Monday, June 27, 2011

You're not an East Fife fan because you like the glory. Underachievements and relegations have been commonplace in my 28 years of watching the team I love.

I can't imagine what it must have been like as a fan of the Fife in the late 40's and early 50's, when going out at the semi final stage of a major Cup competition was a disappointing result.

It's those glory days that give us belief, hope and expectations and when any success does come along, like the Division Three Championship in 2007/08, it makes those days all the more special.

That's why I love my team and that's why I'll always support them. Those footballing highs and lows have made me the supporter I am today.

If you're a fan of the famous Argentinian club River Plate today, you're experiencing some emotions and despair that are shockingly new to you.

I've never taken much interest in South American club football save for You Tube clips of insane riots and spectacular goals. Several clubs are familiar names but I've never grown up watching any of the games and have no interest in any of the teams.

River Plate's plight this season certainly caught my attention though and yesterday they were relegated to the second tier of Argentinian football for the first time in their 110 year history.

The phrase "how the mighty have fallen" doesn't even begin to do justice to what has happened to one of Argentina's top and most famous of clubs.

Club Atletico River Plate were formed in 1901 and have won a record 33 Argentinian Primera Division League titles (the last of which was just in 2008) and five international titles, including two Copa Libertadores.

Just what went wrong to cause this fall of a true South American giant?

That's the question the fans want the answer to. For neutrals looking in, it all seems so improbable.

To make things worse for the River Plate fans, there may be no easy answers.

River Plate are Argentinian football through and through. Of their 36 man squad, only two were from outside of Argentina. They hit a slump at the wrong time and the team failed to record a win in their last seven Primera Division games.

That run saw them fall into the relegation/promotion playoff place and facing a two legged match with Club Atletico Belgrano.

Belgrano had finished 4th in the National B Division and were looking to play in the top tier for only the fourth spell in their 106 year history.

River Plate were still expected to get themselves out of the hole they had dug themselves in to but were stunned by a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Cordoba.

With over 50,000 expected in Buenos Aires when they hosted the second leg, there was still more concern than panic stations, as the giants were expected to get at least the two goals they needed to preserve their top tier safety.

I watched the game at 'El Monumental' unfold yesterday and it was an intense and nervy atmosphere from the off. It was also electric for the neutral at home.

When Mariano Pavone opened the scoring for River Plate just six minutes in, it looked like Belgrano would fold in the red hot atmosphere and things would play out as expected.

Despite pressure from the home side, the game remained 1-0 as it reach half-time, but the home crowd were stunned into a mix of silence and tears in the 62nd minute when Belgrano's Guillermo Farre equalised, sending their travelling support into ecstatic scenes.

Pavone then went from hero to villain for River Plate as he had a penalty brilliantly saved in the 70th minute.

With River Plate's fate almost sealed, things within the stadium turned nasty. I would expect nothing less to be honest from what I've seen in the past.

Fans invaded the pitch, police fired back with water cannons and the match was abandoned in the 89th minute.

As the Belgrano players couldn't even get to celebrate with their brave travelling support and had to be ushered off the pitch under a hail of missiles, the River Plate players were reduced to tears as the realisation sank in.

We, as fans, often decry players for not showing passion for our club. The River Plate players certainly showed that they were hurting. I'm sure wondering what the fans were going to do to them also added to those emotions!

The violence continued outside of the stadium after the game, with fans clashing with riot police and several injuries being reported.

As a fan of the underdog, it was great to see Belgrano pull off the shock.

Everyone will be talking about River Plate today but we should also be talking about Belgrano as what they achieved was truly tremendous.

With River Plate rumoured to be around $19 million in debt, the quick return the fans demand may not be forthcoming, as top players will most likely need to be sold.

Aren't you glad that East Fife haven't had 109 years of glory and top flight football?! Must get boring.

The River Plate fans might enjoy their spell in the second tier. Although judging by the post game riots, maybe not.

I'd still rather be an East Fife supporter!


Here's some videos of the day...

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Friday.

That means Friday Fun in AFTN and what better fun can you have than to laugh at a goalkeeping mistake from an English keeper?!

Sometimes I curse my luck that I have two teams to follow now on the international stage that are both under achievers at the big tournaments - Scotland and Canada.

Once in a while they give you something to shout about and the Canadian under-17's have done just that at this month's U17 World Cup in Mexico.

Step forward goalkeeper Quillan Roberts, who scored this fantastically hilarious goal in Wednesday's group game against England:

The look of disbelief on Roberts face is priceless. He really doesn't know what to do to celebrate the historic moment!

What is even more remarkable in this story is that Roberts is the back up keeper and was only playing after the first choice goalie was injured towards the end of the first group game against Uruguay.

As for English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, he can console himself as now being in the same category as English goalkeeping "greats" like David Seaman, David James and Rob Green when it comes to fucking up in major matches.

Good old England. They never let us down!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scotland's team at the 2011 Cerebral Palsy World Cup are doing the nation proud.

The Scottish team finished second in Group B, after a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Canada in their final group game.

The win came on the back of a 10-0 trashing of Finland two days earlier, as the team bounced back from an opening 5-0 loss to Ukraine in some style.

Here's some highlights of the game in the CPISRA Daily new broadcast from the tournament where it was picked as the 'Match of the Day':

The 2011 CPISRA World Championships are being held from June 17th to July 1st in the Netherlands and they act as the qualifiers for next year's Paralympics in London. With England already crashing out, it looks like Scotland should be at the Paralympics in 2012.

CP football was founded in 1978 and has been part of the Paralympics since 1984, with the World Cup being held every four years. The 2007 finals were held in Brazil, with Russia beating Iran 2-1 in the final and Scotland coming a very respectable 6th.

Matches are 7-a-side, with two thirty minute halves and those competing are affected by non-progressive brain damage such as cerebral palsy, severe head trauma and strokes. There are four different classifications of disability within the criteria and there are restrictions and rules on how many players from each criteria can be on the pitch at any given time.

The Scots now face Brazil in the quarter finals and that in itself will be a daunting task.

The Brazilians drew their first match 2-2 against the host Holland, but then came roaring back with two 10-0 thumpings of Australia and Spain.

You can follow all of the Scotland team's fortunes on the official tournament website.

Good luck to the guys on Saturday. Bring home the World Cup for Scotland.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

And so the 2012 Olympic farce continues apace.

I was quite stunned to read of the British Olympic Association's "historic agreement" for a British football team to take part in next year's London Olympics.

Clearly not as much as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations who were quick to issue the following statement:

"No discussions took place with any of us, far less [has any] historic agreement been reached. The Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reiterate our collective opposition to Team GB participation at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, contrary to the media release issued by the BOA."

"We have been consistently clear in explaining the reason for our stance, principally to protect the identity of each national association. With that in mind, we cannot support nor formally endorse the approach that has been proposed by the Football Association."

Great to hear, but it begs the question, just were the BOA up to or hoping to achieve with their statement?

A genuine miscommunication? Or an attempt to try and force the others governing bodies into accepting what they want to propose?

Either way, good on the SFA for standing up to them and holding firm for the greater good of Scottish football.

I don't consider myself to even be one iota British. It doesn't resonate with me at all.

I have no objection to an English team representing "Britain" in next year's Olympics football. Just do that and get on with it like you've been told to do for many many months now.

There may be an appetite by some in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for our players to take part, but you'll struggle to find too many.

If any Scottish players decide to break ranks and play for a British team, I would be disappointed and could no longer support them to be selected for Scotland. I feel the SFA need to make this clear and not leave it open as they currently have.

With all the behind the scenes stuff that's been going on in football of late, it makes me uncomfortable to think that some figures will put pressure on some of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish lads.

With no legal right to prevent Scottish players from being selected, you can be almost certain that the BOA and English FA will be complete assholes about this and select players from the other three home nations.

It's up to us, the fans, to make it clear to the players that they will lose our support if they choose to go down that road. We need to be organised about this.

The "Just say no" campaign needs to start now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's resignation of Fifa vice-president Jack Warner shocked me.

Not because I didn't think he should go, but because I didn't think he would take that route and if he was going to go down, he'd go down all guns blazing and take a few people with him.

I'd love to be in the position to say that he took the honourable way out and it was the right thing to do to save tarnishing Fifa's reputation. Unfortunately I can't.

Fifa's reputation and standing is battered and torn beyond seeming repair right now.

They didn't help themselves after Warner's resignation when they announced:

"As a consequence of Mr Warner's resignation, all ethics committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained".

Why close them? If you're that certain of innocence and no wrong doing, surely the absolute best way to restore Fifa's image is to prove that.

If they could.

That said. After all the allegations and media coverage into the supposed events, I think any committee investigation that found nothing would have been roundly ridiculed.

As it is, by closing the investigation, they are equally ridiculed.

What a complete mess.

The allegations are that Warner and Qatar's Fifa member, Mohamed Bin Hammam, paid bribes of around $1,000,000 to Carribean associations.

Most of us suspect that there's all these back door deals going on in football all the time. Even with that, when allegations become public it still dismays and shocks.

Since Warner is now "presumed innocent", the attention is still focussing on Bin Hammam.

Will he follow Warner's lead and resign? Will this mean anything for the 2022 World Cup?

Probably not, is the likely answer for both of those questions.

What needs to happen now is an independent investigation into the workings of Fifa (if that is at all possible).

UEFA needs to take the lead in demanding for change and threaten repurcussions if there isn't any.

Only once the fans see that something is actually happening to make things more transparent will any faith be restored in the oversee-ers of our beloved game.

Even that will be a long, slow process, if it is even possible.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Many apologies to everyone.

AFTN's blog has taken a back seat the last few months, with no updates or anything.

It wasn't the plan. It just happened.

Too much stuff going on elsewhere and concentration on our growing Canadian arm (AFTN Canada) are the main reasons behind this.

Well, we're going to remedy that now and starting this coming week, we'll be back to being pretty much a daily blog once again. We also have a couple of exciting new features coming up in the weeks to come that you can all be a part of.

Also, after being laid off from work a few days ago, I have a lot more spare time on my hands. So if anyone wants or knows of any paid football writing work out there, then please get in touch!

Ok, back to business...
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