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The Dark Side Of Football And Dodgy Deals

From player to functionary to sports manager I’ve worked and dealt with a very wide range of Head Coaches or, in the way the Irish and British are wont to say – Managers.  A player simply wants the following from their manager: 1. respect, 2. belief, 3. clear instructions, 4. honesty.  As a functionary or sports manager you want the same.  I can count on the fingers of my left hand the number of Managers who had all four, since I have only 4 fingers you catch my drift.  Of course I have a thumb, but what I’m trying to say is, well, it’s clear.

At the start of 2014, as a favour to an agent I went to meet his client who was, then, playing for a Premier League club. The player had had some sort of argument with the Manager when the latter had arrived just before the New Year. The player had been offered a move but felt it was not in his interests. He tried to speak with the new Boss but to no avail. Which is why his agent asked for help.

I arrived in London on a 6 hour turnaround and met the Manager as arranged. We’d previously met in Russia so it was at least friendly. At a cafe near the training ground we had a very polite round table. The player explained why he wanted to stay and help the club. The Manager said he had to sell him and that the offer was good, somewhere in the region of a million pounds. The player was to take some time to think it over.

He stepped into the street to call his agent and it was then the the truth emerged. “I don’t care for his fuck agent, you get the bastard to move and I give you a bite (sic).” I explained I couldn’t, that I was not involved and only here to resolve the conflict, after all, the player had been playing well under the him and was the kind of lad you needed in a relegation battle.

“Look, we are going down, okay.  You make it when you can.  Now, you want a bite (sic) or are you crazy.  You don’t want it?” I shrugged. In my more than 20 years experience in sports, Managers are not adverse to ensuring transfers go through and if it means shorting their club, so be it. Again, think of the fingers of my left hand.

The Manager was a bit up his own backside and had grown to believe his own hype. I’d known he was a good training ground man, great at physical preparation, and in his previous post he’d made a packet by stabbing his friend and Number 1 in the back so he could grab the top job. So he was also smart.

I left for the airport once we’d agreed the player wouldn’t move in the January window and that there’d be no repercussions. I don’t class myself as an idiot, nor too intelligent, and probably more than a little too naive, so when the player moved a few months later for 5 times the sum the Manager had told us, I felt at least I’d done a good job for the club, not that they’d reward me for it.

Instead the Manager, by then ex-Manager, got a hefty fee from the selling club and a lump from the agent of the club who shelled out the shekels. I’ll never know the “bite” – or bit that was coming my way, though it was certainly more than the airfare and expenses the agent paid. Though I was surprised, I shouldn’t have been. As one of those good 4 Managers told me when we began to work together – “Some believe so little in themselves that while waiting for the axe to fall, they grab what they can.  The problem is, if you keep waiting for the axe, you forget to do what you’re there to do, build and win.”  Seems there’s more money in waiting for the axe for most.

Guest Blog By Alan Moore. He is a Russian based sports specialist and columnist for Russia’s #1 sports media outlet, Championat. Alan has more than 20 years experience in professional sports from playing to administration to management.  He has worked with professional clubs in countries including Germany, Russia, Croatia and Austria.  Alan worked on the Croatia-Hungary UEFA Euro 2012 and Russia FIFA World Cup 2018 bids.

2016 Sports Betting Advice For Football

While many sports bettors and handicappers are still focused on their 2015 picks, we’re already busy gathering information and preparing for the coming 2016 sports betting season. There’s plenty of great futures bets already available, which present great payout and odds if you know what you’re doing.

From European Premier League Football to America’s National Football League, there’s endless opportunities to cash in on sports in 2016. Futures wagers are a great way to get a larger payout, but with such an advanced wager preceding the actual contests, it takes extra planning and sometimes even a little bit of luck to strike it big. The earlier you place your wager on a futures pick, the higher the payout for that particular pick. So for example, if you wanted to place a $5,000 wager on the Patriots -3 over the Ravens during the 2016 NFL regular season, the payout will be sometimes close to double of what it would be compared to placing the wager that week of the game. For professional football you can see the latest NFL lines showing how the point spreads move and when to fire off a wager as the odds move in your favor. Given how many variables that are present, and any one variable going wrong between now and then, it’s easy to understand why the payouts can be so Ludacris, however, if you place enough futures wagers, you’re bound to hit at least a few, and still make a good profit.

Other than placing futures wagers on specific games, many professional bettors also like to pick futures champion picks. For example, if you’d like to pick the winner of next year’s English Premier League, or the 2016 AFC West Winner from the NFL. Sharps like Jon Price from SIT Picks know how to profit from any sports no matter the shape of the ball or time of year. The key is being savvy and sharp when others are being lazy. This creates great opportunities. Sometimes the only issue is how big of a wager Jon Price can make during the “off season” for sports bettors.

There’s so many options to spread out your future wagers and cash-in, that it makes a lot of sense to always place some small futures wagers on large payouts for the simple fact that you’re bound to take a few of them.

Outside of futures wagers, it’s still never too early to begin preparing for the coming 2016 sports betting season. The only way to stay ahead of the bookmakers is to prepare like the bookmakers, and that means always being one step ahead. So as we close out another 2015 sports betting year and turn our collective attention to the coming 2016 year, make sure you’re making informed bets and putting yourself in the best position to win big rather than lose big.


New Boy Jozo Šimunović Has A Gap To Fill At Celtic

Bhoy Šimunović

With the departure of centre back Virgil van Dijk to Southampton, Celtic believe they have found a young replacement in Jozo Šimunović, a 21 year old Croatian defender who has made 52 appearances and 3 goals for the senior Dinamo Zagreb club. Šimunović is one of the hottest centre back prospects in Europe and Celtic wanted to make sure they had his signature with a rough estimate of £5.5 million spent on the youngster.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila has been quick to praise his new centre back, who has only made one appearance for the club since signing on September 1st due to an ankle issue that has been nagging him for weeks. Though it remains to be seen whether the big money spent on a 21-year old will serve as a suitable replacement, he made a very solid effort in his one appearance against Ajax in the Europa League.

Deila will be counting on Šimunović to perform a lot of cleanup work along the back line as well as manufacture counter attacks moving forward up the pitch. In his first appearance against Ajax, Šimunović appeared to mark his man well, not giving much room for the attackers to move and he also cleared his lines and made swift passes to teammates to move forward in attack.

While 90 minutes of football isn’t enough to decide whether the money spent was worth the gamble on Šimunović, Celtic have been sloppy and very exposed in their back line since van Dijk left the club. Since the ankle injury to the Croatian, Efe Ambrose has been his replacement and his form has not helped matters for the Glasgow side.

The problems in the back four may also include a leader type role for the 21 year old to step into, at least when it comes to managing the centre of the pitch. Šimunović has been called up this week to the Croatian side as a reserve, so as long as he continues to battle back and stay out of harms way throughout the weekend, he should be able to make his second appearance for the Hoops when they play Motherwell at Fir Park on October 17th.

Until then, Celtic fans will have to keep an eye out and be patient finding a replacement for Virgil van Dijk (who took a shot at Celtic and Scottish football this past week). Šimunović seems to have what it takes to make the jump up to a big club like Celtic and he should serve them well going forward.


What’s Going On With Arsenal, Chelsea And Other English Teams In The Champions League?

The English are having a tough time in Europe at the moment. Three points apiece for Chelsea and Manchester City put them both third on their respective groups; two losses for Arsenal mean they are at the bottom of Group F; and although Man United’s group look fairly equal, manager Louis van Gaal has said his team needs to improve dramatically if they want to progress further in the competition.

What are the odds of having an English team reach the final, let alone make it further than the group stages? Let’s take a look at all our men in the Champions League and the issues that might be holding them back.

Arsenal with Security Issues

Following their second embarrassing defeat of the tournament to Olympiacos at the Emirates, Arsene Wenger’s men will not be feeling great about their chances. Since the Champions League began in 1955, a total of 110 teams have lost their opening two games, of which just 9 have ever managed to qualify. Arsenal’s hopes are therefore very slim indeed: just 8.2% in fact!

What’s been going so wrong for the team that currently sit second in the Premier League? It has to be said that Arsenal got particularly unlucky in their Olympiacos match: a horrifying error from the new Colombian keeper, David Ospina, kept the team on the back foot for most of the game, which for an inherently attack-minded team turned out to be fatal.

Concentration was rattled, and although they didn’t concede many chances they were hit extremely hard when they did. No one could have predicted that 3-2 loss though – in fact many bookmakers confidently backed them for big 3-0 and 4-0 wins!

They face Bayern on 20th October, which is certainly not going to be an easy match to claw their way back into this competition (they are currently 7/2 to win this game).

Chelsea Lacking Managerial Leadership

Chelsea have not had a good season so far in either Leagues. They made a poor start in their attempt to retain the Premier League title, and crashed 2-1 at Porto (Jose Mourinho’s former club, who he made his name with). This leaves them with a mountain to climb if they want to get back into Europe.

Mourinho in particular has faced an onslaught of criticism over these recent events, accused of sending out mixed messages and not inspiring solid leadership within his squad. Ultimately, it seems like the manager is just as confused as the pundits as to why his team are performing so poorly – he’s clearly not used to losing!

Manchester City Under Pressure

City may have not finished outside of the Premier League’s top three since 2010, but they are struggling to translate this domestic success overseas. After losing their first contest, they were forced to come from behind after Borussia Monchengladbach converted an early chance, and just managed to kick start their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win.

But although some, including Joe Hart, may not be pleased with the performance, the win does put them in a good position. City have often misfired in this championship, but have won four of their last nine Champions League away games. The away win is therefore a high possibility (with odds of 8/13) and would put them in good stead to qualify second.

It all depend if City – who go into this match as the favourites – can hold it together when the pressure is on. Are their players up to it? Recent games against Tottenham and West Ham perhaps suggest not.

Manchester United Fatigued?

City’s rival have also found it tough to get off the mark this competition. Although the latest home win against Wolfsburg got them the three points they badly needed, Man United looked anything but Champions League winners – they also had to come from behind, and then just managed to hang on towards the end.

Louis van Gaal, although pleased with the result, knows his side needs to improve. He has suggested that the players are simply suffering from fatigue: this was their sixth in 18 days, after all. Since then they already suffered a crushing defeat at Arsenal in the Premier, but now have just one game prior to their showdown against CSKA Moscow on 21st October. Let’s hope this break puts them in good stead to take the 13/8 win.

Double Delight For Arsenal As Superstar Named Euro Star Of The Week, While Tottenham Star Mocked As Worst

A recent report in Spanish newspaper Sport reads out as if it has been written by an Arsenal fan on Tuesday. The paper used to previously pick a European Team of the Week though these days they just pick out a star, ‘Estrella’, a supporting cast – ‘Asteroides’ and a crashed star – ‘Estrellado’. This week’s edition also featured the same style of writing.

It seems now that Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez is the Estrella this week, with his outstanding performance against Manchester United on Sunday.

The Chile international was brilliant during the convincing win, as he scored two of the club’s three goals in a 3-0 emphatic win at the Emirates.

Sport further pointed out that the 26-year old forward has scored more goals in his last two games than in his previous twenty one, which could only mean that the much needed rest has paid off.

The unfortunate Estrellado of this week is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, which the Spurs’ fans would surely not agree on. Sport picked Kane as the villain for his cracker of an own goal at the weekend, which was quite hilarious for the England striker to concede to say the least.

Also, he has struggled to put in performances at the same level as last year in the current campaign.

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Revealed: Jose Mourinho’s Midfielder To Play For The Next Few Games

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has now confirmed that Ruben Loftus-Cheek will start the next few games after the international break for his side. The 19-year-old midfielder is presently part of the England Under-21 squad to play against Kazakhstan in Coventry in the upcoming week. However, speculations say that he could be part of the Blues’ squad to face Aston Villa on his return to domestic football, which attracts more interest from the Chelsea fans across the globe.


The west London side are not performing well at the moment and are currently placed at 16th in the points table, with the Portuguese boss all set offer the bright young star a chance to establish himself in midfield.

He stated, “Clearly, it is time. Not to play four, five or six kids – some are not ready – but Ruben is a case where he’s more ready, and if everything goes normal during the next two weeks, he’s a player to start the next game and a run of matches, to try and get that stability as a first-team choice. Not to save the season. The profile of the moment and the profile of the young players makes it a good moment.

In difficult moments, what’s the best thing? Can the most experienced players cope better? When I don’t play John Terry everyone says: “Why don’t you play the captain? The team needs the captain’s leadership and personality. With Ruben, it is exactly the same. Ruben, Matic, Fabregas or Ramires? Who can cope the best with the pressure? Maybe with the situation so negative for us, the young player feels less pressure than when the team is top of the league.”

Manchester United Manager Reveals He Was Shocked By Arsenal

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has now raised questions about the “will to win” of his players after a shocking 3-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. The Red Devils gave away all three goals in the opening 19 minutes of the game and the Dutchman talked about his side’s failure to execute the gameplan properly, along with a lack of aggression.

Louis van Gaal

Further, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager also stated that he made his feelings known to the players at the half-time break and at the end of the game as well. In his interview, the United boss stated, “I didn’t expect that. I was surprised – not performing to our gameplan, not the will to win. I have not seen that when you are top of the league as United were at the beginning of the weekend]. So I was surprised, amazed – maybe that is a better word. When you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football, then you know you will lose. We prepared ourselves to play more compact and not losing our aggression, so it was amazing for me. I am very disappointed.

Van Gaal further added that he had no explanation for the brace by Alexis Sánchez scored either side of Mesut Özil’s goal. He added, “I don’t know why it happened. I put the question at half-time and after the match. It is difficult for the players to answer at themoment because they are all in an emotional moment. We have lost, and lost in a way that you cannot lose when you are top of the league. The problems did not start at the back, they started in midfield. Their midfield players, especially Cazorla and Özil, had too much time and space. We also had space behind our defence. When you always put the pressure on, they cannot make their passes so easily. That was our problem in the first half. They were not aggressive. And you have to do it not only with the two in midfield but as a team. You have to be more compact. You need aggression at the moment you have a duel and Arsenal were much more aggressive.

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Staunch Sisi Supporter Calls For Opening Of Stadia And Dialogue With Ultras

A staunch supporter of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has called on the government to allow soccer fans, a pillar of anti-government protest, back into stadia that have largely been closed to the public for nearly five years.

Mr. Sawiri’s request on the eve of two African Confederation Cup semi-finals in Cairo in which Egypt’s storied clubs Al Ahli SC squared off with South Africa’s Orlando Pirates while Zamalek SC plays its return game against Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel, followed several recent incidents in which fans either forced their way into an Egyptian stadium or used away matches of Egyptian clubs to stage anti-government protests.

It also came after Mr. Sawiris acquired the Egyptian Premier League’s broadcast rights which he has since sold to two of Egypt’s television channels, TEN and Al-Hayat.

“The absence of football fans is a failure for Egypt and the interior and youth ministries. People are bored with politics now, but they never bore of football. Fans must attend matches again, but without new incidents. Matches are boring without fans. We will have a meeting with interior ministry officials and groups of ultras,” Mr. Sawiris told a news conference.

Mr. Sawiris was referring to militant soccer fan groups that played a key role in the 2011 toppling of President Hosni Mubarak and have been the backbone of student and neighbourhood protests against Mr. Al-Sisi in the two years since he staged his 2013 military coup against Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president.

Hector Cuper, the Egyptian national team’s Argentinian coach, echoed Mr. Sawiris’ call. “Fans must return to attend matches. It is impossible to see football games without supporters. Fans’ effect is always a positive one. They always motivate you to achieve your goals,” Mr. Cuper said in a television interview.

Egyptian stadia have largely been closed since the mass protests against Mr. Mubarak erupted in January 2011 in a bid to ensure that they would not serve as platforms and gathering points for opposition forces.

Stadia were reopened months after the revolt but closed in February 2012 following a politically-loaded brawl in Port Said in which 74 Ahli supporters died. Another effort to open stadia was stymied when in February of this year 20 fans were killed in clashes with security forces as they sought to force their way into a Cairo stadium to which a limited number of spectators had been granted entry.

The Egyptian interior ministry, in a potential signal that the country’s military-backed regime recognized that its choking off of all public space could backfire, initially agreed last month to allow fans to attend international matches played by the national team and Egyptian clubs. The move was also intended to shield the government from being blamed for potentially bad performances – a politically sensitive issue in soccer-crazy Egypt.

The interior ministry however last week reversed its decision, saying that fans would not be allowed to attend the Al Ahli match against the Orlando Pirates. The decision followed the flashing by fans in Johannesburg during a first match between the two clubs of the four-fingered Raba’a sign by Ahli fans. Raba’a is a square in Cairo where hundreds of protesters, primarily members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, were killed by security forces weeks after Mr. Al-Sisi’s toppling of Mr. Morsi, a leader of the Brotherhood.

It also followed the firing of flares during a match in Tunisia by fans of Ahli arch rival Al Zamalek SC and after Ahli fans forced their way into an Egyptian stadium where their club was playing an African game against a Malian team. 

In a letter to the interior ministry, Al Ahli asked the ministry to reverse its ban on spectator attendance of the match against the South Africans. “We have proposed to security authorities all solutions possible to allow the fans to attend, especially considering the game is critical for the team to defend its African title. We left it up to the Interior Ministry to decide on the suitable number of fans,” Al Ahli general director, Mahmoud Allam, was quoted by Al-Masry Al-You as saying.

Repeated talks between the interior ministry that administers Egypt’s security forces with whom ultras have regularly clashed during the past eight years, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), and clubs on a re-opening of stadia have faltered on disagreement on how security should be organized and who should shoulder the bill. Clubs have sustained substantial financial losses as a result of the stadium closure.

Mr. Sawiris implicitly criticized the government for its hard line towards the ultras by noting that the ultras lacked leaders and urging the interior ministry to meet with the militant fans. Many of the ultras’ leaders are either in prison on charges or convictions for violating Egypt’s draconic anti-protest law or have gone into hiding to evade detention or because they were convicted in absentia to sentences ranging from short term prison terms to life in prison or death.

An Egyptian court this weekend sentenced to death two members of Ultras Raabawy, an Islamist group largely made up of militant soccer fans, for allegedly setting on fire a prosecutor’s office and a mobile phone network tower. Two others were given 25-year prison sentences while a juvenile was convicted to the maximum penalty of ten years behind bars.

Mr. Sawiris with his call for a dialogue with the ultras can point to the fact that militant Ahli fans voluntarily left a stadium in November of last year that they had occupied hours before their club was scheduled to play an African championship. The incident was a rare example in which Egyptian security forces agreed to a negotiated, peaceful resolution rather than a hard-handed crackdown.

In the deal, negotiated by Al Ahli’s management the fans agreed to leave the stadium in exchange for being allowed to attend the match, being treated with respect rather than humiliated at security checks, and promising not to disrupt the match. Al Ahli won the championship in a match that proceeded without incident.

Al Ahli’s approach towards its militant fans has contrasted sharply with that of Zamalek whose president, Mortada Mansour, has relished the death of his club’s supporters in February, accused them of trying to assassinate him, and sought to persuade the courts to outlaw ultras as terrorists.

Militant fans have long been demanding a lifting of the spectator ban. Thousands of hard-core supporters of Al Ahli and Al Zamalek have attended their clubs’ training sessions in recent months to demonstrate that it was not them but the security forces that were responsible for repeated violent incidents.

Efforts to repress the ultras and several failed legal attempts to ban them as terrorist organizations have left fans and youth frustrated at a lack of social and economic prospects with few options to either resign themselves to apathy or risk radicalization. “There is nowhere to go and no breathing space left. You either turn apathetic or you decide that you’ve got nothing to lose,” said an ultra.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.