Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2013
This issue of The Blizzard presents some quite interesting topics. First of all Iran as a soccer country is covered. Gwendolyn Oxenham describes the search for pickup soccer in Iran, especially as a woman, and shows nicely the situation in this country at the moment, the gap between government and the people, between the law and the reality on the street. For a foreigner it is nearly impossible to understand which laws have to be followed by the letter and which can be stretched, which written and unwritten rules exist and how to navigate in that atmosphere to allow a decent living and to have some fun from time to time. Unfortunately the second story about Iran was not that interesting, the author just tried to make an article out of the fact than one of the World Cup planners for the Iranian national team holds an US passport. You might ask: “So, what?” and that is exactly all to say about it.
Again there are also some pieces about the FIFA in this edition, an interview of the head of the ethics commission, which was newly installed at that time and about corruption in the Asian Football Confederation. Now, two years later, all the little hints and information that the FIFA system might be corrupt through and through sound so naive and small scale but that was the start how the whole scandal got rolling and it is good to recapture of the events which step by step finally led to the fall of Blatter and Platini.
A nice contrast make the articles about Manchester City and how the investments of it Sheiks will influence the cities development plans and about Leeds United and how the club and its reputation is synonymous with the Northern blue-collar worker. They received attention in the sixties and even made it in the mainstream movies as rowdyish anti-heroes and then were fought and beaten down by the government in the eighties. In the same way clubs like Leeds United, never loved for their beautiful but for the fight they put on and their clear opposition to the London clubs in the south, rose and declined at the same times.
Finally there is also an interesting interview of Igor Rabiner with Lev Yashin’s widow which is interesting simply because footage and information from that time are rare and even more so, for soccer in the Soviet Union.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3
Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2013
The eight issue of The Blizzard discusses a lot of personalities. First there is a detailed analysis of Mourinho’s style of managing and coaching a team which at that time was still exercised in Madrid and whereas Chelsea was still working on a detox of him. We know now they preferred to keep the addicition and dependency from the “Special One” and the article tells you what that means for them, the club and the players. The other personality discussed is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’s personality is also described and explained in more detail and why he is how he is, so that the picture of the egomaniac center forward is a bit softened and more put into perspective. I would even go so far to read his biography now. Further on there is also an interview with Sepp Blatter which seems to be comical to read two years later but just shows again the double nature of his reign, which I described in “How They Stole The Game”.
The start of sports/soccer journalism in Europe is discussed in an interview between Philipe Auclair and Brian Glanville and is a nice addition when you already read “Goal-Post Vol. 1”, the Victorian soccer journalism anthology.
The Cup of Nation provides again an opportunity to talk about the state of soccer on the African continent, including some history around the national teams of Nigeria and Mali, as well as a review about what happened in South Africa after the World Cup 2010.
Finally Steve Menary writes about how the Champions League revenues destroy the balance in Europe’s smaller leagues, like Cypres or Luxembourg. It just shows the problem to create a fair system. If the small teams get a significant share of the revenues, even when they just participate in the qualification rounds, they dominate their local leagues with the money earned. The alternative would be to make the money gap between the big and small teams in Europe bigger, which then would unbalance the European competitions even more. I personally prefer the first and hope that sometimes other teams in the small leagues have a chance to break through the ceiling, just because of the number one teams might stumble about their own aspirations. Fairness is also the topic of the article about the fall of Glasgow Rangers and why it was absolutely necessary to crush the duopoly of the two Glasgow teams in the Scottish Premier League. From the pure results it seems that it did not help, with Celtic winning all the Scottish Championships in the last years, but let’s see what the future will bring, when the Rangers are back in the SPL.
And at the very last I would not like to miss to point out the article about becoming a Millwall fan from Mike Calvin, which shines a wonderful light on how we become what we are as supporters of certain clubs.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 3/3
Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2012
This issue of The Blizzard had a lot of interesting topics and interviews to present. The magazine starts with several articles around the start of professional soccer in Colombia which resulted in a pirate league which was not approved by FIFA and the Colombian FA but still was a magnet for the best players on the South American continent and filled the stadiums in the country. After their way back into the arms of FIFA soccer in Colombia quickly declined. That makes me wonder why not more pirate leagues are created throughout the world, especially in countries where the soccer game is not attractive anymore for the fans under FIFA’s stringent reign, like in Africa or Eastern Europe.
The second block of articles is dedicated to soccer in England in the Victorian Age. It describes not only how soccer as a game but also the players received more and more acceptance and the game started to get portrayed in the newspapers at that time. The topic of the early days of soccer, before the official history started with the first World Cup is always very interesting to me and therefore that will not be the last time you will hear from it.
The interviews in this issue are really good, either because the interviewees are interesting characters or the questions of the journalists created a interesting conversation. Leo Beenhakker, one of the most successful globetrotter coaches can tell stories about his time as coach of Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and Poland but also about the contrast of working for a clubs in Hungary vs. Real Madrid or Ajax. His answers show that it needs a lot of adaption to adjust to the local habits and culture on one hand but to have some influence at the same time to improve the status quo. I think in many cases the work of these globetrotter coaches is undervalued because usually a championship in their home countries counts more than qualifying for a world cup with a carribean team or installing some longer lasting structures for clubs or the national team in countries like Poland or Hungary.
Roberto Martinez is an interesting character as well, not only because he started to play in England when southern foreigners were still a rarity and he survived the culture shock, adapted and tried later to have some influence on how the game is played with the teams he coached. It is also interesting to hear from a coach that he values stability in the club and creating a legacy more than coaching a top ten team like Liverpool. Now, he changed his opinion one year later, going to Everton, but that might be the more stable and long-term planing club in Liverpool and therefore the right choice for him.
Another interesting character which was interviewed in this issue is Esper Baardsen, a norwegian youth international, who dropped out of professional soccer with 25, still a player for the Norwegian national team at that time. When he did not get a chance to play regularly in a first league team, he decided that a career in finance is more fulfilling for him. Not only is it unusual to a player decides so early to retire, when he still has a chance to earn money and excel, the interview also showed that even today the English soccer teams are no place for people who want to thrive and grow intellectually. His interest in something else than soccer and his will to learn more, in his case about finance and investment, was at least frowned at or in worse case he was bullied for it from other players or coaches. Maybe that is one of the reasons that the Premier League does not excel international. For success on that high level it needs more than good technical skill, it needs some intellectual skill to understand the game, to carry out complex tactical guidelines to succeed and to come up with new solutions when the standard doesn’t work anymore. Tactical excellence is missing now for years in the Premier League and it is not because of the lack of coaches who tried to bring it to the English teams. Maybe that is the reason, that Guardiola decided to go to Bayern München instead of Manchester City or Chelsea, because he found there players willing to learn from him. Quite the opposite happened when André Villas-Boas tried to teach Chelsea and Tottenham some new tactical knowledge and also Brendan Rogers and Louis Van Gaal have a hard time to teach their clubs something different than 4-4-2.
One person who went through all this and always was and still is constantly denounced for it is Arsene Wenger. With the article of Zach Slaton finally somebody appreciates the work of one of the best coaches worldwide, who is constantly underrated. Slaton shows by using similar statistics as in Soccernomics, that Wenger, even today when a Championship is far from happening, does an excellent job and over-delivers year for year based on the players he is allowed to work with. And by the way, this year it looked for some time at the end of the first round like they would drop out of the qualification for the international competitions completely and guess what, now, with eight games to go, they can still qualify for the Champions League once again. Well done, Mr. Wenger.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3