Back after a long absence - apologies.
1) In Japan
currently, where the Emperor's Cup fifth round went off over the weekend. Saw a couple of matches between some fairly non-descript teams, and came to the conclusion that if somebody - anybody
- could teach the Japanese to properly control the ball with their first touch, they could be a real force internationally. They are tactically aware, they run like hell and have bags of stamina, but have such poor first touches that the ball inevitably careens around the pitch in some bizarre form of Brownian motion. It's painful to watch, actually. It's like bringing an F1 car to a NASCAR rally.
Oh, and by the way - Beckham is no longer big here. Ronaldinho is everything. Except for orthodontistry.
I do believe I predicted the Arabs would be in for a major Premiership team in fairly short order back here
. Al-Maktoub and Dubai International Capital are a sight better than the Gaddafi family as owners, but well worse than Mohammed al-Fayed who at least wants
to be British (even if Britain doesn't necesarily want him
). But the potential is here at least to turn the Premiership into a bizarre form of middle-eastern politics by stealth.
Fulham and possibly Liverpool are now in the Arab camp. Villa, Man U, Chelsea, and Portsmouth have all been taken over by foreigners who happen to be of the Hebrew persuasion (two of whom - Gaydamak and Abramovich - actually sponsor or own teams in the Israeli League). Tottenham, of course, has its Jewish roots. Arsenal - sponsored by Emirates but with clear Jewish connections itself (despite the vile annual hissing ritual when Spurs arrive) is on the front lines between the two.
Could this turn into war by proxy? Don't laugh. Boatloads of northern irish take the ferry to Glasgow to watch Old Firm games, where it is legal and safe to sing sectarian songs and scream sectarian hatred. Given Arab wealth and the spread of Easyjet, is it really so hard to imagine Liverpool-Portsmouth as an alternative arena for the intifada?
Where this leaves West Ham, whose consistently under-weening ambition is encapsualated brilliantly by the fact that they have been bought by Icelanders
, is anyone's guess.