticed a number of people with masks on their face, this didn't strike me as unusual as I have seen this [...]



Fifa World Rankings November 2016

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 05:56:14 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for November 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain. England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th. Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place. Asian Cup winners Australia are in 47th place; Japan are in 45th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place. The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland are up ten places in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=soccerphileco-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0297608886&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="align: left; height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;"> [...]



Os Belenenses

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 04:22:00 PST

Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses are very much Lisbon's third team after the big two of Benfica and Sporting.Founded in 1919, Os Belenenses play their home games at the 19,000 capacity Estádio do Restelo in Belem in the west of the Portuguese capital, where crowds average a lowly 1,500 unless one of the big three Portuguese clubs, Benfica, Sporting or Porto, are in town.Belenenses have had their moments, however, and have played in Europe, competing in the UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and Europa League, even beating the mighty Barcelona in the 1987-88 UEFA Cup 1-0 at the Restelo. Belenses were last in the Europa League last season, finishing bottom of a group containing Basel, Fiorentina and Lech Poznań. Belenenses, along with Boavista, is one of the only clubs outside the big three to have won the Portuguese League (Primeira Liga), when they triumphed in the 1945-46 season. They have also won the Portuguese cup, the Taça de Portugal, three times.Belenenses play in blue and white and are nicknamed Os Azuis do Restelo (The Blues from Restelo) or Pastéis (Pastries) after the famous sweets made in Belem. [...]