La Liga Transfer Talk


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Following an enthralling Copa Del Rey final and with the climax of the La Liga season still promising plenty of ups and downs Sport 4 Thought takes an inside look ahead at proposed summer transfers of the top trio Spain…

ATLETICO MADRID

Atletico are used to rebuilding phases, and this summer could be no different, despite any possible La Liga triumph. The £50m transfer of Diego Costa to Chelsea is only missing signatures. However, one fly in the ointment is the proposed extension of Thibaut Courtois’ loan contract. Courtois was (illegally) agreed to be ineligible to play in any Champions League fixture involving the two clubs. UEFA have told Chelsea he is eligible, who in turn, have threatened Atletico with the cancellation of his loan contract this summer. This is not a saga yet, but warning shots have been fired by both clubs. Atletico are already planning for life without Costa, however, and are close to agreeing the transfer of Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, of Inter Milan.

BARCELONA

Barcelona FCB’s 14-month transfer ban imposed by FIFA might not be worth the paper it is printed on, as all parties appear to sense that an appeal will result in a mild financial penalty. The transfer of goalkeeper Marc Ter Stegen of Borussia Moenchengladbach has been agreed in principle since Christmas, much to the chagrin of Liverpool’s Pepe Reina, who does not appear wanted any longer by his boyhood club. Alexis Sanchez has been made available for transfer. A host of English clubs are expected to be interested, but the only firm interest at this stage is from Juventus, who are already talking with the player’s agent. Exciting Croatian youth prospect Alen Halilovic has also agreed a 5-year contract, and Barcelona have asked to be kept updated with the status of Fiorentina utility player, Juan Cuadrado.

REAL MADRID

Real have yet to make any serious moves in the transfer market. They are keeping firm tabs on Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (currently on loan at rivals, Atletico Madrid). Fabio Coentrao looks certain to be exiting the Bernabeu, with Old Trafford his most likely destination at this time. There are two candidates to replace Coentrao : Southampton’s English fullback Luke Shaw, and Sevilla Spaniard, Alberto Moreno. Real have also made an attempt to prise Argentinian winger Juan Iturbe away from AS Roma, who appear to be close to completing the deal for him. They will attempt to push the asking price out of Roma’s reach, with a £20m bid. Whilst Real do not wish to lose Alvaro Morata, the player is unsettled, and this may be the club’s last chance at commanding a fee for the player. Bayern target man, Mario Mandzukic has been contacted as a potential replacement.

Written by THE TRANSFER GURU

Sport 4 Thought

Beckham Waddles Away


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As everyone sang the praises of David Beckham on the announcement of his retirement, one Chris Waddle took the opportunity to bizarrely claim that the footballing legend would not even make the top 1,000 Premier League players.

“I would say he has been a good player, I wouldn’t put him down as a great. You can go down a list of players from the Premier League or the 70s or 80s, whatever you want to do. I’ll be honest, Beckham probably wouldn’t be in the first 1,000.”

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I personally think he’d make 99% of people’s Top 10 English players.

I mean, come on, this is England we are talking about. One World Cup in the last 47 years hardly showcases an abundance of talent. Sure, he had no pace, never beat a man and made probably THE most famous faux pas of English footballing history versus Argentina during France ’98, but that’s entirely the point. When talking about English footballers, there are few who are considered out and out world class talent, so you have to take other factors into account. And when it comes to Becks there was nobody before or since who has worn the shirt with more passion – not to mention scored some pretty crucial goals (GREECE *cough cough).

Even if Waddle was referring to all players who have played in the English leagues and therefore opening up a whole whirlpool of foreign talent, Beckham would still be in the top 50 as the ultimate dead-ball specialist and best crosser of the ball world football has ever witnessed. 

But who am I to question the almighty Chris Waddle?

The man with the meanest mullet in world footballing history, a glittering two song duet career with non other than Glenn Hoddle and a CV boasting clubs such as Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Olympique de Marseille, Sheffield Wednesday, Falkirk and Bradford City, Sunderland, Burnley and Torquay United, deserves to be listened to.

Or not. You decided.

In the meantime, David Beckham, you utter legend, we at Sport 4 Thought pay homage to your glittering career and faultless display of true sportsmanship and courage both on and off the field.

Oh how those Goldenballs will be sorely missed.

Written by Dominic Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

Bullet In The Chamber Opens Fire


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In the early hours of Thursday February 14th, Valentine’s Day, it is alleged that a young woman was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, receiving four fatal bullet wounds from a 9mm pistol in a domestic dispute, which ended in the direst of circumstances.

The sense of shock surrounding the incident was intensely magnified as it emerged that both the victim and the suspect were world famous personalities within their relative fields, creating a huge sense of personal connection to the bizarre and deeply saddening events that took place.

The suspect, Oscar Pistorius, is regarded among one of South Africa’s greatest icons, represented as a true sporting superstar, whose victory over adversity has given hope to millions worldwide.

Born without fibulae, he is a double amputee who, at just 26-years young, already owns six Paralympic gold medals, having set numerous world records along the way and is regarded as one of Nike’s biggest athletic clients.

The victim, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, was a South African model and celebrity, known as both an FHM cover girl and the face of cosmetics brand Avon.

Steenkamp is reported to have arrived at Pistorius’ house in the prestigious Silver Woods estate in Pretoria at 8:15pm on Wednesday, having been seen buying Valentine’s Day gifts for her boyfriend shortly before.

Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Although early rumours had suggested the athlete shot his girlfriend accidentally, believing her to be an intruder, these reports were rapidly scotched by police spokeswoman Denise Beukes, stating, “We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”

Despite the relationship still blooming in the supposed ‘honeymoon period’, all was far from rosy behind closed doors, with police confirming their previous involvement on several occasions in relation to “incidents of a domestic nature” at the same address.

Pistorius is known to be a gun enthusiast and boasted of his abilities in November 2011 on Twitter, claiming, “Had a 96 per cent headshot over 300m from 50 shots! Bam!” In November 2012, his comment on the social networking site, suggested an affinity for confrontation: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry.”

South Africa is second only to Columbia in terms of firearms deaths per head of population and with almost 4 million guns in private hands this equates to approximately 8 per 100 people. However, the majority of these firearms are in the possession of the white community, who make up fewer than 10% of the total 49 million population.

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The runner’s former coach, Andrea Giannini, expressed his astonishment at the news, insisting that, “Oscar was always calm and positive. I never saw him violent.”

Having been taken to Mamalodi hospital, on the outskirts of the city, to undergo medical tests, his lawyer, Kenny Oldwage admitted his client was “doing well but very emotional.”

On the day designed to express your love to those closest to you, it was the man nicknamed ‘Blade Runner’ and recently advertised by Nike as ‘The Bullet In The Chamber’, shooting himself to superstardom through his explosive running, who seemingly failed to control his explosive emotions.

With Pistorius charged with murder, the circumstances surrounding the events and those that preceded the killing are now of greatest interest to those so deeply shocked and saddened by an incident, which has not only ended the life of a beautiful young lady, but cut short the glittering career of a pioneer in the disabled sports world.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

EPL Bayernly Crossed My Mind


r-PEP-GUARDIOLA-BAYERN-MUNICH-largeOn Wednesday, Pep Guardiola officially announced his agreement to take on the manager’s role at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, when current gaffer Jupp Heynckes, aged 67, retires.

The decision of the 41-year-old former Barcelona legend to sign a 3-year contract with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up has been met with shock, especially in England, where media hype had fans convinced his arrival on British soil was imminent.

However, anyone with half a brain cell or a semi-respectable knowledge of the football industry will appreciate that Bayern Munich were the only club that Guardiola was ever interested in, for some painfully obvious reasons.

So, while Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness conceded, “Only a coach of Guardiola’s caliber came into consideration,” the feeling was entirely mutual on Guardiola’s behalf.

Perhaps more than any other club, Manchester City were touted as the ex-Spanish international’s next challenge, with many believing previous appointments of former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain and Ferra Sorriano acted as a pulling factor. Those in the know will understand this element was, in fact, dissuasive as numerous signings made when Begiristain and Guardiola worked in conjunction were failures, leaving relations between the two strained at best.

Having spent the first 18 years of his playing career encapsulated by the unique family orientated philosophy that Barcelona have developed, the prospect of dealing with a squad of overgrown, selfishly uncontrollable ego’s that poisons City’s squad would have been enough to strike the current Premier League champions off his list.

The other club in the non-existent race for the Catalan’s signature was apparently Chelsea. Boasting the luxurious title of current ‘Champions of Europe’ is not enough to mask the hideous identity crisis that has taken over Stamford Bridge, leading to appointments of bitter enemies and skirmishes between their own fans during recent matches. Sure Mr. Abramovich would undoubtedly throw huge sums of pocket change in the Spaniard’s direction, but Guardiola has considerably more class.

img_pod_Barcelona-Pep-Guardiola-Champions-League-Manchester-United--Wembley-LondonHe has evolved and achieved excellence as a player then as a manager at a club run and owned by its supporters. Bayern too, are a fan owned club, without the rich interfering businessman owner that comes as standard at Chelski.

Enough of why the ‘top’ English clubs failed to attract one of Europe’s hottest talents and on to the reasons why Bayern Munich so obviously present the most attractive offer for Guardiola.

Bayern Munich are already regarded as one of Europe’s top 5 greatest ever clubs, having been crowned European champions on four previous occasions and runners-up twice in the last three seasons, solidifying their heavyweight status with a history richer than that of Barcelona.

Friend and former teammate of Guardiola, Ajax manager, Frank de Boer claims ex-Bayern coach Louis van Gaal admitted, “It is a very professional club, a well-run club, with the same kind of philosophy as Barcelona.” He was convinced Guardiola’s decision was entirely “…down to the structure of the club.” Former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves concurred, “The facilities and stadium are perhaps better than anywhere in the world.”

The make-up of Bayern’s squad, the style of football they already play and the ability they possess to be molded further to fully represent Guardiola’s footballing fantasy were the key factors in his decision.

His Barcelona team had a strong core of experienced players in Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Lionel Messi, whilst Bayern boast a healthy backbone of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery. Known for his utilisation of youth prospects, he will be fully aware of hot prospects in Xherdan Shaqiri, David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez who all fall under the age of 24. In total, Bayern’s squad boasts eight German internationals.

Having shifted towards a Barcelona-esque keep ball style in recent years, Bayern boast an average of 63 percent possession per game this season, second only to Barcelona with 68.8 percent. Successful passes sees them second again only to Barca, 87.6 percent to 89.7 percent and when it comes to pass completion, the top two players in Europe were, (obviously) Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez on 95.3 percent followed by Bayern’s Holger Badstuber on 93.1 percent.

But, they play in the Bundesliga, I hear you scream. Well here’s a statistic for you – UEFA’s 2013 ranking of domestic league places scored the German Bundesliga on 75 points in third place, just a mere two points behind the Premier League on 77 points in second place. Furthermore, if the FIFA World XI is anything to go by, the Premier League has as many bragging right as the Bundesliga – none.

oktoberfestThe argument that Pep Guardiola still has a lot to prove is a valid one, given that he possesses just four years experience at the top level.

Granted he won an incredible 14 titles during his short reign, though he was working alongside, what is generally accepted to be, the greatest footballing team and individual in the history of the game. Tito Vilanova’s 11-point cushion at the summit of La Liga backs this argument.

If nothing else, his spell at Bayern will certainly help to answer any lingering doubts about his managerial ability.

For those English football fans still in unfounded shock, fear not, Guardiola confessed, “I hope in the future, I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there.”

For everyone else living in the real world, rejoice, for you now have a legitimate reason to attend Oktoberfest this year.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

Five Famous Football Fightbacks


On Saturday, an 87th minute Javier Hernandez header sparked scenes of elation for Manchester United and their 3,000-strong travelling support at Villa Park, as the visitors clawed back a two-goal deficit to defeat Aston Villa 3-2.

The Mexican took his tally to seven goals in his last five appearances, clinically converting either side of a Ron Vlaar own goal, that Hernandez himself forced upon the Dutch centre-back. Andreas Weimann’s double sandwiching half-time, gave Villa a surprise, two-goal cushion, but with 40 minutes still remaining, United were far from dead and buried.

A twenty-minute attacking frenzy, in which Robin Van Persie, who failed to score for once, hit the woodwork twice, saw the visitors complete yet another soul-destroying comeback with seconds to spare. This result moved the Red Devils four points clear of second place Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League and to those less knowledgeable in footballing matters, this performance may have appeared extraordinary.

But, for those of us in the know, it was nothing of the sort. There was nothing extra to this display by the comeback kings that we haven’t seen on so many occasions previously.

This season alone, United have comeback from losing positions to defeat Premier League opposition five times, claiming 15 points from otherwise profitless scenarios. Manchester United have come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat so often during Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious managerial career, proving that his never-say-die attitude has transformed the very ethos of the club.

With so many wonderful examples to choose from and after some serious consideration, Sport 4 Thought brings you Manchester United’s Five Greatest Comebacks of all-time:

5. Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 5 Manchester United (Premier League 2001/02)

With first-half goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege, the White Hart Lane faithful could barely believe their eyes as they trudged off at the break 3-0 up against United. Cue hairdryer. The visiting side that emerged for the second-half was totally rejuvenated. An early 46th minute header from Andy Cole was the start of the end for Spurs who then conceded a further four goals to four more scorers in Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Veron and David Beckham. The Spurs fans looked equally stunned at the full-time whistle.

4. Manchester City 2 – 3 Manchester United (Premier League 1993/94)

Following two headed goals in the first half from the big Niall Quinn, Maine Road was a bubbling cauldron of joy, the blue half of Manchester ecstatic with their lead over their local neighbours. However, with Eric Cantona on the pitch, nothing was ever certain and two goals from the flamboyant Frenchman were capped off with an 86th minute, back-post finish from Roy Keane to propel United to a second successive Premier League title.

3. Manchester United 2 – 1 Sheffield Wednesday (Premier League 1992/93)

A 65th minute John Sheridan penalty shook the home team who were desperate for victory to keep their title bid alive. Staring down the barrels of defeat, unlikely hero Steve Bruce fired home not one, but two headers in the 86th and 90th minutes. These goals sparked the infamous Brian Kidd on-pitch, jumping jack celebration and more importantly, helped United to their first league title since 1967. This was the catalyst for success on a grand scale, that has seen the Premier League title return to Old Trafford 12 times from a possible 20.

2. Juventus 2 – 3 Manchester United (Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg 1999)

Following a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, United were in for an uphill struggle against a formidable Juventus side in Turin. With Ryan Giggs declared unfit to play, things went from bad to worse when the home side scored twice inside the opening ten minutes through a Filippo Inzaghi brace. But the visitors refused to take defeat lying down and captain Roy Keane headed home after 24 minutes, with Dwight Yorke equalising before the break. Andy Cole completed the historic comeback, scoring the winner in the 85th minute, sending United through to their first European Cup Final in 31 years.

1. Manchester United 2 – 1 Bayern Munich (Champions League Final 1999)

Missing key midfield duo Roy Keane and Paul Scholes through suspension, United’s hopes of success were dealt a huge blow when a Mario Basler free-kick found the back of Peter Schmeichel’s net after just 6 minutes. With the game all but over, a last gasp corner enabled Teddy Sheringham to convert in the 91st minute to bring the scores level in a dramatic climax. Then the unthinkable. In the 93rd minute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found the net from close range to send the players and fans into raptures. The day of the final would have marked the 90th birthday of legend Sir Matt Busby, the only other manager to have won the European Cup with Manchester United, in 1968. The king of all comebacks, left Sir Alex Ferguson with only this to say…”Football, bloody hell!”

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

USA: The Land Of The Freeland


As a 16-year old, Joel Freeland was a gangly English boy from Farnham, Surrey, who stacked shelves in Sainsbury’s and daydreamed about the special offers his future had in store. Unbeknown to him, less than a decade later, he would be signing a multi-million pound contract to play in the world’s most elite league of a sport he had never played.

Now, 25 years old and standing at 6ft 10in, Freeland is the new face of NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, having signed a 3 year, £6M contract in the summer, beginning the latest chapter in his truly remarkable story, which saw Portland defeat the star studded LA Lakers, (boasting the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol), in the opening game of the season on Wednesday.

Freeland turned to basketball when urged to find a new hobby after breaking his leg playing football. Within a year, he represented England Under-18’s and was soon playing in Spain, home to the world’s second most prestigious basketball league.

In 2006, the youngster was drafted by Portland and became the highest ranked Brit in the history of the draft as the 30th overall pick, though the Blazers advised him to remain in Europe to develop his game and he swiftly transferred from Gran Canaria to one of Spain’s superior teams, Unicaja Malaga.

The London 2012 Olympics saw Freeland represent Great Britain, an experience he believes can only aid his development as a player. “It hasn’t been easy by any means, but I’m learning every day. The Olympic Games gave me a better insight into how it’s going to be.”

The rookie has settled quickly in Portland. “I love this city. It’s been great so far. I’m enjoying every minute of it.” Whilst others speculate about the dizzy heights he may reach, Freeland prevents his mind from travelling, keeping his feet firmly grounded. “I’ve been given the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and it’s something I’m going to take full advantage of.”

Portland’s new boy is under no illusions regarding the mountain he still has to climb. “It has been a little bit tough, because it’s a different game to what it is in Europe, but I knew it was going to take time. The speed of the game, the strength of the game, everything’s completely different, so that’s something I’m going to have to adjust to.”

Joel Freeland’s supermarket days feel like “a long time ago” and he will hope the only stacking up he does in the future will be of points and trophies. If this incredible fairytale goes to plan, the next aisle he trundles down may just be laid with red carpet.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

Football Needs Olympic Spirit


With the London 2012 Olympics labeled as a rip-roaring success, following an unforgettable fortnight of pure passion and physical poetry, we have been left with serious withdrawal symptoms. Despite the commencing of the new Premier League campaign, it is the Paralympics that everyone is now talking about.

At this year’s Olympic Games in London, Team GB accumulated a staggering total of 65 medals, 29 of which were gold, in what was undoubtedly their best Olympic performance ever. Sure, Britain boasted more medals at the 1908 Olympics, but they also accounted for a third of all athletes during the 6 month contest, including events such as tug-of-war and motorboating.

Following a fruitless first five days, once Helen Glover and Heather Stanning had secured Team GB’s premier gold medal of London 2012, heroes were born by the day, with the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Ben Ainslie, Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and even Mr. So Close But So Far himself, Andy Murray amongst the faces of fortune in the British camp.

Preceding the Olympics and aided by months of a typically self-destructive media, Great Britain had plummeted so far into a cesspit of self-loathing that calling the whole event off at the last minute seemed the only option to prevent falling even further from grace, if at all possible.

Over the previous 12 months, scandals surrounding MP’s expenses, banking, the Leveson Inquiry and of course rioting had left a nation, known for its stiff upper lip, with a quivering lower lip and numerous scars. An indication of severe self-harming.

However, against all odds, London 2012 managed to capture all that typifies the perfect Olympic Games. It was the unison of competitor and spectator. The relentless and unconditional support from each and every onlooker for those wonderfully brave enough to attempt to conquer their personal goals in front of a worldwide audience. The country each athlete represented faded into insignificance as the most incredible display of sportsmanship and mutual respect inspired all involved.

Indeed, the slogan for London 2012 was ‘Inspire a Generation’ and that it did on the grandest of scales.

During the delightful opening ceremony, the first event to immediately reinstall British pride, the IOC president, Jacques Rogge gave a timely reminder of how highly we, as a nation, should regard ourselves.

He clarified, ‘In a sense, the Olympic Games are coming home tonight. This great, sports-loving country is widely recognized as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations.”

This was illustrated quite beautifully on numerous occasions, but, for me, three incidents defined this magical showing of benevolence.

Sarah Attar took a huge step for women’s rights in Saudia Arabia by becoming the first female track and field athlete to ever represent her country. In the 800m heat, Attar came in last, a whole 44 seconds behind the winner, but this was not about gold, silver and bronze.

This was an incredible, historic moment recognised by a capacity crowd who gave Attar a standing ovation for the entire remaining 150m of her race. Taking part in this event was a delightful demonstration to those in authority of how women in sports do not conflict with Saudi society and Islamic tradition.

Liu Xiang, the first ever Asian man to win gold in track and field history, in Athens in 2004, missed the Beijing Olympics due to an Achilles injury. In the London 2012 110m men’s hurdles final, Liu fell at the first hurdle, re-aggravating his previous injury and appeared to be in great discomfort. Unable to jump his remaining hurdles, Liu dragged himself from the floor and proceeded to hop the remaining 100m, determined to cross the finish line.

Hungarian athlete Balazs Baji raised the Chinese competitor’s hand aloft, before Team GB’s Andrew Turner and Spaniard Jackson Quinonez carried Liu off the track to the dressing room to rapturous applause from the home crowd, appreciating this sublime showing of sportsmanship.

It is impossible to talk of London 2012 without mentioning the fastest man on the planet and triple gold medal winner Usain Bolt.

Granted, Bolt may appear to possess an unhealthy confidence, bordering on downright arrogance, but just one interview with the Jamaican was enough to prove to the world that his showmanship is just part of his entertainment act. Deep down Bolt is a humble man who was just as in awe of the spectators at the Olympic Stadium as they were of him.

Whilst being questioned trackside on live television, following his 100m victory, the champion heard the United States national anthem playing in honour of the women’s 400m winner Sanya Richard-Ross. Fan’s favourite, Bolt, halted proceedings to acknowledge the raising of the flags and stood silently until the anthem was over before recommencing the interview. True evidence that you can be the best and still display utmost respect to those around you.

The closing ceremony brought a fantastical London 2012 Olympics to a close in similarly spectacular fashion to that in which it started. We, the spectators, were left wondering what was next, harbouring that same emotion that every child experiences upon realising that Christmas is finally over, it won’t be back for what seems like an eternity and tomorrow morning it is back to school.

For us sports fanatics, we knew the Premier League was our leftover turkey sandwich to look forward to. Though, following the inevitable disappointment of England’s Euro 2012 campaign and an inconsequential Team GB footballing debut, fans across the country were already left less than enthralled at the prospect of the new season.

Optimists in the football industry were looking to the Olympics as a level of expectation to live up to. The sportsmanship and good nature exhibited had gone unnoticed by no one and the benchmark had been set for British sport to follow.

Even the biggest reprobate of them all, Joey Barton, took to Twitter to claim that footballers could learn a sense of humility from the athletes. One wonders whether this was a tongue-in-cheek gesture, although that would unjustifiably credit Barton with some form of intellect.

The football season kicked-off with the Community Shield, previously known as the Charity Shield, but there was nothing charitable about this fixture and it appeared neither the sportsmen nor the spectators had learned any lessons from the Olympic spirit.

With 8 yellow cards, 1 red card, an ill-tempered atmosphere and relentless abuse from fans towards players, it was far from what many had hoped for as a curtain raiser to the football season.

Just 3 days later, England played a ‘friendly’ football match against Italy, which despite a late comeback to secure victory, was most notable for the distasteful booing of the opposition’s national anthem before the game.

Last weekend’s opening Premier League fixtures were entertaining and provided some shock results to start the season almost where it left off back in May.

Swansea thrashed QPR 5-0 at Loftus Road, Everton defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Goodison Park, West Bromwich Albion destroyed Liverpool 3-0 at the Hawthorns and newly promoted Southampton lost narrowly 3-2 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

All good viewing, or not, depending on your team of choice.

However, in contrast to the examples of Olympic excellence, there are three incidents which have already left a bitter taste in the mouth of the footballing world.

Having been placed on the substitutes bench during the Community Shield, Manchester City defender Kolo Toure proceeded to direct verbal abuse towards his manager Roberto Mancini, before throwing his winner’s medal away into the crowd at Villa Park, to show its worthlessness to him. An incredibly selfish act, placing an obvious lack of importance on the good of the team.

During Newcastle United’s victory over Tottenham, Magpies boss Alan Pardew decided to take the law into his own hands, quite literally. Incensed that assistant referee Stuart Burt had not awarded his team a throw-in, he decided to push the official in question. In an age where ‘professionals’ are forever reminded of their duties as role models, this act of ruthless aggression is entirely unwelcome.

At Goodison Park on Monday night, it was reported that a small section of Manchester United fans were heard chanting about the Hillsborough disaster – a human crush, which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. Sickening behavior, finding joy in the unfortunate deaths of others has no place in any sport, even the pitiful world of football.

Once in love with football, the national sport, many find it increasingly hard to follow with the same passion as days gone by. Constant mindless acts of stupidity, greed and selfishness from players and fans alike have driven many to withdraw their interests in football.

Who in their right mind would subject their child to the foul-mouthed, violent atmosphere that presents itself at every Premier League ground on a Saturday afternoon?

Who really wants to put more hard-earned money into the pockets of the millionaire playboys who show little appreciation of anyone but themselves?

Who, having witnessed an immaculate display of courage, enthusiasm and gratitude during London 2012 Olympics, is really looking forward to the next 9 months of predictably pathetic football antics?

Admittedly, it may not be as black and white as the picture portrayed. After all, the Olympics was not without suggestion of cheating and the weekend’s football matches provided plenty of handshakes and wholehearted encouragement from genuine fans.

For those unable to appreciate the gulf in class, I give you a date for your diary:

Wednesday 29th August 2012 20.30 BST.

The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympics will, once again, give the nation the power to be ‘Great’ hosts and more importantly, the sacred opportunity to truly unite and feel proud to be British.

No other nation has ever hosted the Olympics on three separate occasions and the Paralympics is one last chance to illustrate why, which Great Britain will undoubtedly do.

As football continues to always shock, but never surprise, we shall at least be granted one final luxury of watching real sporting heroes who deserve all the credit they get and more.

While football’s flame of credibility flickers in the darkness, Great Britain has ensured the Olympic torch is burning brighter than ever and truly reignited some much-needed national pride.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought