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The End of an Era: La Liga’s decade of dominance

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The End of an Era La Ligas decade of dominance scaled

Andrés Iniesta dribbles and carries the ball near the opposition box. A defender tracks his movement and beckons his teammate to watch the space in front of David Villa on the left flank. Iniesta’s eyes dart to the box and he quickly plays a through-ball that skips across the pitch and sneaks past another defender to the foot of Xavi. “The Puppet Master” – known not for his finishing but his orchestration of football matches – finds himself in unchartered territory. He deftly handles the ball with the back of his heel, flicking it upward as it falls neatly to his left foot before poking it past the keeper. 97,000 socios leap to their feet and Camp Nou shakes to its foundations. Barcelona lead Real Madrid 1-0. The aforementioned defenders are Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho respectively, with Iker Casillas in goal. The occasion: the first El Clásico of 2010.

Barcelona would go on to score four more goals in the most anticipated league match of the year. Football’s “Age of Heroes” manifesting amongst the twenty-two players on the pitch. Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué jostled for position with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo while Marcelo and Sergio Ramos tracked the marauding runs of Lionel Messi and Villa. Xabi Alonso and Mesut Özil played quick one-twos to bypass their way through the clever positioning of Sergio Busquets and Xavi as Angel Di María tricked and flicked against the resilient Dani Alves. The elegance of Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka against the defensive obstinacy and pragmatism of José Mourinho. It was the zenith of Spanish football. 

Cracks in the Surface

Yet the faces and names that made La Liga the apogee of footballing competition have all but departed for pastures elsewhere. Mixed messages from Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez sent Cristiano Ronaldo packing for Turin in 2018. Il Capitano Sergio Ramos departed earlier this summer for Paris after failing to reach a contract agreement with Real. And now, the world’s greatest footballer, Lionel Messi is trading paella for petit fours and joining Ramos, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Di María at Paris Saint Germain. “MSN” (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) is now as extant as its cyber counterpart and the likes of Benzema, Piqué, Marcelo, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, Busquets, and Jordi Alba rapidly enter the twilight of their careers. Dusk approaches the Spanish Empire. The legendary and scintillating La Liga is now a white dwarf surviving on the embers of a time no more. 

It’s a brazen claim. And one that can quickly be disproved if Real Madrid or Barcelona go on to sign Mbappe or Erling Haaland next summer. After all, generations of footballing fans have grown up with the imprinted knowledge of both clubs being the pinnacles of European football: from the prodigious talent factory in La Masia to the box office Galácticos. Mbappe and Haaland, the two golden boys of football, are no strangers to this disposition. Indications remain that despite Messi’s arrival in Paris, Mbappe is still swayed by the bright lights of the Bernabéu. Similarly, Haaland will have his pick of suitors with a cut-price buyout clause of £63.5 million set to trigger next summer. Yet in this Spanish interregnum where football’s stars are plying their trade elsewhere, both clubs appear to be financially hamstrung by their governance. All of the transfer activity that once printed itself onto Spanish tabloids is now happening elsewhere.

The British Are Coming

Money continues to slosh around in England with Manchester City and Chelsea both smashing their transfer records with the purchases of Jack Grealish and Romelu Lukaku respectively. The Premier League is now the most-watched sports league in the world. On the pitch, the recent success of English clubs in the Champions League has propelled England above Spain in the UEFA coefficient rankings. To further exacerbate the financial gulf between the Premier League and the remaining European divisions, 20th place Sheffield United earned more in TV revenue than every club outside of Spain’s trident. Juventus, AC Milan, Lyon, and Bayern Munich now bow before the mighty Aston Villa. The Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified the disparity between the Premier League and the rest of Europe. English clubs recorded a net transfer spend of over £270 million this summer alone. The other “Big 5” leagues: £120 million combined. Famished meets flushed. 

Empty Catalonian Coffers

In 2017, under the direction of Josep Bartomeu, Barcelona spent their £188 million Neymar windfall by splurging over £200 million for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé. The former, most recently scored against Barcelona in the now infamous 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals last year. The latter remains snake-bitten and is poised to miss another two months due to an injury picked up on Euro duty. Both Dembélé and Coutinho’s contracts expire in 2022, and Barcelona can’t line up a single buyer to shoulder even a minimal amount of their obscene wages. The club spent over £100 million on Antoine Griezmann to prise him away from Atlético Madrid only to play him out of position whilst doling over £16 million a year. Meanwhile the following season, Barcelona made Luis Suárez redundant with a phone call. He obliged by scoring 21 goals for league-winning Atléti. However, the cataclysm of Bartomeu’s financial mishandling only manifested itself a few weeks ago. 

Due to the pandemic causing massive financial losses to clubs across Europe, La Liga capped player costs at around £323 million for the upcoming season. Barcelona meanwhile had a wage bill of around £568 million in 2020, paying Lionel Messi nearly £118 million a year. After tumultuous months of negotiating between Messi and Barcelona’s new President Joan Laporta, it appeared that a new contract had been agreed upon. Messi would reduce his wages and stay with the Blaugrana after all. However, only a week later, disaster struck and breaking news alerts pinged smartphones across the world. After 17 years of conjuring magic and dazzling billions, Barcelona’s “Messiah” would indeed be leaving. And yet even with Messi’s gargantuan wages off the books, Barcelona still have to trim more of their bloat to even register their new arrivals. Football’s storied dynasty is knocking at death’s door. 

Capital Squandered in the Capital

While the situation is not as dire in Madrid, the club is still reeling from the near £100 million purchase of Eden Hazard. The Belgian, after dazzling with durability and dribbling at Chelsea, has scored a total of four league goals and missed over 50 matches across two seasons. To further complicate matters, Rodrygo, Luka Jović, and Vinicus were purchased for a combined £127 million and have failed to replicate the success of Ronaldo and Benzema. While Bale’s Champions League heroics are enshrined in club history, he has now found himself to be persona non grata in Madrid after numerous injuries and his preference for golfing over goalscoring. Perez has failed to move Bale’s £600,000-a-week wages, whilst the club’s storied core in midfield and defence continues to age. 

Zidane, despite becoming one of Madrid’s most decorated managers with his Champions League threepeat, grew tired of Perez’s machinations and constant undermining, ultimately deciding to resign earlier this summer. And while his successor Carlo Ancelotti has one of the greatest CVs in managerial history, his recent stints at Napoli and Everton left much to be desired by their respective supporters. Meanwhile Perez’s plan to “save football” with the European Super League appeared to ingloriously sink before it could even swim. 

Spanish Succession

The upcoming La Liga season will be a test for both the durability of Spanish football and the institutional legacy of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Perhaps reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated and a season of financial respite is followed by the summer of Haaland and Mbappe arriving in Iberia to reinvigorate the competition. Perhaps young players like Pedri, Ansu Fati, and Fede Valverde continue to develop into stars and capital windfalls give both clubs reprieve from their financial follies. Perhaps even Atléti capitalise on the power vacuum with a title defence and Joao Felix continues his footballing ascension. Yet it’s undeniable that the recent overtures in Paris, London, and Manchester have shifted the balance of footballing power away from Spain after over a decade of sustained success. Sevilla and Valencia continue to haemorrhage players abroad and the institutionally skewed broadcasting distribution prevents any challengers to Spain’s duopoly. Whilst this dynastic overthrow may ultimately be transitory, it is undeniable that the Age of Heroes and Spain’s decade of dominance has ended. The Spanish Armada must retreat and reassess as its successor takes football’s reins.

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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Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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Raisman and Biles
  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

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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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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Stade De France 505 rotated
  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

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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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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Qatar Airways Boeing 777

While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

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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Society

Double Olympic Champion: Losing to Trans Women is About Biology – ‘I Feel Let Down’ 

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Screenshot 2022 04 22 at 09.45.26
Nicola, Wikimedia Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion has criticised the International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies for their transgender policies saying they have not only let down female cyclists by underplaying biology but also left trans women like Emily Bridges to face intense scrutiny. 

“It is my opinion that the international governing bodies of several sports have let down transgender athletes, in particular transgender women, with their inclusion policies,” Archibald said in a statement.

According to Archibald, it was wrong for governing bodies to ignore the science that shows trans women who have gone through male puberty have a retained advantage in strength, stamina and physique. She made it clear that she and other females were also being let down by the unwillingness of sports to accept the importance of biology. 

Sadly, this is just an extension of the policies we have chosen to enact in our society without any regard to their consequences. Following the law for some such as trans results in rights being taken from others such as female athletes in sports. 

“These policies have put the athletes, their involvement in sport, and their personal lives under intense scrutiny when all the athletes have done is follow the rules and enter a category they were encouraged to enter.”

“I feel let down by the International Olympic Committee who tell me there should be no assumed advantage for an athlete with a gender identity different to their sex,” she said.

“I read this and hear that my world titles, my Olympic medals, and the champions jerseys I have at home, were all won in a category of people who simply don’t try as hard as the men. That losing to male androgenisation is not about biology, but mindset. They are wrong.

It’s ironic that women had to live under the tyranny of men for so long but now in a so-called liberal society, we are allowing men to become women and oppress women as women. Katie has shown incredible courage to point out something so obvious that our society continues to ignore with no real questions or fair solutions on offer!

She continued: “The retained advantage of people who have gone through male puberty in strength, stamina, and physique, with or without testosterone suppression, has been well documented.

“Cycling’s global governing body, by its president’s own admission, knows this. But they chose to delay action until it became sadly personal for one rider. That wasn’t fair.”

She also expressed deep sympathy for Bridges, who broke the junior men’s 25-mile record before transitioning in 2020, saying she was only following the rules of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, before it decided to block her racing as a woman last month.

In her statement Archibald also called on governing bodies of sports such as cycling, triathlon and rowing to come together to develop policies based on science, while also making their sport more welcoming for trans athletes. “But I’d like us to do all this without sacrificing one of the foundational pillars of sport: fairness.”

This is a key point, but it is not just limited to sport, in all aspects of society fairness should be a key consideration before making policies that allow individuals to act in a way that is legal but harmful to other individuals. We choose to ignore this principle at our own peril and decisions made in the past are slowly starting to unravel before us. 

When little 8-year-old boys start to transition and when a male swimmer who ranked 554th in men’s competition, becomes one of the top ranked swimmers in women’s competition, it tells us that this question of fairness should have been asked a long time ago! Not just from IOC but from governments and societies at large!

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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Sport

Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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Utah governor vetoes bill that targets transgender athletes
Utah Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a republican-backed bill was vetoed by the state governor of Utah that barred transgenders from competing with girls in sports in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement that while “politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill,” he chose to veto it because he “tried to do what I feel is the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

Mr Cox was the second governor in vetoing the bill as on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying it would likely have been challenged in court and would not have solved any pressing issue.

The two governors’ actions of vetoing the bill are at odds with steps taken in a number of other Republican-led states where transgender rights have become an imminent issue in a broader U.S. culture war over sexuality and gender identity. Whereas governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have signed into law bills that ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.

In a series of tweets Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill. He said “No other state has done this, and we hoped that Utah could be the first. Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session.” Regarding transgenders he also tweeted “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Also in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker, the governor said he was moved by the data that shows that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

However Republican legislators plan to override the veto on Friday, as State Senator J. Stuart Adams, a Republican, mentioned in a statement.

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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Russia-Ukraine

Sanctions Against Russia Leave Chelsea Football Club Up for Grabs

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  • Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia.
  • Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich.
  • The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia. Leaving room for potential buyers to submit bids in hopes of taking the Club at a fraction of the cost now that it was transferred to the government. The British government has set Friday as the deadline for any bids.

Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich. Strict sanctions connected to Russia’s occupation in Ukraine have hit multiple Russian oligarchs. This has caused an opening in the world market where many top Russian business owners held assets. 

Bayrak also intended on offering Abramovich $400 million of his company’s cryptocurrency and the transfer of certain real estate projects to the Russian billionaire. The Turkish investor is set to meet with Abramovich later this week in Turkey to receive his blessing for any deal. The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

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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