pic of the week 12/29-1/4

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Steven Defour Red or Dead

A few weeks back, our featured “Pic of the Week” showed Fernando Torres receiving a warm reception from supporters upon his return to his former club. And while this week’s selection also features a picture of a former player being greeted back at his old stomping grounds, it’s fair to say that Steven Defour was welcomed back in a drastically different tone. So why exactly did Defour get such a hostile greeting at his Standard Liège compared to El Niño’s at Atlético? While Torres returned to play for his former club, Defour returned to play against his former club… with their arch rivals.

After spending five years with Les Rouches, the highly rated Belgian international moved on to Porto — despite constant links to Manchester United, including an odd “get well soon” letter from Sir Alex Ferguson in 2009. A talented player moving on to a bigger club was something the Standard Liège supporters could tolerate. What they couldn’t tolerate, however, was Defour returning to the Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League to play for the most hated foes, Anderlecht.

Unfortunately, Defour did just that this transfer window. And as such, the red faithful of Standard expressed their displeasure with a massive tifo showing his head decapitated from its body.

Apparently the message got through to Defour and he decided to heed the advice of his former supporters in the only way possible: by seeing red in the match. He was sent off in the second half for picking up a second yellow. Better to see red rather than to actually end up, you know… dead. Wise move.

football transfer windows for dummies

WSOTP - Blog - Transfer Windows for Dummies.fw

With January now upon us, you have probably heard something about the “transfer window”. And if you’re new to the sport, then you might be asking yourself what exactly that is. We here at Wrong Side of the Pond want to help. Below you’ll find sample excerpts from our own “Transfer Windows for DUMMMIES”  to help make things at least a little bit easier for you to understand.

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i want: nike elastico superfly ic

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WSOTP - Blog - Nike Elastico IC SE

Since the advent and widespread adoption of long-bladed synthetic turf, I haven’t had much of a need for new “indoor” shoes in quite some time. All my local indoor facilities use it, meaning I’m able to trot out in my firm ground boots whenever I play. However, now that the opportunities to play futsal in my neck of the woods are expanding — particularly on harder courts — my need for some flat-soled shoes to kick around in is growing again. As such, I’ve been keeping an eye open for one of the major players to put out a pair that tickle my fancy.

And I think my good friends at Nike have won my admiration yet again… feast on their Elastico Superfly IC SE. The latest iteration of the Swoosh’s elite indoor/futsal boots take their inspiration from the Mercurial Superfly outdoors, but feature some key improvements for harder, flat surfaces. Those include a new rubber variant in the lower profile soles that’s specifically tuned for hard floors, as well as an extra layer of the NIKESKIN last in key areas to improve durability. And with this version of the Elasticos sporting the jet black colorway from Ronaldo’s CR7 Suprerfly’s, it’s almost not even a choice that I get them… it’s a necessity.

You can cop your own pair in Europe and Asia today, and they’ll be available in the US starting January 10th.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  nikesoccer.com

the WSOTP promotion & relegation survey

Promotion and Relegation Survey

If you’ve followed the American soccer scene on social media for anything longer than the last 25 minutes, the it’s entirely likely that you’ve been sucked into the metaphorical black hole that is the promotion/relegation debate.

It’s an unavoidable conversation at this point, even if you don’t want to be involved in it. You can blame that on a very persistent and often times abusive group of evangelists. They seem ready to pounce at nearly every opportunity, and apparently have no need to sleep. In fact, I’ve been in their cross hairs for quite some time: they’ve gone so far as to label me — incorrectly I might add — everything from a “Euro Snob” to an “MLS bot” apologist, which seems pretty contradictory if you ask me. But no matter how much Tinfoil Ted and his followers might be the annoying soccer equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church, that doesn’t mean the topic that they’ve shoved down everyone’s throats isn’t relevant.

There’s clearly an audience in the North American soccer community that desires to have promotion and relegation as an integral portion of our professional leagues. But what we’ve been unable to ascertain to this point is if it’s a vocal minority or a steadily growing majority.

And that’s where you come in.

The link below takes you to a survey that we here at Wrong Side of the Pond have put together to help get a better idea of how much the masses actually want pro/rel. All we ask is that you take a few minutes to complete the survey and to share it with your friends. The bigger the sample size, the more reliable the data collected will be.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE WSOTP PROMOTION & RELEGATION SURVEY.

But we’re not stopping there either. In addition to the survey linked above, I’m sending out a very similar survey to all the owners/presidents/CEOs from the 190 professional and semiprofessional clubs in the United States and Canada playing in MLS, NASL, USL PRO, USL PDL and the NPSL. That way we can also attempt to get a feel for not only how the fans feel about pro/rel, but also how those who control the teams do too.

Once we’ve had a chance to collect input from as many people as possible, we’ll then publish the results on the blog — just like we have with the other survey’s we’ve run on the site. No doctoring, just cold hard data. Just do us the favor of only filling it out once, okay?

So do your part by hitting up the link above, and help us all get a definitive feel for just how important promotion and relegation is to American and Canadian soccer.

FIFA world cup corruption report* leaked

FIFALike most everyone else on the planet, Wrong Side of the Pond have been closely following the chaotic story line surrounding the allegedly corrupt bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

The focus on the winning Qatar 2022 bid has been particularly dramatic, and has often time bordered on a soap opera. A pint-sized desert country, devoid of any of the appropriate infrastructure, featuring scorching temperatures unsafe for players and fans alike, with practically zero impact on the world soccer scene was able to land a tournament of such importance is head scratching in its own right. But given the mounting evidence of bribery and series of broken promises that were delivered during the bidding process — not to mention the country’s horrendous workers’ rights reputation — it’s caused many to seriously question FIFA’s ability to adequately administer the competition and the sport

Under increasing pressure to clear their name, FIFA caved to the calls for a probe into the bidding processes for both tournaments in 2012.

As a result, former US district attorney Michael Garcia was recruited to conduct an in-depth analysis of all the bids submitted for 2018 and 2022. And in September, he delivered a 350 page report to FIFA that is believed to have not only uncovered evidence of such bribery — which are more or less already known — but also suggest sanctions be dished out to those involved. But in typical fashion, FIFA desired they be kept under wraps and instead issued a reportedly altered summary to pacify the unrest.

Garcia resigned from his post over the matter after calling for the full report to be released publicly, further stoking the flames of an already angry public. As such, FIFA are now considering the release of the full document. But they only intend to do so once they’ve had a chance to review it and likely redact large portions to “protect” those implicated.

Well, through much finagling and quite a few lucky breaks, I’ve been able to exclusively secure several pages from the full Garcia Report*.

Scan of those pages can be found below. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from the documents.

However I will say this much  from my time looking over the pages made available to me: there’s some pretty damning stuff in there. And I can’t really blame FIFA for not wanting the report to ever see the light of day.

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i want: the secret footballer’s guide to the modern game

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WSOTP - Blog - Secret Footballer I Want.fw

Believe it or not, I don’t do all of my reading on the internet. Yes, from time to time, I still pick up and read timeless paper-bound words. Though normally it’s still soccer related as well. And the next book I’d like to mark down on my list of reads is the latest from The Secret Footballer. Not familiar with TSF? An author of a weekly column the Guardian that is purportedly a current Premier League player — either that or we’re all victims of an incredibly slick bit of marketing — The Secret Footballer dishes “insider” information on the professional game thanks to the safety of the protective pseudonym. There’s an entire website devoted to uncovering his identity, though nothing has been confirmed to this point.

Anyway, the first two books from The Secret Footballer — I Am the Secret Footballer and Tales From the Secret Footballer — were incredibly fun and relatively easy reads that shed a lot of insight into the professional game. And as such, I’m eagerly looking forward to reading his latest effort: The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game. It doesn’t help that I’m already a sucker for tactics reading. And if this one is anything like the last two, I’ll finish it in a couple of days.

And to be clear… yes Mom, this is something I’d like for Christmas.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  amazon.com

that’s not convenient at all

CalendarLet’s just get this out of the way: outside of the halls of FIFA headquarters in Zurich and the luxurious high rise buildings in Doha, there are very few people in support the idea of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022. I’m against it, you’re against it, most everyone is against it.

I’m not here today to argue the merits of stripping the Arab state of their right to host the tournament, as that horse has been already beaten to death. And no matter how much more you or I or anyone else continues to beat it, the tournament is still likely to end up in Qatar. So let’s just put that possibility out of our minds for the next few minutes, okay?

What I am here to talk about today, however, is when the tournament in Qatar will be held.

Much like everything else that’s associated with the 2022 edition of FIFA’s main event, the time at which it will be played has stirred great debate. It seems highly unlikely that the World Cup will be played out in its normal (Northern Hemisphere) summer time slot, and wisely so considering the scorching temperatures will be unfit for fan and player alike. As such, alternative dates are being considered for the first time.

On the table: November/December 2022, January/February 2022, and May 2022. And that’s bad. Really bad.

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pic of the week 10/27-11/2

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Real Madrid's Pepe spears Sergio Ramos in their match against Granada

This week’s admittedly blurry “Pic of the Week” comes to us from La Liga, where Spanish giants Real Madrid visited minnows Granada at the weekend. The match itself went about how you might expect, with Real securing a 4-0 win and Ronaldo tallying his ridiculous 17th goal in the league despite only having featured in 9 matches. But that goal tally wasn’t the most ridiculous moment of the game, as that honor belongs to his fellow Portuguese teammate Pepe. The defender is a player well known for his rash challenges and quick-to-boil demeanor. We’ve all gotten used to him headbutting, hacking and even assaulting opposing players for years now. But I never expected him to try to murder a player on his own team. Until this weekend, that is.

Captured in the image above and in the video linked here, Pepe nearly impaled teammate and fellow mad man Sergio Ramos in straight Nigel De Jong fashion in the match. Admittedly, both players were attempting to clear a ball rather than challenge one another. But it just goes to show that no matter what team you play for, you need to be wary of stepping on the same field as Pepe… else it might be the last time you ever do.

pic of the week 10/13-10/19

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Drone at Serbia v Albania Euro 2016 Qualifier

While the European Championships — to be held in 2016 in France — are often thought to bring multicultural Europe closer together, the latest edition of Pic of the Week illustrates how that’s not always the case. This week, Serbia and Albania squared off in Belgrade in Group I action in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. As you might recall, the two countries have a long, complicated, and often bloody relationship. Tensions between the two are rooted in the conflict involving the former Serbian-province of Kosovo, where Serbia expelled and ethnic cleansed of Albanians and NATO had to step in to stop the bloodshed. And as such, UEFA banned away fans from traveling to either of the fixtures scheduled between the two national teams.

Not content to be totally blocked out of making a statement at the match, a covert Albanian fan flew a remote-controlled drone above the pitch and terraces with an Albanian-themed flag. But when Serbia’s Stefan Mitrović yanked down the flag, the powder keg was officially lit. Albanian players rushed over after taking offence to the action, a scuffle ensued and then Serbian fans began to rush the pitch to attack the Albanians. And after 30 minutes of delaying the match, English referee Martin Atkinson abandoned it.

What repercussions, if any, will come of the event remain to be seen. But you do have to wonder how UEFA — who had prevented Spain and tiny Gibraltar from being drawn together in qualifying — could allow two countries with such deep political tensions to be drawn together.

EXCLUSIVE: dayton dutch lions moving to cincinnati

WSOTP - Blog - Dutch Lions Move to Cincinnati.fwAccording to information received from multiple trusted sources, Wrong Side of the Pond believes that the Dayton Dutch Lions will be moving their USL PRO franchise to Cincinnati for the 2015 season.

Rumors place the club leaving their newly minted home at Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium at West Carrollton High School — just opened midway through the 2014 season — and migrating to the Xavier University Soccer Complex. Currently, that facility also plays host to the Dutch Lions affiliate fourth division side playing in the USL Premier Development League.

Multiple attempts to confirm the move with the Dutch Lions went unanswered, as was a request for further information put into Xavier Athletics. Additionally, USL PRO declined to comment on any franchise moves, per league policy.

However, should an impending move 50 miles south actually come to fruition, it would come at the end of a turbulent stretch for a Dutch Lions organization that has alternated between few highs and far more frequent lows.

Established in 2009 as a fourth division USL Premier Development League side before self-promoting to the third division USL PRO — formerly the USL Second Division — in 2011, the Dutch Lions have long struggled to find a firm footing in Dayton and have found success on the pitch equally elusive.

Poor attendance has plagued the team throughout their existence and is likely the primary driver behind a relocation. The Dutch Lions averaged a league-low attendance of 531 at home matches this season, and often times the actual attendance was far less. The club’s struggle to find a permanent home likely contributed to those poor numbers, and a transient history of bouncing around local high school stadiums has made it difficult to establish a persistent fan base.

On-field outcomes have also been rare for Dayton, with a third place finish in USL PDL in their first year of existence being the club’s best ever league finish. But things haven’t gone as well since making the climb up to the third division: they’ve managed only one winning season (2013) and this year finished dead last out of fourteen clubs.

Reportedly, the only income keeping the club afloat comes by way of their youth academy, as club fees collected from each academy member are being at least partially used to help prop up the struggling professional side. Apparently, the Dutch Lions are also operating on what has been deemed “the smallest budget in the league” by a sizable margin. With little match day revenue to add to the coffers, a move South to a potentially more lucrative market would indeed appear appealing.

A move, however, shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

Speculation of a move to Cincinnati seems to surface nearly every off season around the Dutch Lions camp. And when the organization announced their second PDL amateur side was to be established in Cincinnati just over a year ago, co-owner Mike Mossell — a Xavier Graduate and former player for the defunct Cincinnati Riverhawks — dropped a very telling quote in the official release:

“When Erik [Tammer] and I wanted to start a professional soccer club in the USA back in 2009, Cincinnati was our first choice.”

That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for how the Dutch Lions feel about being in Dayton. Mossel’s ties to the Queen City only strengthen the argument that Cincinnati is where they would rather be setting up shop.

There’s also the matter of the organizations fourth division team, the already existing Cincinnati Dutch Lions, that might lend further credence to a potential move for their flagship franchise. Speculation has been that the placing of a Dutch Lions PDL side in Cincinnati was little more than a litmus test to see how a team might fare playing at Xavier. The lower-division side was able to average 251 supporters per match, hardly a mouthwatering statistic. But, given that there was virtually no media exposure and zero marketing efforts to promote the team, that might be enough to consider it a decent trial run.

While Cincinnati’s larger market and the owners’ original desires to place it there in the first place might be the primary drivers behind a decision to relocate the club, there are still a number of other factors that make it quite the perplexing proposition.

First and foremost is the already mentioned recent move to West Carrollton’s Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium — or “The DOC” as it’s come to be known by the club’s few dedicated supporters. The search for a permanent home for the Dutch Lions in Dayton had been long and arduous, with proposals for a soccer specific stadium failing to gain support from purported communities. The club eventually settled upon yet another temporary home in West Carrollton, where a brand new turf pitch without football lines was laid down in April thanks in large part to hefty investment from DOC’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta upon the completion of a 30-year agreement between the three parties. Should the Dutch Lions leave Dayton, it’s unclear whether that would in some way violate the terms of the partnership and if there would be any ramifications for such a decision.

Additionally, there’s the issue of the club’s youth academy, also based at West Carrollton High School. Though it’s not unheard of for a professional side’s academy to based in a different city, that normally isn’t the case for academies of lower division sides in the US. A move to Cincinnati for the USL PRO team would also leave a far further drive for academy members — normally an easier group to convince to attend — to actually make it to games. As well, it wouldn’t be a stretch either to hypothesize that the appeal of playing for an academy of a team not based in the same city might drop too.

A move to Cincinnati could also cast doubts on the futures of the Cincinnati PDL team and the women’s W-League team that also calls Dayton home.

Ultimately, it still remains to be seen if those or any other hurdles would be enough to block a move South.

Mossell has, of course, dealt with these types of rumors before too. He told Reckless Challenge‘s Chad Hollingsworth in an interview at the time of the Cincinnati PDL side’s announcement that “there are no plans” to move the USL PRO team to Cincinnati as well. But with WSOTP‘s sources now claiming the rumblings are coming from “within the club” as opposed to from outside sources, the ownership’s tune might now have changed.

Will Dayton lose it’s team? While nothing official from the club or league could be obtained, the Dutch Lions’ tumultuous time in the Gem City looks to have finally come to an end.