Monday 26 December 2011

Hansen's Generational Gaffe Similarly "Unbelievable"

Since much of the sports media are reporting what word Alan Hansen, long-time pundit on BBC One's Match of the Day programme, used to describe people of African descent (see examples at BBC Sport, Guardian and Daily Mail), this is a freeze frame of fellow pundit Lee Dixon's reaction when he heard the word "coloured" used by Hansen the second time. He takes a long sideways glance at host Gary Lineker. Priceless!

Alan Hansen and Lee Dixon

IMHO, Alan Hansen was not purposely being racist, discriminatory or vindictive. It doesn't excuse what he said either, but the whole sensitivity issue about racism has put everyone on edge.

For instance, the media have especially scrutinized Hansen's use of the word "coloured", when most people know that he was referring to a racial group that at various times have been labelled Negroes, blacks and people of African descent.

But have the media equally scrutinized Hansen's use of other words? For example, Hansen often uses the word "unbelievable" and most recently used it to describe the form of Robin van Persie. Labelling something as "unbelievable" is incorrect because in reality if something incredible, extraordinary or special happens and is documented then it is by definition 'believable'. We aren't sensitized to scrutinizing commentators' words to certain levels of exactness, so why use double standards when someone incorrectly and perhaps ignorantly (due mostly to generational and educational differences) used the word "coloured"? The whole sensitivity issue about racism has put everyone on tenterhooks. Unbelievable Extraordinary!

Friday 23 December 2011

A Couple of Casual Calls and Perhaps the Christmas Cheer Factor

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Manchester City and Stoke City on Wednesday 21 December 2011. The match finished 3—0.

Incident One First Goal

In the 29', Sergio Aguero (blue 16) benefits from being in an offside position to score Manchester City's first goal. The AR missed this offside.

Although 'offside' was my first thought, having looked at the replay, and with the helpful white line drawn in for emphasis, I stand corrected and accept that Aguero was onside.

The Stoke City defender's leg is slightly in front of Aguero's body

Incident Two Missed Foul and Third Goal

In the 54', with Manchester City up 2—0 the Sky Blues benefited from a missed foul and scored their third goal (Aguero's second). A Stoke City player (red/white) is tripped by a Manchester City player (blue) right in front of Referee Mike Dean. But Dean allows the turnover and hence play continues which subsequently leads to Manchester City scoring. Here are the freeze frames:
Having been tripped, the Stoke City player looks on in bemusement as Referee Mike Dean lets play continue

Incident Three Missed Foul

In the final minutes of the match, with Manchester City winning 3—0, a Stoke City player (red/white) jumps up to head the ball in the Manchester City half and is fouled. Here are the freeze frames:
However, neither the R or AR1 called it. Subsequently, Manchester City gained possession and from that managed to go on the attack and create a shot on goal.


Christmas Cheer: Referee Mike Dean with AR1(yellow flag) and AR2(diamond flag)

A couple of missed calls by the R and AR and just an impression that perhaps the match officials were taking things a bit too casually leading up to Christmas. Which leads me nicely on to wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Five Fouls: Same Same But Different

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City on Saturday 17 December 2011. The match finished 1—2.

It was a pity that media reports and commentators focused on the biased opinions that the referee had a poor game. In fact, Referee Anthony Taylor had a great game and probably missed one caution for unsporting behaviour.

Incident One of Three Foul, DFK — Correct

In the 3', a foul due to a careless challenge is committed by Stoke (red/white) against Wolves (orange) on the left. Referee Anthony Taylor correctly awards a DFK. There is no need to caution.

Incident Two of Three Foul, DFK, Caution — Correct

In the 10', a foul is committed against Wolves (orange) on the left wing. The Referee correctly awards a DFK and also cautions the Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate (red/white 39). It would be interesting to know the reason why Referee Taylor cautioned Woodgate. Some Referees would consider factors such as speed and intent of the challenge and therefore caution Woodgate for being reckless. Other Referees may consider Woodgate had denied the Wolves player a promising attack and therefore award a caution.

Incident Three of Three Foul, Penalty — Correct

In the 16', a foul is committed against Wolves (orange) in the penalty area. The Referee correctly awards a penalty and points to the spot. There is no need to caution.

There is no need to caution because of three considerations. First, it was a careless challenge. Second, it is debatable whether the Wolves attacker would have had the ball under his control to cross it, since his touch to push the ball pass the defender's challenge was a bit on the heavy side. Third, if the ball was under the attacker's control, would he have been able to cross the ball since there is a covering defender nearby? These considerations point more towards just giving a foul and awarding a penalty kick.

Unsporting Behaviour

A Wolves player (orange) demands a yellow card, which the player knows would have meant a second caution for Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate.
It is unsporting behaviour if players wave imaginary cards at referees in an attempt to get their opponents sent off. Players who do this should be cautioned (and perhaps clubs or competition organisers should fine them too). This was perhaps the one caution that Referee Taylor missed.

Penalty Kick and Encroachment

This is what happened as the penalty kick was taken.
Both sets of players encroach and a goal is scored. What should the referee have done?

Foul Tactical Reason

In the 57', a Wolves defender challenges for the ball and gets a touch but in the process also goes through a Stoke player. The contact brings down the Stoke player, which is a foul. In this context, it does not matter that the Wolves defender got the ball because he still fouled his opponent. Referee Taylor correctly awarded a foul. From that DFK, Stoke scored the equalizer.

NOTE: There was a similar incident in another EPL match during the same weekend that provides an excellent contrast and possible explanation as to why these kind of challenges occur (I shall reference this in a future post). In the meantime, if anyone knows why these foul challenges occur, please leave comments below.

Simple Foul Nothing more, nothing less

In the 69', Wolves Stephen Hunt (orange) challenges for a header but doesn't play it. Instead, he carelessly charges into his opponent (red/white) and the Referee correctly awards a DFK to Stoke. Wolves Coach Mick McCarthy is furious and vents his frustration at the 4th Official Peter Walton. Coaches often see things in a biased light (sometimes called "rose-tinted glasses or rose-coloured spectacles") and therefore do not see the bad and unattractive points in their own players. But if that foul incident were reversed, with the Stoke player fouling a Wolves player, you can bet your bottom dollar that McCarthy would be screaming for at least a foul.

Incidentally, nothing came of the DFK.

A couple of minutes later though, Stoke striker Peter Crouch scored the winning goal from an attacking move.


The media and commentators focused on comments from the losing team's manager Mick McCarthy. Most likely because his team lost, McCarthy clearly felt that the Referee had a poor game and in particular did not think much of the two fouls in the 57' and 69' that warranted free kicks to Stoke. Isn't it interesting that McCarthy did not complain about the three fouls in the 3', 10' and 16' that gave two free kicks and a penalty to Wolves!? If it is possible for players, coaches and fans to take away their bias, then it is obvious that the Referee's foul identification during the match was good and consistent. For instance, all the important fouls mentioned here were correctly identified and awarded.

TV commentators also believed that Stoke's Jonathan Woodgate should have received a second caution and therefore sent off when he gave away the penalty. This just goes to show that what they believe and what Referees are trained to know are like chalk and cheese, respectively. The 'Big Cheese' on the pitch being correct, naturally!

EPL Referee Anthony Taylor performed well.

However, ex-EPL referee Graham Poll thinks otherwise about Taylor. I will comment on Poll's 'opinions' in a future post.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

In Hong Kong It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

The promising career of a young Hong Kong football player has all but ended after the 20-year-old admitted to match fixing during an international friendly between hosts Hong Kong and Russia on 5 November 2011. The match finished 1—2.

20-year-old Iu Wai faces a life suspension from the game

Hong Kong has had its share of match-fixing cases, and this latest one follows on from a similar case that occurred two years ago (see Life Ban For Player Found Guilty of Match-Fixing in Hong Kong).

The above two cases involved corrupt players, however referees have been implicated and caught in match-fixing probes too. Thankfully, not in Hong Kong. Recently, referees from China (see China's Golden Whistle Admits Accepting US$44,000 Bribe) and from Niger (see Suspect Referee Performance: Nigeria v Argentina) faced credibility issues and have been investigated.

Notice in the Hong Kong corruption case that there is a lack of investigation (or lack of media reports) looking beyond the 20-year-old player. Obviously, there must be a mastermind or masterminds that set up such match fixing cases. Only the small fish have been caught.

Things will get worse before they get better because at present in Hong Kong there are moves afoot to open things up and to be more transparent. This is due to a new initiative codenamed Project Phoenix which aims to make significant changes in the management structure and future operations of Hong Kong Football. As with all 'shake ups', skeletons may fall out before things get better.


Bribes bid admitted by soccer player (SCMP; subscription required)
Iu Wai reverses earlier plea and says he tried to bribe teammates to fix a showpiece youth friendly against Russia at Mong Kok Stadium
Austin Chiu and Colleen Lee
Dec 17, 2011

A young Hong Kong soccer player yesterday admitted that he tried to bribe his teammates to fix a showpiece international friendly match, reversing an earlier plea of not guilty he made after his arrest.

Iu Wai, 20, an up-and-coming defender for Hong Kong Sapling Football Club who also turns out for Hong Kong's under-21 side, was remanded in custody after pleading guilty at Kowloon City Court to two counts of offering an advantage.

Iu was arrested when ICAC investigators staged an unprecedented raid on a friendly youth match between Hong Kong and Russia, attended by 5,000 spectators, at Mong Kok Stadium on November 5. The Russians won 2-1.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption raid was not only a blow to the already battered reputation of soccer in the city, but led to an important government public relations coup backfiring spectacularly.

The international match at the centre of the investigation was arranged in April during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Hong Kong, when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen invited Russia's youth squad to play in the city, and initiated an exchange opportunity for young players.

Yesterday in court, Iu admitted that he approached teammate Chan Cham-hei, a defender, and Chiu Yu-ming, a goalkeeper, to throw the match in return for several tens of thousands of dollars. The two turned down his requests and called the ICAC.

Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen adjourned sentencing until December 30, pending a background report, detention centre report and training centre report on Iu.

The court heard that in November Iu was approached by a man, whom he referred to as "Ah Liu", in Shenzhen to bribe Hong Kong youth representative team players to fix the match.

Iu set out to lure Chan and Chiu during a four-day residential training camp days before the match.

Last year, Iu was arrested but not charged when mainlander Yu Yang was jailed for 10 months for trying to fix a First Division match between Happy Valley and Fourway Rangers.

Philip Lee Fai-lap, Sapling's team manager, said: "Iu is foolish to have made the mistake. His career as a football player has just started but it's likely that it's reaching the end."

Lee said Iu was likely to receive a life suspension from the game.

"But we have to appreciate kids do make mistakes. He is going to be punished by law. The next thing the club will do is to give him a helping hand." Lee said.

He said the club would remind its members to always stay clean and abide by the law, adding that the scandal had had a huge impact on the club's reputation.

The Hong Kong Football Association declined to comment.

Timothy Tong Hin-ming, the ICAC commissioner, said the commission completed the investigation and prosecution of Iu within a month of receiving the report.

In the first 11 months of this year, the ICAC received 31 bribery complaints regarding sport and recreational activities, compared with about 20 last year, Tong said on the sidelines of an ICAC seminar.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Hong Kong Scorpion Kick Makes Own Goal and Net Sensation

Another news item sees Hong Kong hitting the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. This time, netizens are promoting the Greatest Ever Own Goal (see here and here and here and Google search), and it comes from the top-tier of Hong Kong Football. Never mind that the facts are wrong.

All stories, for example in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and YahooSports have the team facts back to front … rather like the own goal.

港甲最佳烏龍波法圖斯 Hong Kong Best Own Goal (close to half a million views already on YouTube)

To set the record straight, in the 80' league leaders Sun Hei (neon orange) were losing 3—0 to fifth-placed Citizen (purple) and were attacking down the right wing. Instead of taking in the incorrect description in the news reports, the following commentary makes more sense:
A Sun Hei winger (orange) crosses the ball into the Citizen penalty area, where Citizen captain Festus Baise (purple) connects with the ball 'scorpion style' and subsequently loops the ball over his own goalkeeper and into the goal.

That made the scoreline 3—1, and five minutes later Sun Hei scored another goal (this time using only their own players!). This set up a rather tense final five minutes of normal time plus stoppage time. I have to report that Citizen captain Festus Baise was up to his usual tricks again and did everything he could to run down the clock. In fact, he collapsed on the pitch with no other players near him twice. Yes, twice in 6 minutes and both times he delayed and disrupted play by asking to be stretchered off.

Citizen captain Festus Baise, a 31-year-old Nigerian, is no stranger to courting controversy. He is well known in Hong Kong for his timewasting and player theatrics (e.g. see here).

Saturday 17 December 2011

Martin Atkinson Up and Down Part 2

The remaining 2 of 5 incidents (see earlier post here) occurred during the EPL match between Norwich City and Newcastle United on Saturday 10 December 2011. The match finished 4—2.

Incident Four No Handball

In the 60', a Norwich cross hits a Newcastle player in the chest and possibly arm. Here are the freeze frames:
The ball has possibly touched the arm of a Newcastle (black/white) player

However, the arms were not outstretched in an unnatural position and the short distance and high speed that the ball travelled to hit the Newcastle player provides ample information that there was no deliberate handball. This incident is used as a comparison with Incident One (see earlier post here), where a deliberate handball occurred, but was somehow missed by the match officials.

Incident Five Cynical Challenge

In the 66', Newcastle's Dan Gosling makes a cynical challenge (studs up and over the ball) on Norwich's Russell Martin.

Referee Atkinson does not hesitate to correctly send off Gosling for serious foul play

Referee Martin Atkinson was in a good position—at the right place at the right time—to see the incident. However, just how much of the contact did Atkinson see? Was his view obscured by another player? Perhaps or perhaps not? Nevertheless, experienced Referees in similar situations would also draw on their vast experience and knowledge to help them with their decision making.

Here are freeze frames from another camera angle:
Note how the excessive force of the cynical challenge makes Norwich's Russell Martin (yellow #2) pirouette

Here's Dan Gosling's reaction to his cynical challenge and send off:
The reaction of players who are sent off for blatant SFP or VC is often pathetic and is usually a shameless way to gain sympathy from their own team-mates and fans. How can players claim to be innocent when they know they are guilty? One possible reason is that many players lack taking responsibility for their own actions and lack a good sense of sportsmanship and fair play.


It is likely that Martin Atkinson and Mike Mullarkey will be officiating at Euro 2012 next June. Let's hope they can iron out any controversies and missed incidents that are within their control, and simultaneously continue to get critical decisions (such as Incident Five) correct.