Feb 132013

Ahead of tonight’s Champions League round of 16 game between Real Madrid and Manchester United, Phil Kitromilides, presenter and commentator at Real Madrid TV, squares up to  Scott from The Republik of Mancunia.

What’s your form like ahead of the big game?
Phil: Madrid’s form is relative. Overall it has not been great, but we are still unbeaten at home in any competition, for over a year, the longest unbeaten home run in any major European league. So while this hasn’t been the best season overall in terms of form, the Bernabeu has remained an absolute fortress.

Scott: Whilst the Everton game wasn’t one of our best performances, it was one of the few occasions this season when the team seemed to play with real purpose and control. The City result at Southampton appeared to spur them on and I’m hoping we’ll see the same determination against Real Madrid.

We’ve won 7 of our last 8 in the league, drawing the other, and you have to go back to the first week of December for the last time we lost a game, and that was in a meaningless Champions League group stage game after we’d already qualified top of the group.

And how do you rate the opposition at the moment?

P: The thing that gives Madrid real hope is United’s tendency to concede goals. If West Ham, Stoke, Southampton, Villa, Reading, and Newcastle can all score two goals or more against United then Real Madrid should have no problem in putting a few past David de Gea, a keeper who conceded three times on his last trip to Bernabeu.

S: They seem pretty hit and miss at the moment. They lose to a team close to the relegation zone in the midst of scoring 13 goals in 3 games in the league.

Consistency and knowing what to expect were always trademarks of Mourinho teams but Real Madrid seem all over the place. Still, they just held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw so it’d be ridiculous to underestimate them.

What do you think of the opposition manager?
P: I think he needs a new watch.

S: I don’t like him at all. Gouging Tito Vilanova’s eye, claiming he saw Rikjaard entering a referee’s office (leading to death threats from Chelsea fans) only to later admit he didn’t, having a pop at Ronaldo when he was just a lad at United for being poor and from a working class background, and so on, lead me to believe the guy is a prat.

That said, he is a great manager who has done brilliantly well with every team he’s managed. We shouldn’t forget that in his last full season at Chelsea he was well beaten by United though, and his Inter side were an easy match for us in the Champions League a few years back, but he’s a quality manager and will be keen to do well against us. You imagine he will see this game as part of his job interview for replacing Ferguson this summer or next.

What’s your all-time favourite game between the two teams?

P: April 2000, Manchester 2-3 Real Madrid – Fernando Redondo with the best assist in the history of football for the third. A sublime team.

S: It has to be the 4-3 at Old Trafford in 2003. We went out of the Champions League that night but it was one of the best games I’ve ever seen, with Ronaldo (the Brazilian one, obviously) scoring a hattrick and receiving a standing ovation from our fans.

When Beckham came off the bench to score two in quick succession I was sure we were going to pull it off and knock them out. We were gutted at full-time but it was a thoroughly entertaining game of football.

Have you got any special chants lined up for the game?

P: When I am commentating a match I tend to try and keep chanting to a minimum!

S: “Viva Ronaldo, viva Ronaldo, get him on a plane, bring him back from Spain, viva Ronaldo.”

Read this discussion in full at The Mirror.

Jan 152013

Following Manchester United’s 2-1 win on Sunday, one Liverpool fan didn’t take the result too well, and resorted to getting ‘Munich 58’ tattooed on his backside.

As if this was strange enough behaviour, he then took a photograph of it and posted the picture on Twitter. He has since deleted his Twitter account.

Nov 092012

Spurs statement: “The club does not tolerate any form of racist or abusive chanting. Our guiding principle in respect of the “Y-word” is based on the point of law itself – the distinguishing factor is the intent with which it is used ie if it is used with the deliberate intention to cause offence. This has been the basis of prosecutions of fans of other teams to date. Our fans adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any offence, they use it a chant amongst themselves. The club believes that real anti-semitic abuse such as hissing to simulate the noise of gas chambers is the real evil and the real offence. We believe this is the area that requires a determined and concerted effort from all parties and where we seek greater support to eradicate.”

Nov 032012

Van Persie/André Santos @SpheraChannel by SpheraChannel

Whilst Arsenal fans responded to Robin van Persie like a bunch of bitter ex-girlfriends, it appears as though the players at his former club are more forgiving.

“Robin, you’re a c*nt” and “Robin van Persie, you know what you are” (?) were sung loudly from the stands, as well as replacing his name with Santi Cazorla’s for the song they used to sing for Van Persie.

It appears as though the players and manager don’t hold a grudge though. Ahead of kick-off, Jack Wilshere and co. shook hands with and embraced Van Persie’s before Andre Santos asked for his shirt at half-time. Arsene Wenger was also seen hugging the player as they walked to the tunnel, at that stage, with Van Persie’s goal the only thing separating the two sides.

Oct 272012

Ajax and Feyenoord. Feyenoord and Ajax. The two biggest rivals in Dutch football. Since the first game in 1921, it has always been a grudge match. Ajax won that game with 3-2 but after protests of Feyenoord, the full time score was officially set at 2-2. It’s also a game between the two biggest cities of Holland: Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In Spain it’s El Clasico, in Scotland it’s the Old Firm derby, in Argentina it’s Superclásico, and in Holland it’s De Klassieker, the biggest game of the season. The main football rivalry of the Netherlands, the most important game of the year, that’s Ajax vs Feyenoord. But is it still like it has been before? No, unfortunately not.

Ajax and Feyenoord have had many clashes on the football pitch since 1921, but not just the teams, the supporters too. ‘The Battle of Beverwijk’ in 1997 was infamous. To cut a long story a short one: One Ajax fan, Carlo Picornie, was beaten to death by rival supporters. It wasn’t on match day. It was a meeting of supporters with the only goal to fight. As a result of the incident, the two Klassiekers in 1997/98 were played without away fans. In April 2004, Ajax supporters attacked players of Feyenoord during the Reserves game, kicking and hitting them, and Ajax players and their coach had to jump and protect their opponents. A year later, in April 2005, riots took place around Feyenoord’s ground De Kuip. Travelling Ajax fans had demolished the trains transporting them to Rotterdam, and were forced to wait outside the stadium until the match was over. Meanwhile, Feyenoord supporters who had just seen their team lose, were determined to clash with the rivals from Amsterdam. Because of this, the mayors of both Amsterdam and Rotterdam made an agreement with the KNVB to ban visiting fans from the away games for the next five seasons in an effort to curb the violence. In February 2009, Feyenoord supporters sung offensive chants towards Ajax and their players during a Reserves game, so now, even the Reserves fixtures are played without away fans. Only last season people of both clubs, supporter groups and cities started to talk about letting away fans in at each other’s ground again.

De Klassieker without away fans isn’t a real game any more. They still sing songs to humiliate the other team, they still abuse the other team, they still make funny banners, but something is missing, and supporters of both clubs agree on that one. Banners with ‘De Klassieker is dead’ are shown from both sets of fans. You need two sides to make a great atmosphere. Even though they hate each other with a passion, Ajax supporters need the Feyenoord supporters and the other way around to make it a real football match.

It’s not only the fact that supporters aren’t allowed in each other’s grounds any more though, it’s also the difference in the league table. Feyenoord aren’t the top club they used to be and haven’t won a league title since 1999. Feyenoord had years of struggling and finishing outside the top 3. Last season was the first season that showed signs of recovery and the club got rewarded with a second place finish behind Ajax.

Ajax vs. Feyenoord was supposed to be a top game, a game that could maybe decide who would win the league, a game with high expectations. Ajax have won 80-90% of the games in the last 10 years. The tension is gone. It’s more like a normal game these days. Like Jan Vertonghen said two seasons ago: “It’s still De Klassieker but in my opinion it’s not a top game any more like the games against PSV and Twente are.” That doesn’t mean it’s not an important game, it’s still Ajax vs Feyenoord, and both sets of supporters are desperate to win it. For the fans, for the players and for everybody that’s involved with one of the clubs it’s still a special game, it’s just that it’s not the same as it was.

Ajax vs Feyenoord is like a pie without whipped cream nowadays: it’s nice but not irresistible.


Oct 252012

On the pitch, Ajax might not have shown any sympathy for Manchester City last night, comfortably beating them 3-1 as the group stages reach the half-way mark, but off the pitch they were united in their thoughts about the price of tickets.

Ajax, knowing that English fans would certainly sell out the away end, charged City fans an incredible £65 for their ticket. Fans of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, who join them in the ‘group of death’, were charged almost £15 less for the same seats.

An Ajax spokesman denied that they were taking advantage of English fans and insisted the price difference was simply because this match was ‘the most interesting of the group stage’.

“We admit that it is a lot of money,” he said. “But the champions of the best league in the world are visiting Amsterdam. Of course, Real Madrid is top class as well, but this is the third year in a row that we are in the same group as Real. Therefore they are one level lower in terms of the price scheme.”

During the game last night the home end unfurled a banner showing their support for Manchester City’s plight.

“€80 for the away section is ridiculous!”

Oct 252012

Blind loyalty is for the blind, so I keep getting told by Tottenham supporters that don’t believe in turning up and singing your heart out for the team no matter what. A rationalisation that if the team or players are not performing well or the coach is not fulfilling the clubs potential – then turning up to boo or sit in despondency is acceptable. Some claim they’ve paid their hard earned cash and therefore are well within their rights to be disgruntled until the team provide the required amount of entertainment to lift bums off seats. How dare these footballers in our theatre of football ignore the script and play badly and lose.

I’ve written about this a dozen times. I’m not naive; I fully understand that the landscape of supporting a football club has changed in the past twenty five years. Post-Hillsborough all-seater stadiums and the rampant commercialism and financial explosion of the Premier League has turned our game into a colossus. Unfortunately many of us are getting pushed aside by its unnerving march forwards leaving the past so far behind that perhaps we need to let go and embrace the future. We’ve been marginalised and we are all replaceable.

The past doesn’t have constraints. We were simply football supporters back then whereas now we are consumers. Sure, we weren’t always treated with respect and football was the equivalent to cattle herding most Saturday afternoons. These days we’re spoilt. Safety is at the forefront and arguably a lot of the modern game’s match day experience runs parallel to society’s progression. It’s a more family oriented day out. Food, beer, corporate support is in its element. All at a premium. £30 – £60 for a ticket depending on its category. Plus money for that booze and pre-match burger. If you can’t afford to go, someone else will. Well, that’s the theory. Seems another trait is turning up only when the team is winning/on form because you pay through the nose so you make the effort to see your team win. Hence the sense of entitlement and the ruthless attitude some supporters have.

At Tottenham, since that adventure in the Champions League, our supporters – a substantial chunk of them – appear to expect something for nothing. The atmosphere has degraded over the past few seasons. Is it that desire for success that plays on people’s minds? Does the pressure make it all too much to handle? Not everyone wants to stand and sing. You can’t persistently stand due to government legislation (and we’re a long way off safe standing currently). Tottenham fans can be fickle. Then again, every club can admit to having supporters that are quick to criticise, knee-jerking and then dismissing their behaviour when good fortune shines down. This season, early doors, the boo boys were very vocal. Patience completely void for some who can’t see beyond 90 minutes.

Is this negative attitude truly the way to represent the club you support? Yes you pay for your ticket but that doesn’t come with a caveat that you can only be vocal and positive if the team is winning. You’re a Tottenham supporter so support. It’s not blind loyalty to be vocal, to create atmosphere to sing whether you’re losing, drawing or winning. Football has truly turned to theatre where people only want to applaud a passage of play rather than galvanise the players who in turn will galvanise the support who will then further add to the occasion. You’re allowed to sing about your club because it’s still in essence your club.

Instead there is erratic chanting and sense of insecurity which is completely unnecessary. Football is no longer dominated by the Sky Sports Top Four. Qualifying for the Champions League is not beyond our reach. We are a settled club one that is working on a new stadium, one that is fiscally secure and seeking to achieve success in the long term (with a world class training centre as the foundation).

I might simply be a breed of football fan that just won’t admit to the fact that football is not what it once was. I’m involved in the 1882 movement which fundamentally is just a way for like-minded individuals to be made aware of games where we can all get together to sing for 90 minutes. The club have worked with us on securing blocks for a NextGen game and for the NK Maribor home game in the Europa League. We’re constantly in touch with the Football Supporters Federation and our aim is a throwback to those emotive, romanticised days when you just turned up and supported your club no matter what because no matter what is happening at that given moment, you’ll always be Spurs…yesterday, today and for the rest of your life. You don’t define the level of support based on how well the team is doing. Your support is unequivocal. Well, it should be. Modern football has constraints but there’s nothing to say you can’t break free and avoid conforming to the point where you’re nothing more than silent cover for a plastic seat.

Sure, be frustrated. Be passionate. Speak up when you believe something is not right. But singing songs about your club is not blind loyalty. It’s a display of love for the shirt. That’s the crux of it. Tottenham supporters should know by now that we are always at the forefront of an emotional roller-coaster. So buckle up and scream. Your heart should always be in your mouth.

For info on the 1882 movement please visit The Fighting Cock

Sep 192012

It’s every football fan’s dream to witness their club captain lift the European Cup to a roar of euphoric applause; but to make that dream a reality (as well as a talented squad of players), you’ll need to have a spare £6,358 lying around.

Research from hotel.info has revealed the true cost of Champions League success – and for the dedicated fans that plan on trekking across Europe to show their support for their beloved club, it’s not looking pretty.

With a total of seven away games to attend in order to complete a successful cup run, it’s no wonder wallets are feeling the full force of winning ways. Flights, tickets, accommodation and food and drink alone mean that the costs can quickly accumulate, and that’s not even taking into account any souvenirs you might want to pick up along the way.

Based on Chelsea’s run in Europe last year hotel.info has calculated the average costs accrued for a following fan on the road to victory.

As this season’s Champions League action kicks off this week, hotel.info has compiled the top 10 list of clubs that fans should hope to avoid, if they want to keep their bank manager happy that is. The most expensive European destinations for away fans in this year’s draw are as follows:

Andreas Klug, Country Manager UK for hotel.info said of the research: “After a sensational summer of sport in the UK the appetite for big occasions will continue. Fans will be even more excited about following their teams around Europe in the hope of seeing more success. We’ve compiled this research to educate fans on the potential costs of being caught up in Champions League mania. Whether you’re looking to travel in luxury, or indeed on a shoestring there are a number of options for fans, but be warned, while you can trade a five star hotel for a two star one, costs of the other elements aren’t always so flexible.“