Archive for the 'Travesties of justice' Category

22
Jun
10

World cup diary – the trouble with FIFA

Amazingly I'm the only one who didn't get nicked that day

With the World Cup finally beginning to live up to the hype it seems football’s world governing body can pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
Not only are goals finally flying in, but with all the scaremongering about potential robbery rape and murder the fact that there have been relatively few violent incidents also means the safety aspect has been well handled.

Well while the World Cup may be a success- unless you’re English, or an Italian manager- FIFA’s handling of certain aspects has been nothing short of shocking.
There was the whole orange dress girls debacle, where FIFA inadvertently gave the chaps at Bavaria Beer far more publicity than the scantily clad ladies did alone. I was at the Holland Denmark game and had my picture taken with a pair of the ladies in question and had no idea what they were meant to be advertising. It wasn’t until they were arrested and the story hit the headlines worldwide that I along with most other people realised they were part of an advertising campaign for Bavaria Beer.
Not only did FIFA give the company more publicity they could ever have dreamed of, they also made themselves look harsh and foolish for over-reacting.

Then there’s the FIFA fan parks which are scattered around the country. Here you can watch all the World Cup games on huge screens free of charge with entertainment in between games. Simple eh?
Well not when they’re run by FIFA. Before the World Cup thousands of South Africans applied for licences to trade at these parks. The cost wasn’t cheap – around 20,000 rand –around 2000 english pounds as a deposit plus a lot more in expenses.
FIFA promised these traders they’d be given prime locations in the parks and that entertainment would be put on near their stalls to keep punters happy.
In the fan park at Innesfree park I visited the stalls were set so far behind the screen, I almost didn’t realise they were there.
The Coca-Cola stalls as well as other sponsors MTN were in prime locations where you literally couldn’t miss them.
The place was like a ghost town and I spoke to a couple of the traders about their predicament.
Jamiliah Khan was running a food stall with her family, she was quite vocal in her anger at the situation:

“My kids education fund, I’ve dug into that, it’s going to take me years to recoup my losses.
They promised that there was going to be a stunning line-up of entertainment that was going to pull crowds.
We thought it was going to be win-win situation for everybody but it’s only a win-win situation for coca-cola and FIFA the small vendors get screwed.”

Joseph Molwatnwa was another trader who was furious with FIFA’s broken promises:

“It’s bad, bad, bad, horrible, they’re changing the rules every day- there’s no entertainment it’s terrible. We’ve lost a lot of money.
“The first day this was open people came because Bafana bafana were playing, but it wasn’t arranged properly, there was only one till open.
“We’ve decided to close down and pack up, FIFA said there would be twenty thousand people a day but there’s been around only twenty people. It’s a disaster.”

Jameliah Khan and family- picture by Jon Devo

While the official fan parks have been something of a total let down that’s not the only area that FIFA have behaved badly.
Recently stewards at five stadiums across the country went on strike due to a pay dispute. This meant that the South African police force has had to step in. While that may seem hardly the fault of Sepp Blatter and his mob, once you scratch beneath the surface you can see it’s again down to the misdeeds of the ‘evil empire.’
Workers were told that they would be given 500 rand per day but then were only paid them 190 causing uproar.
FIFA awarded the security contract to Stallion Security despite several warning signs that this would lead to disaster.

The security company lost their international partner, Securitas from Sweden, earlier this year when they pulled out of the tournament, apparently following financial disputes.
The South African Police Service also had to step in to protect another FIFA tournament in June last year, after the local organising committee and Stallion fell out over money shortly before the Confederations Cup.
According to the FIFA safety guidelines, the local organising committee and FIFA itself, is responsible for safety at stadiums on the day of matches.

While everyone I’ve met here is justifiably proud to not only be hosting the World Cup but also to have done it with a warmth and friendliness I’ve not seen since my raving days ended, there are some major concerns.
Last week thousands took to the streets of Johannesburg in protest at the amount of money the government is spending on the World Cup when so many people are living in poverty.

FIFA has made record profits from the South African World Cup and many here feel the South African bid committee allowed football’s governing body to make far too many stipulations just to have a successful bid.
Here the South African government could be accused of adhering to too many demands, but FIFA should be held culpable for exploiting the situation to their utmost benefit.
South Africa missed out on the World Cup in 2006 by a single vote, after Charles Dempsey- who’s almost as famous as Francois Peinaar in parts of South Africa- abstained from voting despite being told by his confederation to vote for South Africa.

Many of the stadiums here will likely be unused or even demolished after the tournament as some are in areas where there will be absolutely no need for them.
It seems in the nation’s eagerness to become the first African host of a world cup- it was announced that this tournament would be in an African country before the bids were in- the government may have given too much leeway and paid a price that people here will have to live with for many years to come.
The question is did FIFA exploit South Africa, or is this nation’s government to blame? Personally I have only two words in my answer – Sepp Blatter.

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10
Apr
10

Why Fergie doesn’t need to panic.

Is this United squad capable of winning more than just the Carling Cup?


Michael Carrick, Rafael Da Silva, Wayne Rooney’s eagerness to stay on, Bayern Munich’s gamesmanship, the referee affecting Darron Gibson’s run up for a shot-the list of excuses/reasons/lies for Manchester United’s Champions League exit is almost endless. Following last night’s game you could have claimed Gordon Brown’s election announcement was behind United’s exit and someone would have agreed with you. The 90 minutes played Wednesday night, well the last 47 of them, have become for many, yet another reason to start believing that it’s the end of an era at Old Trafford, that United are 3,4, or even 5 players away from being kings of Europe, or the premier League for that matter. With the Glazer’s debt, the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention a certain Argentinean, the noisy neighbours getting noisier, the weather being miserable and Blanche from Corrie passing away, it’s been an annus horribilus for the red half of Manchester.

Well excuse me for pouring dandelion and burdock on that particular chip barm but things at Old Trafford aren’t as bad as they may seem. Yes, I’m an optimist- I even believe England will win the World Cup-and no I‘m not smoking crack- but if we take a minute and assess the situation are United really that badly off. I’m not talking about in terms of everyone else, of course United could be a lot worse off, no I mean in terms of the playing squad, does Fergie really need to have a summer clear-out/ spending spree? The United manager recently said he wasn’t going to and I think he may be right.

First of all there’s the money, I realise many of you may now be saying- with some justification “does he even have any money to spend?” Well the answer to that one is -I’ve absolutely no idea, sorry not exactly an exclusive, insightful revelation I admit but let’s face it does anyone outside the club management and owners really know if United do have a transfer kitty of any sort? I will simply say this, Fergie is a manager who is more than just a paid employee, he’s as big a part of United as any player who’s ever played under him and then some. He doesn’t just want to see United succeed he lives for it, hence the reason he’s still going strong when by rights he should be stood in the middle of a school road holding a giant lollipop giving oncoming traffic the hairdryer treatment. If there was genuinely no money at all and the club was totally bereft of any ability to operate in the transfer market, I suspect that the man who took on the previous owners over the matter of horse semen, would be more than willing to air his grievances.

Anyway, regardless of whether there is money in the Old Trafford coffers or not the point I’m making is this, the current squad is not as far behind the top teams in Europe as some may feel, that despite the ageing of Giggs, Scholes, Neville and Van Der Sar, United still have a strong squad with some very good youngsters waiting in the wings.

First of all, there’s the goalkeeping department, which is the one area I would like to see Fergie spend money on if at all possible. But even if he can’t VDS still probably has a season left in him, after all he’s been playing pretty well of late, so it can hardly be a matter of urgency to replace him.

Then there’s the defence, United have Chris Smalling on the way, who depending on what you believe may have been brought in to replace Nemanja Vidic. Even if Vidic does decide that the sangria is sweeter on the other side, then United still have, Smalling, Wes Brown, Jonny Evans, and England Captain Rio Ferdinand who are all capable of playing at centre back. In the full back positions there’s Patrice Evra of course, John O’Shea, plus the Da Silva twins. Many will criticise Rafael for his sending-off against Bayern, and while it was foolish, and undoubtedly turned the game, there were some positives from the Brazilian’s performance. He marshalled Frank Ribery to near anonymity in the first half and will surely learn from his mistakes. The sending off may just be the tonic to make him tone down his rashness slightly, after all you could see how gutted he was as he left the field. As for Fabio, again he’s a youngster who’s showed promise and if injury’s go United’s way, probably can be edged into the team gently over the next two years rather than thrown in somewhat at the deep end like his brother. That just leaves Gary Neville of course who may well stay around Old Trafford for the rest of his life to complete his mascot duties and maintain his quest to be the most hated United player ever.

It’s in midfield where many feel Fergie simply must buy someone, and that someone must be someone big, or a big someone if you like, which is practically the same as someone big I just wanted an excuse to use the word someone one more time in this sentence. There I’m done. There’s no doubt that the midfield does look a little lacking, particularly in the goalscoring department at times, and that the ageing Paul Scholes has yet to be truly replaced. Add to this the fact that Ryan Giggs is actually one of the last remaining Busby Babes and you can see there are areas where perhaps a blank cheque book would come in useful.

Well call me a mentalist but I actually don’t feel United have too much to worry about in the midfield department at Old Trafford- unlike the hair and beauty department which is shocking. Yes Scholes and Giggs are old, but that still leaves, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Anderson, Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ji-Sung Park- not to mention Owen Hargreaves-hopefully, one day. Add to that list Gabriel Obertan and Darron Gibson and you have a pair who could be called upon for lesser games and give the others a bit of a break. It may not have a Ronaldo or a Roy Keane but that midfield still has lot of quality and in Valencia and Nani in particular two players capable of tormenting defenders who’ve shown signs of late that they may just be United players after all. Fletcher’s been outstanding for much of the season, and while the jury is still out on Anderson and Carrick can be a little quiet in the bigger games, if Hargreaves does return, the midfield may well be one of the strongest in Europe.

That just leaves the strikers, well Wayne Rooney’s obviously rubbish but other than that waste of space United have Dimitar Berbatov who still manages to put in quite a lot of good performances when he’s called upon, plus the youngsters Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck. While I’m not sure Welbeck has what it takes, I’ve seen enough of Macheda to believe that, injuries permitting-like any other footballer I suppose- he could make the grade at Old Trafford and become a real legend.

Many cite some of this season’s poor results as an example of how United are in decline, well let’s not forget, there’s been a ridiculous amount of injuries in defence at times, not to mention getting used to life without a 30-40 goal a season player, and United are still only out of Europe on away goals while down to ten men, and two points behind Chelsea in the league. Hardly a total disaster.

So there you have it, everything’s rosy at United, there’s no need to worry, and go about spending millions of pounds the club doesn’t have. Even if Chelsea do win the league, United will still be in the Champion’s League next season, with a good squad and some young players who’ve gained some valuable experience this time round. As many fans at Old Trafford know “It could be worse, you could be……..”

18
Mar
10

One rule for Gerrard another for United

Gerrard showing how many trophies he's won in the past 6 years.

The argument by managers about referees favouring certain players, can often get very annoying. The rhetorical question ‘would my player have still been on the pitch had he committed that type of foul’ often causes me to roll my eyes and wonder why some managers don’t spend more time worrying about their own team’s shortcomings rather than delving into conspiracy theories.

However every now and again there seems to be a good case for such an argument, in fact not so much a good case as an airtight one based on overwhelming evidence that is practically incontrovertible. Steven Gerrard will surely think himself a very lucky lad after hearing that he has escaped punishment for his elbow on Michael Brown. Apparently FA rules prohibit action being taken if an official saw the incident at the time, which was the case with referee Stuart Attwell, so the Liverpool Captain will escape punishment.

Why Attwell failed to take action when he obviously saw the incident-after all he gave a free kick- is anyone’s guess.

You could argue that it was because of the players involved that Attwell gave Gerrard the benefit of the doubt. After all he is Liverpool’s skipper and England’s Vice-Captain compared to Michael Brown who is arguably one of the dirtiest, reckless, individuals currently playing in the top flight. His tackle a few years ago on Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford while playing for Fulham made me notice just what sort of a thug he is. Since then nothing I’ve seen of him as made me change my opinion. That however is not the point, it doesn’t matter if it was Theo Walcott fouling Kevin Davies, a foul is still a foul regardless of the individuals involved. Only a few weeks ago England Captain Rio Ferdinand was banned for an eventual four games for an elbow on Craig Fagan. The reason Rio could be punished was because the referee didn’t see the offence at the time which means it could be dealt with later. While Rio’s ban was probably justified the fact that Gerrard escaped punishment due to the referee failing to act may explain it but it doesn’t excuse it. Attwell should be taken to task for not sending off Gerrard for what seemed like a blatant red card offence. It seems United players, along with almost all other ones, cannot commit fouls full stop let alone in front of the ref, but if your name’s Steven Gerrard it’s a different story.

There’s also the V-sign episode less than two weeks ago, where Gerrard appeared to aim an abusive gesture at ref Andre Marriner in Liverpool’s defeat at Wigan. The FA took no action there which is fair enough. Well it would be fair enough if Gary Neville hadn’t been warned by the FA that his similar gesture to Carlos Tevez would be held on file and could be used against him if he were to face another formal disciplinary. Again you could argue that it was the fact it was Neville , who seems to make it his life ambition to annoy everyone outside Old Trafford, committing the offence, therefore he deserved to be treated differently. However an abusive gesture, like a foul, should be treated as an equally regardless of who’s committing it. A couple of season’s ago in a game against Everton I remember Anderson getting booked for making a card sign to the referee. Now it seems we’ve moved on to the point where you can stick your fingers up to the ref, well you can if your name’s Steven Gerrard.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sir Alex Ferguson mentions Gerrard’s impunity in the pre-match histrionics which are almost certain to start in the next few days between him and Rafa Benitez; in the build-up to Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford. Fergie loves a good wind-up- along with drinking red wine, ignoring the BBC and drying hair- and he and Rafa have often engaged in petty point scoring before the big games. A ‘factual’ debate between the two would be an interesting footnote to a game which could have massive repercussions for both sides. Regardless of what City fans may claim, or how many times Chelsea and Arsenal challenge for the title, it’s the visit of Liverpool which many United fans consider the biggest game of the season- at least domestically. Last season’s fiasco has merely made a United victory seem all that more necessary and Fergie may use every weapon in his wind-up arsenal, I mean his arsenal of weapons not that he’s trying to wind-up the gunners, to try and get under Rafa’s skin. The treatment of United’s players compared with the Liverpool Captain could potentially be a good place to start.

Regardless of whether Fergie decides to pick another fight with his Spanish counterpart, the ‘fact’ remains Gerrard seems to have got away with it a bit lately, something that can only grate many at Old Trafford. Let’s just hope that come Sunday afternoon it’s the football and not the referee that’s the talking point.

03
Mar
10

To boo or not to boo?

Bridge- one of the more random victims of booing

One of the more bizarre elements of the Stamford bridge soap opera on Saturday was the Chelsea fan’s decision to boo Wayne Bridge.

Obviously upset over the way he allowed his ex-girlfriend to sleep with their skipper and ruin his sterling reputation, the home fans made sure Bridge knew about their disgust every time he touched the ball.

Quite what the Chelsea faithful hoped to achieve is anyone’s guess. Maybe they felt their actions would leave Bridge curled up in a fetal position on the centre circle sobbing uncontrollably.

The fact is Bridge shrugged off the boos and produced arguably his best performance since the entire episode started.

Bridge’s reaction is hardly unique, time and time again a player who receives booing from the opposition merely goes about his job as usual, sometimes even seeming more motivated.

1998 was a case in point, David Beckham, following the World Cup was the most hated man in England and was treated to some of the most fervent abuse in the history of the Premier League. Did Beckham crumble every time he played away? Well not exactly, instead he had a superb season which culminated in winning the treble. You’d think this would make fans realise that booing is not the answer but no. Cristiano Ronaldo got the same treatment eight years later and promptly went about helping United to their first title in four seasons.

I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t booed before. I remember as a 14 year-old watching Barcelona versus Man United back in the mid 90’s. A certain Ronald Koeman was on the receiving end of a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball. His crime? He’d pulled down David Platt- while through on goal- in an England world cup qualifier and then had the cheek to not only not get sent off but to also go on and score a free-kick. The swine. As you would expect he seemed pretty indifferent to the treatment he received as United managed to salvage a draw thanks to a Lee Sharpe back heel.

Wayne Rooney recently made a plea to England fans to give Terry a break and not boo him. Quite a remarkable request when you think about it. Please England fans don’t boo your former captain. Although to be fair to Rooney he’s probably right to worry, just ask Owen Hargreaves, Ashley Cole or Frank Lampard.

Booing the opposition is arguably pointless but what’s to be gained from doing the same to our own players is beyond me.

More often than not a player who’s targeted happens to be one of the more gifted people on the pitch. Ronaldo was picked on because of his behaviour in the World Cup but the fact he was often on the score sheet only increased everyone’s ire.

Sometime’s booing seems understandable, I don’t think even Neville Neville –that is his dad’s name and I haven’t just made it up- would be aggrieved if his Gary doesn’t get the warmest of welcome’s at Anfield. Some players actually seem to thrive off it, rent-a-panto-villain Robbie Savage was someone who generally seemed to revel in the hatred he induced in opposition fans.

Occasionally such behaviour seems ridiculous, and can often be embarrassing to the fans rather than the player. Eboue’s treatment last season, gave many people watching on television the impression that Arsenal fans were a tad fickle to say the least, yet I’m sure the vast majority at the Emirates felt it deplorable.

Attending a charity for match for kids a couple of years ago, I was pleased to see a certain Diego Armando Maradona make an appearance. Although he was playing against the likes of Robbie Williams and Jamie Theakston and was obviously well past his best, it was still a treat to see one of the worlds greatest ever players on a football pitch. My joy was not shared by everyone however as Maradona was booed every time he touched the ball. At a charity match. For Kids. Playing against Jamie Theakston.

There’s no denying that booing will always be a part of our game, as long as there’s diving, fouls, transfers and even goals, you’re going to get players who’ll get stick for whatever reason. The point is that if we look back on many of the players who’ve been given stick over the years, it seems the vast majority treat it like water off a duck’s back, with some even seeming to gain inspiration. It may help some of us vent our anger but in terms of the effect on players it hardly seems worth the effort.

18
Feb
10

Is premier league refereeing at its worst ever?

Howard Webb- arguably the most famous man in the picture

There was a time long, long ago in a league not too far away, when the most spoke about person on the pitch was undoubtedly the team’s top player. Men such as Cantona, Shearer and Henry were the stars of the show with others grappling to compete for recognition. Now though there seems to have been a slight shift in focus, while there’s no denying the likes of Rooney, Drogba and Gerrard are the most talked about by fans and press alike, there’s a list of men rapidly gaining ground in the attention stakes. Names such as Clattenburg, Foy, Dean and Riley’s appearance on a team sheet can evoke a bigger groan from fans than the omission of a star striker. It seems referees have now become household names in their own right-and for all the wrong reasons. Almost every football supporter has a mental list of which referees they hate seeing officiate. The times of the man in black –or green- being an anonymous figure are well and truly long gone as more and more referees are influencing games. Every weekend there seems to be more and more games where the referee is the main focus of discussion at the final whistle. Even when teams are being steamrollered there’s always at least one dubious decision to give the losers pause for thought.

There’s no doubt always been bad refereeing- anyone who remembers the likes of Elleray and Poll will acknowledge that. The problem seems to be that bad decisions are becoming increasingly commonplace and ruining many football matches, particularly closely fought ones.

Last week’s Wednesday night matches saw the sort of inept performances we’ve come to expect now in the top flight. At Villa Park referee Peter Walton seemed to lose all grasp of what constituted a foul and a tackle as the game wore on. Yes Nani deserved to go, but that was one of the few decisions the official got right as tackles were punished as fouls and one or two blatant fouls simply ignored.

Then over to the Emirates where a last-minute free-kick was saved blatantly by Fabregas’s arm only for Howard Webb to ignore Liverpool’s appeals. Meanwhile over at Ewood Park Lee Probert was endearing himself to Hull fans by sending off George Boateng for what appeared to be a fairly innocuous attempt to win a header.

Some referees seem to enjoy being the centre of attention, whipping out cards quicker than a croupier as bookings and sendings off are becoming more and more frequent. This season has already seen more yellow and red cards than in the whole of the inaugural premier league campaign. Although the amount of cards issued, doesn’t necessarily mean poor decision making, the amount of controversies seems to have increased.

Since Russian linesmen through to the Hand of God we’ve had disputable or downright dreadful judgments by referees. More often than not the announcement of the ref before a game can result in a collective groan from certain fans that’ve come to know his reputation. The next sight of Chris Foy leading the teams out at Turf Moor will no doubt be met with disgust by the Burnley faithful. Martin Atkinson should probably avoid going out drinking anywhere near Stanley Park in the near future following his completely incompetent performance in the Merseyside derby. Kevin Friend won’t be going round to Avram Grant’s house for a cup of tea any time soon- or Neil Warnock’s for that matter. Howard Webb is arguably the most famous referee at the moment, yet is it for his excellence? Ask any Spurs fan at Old Trafford last season and I’m pretty sure of the answer you’ll get.

Just as each set of fans has an opposing player they vehemently despise- with Ronaldo gone there’s no unanimous choice, although Gary Neville tries his best- there is now almost always a referee to unite us in our anger.

There are several solutions to the refereeing problem in the top flight, relegation to lower divisions for poor performances, suspensions- these are used but not nearly enough- or the introduction of video replays to give the officials some much needed help.

Is the problem more than that though? In this age of celebrity big brother-get me out of here-makeover- are referees becoming fond of the attention they’re receiving. Are the men in green becoming too well-known and getting too used to it? If pressed most fans could name at least half the premier league refs by sight and this may be the trouble. Its a self –amplifying problem the worse the referees are, the more famous they become- the worrying part is, some of them seem to revel in it.

There is an argument that things always seem better when you look back over the years, perhaps the standard of refereeing is no worse than it was a few years ago. After all Uriah Rennie is still a name which can conjure a feeling of physical discomfort to many supporters. I just can’t remember a time when so many referees were so well known for doing their jobs so badly. The problem isn’t exclusive to the premier league of course; you only have to ask an Irish fan to know that.

08
Feb
10

Lucky man?

Mourinho- amusing the fans with his Bohemian Rhapsody rendition.

Ever since he guided his un-fancied Porto team to Champions League glory Jose Mourinho has been a man who while not universally loved is at least respected as one of the game’s top managers. A UEFA Cup victory followed by a Champions League triumph cemented his credentials as one of Europe’s brightest managerial prospects. He’d achieved the unthinkable at Porto and it was only a matter of time before Europe’s top clubs came calling. When Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea managed to secure his talents it seemed only a matter of time before he replicated his success at Porto with the West London club. Two successive titles, plus a Carling cup and an FA cup can hardly be called anything but a success, especially as Chelsea’s last league title success had been in the mid-fifties. Unfortunately of course, it all went sour and for whatever reason Mourinho ended up taking his special self off to look for pastures new. Thankfully Internazionale supremo Massimo Moratti was fed-up of Roberto Mancini’s winning ways and appointed Mourinho to improve on such a sorry state of affairs. Mourinho delivered the Serie A title-Inter’s fourth in a row- meaning the Milan outfit could join the two teams from Turin as the only three Italian teams to achieve such a feat.

All this reads like a managerial record found in Roy of the Rovers, domestic titles plus UEFA and Champions League glory, are surely the efforts of a truly gifted coach.

Other coaches across the globe must look at Mourinho’s record with envy, only on Championship Manager have such achievements seemed possible.

However, before we all burst with adulation, there is an argument to be made that maybe the ‘Special One’, is not so special after all, some may argue the terms, ‘Fortunate’ or ‘Downright Lucky One’ would be more appropriate. This may sound like blasphemy to certain people so allow me to explain.

At Porto there can be no denying that Mourinho achieved unparalleled success particularly in Europe. It’s here where the first signs of his good fortune can be found. Many Celtic fans will remember that fateful NIGHT in Seville where Mourinho’s side prevented the Glaswegians of their first chance of European glory since 1967. The game will not be remembered for just the goals, sendings off, and the drama of a last minute Porto winner but also the manner in which the Portuguese players spent much of the match, rolling around on the deck, performing the sort of dramatics the Royal Shakespeare Company would be proud of. While at the end of the day a victory is a victory few neutrals-and even fewer Celtic fans -can have been impressed with Porto’s playacting which no doubt unsettled the Scottish team. Being a bit unfair does not make you lucky though and surely winning the Champions League the following season could extinguish such a notion.

Porto’s Champions League triumph, seems like a real David versus Goliath act of heroism, one of Europe’s smaller clubs taking on and beating the giants of the European game. However, Porto’s path to the final saw the club encounter only two true heavyweights Real Madrid and Manchester United. Against Madrid, Porto lost 3-1 at home and drew at away to get through the group stage as runners-up. It’s the tie against United where Mourinho’s luck finally came to the forefront. Porto won in the Dragon Stadium 2-1, leaving United needing a two clear goals win at Old Trafford to go through. The return leg will be forever etched in United fans minds as one where injustice seemed to prevail, Scholes, after giving United the lead then scored a perfectly good second which would have seen United through. However it was wrongly judged offside and a Tim Howard mistake in the last minute saw Porto grab an equalizer. Porto then got past the likes of Lyon and Deportivo before defeating Monaco in the final.

Following that success Mourinho was off to Chelsea to win every domestic honour going. It’s here where both his luck and his shortcomings were exposed. He inherited a team that contained, Makelele, Lampard, Cole, Duff, Robben, Gallas and Bridge with Cech already on his way. There is a good chance Claudio Ranieri could have won the title himself had he been given an extra year at Stamford Bridge, after all the previous season they’d been runners-up to the Arsenal ‘Invicibles’- hardly a shameful campaign.

Mourinho of course wasn’t bought in just to win the league, for all the money he’d forked out Champion’s league success was the only one which could truly satisfy Abramovich. Rafa Benitez had other ideas though as his Liverpool side prevailed in the semi-final. Mourinho would of course scream at the injustice of the so-called ‘goal that never was’- despite the fact that had Luis Garcia’s goal not counted, Cech would have been sent off and Liverpool would have been awarded a penalty. ‘The Still Special One’ also failed to explain why his team deserved to go through despite not being able to score in over 180 minutes of football including almost a full 90 following Garcia’s winner. While the following season saw Chelsea retain their title, Barcelona put paid to any Champions League aspirations in the first knockout stage.

Mourinho’s final full season at Stamford Bridge was also his least successful; Benitez again triumphed over ‘The Not Quite as Special Anymore One’ in the Champions League, while United gained back the title. Chelsea’s only success was in the FA cup where once again lady luck was smiling down on Mourinho. Ryan Giggs’s shot clearly crossed the line in normal time, but neither the referee nor linesman managed to see it, before Drogba grabbed an extra-time winner.

The following season saw ‘The Barely Special One’ leave following a 1-1 draw at home to Rosenborgs. Although that result is hardly the cause of his departure, Mourinho for whatever reason left without attempting to regain the League title he had lost or try and finally win Chelsea a Champion’s League. In fact Avram Grant’s efforts which took Chelsea to within a penalty miss of Champions League glory were even attributed to Mourinho in some sections of the press.

And so on to Internazionale where Mourinho , now in his second full season at the San Siro has simply carried on from where Mancini left off. Retaining the Serie A title and failing in Europe. This season will see him get a chance to rectify that with Inter through to the second round where they’ll face none other than Chelsea. The signing of Samuel Eto’o in exchange for Zlatan Ibramihovic- with Inter also getting around 45 million euros- is probably one of the best pieces of business done by a top European manager in the last decade or so, but how much of that was down to Mourinho is anyone’s guess.

It seems ‘The Manager Formerly Known as the Special One’ is still highly regarded by many and has been tipped to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson at United when- if ever- he finally does retire. If you scratch the surface though, there’s a case to be made that Mourinho is a manager who’s rode more than his fair share of luck, inherited good teams at the right time, and been better at self-promotion than any other manager since perhaps Brian Clough. Whether he really is a Special One is not as open and shut a case as it may seem.