Sunday, 19 December 2010

Time for the first Winter World Cup?

While Sepp Blatter's controversial and horrific comments with regards to gay sex at the 2022 Qatar World Cup rightly made headlines, he also mentioned in the very same press conference something that went unnoticed by many, but is perhaps a far more significant dilemma.

It has been barely a fortnight since Russia and Qatar won the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, but just as it seemed the fuming football fans around the world had begun to calm down, FIFA decided to try and land another bombshell by announcing that it was considering moving the World Cup from it's usual date of June and July, to a much earlier January tournament, in order to help cope with the ridiculously high temperatures of the summer months.

The idea was not one of Sepp's, however, former players, and FIFA executive committee members Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini first came up with the idea, before on Thursday the FIFA general secretary said "why not?" when asked about the first ever winter World Cup.

Then, in his press conference on Friday, our favourite FIFA member said this;

"I definitely support to play in winter [in Qatar]. To play when the climate is appropriate and I'm thinking about footballers, not only the fans but the actors. Where there's a will, there's a way."

It is understandable that it will be tough for the players to play in such a gruelling temperature, even with the proposed air conditioned stadia, but is this not why FIFA gave the Qatar bid such a poor safety rating? So why was it voted for?

This will add to the failed bidders' anger and sense of injustice, as if they weren't sore enough. It seems that the factors that may have deterred voters from voting for a nation could now be avoided rather easily.

But there is no rule to state when a World Cup should be held, it has just traditionally been held in the summer months, however there is nothing to stop Qatar holding a World Cup in January. FIFA tend to work out the scheduling for World Cup 2-3 seasons in advance, so there would be plenty of preparation time, and so it is not a matter of FIFA and Qatar picking a date a letting everybody else work around it.

There are still 12 years, or 11 if it is in January, until the World Cup, so there is plenty of planning time, but the big clubs in Europe in particular will do everything in their power to avoid a winter World Cup.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

True loyalty, or simply postponing the inevitable?

As the words "number 1, Julian Speroni", the biggest cheer of the day went up in recognition of Julian Speroni signing a new 3 and a half year contract on Friday, probably the best news of the season for any Palace fan. The Argentine shot stopper was then met by more applause as he approached his goal at the Whitehorse Lane end, with the entire stand giving him a standing ovation, holding up Argentine flags and singing his name. He applauded them in return, and was visibly touched, but this did not stop them, and the songs continued as the game begun.

Julian Speroni is quite possibly the best goalkeeper outside the Premier League. Some fans argue that he is not, saying that the likes of David James, Scott Loach and Kieron Westwood are better, but, even without my Palace cap on, I struggle to see how they are any better than Jules.

David James is 40 this year, and despite playing at the World Cup in the summer clearly wasn't up to the high standard of top class international football, and this was proved when he didn't sign for a Premier League club, and instead joined Bristol City. Kieran Westwood is young and a good shot stopper, but is often caught out of position and can be prone to making costly mistakes, as he showed when he collected a back pass against Palace for an indirect free-kick inside the box, which Darren Ambrose duly fired home from. And while Scott Loach is a great keeper for his age, he rarely is seen to make incredible diving saves, with many Watford fans believing he could have done better with Owen Garvan's two goals against Watford.

Julian Speroni, however, has everything a keeper needs to be successful. He is only 31, the optimum age for goalkeepers, and has experienced, all be it very briefly, top level football. That was 6 years ago, but he has learnt from his mistakes and matured greatly. His diving is exceptional, and when watching him I can guarantee there will be shots destined for the back of the net before he gets a hand to them. His kicking is superb, and there is nothing better on the break than him placing a perfectly placed kick at the feet of a young, quick winger to watch him weave through the remaining defender and score. And then there is his most outstanding attribute. His reflexes. Speroni is easily one of the best goalkeepers in the world at making reflex saves, and you only need look as far as a month ago against Coventry where he made some mind boggling saves.

So why isn't he in the Premier League? Well, as far as I can tell, it is his love for Palace and the Palace fans. Before and after every game he applauds the fans, and has stated his love for the club, but when in the summer Fulham put in a bid for him, he seemed destined to leave and finally get another bite at the Premier League cherry. No Palace fan could deny that this opportunity is long overdue, and so when, at 16:00 on Friday afternoon, news broke that he had signed a new contract and will be staying at SE25 until 2014, Eagles fans worldwide celebrate wildly. But will this simply mean he will be sold, and the club will receive more money for him? We will have to wait and see, but, for now, let's celebrate.