32° Rally del Casentino

My parents have retired to the house in Italy that they bought when I was a child. A car rally — the “Rally del Casentino” — takes place every year and the cars drive through the village where they live.

I’ve never happened to be there at the time when the rally takes place, but this year we were lucky enough to be there.

The cars drove through the village twice, once during the day and once at night. We watched the day-time race from the play-park which provided a good view, and the circolo gave the kids an ice-cream each.

For the night-time race, we decided to go down to Talla, although it meant not getting home till after midnight when the roads were reopened.

We found a rather good place to watch it on the pavement near the bridge, where the cars had to take a hard turn. Most of them managed, but one of them turned to the wrong side and nearly crashed into us — it was less than a metre from Charlotte when it stopped. Some other spectator recorded it for posterity:

On our way back up the mountain, we passed three rally cars that had crashed — rather interesting that professional drivers have so much trouble with a road that I’ve driven up and down so many times!

Predictions for 2011

Here are my predictions for 2011:

  1. There will be a general election in Denmark. The Social Democrats and SF will form a minority government, which will quickly get into serious trouble trying to carry out their legislative programme.
  2. There won’t be a general election in the UK, but the LibDems will get more and more worried about their lack of support in the opinion polls.
  3. In Scotland, Labour will win the election but will be unable to find a coalition partner, so they’ll form a minority government.
  4. The outcome of the AV referendum will be Yes (but it’ll be a narrow victory).
  5. There’ll be snow on the ground in Scotland for most of the time until the end of March. We’ll then have a warm and sunny early summer, but late summer and autumn will be cold and wet, and we’ll have another white Christmas.
  6. Facebook will get serious competition, but they won’t be overtaken yet as the default social networking site.
  7. The best-selling tablet computer towards the end of 2011 won’t be the iPad.
  8. Economically, Germany will start pulling the Eurozone out of the slump, but there’ll be more bad news from the US. There won’t be any sovereign defaults (yet).
  9. Petrol prices will reach £1.50 per litre.
  10. Neither Denmark nor Scotland will qualify for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.

Ceterum censeo FIFAm esse delendam



Sunset, Qatar
Originally uploaded by Shenghung Lin

I’m not really interested in football, but FIFA’s decision to place their World Cup 2022 in Qatar is outrageous. (I’m sure there were good reasons why Russia should not have got the World Cup in 2018 ahead of the competition, but at least the country is big and rich enough – and mad enough about football – to make it a feasible host.)

Qatar, on the other hand, is a ludicrous choice. The country is tiny, it needs to build 75% of the stadiums needed, it has no strong football culture, it’s far too hot during summer, and alcohol consumption is illegal in most places (details here).

To make it even more absurd, the results for the first round of voting were as follows: Australia 1 vote, Japan 3 votes, Korea 4 votes, Qatar 11 votes, USA 3 votes.

There’s no way those votes were based on facts and logic. Perhaps it was bribery, perhaps it had something to do with FIFA itself: “Unless you consider something very basic about how FIFA operates – it values independence and privacy over everything else, and no other bidding nations would provide them with a carte blanche as Russia and Qatar – the two countries with the most to gain in political capital (and therefore the most to give out to FIFA as well) from hosting the World Cup.”

It’s a scandal, and I suggest that the best solution is for as many national football associations as possible to leave FIFA and form a new international organisation.

Ud med Morten Olsen!

Det var ganske fortjent, at Japan lammetævede Danmark.

For det første var alle danskere – inkl. landsholdet – iflg. de danske aviser overbeviste om, at Japan var et ubetydeligt hold, som det ville blive let at vinde over.

Til VM er der ingen dårlige hold, og alle modstandere skal tages seriøst. Det er trænerens ansvar.

For det andet tog Danmark ikke højderne seriøst. At placere sin træningslejr ved kysten, når alle ens indledende kampe er i højlandet, er amatøragtigt. De danskere spillere har i alle deres kampe virket trætte i anden halvleg. Sammenlign det med japanerne, der før VM trænede i Alperne for at styrke spillerne. Det kunne danskerne også have gjort. At de ikke gjorde det, er trænerens ansvar.

For det tredie har danskerne ikke haft styr på bolden. De har igen og igen skudt for langt eller for højt. I et vist omfang har det sammenhæng med den manglende højdetræning – bolde flyver højere og længere i den tynde luft i højderne. Det skulle spillerne have lært, og det er trænerens ansvar.

Det kan godt være, at Danmark ikke har verdens bedste spillere for tiden, men med en bedre træner kunne Danmark godt have avanceret fra gruppespillet.

Den danske fiasko er Morten Olsens ansvar, og han må gå.

Nu.

Opdatering (25/6): Det virker som om, de danske aviser har besluttet sig for at frede Morten Olsen. De kritiserer spillerne i stor stil, men ikke træneren. På den anden side er læsernes kommentarer fyldt med krav om, at Morten Olsen går. Hvorfor er journalisterne så glade for ham?

Tennis football and football tennis



tennis soccer
Originally uploaded by mandy&john

Watching a bit of Wimbledon, with some matches lasting forever and others finishing almost immediately, made me think about the difference between tennis and football.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to design a variant of tennis that was more like football, and vice versa? To be specific:

Football tennis: Basically tennis, but a match lasts 90 minutes. During those 90 minutes, as many games (the 15-30-40 things) as can be fitted in are played. If a game ends with no points to the opponent, the player gets a point. In this way, a match should end up with a score more like football (such as 5–2), and it would be possible to get one or two points just before the finish to change the expected result.

Tennis football: Basically football, but a match is divided into sets. To make it easier to score a goal, the goalkeepers are eliminated. To win a set, a team has to get at least six goals, and two more than the other team. The first team to win two sets wins the match. In this way, a match is never decided until the very last moment, but it might theoretically last forever if the teams are evenly matched.

Would these new games be more popular that the original ones, I wonder?

European champions

Today Denmark won the European Championship in handball, beating Croatia 24-20 in the final.

This is big news in Denmark, not quite as big as when we won the European Championship in football, but almost. It’s totally dominating all Danish newspapers on the internet at the moment.

Handball is one of the “big four” ballgames that all Danish kids have to learn well at school: football, handball, volleyball and basketball. I never liked it – it was too hard and fast for me at the time, but I still find it fascinating that it’s completely unknown here, given that it’s well-known in most of continental Europe.

Punishment

I don’t normally blog about football, but the bizarre way the match between Denmark and Sweden ended is intriguing.

As far as I understand, Denmark is to be punished because a Danish fan ran onto the pitch and tried to attack the referee.

If the punishment is due to the match having being arranged by Denmark, I think it’s more or less fair. On the other hand, if it’s due to the fan being Danish, I think it’s a slippery slope. For instance, if I wanted Denmark to win the next match against Sweden, I could pay a Swede to attack the referee, and Sweden would get penalised. Also, given that many spectators might have placed huge bets on specific results, it will not always be obvious to outsiders what result they might want to achieve by attacking the officials, and penalising the wrong team would be difficult.

As I see it, the offending spectator and the hosts should be penalised (and obviously, if a player attacks the referee, their team should be punished). Otherwise, rich fans will start hiring attackers, and everyone will suffer.

Opdatering (11/6): Det ser ud til, Michael Laudrup har tænkt de samme tanker (eller bare har læst denne blog): “Der er lande, hvor det kan ske, at en klub vil sende en fan ind på banen og til angreb på dommeren, som så giver dem en sejr på 3-0, forudser den tidligere Brøndby-træner i et interview med den spanske sportsavis AS.”