BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for March 2012

For better or worse? How Havelange's global vision changed football

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Tim Vickery | 09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Laid low by an infection, former Fifa president Joao Havelange is gravely ill in a Rio hospital, where no doubt he is profoundly irritated at being forced to interrupt his daily routine of swimming 1,000 metres.

At the age of 95, Havelange remains a force of nature. Over 30 years ago he used his strength to change world football.

When Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards made his recent remarks about Fifa "stealing football from the English", there can be little doubt that he had 1974 in mind. That was the year that Havelange unseated England's Sir Stanley Rous to become Fifa president.

It was a time of change. After the Second World War, Europe represented more than half of Fifa's membership. By 1974, the old continent was down to less than a third. The post-colonial age was producing new nations, increasingly unhappy at being shut out of the game.

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Brazil's championship needs a licence to thrill

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BBC Sport blog editor | 10:11 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

Before Ian Fleming made his name writing the James Bond books, he was eclipsed by older brother Peter, a derring-do adventurer of the type Michael Palin might have been born to satirise.

Peter Fleming was part of an eccentric expedition into the Brazilian jungle in the early 1930s, which he wrote about in a book best remembered for its stand out line.

"Sao Paulo," he mused, "is like Reading, only much further away" - an observation which does, of course, depend on one's starting point, but which contains an excellent piece of insight.

Fleming was kicking against the perception some had in England at the time of Sao Paulo being some Wild West outpost, "the sort of town where tanned and wary men, riding in from great distances, scatter the poultry in the rutted streets and leave their ponies outside the saloon".

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Neymar a match for Messi on Day of the Goal

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Tim Vickery | 14:46 UK time, Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Brazilian journalist this week came up with the thoroughly sensible idea that 7 March henceforth be commemorated as world football's Day of the Goal.

It was not only the date on which Lionel Messi chalked up his five for Barcelona in the Champions League; in the South American equivalent, the Copa Libertadores, Neymar of Santos also added a magnificent hat-trick of his own.

The first was nothing to write home about - a penalty which was perhaps harshly awarded. But there can be no quibbles about the other two. Both times Neymar picked up possession in his own half, cut through the defence and ran some 70 metres before scoring.

The goals showcased his extraordinary control over the ball while running at pace, his capacity to understand space and improvise with its possibilities inside a fraction of a second, and also his eerily cool finishing.

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Can Lionel Messi become an Argentina hero?

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Tim Vickery | 10:32 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2012

Argentina will be hoping Lionel Messi is finally starting to transform his stunning club form with Barcelona to the international arena following his magnificent hat-trick in the 3-1 win against Switzerland.

The hints were there late last year, in the second half of the World Cup qualifier away to Colombia, and now the Switzerland game has surely consolidated the Messi-Sergio Aguero link-up at the heart of the Argentine attack.

The pair have had a natural rapport for years, built up when they roomed together during the 2005 World Youth Cup, and now that understanding is clearly visible on the pitch through their pacy, dazzling exchanges.

Away to an adventurous Swiss side, there was space for the pair of them to explode on the counter-attack. Against more cautious opponents there could well be the need for the greater penalty area presence of Gonzalo Higuain.

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