Vandalisme! Anglo-Russian Disgrace in France

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Here at SF it’s part of our core belief that sport is a reflection of the best part of us. As sports fans who believe this with all the fibre in our being, England vs Russia was particularly painful. English and Russian football ‘fans’ clashing before and after the Group B match was a disgrace and saddening to anyone who genuinely follows and loves the beautiful game.

With the eyes of the world on France and on the biggest stage in the history of European football, 24 nations are primed and ready to put on a showcase of everything great about football. Today all of that is overshadowed by the minority of mindless idiots who decided that the best way to enjoy the tournament and support their team, was to beat the living shit out of each other.

Intelligent and logical reasoning at it’s finest…

Whilst I could never condone any of the events that have happened in Marseille this week and in multiple cities throughout the years, I can try to understand it. Yes it is senseless, yes it is moronic, and yes without a shadow of a doubt it is totally indefensible, however whether we like it or not what we’ve seen this week are natural male primal instincts at their worst.

I was once sat in a bar having a quiet drink with a friend of mine and he turned to me and told me how he’d never been in a fight, either as kid or an adult. He went on the say how disappointed he was in this and how he always wondered what it felt like. To the point that he often had the urge to start trouble so he could get it out of his system. He never did, primarily because he (in his own words) knew he couldn’t fight, and he had a fear of the consequences.

My friend is a highly educated and intelligent professional software developer, who has a keen self awareness of his own mortality; yet the urge to fight still burns strongly. What happens when this fighting fire burns inside somebody without my friends level of intelligence and critical thinking? The short answer is Marseille, Charleroi, Heysel, countless others and this video. In the pictures above and the video below I see too many men without a decent level of education, and people who don’t often get the chance to travel outside of the UK.

Couple that with copious amounts of cheap alcohol and xenophobia and this is what you get…

 

As I write this there is at least 1 fan in critical condition in a French hospital as a result of the clashes. No matter how seriously and how passionately you support your country, there are no circumstances on this earth that would justify a fan travelling to a sports event and not returning home safely.

None. So here’s hoping he pulls through!

In times like this when you see the worst of people, it’s always refreshing when certain individuals step up and through it all show you the best of people. Step forward England Goalkeeper Joe Hart showing us and the world what a class act he is.

This is why education and sport participation are so important, both in adults and children.  Men need an outlet to get all of these urges out of their system, whatever the sport of choice, it’s critical to have an avenue to physically express yourself and satisfy a man’s urge to compete. We also need education to teach us all that violence is rarely the first answer and we are not better or worse than anybody else simply because we support a different football team.

We achieve more by understanding people and building bridges instead of walls. Two weeks from now the UK will put that notion to the test and vote whether or not they stay in the EU. To me, the scenes from Marseille explicitly show, now is the time to be strengthening Britain’s connection to Europe and not weakening it.

Ironically, the next major tournament is in Russia in 2018; the sad reality is that I’ll probably be writing a similar piece during that tournament too. If the UK vote for a Brexit, those clashes may just be more tragic.

The Magical Mystery Man

The history of sport is littered with tales of special men who came along and took their chosen sport to new heights. Leaders of men who at their time were revolutionaries who set new benchmarks for excellence and standards of competition. Great players are often remembered as the superheroes the next generation often strive to emulate, but what of the men on the touchline? These men who build the teams and are responsible for creating the delicate ecosystem of a sports team that is often the difference between success and failure. The men who give great players the platform to shine and the best opportunities to be who they are.

Indeed great coaches are remembered and tributes are often paid, but the kids who grow up wanting to be the next Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson or Sir Alex Ferguson are few and far between. This next generation of football obsessed teens are a different breed. Raised in a new media age of 24hr sports news networks and the internet, where the personalities off the pitch, need to match the action on it.

In this age, one man represents this shift better than most and that man is Jose Mourinho.

His track record is unquestionable, the loyalty from his players is immense and the love from his club supporters is only matched by the antipathy from rival supporters. Love him or hate him you can’t do anything but respect him. The self proclaimed “Special One” divided opinion (maybe that’s the key to his success…) To some including himself he is the second coming of Christ and a genius, to others he is the personification of everything that is wrong with football.

 

 

How did a man who is known in the Nou Camp as “the translator” rise to be the No.1 coach in world football?
Here are our top observations…

 

Self Confidence (Believe in yourself)

The first stage of achievement is belief. Before anybody else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. Jose Mourinho embodies this concept. He carries himself like a winner. Communicates with conviction and just exudes confidence which is probably his strongest character trait and this can’t fail to rub off on his players.

Intelligence & Strategy (Stay in your lane)

When it comes to game intelligence, there are very few, if any, who are better than Jose Mourinho. Success has followed him everywhere he’s been and that can’t be a coincidence. This man knows how to win. Period. Based on a football ideology inspired by Arrigo Sacchi, Mourinho’s teams have always been defensively minded, hard working, devastating on the counter attack, and have never been a neutral’s choice to watch. He has his vision and he buys and keeps players who fit and commit to it. He has never tried to play pretty football unnecessarily and his teams will only be remembered for one reason. THEY WON A LOT OF TROPHIES. To Jose…that’s the whole point.

Psychology (Know your opponent)

In all sports the game is often won and lost long before it’s actually played. Every competitor searches for that edge, any advantage they can to get ahead. Jose Mourinho has honed this skill better than most so much so that even the Dark Lord of the Sith himself Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t put a dent in his armour. An absolute master at mental manipulation whether it be his own player, an opposition manager, or referees, Jose always seems to know what to say, when to say it and to whom.

 

Leadership (Write your own story)

 

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

 

For any organisation to be successful there needs to be s common goal, a vision for every person to rally around. That vision starts with the man at the top and it’s his responsibility to make sure everyone is pulling in the right direction. This has been a common theme of Mourinho’s career, regardless of the country or the team. At each of his clubs he has inspired seasoned professionals with huge egos to buy into his vision and do things they otherwise would never do or indeed believe themselves capable of doing.

Samuel Eto’o was a brilliant forward who had a reputation for being a disruptive force in the dressing room, however at Inter Milan the power of Jose convinced him to work for the team and play out of position. Inter won the treble that year, along the way beating a Barcelona team considered the greatest club side in history.

On the flip side of that, players who don’t fit the vision or don’t adapt, e.g. Juan Mata and David Luiz, are moved on to other teams…quickly.

He won’t be remembered as the most beloved. His teams won’t be remembered as the greatest of their generation, but Jose Mourinho WILL be remembered as one of the greatest and most successful managers of his and any generation.

Whether it be life or business, from now on I’ll be asking myself WWJD…What Would Jose Do?

Keep Calm & Dominate Life

If I asked you to name a billion dollar man in football, you’d be forgiven for instantly jumping to thoughts of Roman Abramovich; a man who turned up in the Premier League and to paraphrase David Dein “…parked his tank on our lawn and fired £50 notes at us”.
At a stretch you might think of the odd footballer, but then you’d realise pretty quickly that Beckham, Messi and CR7 aren’t there yet. What is less likely is that you would think of an agent. In years gone by the agent has been the sports equivalent of the invisible hand; unquoted directly in the media, controlling affairs from behind the scenes, and collecting their hefty paycheques far away from the gaze of the general public.
Modern day business dynamics have changed a lot, long gone are the days when the top footballers were just that, footballers, and you couldn’t pick their agent out of a lineup.

Today when it comes to the poker game that is a football transfer, it seems one man holds more aces than most, his name is Jorge Mendes.

The Portuguese “super agent” has negotiated transfer deals worth more than £1bn over the course of his 18 year career; with a typical commission of 10% of the transfer fee so you don’t need me to do that maths for you. He was instrumental in taking Falcao and Angel Di Maria to Manchester United, and this summer will be no different. His Gestifute agency will be at the centre of the biggest deals, involving the biggest and most high profile clubs and players. But make no mistake, he is not alone.

Football is now big business and will only get bigger, and what’s becoming clearer by the day is, in the new football jungle, agents may be the apex predators. After the  huge shop window that is the European Championships, this summer promises to be a classic where many elite level players move across Europe.

Multiple agencies, operating across multiple territories negotiating over half a BILLION POUNDS in potential transfer fees, all in service of the one thing that makes this world go around…the almighty dollar!

Recent research by the European Club’s Association (ECA) concluded that on average 14.6% of all money paid in transfers goes to agents.

“Clearly there’s a lot of money going to agents and we as clubs are part of the problem but there are some unusual pressures in the system particularly when you are dealing across jurisdictions that means agents have a significant degree of leverage”

The lack of any significant oversight means that conflicts of interest are common place. Agents can work for both parties in a transaction without crossing legal boundaries. Murkier still are the rules surrounding 3rd party ownership. This article by The Guardian is extremely well written and does an excellent job in explaining a lot of the problems with this issue.

3rd Party Ownership

If you had dreams of your child growing up to be the next big footballer, and you’ve realised that’s a pipe dream then all is not lost…

“A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns” – Vito Corleone.

There you have it, life lessons from Don Corleone himself. So if you need to dominate life, then keep calm, and send your child to law school. Their careers will be longer and probably more lucrative

Golden Beckonomics

LONDON, MANCHESTER, MADRID, LA, PARIS. & MILAN

6 destinations, 6 degrees of separation, each one a chapter in one of the greatest stories you’ll hear in yours or any lifetime. You could make a credible case for half of the above list being the fashion capital of the world. Each and every one of those cities is home to iconic sports enterprises that are famous the world over; and each of these cities conjures up images of places and events that have helped shaped a generation. All of these are ingredients in a unique story about a man whose influence transcends Sports, Fashion and Popular Culture. A man who stands alone as the iconic football figure of his generation, and it all started with one kick…

 

 

I don’t think it’s too much of an overstatement to say that football as we know it changed forever after THAT kick.

That moment in South East London was the true birth of the celebrity footballer. George Best proved in the sixties that the world had a special fascination with sportsmen and footballers in particular. David Beckham came along at exactly the right time, and took that notion to a whole another level. The global expansion of the Premier League coupled with the explosion of the Internet, meant that Beckham was on TV in billions of households every single week. Sportsmen and pop stars go together like

“Nike Airs and crisp tees, S.Dots with polo fleeces, purple label shit with the logo secret.” Jay-Z (Dear Summer)

I digress…

Beckham’s situation was the perfect storm. His girlfriend and future wife just happened to be 1/5 of the biggest pop act on the planet. A woman who’s stated life ambition was to be “…as famous as Persil Automatic”. This instantly gave him access to places his sporting exploits alone wouldn’t take him. Celebrity girlfriend, endorsements, political influence, a personal blueprint followed by very few footballers before him, but every major footballer after him, The David Beckham effect will forever be imprinted on popular culture.

david-beckham-timeline

There are very few sporting personalities that manage to transcend their primary sphere of influence. In the world of football in the Internet age David Joseph Beckham was the first and is still the biggest football star on the planet.

The true definition of a game changer and because of him football will never be the same again.

The Galactico Godfather

It’s the year 2000, the Y2k bug was proven to be a false alarm and a man so unremarkable to look at that you couldn’t pick him out in a line-up was elected President of the biggest football club on the planet (at the 2nd attempt). That man is Florentino Perez, the club is Real Madrid and what followed is truly remarkable and the results are now unforgettable sporting history. In 2014, Real Madrid were crowned European Champions for the 10th time, won the Spanish Cup (Copa Del Rey), and went on to win both the European Super Cup and World Club Championship. Only city rivals Atletico de Madrid stood between them and a clean sweep of every trophy available.Off the pitch for the 2nd year running Forbes has valued them as the most valuable sporting franchise in the world. Revenues are at an all time high and what we’re seeing is the perfect fruits of the labour of Florentino Perez and his team.

Vindication of an ideology that few clubs can authentically replicate, however much they would like to. Florentino Perez twice ran his campaigns on the platform of improving the finances of Real Madrid and since he took over, Real Madrid have gone from strength to strength. The basic ideology was dubbed Zidanes y Pavones after Zinedine Zidane (then the most expensive footballer in history) and Francisco Pavon (at the time the great white hope brought through from the academy). The “Pavon” part of the philosophy hasn’t really worked out as planned, none of the current 1st choice 11 are academy graduates. Ironically Real were knocked out of the Champions League this season by a goal scored by an academy graduate who didn’t make the grade! However, what is undisputed is the quality of the team, who are a collection of some of the worlds elite footballers mixed with some genuine superstars. Contrast this with fierce rivals Barcelona who have 3 and at their peak had 7 academy graduates in their first 11.

Los Galacticos is a very fitting name

Here is our pick of the best 11 players that have been brought through the gates of the Bernabeu by Florentino Perez.

real-madrid-perez-signings

Some of the greatest players in history, with plenty more missing! Irresponsible spending, massive debts, astronomical wages which mean this is another classic example of living beyond your means…Typical right? WRONG! Below is an illustration of the wage:turnover ratio for Real Madrid…Perez has managed to reduce this ratio by nearly 40%, and is well inside the maximum level recommended by the ECA.

real-madrid-wage-to-turnoverReal Madrid Wages 2000 – 2014 (Source: Real Madrid Annual Accounts 2014)

A sobering picture for any fan or executive not connected to Real Madrid. They’re currently the No.1 club in the world, are able to pay the best players the absolute best wages…and their business is built on solid foundations which means they can keep doing it!

SO HOW DID HE DO IT?

Real Madrid are 5x the size they were when Perez took over. Encouragingly he has not fueled that growth on the back of the “little man” i.e. the fans. When he took over in 2000; 40% of total income came from Members and Stadium, today it’s 25%. What has underpinned his presidency is the market appeal of his players, and his ability to financially capitalise on that. Unsuprisingly, income from marketing has become the most important revenue stream, making up 32% of total income (ahead of broadcasting). Most impressively is the 13% of revenue that comes from international friendly matches. Madrid have always been a world famous team, in Perez they found a man who knew how to spectacularly reap the benefits of that fame.

real-madrid-operating-income

 

Footballing success and financial success go hand in hand, fans across the world part with their hard earned money because of emotion, memories and a shared sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. When all is said and done it’s the men in the dugout and on the pitch that make the difference between agony and ecstasy and greatness and obscurity.
Players come and go but the ideology, philosophy and the man remain the same. An institution developed in his own image with spectacular results.

 

Real Madrid: The House that Perez built.

Je Suis Legend

thierry henry number collage

The numbers above have no obvious connection, just random numbers that could mean anything. Yet when you connect them to the name Thierry Daniel Henry these numbers come alive, take meaning and they begin to tell you the story of one of the greatest players ever to grace the Premier League. With the Arsenal badge on his chest and the number 14 on his back, he scored 228 Arsenal goals, 175 of them in Premier league alone. Both tally’s higher than any other player in the club’s history. His influence wasn’t just confined to domestic competition; the 42 goals in European competition, 35 of which came in the Champions league stand as testament to a striker who at his best was described by his peers and contemporaries as simply unplayable.

‘“The only way to stop Thierry Henry? With a gun!” – Gianluca Vialli

Whichever way you slice and dice it, when they write the history of Arsenal Football club, Thierry Henry will have his own chapter and deserves every word written.

Loved by few, Feared by many, Respected by everyone

“I watched him a long time ago when I was manager of Fiorentina and he was playing for the French Under-21 team, I said to my chairman he is the Muhammad Ali of the football pitch because he has such elegance, such speed. He does everything with such style, I said please buy him because he is one of the best, but it did not happen for some reason” – Claudio Ranieri

6’2”, with the pace of an olympic sprinter, strong, skillful, two footed, and unselfish.

Not a natural goalscorer in the traditional sense, Henry joined Arsenal as a young left winger who had just won the World Cup in that position. It took him 8 games to show the world what Arsene Wenger already knew…and the rest is literally history. He would go on to become the greatest goalscorer in the history of Arsenal Football Club, score more goals (137) at Highbury than any man alive or dead, and in the process set a record that will NEVER be broken.

His name will forever stand alone in history.

“Thierry Henry, he was definitely the best. He was just too quick. Oh God, what a player he was. I was so relieved when he went to Barcelona. He used to have everything. You couldn’t even kick him, he was big and strong, oh, Jesus, he was a nightmare” – Jamie Carragher

An unselfish footballer who created almost as many goals as he scored but was also the focal point of one of the greatest teams in Premier League history. A joy to play with, and a nightmare to play against. Speaking personally as a non-Arsenal fan; Win, lose or draw Henry was an absolute privilege to watch. A leader amongst men with a deep rooted and insatiable will to win. When Arsenal needed a big goal, in a big game, against big opposition Henry was the go to guy.

It is probably right to give the last word to the man who gave him his chance as a 17 year old at Monaco. The man Henry himself still calls ‘The Boss’

“What makes him special? He has a mixture of physical talent and technical ability, as well as remarkable intelligence and above all a great passion for the game.” -Arsene Wenger

Thierry Henry: Legend. Enjoy!