Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

They think it's all over… it is now...

Well this is it then. We appear to have reached the end of the road as far as Some People Are On The Pitch is concerned. After four years and around 1,300 posts, it's time for us to go.

As I mentioned last week, this isn't so much a 'goodbye' as a 'bye for now'. As from next season, I'll be writing on an occasional basis for Football Fairground along with Terry Duffelen, Graham Sibley, Chris Nee and anyone else that gets roped in. It'll give me more time to go off and do other things, and for that I must wholeheartedly thank Terry  and Graham for their support and understanding.

I never thought when I first created this blog that it'd be quite such a fulfilling experience, but that it most certainly has been. It's given me a sense of purpose, an engrossing pastime and an opportunity to get to know some fantastic people. Perhaps it's this last point that's given me the greatest satisfaction – interacting with visitors to SPAOTP, many of whom have great football blogs of their own, and generally having a lot of fun.

I'd love to list everyone that falls into that category, but there's simply too many of you. Just know that if at any time you've sent me a message, left a comment on a post or just visited our website, I've been incredibly grateful to you for being so considerate. Writing for and maintaining a blog is one thing, but knowing there's someone out there showing an interest in what you say or do really makes it all worthwhile, so thank you.

My final thanks are reserved for Terry, Graham and Martin Lewis who helped me get Some People Are On The Pitch off the ground and keep it there. I couldn't have done it without you all, and if this site has been in any way successful, it's as much down to your efforts as anyone else's. Thanks for your friendship and all your hard work.

If you'll now excuse me, it's time I was off. Don't forget to join us at FootballFairground.com sometime soon, but for now it's goodbye, good luck and thanks for visiting Some People Are On The Pitch.

Best wishes,
Chris O.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup: In my life

Taking inspiration from a blog article by Richard Johnson, here’s something similar from me - namely a look back at the World Cups in my life so far and the way they intertwined with life itself.

Spain ‘82
Aside from the hazy image of tickertape streaming down onto an Argentinean football pitch – one that the BBC rightly included in its opening title sequence for World Cup Grandstand – I remember virtually nothing of the 1978 World Cup. I was only six at the time, so for me Spain ’82 is where it all began.

I was in my final year at junior school, nearly eleven, and utterly besotted by football. I’d been collecting Panini sticker albums since 1980 and my nose was rarely out of football reference books and magazines. This, however, was my first World Cup and I couldn’t have asked for more inspiration to set in train this exciting interest in the beautiful game.

For a start, England flew out of the traps with a wonderful 3-1 win over France (and what about that goal for Bryan Robson after 27 seconds!) shortly to be followed by further progress to the second round. Brazil played the sort of football that was so good, I’d be trying (and failing) to emulate it for the next 25 years or more. Italy, however, started very poorly... I wonder whatever happened to them?

I remember raving about David Narey’s wonder-goal for Scotland against Brazil and hearing that Hungary had beaten El Salvador 10-1. I can remember sitting in the back of my Dad’s car after he’d dropped my Mum off at the local bingo hall one evening and hearing about Gerry Armstrong’s (ultimately winning) goal against Spain on the radio. I also recall returning home from the park (having played football with some friends of mine) and hearing the commentary from dozens of TVs blaring out of the open windows of nearby houses. It was as if everyone was watching the World Cup.

Each game was accompanied by a cacophony of blaring horns from the crowd which, though it sounded strange to British ears, only added to the amazing atmosphere of the event. And they think vuvuzelas are a new idea...

It was a great World Cup and one which co-incided with an innocent and carefree time in my life. The summer sun was beating down for much of the time and the abundance of wall-to-wall soccer – to play and watch – kept me very happy. Great days...

Mexico ‘86
By 1986, I was nearing the end of my time at comprehensive school. There was still a year to go before I’d eventually stroll out through those gates and into adult life, but well before that there was a new World Cup in an old destination to be enjoyed.

Mexico had been the scene of many a vivid football memory in 1970, but now was a chance for my generation to watch stars such as Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup and Emilio Butragueno take their inspiration from the land of the Aztecs.

Sadly for us watching the action back in Blighty, the land of the Aztecs was several hours behind British Summer Time, so in order to have the privilege of watching Bobby Robson’s men drawing 0-0 with Morocco, we’d all have to stop up until 11.30 at night. Nice. But stop up we did – right to the last vital group game where Gary Lineker exploded onto the scene (plaster cast and all) with a wonderful hat-trick against Poland.

I can’t recall whether anyone rated England’s chances of winning the World Cup in 1986, but one thing I do remember was asking my good friend Martin Lewis who he thought the champions would be before the tournament had started. Being an astute sort of fellow, he avoided giving the obvious answer like I had (Brazil), instead replying with the supreme self-confidence “Uruguay”.  I was somewhat taken aback by his prediction and assumed he’d gained some insider knowledge from the less-available-than-it-is-now World Soccer. I was soon laughing up my sleeve at him, of course: Uruguay succeeded only in collecting more yellow and red cards than anyone before or since prior to hot-footing it home on the plane (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms).

I remember it being a good World Cup, and that was chiefly based on the fact that we seemed to be playing football a lot more often at school. We’d arrive extra early in the morning to have a decent kick-around in the playground with a tennis ball, then we’d enjoy every available minute of our three breaks during the day doing exactly the same. We really did live and breathe football back then.

Such was the advance of technology that we were now seeing fancy graphics and captions appearing on our screens. Action replays now flew onto the screen like a frisbeed paving slab coloured appropriately for whichever teams were playing. Matches began with a run-through of the teams, each name illuminating in turn with an accompanying video clip of the relevant player silently mouthing his name into camera (if you were lucky). Funny the things you remember...

At home, I had the Panini Mexico ’86 sticker album, a sticker wallchart for the second World Cup running (lots of flags and spaces to fill in the scores, as I recall), but my bedroom wall was also adorned with something very odd... well it is from an adult point of view at least.

My Dad worked in a paint factory for many years, and if there was one thing he could get his hands on for nothing every once in a while, it was large rolls of thin brown card. It was with this card that I brilliantly drew to scale the Mexico 86 logo lettering which I then cut out and coloured with green and red paint. Once dry, I blue-tacked it high up on my wall above my wallchart and there it stayed for the duration of the tournament.

At two metres or so wide, it dominated my tiny little room giving it the look of a miniature BBC World Cup Grandstand studio, albeit one with a bed in it. I remember being quite proud of the skill I’d shown in making the thing, but I shudder to think what my parents thought at the time. I’ll never know now...

Anyway, what a tournament – three home nations were involved, and from them England battled their way through to the quarter finals where Maradona was waiting to prick their bubble. In the end, not even West Germany could turn them over - Argentina were the eventual champions. Great football, great memories and a great World Cup.

Italia ‘90
Hopes were high that more of the same would follow in Italy four years later, but sadly the magic was in lesser supply. It all started brightly enough with an opening ceremony that featured a fashion parade of all things (whatever happened to a bunch of kids walking around the stadium carrying the flags of all competing nations?) and then the explosive encounter between reigning champions Argentina and Cameroon.

I watched that opening game from the chalet of a holiday camp at the time. I can’t remember where it was – probably somewhere near Great Yarmouth at a guess - but this was probably my last visit of many to a holiday camp at the ripe old age of 18. My Mum and Dad seemed to quite like them as we visited several down the years, but by now I was finding them seriously tedious. (Holiday camps, that is – not my parents.)

At least the site of several Cameroonians kicking big lumps out of the Argentineans (and scoring a vital goal against them) brought a spark of life to my holiday in 1990, and the games that followed continued to be quite enjoyable too.

After a while though, it became clear that the tournament wasn’t quite generating the same sort of excitement as Mexico ’86. The goals flowed less freely, the fouls and sendings off piled up and there weren’t quite as many high points as we’d seen four years earlier.

Outside of the World Cup though, I was nine months into my working life, going through a year-long IT trainee scheme. Everything was ticking along nicely, I was earning a reasonable working wage and I had a new bunch of colleagues to discuss football with. One of them, I seem to recall, thought the Roger Milla that scored for Cameroon was the same Roger Miller who once sang ‘England Swings’ and ‘King of the Road’. He was a Bristol City supporter if I remember correctly... I’ll leave you to make the appropriate judgement...

Back at the tournament, Brazil were going off the boil, England were bumbling their way through to the semi-finals against the odds and the West Germans were being, well... efficiently German. Sadly for England they were in a different league and so the Final saw Franz Beckenbauer’s team pitted up against Argentina once again. Two red cards and a few yellows later, West Germany were crowned champions but a bad-tempered competition had left a bad taste in the mouth. Frank Rijkaard will vouch for that.

USA ‘94
This would be the last time I’d watch a World Cup with my Dad. He wasn’t much of a football supporter, but he showed an occasional interest whenever there was a good match on. For USA ’94, I decided to book off the first two weeks from work so I could see the First Round games - a cunning plan given that many of the games would be shown on TV after midnight in the UK.

It worked like a dream... for a few days at least. Dad and I stayed up late to witness the first few days’ action and all was well... but then the tiredness kicked in. By the middle of the first week, my brain was on American time and a change of sleeping patterns had left me experiencing something akin to jetlag. I soon returned to my regular sleep times and normality was soon restored.

It was a strange World Cup in 1994. International football being played in a country that barely acknowledged its existence at the time, long grass, gridiron stadia... not what we were used to at all. As for that opening ceremony... don’t even get me started on that. One more mention of Diana Ross and I’ll go spare...

There was no British involvement this time so only the hardened fans this side of the Atlantic were showing much interest. Those that did watch, however, saw new names playing on the world stage – Greece, Nigeria, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia – all of whom added an abnormal twist to the competition, but also much interest and a degree of mystery too.

By this time, I was becoming a confident IT Support officer enjoying work and life in general. My colleagues at the time were a funny bunch of characters, always ready to have a laugh and show that ‘all work and no play’ was the last thing they’d subscribe to.

It was during this World Cup that one of my colleagues, only a couple of years old than me as a 22-year-old, suggested we all grew goatee beards as many of the players had done. On a Friday afternoon, we vowed to abstain from shaving over the coming weekend and come in on Monday sporting our new facial furniture.

I wonder if you can guess the identity of the only member of our eight-man team that didn’t fall for this immature little scheme? Yes, I was alone in returning to work with a crap goatee beard while everyone else looked smart and clean-shaven. It was a long and slightly embarrassing day that passed before I could finally make use of my Gillette Sensor.

As USA ’94 moved into its latter stages, a few surprising names emerged as possible winners. Bulgaria, Sweden, the Netherlands... but it was Brazil who finally ended their 24-year wait to lift the trophy again by beating Italy in the Final on penalties. Possibly the strangest World Cup was over, and a four-year journey towards French sensibility was just beginning...

France ‘98 onwards
As childhood memories faded ever more into the past, so life became more serious, the innocent pleasure of having no responsibilities making way for an existence where it seemed I was responsible for everything. The World Cup, however, came around as regular as clockwork to punctuate my adult life.

Only a couple of months after USA ’94 ended, my Dad suffered a brain haemorrhage and eventually needed 24-hour care in a nearby nursing home. The impact and emotional upheaval was considerable and from that point on I devoted myself to supporting my Mum, who by then was in her early 60’s. It felt like the right thing to do given the efforts my parents had made to bring me up as a child. Though I had plenty of opportunities to go out with friends in my spare time, I usually declined every time in order to repay their sacrifice.

In France, meanwhile, we witnessed a great tournament – well organised, lots of great goals and scored by great players too. Michael Owen, anyone? It was also the start of a new era in which France were genuine world-beaters, thereby providing a much needed breath of fresh air to the proceedings.

I can remember watching the opening game of the 2002 World Cup at my workplace. In my lunch hour I went in search of the only TV that was available in order to watch Senegal v France – and it happened to be in a noisy air-conditioned computer room. Still, no matter: it was a shock to see Senegal winning in the same way it was a shock to see Cameroon beat Argentina in 1990, and it set the tone for another one of those World Cups in which anything seemed possible.

At home, things remained the same. Mum was still very much the focus of my attention as my spare time seemed split between giving her the company she craved and visiting Dad at the nursing home. By now it seemed I was missing out on a lot of opportunities as a young thirty-something, but in general life was OK if not altogether a barrel of laughs.

When Germany 2006 rolled around, however, I was already well into a period of major change. The year before, Dad had sadly passed away, but with uncanny timing someone new came into my life around the same time - my future wife Melanie. We’d started dating in 2005 and by 2006 were living together... probably just as well as our daughter Bella was born just a couple of weeks after the World Cup Final that year.

As for the World Cup itself, that was a reason for great excitement too. For some reason it seemed to have everything in abundance – goals, incident, a great atmosphere, a wonderful selection of teams taking part... I couldn’t fault it. The World Cup was, in my view, better than ever and Germany could take great credit for having hosted such a ground-breaking event. Shame about that head butt, though...

And as for the 2010 World Cup... well I’m not sure it’s lived up to the brilliance of 2006, but South Africa have added heaps of passion and a unique sense of joy to the occasion. We’ve perhaps been a little starved of quality goals, quality performances and players showing their own individual qualities, but as someone once said, the World Cup’s the World Cup. You’d still love it no matter how good it was.

And me?  Well life goes on, of course. I’ll be 40 next year and my daughter will be 4 towards the end of this month. Last year wasn’t great: I was made redundant in January after 19 years at the same organisation and six months later Mum sadly suffered a severe stroke. Once again my life was turned upside down as, like my Dad before her, Mum found herself in a nursing home needing 24-hour care.

It was a cruel twist of fate that was difficult to accept – but all is not lost. I’m still happily married to Mel, I still have a wonderful sister who in turn has a wonderful family of her own, and I’m working once again which, as you can imagine, has restored my self-esteem no end.

Finally then, is the World Cup an ongoing story of players striving for success and overcoming disappointment and adversity? Yes it is. Why do we like it so much? Because it’s like life, really. You adopt a way of playing the game and by that you either win or lose. Wish me luck for the second half...

Friday, July 09, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 10-11 July

Saturday 10th July

19:30 Uruguay v Germany, FIFA World Cup 3rd/4th Place Play-Off, ITV1/HD
The penultimate match of the 2010 World Cup sees two purveyors of positive football playing in the one game no team really wants to be in.

Four years ago, Germany were here, as now, playing out a 3-1 win over Portugal in front of a grateful home crowd. It was a chance for Joachim Löw – then assistant coach to Jürgen Klinsmann – and his team to bid a fond farewell to their supporters after an excellent but ultimately fruitless campaign.

Four years on, support for the Germans will be much smaller in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – come to think of it, support in general will probably by much smaller In that stadium – but at least there'll be one last chance for the lesser used members of both squads to have one final run out in pursuit of a FIFA bronze medal.

Sunday 11th July

19:30 Netherlands v Spain, FIFA World Cup Final, BBC1/HD and ITV1/HD
How strange does that last line look, eh? Two strangers to the World Cup Final go head-to-head in Johannesburg for the right to become the eighth country to lift that gold (but not solid gold, you understand) trophy.

And what a World Cup it's been. A slow start for many, except England who, it could be argued, didn't start at all, but one which gradually built to a fascinating and exciting conclusion. Strange to think that both of the finalists from 2006 were eliminated in the First Round this year, but that only helped the Dutch and Spanish to pace out their route to the Final with absolute perfection.

So many bits of trivia surround this Final that we could be here forever relaying them to you. Perhaps the two that will make your mind boggle most are that the Netherlands could become only the second team after Brazil in 1970 to win all of their qualifying and finals matches in one campaign, and that Spain have lost only twice in their last 54 international matches.

Though both teams have toned down their gung-ho, super-slick, fast passing game in this competition, they still have plenty to offer in the way of world-class players and tactical capability. If your appetite hasn’t already been whetted for this match, frankly you shouldn't even be reading this TV Preview. This is what we've all been waiting for – the biggest event in football, bar none.


denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

The (World Cup) Friday List of Little or No Consequence #172

Freeloaders of the world unite...
28 Entities That Thought It Would Be A Good Idea To Ask Some People Are On The Pitch To Promote Their Products Or Services During The 2010 World Cup For Nothing - No Incentive At All - Despite The Fact That Many Of Them Generate Thousands And Millions Of Dollars In Company Profits Every Year

1. Vauxhall
2. SeaWorld & Busch Gardens
3. Irn Bru
4. Sony Ericsson
5. Johnny Spurling's 'Capello Brick Road' 'record'
6. Budweiser
7. Bwin
8. Nokia
9. SDITH t-shirts
10. Havaianas flip-flops
11. Coral
12. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
13. Learndirect
14. Coca-Cola
15. NYC Soccer Game Finder
16. Football Fitness
17. Soccer Millionaire
18. Knowyourmoney
19. The Crazy Fool's 'Engerland/A-Team' 'record'
20. UFC 'Undisputed' video game
21. Adidas
22. TheatreSeatStore
23. France 24
24. Fans Coalition FC
25. Rapanui Clothing
26. Mr Green gambling website
27. Get into the Game
28. Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions

...and on that cathartic note, a big thank you to all of you that have made The Friday List of Little Or No Consequence our most popular feature over the last four years. We hope it made you smile. :)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Football Americana Week 14: Salt Lake hit the Revs for five

Major League Soccer's World Cup participants are back in the USA to pick up their domestic season, and made a telling contribution upon their return.

Toronto FC began the week's action, hosting Houston Dynamo in a spiky encounter north of the border on Thursday. The visitors had a goal wrongly disallowed before the hour mark, and both teams went down to ten men a couple of minutes later when Joseph Ngwenya and Nana Attakora clashed angrily and Julian de Guzman got involved to earn himself a walk down the tunnel alongside Ngwenya. A stooping header from Brian Ching gave Houston a 73rd minute lead but it lasted just 12 minutes, Dan Gargan heading the equaliser from a corner. There was another red card for TFC, though as Amadou Sanyang was dismissed in stoppage time.

A horrible second half showing from New England Revolution saw them thrashed 5-0 by Real Salt Lake. Fabian Espindola, lucky to be on the field after a headbutt, opened the scoring in style and Jamison Olave headed in the second in first half stoppage time. Alvaro Saborio grabbed the next two, prodding the first into the top corner from close range and tapping in number four. Late on, returning US international Robbie Findley made it five with a nice solo goal.

A blistering three-minute spell just before half time took Columbus Crew clear at the top of the Eastern conference. Adam Moffat made it 1-0 in the 43rd minute with the easiest goal of his career, but a comedy own goal by Frankie Hejduk drew Chicago Fire level a minute later. Just as stoppage time began, Jason Garey headed the Crew's winner to help them bag a valuable three points.

In Frisco, it took a penalty to separate FC Dallas and Kansas City Wizards. David Ferreira was hauled down in the box by Roger Espinoza and stepped up himself to stroke in an ice-cool spot kick, triggering a remarkably camp celebration.

DC United headed to California to face the San Jose Earthquakes and came away from Buck Shaw with a hard-earned 1-1 draw. Ike Opara thumped the Earthquakes' first goal past Troy Perkins after quarter of an hour, but the league's most promising player won United a point. In the second half, Stephen King's pass found 17-year-old Andy Najar flying past Bobby Convey to volley in past Jon Busch.

Another exciting youngster got on the scoresheet for Philadelphia Union against Chivas USA. Danny Mwanga's in rich scoring form at the moment and it continued with a delicious finish past Zach Thornton. It wasn't enough to win the game, and Chivas' equaliser came before the break in the form of a low drive from fellow rookie Blair Gavin.

Having lost ground to Columbus, New York Red Bulls could only gain one point back against Colorado Rapids. The Rapids' goal came from a fantastic pass from Conor Casey to Omar Cummings, who finished comfortably at the back post. Mehdi Ballouchy then had a goal disallowed slightly controversially and hilariously celebrated with the supporters before realising. The in-form Juan Pablo Angel smashed in the equaliser from close range after a poorly defended corner.

Returning USA stars Landon Donovan linked up to give LA Galaxy the lead against Seattle Sounders inside 20 minutes, Buddle heading in his tenth of the season from a Donovan corner. Few players in MLS strike a ball like Juninho, and he pulled one right out of the very top drawer to make it 2-0 just after the break, only for the Sounders to pull one back thanks to a superb goal by Steve Zakuani. A James Riley own goal made it 3-1 to bank three points for the Galaxy.

That re-establishes LA's nine-point advantage over RSL in the West, with Colorado and FCD on 22 and 21 respectively. Over in the East, the Crew have pulled two points clear of New York with nobody else in sight.

You can see those tables here and watch all the latest action here.

World Cup Sound of Football Podcast - Germany 0 Spain 1

And so the players in the World Cup Final have been decided. Join us for another one of our legendary "book-end" podcasts as we watch and ruminate over Spain's 1-0 victory over Germany. There's even a new game we can all play called 'Spot the Cliché'... what more could you ask for?

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Obscure World Cup Kits From History #4

By way of adding a final entry to this feature which we started right back in the early days of SPAOTP, we give you one of the oddest kits ever to be worn in a World Cup. Be it home kit or away, there have never been any quite as personalised as those worn by Zaire in 1974.

On the face of it, they were nothing special (the kits, that is – not the players). The home strip of yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks, plus the reverse colour-scheme for the away strip, were vivid enough. Both kits also had that look of a market stall Adidas-knock off, but then again so did many others at the time.  There's even the possibility those kits actually *were* made by Adidas, but that's to miss the point.

No. The one stand out feature about Zaire's kits were the big circular logos (if that's what you can call them) emblazoned all over the shirts. The word 'Leopards' could be seen inside the circle (pertaining to the team's nickname) and 'Zaire' was shown beneath it. But just what was that image in the middle?

We can only presume it was some stylised picture of a leopard, but to be honest, we're not entirely sure. It could have been a cock-up at the shirt-printing factory or a badly executed cartoon picture of Idi Amin's head for all we know. Yet for all that doubt, Zaire wore their shirts with pride, whatever the hell that image was supposed to be.

And you've got to admire their balls (if you can squint hard enough) for this was a bold, unique design that no-one before or since has adopted for their own good (that we're aware of). Imagine the fun you could have applying the same idea to other teams… Scotland could have a big circle with a thistle inside it, Ivory Coast could have a big circle with an elephant inside it and France could have a big circle with a huge coq inside it. The possibilities are endless…

Sadly, 1974 was to be Zaire's only appearance at the World Cup to date, meaning no chance to see those wondrous shirts again. We can only hope that under their new name, Democratic Republic of Congo, they qualify again and wear shirts based on that classic from 36 years ago. Failing that, we'll be happy if they just do this again…

World Cup TV Preview : 6-7 July

(All times - UK)

Tuesday 6th July

19:30 Netherlands v Uruguay, World Cup Semi - Final, ITV1/HD

Say what you like about the ethics of the last remaining South American team's presence in the semi-final - there is a wonderful sense of romance about the first ever world champions making it to the latter stages of the first ever tournament to be held in Africa. However, you can't help but feel that the road may be coming to end. Key players are lost to injury and suspension (including the evil/heroic Luis Suarez).

The Netherlands are reaching their peak and barring any last minute collywobbles, should progress to their first World Cup final since 1978. For the neutral lies the prospect of Arjen Robben and Diego Forlan, both at the peak of their careers, pitted against each other in one of the biggest stages on Earth. Let's hope they give us a fantastic show.

Wednesday 7th July

19:30 Spain v Germany, World Cup Semi - Final, BBC1/HD

This is a match that is, not unreasonably, billed as the game that will decide the winner. I'm not sure I hold with that. Nevertheless for the Europeans, this is a game that features the widest spread of familiar players, as opposed to the modest mystique on the Uruguayans. Picking a winner, of course, is another matter. Will Germany's lack of defensive cover finally be the end of them? Or will Spain's insistent persistence with Fernando Torres lead to the European champions getting their come-uppance?

denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Word Cloud #1: Clive Tyldesley

Don't you just love Word Clouds?  They're those fabulous pictograms that show the frequency with which certain words are used within a passage of speech. The bigger the word appears, the more it was spoken.

We thought it was about time we started producing some of these word clouds as a tribute to some of the most admired people in the world of football. To that end, here's our first - it's a word cloud for Clive Tyldesley's 2006 World Cup Final commentary for ITV. Very enlightening...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

SPAOTP: Nearly time to go...

With a week to go before the 2010 World Cup comes to an end, it's time to tell you that next Sunday will also, sadly, see the end of Some People Are On The Pitch.

After four years of blogging about football and all its interesting facets, I've decided that the time is right to bring an end to this humble little project of ours.

And I say 'ours' because although I was the one that created this website back in 2006, it's been my great good fortune to share the writing duties over the last two years with a couple of outstanding friends – Terry Duffelen and Graham Sibley. Without them, SPAOTP would have foundered back in the early part of 2008. As it is, they came along at exactly the right time to help reinvent the site and give it a fresh sense of purpose.

The fact that SPAOTP has become a well-known football blog among the many thousands on the web is, I'd like to think, a testament to the efforts each of us have made in writing articles that have gone on to be read by many, many people around the world.

Unfortunately for me, an ever decreasing amount of free time has left me frustratingly unable to write more and do more to improve the popularity of the website. As a husband and father, my life has become ever more busy with the everyday work required just to support my own family. With that in mind, I must concede that there's nothing else I can do to help Some People Are On The Pitch compete against so many excellent football blogs.

I've therefore decided, in consultation with Terry and Graham, to bring an end to SPAOTP on the day of the World Cup Final, one week from today. But before you ask, I won't be strolling off into the sunset never to be seen again. Nor, for that matter, will SPAOTP's flame be completely extinguished.

Terry and Graham have kindly given me the opportunity to contribute on an occasional basis to a new website that's been created called Football Fairground. On it, some old familiar features like the TV Previews, Bundesbag and Football Americana will combine with our other web projects such as The Onion Bag and The Sound of Football to provide a wide range of wonderful content all under one roof.

We hope you like the new site and we hope, too, that you enjoy the final week of Some People Are On The Pitch. The time for handing out thanks and getting all nostalgic will come later, but for now it's back to the blog…

Best wishes,
Chris O.

World Cup Kit Parade: None of the above...

And so to the only four teams not signed up to the big three kit manufacturers (Adidas, Nike and Puma).

England's kit has never been supplied by any of those three (and we shudder to think what that might look like if it ever were). For the bulk of the last fifty-odd years it's been Umbro's privilege to do that and after numerous shirt designs they arrived at the 2010 vintage which was entirely white, save for the England badge and Umbro's red diamond logo.

Call it what you like – minimalist, plain, featureless, whatever – there's no getting away from the brilliant sense of simplicity it embodies. It's almost as if Umbro are saying only to things matter here – the national team's colour and the badge. If you think about it, that's quite an admirable stance to take as it brings everything back to the origins of kit design when fancy embellishments and weird colour-schemes were totally beyond comprehension.

There is, of course, the small matter of Umbro's 'tailored' styling which makes the shirt actually look like a shirt rather than a silky piece of fabric that's been rattled off a production line without any thought in southern Asia. It's got a proper collar, tapered sides and, well, it looks like it's just had a good ironing, frankly. 'Smart' barely does it justice…

But that's not all: the red away shirt was only recently launched and it too gives a generous nod in the direction of days gone by, notably the victorious era of the 1960's. With a round-necked shirt that was all red with only white cuffs to distract the view, the accompanying white shorts and red socks won’t have failed to bring back happy memories to all England fans of a certain age.

Ironically in this World Cup, we got to see this away kit in slightly modified form with the introduction of red shorts too. Very rarely have England worn an all-red change kit but when Fabio Capello's men strode out to play Slovenia a week ago or so, one wondered whether this wouldn't be the last we'd see of it. As it turned out, the Second Round match against Germany allowed for one more viewing, but we reckon it should be adopted permanently. It's bold, bright and a classic look for the England team to wear when the all-white isn't an option.

As for the other minor kit manufacturers, there's not a lot we can say really. Chile's kit is made by Brooks – probably better known for making sports shoes - and it too has been designed to be stylish in an understated way. Sadly we never got to see the change strip of white-red-blue, but at least the home strip looked smart without the garish use of formerly used devices like a huge Reebok logo.

North Korea seem to change kit manufacturer quite regularly, even switching to latest supplier Legea on the eve of the World Cup this summer. The Italian kit-maker promptly knocked off an uninspiring red outfit for the Dear Leader's boys and they duly repaid their gratitude by losing all three of their games, one of which saw them concede seven against Portugal. Perhaps a big Reebok logo might have done the trick…

Finally, there's Honduras and their kit was made by Joma, a Spanish company who are making inroads across many parts of the footballing world. Fans of Leicester City and Charlton will be all too familiar with the name, but whether they'll have been as satisfied as the Honduran fans with their kit remains to be seen.

The team from CONCACAF were seen all too briefly wearing an all-white strip featuring a shirt that had a blue band across the upper chest. The band faded from blue to white the nearer it got to the middle – a nice touch – and there were also some odd blue slashes either side of the bottom part of the shirt which, while serving no purpose, at least provided another point of interest. The away kit saw a reversal of the same, being all blue with white bits of business here and there. Quite nice, all in all.

And that's that. A very brief overview of the kits on show at this World Cup, and perhaps more importantly the sanity employed by each of the manufacturers when it came to designing them.

Once again, our great thanks go to John Devlin from True Colours Football Kits (www.truecoloursfootballkits.com) for the use of his excellent football kit graphics. To see all of John's World Cup kit designs in greater detail, click here.)

Friday, July 02, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 2 - 3 July

Friday 2 July

15.00 Netherlands v Brazil, Quarter Final, ITV1/ITVHD
I have an uneasy feeling about this one; I reckon this could turn really ugly. What on paper should be an amazing game will be broken up in moments of handbags and simulation. Annoying and frustrating but if it's only slightly peppered with moments of absolute genius, we might just forgive it. We don't need to tell you to try and sneak out of work early for this, do we.

19.30 Uruguay v Ghana, Quarter Final, ITV1/ITVHD
Plain fact: one of these teams will be in a World Cup semi-final - and this isn't down to luck of the draw, it's down to them going out and performing well against strong teams and getting the result. I had serious misgivings about Ghana before the tournament: their best players either unfit or out of form and despite getting to the final of the African Cup of Nations not really convincing along the way. For Uruguay, the Diego Forlan fairytale goes on. Should provide good entertainment; we have thrown around ideas of doing a Sound of Football podcast about this live from Socrates 5 - but don't be surprised if it doesn't surface.

Saturday 3 July

15.00 Argentina v Germany, Quarter Final, BBC1/BBCHD
This is going to be superb. Trust me. If both teams are on their game this could be one of those all-time World Cup classics. No goals, penalties and three sending offs it is then.

19.30 Paraguay v Spain, Quarter Final, BBC1/BBCHD
Earlier this week, I was tempted by a 73/4 bet on it being all-South American semi-finals - the only thing that stopped me was this one. That said, Paraguay have been extremly well organised defensively and haven't conceded since Daniele De Rossi's goal in the opening game. Like Portugal though they could find any cracks will be exposed by a Spanish team growing in confidence. A good footballing game but maybe not the most entertaining.

The (World Cup) Friday List of Little or No Consequence #171

Seeing red
The 14 Players That Have So Far Been Sent Off During the 2010 World Cup

1. Nicolás Lodeiro (for Uruguay v France)
2. Abdelkader Ghezzal (for Algeria v Slovenia)
3. Aleksandar Luković (for Serbia v Ghana)
4. Tim Cahill (for Australia v Germany)
5. Itumeleng Khune (for South Africa v Uruguay)
6. Sani Kaita (for Nigeria v Greece)
7. Miroslav Klose (for Germany v Serbia)
8. Harry Kewell (for Australia v Ghana)
9. Kaká (for Brazil v Ivory Coast)
10. Valon Behrami (for Switzerland v Chile)
11. Yoann Gourcuff (for France v South Africa)
12. Antar Yahia (for Algeria v USA)
13. Marco Estrada (for Chile v Spain)
14. Ricardo Costa (for Portugal v Spain)


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