Sense of Humour Bypass Portuguese-style

"Not Incredible"

Last night, Man City fans, rather humorously, decided to sing “You’re Not Incredible” at Porto striker Hulk (or Ulche) during their team’s 4-0 drubbing of Porto in the second leg of their Europa League last 32 tie. For a chap with an alleged €88m release clause (which Chelsea are allegedly willing to pay at some point in the not too distant future, if you are daft enough to believe Caught Offside), he was pretty, pretty poor. What is incredibly unhumorous is Porto’s reaction to said chant.

There is, as ever, some back story to this. In last week’s first leg, there were claims of racist chanting aimed at City’s black players coming from various sections of Porto’s Dragao stadium. This was (rightly) reported to UEFA by City for the governing body to investigate. Racism and football have of course been rather prevalent in the news of late (see “Handshakegate”, and every other news outlet on the planet). UEFA have yet to decide on this particular racism issue; Porto’s current excuse is their fans were in fact singing “Kun Kun Kun (never mind that Sergio Aguero plays for the opposition), Hulk Hulk Hulk.”

The fact that Porto have now decided to complain to UEFA over a pretty funny chant as being “disrespectful”, “unsporting” and “not part of the game” obviously has nothing to do with City’s complaint. Not only is Porto’s complaint utterly capricious and totally lacking in any kind of sense of humour, it also makes a complete mockery of what is an incredibly important issue in both football and wider society. They should be ashamed of themselves; chances are they aren’t.

(Picture courtesy of Steindy, on Hulk’s Wikipedia article –


UEFA Adverts

Tuesday night, Champions League on Sky Sports. Besides the excellent game on offer, and the happy facts that (1) Man United won and (2) Fernando Torres has still scored as many goals for Chelsea as I have, one thing irked me. UEFA’s advert for its referees.

I saw this last week too during the first leg, but didn’t quite take issue with it. It was only having watched the first leg at Stamford Bridge that tonight’s advert irritated me quite so much.

No doubt you’ll know the scenario: 90+1 minutes on the clock, Ramires bursts through the middle, crosses the D, and is clearly pulled down in the box by Patrice Evra. The Frenchman receives a red card, thanks to the input of the additional assistant referee, who uses his magic buzzery thingy to bring the fact he’s had a clear view of the foul to his Spanish colleague’s attention. Chelsea score, make it 1-1 for the second leg, and Manchester United are one first-choice left-back down.

Of course, it didn’t happen like that. The additional assistant (or the 5th official as I like to call him) despite standing about 12 yards from the foul with a clear view, deemed it not worth concerning his superior with. Naturally, the Chelsea players and staff were infuriated. The point of the 5th officials, not for the first time, was called into question.

And this is why I find this advert so galling. Patronising rhombuses fill the pitch, showing the alleged field of vision that the referee, the assistant and the additional assistant now have. The ad further shows them all talking to one another through those lovely Britney Spears-style headsets.

Unfortunately what the ad can’t show, because it hasn’t happened, is an additional assistant getting a decision right, or helping out the referee when he misses something, or indeed the additional assistants doing anything useful whatsoever. The one highlight of it is the fact that Pierluigi Collina appears at the end, but even he seems to have been sucked in!

FIFA,UEFA and the UK Government’s List

Ah, the Ofcom Code on Sports and Other Listed Events (the “List”). Not the snappiest title, but contained within is the UK Government’s very noble attempt to ensure that sports fans don’t have to fork out £60 a month to Sky to watch some decent sport now and again. The List is currently in the midst of a seemingly never-ending review (and with a currently Murdoch-friendly Government in power, who knows how that’s going to end). However, the List currently denotes which annual sporting events must be shown live on terrestrial, free-to-air television, and which of those at the minimum must be shown on terrestrial TV by way of a higlights package.

Therefore, the List currently looks like this in terms of football: (my thanks to Wikipedia)

Group A (guaranteed live terrestrial coverage):

The World Cup (all matches)

The European Championships (all matches)

The FA Cup Final

The Scottish Cup Final (Scotland only)

Why my chagrin, you ask. Well, in the last few weeks, FIFA and UEFA were mercifully defeated in the European Court of Justice, in their attempt to stop the World Cup and the Euros being shown in their entirety on UK terrestrial television.

FIFA’s motto is “the Good of the Game.” Blatter and his organisation constantly talk about “transparency”, “Fair Play” and earlier this week “those in power taking responsibility.” I cannot see how a bid to remove the World Cup from free to air television chimes with any of these values. FIFA’s argument was that the List, as it stands, blocks competition in terms of the EU’s competition laws. In short hand, of course, this can be translated into “we want to sell the World Cup to Sky/ESPN/other sports provider and get paid an even bigger sackload of cash than what we currently receive.”

The BBC (and it applies to ITV in this context too, even if in its many other remits it has the temerity to keep Jane McDonald in employment) acts as the public service broadcaster – ensuring that, by way of the List, the most important sporting events (and the Boat Race) can be broadcast for all and sundry. This turns the World Cup into a national event – like it or not, when England are in the World Cup, the whole country tunes in collectively to enjoy it. The same can be said of a great game in the first round of the Euros (Czech Rep 3-2 Netherlands in 2004, anyone) or a thrilling World Cup first round game in which the underdog triumphs (Cameroon 1-0 Argentina, 1990) or that enthralling, edge of your seat World Cup semi between two utter giants of the game (Italy 2-0 Germany, 2006).

The ECJ’s judgement is to be welcomed – as common sense, but also as an opportunity for the country to continue to collectively enjoy a summer, every 2 years, in front of the telly watching top notch international football. Plus, it also means Blatter makes a wee bit less cash from the World Cup…