Kosovo’s battle for an identity in football


Xhedran Shaqiri shows (all of) his colours

Xhedran Shaqiri shows (all of) his colours

Sport and Politics: they just don’t mix.  Everyone knows the old adage – the two should be kept at arm’s length… but the truth is that to attempt to do so is an exercise in futility.  Lazio’s poorly-reputed and politically-influenced fans did themselves no favours when they visited Tottenham last week, and ‘right-wing’ is becoming more than a flank of the Westfalenstadion pitch for some Dortmund fans.

But if domestic football suffers from occasional flirtations with partisanship and political allegiance, international football is wedded to it.  When tied to notions of nationhood, how could it be any other way?  A case in point has been the ongoing saga of Fifa’s non-recognition of the Kosovo national team, which took a new twist when Xherdan Shaqiri and some of his Swiss international teammates took the bold move of sending an open letter to the game’s governing body last week ahead of their fixture against Albania.

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Casual football-betting for dummies (or: how to lose £1 in 90 minutes), part 3


I would like to think I had the audacity to rip up the betting slip before kick-off.

I would like to think I had the audacity to rip up the betting slip before kick-off.

Part 3 – Matchday.

Following on from my extravagantly fabricated scene-setting in the previous post, this is how my afternoon might have panned out as I paid heed to the five games on which £45.36 was riding on September 24th: Wigan v Spurs; Coventry v Reading; Wycombe v Sheff Utd; Notts County v Rochdale; Plymouth v Macclesfield.

No less than all five results coming in as wins would pay out.  Pick some winners … easy money, no?

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Casual football-betting for dummies (or: how to lose £1 in 90 minutes), part 2


Part 2 – Divine inspiration (or a lack thereof).

My betting slip this weekend, primed to be put to shame

My betting slip this weekend, primed to be put to shame

Saturday morning.  Bleary-eyed, you knock off the ear-piercing alarm which you forgot to turn off at the end of the working week, at an hour that seems frankly unfathomable.  A vice-grip of a self-inflicted headache prevents any further sleep and the weekend is off to a premature start.  Having forgotten to equip yourself sufficiently for the reverberation of Friday night’s escapades, a trip to the corner shop for some fry-up ingredients is needed.

Trudging back, armed with packets of refrigerated meat, you pass the bookies and decide to chance your arm.  After all, the sausages were on special offer – why not invest that extra £1 that you saved with your shopping nous on an accumulator bet?

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Casual football-betting for dummies (or: how to lose £1 in 90 minutes), part 1


Part 1 – The mindset of the gambler.

Punters clamour to waste their money on football betting

Punters clamour to waste their money on football betting

“Pure calculation means fairly little and has none of the importance many gamblers attach to it,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his biographically-inspired 1867 novel, The Gambler.  “They sit over bits of paper ruled into columns, note down the coups, count up, compute probabilities, do sums, finally put down their stakes and – lose exactly the same as we poor mortals playing without calculations.”

Dostoyevsky, writing about his experiences at the roulette table, could just as easily have been describing the nature of the modern-day betting shop.  Middle-aged men (whose dishevelled attire, generally, fails to give the impression of a lifetime of successful wagering), can be seen poring over form-guides and league tables, before eventually electing their final choices on an accumulator bet.

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Non-League Day: a rough guide to what’s on in South Yorkshire (03.09.11)


South Yorkshire: no shortage of non-league action

South Yorkshire: no shortage of non-league action

After the moderate success of last year, Non-League Day is back for its second incarnation and it promises to capture the imagination of plenty of communities.

The concept is beautifully simple – England play on Friday night, the top two domestic tiers have an international break this weekend, so fans are encouraged to go and support their most local clubs to fill the void that has opened up on Saturday 3pm. Non-league fans are always more than happy to accommodate new fans to secure a supporter base for the future, and many are desperate for the financial windfall that it will generate as survival can be a constant battle for many clubs.

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