Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Football Bits As Parma Face Bankruptcy

DAVE MACKAY DIES, IFAB HONOURS PK INVENTOR AND PARMA ON THEIR LAST LEGS

* Tottenham legend Dave MacKay has died aged 80. The Scottish midfielder epitomised the midfield enforcer in British football in the 1960s, forming a flowering partnership with Spurs' elegant skipper Danny Blanchflower.

MacKay was part of their legendary 1961 double-winning side and went on to captain the club. He also played for Hearts, Derby and Swindon and won 22 caps for Scotland and was voted joint footballer of the year in 1969 with Tony Book.

George Best called him "the hardest man I have played against and certainly the bravest," and his role in helping Brian Clough lift Derby to the first division in 1969 was commemorated in the film The Damned United, where he was played by Brian McCardie.

MacKay went on to manage Derby, where he won the league, Nottingham Forest, Walsall, Doncaster Birmingham and several clubs in the Middle East.

* Nice to see FIFA's International Board pledging to restore the grave of William McCrum, the man who invented the penalty kick in 1890 but died alone, alcoholic and broke in 1932.

McCrum was a barrister from Armagh and was involved in Northern Ireland's linen trade as well as the Belfast-based Irish Football Association. His suggestion to penalise cynical attempts to stop goals initially drew criticism as it was perceived to go against Victorian values of fair play!

But in 1891 it was adopted as Rule 13 in the laws of the game. Penalty shoot-outs are a Spanish invention by Raphael Ballester in 1962, adopted by UEFA in 1971 and FIFA in 1982.

McCrum's home is a museum and he is buried in the cemetery of St Mark's Church, Armagh, Northern Ireland.

* Britain's Conservative Party were rumoured to be seeking Sol Campbell or Frank Lampard's signature as prospective members of parliament this week. Lampard was quick to deny any possibility though Campbell has been vocal on issues affecting high-earners like himself.

Footballers becoming politicians is commonplace in Brazil, where Pele and Romario for instance have made seamless transitions from playing field to parliament, but never so in Britain.

That said, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson and Kevin Keegan have all made shows of support for the Labour Party, and two players have acquitted themselves well on the BBC's weekly political forum Question Time - Joey Barton and Clarke Carlisle. Can it be too long before we have an ex-footballer in the House of Commons?

* If Adam Johnson is indeed guilty of sex with an under-age female it will surely put paid to his football. At the age of 27, the Sunderland winger has been suspended by his club pending police investigations.

Last season he was in terrific form and many thought he had merited a recall to the England set-up. Following the 2010 World Cup,  Johnson was drafted-in by Fabio Capello and looked set to be an international for some time to come. Now a moment of madness may have killed his career.

* Luis Figo is making a brave show of standing for FIFA President, but his reasonable call for a TV debate is likely to fall on Sepp Blatter's deaf ears. The 78 year-old incumbent has so many African votes sewn up he sees no need to discuss. Expect to see more North Korean-style pledges of loyalty and praise for football's dear leader at this year's FIFA Congress.

* The 18th of December is Blatter's choice for the 2022 World Cup Final date. What's the betting he will still be in charge of FIFA then...

* Watching Parma self-destruct in Italy has been sobering for me. I spent a year living in the little Emilia-Romagna town in the mid- 1990s when the gialloblu were at the height of their powers.

Their side boasted a trio of attacking talent in Tomas Brolin, Faustino Asprilla and Gianfranco Zola and backed the food giant Parmalat, which had yet to become Europe's Enron, Parma reached two consecutive Cup Winners Cup finals, beating Antwerp but losing to Arsenal, and in 1995 went one better bagging the UEFA Cup against Juventus.

Parma is a small town but boasts Parmalat, pasta giant Barilla and the delights of Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.

The club has punched above its town's weight for some time, doing much better than larger Bologna for example, but now they are in dire straits. When Parmalat went belly-up in 2004 it looked like the end and the club were relegated for a season in 2008. But both club and company bounced back.

Yet a horrifying picture has emerged this season. Parma had to cancel their Serie A game with Udinese last weekend for financial reasons in an unprecedented move. The club has not paid any wages since the summer, is behind on its energy bills which means no hot water and cannot pay its stewards, which meant no home game on Saturday could take place.

The club has already been sold for €1 but the new owner has not stopped the slide. Parma's Public Prosecutor has called for the club to be declared bankrupt later this month. Maybe only the Italian Football Federation can step in now to save it.

The serious and sudden decline has been shocking to behold. Parma may not exist shortly and this was the club which has seen a number of big players wear its shirt including Fabio Cannavaro, Dino Baggio, Hristo Stoichkov, Fernando Couto, Nestor Sensini, Hernan Crespo, Adrian Mutu, Cristiano Lucarelli, Gigi Buffon, Ariel Ortega, Juan Sebastian Veron and Liliam Thuram as well as the trio mentioned above.

Is it arrivederci for the gialloblu?

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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