Posted in Friday, Personal Observations, Sport

#Friday 21.0: PSG showed us the human disorder around buying success

Each week I will (try and) share a small segment of something useful I learnt. While this is for my own amusement I hope it resonates with my lovely readers.

Are we talking football (or soccer)

Football is merely the example to help drive my point. Don’t let it put you off.

Some context?

PSG – “Paris Saint-Germain” is a football club which doesn’t have a 100 year odd rich history in the game such as clubs you may akin to like Liverpool FC, Manchester United or Real Madrid, and it was never considered a superpower. Founded in 1970, it steadied it’s way within the French first division quite unnoticed.

So something changed?

In 2011 Qatar Sports Investments – or QSi – bought Paris Saint-Germain. QSi is subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) – and that’s the state-run sovereign-wealth fund in Qatar. In a nutshell the Qatar group have quite a few billions in their wallet and their objective has been not only to win the French premier division every year, a feat which the team are achieving, but to also win the holy grail which is the European Champions League (ECL). Basically it’s a competition in which all the top 4 teams from each league compete, for pride and oodles of money. The owners were going to achieve this by buying the very best players (through offering lucrative contracts and lots of money), putting them in the team and hoping they’ll gel and work their magic. Has it worked? Hell No!

Yeah but Rome wasn’t built in a day

I get that. But that quote works well when you know the project is “work in progress” and there’s some vision around the club to a long term goal of sustainability. PSG have tried on numerous occasions to win the elite competition but have failed at the pinnacle moment, and when the tough got going, they wanted to turn and run the other way. On 9th March PSG played Real Madrid (Spanish team) in round two of the ECL. PSG were 1-0 up from the first match and in this return leg, scored another to lead 2-0 and looked like coasting to victory. Then in the 60th minute the PSG goalkeeper had a I’m bored so I’ll try a trick or two moment, fluffed his lines and conceded what looked like the most unlikeliest of goals. Fast forward 15 minutes and Real Madrid capitalised on some real nervous, slow reacting and I can’t be bothered because I’m too big for my boots attitude to score two more goals, win the game 3-1 and progress through to the QF’s.

..And this showed us?

When the owners brought the club in 2011 two words probably came to their mind – World Domination. They brought players offering the paradise of high wages, as opposed to investing in youth players. Those players, with their inflated wages came with inflated ego’s…ego’s so big that no manager has managed to control it. Those players, along with the short term vision of the club has created an environment where the very human characteristics of passion, desire, team work, courage and pride have been packed and locked away in the boot room. The owners haven’t been able to buy success but have hit the lowest point in the clubs history. You can’t buy what you think is the best, assemble it and see if it glues. PSG have become an example of that human condition where we want instant success, instant everything, like the noodles….but we all know what they taste like.

Posted in Sport

Tugging My Heart Strings

Football is not a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that

Reported quote by football manager of Liverpool FC, Bill Shankly in 1959

It was February 2020 and amidst all the pandemic chaos my beloved Liverpool FC lifted the Premier League title for the first time. They had last won the league title 30 years ago, when it was in a different format. OK, so some of you may be wondering who are Liverpool, what is a Premier League? Here is a very brief introduction to you lovely readers. (For context, football is reference to soccer).

I was covered in red

There is a scene in Superman (I), starring the late Christopher Reeve, where his capsule lands to Earth and he is discovered by a couple. When the capsule opens, this super baby is wrapped in a red cloth. When I was born, legend has it I was wrapped in a red scarf belonging to Liverpool FC. So the tribal lines were already marked for me, I had no say. The football club was started in 1892 and experienced resounding success up until the late 80s. They dominated domestic and European football for two decades (70s and 80s) without reply. But like all well built institutions, they failed to capitalise when they were at the top.

The Premier League

Some bright spark involved in the UK Football Association decided it was time to spruce up the current league. In a nutshell someone needed to ‘sex up’ the television rights so that a new league, a Premier League, would contain the top tier of teams making all the money. This rather left the remaining 5 tiers of English football to battle out gradual promotions. The Premier League took an introductory bow in 1990 and has been with us ever since. But in all these years, my beloved Liverpool FC didn’t get a sniff at winning the title. We came close a few times, top 3 but never won it. However, the season 2019/20 Liverpool FC came out like a beast on a mission. By February 2020 we had wrapped up the league, the earliest a team had ever achieved. A few weeks later we were officially crowned champions, after 30 years of waiting. The joy and emotions were overwhelming as I celebrated with both my children. You have to remember from 1990 – 2018 I had pretty much convinced myself the team wouldn’t win a title in my lifetime.

But retention proved too hard

What is it with sport, and predominately football that tugs hard on the heart strings? Under the heavy influence of the pandemic the Premier League kicked off in August 2020, with Liverpool FC defending their title for the first time in this new era. For those who follow the Premier League, you will no doubt have seen that we have no way of retaining our title. Mathematically, yes we still can but there is no confidence or momentum in the team right now. I have spent many a weekends, lots, spewing over lame performances, in total disbelief of the capitulation of our title defence. Each week I sign-off to the kids with the statement it’s coming boys, it will be OK. But in all honesty, my heart is sinking. I mean I get it, we have more important things in life to deal with. But my heart melts with disappointment each weekend now. Can we even mathematically be relegated to the next division? Yes of course, and if that happened then I would just disband all forms of communication. The heat I would face from rival friends would be too much. After the matches I have logged onto sports radio stations and heard grown men breakdown with frustration. You can almost feel the anguish pulsating through the digital airwaves – I feel that.

I’m not even sure why I wrote this post, but maybe there are some heart stricken Liverpool fans out there who feel the same way. It’s only a game I tell myself, but I know it’s not!

As in the revised words of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, this time next year we’ll be champions again.

Posted in Friday, Sport

#Friday 17.0: 30 years of wait, tearful with jubilation

Each week I will (try and) share a small segment of something useful I learnt. While this is for my own amusement I hope it resonates with my lovely readers.

If you follow football…

I was 13 years old when Liverpool F.C. last won the football league (1989 season). Yesterday, when the referee blew the whistle, Liverpool were once again league champions. We’ve had to wait 30 years. In that time we’ve had near misses, slip ups, being taunted by rival fans. But we are back, title win no. 19 in our illustrious club history.

As I celebrated with my kids last night, droplets of tears rolled down my cheeks. This is Liverpool, this means more.

Posted in Photography

My m8, Footballs and two Singhs

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Thanks to RS and MS for their time and patience.

Location: Gravesend Industrial Estate Promenade

Posted in Personal Observations

Muddy Boots – A Sign Winter is Here

There are various signs that tell you winter is here, like the heavy dew in the air, the snappy chill embracing every inch of your body and giving you an early reminder of things to come.  For me, it’s the thick mushy mud clambering to my football boots, cementing itself to each individual stud and making my feet feel heavy.

My car mats will never be the same, my pathway and hallway floor will now leave small trails of chunky mud, Oh Winter!

What signalled the beginning of Winter for you?