Qatar, play by the rules

Qatar

Playfair Qatar

Death & injury

To date, almost 1000 World Cup workers have died in Qatar and many have been injured.

Low pay & no pay

Workers are paid as little as 45p an hour and some employers withhold wages.

Trapped in Qatar

Workers need permission from their employers before they can leave Qatar.

No defence

World Cup workers in Qatar are unable to join forces and defend themselves.

British players for British teams?

David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, has spoken out about foreign players in the Premier League. My first observation on his latest outburst is that in thirty years of involvement in local football in Southend-on-Sea and surrounding areas I have not encountered Mr Amess once – I do question his footballing credentials. But setting that aside, I guess he is entitled to his opinions in spite of his distance from the sport.

He says that we (England) will never win the World Cup again if we have all these overseas players. I am unconvinced that our international failures are linked to the nationality of the players in any division. A look back at our international record shows just the one success, and that was in large measure a result of hosting the 1966 tournament. All those past failures were set against a backdrop of league teams largely consisting solely of UK players.

Our current FIFA ranking of 20 suggests that the recent performance in Brazil was about as expected. We are not entitled to success, and featuring in the latter stages of many international tournaments is beyond the expectations of many countries.

Foreign-born players feature in all levels of football, including the grassroots. If Mr Amess wants to boycott teams that include foreigners why stop with the Premier League?

I also wonder whether Mr Amess’s objections extend to foreign-born political advisers, because if they do then he ought to have a word with his boss.

As for the high pay, is there an irony in a representative of a party which has a laissez-faire approach to economics now advocating restraint in the salaries of high earners?

Europe ascendant

It is over, the Brazilian festival of football concludes with a triumphant Germany overcoming a less than exhilarating Argentine team. On the way they saw off a below par Brazil, and their toughest matches came against African opposition: a draw with Ghana in the group stages and an extra-time victory over Algeria in the second round. Germany are fitting winners, the best team prevailing in the world’s most popular team sport.

England were disappointing, leaving this correspondent pleased that he could fall back on his Belgian ancestry. To be honest, the best games to watch were those that did not include England, who proved that you can have the world’s most exciting league and the dourest national team simultaneously.

Here is a list of world cup winners and host nations. A couple of things are immediately noticeable, the main one being that this years was the first occasion that a European team has triumphed in the Americas. The other is that the last three tournaments have been won by European teams, and that has not happened before either.

Winner Host
1930 Uruguay Uruguay
1934 Italy Italy
1938 Italy France
1950 Uruguay Brazil
1954 West Germany Switzerland
1958 Brazil Sweden
1962 Brazil Chile
1966 England England
1970 Brazil Mexico
1974 West Germany West Germany
1978 Argentina Argentina
1982 Italy Spain
1986 Argentina Mexico
1990 West Germany Italy
1994 Brazil USA
1998 France France
2002 Brazil Japan and South Korea
2006 Italy Germany
2010 Spain South Africa
2014 Germany Brazil

Service before self – exemplary recognition

001On Tuesday evening I was one of a number of people who picked up an award at an event organised by the Essex County Football Association. The venue was Chelmsford City F.C. and it was pleasing to see so many friends have their prodigious efforts acknowledged.

I am not going to name-check everyone who I knew there, if for no other reason than I am bound to forget someone. However, I will mention Nick Janes who I sat with. Nick, a thorough gentleman, is someone I have known for many years. His career in football is a testament to the referee’s motto of ‘service before self’. Anyway, my mere twenty-nine years in football administration pale in comparison.

It all began with a conversation with a work colleague, Mark Ward (Marcus). Marcus, a member of a non-playing band the Kippars (with the anarchist circle around the ‘a’) was a reasonable footballer, whilst I was just this side of hopeless. Anyway, Marcus and I had tried a number of other enterprises – we had written a fanzine (Confidential Waste, which only lasted one issue) and had sold some of Nasty’s clothes at work (Nasty was a punk clothes shop in Clifftown Road). We began thinking about sport, and football in particular, and decided to try to see whether we could get enough friends interested. With alarming speed we had gone from conversation to impromptu gathering at Priory Park, to deciding we could and would form a team.

Marcus had gone to Southchurch boys high school and we both were working in Victoria Avenue, and so we settled upon Southchurch Victoria F.C. as our name We had to go for cheap kit, and so we opted for green shirts, black shorts and socks, in the hope that this was least likely to clash with other teams. My memory fails me when it comes to our change colours, but I do recall that the cheapness of our first kit meant that it was very itchy. We eventually acquired a new set of shirts, cast offs from Ekco Sports Club. (When the club became Methane F.C. the club colours changed to something similar to what Blackburn Rovers wear – blue and white halves.)

I was made Secretary, this would have been in Spring 1984, and we applied successfully to join the South East Essex Sunday League. After a season I decided to look into becoming a referee, and in October 1985 I qualified as a Class Three referee, By 1989 I was promoted to Class One.

Fast-forward to 2013 and I find myself awarded an Exemplary Service Award, and my footballing widow (and now politics widow) was there to see Lawrence Segal present it to me. This is awarded for twenty years service to the beautiful game. I will soon be eligible for the Outstanding Service Award, for although I quit refereeing in November I am still on the Executive Committee for the Southend and District Borough Football Combination and have the role of I.T. Officer. One becomes outstanding after thirty years, although I may have to wait because my refereeing career was interrupted twice.

I hope I have not allowed my ego to make nonsense of the referee’s motto, for aside from this award it has been a story of turning up and enabling many young people to enjoy their sport.

Fitness and foxes

I sit on the board of Active Southend, being appointed after my election as councillor last year. This is chaired by Cllr Derek Jarvis and brings together various sports, fitness and health groups. I am on this body as a councillor, but do have a sporting interest as I have been involved in local football for almost twenty-nine years. Although now retired as a referee I still sit on the executive of the Southend Borough and District Football Combination.

At yesterday’s meeting I sat next to someone from Active Life and had a brief chat about that organisation before the meeting formally commenced. A number of topics were covered and when the discussion on obesity unfolded I confess to feeling somewhat sheepish. My lack of exercise and fondness for food has left me overweight, bordering on obese, and I have been making resolutions for many years to do something about it. Crisis is an overused word, but it is appropriate when considering the weight of the collective British. Many of us are fat, and we are getting fatter. Active Southend hopes to play a role in reversing this disturbing trend.

In the evening I caught the train to Westminster to attend a Fox in Parliament meeting. Here I met the ‘other’ Angela Smith. Prior to the 2010 General Electi0on there were two Angela Smiths in the House of Commons. The former MP (and now Baroness) for South Basildon and East Thurrock is well known to me; meeting the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge was a first. Discussion covered the impending badger cull, as well as the likely vote to repeal the hunting ban next year.

The badger cull is a tragedy, best explained by Team Badger. The repeal of the hunting ban is a step towards barbarism. This government is not animal friendly.

I think this chapter now ends

My football career has had a number of interruptions over the years. These have been due to factors outside of the game itself, for despite the occasional provocation from ill-disciplined players my enjoyment and desire to give something back have kept me going.

My playing career began in 1984 and lasted for barely over a season before I opted for the role of match official.

I do not have my match diaries for the earliest seasons of my career, but I do recall that my first game as a referee (as far as I counted it anyway) was in the late summer of 1985. This was an encounter between Runwell Raiders and Southchurch Victoria (I think this ended as a 4 – 4 draw, but my memory is fallible). This friendly was played at the Runwell hospital grounds, which I think no longer hosts football.

My first official, post qualifying, game was at the end of October 1985. I recall it being a Southend Borough Combination fixture played at Bournes Green Park, and that one of the teams was Southend Estuary.

I think my career total stands at 1065. This is my final total as last weekend I made my mind up that I would retire. My final game at Belfairs North was a Southend Sunday League Charity Cup fixture between Leigh Ramblers and Area Boys (6 – 4).

I have stopped before, when working away from home made my weekends too precious and busy. I have stopped in recent seasons around about March time to put in time in election campaigning.

It is with regret that I now retire, my decision being entirely due to my political commitments which have meant that something has got to give. I have been actively involved in football for over twenty-eight years, and I will still have some contact as I am still the IT Officer for the Southend and District Borough Football Combination.

Will I miss it? Of course I will. Will I change my mind? Possibly, although I am time poor. I need to do something about my fitness, which whilst never great has steadily deteriorated in recent years.

At 53 I am not particularly old in refereeing terms, although my damaged left leg often means that I am in considerable discomfort. The freed time will be put to use in campaigning and committee work as I realise that I should be putting in more time as a politician.

The referees’ motto is “service before self”. I am afraid that service to the residents of Milton must now take precedence over Southend and Essex footballers.

Remembering

I observed my minute’s silence a little earlier than most people today – at 10.30am to be precise. This was because I conducted this show of respect for the fallen in two world wars just before kick-off in my second football game of the season; an affair that ended Playfootball Elite 1 – 3 Ekco Munchengladbach (Southend Sunday League Cup Section B).

I am still clinging on as a referee, just. I approach my infrequent games with a little more apprehension nowadays. My political commitments leave me little time for football, and as the gap between games grows I worry whether I am still up to standard.

As for the remembrance: I have contributed to both red and white poppy funds this year. I rarely wear the poppy, and in fact when I gave to the British Legion this year I did not take one. I am not opposed to them, just not keen on wearing one. Part of this is the ubiquitous nature of them – somehow I am trying to show in my own small way that you can honour the dead without the public display.

As I have written before, my existence owes itself in many ways to the First World War. One grandfather was killed in battle in northern France, the other fled Belgium when it was invaded and fought from his new base in England. My paternal grandfather, who died at Arras aged 26, was largely unknown to my father – dad was just three years old when Arthur was killed. The death, however, had a huge impact in the days before the welfare state. My widowed grandmother and her two surviving children shared two rooms with her brother and his family in crowded conditions that defy my skills in attempting to describe. My father’s poor health (he lost all his teeth through malnutrition and went deaf following a mastoid operation, crushed a leg at fourteen that was nearly amputated, and eventually succumbed to cancer) was in no small part due to the poverty they endured. Grandmother remarried and produced three more kids.

I have Arthur’s framed picture on display at home – a remembrance of a grandfather who gave his life for his country some 42 years before I was born.

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