Every reader of this site, and in this piece I address all of them, is watching the World Cup. There is much to admire. The VAR Tech/Instant Replay innovation is a breath of fresh air. When one watches replays of incidents on Match of The Day the pundits have watched the game live and then reviewed the talking points in slow motion. They can then highlight anomalies. Empowering a referee with the technology that has been hitherto the preserve of pundits has had an unexpected bonus. One anticipated more accuracy but how many of our number envisaged this technological innovation would enhance the drama?
I guess that only a handful of my readers watch Russia Today. Peter Schmeichel in conversation with FIFA President Gianni Infantino – and his advocacy of VAR – was one of the many highlights of their World Cup coverage. As a free-to-air public broadcaster with no advertising RT does not have the means to televise the games. However the analysis of Jose Mourinho is second to none. Stan Collymore has his own magazine, as does Alex Salmond. I have not seen the latter’s broadcasts and I have no intention of watching. Others of an Independence bent might be more attuned to his discourse.
This channel which broadcasts in English is perceived as Putin’s mouthpiece. I have yet to encounter any pro Putin propaganda but there can be little doubt that he and his government exercise editorial control. RT’s commentators’ take on Wall Street and the world of finance is so refreshingly radical and dare I say honest that I find it compelling. Everything you ever wanted to know about crypto currency but were afraid to ask.
I digress. Scotland is not a participant in the world’s premier football festival. No-one has a right to be there bar the host nation. The conspicuous absence of Italy and The Netherlands might give some succour, but these are blips not systemic problems. I did not agree with the dismissal of Gordon Strachan. I’m certain that this thought has occurred to others but were the SFA more upset by the preponderance of Celtic players in his teams than his inability to qualify? The prosaic fact is that Celtic have the best Scottish players. If one compensates for their non Scots in central defence one has the basis of a winning team.
This is frowned upon by the SFA and the SMSM as the official line is that they want the Scottish team to be representative of all clubs; the unofficial line is that those plying their trade at Ibrox must be accommodated. With the latter in mind they first approached Walter Smith EBT and finally settled on Alex McLeish EBT. McLeish who failed miserably in every job where tax evasion was not the norm, was chosen due to his Ibrox credentials. His former tenure in the Blue Room could be sold to those stupid enough to attend Hampden for a series of meaningless friendlies.
There are many reasons for Scotland’s abject failure to qualify for major tournaments. Money is and will always be a factor. However if one spends receipts at the gates on lacklustre English lower league players in preference to developing home grown players, the Scottish game will always lose out. The Rangers Football Club have an excuse as they are a new club who could not attract the best Scottish players of a former club, but what excuse can be proffered by Aberdeen which at one time gave so many players to the Scottish cause? The relegation of Hibs and Hearts is also a causal factor in the demise of the Scottish game. In a perfect world where all teams produced World Cup quality players I contend that the SFA’s bias towards Ibrox based players would continue to undermine the Scottish National team.
McLeish and the SFA’s management by committee will inexorably lead to failure in the next two tournaments. There are no visionaries at Hampden. There will be no VAR technology in Scotland. The SFA has yet to implement goal-line technology. Will Maxwell – the man who introduced the world’s first acid house mascot – lead us out of the Dark Ages or will he like Regan pander to the executives at Ibrox and be dragged down to their level?
McRae, the president of the SFA, adds nothing to the Scottish Game. He may have been a big swinging dick at Cove Rangers but that in no way prepares one for the challenges of the professional game.
The SFA is run like a golf club where everyone wants a pro-am with ‘Rangers’ players.
Next up is Petrie who is so compromised by the Five Way Agreement that he should resign.
When it comes to the World Cup will we always be on the outside looking in? With individuals like McLeish, McRae, Petrie and Maxwell – with their focus on internal politics and a desire to pray in the direction of their Medina viz Ibrox – should one choose another National team to follow?
How about England? Or would one prefer anyone but England? If one has no political axe to grind there is much to admire in the English national team. There are no global superstars on the field or on their bench. Dele Alli is one of the most exciting prospects in the tournament. Harry Kane is a likeable, honest professional. If Mourinho can develop Marcus Rashford he could join the pantheon of the world’s elite; the natural habitat of Cavani and Neymar.
Should England prevail against Sweden, which would be no mean feat, Ceteris Paribus they would face Croatia. Of course other things are not equal. Russia’s place in the last eight is far from deserved. Even with VAR technology there other ways to cheat. Will the officials penalise a Croatia player with two yellow cards to assist Russia’s progress? Should England meet Russia on a level playing field in the Semi-Finals they have every chance of being in the Final.
The most impressive team in the tournament is France. I’m really looking forward to their game against Uruguay. Cavani is a game changer but I anticipate France progressing. I would prefer Belgium to beat Brazil, as Neymar – one of the most talented players of his or any other generation – is an unconscionable cheat. His malevolent histrionics to solicit an opponent’s dismissal should be punished with retrospective action by FIFA. It does not take VAR technology to see through Neymar. He embodies the best and worst of the beautiful game.
So who would one prefer to win the World Cup? England with their honest professionals or Brazil with Neymar? How about Russia v England. I have little doubt that the Pink Pound at Follow Follow would plump for the Queen’s Eleven, but not necessarily for football reasons. Would one choose Russia whose athletes and officials engaged in systemic cheating at their very own Winter Olympics?
How about our Scandinavian neighbours Sweden? Or the Entente Cordiale with France? I am fluent in French and given that I’m watching the World Cup in the company of Frenchmen it would be impolite to openly support Les Rosbifs. But in my private moments I am supporting England and I am delighted that they sent Colombia packing last night.
I am aware of all the political agendas. The forces of the Crown Et cetera. But last time I checked Raheem Sterling was on the wing not Oliver Cromwell. Independence jihadists would have a hard time justifying their support for England. But how can anyone justify supporting the SFA’s Scotland?