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A World Cup every two years – has FIFA finally come up with a good idea?



Maradona’s goal of the century (and the other goal), Tshabalala’s ‘goal for Africa’, Zidane’s headbutt, and many more; the World Cup has uniquely produced football’s most emotional, controversial, and endearing moments. This week, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger, is proposing that the beautiful game’s most illustrious tournament should take place every two years, rather than four.

The idea has been met with initial scepticism as summarised by England manager, Gareth Southgate: “my feedback would be – I don’t know – that our generation are going to find a World Cup every two years a strange concept.” UEFA’s president, Alexander Ceferin, has also openly voiced his disagreement with the proposal. 

The plan

Arsene Wenger’s plan is for the international calendar to contain one annual tournament per year, whether it be a World Cup or a continental tournament such as the Euros. He told L’Equipe that he wants to halve the number of international breaks from four to two, which would include the qualification matches for each tournament. When challenged, Wenger stated that there was no financial incentive behind his plan.

Why the disagreement?

Predictably, the plan has been met with much criticism. One angle of disagreement is the idea that a World Cup every two years could diminish the tournament’s beauty. TalkSPORT’s Danny Murphy said that the lure of the World Cup could be lost if played every two years. Wales’ captain and Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale this week said, “I like the tradition of the World Cup every four years. It has that prestige like the Olympics where it comes around every four years and it feels that little bit more special because it’s not happening too often.” The World Cup is of course the pinnacle of a footballer’s career. It is the ultimate competition and stage, with football’s most renowned prize up for grabs. The question that remains is whether holding it more often will reduce this allure. 

Another, more practical point of contention is the risk of player burnout. At club level, a player may end up playing in more than five competitions in one season. If an international tournament takes place every year, there could be a serious risk of players overplaying and sustaining injuries. In the 2020-2021 season, 18-year-old Pedri played over 60 games for Barcelona and Spain. Could overplaying a prodigious talent such as him be a symptom of Wenger’s plan? 

The benefits the change can bring

All is not gloom as Wenger’s plan for the future does certainly have its benefits. The obvious one is that there will be more World Cup football! Who does not love the World Cup? More World Cups mean we will have the privilege of experiencing more moments that will never be forgotten. 

Furthermore, World Cup tournaments need hosts. A World Cup every two years opens the floodgates for many countries who previously did not have a good chance to host football’s biggest competition. No one can forget the Vuvuzela’s of South Africa. A World Cup in Africa was a beautiful summer and with Wenger’s plan, there will certainly be opportunities for other African countries to host the tournament. There has only been one World Cup in South America since 1978, only one World Cup in Asia and Africa, and England has not hosted it since 1966. Additional World Cups will enable more fans to experience their own country hosting the tournament and for people to experience other cultures. 

Another plus point is for the players themselves. More World Cups means there will be more opportunities for footballers to realise childhood dreams. Taking Marco Reus as an example, a world class player in his day; this summer, he missed the Euros, previously he has missed the World Cup in 2014 and Euros in 2016. It can be said to be a tragedy that such a talented player has missed out on various tournaments due to injury. A World Cup every two years would certainly allow players of the future less chance of meeting the same fate as Marco Reus. Fans want to see the best perform at the highest level.

A step in the right direction 

The international game needs fixing, there is no doubt about it. Dead-rubber friendlies and extremely one-sided qualifiers have made the international breaks during the club season a chore to watch. Wenger’s plan to improve the competitiveness and scheme to increase the number of top tier tournaments is a step in the right direction. However, the strong disagreement by UEFA, clubs and pundits for this idea will likely force Wenger to go back to the drawing board. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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ECB Chair Ian Watmore resigns with immediate effect



Ian Watmore has stepped down as Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) having spent only 13 months in office of the five-year contract that he signed last year. Current Deputy Chair, Barry O’Brien, will step up as interim Chair, having indicated to the Board that he will not be a candidate for the role.

The 63-year-old leaves his role citing personal ‘’wellbeing’’ concerns. He said it was mutually decided between the board and himself to terminate the contract at the completion of the current county season.

It is believed that he lost the confidence of the board and the counties. Watmore also experienced a brief period as Chief Executive of The Football Association (FA) having resigned in March 2010.

The ECB and especially, Watmore in general, have had a difficult last few weeks after cancelling reciprocal tour to Pakistan for two T20 internationals, a decision which has been heavily criticised by the Pakistan cricket fraternity and in general. Pakistan agreed to a goodwill tour to England in the Summer of 2020 and went through a difficult bio-secure environment to help the ECB stage some international cricket as well as cut their financial losses.  

Watmore has also recently stood down from the position of First Civil Service Commissioner after serving a five-year term, he is believed to be retiring completely. Watmore was the first salaried chair of the ECB who received £150,000 annually (before expenses). It is understandable that he found the role to be incredibly difficult, perhaps more so than he anticipated. His role in the office started in September 2020, and has been largely defined by battling to stage international and domestic cricket in a time of Covid. He had to make large-scale redundancies in the board and undergo large financial losses. 

In a statement released by the ECB, Watmore said he regrets his decision to step down but feels it is the right time for the board to look for the right candidate in time before the start of the next season in 2022. He stated: ‘’It is with regret that I step down as Chair of the ECB, but I do so in mindfulness of my own wellbeing and that of the game which I love. I was appointed to the post in a pre-pandemic era, but Covid has meant the role and its demands on time are dramatically different to all our original expectations, which has taken a personal toll on me. Given this, the Board and I feel the ECB will be better served by a new Chair to take it forward post pandemic. Leaving now, at the end of the season, gives the Board time to find a new Chair to support cricket through the challenges of the 2022 season and beyond.’’

He also cited personal reasons for his resignation – “On a personal level, I also retired last month after five years at the Civil Service Commission and recently became a grandfather. I would now like to retire completely from work and enjoy our great game as a spectator.”

During Watmore’s tenure, the ECB also saw some positives outcomes, having managed to stage a full summer of international and domestic cricket season as well as the staging of the long-awaited event, The Hundred. 

Standing down from his role with the ECB also means he loses his seat at the board of International Cricket Council (ICC). Arguably, his key contribution came when he pushed forward the sport’s bid for Olympic inclusion in the 2028 Games as his role of the game’s governing body’s HR committee.  

In his latter capacity, Watmore sacked ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney in July after a review into his management style prompted by the accusations of bullying and mistreatment. Even though Sawhney denies the claims, Watmore’s decision was welcomed by the other members of the executive team of the ICC. 

Thanking Watmore for his services, Interim Chair Barry O’Brien commented,: “We are grateful to Ian for everything he has contributed during his time at the ECB. He has helped guide the game through an incredibly challenging period, where despite the impact of Covid we were able to stage a busy summer of men’s and women’s domestic and international cricket. He also leaves with the recreational game in a strong position, with record numbers playing the game this summer, which I know will please him enormously as a lover of the grass roots of sport. We wish him the best for the future.

“We will shortly begin a process to appoint a new Chair to lead the ECB, as the organisation continues to deliver on its ambitions to grow the game and create an increasingly inclusive and welcoming sport for all.”

What is still unknown, however, is what team will be involved in the appointment of a new chairman. Eyes are on whether Andrew Strauss, Chair of the ECB’s cricket committee, and Lucy Pearson, cricket non-executive director, are involved in the search – after the duo oversaw the process of Watmore’s appointment. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of Newcastle United approved by Premier League



The Premier League has given the seal of approval to the £305 million Saudi Arabian-backed consortium takeover of Newcastle United, even though it had rejected the takeover in September 2020. This means Mike Ashley’s 14 years reign is over and the Magpies can start to challenge English football.

It has taken over a year for this deal to come through. The takeover process was initially started in April 2020 but the deal was met with stern third-party opposition, such as beIN (a Premier League broadcaster in the middle eastern region) and Amnesty International. 

Nevertheless, the fans have been celebrating outside St. James’ Park, dressing up in traditional Arab clothes and waving the Saudi Arabian flag, as if they’ve won a major trophy. In footballing terms at least, money equals success.

Under the uninspiring Sports Direct tycoon, Mike Ashley, Newcastle have been a forgotten soul. The once shining light of Northern England, they were relegated twice – in 2009/10 and 2016/17 – but immediately bounced back. Their best finish with him came in at 5th place in the 2011/12 season. At the time of writing, they are currently placed 19th in the Premier League. 

Alan Shearer, a legend of English football, former player and manager of Newcastle said, “all we’ve done is tick along and survive for 14 years”. But also stated his delight at not having Mike Ashley as an owner anymore, “our fans also need to know that they matter, because they haven’t for 14 years, so today is special for them”.

But there is a report of a potential backlash against this move by the other 19 Premier League clubs who are not satisfied with the decision and communication, hence they’ve called for an emergency meeting. However, fans around the world have also taken to social media to express optimism for the prospect of football’s finest players and coaches gracing Newcastle and seeing their club play in Europe once again. 

As previously mentioned, the move has been heavily opposed by human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Their stance remains because of the abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia and their appalling record. Examples include the involvement of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – which the Saudis have always denied – women’s rights and the war on Yemen.

It is without doubt that this takeover will change English football once again. The introduction of Newcastle’s new owners and their financial clout is likely to add extra competition, revamp the club and let the supporters shout for something more than a relegation battle. But beware, with eco activists taking their fight to the street, surely it’s just a matter of time before human rights activists follow suit. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Umar is currently studying the Legal Practice Course. He has a LLB Law and LLM International Human Rights Law degree. When he is not studying or volunteering, he likes to Cycle and play Football

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Champions League: group stages game week two



UEFA, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Champion’s League is yet again proving to be exciting as we enter the 2nd game week which saw the anticipated matchup between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, Ronaldo’s last minute drama and a big upset in Madrid. We cover this week’s highlights. 

  1. Lionel Messi joins the party 

A match best summarised by Achraf Hakimi’s post-match social media post. The English champions were left frustrated by PSG’s resilient defending and masterful counter attacks. Lionel Messi finally scored his first goal for his new club, and it was in typical Messi fashion.

PSG looked very impressive with standout performances from Donnarrumma and Gueye. The latter opened scoring for the hosts and they never really looked out of control, especially due to Donnarrumma’s imperious performance. 

City dominated the ball but only managed to create one clear-cut chance, with Bernardo Silva astonishingly failing to convert in front of an empty net. 

PSG were later left bewildered, wondering how Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t sent off for his challenge on Gueye. An attempt to get the ball was mistimed, and the Belgian’s studs raked into the PSG midfielder’s leg. 

Its early doors in this season’s competition, but if PSG can continue to defend as they did and their star-studded front three can produce the goods, then they may finally reach the promised land.

  1. A new Sheriff in Madrid

This game was not on anyone’s radar because quite frankly, Real Madrid should have won against debutant Sheriff Tiraspol (from Moldova). But the Sheriffs were in town and they won 2-1.

They led through a counterattack and converted with a perfect header into the corner. Real Madrid kept knocking and were continually denied by a resilient goalkeeper for Tiraspol. Perhaps a series of saves could have been expected, but doing so to defend a lead? Maybe not. Vinicius Junior got the breakthrough after silky play – winning the team a penalty and Benzema converted from the spot. 

A draw perhaps seemed fair but the impossible happened and the visitors shockingly took all of the points. A simple throw-in played in to the edge of the box was beautifully hit into the top left corner of Courtois’ goal by Sebastien Thill.

Remember the Super League idea? In that elitist structure, this fixture would not have been possible. But luckily, in the Champions League, dreams do come true for the underdogs. 

  1. Champions of Europe defeated in Italy

Tuchel was left frustrated by his side as they lost 1-0 to Juventus, conceding the only goal of the match 11 seconds into the second half. Despite the lead, Juventus worked hard for the goal as they conceded 73% possession to Chelsea. 

This was far from the usual top drawer Chelsea performances demonstrated since the Tuchel era. The desperation was on show when the manager sent on Ross Barkley to salvage a point at least, when he was on the list to go on loan. Chelsea are aiming high but with this being their 2nd defeat in the row, should alarm bells be ringing?

It might trigger a few Chelsea unwanted memories because Chelsea failed to get out of the group-stages in the 2012-13 season, when they failed to defend their Champions League title that season. But it is early days and Chelsea should still be comfortably going through. 

  1. Benfica breakdown Barcelona

It is not often you hear of Barcelona being broken down. But in the Koeman era, it is a reality. They went down 1-0 within three minutes of the match. Barcelona’s bright light of Frenkie De Jong and Memphis Depay were doing their part, but the rest were not on the same page. 

Barcelona were threatening but a woeful display in front of goal did not help them and they only managed to achieve one shot on target. Benfica kept in Barcelona by missing their own clear chances but by the 79th minute, Barcelona were 3-0 down. It got worse for them when Eric Garcia frustratingly got a red card, for his second yellow card offence.

The general consensus around the Nou Camp and its followers, is that Koeman is failing to motivate a talented squad to follow the way he wants them to play but this is also being overshadowed by the financial situation of the club

  1. Ronaldo cements himself in the history books, again

Ronaldo’s last-minute goal marked their first win of this season’s campaign, against Villareal – a 2020-21 Europa League final reunion. But more significantly, Ronaldo has now made the most appearances in the Champions League – 178 times. A true champion of the competition. He came in clutch once again, doing what he does best which is score goals in the dying moments.

Nevertheless, David De Gea reminded everyone why he is one of the world’s best goalkeepers as he kept United in the game. Villareal’s left winger, Arnaut Danjuma, was causing the majority of the problems and got the better of the defence – alas the finishing of his teammates let him down, and of course De Gea worked to deny them too. 
Game week three fixtures will commence from 19th-20th October 2021. By the end of it, all teams will have played each other in the group at least once and will give us a better picture of where they stand. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Umar is currently studying the Legal Practice Course. He has a LLB Law and LLM International Human Rights Law degree. When he is not studying or volunteering, he likes to Cycle and play Football

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Pakistan will not boycott New Zealand in Twenty20 World Cup



Pakistan has decided not to boycott New Zealand in next month’s Twenty20 World Cup match. This decision has been made after the New Zealand cricket team recently pulled out of the white-ball series in Pakistan at the last minute.

The decision to abandon the tour made by New Zealand infuriated the Pakistan cricket team. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) expressed their displeasure at the decision and some called for a boycott of matches against New Zealand.

However, amid controversy, PCB chief executive Wasim Khan stated in a Zoom press conference that no such action is on the cards. He added “Right now there is no issue of us not playing New Zealand”.

Khan mentioned the fans and stated “we have a duty to the fans and we have to fulfil that.” Khan also ruled out players wearing black armbands in protest.

According to Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, the New Zealand cricket team allegedly received a security threat that led them to cancel their tour of Pakistan on Friday 17th September 2021, just as the first One-Day International was due to begin in Rawalpindi.

Arden expressed her views on the cancellations saying New Zealand Cricket “made the right decision” to pull out of the tour.

New Zealand have refused to give details of the security threat that led to the cancellation of the tour.

Mr. Khan, although not boycotting New Zealand, has expressed concerns regarding the pull out. He stated that the way the match was abandoned “was disrespectful” and consequently created “political tensions” in the PCB’s relationship with New Zealand Cricket. 

“It’s easy to walk out of countries like Pakistan without any reason, without any dialogue and that has to stop,” Khan added.

Khan also mentioned how previous attempts to convince Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to visit for a replacement series have been unsuccessful due to logistical issues. 

Pakistan has made great efforts to revive tours by foreign teams, after the suspension of home internationals in 2009 following a terror attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan team. New Zealand’s pull out of the white-ball series is a major setback to Pakistan. Therefore, the future of Pakistan in the cricket industry appears unclear and unstable.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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U.S. Olympic gymnasts speak out against sexual abuse by doctor



Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Top U.S. Olympic gymnasts, including world renowned Simone Biles, have recently spoken out against the handling of Larry Nassar’s case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Four elite gymnasts; Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman spoke out emotionally about the sexual abuse and trauma they faced from Nassar’s repeated sexual misconduct as sports doctor for the Olympics. The testimonials presented before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday 15th September 2021 highlighted the walls of silence by FBI agents when told about the molestations. 

“I cried and there was just silence” McKayla Maroney testified, as she recalled telling the FBI the details of the sexual abuse she experienced.Aly Raisman said in the testimonial that the FBI “made [her] feel [her] abuse didn’t count” and tried “to nvince [her] that it wasn’t that bad.”

Raisman added that it took her “years of therapy to realize my abuse was bad, that it does matter” and all that was “needed was for one adult to do the right thing.”

Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — clearly stated “I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse”.

An internal investigation by the Justice Department released in July 2021 stated that the FBI made fundamental errors in the probe. Furthermore, the FBI did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness” after the initial reporting of the abuse to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis by USA Gymnastics back in 2015. 

The director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, has now also apologised stating, “kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should have never happened, period,” and that he is “deeply and profoundly sorry that so many people let you down over and over again.”

Biles testified “The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us … the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten.”

Advocates for the women say as many as 120 athletes may have been abused by Nassar after the FBI first heard of the charges against the doctor. 

The shocking mishandling of this case, and the sexual abuse carried out by Larry Nassar must be looked into further and action must be taken for this prevented in the future. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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PCB announces ICC World Cup T20 squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed and Sharjeel Khan miss out, Asif Ali makes a comeback!

Pakistan set preparations underway for the T20 world cup campaign, by playing New Zealand for a five-match series in Lahore starting from 25th September



The National Chief Selector, Muhammad Waseem, has announced Pakistan’s squad for the upcoming home T20 series against New Zealand and England. The same squad will play the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup, scheduled to take place in the UAE, beginning from next month from 17th October till 14th November.

The experienced campaigner and previous skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Sharjeel Khan have been dropped from the 15-man squad. Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali and Azam Khan have once again been added to the line-up. The selection panel have also dropped the allrounder Faheem Ashraf, whilst the trio of Shanawaz Dahani, Fakhar Zaman and Usman Qadir have been named as travelling reserves.

We have tried different combinations, identified different areas and found final options for the best selection”, stated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief selector Mohammad Wasim when announcing the squad in a press conference on Monday. He went on to say that, “there were things required but had been missing and now you will see the difference as we tried to cover all the bases, especially considering the conditions in UAE where we are carrying an advantage” 

Wasim further added, “We are very much familiar with the conditions and have a good T20 record, so taking every aspect in account including the opponents we have combined this team. The team has a tendency required for modern day cricket, a brand we often talk about. We tried to load specialist players for the role. So we are quite hopeful that with all the preparation our team will play outstanding and perform.”

The selection of Asif Ali over the experienced middle-order batsman and allrounder, Shoaib Malik, has been met with some surprise as Asif Ali’s recent performances show a poor form. He is currently averaging 16.38 with a strike-rate of 123.74 from 29 T20Is. Though his domestic T20 career is decorated with a strike rate of 147.02, Asif is presently playing in the Caribbean Premier League with 32 runs at a strike rate of 96.96 from five games.

Justifying their inclusion in the squad Waseem said; “I do agree they [Asif and Khushdil] didn’t perform (since they were dropped) but then none of the others made their case, as well. So, we figured out which player we can lay our confidence in, who can do well under pressure and can perform in those conditions against the bowling line-ups expected in the UAE. They are the best options we have with the left and right combination in the middle. Asif Ali is still the best striker of the ball in Pakistan. I believe he can do well in pressure handling, and will do well in the tournament. We considered a lot of players, but we have our trust in them as compared to others.”

Based on his recent top-notch performances behind the stumps and as a batsman, Mohammed Rizwan has kept his position as the first-choice wicket keeper in all three formats. However, the young talent, Azam Khan, has now replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as the reserve keeper.

Wasim commented on this choice stating, “Azam is selected as a back-up keeper with Rizwan as our number one keeper and he will remain on top. Earlier we had an option to pick a larger squad and there was always room, but now when it comes down to pick a 15-man squad, then Azam can easily edge anyone because of his ability as a power-hitting batter. If on any day we want anyone with a high strike-rate in the middle order, he offers the luxury of being able to fill in as an extra batter as well.” 

Overall, the squad is well-balanced, which covers all the bases of the game, albeit, on paper. In the UAE, playing conditions traditionally are in favour of the slow bowlers, as pitches ordinarily have a low bounce and are susceptible to spin from the outset. There are three full-time spin bowling options with Mohammed Hafeez being fourth with his more-than-useful right arm off-break. 

An argument could be presented for Shoaib Malik’s inclusion to strengthen the inexperienced middle-order. However, Mohammed Hafeez has been preferred over Shoaib Malik considering his impressive numbers in the past two years. Since the beginning of last year, Hafeez has scored 521 runs, averaging 37.21 with a strike rate of 142.73 from 17 innings, he scored four half centuries with 99 not out being his highest score. Mohammed Hafeez’s superior all-round abilities, especially his off break against left-handed batsmen also gives him an edge over Shoaib Malik. 

While a lot of slack is being given in the way of Pakistan, it is a team full surprises and shocks, ups and downs, heroes to zeros. Pakistan will entertain us from on and off the field and they will be looking to chase their 2nd T20 World Cup since 2009. The upcoming series will be crucial in identifying the team’s best line-up.

So here is the final 15-man squad carrying Pakistan’s hopes:

Babar Azam (Captain), Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Hafeez, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Azam Khan (wicket-keeper), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Wasim Junior.

Travelling Reserves: Fakhar Zaman, Usman Qadir, Shanawaz Dahani 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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