From Beirut to Sydney – The boys who did their nation proud

In their most important ever fixture, Lebanon were losing at half time. With the deficit only six points, they had 40 minutes to make history.

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Jack Douglas

In their most important ever fixture, Lebanon were losing at half time. With the deficit only six points, they had 40 minutes to make history.

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Lebanon fans at the World Cup ©Lebanon Rugby League (@LebanonRL)

In their most important ever fixture, The Lebanon rugby league team found themselves 22-16 down at half time. Tries from Adam Doueihi, Abbas Miski and James Elias saw the Lebanese claw themselves back into contention after trailing heavily for most of the half.

With the deficit only six points, Brad Fittler’s men had 40 minutes to make history. Minutes into the second period Doueihi thought he had scored his second, but a controversial Video Referee’s decision ruled the try out.

A Hingano penalty meant Tonga lead by eight and despite a converted Miski try late on, the Tongans held on to record a 24-22 victory, shattering the dreams of thousands of Lebanese fans.

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The heart-breaking moment Lebanon’s World Cup came to an end  ©Lebanon Rugby League (@LebanonRL)

After nearly sixteen years, the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990; leaving an estimated 120,000 – 150,000 dead with a further 200,000 wounded. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in one of the most infamous sieges in military history.

As Israeli forces bombarded Beirut from air, land and sea in an attempt to assassinate key Palestinian leaders, a multinational peacekeeping force was sent in to Beirut to help evacuate Palestinians.

The US, French, Italian and British contingent helped restore some normality and to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign forces and aid, whilst helping to train the Lebanese military to prevent future conflict.

With Israel to the south and Syria to the north and east, you could be forgiven for expecting conflict to be ever-present. Despite this, the nation of six million has been recently making the headlines in a surprisingly positive fashion.

Rugby League

Les Cèdres (The Cedars) deservedly qualified for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after comprehensively beating South Africa 90-28 on aggregate over two legs in Pretoria.

Lebanon were then drawn alongside eventual winners and runners up Australia and England, as well as France, and were expected to finish bottom. The top three in the group qualified for the knockout stages.

Travis Robinson, who plays for Newtown Jets in the New South Wales Premiership, built on his tally of six tries in qualifying as he went over twice; helping his side secure a shock 29-18 victory over the French in Canberra.

Robinson had previously enjoyed time in the NRL with Melbourne Storm, and his and his teams’ heroics against France was enough to qualify for the knockout stages and more importantly, receive automatic qualification for the 2021 World Cup.

Lebanon’s other two group stage fixtures saw them lose 29-10 to England before eventual champions Australia recorded a 34-0 victory against Les Cèdres. Both results warranted overwhelming respect from the League world as punters expected the English and Australians to record much higher scores against the then eighteenth ranked side.

With progression confirmed, Lebanon were drawn to face Tonga in the quarterfinals. At 3pm local time, 4am back here, the fixture in Christchurch kicked off. Whilst the Lebanese side came up short on that occasion, their adventure in the world cup was certainly admirable.

The positive performances and results Lebanon recorded means the side came away from the world cup with their heads held high. Now up to ninth in the world rankings, The Cedars find themselves ten places above Russia; the side that inflicted Lebanon’s heaviest ever defeat (80-0) back in 2008.

Despite the 24 man world cup squad featuring only one home-grown-player, the people of Lebanon are still enthralled with the game. The player in question, Raymond Sabat, plays for Lycans RL in Beirut.

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The Lebanon national side team that beat Italy in the Mediterranean Cup in 2017 ©FIRL/SportCode

The outside back wants the country to bring through more home grown talent to help progress the game, and thoughts like these are reflected by journalist Danny Kazandjian (1) who adds: “It is essential for countries like Lebanon to ensure there is a clear, robust cultural link between the country and the national team.

“Lebanon fields national teams at under-21s, under-18s and under-16s – last year the U21s and U18s toured Serbia – so the pathways are there now.”

Up and coming sports in countries such as Lebanon and other historical underdogs have often struggled in influencing young players and ensuring their youngsters have a clear pathway to the first team. The fact that the Lebanese Rugby League Federation are heavily investing in their youth teams epitomizes the hope and enthusiasm the nation has for its rapidly growing sport.

The Lebanon Rugby League Championship added another side to its roster in 2016, with Lycans RLFC now making it 5 domestic teams within the league. Collegiate Rugby is making a big impact in Lebanon. There are 2 university divisions, the first featuring 4 sides and the second division hosting 6 teams. As the game grows in Lebanon, the competitions are doing so too.

The Australian influence in the team is evident, with the majority of the Lebanese players playing at some level within the Australian pyramid. In an interview for the BBC (2), Lebanon head coach and ex-Aussie superstar Brad Fittler says that his players are beyond proud to represent their nation.

He states: “The majority [of the players] have both Lebanese parents. And if anyone has kept their identity in Australia it is the Lebanese community. They live together, they eat together – they’ve kept their identity more than most other nationalities that have come to this country.”

Les Cèdres were triumphant over an Italian side in June 2017 as they ran out 6-4 winners in a remarkably tight match. Unlike their World Cup squads, the fixture was played between two national sides using all domestic players, which proved pivotal in the progression of the Lebanese players, as Lebanon successfully defended their Mediterranean Cup title. But this success was unparalleled to what would follow.

Lebanon’s success at the world cup was unexpected to say the least, and now with qualification confirmed for 2021, who knows what unprecedented success the little nation can go on to achieve. With the tournament being held here in England, Lebanon are sure to leave a lasting impression here within the UK.

The national anthem titled: All of Us: For the Country, surely embodies the spirit of the Rugby team; as this group of players go on to make their nation even prouder.

Jack Douglas

Sources:

1 & 2: BBC Sport: Rugby League World Cup 2017: How has the sport become so popular in Lebanon? – 2nd November 2017

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Why has darts grown in popularity so quickly?

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

Jack Witham

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

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Darts was traditionally seen as a pub game ©PeterPan23

Darts used to be known as a pub sport to many people. That has now changed drastically, with crowd numbers being in the thousands and prize money being as high as it’s ever been before. Both the number of fans and the number of players have greatly increased in recent time, but just why has such a simple pub game dramatically grown on a worldwide level?

For starters, there is the addition of players with more flare than ever before. At no point can Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor be criticised; it was him who began to put the sport on the map. The 16 time world champion is a credit to the sport, however his showmanship was limited, letting his arrows do the talking the majority of the time. A leg or set was won with very limited reaction. There is no problem with this; in fact this is the way some feel the game should be played.

Nowadays though, players really like to give it ‘the big un’ when winning just a single leg. In a World Series Final at the back end of 2017, Gerwyn Price and Corey Cadby turned around and celebrated when hitting a ton or more, much to the amusement of many fans who were watching the game. Although the incident was silly, it is what fans want to see. They want the drama and the controversy because it is what they have paid to see.

Players now are just far more entertaining than they used to be. Michael Van Gerwin wins almost everything, and has done so with a certain flashy style. An MVG in full flight is exactly what the punters want to see. The walk ons are also very crowd friendly. ‘Snake bite’ Peter Wright dances across the stage every single time he comes on, immediately getting the crowd involved, and Daryl Gurney sings Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, which is always a crowd favourite. The sport just seems to have developed a more relaxed atmosphere than it ever used to have.

The amount of players participating has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, but why? Well, the prize money that is now on offer for winning tournaments is certainly very eye catching. Rob Cross, the 2017 World Darts Championship winner received a massive £400,000 in prize money. Not bad for somebody in their debut season. When Phil Taylor won the World title in 2000, he received £31,000. This not only shows the growth of the sport but also underlines the phenomenal work that PDC chairman Barry Hearn has done for the sport.

The overall prize money has risen from £500,000 to £15 million since Hearn took the PDC hot seat. He has managed to take a pub game to the second highest rated TV watch of 2017. The sport is in good hands, and with big sponsorship deals continuing to come into the sport, the growth is only going to continue to rise.

The sport is ideal for fans now. Not only is the quality at outrageous levels, there is no longer rules where you must sit down and behave yourself. It is perfect to watch world class talent whilst enjoying a beer (or 10) with others. Barry Hearn once quoted “Darts is the only sport that has a partnership of excitement of a party and world class sport. I don’t know another sport that creates atmosphere on that basis.”

Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), German Darts Grand Prix (GDGP)
Party atmosphere at the darts ©Sven Mandel

This is evident almost every Thursday in the winter when the Premier League is being played. The crowds are outstanding, sell outs every week at venues all around Europe. Wayne Mardle of Sky Sports often reminds viewers of the sell out crowd of 400 people at Stoke’s Kings hall. Well just a couple of weeks ago, the Mercedes Benz Arena had a world record darts attendance of 12,000, underlining the rapid growth of the sport.

The crowd is often very much like it is at football, with chanting often taking place as well as jeering and whistling. But unlike the football, the involvement of the crowd at darts is genuinely always in good spirit. Chants of “boring boring tables” and “feed the stands” are often sung back and forth during the World Championships at the Alexandra Palace. There are rarely any malicious songs chanted during the games, and players are usually given a huge amount of respect whilst playing.

Whilst crowds begin to grow at venues, the amount of viewers watching on Sky Sports has also increased. 960,000 people watched the 2015 World Darts Championship final played between Van Gerwin and Peter Wright. This was 75,000 more than the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Southampton on the same day.

Whilst many still see darts as a pub sport, there is no denying that it has fast become a sensation, especially throughout Europe. Just how long will it take before it becomes a worldwide hit, and we see more money come from countries such as China to develop the sport further.

For the time being, darts is in a good place, and for the immediate future it will continue to be watched by millions and the party will continue.

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How important being home is for the Gibraltar national side

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

Jack Douglas

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

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Walker celebrates his winning goal ©Gibraltar Football Association

The Victoria Stadium held its breath. Finally in their proud home, Gibraltar’s homecoming in international football was deadlocked against Latvia.

With the game heading into the final minutes destined for a draw, the home side were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Liam Walker. With a wicked deflection the ball trickled into the Latvian net sparking scenes of pure jubilation.

The Reds held on to record a deserved, historic win. Their first as a FIFA nation, their second as a UEFA nation and, more importantly to the proud Gibraltarians, their first victory on home soil.

The Victoria Stadium, with the Rock as its stunning backdrop, opened in 1926 and was rebuilt in 1971 by the Royal Engineers. When Gibraltar were finally accepted by UEFA in May 2013, the stadium was not deemed to be of sufficient standard for competition. On 13th May 2016, the Rock could finally boast a FIFA affiliated team after endless attempts, intervention from the Court of Arbitration for Sport and intense Spanish opposition.

Forced to play 247 miles away in Faro, Portugal, Team 54 (the nickname given after becoming UEFA’s 54th member) faced Slovakia in their first official international match, managing a superb goalless draw.

A Kyle Casciaro volley gave the side their first official victory as his effort was enough to see off Malta in June 2014, again in Portugal.

Gibraltarian side Lincoln Red Imps ensured they went down in football history by beating Scottish giants Celtic in the first leg of the 2016/2017 Champions League second qualifying round. Gibraltarian football was put on the map to an extent. The Daily Record (1) ran with: “Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier” before going on to call the result “incredible”.

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The famous Rock of Gibraltar dominates the landscape ©Revolutionary War and Beyond

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht resulted in Britain securing Gibraltar. Captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet nine years prior, control of the Rock was finally ceded to Britain to ensure they withdrew from the War of Spanish Succession.

Ever since, Spain has highly contested the sovereignty of the Rock. The Siege of 1727 and the French backed Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783) failed and Gibraltar remained under British command. Located at the gateway to the Mediterranean and at a naval choke-point, Operation Felix was a Nazi plan to capture the strategic Rock, but the invasion never materialised.

In the Gibraltarian sovereignty referendums of 1967 and 2002, 99% and 98% of Gibraltarians opted to remain British respectively. Throughout endless conflict and claims of sovereignty, the Rock of Gibraltar has stood tall and proud; and more importantly, proud to be British.

With plans to build a UEFA demanded Category 4 stadium at either two sites on the peninsula (Europa Point or Lathbury Barracks) coming under severe scrutiny and opposition from Gibraltarians, the GFA purchased Victoria Stadium from the Government of Gibraltar in April 2017 and began to develop the venue.

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Victoria Stadium ©Stadiony.net

This meant that the scene was set for Gibraltar to come home. With a festival of international football lined up and a commemorative kit being launched, the 32,000 strong population were elated.

With Gib’s Under 21 side losing 6-0 to an experienced Serbian side and then 5-0 to Russia, all pressure and expectancy lay on the first team; and in particular on the shoulders of Notts County’s Liam Walker. Gibraltar’s number 10 and joint top scorer signed for County after having previous spells with Portsmouth and Lincoln Red Imps after teenage trials with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Everton. One of only two professional players used against Latvia, Walker found himself lining up alongside policemen and customs agents.

With a population of 1.9 million compared with Gibraltar’s 32,000 and a world ranking of 131, 75 places above Gibraltar down in 206th, Latvia offered fierce competition. When experienced defender Joseph Chipolina pulled up during the warm up and with goalkeeper Kyle Goldwin making his international debut, punters could have been forgiven for backing the Latvians.

Lee Casciaro, brother of the previously mentioned Kyle, curled a shot just wide of the despairing Andris Vanins’ post which ended In the Gibraltar number 7 tweaking a hamstring and being unable to continue. Walker’s freekick finally gave the home side their much deserved goal in the 88th minute.

Walker was delighted with the victory in an interview with GBC (2) following the game: “Obviously we were going on the counter attack. I wanted to bring the ball inside and change the orientation on the ball. We won the foul. It was at a good distance and as soon as the free kick was given I knew I was going to go for goal and yeah, buzzing it had gone in.”

Being back home at Victoria Stadium is something Gibraltar and Walker were delighted with: “It’s absolutely amazing! It’s just what we wanted, to be on our home ground in front of our people because apart from us being on the pitch they are the ones who deserve this. The whole game they were supporting us and you can see when they are here it’s a plus for us as well so yeah, really happy with it.”

It has been quite the rollercoaster for FIFA’s newest nation. Sepp Blatter denied Gib’s membership claim because they weren’t an independent nation, despite the four home nations and the Faroe Islands having membership. UEFA accepted Team 54 despite strong opposition from the Spanish. In 2007 Spain threatened to withdraw all of its teams from UEFA competitions should Gibraltar be given membership.

When the sovereign territory were finally, and rightfully, accepted into world football they were subsequently forced to play at the Estádio Algarve in Portugal. So to be playing football back on home soil shows that the light at the end of the tunnel has been reached.

Whilst they will most likely never reach a major tournament, friendlies like the Latvia fixture will give the side good competition and reasonable fixtures. Gibraltar will face Macedonia, Armenia and Liechtenstein in the UEFA Nations League which starts later this year.

So let’s all hope that for a territory famous for a rock and monkeys, the national football team can start making its people even prouder to be Gibraltarian.

Jack Douglas

Sources:

Daily Record: Lincoln Red Imps v Celtic RECAP: Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier. 12th July 2016.

Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation: Gibraltar v Latvia – Post Match Interview with Liam Walker. 25th March 2018.

Top 10 practical nutrition tips for marathon preparation

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

Ted Munson

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

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Professional marathon runners
  1. Prepare: If you’re heading out for a morning run, prepare your breakfast the night before. Foods like overnight oats are ideal choices and allow you to get up and get fuel on board. Likewise, if you’re heading out after work, make sure you have your recovery shake or meal ready. I recommend taking on both carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run to fuel adaptations and assist recovery for your next session.

 

  1. Complex carbohydrates: These will help fuel your runs and include foods like bread, pulses, legumes, rice and pasta. This will release steadily into the bloodstream to provide sustained energy. It’s recommended to consume these around 2 hours pre-run to allow time for digestion, helping to prevent unwanted gastrointestinal issues. Combine complex carbohydrates with a source of protein like meat, eggs, fish or cheese for the ideal pre or post training meal.

 

  1. Carbohydrate load: Carbohydrate is the main fuel for performance and will fuel you on the road. You should aim to take on around 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass per day for 48 hours before your race. This should be implemented along with a taper in training. This does seem like a lot of food, so consider using high energy carbohydrate (maltodextrin-based) drink between meals to increase carbohydrate stores.

 

  1. Hydration: It’s not always practical to carry a bottle and drink during long runs. Pre-hydrate effectively by drinking an electrolyte solution. The sodium will help the body retain and absorb fluid more effectively. Electrolyte tabs are a convenient way to increase sodium intake both pre and post exercise. Don’t forget you will usually have access to water on race-day, so it is important to learn to drink while running! How much you drink depends entirely on your sweat rate. Weigh yourself pre and post session and work out toughly how much water you’re using through sweat. Aim not to lose 2% of your body mass. From my experience, this usually works out as consuming 250ml – 500ml per hour during longer runs (half marathon +) When training, you could run loop past your house and practice taking on small amounts of fluid during the run.

 

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Hydration is key
  1. Fuel for the work required: We use both fat and carbohydrate as a fuel source during endurance exercise. Fuelling for the work required involves training sessions with reduced energy intake (e.g having breakfast after a morning run) and training sessions where your race- day fuelling strategy is practiced (e.g fuelling with 60g per hour during a run, using energy gels). Quite simply, fuel longer sessions with carbohydrate (perhaps your long weekend run?) and fuel shorter sessions with low carbohydrate. It’s always important to refuel effectively post run, especially if undertaken in a fasted state.

 

  1. Practice your nutrition strategy in training: It’s important to train the body to utilize carbohydrates and tolerate sports nutrition during running. Our digestive system works differently when we exercise, so It’s important to practice using gels, bars and drinks during training runs. I recommend starting off using 1 gel immediately before a run and progressing to 1 gel during a run. Eventually, you should be able to easily consume enough food during runs to take on 60 g per hour. The worst thing you can do is try new forms and amounts of carbohydrate on race day!

 

  1. Have your ‘pre –run’ meal around 90 minutes before: When preparing for a race or a long training session, aim to have a carbohydrate meal around 90 minutes before. This will ensure that you start your run with ‘topped-up’ energy stores. This goes for both training and race day. Practice your pre-run meal and consume what works for you. Keep it the same for race day. Note that marathons often start early and you may have to have an early start to take on your breakfast!

 

  1. Don’t neglect protein: During endurance exercise, our muscle protein still breaks down, which is detrimental to adaptations (the purpose of training). We also need to consider the mitochondrial adaptations! Aim to take on 1.2-2g of protein per kg of your body mass per day top help muscles adapt and provide key amino acids to help make new muscle proteins. Ideally, take on protein at a rate of 20-25g every 3-4 hours throughout the day, as well as before and after training.

 

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©JMsportpix
  1. Recover: Recovery isn’t just about protein, we need to consider that tough endurance exercise depletes energy stores and can impair immune function. I recommend taking on a meal within 30 minutes of finishing your training runs. This should contain around 60% carbohydrates (including vegetables) with a lean source of protein. Although, many runners do not want to eat immediately post-exercise. Here, a recovery shake can provide a convenient protein and carbohydrate source. I always recommend that if you have a recovery shake, always aim to take on a full mal within 1 hour of finishing.

 

  1. Avoid: In the 48 hours before your event, it’s a good idea to avoid certain foods that might upset your stomach or what you’re not used to having. Key foods that may (or may not) cause problems are both spicy and high fat foods. I would also recommend having low-moderate fibre the day before your race. Make sure you’ve practiced your pre-race nutrition strategy and most importantly, never try anything new on race day!

Ted Munson

What qualifying for a World Cup means to Panama

The incredible story of how Panama’s football team qualified for their first major tournament.

Jack Douglas

The incredible story of how Panama’s football team qualified for their first major tournament.

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Passion @BelTel_Sport

On December 20th 1989, the US launched a full military invasion of Panama. Estimates believe Operation Just Cause resulted in the loss of up to 7000 Panamanians and ended with the deposing of Military Dictator Manuel Noriega.

Known by many for military coups, narcotics, and a canal; Panama has often made the headlines in quite a derogatory fashion. Noriega’s Dignity Battalions acted like storm-troopers; a combatant militia that stood in the way of any attacks from both domestic and overseas opposition.

Luis Ovalle, Fidel Escobar, Roman Torres, Adolfo Machado and Jaime Penedo now form the Panamanian Football Team’s own Dignity Battalion; the last line of defence from any foreign threats.

With the odds stacked against them, Los Canaleros lined up against Costa Rica in October knowing only a victory and a US slip up in Trinidad would grant them their ticket to Russia. Panama’s dream looked left in tatters as Johan Vanegas put the Costa Ricans one up.

But for a country synonymous with conflict and fight, giving up was never an option. With the US enduring a nightmare in Trinidad, Gabriel Torres drew the hosts level with a goal marred in controversy, before namesake Roman Torres netted an 87th minute winner to send the 4 million population of Panama into dreamland.

Gabriel Torres’ equaliser came after a goal-line scramble, and the ball didn’t appear to cross the line. But with Russia confirmed for the Reds, fans and players alike won’t have lost any sleep over the ghost goal.

President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted: “You deserve it… Viva Panama!” A national holiday was subsequently called, allowing fans of a once war-torn nation to celebrate something miraculous that everyone had worked so hard to achieve.

After America’s invasion of Panama, a sense of irony prevailed when the plucky little nation got their own back against the States, crushing the dreams of wonderkid Christian Pulisic and co.

For a Baseball playing nation, reaching a football world cup was only a dream for many. The Liga Panameña de Fútbol is the top tier of the Panamanian football pyramid. To give some context to the size of the game in the country, current champions and most successful club C.D. Árabe Unido play their home games at Estadio Armando Dely Valdés in front of a capacity of 4,000 people.

Panama line up against England in Group G, alongside Belgium and Tunisia. Whilst Panama’s champions perform for 4,000, our champions, Chelsea, play in front of 41,000 at Stamford Bridge, and are broadcast to millions across the globe.

The man that scored the historic goal for his country Roman Torres summed up what qualification meant to his team and country, saying they are: “Extremely happy, just thankful to god for the things that happened and we are really happy to be going to the world cup.

“Pure happiness, the Panamanians are so blessed with what happened, it’s something we’ve been working to for some time. I can’t say it enough, the stadium was just in pure happiness and euphoria over what happened. It was a historic moment for our country.”

A photo circulated that showed Torres, a pitch-invader and a police officer embracing one another following the full time whistle. The sheer delight inside the stadium was sensational, says Torres:

“When the moment arrived, if the fans are going to come, they are going to come. The Panamanians felt the moment, they are part of the moment. What are you going to do? You can’t stop them entering the field in such a moment, not only for the people of Panama City and Panama, but for the national team also. You can’t stop them coming and celebrating such a historic moment.”

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The crowd erupted ©AP – Mail Online Website

Fifa’s 56th ranked team are managed by Colombian Hernán Darío Gómez. El Bolillo (The Truncheon) managed Ecuador side to their first World Cup in 2002, four years after his Colombian side bowed out of the ’98 finals in the group stages. In an interview with Fox Sports, El Bolillo said that his team are going to face powerhouses like Belgium and England, before adding: “We’re going to face these tough guys, and they’re going to be happy about it.”

In football though, as England fans know all too well, the underdogs often spring up surprises.

The country’s all-time leading scorer Blas Perez has netted 43 goals for Los Canaleros. Perez has enjoyed successful spells in Uruguay, Colombia, America and Mexico, with brief stints in Spain and the UAE. The cult-hero figure celebrated reaching the world cup with a tweet dedicated to his countrymen, which read: “Our greatest satisfaction was to fulfil the dream of a nation. See you in Russia my people!”

The common consensus surrounding Panamanian football and the successes of the national team seem to be one of togetherness and camaraderie, with the people of the nation being just as pivotal and important as the eleven on the field.

Two Panamanian commentators were seen screaming, crying and jumping into each other’s arms as the full time whistle went against Costa Rica. Their neighbours had inflicted Panama’s heaviest ever defeat in 1938, 11-0, so victory for Panama over their rivals made qualification even sweeter.

With an average income of $13,654, Panamanian’s are looking at an estimated cost of €3,228 ($3,969) for the trip to Russia according to The World Game. But for a nation who are finally starting to get behind the beautiful game, thousands of supporters are expected to make the journey.

Panama’s motto of ‘For the Benefit of the World’ seems more apt than ever now as the tiny nation gets to show itself off on the biggest stage of all. Let’s hope that the nation, known by many for US military intervention and a de facto dictator, can change the minds of many and help contribute to what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting tournaments to date.

¡Viva Panamá!

Jack Douglas

 

Bancroft, Smith and Warner: Cricket criminals

The shocking behaviour of the Australian Cricket Team continues to reverberate around the sporting world.

Harry Everett

The shocking behaviour of the Australian Cricket Team continues to reverberate around the sporting world.

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Cricket Australia has begun an investigation

Ball tampering and match fixing, probably the two offences that contravene the spirit of cricket above all else.

In recent years it seemed cricket was finally coming out of the dark ages, there have seemed to have been far less instances of match fixing and ball tampering of late. The days of Kiwi match fixer Lou Vincent, jelly baby gate and Faf du Plessis’ use of his trouser pocket zip to scratch the ball seemed to be in a recent, but somehow different era. Even the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals are being reinstated into this April’s IPL after their own match-fixing scandals.

What thousands upon millions (of not just cricket fans) across the Globe have seen, pictures of Cameron Bancroft ball tampering under instruction from the Australia test team leadership group, somehow seems even worse than all of the above. Arguably the biggest test nation, the Ashes holders, led by a man dubbed second only to Don Bradman by many have gone and ball-tampered. And this was not one slight scratch, this was thoroughly thought out, planned cheating, out-and-out cheating.

The fact that Steven Smith readily admitted to the press how the leadership group encouraged rookie opener Cameron Bancroft to use a small piece of sandpaper to rough up one side of the ball makes this scenario even more galling. It was as if the world’s best batsman did not see this as a problem at the time. Having won the Ashes just two months ago, are they really that desperate to win the deciding test in South Africa to see cheating as the only way of making this possible? They have generally been outplayed by South Africa so far, and to be honest it never seemed that a particularly roughed up ball helped their cause anyway. This test has seen multiple ball changes, whether this is down to Bancroft’s scraping or simply natural, fair deterioration is not particularly important, but what is, is how on earth Smith, Warner, Bancroft or anyone else in this so-called `leadership group’ thought it a good idea to bring the game into disrepute for what would probably only be marginal gains.

To make this whole affair even more stupid and daft from an Australian perspective, they chose to use yellow sandpaper. Yes, that’s the same yellow, that is used by cyclists to make them more visible in the dark, one of the brightest colours available that is used to enhance visibility. For years we may have thought Warner stupid or thick, since punching Joe Root in Birmingham’s Walkabout bar back in 2013, but most of us believed Smith to be more intelligent than all of this.

It is also slightly ironic that just a few months ago Smith and Bancroft were in a press conference before the Ashes series commenced to act as grassers telling the press all about Jonny Bairstow’s `welcoming, friendly head-butt’ on the very same man at the centre of this controversy, Cam Bancroft. Now this is clearly a different story, but it is worth mentioning the comic irony of the same two Aussies speaking in a much-publicised press conference so soon after. Yet the first occasion saw them beaming at the trouble their arch-enemies England were getting themselves in, whilst the second saw them sheepishly trying to explain any reasoning for the trouble they had inflicted upon themselves.

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The players in question were critical of the Jonny Bairstow incident ©By Mcadge

The ICC have rightly fined Smith and Bancroft the majority of their match fees (Smith 100%, Bancroft 75%), given Bancroft three demerit points and suspended Smith for the next and final test match, but it does seem slightly odd that the perpetrator gets a smaller fine than the person who supposedly was in charge of telling him what to do. We are not talking about a 14-year-old Bancroft being told this is a good idea by an all-dictating under-15s coach. This is a 25-year-old man who has played seven test matches, surely he can make a decision for himself and see right from wrong by his own accord? Or was he simply too scared of going against his skipper’s wishes, desperate to impress, whilst his place in the side is so vulnerable? Maybe this shows he’ll do anything he can to give him one more chance of opening the batting for Australia in test cricket.

From an English County Cricket perspective, the main worry now is that Cam Bancroft has already signed as Somerset’s overseas for the coming season. Now where does this leave Somerset’s leadership group? One would guess they will have to sit down and Mr Hurry, Abell, Kerr, maybe even experienced heads such as Trescothick and co will have to decide if they still want to play and work alongside a proven cheater. Bancroft is hardly a world beater; thus they will have to work out if it’s worth risking tarnishing Somerset’s proud reputation to employ a man with this now permanent cricket-criminal record?

For Steve Smith there are already rumours that he will be sacked as Rajasthan Royals captain before the 2018 IPL that starts in less than two weeks’ time. Even vice-captain Davey Warner may get the chop as Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper such is the honest culture and expectations to follow the unwritten rules of cricket in India more so than other countries perhaps. Developments are ongoing as this is written and as you read, but whatever the Aussie’s excuses, whatever the outcomes or their given punishments, it is clear from the initial reaction that there is no excuse for ball tampering in cricket, and it has no place in the game.

Harry Everett

Rashid and Hales right to choose white ball cricket

With the amount of money now available white-ball cricket, players are turning their back on the longer format of the game.

Jack Witham

With the amount of money now available white-ball cricket, players are turning their back on the longer format of the game.

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Alex Hales playing for England ©Ben Sutherland

As many of you will already know, both Adil Rashid and Alex Hales have both agreed to only play white ball cricket for their counties. For fans of Nottinghamshire, or fans of Yorkshire, this decision might seem like the wrong move. For England fans though, they will see this as a step in the right direction, and hope that many other English players follow suit. It’s about time the International team took first priority.

For many county cricket fans the red ball game should come first, but the bigger picture has to be looked at. Adil and Alex will both want to be as white ball prepared as they possibly can be, and with the tournament being played in England and Wales, the nation must fancy their chances of winning a first ever World Cup, adding to the three runners up medals. Hales was overlooked in the 2015 World Cup, only playing twice, making scores of 27 and 37 as England yet again suffered a miserable time at a major tournament. Adil did not make the squad for the 2015 World Cup. He was left at home, whilst ‘Tricky’ James Tredwell got the nod. A slightly odd decision to pick a spinner who doesn’t spin a ball.

Since this tournament, England have changed their playing style, very much suiting Hales and Rashid. Captain Eoin Morgan installed a brand of cricket allowing players to play with freedom. Rashid has been a huge factor in England’s recent upturn in form. A spinner who can spin the ball both ways, creating confusion for the batsmen, finally England have got one.

It certainly will be nice for England fans to have one of these bowlers in their team, rather than watching the batsmen get traumatised by mystery spinners. In fact, since the end of the 2015 World Cup, Rashid has picked up the most wickets out of anybody in ODI cricket (Dec 2017). Wonder now why he wants to just focus on his white ball skills? He really is an unsung hero in the England side.

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Adil Rashid playing for England ©Ben Sutherland

Okay, he picks up wickets in the longer format, but he has to completely adapt his game. He has a field designed for him in ODIs. He will bowl the odd bad ball; he’s a wrist spinner, only Shane Warne doesn’t bowl bad balls. With his field, he can often get away with this. Not in the 4 day stuff. He can go through his variations in ODIs, when he knows the batsmen will be coming after him. Not in the 4 Day stuff when they know a bad ball is just around the corner. He didn’t have a very successful test career, despite taking a five wicket hall on debut. A strike rate of 66 in tests is compared to a strike rate of 35 in ODIs, showing which format he thrives in more. Surely this shows his decision is a good choice, why would we want him to change his skills again?

The chance for the English International players to go and play overseas is surely an appeal to all. There is no hiding that in the Sub Continent, England have really struggled. Fair enough only a certain few have been selected to play in the IPL, but that’s an improvement on previous years. With Ben Stokes in the team, the country can easily argue that they have the most valuable player in International cricket playing for our country. For England, that doesn’t happen often.

Both Hales and Rashid have secured CPL deals. England should be encouraging the rest of their international stars to do the same, rather than seeing them play in April, playing a dull brand of cricket. Rashid is not likely to get much of a bowl early on in the season, when the wickets are green and slightly damp, favouring faster bowlers.

Simon Hughes researched that if Adil Rashid played every white ball game for Yorkshire this upcoming season, regarding he bowled his maximum amount every game, he would bowl 136 overs. He bowled 290 in the 2015 season. This would amass to over 400 overs without including is England duties. Even for a leg spinner, that’s a lot of overs.

He recently admitted that his head wasn’t fully there when playing red ball cricket, so surely he’s doing Yorkshire a favour by not playing.

Fans of the current England One Day International team may be happy to see players signing white ball deals, but for some fans of the county game and lovers of the longer format, it is evident why this might start to worry people. If people are starting to do it now, big names as well, then surely this might be the catalyst for more people to do so.

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Is there a lack of interest in longer forms of cricket? ©JMSPORTPIX

For the traditional fan, this could be damaging, as the county game could start to deteriorate even more than it is now. Already low crowds could become even worse if popular names are not participating. There has to be worries about certain players. Players such as Chris Jordan, Sam Billings, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler are very much classed as One Day specialists. Could this mean they may also be about to sign the dotted line on a white ball deal with their respective counties?

For some counties, this concern won’t be as big as it is for others. Look Yorkshire for one. With Adil Rashid already focusing just on the white ball, there is concern others may follow suit. David Willey and Liam Plunkett are two huge players for Yorkshire, probably players Yorkshire can’t afford to lose, but maybe they want to keep their skills for the white ball game as well.

It also brings the question “Is Test Cricket Dying”. Players now aren’t even considering playing test cricket, and younger players seem to have all the shots in the book, but can’t see out a day’s play. Not like Boycott who really would drop an anchor at one end. That’s classed as the good old days, not the modern era.

So white ball contracts seem to be the most talked about thing in English cricket at the moment. The question is how many rather than if it will continue, because there is no doubt that many players will follow suit. It won’t just be in this country, but many others will also have just white ball contracts.

Jack Witham

 

 

Nature and nurture: Is English football losing touch with the national team?

After a series of scandals and poor performances, the English Football team are facing a crisis of faith from their supporters.

Rosie Tudball

After a series of scandals and poor performances, the English Football team are facing a crisis of faith from their supporters.

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Russia will host the 2018 World Cup ©Kremlin.ru

The 2018 World Cup is nearly upon us, and after multiple disappointments at major international competitions, the question must be pondered, when will the English national team be successful again?

The past heroes of English football have hung up their boots on the international stage, which leaves heavy legacies to carry for the current England internationals. It’s one of the highest honours in football, and sport in general to represent your country, however, this feeling of national pride in English football has perhaps vanished over the years.

What is to blame?

There are many points of question with regard to the national team, a lack of consistent management being one of a number of issues, another being a severe lack of professional cohesion in the public eye outside of the comforts of the pitch.

With English football comes English football culture. Football in England was regarded as a sport for the working class, at times when hooliganism was rife and alerting, the modern game was still in development. With deep sociological roots to the game, comes a sense of national tradition, a behaviour associated with the sport specifically in England. The country has possessed a huge array of footballing talent over the years; it has also carried countless numbers of unprofessional scandals at the hands of its national representatives.

While revising past success comes revising past mistakes, some mistakes occurring off the pitch where the actions of prolific English players have faced repercussions in the public eye. Such actions aren’t just damaging their legacy but their ability to conform to the title of a role model on the international stage. It could be thought that when such behaviours are portrayed, are national players taking their positions in the national team for granted?  Such questions are elements of the decline of national football – reflecting poorly on results and national support and expectation at major competition.

The story of the lack of professionalism around the English national team camp is best signified when comparing the structure to that of other national teams. The German national team is rigid from the get-go, when a young player is acknowledged by his national team at youth level, he is taught to play the German national team way, with the expectation that he will one day be a senior international. The youth players aren’t regarded as wholly successful until they have reached the peak and played a part in the senior team, however in England, young players are seemingly given far more freedom. Whether this be positive or negative is unknown, however when revising the numbers and quality of young English talent budding through the international ranks in comparison to Germany for example, it’s questionable.

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England u21s vs Germany u21s ©Sven Mandel

The nature of the Premier League is also something to raise, considering its conflicting attitude towards English players and their relationship with the press. Players are either adored to the point of overhype or scrutinised to the point that they become a villain to all but their club’s fans. English football is very club over country orientated, and so, the sense of togetherness between fans when it comes to backing the team is less of a unity, and one player of a club is always to blame – there’s always opposition within the fan base.

It links back in the modern game to importance and ego, when young players break-through in England, it can be a disaster. Clubs and the media seem to react in an animalistic way, as if they’ve never seen young talent of a certain magnitude. It becomes a toxic cycle of the media hijacking the success, welded with clubs offering ludicrous amounts of money to young players, giving them a feel of high worth – as they should – and sometimes a polished ego. Giving young talent so much financial power so young can be damaging, and in the viewpoint of young English nationals, the pressure can be too much.

Professionals in the public eye

As stated, young English players often face an uphill battle with the media, especially at the point where their careers begin to flourish. Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish is an example of how the media’s manipulation can make or break a career. Grealish, born and raised in England, decided to invest his national loyalty with Ireland, as he chose to represent the Republic of Ireland at international level over England.

There could be a number of reasons as to why the-then 19-year-old decided to represent the country of his Grandparents; however, one glaring reason is the role of English press in breaking down his development. Take it back to the summer of 2015, Grealish was emerging as an exciting talent in English football, his contributions to his boyhood club, Villa, had earned them a place in the upcoming FA Cup final against Arsenal after showcasing a man of the match performance in the semi-final against Liverpool.

 

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©Ben Sutherland

As Grealish’s career began to hit the headlines, it all came crashing down as The Sun released images of the young star in a drunken state lying on the street, along with information of him inhaling Nitrous Oxide at a party. The images, despite being unprofessional and controversial, were taken 6 months before the date they were published, in what was portrayed as The Sun’s attempt to trip Grealish up on his road to stardom on the English football scene.

Grealish was suspended and was discredited greatly for a period of time by the press, stripping his confidence bare and causing a rebuild of his career. Grealish is finally on the path to restoring his form of 2015, playing in the Championship with Villa.

The theme, and issue, of the press having an invasive relationship with English players is that it has become a regular occurrence that an international finds himself on the wrong side of the road with the media, giving English players and of course the national team, a negative name.

From Jack Wilshere, to Dele Alli, to Raheem Sterling, young English stars have faced the bright spotlights of the media in a way less desired than how they had hoped. The three have things in common, they’re all playing in the country’s top division, they’re all playing for top clubs, they all represent the national team, and they’ve all been caught doing things they shouldn’t be.

Former England captain John Terry has been at the centre of media attention multiple times in his career, as has fellow former captain Wayne Rooney. While the two have had formidable careers on the field, their actions away from the game have arguably smudged their golden legacies as English internationals and Premier League legends.

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John Terry has previously been scrutinised in the media ©Paulblank

Two weeks ago, it came to the attention of the press that West Bromwich Albion players had been causing trouble whilst on a training trip to Barcelona. Four players stole a taxi in the early hours of a morning, which was news collected by journalists with salivating mouths.

The most alarming thing about the situation wasn’t just the fact that the four in question were professionals fighting a relegation scrap back in England, but also that the Premier League’s longest serving player, Gareth Barry was one of the four.

Gareth Barry poses as one of the poster boy professionals in English football, with a clear record of personal scandal behind him, alongside a solid Premier League record and an admirable leader in the game. The national uproar when a young player in particular is in the wrong is colossal, but when looking back into the pasts of former England internationals, whom are these players learning to act better from?

Young players and people of the English sporting body would look up to the careers of Barry and the former captains as model professionals, a visage splashed by moments of totally unnecessary madness.

It’s these seemingly annual moments of madness that are dampening the spirits of the English national team, and their reputation as some serious and honourable professionals. It is communicated sometimes that the pride to play for your country is not there, as is the discipline to be, and act as a player representing your country at all times.

An upgrade of maturity and desire is essential

Spirits are dampened by a disunited crowd, a team disunited by individual media portrayal, and a nation crying out for a consistent high-quality manager to serve discipline and cohesion on the pitch to lift the footballing spirits of the nation, away from the comfort of the Premier League.

The Three Lions need to show their hunger and desire where it matters most, Russia is their stage, can they perform?

Rosie Tudball .png

Obsessive shortening of sports: Is humanity’s attention span dwindling that much?

Americanised, short format sport is taking away the pure style that has been played for hundreds of years.

Harry Everett

Americanised, short format sport is taking away the pure style that has been played for hundreds of years.

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©Sportexamined

Twenty20 cricket becoming T10 cricket, Tie Break Tens and Fast4 Tennis, Golf Sixes are all examples of traditional English sports being shortened to try and generate more interest. Injected razzmatazz from loud, pumping music, to freebie flags and signed equipment all have the idea of appealing to the lesser sports fan.

But does all this Americanised, short format sport take away from the pure form of the sport that has been played on our shores for hundreds of years?

What if Novak Djokovic or Rafa Nadal was to obtain a serious injury during the Tie Break Tens, four days before the Australian Open which puts them out of the entire first Grand Slam of the season? Yes, injuries can be obtained doing almost anything in life, but a risk/benefit analysis comparison can weigh up what it’s best or worthwhile partaking in. When the pay-cheque is $250,000 for three tie-breaks to 10 matches, it is easy to see why some of the biggest names signed up to the third event of this type in the Margaret Court Arena last month.

Golf is perceived to be one of the slowest, dullest sports to watch by many, but the introduction of a shot clock, very similar to the 30 second countdown used between Tennis serves, is hoping to change that. There has also been the increased participation in Speed Golf of late. The inaugural World Championships in 2012 show that this sport is being taken seriously worldwide and offering yet another variation on a quintessential British sport. The professional golfers well known globally do not participate in this new phenomenon of Speed Golf, it is an entirely new form of the sport, allowing a completely different crowd of people into a sport under the `umbrella title’ of golf.

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©Sportexamined

It’s worth recognising that not all sports have only had reduced forms created in recent times, Rugby Sevens was played as far back as the 1880s in Scotland. The world-famous Hong Kong Sevens event was launched in 1976 and has inspired many other tournaments from Wellington to Dubai to spring up and, come the turn of the millennium, form the World Rugby Sevens Series. This competition has since expanded to consist of ten tournaments in ten different countries, played in five different continents. Ruby Sevens is loved for more attacking, ball-carrying rugby, but others could argue Rugby League provides this over Rugby Union, it could be argued Sevens simply takes the League principles to even more of an extreme away from the scrums of Rugby Union. Rugby players tend to commit and be an expert in one particular format, but this does not stop players switching codes or dabbling in playing sevens as part of a professional Rugby Union/League career.

Cricketers however commonly play three different formats at professional level, whilst at grass-roots, club cricket leagues are only played as one-day competitions in England. The problem of players having to work meaning they can often only give up one day at a weekend to play the sport. It would be interesting to see how many current club cricketers would be interested in playing numerous-day cricket if it were offered to them though. Cricket is perceived to be a very slow-moving sport, and this is a fair description of the longer formats in the professional game. During T20 cricket however, fielders spend far less time faffing about between balls and overs, they all run to their fielding positions quickly, not waiting for the captain’s instructions, knowing exactly where they are wanted for a left or right-hander respectively. You do not see this in test cricket as much, when they are only expected to get through 13 overs in an hour, and that is without regular fetching of balls back from the crowd. If test cricketers were encouraged to hurry up a little between balls, thus speeding the game up as a whole, it could encourage more people to spectate and keep more people captivated in an age-old traditional sport. Players are so fit these days that the skill-level would unlikely deteriorate if the Umpires encouraged swifter movements between deliveries.

Boro Clinton Perrin batting (1 of 1)
Is red ball Cricket fading? ©JMSPORTPIX

If you were to (like me) have followed nearly every match of the recent India tour of South Africa you would notice that there was far more interest and Social Media comment on the South Africa v India test matches than the one-day matches, despite the former being very low scoring affairs. The perception that modern cricket fans only want to see big sixes launched into the crowd is not as widely thought. Some of the most exciting matches in all formats in recent years have been on bowler-friendly-pitches where both sides have really struggled to get the ball to the boundary, requiring real skill and concentration from determined batsmen to do their job. It would be silly of me to say that test cricket is not, to some extent, dying amid the short form love-in, but different people have different desires as sports spectators and because of that these new creations of short format sports should not have to extinguish the traditional longer forms. All forms of tennis, golf and cricket should be allowed to co-exist in harmony and the fan allowed to follow whichever format(s) they wish, as it seems to work quite fine in the different forms of Rugby.

Harry Everett

Irish born soccer players: chasing the dream across the water

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

Ryan Adams

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

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©JMSPORTPIX

Who wouldn’t want to become a professional football player? The designer cars, houses, watches and clothes; the glamorous holidays in paradise; thousands of fans singing your name on a weekly basis; being the envy of many men and women; and being publicly adored for doing what you love. Within the higher levels of the men’s professional ranks – it would seem – these people are living out their dream whilst earning in a week what many working class households would be lucky to earn in a year, maybe even two years. The perceived lifestyle of these privileged individuals has some understandable pull factors, which is why many young men will go to extreme lengths in pursuing this career.

When coming from a country that doesn’t offer professional football, however, chasing the dream may become somewhat complicated. In this three-part series for SportExamined.com, I aim to shed some light on the truths, challenges and pitfalls of Irish-born football players in the pursuit of their aspiration to one day make it in the upper echelons of the game. This first article will set the scene for the series with an outline of the nature of football in Ireland and what processes a player must endure to get an opportunity at a professional club; the second will highlight the experiences of many players living life as a football migrant; and finally the third article of this series will examine the challenges of players who were deselected prematurely, and what they face upon returning to their homeland.

Irish football clubs, both North and South of the border, have traditionally only been able to offer low-wage contracts to the islands best talent. Problematic league structures mean that Irish football is predominantly part-time – part-time wages, part-time coaching, part-time training and an overall part-time mentality. Thus, for aspiring football talent in Ireland aiming to successfully attain a professional career in the game, outward mobility is a necessity. These young players yearn to one day cross the Irish Sea into the footballing ranks in England or Scotland, which are the most common destinations for those deemed talented enough to warrant one of the very limited spaces at a professional club. The crossing of the Irish Sea has given prominence for the term ‘across the water’ to be used commonly within footballing circles in Ireland. Parents, coaches and significant others will often express how they believe their star player will ‘make it across the water’.

Crewe United FC - NI
©Sportexamined

However this is a highly coveted dream, and to merely even knock the door of a professional club, young players must consistently perform on the pitch from a very young age. Talent scouts, like in most countries, are tasked with visually examining the thousands of young Irish grassroots players hopeful of one day becoming the next George Best or Roy Keane. These scouts subjectively siphon through the masses in order to find a gem, a needle in the footballing haystack that may just be potentially skilled enough to make it at the club they represent. After a thorough and rigorous scouting process, in which the player is observed on several occasions, they will be invited to the professional club for a trial.

Preparing for a football trial is a daunting and nerve-racking experience for young players. This is exacerbated if the player must travel to another country in order to attend. At just sixteen or seventeen years of age, players will travel on a plane or boat to attend what is essentially an assessment which may define the rest of their entire life. These young men often partake in this journey feeling anxious and apprehensive about what the club will think of their footballing ability. When attending the trials, players have cited how isolation may become a factor both on and off the field. Trials are a cut-throat event and every player is a threat to one-another as they are all competing for limited places at the club. Being the only Irish-born player at a particular trial has its difficulties when trying to integrate with players of English and Scottish nationalities, especially if the other players already know and have played with or against one-another. It would seem the Irish player is often the outcast before the trial has begun. Of course this isn’t the case at all clubs, but with players being ‘thrown in’ to the trial without as much as getting to meet the rest of the group, the Irish-born player has little opportunity to develop a rapport with anyone.

Kit set out for game
©Sportexamined

Failures at this stage are more common than successes. Many will fall at this hurdle, being told by the club coaches that they ‘aren’t the right fit’ or ‘not what they are looking for’. Some players are fortunate enough to be offered trials at various clubs, whereas for others their only opportunity came once and they must hope for one day to be offered another trial. For those who are unsuccessful at the trial stage, the reality sinks in that they must start planning for a career outside of football. Having gotten a bite at the cherry and not progressed, players at this point will normally accept that football will merely be a pipe-dream.

Should the player be successful or indeed if the club believes they are talented enough to skip the trial process – albeit the latter is rare – there are commonly two possibilities. They will be offered a scholarship contract, formally known as a Youth Training Scheme (YTS); or they will be directly signed on a professional contract – again, this possibility is scarce. For individuals entering via the former, the aim is to be signed professionally after their scholarship which normally lasts a maximum of two years. For these players, they must start planning for life away from Ireland and into the precarious world of professional football, where a different series of challenges await.

The next article of this three-part series will shed light on the experiences of Irish-born football migrants whilst at their host club/country. It will examine the challenges of preparing to move away from home, living away from family, the issues many face in their new job, dealing with life as a professional footballer, overcoming boredom, handling injuries and how homesickness may impact on their lives.

Ryan Adams

About the author: Ryan Adams is a PhD student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. His topic specifically focuses on the post-migration experiences of Irish-born football players who have been deselected from their professional clubs. Ryan holds a BSc degree in Sport: Theory and Practice; and an MSc in Sports Development and Coaching. His previous research has focused on player development strategies within the Irish Football Association; and ‘pre, during and post’ migration experiences amongst Irish-born football players. He is also an amateur football manager, having previously managed in the Northern Amateur Football League and Mid-Ulster Football League in Northern Ireland.

Follow on Twitter: @Ryan_Adams11 – Any feedback, critique or questions on this article are welcomed.