By Paul Frederickson
It is that time of year again when we can ponder what has happened in the football year and look forward to 2012 with twinkling eyes hoping that the new year will bring many football wishes into fruition.
With that said Game of two Halves brings you the 12 things that we want to see in the 2012 football world!
12. FFA CUP
Many competitions around the world, the FA Cup in particular, capture the imagination of the football public. The fairytale wins, monumental upsets and heroics can bring a new perspective to what are becoming predictable competitions to many parts of the world. The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) has mentioned its plans for an FFA cup. The geographical distances that handicap travel for many teams in this country would seem to be the major stumbling block. A Game of two Halves hopes that the logistics can be worked out as fans, through FFA surveys, are crying out for an Australian cup competition, a major sponsor would help!
11. MORE BALOTELLI ANTICS
On and off the field Manchester City's Mario Balotelli is a headline waiting to happen. From letting off fireworks in his apartment to nonchalantly shouldering a goal Mr Balotelli brings a smile to A Game of two Halves on an almost weekly basis. Please let Mario bring his 'unique' mindset and behaviour into 2012 with the same verve that he has embraced in his career so far.
10. SMALLER TEAMS PROGRESSING IN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
There have been times in the UEFA Champions League where teams have caused upsets, but not too many times that those upsets have allowed the relative minnows to progress past the group stages of one of the world's premier competitions. This season's incarnation of the competition has seen one seemingly 'minnow' progress past the group stage by topping their group. Apoel Nicosia have become the first team from Cyprus to make the last 16. As ESPN reported of the achievement:
Midfielder Constantinos Charalambides was still coming to terms with the size of APOEL's achievement."This is the biggest day and the biggest moment in the history of this football club. I don't think anyone has really realised what has happened, especially as we were in such a tough group. (1)
9. INTRODUCTION OF GOAL LINE TECHNOLOGY
There have been numerous examples over the years where goal-line technology may have changed decisions and the course of games in the correct manner. A Game of two Halves would like to see the technology introduced at the top level of all competitions around the globe. The technology is there and in so many ways the game is progressive, but FIFA's reasoning behind its non-introduction are staggering in their absence. I would suggest that the decision to use the goal-line technology in a game would be at the discretion of the referees only. We have the technology, fans can see the replays already on television, use it.
8. A CLASSIC EURO CHAMPIONSHIP
Many competitions do not live up to the hype that is delivered by the increasingly expectant media and supporter bases. We want the 2012 Euros to live up to the hype. A lack of injuries and teams hitting form at the right time will go a long way towards guaranteeing this materialises. Group B alone, with the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal should create a feast of football in June.
7. MORE GREAT GOALS
There have been so many great goals from around the world. We are greedy at a Game of two Halves. We just want more, and more, and more! Soccer AM gives us a taste of what is to come with their compilation of this season's Champions League goals. (2)
6. COMPETITIONS TO GO DOWN TO THE WIRE
With the advent of new owners spending money on non-traditional powerhouses many competitions, excluding La Liga and the Scottish Premier Leagues for example, are becoming more competitive. We hope that that means more clubs will be pushing for titles in 2012 and that more champions are decided on the final day.
5. NO RACISM
Racism has always been in football but that does not mean it should stay in football. Recent events in England, the Suarez and Terry incidents, have brought the issue back into focus. It is up to every fan to play their part, organisations can have campaigns, individuals make the difference.
4. ANTI-VIOLENCE AT FOOTBALL
Crowd violence, like racism, has marred our beautiful game since its very conception. I hope that 2012 brings more strategies to curb the violence that sees football receive negative press and keep many fans away from games. We hope to see more initiatives such as the one implemented in Turkey earlier this season. As the Guardian reported: (3)
On Tuesday night, Istanbul's Sukru Saracoglu stadium was packed to the rafters with football fans keen to see their home side, Fenerbache, play Manisapor. There was just one thing missing among the crowd of 41,000 – men. After unruly behaviour by fans at a previous match, the Turkish FA ruled that there would be no fans allowed at the next two games.
Once again though, whilst organisations can implement initiatives, fans must make the individual choice to create collective harmony for our wonderful game.
3. PROFESSIONAL REFEREES AROUND THE WORLD
It is hard to fathom that in competitions that purport to be professional that some of the most important components are not professional. Take Australia's fledgling professional competition, the A-League, the referees are not full-time employees. So whilst many clubs and the organisation take strides forward the game regresses due to poor decisions that have plagued the competition in 2011.
Professional leagues need professional referees.
2. NO ONE TO BE CALLED THE NEXT 'PELE' OR 'MARADONA'.
Pele and Maradona were once in multi-generational players. The shadow that their names create over the sport almost outweighs the tremendous legacies that their skills have endowed to the sport. Yes, there is brilliant young talent emerging from all corners of the globe, a Game of two Halves just wants them to be their own players and not the 'next' player. By the way I saw this young player who reminded me of, well, never mind!
1. TRUE FIFA REFORM
Sepp out is the easiest call that we could make in this regards, but Mr Blatter is only one branch in the myriad of, seemingly corrupt and selfish FIFA officials. But it is not only the taint of alleged corruption but also the gaffes and ostensibly out of touch reality constructs from FIFA that are a worry.
True reform in 2012 would mean that each member country has one vote each, making it a truly democratic congress.
May 2012 bring you at least a slice of footballing nirvana!
(1) ESPN Soccernet, "Jovanovic ecstatic after qualifying", http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/987781/apoel-boss-ivan-jovanovic-ecstatic-after-qualifying?cc=3436, November 24, 2011.
(2) SoccerAM, "Best Champions League Goals 2011", 24/12/2011.
(3) The Guardian, "What, a football match with only female spectators?", 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/sep/21/football-match-only-women-spectators?newsfeed=true