A tarnished England World Cup win, why Mexico are a bit sh*t and more in a Ronaldo-less Mailbox

Qatar World Cup Credit: Alamy
Qatar World Cup Credit: Alamy

We’re sick of the Cristiano Ronaldo stuff and trying desperately to get excited about the World Cup, so this is a Ronaldo-less Mailbox.

Send your thoughts on anything, apart from him, to theeditor@football365.com.

 

Don’t get duped
Not for one moment am I going to say that Qatar won the World Cup bid fairly (in the same breath, neither did South Africa in 2010 and wasn’t there talk that Germany flouted some rules to host the Cup in 2006?), or deny that the world’s football fixtures have been messed around due to a winter World Cup, all for the benefit of FIFA.

What I can’t understand is this notion behind sportswashing.

Are we really not able to look at something and then keep to our opinion?

I mean, how difficult is it to say, “you know, I like Newcastle United, but no matter how much money the Saudi owners put into the club, it will still not change my opinion of Saudi Arabia.”

Boycotting the World Cup now means nothing. Broadcasters have already paid to broadcast the tournament. Fans have already bought tickets.

If Sky, the BBC, ITV, ESPN all said we’re boycotting… then yes, we would have made a stance.

But not watching it, you’re only doing your love of football in.

I’d rather accept there are cultural differences between myself and the Qataris. As much as I do not approve of their outlook regarding foreigners and homosexuals, it is not for me to try change it. They probably don’t approve of me drinking copious amounts of beer. And you know what, that’s okay, I’m not going to stop drinking beer because they don’t approve of my drinking habits.

I am not going to condone their laws regarding homosexuals or think Qatar is a haven for liberalism, no matter how great a spectacle they put on.

Tl;dr: Enjoy the World Cup without getting duped into thinking the Qataris are great.

Best,
Wik, Pretoria, (they’re called choices), LFC

 

A tarnished World Cup win
Firstly, Phil AVFC, speak for yourself, I think England being World Champions will be tarnished. Not on a sporting level perhaps, but being winners of the most corrupt World Cup, organised by an organisation teeming with corruption, with a long history of corruption and ethical failure casts a long shadow.

On a sporting level, sure, they would still have to win against all the normal teams, and beat an opponent in the final so it’ll still count, but I’m not going to apologise for not wishing to celebrate, condone or support a tournament that should never have been awarded to Qatar for so many reasons not least because all the stadia and infrastructure has had to have been built by slaves (hundreds of whom have died) and they persecute people for their sexuality. And no, the “it’s their country they can set their own rules” argument doesn’t wash with me. Just as Apartheid was not right, despite South Africa making their own rules; just as America’s Jim Crow laws were not right; just as the UK’s own sodomy rules were not right at the time. The major difference being that those are historical examples where those countries have changed those laws and have sought to right the wrongs they made in enforcing the laws, even if that is a horrendous, tangled mess to do.

To be absolutely clear, countries outlawing homosexuality (especially on account of their imaginary overlord) is abhorrent even if it’s their cultural practice or their law. Countries tricking migrant workers of a differing ethnic background into paying to go to work, taking away their passports and forcing them to live in squalor because they can’t escape is not “migrant work” it’s slavery, which is abhorrent. To award a World Cup, an international tournament of global fame and prestige, to a country that openly practices both in the name of corporate greed and institutional corruption is abhorrent; to do so to aid a country “sportswash” its public image is abhorrent. So you’re very mistaken if you think that no

England fan will think that England being World Champions won’t be tainted as a result, even if it’s just me, and I doubt that’s the case.

You turn a blind eye to people’s suffering in the name of your enjoyment of a sporting competition if you like. I’ll turn my eyes away from the farce, which is about as much as I have power to do.
Daniel, Cambridge

 

World Cup predictions
Some predictions for the next month (haven’t a clue who’s going to win)

  • Doha is not a major tourist destination. This is going to be a problem on several levels as this is a city and a country not used to dealing with large numbers of Westerners coming for a good time. They know what to expect from Westerners coming to work (and maybe having a couple of quiet drinks of an evening in the hotel bar) but Firework up his Bum guy is going to be a new experience. This is unlikely to end well for all sides.

  • They do enjoy the extremely strict enforcement of petty rules. A lack of consistency in their application is not a defence

  • Because there’s only so much shopping your average travelling England fan can do, they are going to get bored between matches. This is likely to be a problem.Someone is going to do something that will get themselves arrested as a political statement. It will then dawn on most people that they would also have been arrested for doing that in almost any Western European country.

  • At around this time, there will be a very long overdue discussion about the balancing act of being a stern critic of things that are unequivocally wrong in the Middle East and being a gracious visitor and not a bumptious idiot.

  • The range, storage, presentation and pricing of beers will not meet the exacting standards of the Campaign for Real Ale

  • Loads of stuff will be expensive. Please direct a proportion of your criticism to the eejits who’ve been running the UK economy. That Greek Salad is still expensive for what it is at 7 riyals to the pound as it was when Blair and Brown were running the show, but not eye-watering like when you get just over 4 for your pound. In other words, I don’t want to hear complaints from Tories and Brexiters. This is on you lads and not us or the Qataris.

  • Having all the venues close to each other will after a week or two be conceded as soulless but unarguably logistically convenient

  • The playing conditions will be fair. Some matches will be played in hot weather, but the evening ones in particular will be pleasantly warm but no more. It’s at sea level, there’s little humidity, the playing surfaces will be perfect, the rich countries won’t have greatly different training bases to the poor ones and it will dawn on people that there really won’t be many excuses on the pitch

  • With a substantial number of countries having a realistic chance of going deep in the tournament, no obvious favourite, the Ronaldo and Messi narratives and the fair conditions for all, the upside is that the tournament could be remembered for positive reasons as well as negative ones. The sound of people who habitually whine about the lack of competitiveness about club football being presented with a lot of teams with potential but also fairly obvious weaknesses and almost no teams without a realistic chance of at least getting out of their group will be one of the mild entertainments of the next month.

Mark Meadowcroft

 

Early conclusions
Well, everyone is doing predictions so its time for the early conclusions……….

  • The amount of baksheesh that must have been applied to the referee in that crucial group deciding game of Qatar vs Netherlands may never be known but what we do know after the dust settled is that Virgil van Dijk was sent home on the eve of the game for wearing rainbow laces and Memphis Depay was lost in the desert after his 4WD Bentley broke down. The fact that he painted it beige probably wasn’t a great help in locating it either.  That the Dutch finished the game with 8 players and lost to a rampant Qatari side who topped the group should be a cause for celebration in that part of the world.

  • The sight of English and German fans being publicly flogged following street brawls should be a warning to anyone who thinks Budweiser is decent beer

  • Golden boot winner Mitrovic will be celebrating twice this week after his coronation as King of Serbia

  • Golden Gloves winner Saad al-Sheeb is in talks with PSG where his impressive form powered Qatar to an unexpected semi-final spot. They only lost out to Serbia in part because he unselfishly threw his face into Mitrovic’s elbow

  • Gareth Southgate did the honorable thing by resigning after the Wales defeat, however the interim appoint of a rejuvenated and available Scott Parker did nothing to lift the England team spirit though he did show Harry Kane how to shoot better.

  • Talking of England, Fred has now entered the status of United legend after raking his studs down Ronaldo’s shins during the warm up and chinning him during the hand shake.

  • Neymar could and should have been player of the tournament.  That the Qatari authorities deemed his histrionics every time someone touched him as effeminate and thus contravening local cultural norms meant he had to leave the country at half time of their crucial game vs Qatar

  • Despite billions of dollars spent on the stadia and latest state of the art equipment, it was probably unwise to hand the maintenance of the AC equipment to a local plumber which is why each game was played in over 100 degree heat.  Not that this had anything to do with the success of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, oh no sirree

  • Australia once again left without points nor goals. Really, it costs shitloads of money from where you guys live, there’s little or no beer available and outside of the kiwi’s no gives a crap about you. Just take the summer off boys

  • We thought this may be the tournament for one of the African teams to emerge as a major player on the world stage. Or was that 2010? No. it was 2014 wasn’t it ? well, they’ve been sh*te.  Nice shirts though

  • Talking of sh*te, this author never realised how many Japanese fans there are of Arabic origin.  The sight of thousands of them dancing in the streets celebrating victory over Germany in the traditional Japanese attire of a keffiyeh with a rising sun on the back will last long in the memory. No paid fans here thank you very much.

  • The final clash between Serbia and Argentina was a thriller and just the bloodbath that the whole world knew it would be.  Both sides star players were taken out brutally in the first 10 minutes in a kind of bloody chess game that set the tone early on.

  • Lisandro Martinez was a worthy winner of Player of the tournament with his 5 goals and 5 clean sheets.  That 4 of his goals were headers was something that Graeme Souness probably has nightmares about

  • Because ending on 13 is unlucky right?

Steve, (ex-Flixton Red), Ontario

 

Why aren’t Mexico better?
Mike, LFC asks “why aren’t Mexico any better?” While I’m not a particular aficionado of the LigaMX, or the Mexican National Team, I think that he nearly hits upon it towards the end, when he talks about how few Mexican national team players play for elite clubs in Europe.

My understanding of this is that, because LigaMX is probably the wealthiest league outside of Europe, where star players can realistically earn £50,000pw, and the average weekly salary for a starting player is c£10,000 pw, the incentive to move overseas is less than it is for players from other Latin American countries. Plus, I imagine £10,000pw goes further in Guadalajara than it does in, say, Seville.

So Mexican players tend not to go overseas, don’t develop further, and the national team is negatively impacted. Moreover, because Mexico pays much higher salaries than clubs in Argentina, Colombia etc, lots of players from those countries go to Mexico to play, either instead of Europe or as a stepping-stone, and this gives Mexican players fewer opportunities, again negatively impacting the national team.

Come to think of it, I can think of another country, not a million miles away, where the lucrative salaries on offer in the domestic league mean a) that players tend not to go abroad and develop new skills, and b) overseas players stifle the opportunities of young players from that country, which arguably negatively impacts that country’s national team…
Dara O’Reilly, London

 

In response to Mike, LFC, London’s thought-provoker about as to why Mexico just isn’t better at football, (cracking question, btw), I won’t attempt to answer the question, because I don’t think I can, however I do have a thought.

For me, simply, the elite coaching for those key ages (14-18) probably isn’t available. The likes of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, etc… have a strong professional club scene, and those clubs have money for quality coaching. From there, assuming the youngsters break in to the River Plate first team, the scouts and the exposure and the strong league awaits them.

In the USA, they have the collegiate system and also, increasingly, a pretty strong league. They also, crucially, have vast reserves of money so that they can attract elite coaches and medical staff, and also top quality facilities.

In Mexico, I don’t think that’s there. The talent is, the hunger is there, the passion and the desire to improve and go professional is there. However I think that those elite coaches for the 14-18 year olds, which are there to meet the youngsters at a club’s academy or a US college, just aren’t there to meet and coach the Mexican kids.

On top of that, the Mexican league is pretty good I suppose, but it’s not great. Whilst I’m sure it’s scouted and players do of course go pro, I think the paucity of elite players at the biggest clubs is maybe explained by the lack of elite coaching they had in those crucial years.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite

 

In response to Mike’s (LFC, London) question about Mexico being a bit meh at footy, I’d suggest the issue is a confluence of a few factors:

1. Liga MX. Most of Mexico’s best players are content to stay and play in Mexico. The country has a thriving league and the players are relatively well paid compared to most other non-European leagues, which means most of their talented players aren’t particularly bothered about spending their entire careers playing against lesser talents and not developing to the extent that they potentially could if they moved to Europe.

In addition, Liga MX is supposedly riddled with a lot of nepotism and corruption that almost certainly affects talent development.

2. Location. The continental competition is generally not great. The USA and Canada provide decent opposition these days but they aren’t pulling any trees up historically or globally, so Mexican football doesn’t necessarily need to improve much to maintain their relatively decent achievement levels. They’d probably be better off in the long run if they could make the occasional invitations to Copa America a permanent thing.

3. Despite the reputation, Mexico isn’t necessarily a football country in the same way Argentina or Brazil or even a much smaller nation like Uruguay is. The country doesn’t have the same old history, culture and infrastructure for football that those countries have, and while football is the most popular sport there now, other sports like boxing, baseball and bullfighting remain prominent.

I’m no expert but those are the 3 most commonly sited factors I’ve heard in conversations about this topic with the Mexicans I’ve been privileged to know where I live.
Deen, Arsenal (Texas, USA). 

 

World Cup kit
I agree entirely with what you wrote about the Belgium World Cup kit- absolutely awful home and away. And it was a general reaction over here, with some saying it looked like a t-shirt for a barbecue and others complaining that the white kit doesn’t actually have the Belgian flag’s colours on the trim.

You know how people talk about being proud to wear the shirt? Here the players look thoroughly embarrassed to be wearing it, before they’ve even kicked a ball. Look at them!

Belgium have had some great kits but I can’t imagine who thought this lot was a good idea.
Paul in Brussels (USA also poor and Ecuador wins imo) 

 

Don’t give a f*** about Toney’s betting…
This Ivan Toney stuff is really pissing me off.

If he bet on his own matches, then fair enough, he deserves to have the book thrown at him.

But if he isn’t, quite frankly I don’t give a f**k – and nor should anyone else.

Because all this talk about ‘insider trading’ and compromising the sport is just gambling companies getting the FA to do their dirty work. It’s for the birds.

Insider trading exists in markets/the economy because it undermines faith and efficiency in the market, as well as shareholder structures, pensions and financial responsibility. You cannot have market manipulation, people using privileged positions to work against the interests of the group or apply pressure for own gains (although no doubt it still happens).

But that is not the same for sports markets. Everything is just a case of betting companies ‘knowing’ something and then pricing it. They are the owners and managers of the market.

So when a player or anyone else in the sport has more information than the bookie (but no control of the outcome), all they have is a slightly more data rich position to make a stake. That’s it. That doesn’t make the eventuality more likely to happen, it doesn’t weaken the gambling company, it means for a small % of stakes, they *might* have additional exposure.

But bookies don’t want that risk and the FA and other bodies are entirely in their pocket at this point. So they push for this perverse idea that Toney, or Trippier before him (that was an utter farce) are guilty, that they are breaking the law (in this case literally the laws of football). They’re not, and we shouldn’t allow this malign interest, masquerading as ethics to stand.

So yeh, if Toney has been betting on Peterborough and Brentford, or in games he can impact, he’s done. But if it turns out he’s just been having a punt on Wrexham to have 5+ corners every week for the last 4 years, maybe we should just get him some help instead?
Tom (seriously, no-one deserves to have their career ended for this kind of nonsense) Walthamstow

Brentford striker Ivan Toney Credit: Alamy
Brentford striker Ivan Toney Credit: Alamy

 

…but it’s a worry for Brentford
You have to worry for Brentford. If Toney is found guilty of breaking betting rules, which seems likely given the very specific charge, he faces a lengthy ban. The two Boston United players both got 5 months each for similar infractions, that would effectively end Toney’s season and deprive Brentford of their talisman and most dangerous attacking threat. It now seems obvious why Southgate didn’t pick him for the squad, with these charges on the horizon and how it could effect the squad preparations it was always a gamble he wouldn’t take.

If there is an element of addiction to the his behaviour then I feel for him and hopefully he’ll get the support he needs but Brentford will be in trouble. Of the 23 league goals they’ve scored so far Toney has been directly involved in 12 of them with his movement and threat probably helping facilitate a few more. Their next highest goal scorers are Mbeumo and Wissa both with 3. Brentford will have to look for a replacement striker in January.

They are two points better off now than they were at the same point last season, but they had a difficult time through the winter sitting just 4 points above relegation at the end of February. Then it was only the injection of quality from Eriksen that revitalised the team and saw them take 22 points from their last 11 games and finish comfortably in 13th. Brentford won’t have the Dane to rescue them this time and with possibility of no Toney it looks like a difficult job for Thomas Frank after the world cup.
Dave, Manchester

 

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