Not Sporting

For several years the University of Nottingham has hosted a Football v Homophobia soccer tournament. That’s certainly a good thing, as soccer is one of the major sports that still has a big problem with homophobia.

However, this year a trans man called Luke Hutchinson wanted to play. He discovered to his horror that in order to get permission from the FA to compete he would need to provide medical records and blood tests that would cost him around £70. These are, of course, FA rules that cover all amateur soccer. They are nothing to do with the university. Nevertheless they are strongly discriminatory against trans people. Luke decided to make a fuss.

You might have thought, given the purpose of the tournament, that the university would have had some sympathy. Even if they could not change FA rules, they might have tried to help trans players get tested, and highlight the problems with that. But you would have thought wrong. Instead, in a fit of pique, the university cancelled the tournament, blaming Luke and his supporters for getting them bad publicity.

And this, dear readers, is what happens when people run “anti-homophobia” events simply for the money and brownie points that it gets them. Hopefully Stonewall and whoever in government is responsible for assessing Nottingham’s equalities policy will give them a good kicking over this.

Yesterday On Ujima

Yesterday’s radio show was a lot of fun. I spent the first half hour of the show talking to the very talented Jack Wolf about his amazing new novel, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones. The book is full of fascinating 18th Century history, and some rather nasty faeries. Have a listen to learn more, including how Britain has been changing to fit in with Europe for hundreds of years. And if you happen to be part of the Crawford Award advisory group, I’ll be bugging you about this one.

The second half of the show opens up with a discussion of the forthcoming Union Cup gay rugby tournament. After that I chat to Annie Heatherson of Bristol Academy about the team’s forthcoming FA Cup Final against Arsenal. Go Vixens! It was a great half hour, with much silliness. Listen here.

Of course now you will be wondering about that team song. Here is the full version of the video, which includes the Mayor doing the shoes off thing in front of City Hall, and a guest appearance from Michu.

So, Monaco Grand Prix and Bristol in the FA Cup Final. Sunday is going to be mad.

Tomorrow On Ujima

Misericordia - Jack WolfI’ll be on the Women’s Outlook show on Ujima tomorrow. We have a busy show for you.

My main guest will be Jack Wolf, author of the fascinating Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones. It is a debut fantasy novel, but you probably won’t find it on the SF&F shelves because it sold to a mainstream publisher and has already been sold on for translation in France and Spain. The image is of the French cover, featuring the faerie queen, Viviane, in all her glory. The book also features a lot of interesting material about the history of medicine, and is written entirely in 17th Century dialect, which works brilliantly. I’ll be writing a review after I have had a chance to talk to Jack.

Also on the show with me will be representatives of the Bristol Academy soccer team who are playing the FA Cup Final against Arsenal at the weekend. The BBC has just launched a new show specifically about women’s soccer, and last night’s show featured a preview of the match. It is available on iPlayer. It’s great to see the game getting so much attention. Hopefully I can add usefully to the buzz.

I’ll also be talking about the Union Cup. And if we have time Paulette might chat tome about my trip to Finland.

Go Vixens!

Bristol Academy badgeBristol sports teams are generally pretty rubbish. In soccer, City are set to finish bottom of the Championship, while Rovers are languishing in League Two*. The rugby club was relegated from the Premiership some years ago and doesn’t look like finding its way back. And as the city has sided with Gloucestershire rather than Somerset it has a rubbish cricket team too.

Thankfully there is one good team in the city. Take a bow, Bristol Academy (aka The Vixens), who yesterday sealed a place in the Women’s FA Cup Final. They’ll play Arsenal, who are a very good side and beat Bristol in the final two years ago. Revenge is required, I think. And a parade through the city if we win, Mayor Ferguson, if you please.

Yo, Tansy! Your team sucks! 🙂

* Note to foreign readers: the England & Wales soccer leagues suffered major grade inflation some years back. Instead of the eminently sensible Divisions One through Four we now have a Premiership, a Championship, and Leagues One and Two. I can see this lasting, and expect League Two to be renamed League A or something similar soon. First Division, perhaps.

Irresponsible Journalists Cause National Disaster!

It is terrible what these journalist people do, you know. There was England all set to host the soccer World Cup in 2018, and suddenly they get knocked out in the first round of voting. It is all, apparently, the fault of the BBC. You would have thought that the fact that FIFA executives were openly taking bribes would be in the public interest, but no, not when national pride and a high profile sporting event is at stake. It won’t be long before right wing politicians and tabloid newspapers are calling for Clive Edwards to be executed for treason, mark my words.

Tsk! Surely other countries have more respect for free speech and journalistic integrity, don’t they?

Car Football – The Semi Finals

With the action winding down in South Africa I’m sure you have all been wondering what has been happening on YouTube at the Hyundai car football championships. Well, here are the semi-finals.

Brazil v Italy

England v Spain

Well, there’s a surprise, England beaten again. But Spain v Brazil in the final. That should be entertaining. Give what the Dutch have been saying about their plans for Johannesburg, it might provide the best entertainment tomorrow.

A Sport-Filled Day

Wow, that was busy. England v Slovenia; USA v Algeria; Germany v Ghana; Australia v Serbia; and the totally mad tennis match between Isner and Mahut. It’s all go.

The World Cup games were played simultaneously by group so teams wouldn’t know the result of the group rivals’ games in advance. That mean that the England and USA games were on at the same time. Kevin and I had a Skype party. I was watching England, he was watching USA, and we kept each other informed on the progress of the games by Skype video call. It was very nail-biting at the end.

While the games have been fun, I have been just as much entertained by Hyundai’s car football commercials. Kevin says they are not being shown in the US (which doesn’t surprise me, they do appear to have been scripted with England fans in mind) so here are the three games that have been played so far.

Brazil v Argentina

Italy v South Africa

England v Germany

World Cup For Dummies

Football (or “soccer” for my American and Australian friends) is a pretty simple game. Twenty-two guys kick a ball around for an hour and a half, they fall over a lot, and the game often ends without anyone scoring. That much anyone can glean from watching it for a while. Of course there are tactics. Football people will talk for hours about formations and methods of attack and defense, but these are largely invisible to the TV watcher because so much of the action happens off the ball. I don’t pretend to understand it all myself. But what about the tournament itself. Are there strategies for that? Well yes, I think they are, and I think they are quite simple.

In the group stage you need to have a team that is good at scoring goals in the face of a determined defense. If you don’t, you are liable to find your team held to a 0-0 draw by a team of no-hopers from a country you hadn’t heard of before they qualified for the tournament. These teams can’t score against a good side except by luck, but there is a fair amount of luck in the game so you have to be able to score a couple of goals.

The knock-out stage is quite different. Here your first priority is to be able to prevent the good attacking sides that have made it through this far from scoring. At this stage a loss is fatal, and most coaches would rather risk going out on penalties than risk attacking too much during the game and conceding goals.

A corollary of this is that the longer the Italians stay in the tournament, the more chance they have of winning.

The Soccer Thing

So, the FIFA World Cup is about to kick off. I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Wales, as usual, didn’t come anywhere near qualifying. Kevin, of course, will be supporting USA, which makes their first game a bit awkward. Thankfully I shall be on the train on the way back from Alt.Fiction when it takes place. Like my Welsh, Scottish and Irish friends, I’ll be hoping that the English lads don’t embarrass themselves. On the other hand, we are mostly hoping that they don’t win, because the English fans will be insufferable if they do. So I will mainly be hoping for some entertaining games. In particular I’m looking forward to watching Lionel Messi, Spain, and of course Brazil. I’m also hoping for some surprises. Also I will be getting into the South African mood by reading Moxyland [buy isbn=”9780857660046″].

Meanwhile, Tesco has been having a big sale on gym equipment, so I have bought a stepper. That way, if the TV is busy showing sport and unavailable to run the Wii, I can still get some exercise.

And finally, for a scarily accurate prediction as to how the tournament is likely to go for England, here’s Mitch Benn.

War is Declared?

So, the draw for the World Cup has taken place, and England’s group includes Algeria, Slovenia and the USA. That will be interesting. Two teams go through from each group. By the FIFA rankings that should be England and USA. But whichever team loses their head-to-head will have a tough tournament.

America Under Attack

Dear American readers, I am sorry to have to inform you that your very way of life is under threat. Foreign forces are attempting to undermine all that is good and wholesome about the American way of life. No, this is not another warning about reds under the bed, about the gay agenda, or about terrorism. The threat is much worse than that:

Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves.

Alex Massie has the sorry details. Please do not be alarmed, people of America. Rest assure that your government is doing all that it can to protect you from this hideous foreign threat.

Good Day for Swansea – ish

Well, the Ospreys won the game, but they didn’t stop Leicester getting a bonus point, and therefore haven’t won the pool and face a nervous wait to see if they qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the two best losers. They have a fairly good chance, but it is not certain.

It was, however, a typical Ospreys performance: so much talent, so much promise, such poor execution. The one person they badly missed was Lee Byrne. Without him the Tigers were able to put up high kicks with impunity. No one else seemed capable of covering them. No wonder Geordan Murphy got the man of the match award.

Meanwhile, the Swansea soccer team covered themselves with glory in the FA Cup, putting out the cup holders, Portsmouth, with a 2-0 away win. Karen Traviss is not going to be happy.

Busy Weekend

Lots and lots of interesting sport on TV over the weekend. It is the final weekend of the Heineken Cup pool stages, and there’s FA Cup action. Good job there are some nasty rain storms keeping me inside.

The Quins looked in excellent form in the first half. I haven’t spotted Will in the crowd, but I hope he’s enjoying it somewhere.

Michael: I hope you are not getting blown away in France.

Ospreys – Tigers later. Cardiff – Arsenal tomorrow.

That Wembley Event

Normally I don’t bother too much about soccer, particularly Welsh soccer, because really that’s not what is important in Welsh sport. On the other hand, having Cardiff City in the FA Cup is rather neat. I know that my good friend Karen Traviss will be rooting for her beloved Pompey, and I’d hate to see her disappointed, but having the FA Cup won by a Welsh team will seriously annoy the English. Besides, Cardiff have the Toxteth Terror. My prediction: 1-0 to Cardiff scored by Robbie Fowler in injury time.

Americans Hate Soccer

Except in Philadelphia, apparently.

Philadelphia doesn’t have an MLS team, and this rankles so badly with them that they have started a fan club for the team that they one day hope to have. Not only that, but they go along to MLS games to boo the sides that they expect their team to be playing against one day. Now that’s dedication for you.

Alex Massie has more on the story.