Monthly Archives: July 2012

Under the shadow of five rings

Photo: David Byrd

Damiano Benzoni

They already got underway yesterday, with the football tournament, tomorrow they’ll be off to their official start: the Olympic Games of London 2012 will see more than ten thousand athletes from all over the world competing with each other. Two hundred and five flags will parade at the British capital’s Olympic Stadium, representing all the nations involved in the event. The parade is traditionally opened by the Greek delegation, which will be led by its flag-bearer Alexandros Nikolaidis, two-time Olympic silver, one-time European champion in taekwondo and first torch-carrier at the Beijing 2008 Games. The Olympic Committees will then parade one after the other in alphabetic order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The Parade of Nations – as of tradition – is closed by the hosting delegation, and the last flag-bearer will be the Scottish track cyclist Chris Hoy, four Olympic golds. Between Iceland and India four athletes should parade without a national standard, walking behind the five rings of the Olympic flag instead. Continue reading

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Egypt behind closed doors

Damiano Benzoni

In the 79th minute Mohamed Aboutreika unevened the score: he rose up between two Zamalek defenders and headed the cross of his team-mate Abdallah el-Said, sending it behind the shoulders of the goalie Abdelwahed el-Sayed. Aboutreika scored the winner for al-Ahly in the Cairo derby, taking “the people’s team” on top of group B of the CAF Champions League and leaving Zamalek bottom of the pool, behind the Ghanaians of Berekum Chelsea and the Congolese of TP Mazembe. Strangely enough for one of the most heated derbies in the world, nobody was there to cheer, and Aboutreika’s goal was welcomed by a deafening silence: for the first time in a ninety-year history, the Egyptian derby was played behind closed doors, with only journalists, photographers, commentators and officials attending. Continue reading

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Chinese protectionism

Damiano Benzoni

Be the best forever: that is the motto on their crest – a tiger rising from the flames, its blades showing. “At all costs”, someone might be tempted to add, as the team we’re talking about – China Soccer League’s reigning champions Guǎngzhōu Evergrande, who have just secured Marcello Lippi as a manager – is doing anything possible in order to bend CSL rules and increase its domination on Chinese football. In June the team proposed boundaries on the number of foreign players for each team to be loosened. Such a proposal was accepted and ratified by the Zhōngguó Zúqiú Xiéhuì, the Chinese FA, in a formula seemingly devised on purpose to help Lippi’s team. Continue reading

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The derby which disappeared

Damiano Benzoni

“In full throat, they sing in praise of our slaughter: we’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”. This is how Franklin Foer, in his book How Football Explains the World, describes the Old Firm, the Glasgow derby between Celtic and Rangers. A derby which between 1996 and 2003, according to figures reported by Foer, caused eight deaths and scores of assaults. A derby that now seems destined to vanish as Rangers were not admitted to the next season of the Scottish Premier League on charges of debts totalling 94 million € towards Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. The club had gone into administration on February 14th, with a ten-point penalty and the exclusion from next season’s European competitions, and liquidation started on June 14th. Rangers tried in vain to apply for the new SPL season with a new society, but the other clubs voted against: with ten votes out of twelve, the abstention of Kilmarnock meant the only vote in favour of such move was the vote of the Glaswegian protestants themselves. The new club will have to apply to the lower leagues, and may be forced to start from the fourth rung of the Scottish championship. Continue reading

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