Scythe Matters - AFR Voice Ep.37

Well, it’s been an interesting Easter weekend for David Moyes. First he was stared down by the Grim Reaper at Goodison Park, and now his sacking is confirmed. We’ll be taking a look at what’s gone wrong for the Scotsman, and who the Red Devils can turn to next.

Elsewhere in England, it’s been a big weekend for the Liverpool winning machine which took another big step towards the title, beating Norwich as Chelsea lost a home league game under Jose Mourinho for the first time in 77 games. But what will the ramifications of that result be at both the top and bottom of the table?

Then it’s off to the Continent where Chelsea will have to forget about the weekend very quickly, as they take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. We’ll be previewing this game, as well as another huge one across town when Real Madrid take on Bayern Munich in the other last four tie a day later. Strap yourselves in: it’s definitely business time.

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Bad Kompany - AFR Voice Ep. 36

On this week’s show we’ll be taking a look at what could be a season-defining win for Liverpool, after they came out on top of a 3-2 Anfield thriller against Man City. Can they really win fourteen games in a row and take the league title, should an unfit Vincent Kompany have played, and what will Fergie make of all this as he sits in the Old Trafford Directors’ box?

Then it’s off to the home of this season’s surprise package in Europe – the Vicente Calderón. After booking their place in the Champions League semi-finals at Barcelona’s expense, we’ll be discussing Atlético Madrid’s modestly assembled squad, a manager that is quickly becoming one of the most highly regarded on the continent, and the use of some cutting edge technology on the touchline (although we’re not quite sure what they’re using it for, just yet).

Elsewhere, we jet off to the end of regular season play in A-League, and catch up with good friend of the show Ahmed Yussuf, who unleashes his inner Craig David to fill us in on the runners and riders in the Finals Series playoffs; as well as giving us all a lesson in geography, timezones and logistics by showing a detailed knowledge of how on earth the Asian Champions League actually works.

Then we head over to Brazil, where it’s been a bit of an up and down time for everyone’s favourite left footed powerhouse – Adriano. It looks like even scoring in the Copa Libertadores isn’t quite enough to keep your job these days…

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Words Unsaid: Looking at the Europa League Theme

By David Rudin

At some point in the early 1990s, back when wins at the World Cup were still worth two points, goalkeepers were still allowed to handle back passes, and UEFA was still headquartered in a squat concrete complex on Bern’s Jupiterstrasse, the powers that be in European football gathered together and decided that a footballing competition wasn’t really a footballing competition without an anthem. 

For the Champions League’s 1992 debut, UEFA therefore commissioned Tony Britten to pen its anthem. The English composer set the French, German, and English words for “champions” to the tune of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest.” This grandiose mélange was then recorded by London’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chorus. Thus, “Champions League” was born.

Like a national anthem, “Champions League” is more flattering than honest. It sidesteps the competition’s lack of history with a score that predates the invention of association football by 140 years. Lyrics like “The best teams/The Champions” gloss over the inclusion of multiple entrants per nation. The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s cultural cachet helps to mitigate UEFA’s crass commercialism. Tony Britten’s anthem is UEFA’s description of the Champions League: prestigious, rich in history, and exclusive.

The Europa League is a footballing competition and, as a footballing competition, it must have an anthem. 

But how do you describe the Europa League?

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Through Ryu’s Lens: José does it again

Parisian fans have swooped past frustration and sit in their city with nothing but existential angiush. Oh, what could have been. This was their year, and it was led by the mighty Zlatan. That is, until he was reminded of his humanity and sidelined with an injury.

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Milan in Freefall - AFR Voice Ep.32

‘Crisis’ has been the buzzword this season for the pod, with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and even Barcelona getting blasted with the dreaded ‘c’ word. But finally we have turned our audio attentions to a club that deserves it more than most – AC Milan.

The Rossoneri are a shocking 40 points adrift from league leaders Juve and we discuss where it all went wrong. Is rookie manager Clarence Seedorf ripe for the sacking in the summer, and will the struggle for power in the boardroom be resolved anytime soon?

Elsewhere, we look at Europe in more positive tones, heralding Bayern’s 50-game unbeaten run, ruffling the hair of little Lionel Messi for eclipsing recent AFR profilee Paulino Alcántara as Barça’s all-time record scorer, and bow down to the mighty Zlatan for making his own little bit of Parisian history.

All that plus a quick fire witness report from Chelsea’s Champions League clash against Galatasaray, a report on Jermain Defoe’s perfect MLS debut and an evaluation of Rivaldo’s career which came to an end this week. He was arguably one of football’s all-time greats, but why won’t he be remembered as such?

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Are Barça Broken? - AFR Voice Ep. 31

Barça suffered a domestic shock to the system at the weekend — coming up short against lowly Valladolid. With the La Liga title looking increasingly out of their reach, and their performances levels stalling, we question whether their footballing empire is crumbling. 

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Greenpeace vs Gazprom: The Conclusion - Part 5

A tactical analysis of the utilisation of environmental tifosi to combat Arctic drilling in the Champions League’s most important fixture. Read the whole series here.

By Jake Cohen

With regards to quantifying the success Greenpeace has achieved thus far, I asked Ian Duff if Greenpeace had specific figures on how many donations the organisation received as a result of the Champions League campaign, but Greenpeace doesn’t track donations like that.

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Greenpeace vs Gazprom: In front of Platini’s eyes - Part 4
A tactical analysis of the utilisation of environmental tifosi to combat Arctic drilling in the Champions League’s most important fixture. Read the whole series here.

By Jake Cohen

As a result of Greenpeace’s activism at St. Jakob Park during the 1 October Champions League match against Schalke 04, Basel was fined around £25,000 by UEFA. UEFA imposes strict liability on the host club for the activities and behaviour that transpire in the stadium during the match. The Control and Disciplinary Committee found Basel guilty of “insufficient organisation,” ostensibly for failing to prevent the protest, despite the fact that Basel had no prior knowledge of Greenpeace’s plans.
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Greenpeace specifically chose to unfurl its protest banner at St. Jakob Park because Schalke was involved in the match and UEFA president Michel Platini was in attendance. As mentioned, Gazprom is one of Schalke’s primary sponsors, and the company’s logo adorns the Schalke kit. Had Greenpeace chosen the reverse fixture at Veltins-Arena, Schakle’s home pitch, as a staging ground instead of St. Jakob Park, it would have been much easier to reconcile the fine.
 If it were Schalke being fined, rather than Basel, Greenpeace would have been able to retain the moral high ground, as Schalke receives millions of sterling pounds annually from Gazprom’s sponsorship, and any fine could have been chalked up to the cost of doing business with Gazprom. 
Basel, however, has nothing to do with Gazprom, and is seemingly an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire. While £25,000 isn’t exactly a princely sum, I think most people would agree that it’s not something Basel should have had to deal with.
When asked about Greenpeace’s reaction to Basel being fined, Duff, employing some media savvy, turned the question around, stating “clubs in the Champions League should be turning to UEFA and asking ‘why are you doing sponsorship deals with companies like Gazprom, which is a company that is at the centre of the wrongful imprisonment of thirty people in Russia, and at the centre of a new industry trying to open up the arctic region and they can only do that because of climate change which has melted the arctic ice?’ This is not the kind of company that the Champions League should be associated with, and if there are protests against that kind of company, then UEFA should be taking responsibility for that.”
“It’s quite embarrassing for UEFA that that’s how they responded.  Obviously the clubs have no choice [but to pay the fine]. UEFA is quite an archaic institution, and who knows what sort of influence Gazprom has over UEFA in terms of forcing UEFA’s response?”
“For Basel, it’s something they’ve got to deal with, and in football, with the kind of money these guys are playing with, hopefully it’s not been too painful for them.” 
I asked Duff if it would be fair to say that given that Gazprom pays UEFA more than £43m a year in sponsorship, and Basel will receive around £9.5m in revenue sharing as a result of participating in the Champions League, if Greenpeace would just chalk the £25,000 fine up to the cost of doing business, and Duff said “that’s totally right, it’s the cost of doing business, and we are not feeling a sense that this is the wrong target [for the campaign].”
 “If the clubs are worried about this, then they need to start putting pressure or holding UEFA to account for the companies that they are taking money from.”
For reference, Basel (and the other thirty-one clubs reaching the group stage) received a base fee of over £7m, and clubs also received bonuses of over £800,000 for each group stage win and over £400,000 for each group stage draw.  Basel’s performance entitles the club to over £2.4m in bonuses, meaning that the club will receive around £9.5m for participating in the Champions League. In addition, because Basel finished third in the group, the club is now participating in the Europa League, where it will receive even more money for participating in that competition.
While the Europa League is far less lucrative than the Champions League, Basel will receive £1.6m at minimum if Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv manages to upset the Swiss champions. Note that these figures include do not include the market pool share Basel will receive. That money is based on broadcasting deals, and Basel will receive the proportionate amount of revenue that the Swiss broadcasting market brings to the table.
While Duff emphatically states “the fear of a club being fined is not something that concerns us,” he also admits that “it’s unfortunate for [Basel], don’t get me wrong, I would prefer that the club not be fined.”  Indeed, after UEFA fined Basel, Greenpeace put out a statement saying “the action was not directed against Basel, but against a third party organisation. Greenpeace regrets, therefore, that Basel has suffered damage by our action.”
As one might expect, Greenpeace has no plans to reimburse Basel, but ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld reported that both parties got together just a few weeks after Basel was fined, and Greenpeace agreed to donate a “significant sum” on behalf of the club to a Romanian orphanage that Basel helps support. 

Read: Part 3 - Executing the Protest
Read: Part 5 - The Conclusion

Greenpeace vs Gazprom: In front of Platini’s eyes - Part 4

A tactical analysis of the utilisation of environmental tifosi to combat Arctic drilling in the Champions League’s most important fixture. Read the whole series here.

By Jake Cohen

As a result of Greenpeace’s activism at St. Jakob Park during the 1 October Champions League match against Schalke 04, Basel was fined around £25,000 by UEFA. UEFA imposes strict liability on the host club for the activities and behaviour that transpire in the stadium during the match. The Control and Disciplinary Committee found Basel guilty of “insufficient organisation,” ostensibly for failing to prevent the protest, despite the fact that Basel had no prior knowledge of Greenpeace’s plans.

Read More

Greenpeace vs Gazprom: Executing the Protest - Part 3
A tactical analysis of the utilisation of environmental tifosi to combat Arctic drilling in the Champions League’s most important fixture. Read the whole series here.

By Jake Cohen

In order to successfully pull off sneaking into, and then hanging a massive banner at a stadium or in a press conference, quite a bit of logistical and tactical preparation needs to be done beforehand. More than anything, I was particularly interested in how Greenpeace volunteers and employees are able to first acquire the skills necessary, and then utilise those skills to successfully execute these operations.
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While Duff was quite understandably hesitant to go into the details, he did note that their activists are “extremely well trained, and particularly the ones that are executing the sorts of protests that we saw at the Champions League. To be able to get onto the top of a stadium and hang a banner from it takes a lot of experience, nerve, and courage.”
Greenpeace has a long history of extremely visible demonstrations, and has hung banners on the roof of the British Parliament, on top of Mount Rushmore in the United States, on the Cristo Redentor in Brazil, on the Sydney Opera House, and along the Wardha Dam and on the Esser Group headquarters in India, just to name a few.
The fact that Greenpeace has been executing these sorts of campaigns for over forty years has helped like-minded people find each other, and these people come from all walks of life. Those with military or climbing experience therefore, are relied upon to provide the training necessary to ensure not only the success of the mission, but also the safety of their fellow activists who are participating in said mission.
The rather amazing self-awareness Greenpeace has with regards to how the organisation is perceived by the general public and how they specifically tailored the Champions League campaign to football supporters is likely due to the “support from the creative and advertising community that are doing things on the quiet for [Greenpeace].”  Duff explains that when someone spends their day job promoting shampoo, a microwave, or any other sort of mundane product, “they are just dying to be able to do something that’s good for the world.”
In fact, Greenpeace is apparently inundated with offers of support in many different ways, and one of the ways Greenpeace is able to succeed is because no one can stop people from giving them information and advise on how to successfully create and then execute a campaign.
“If you’re the winning side, then it’s much easier to find people to come and help, so we just need to keep being the winning side.” Indeed, as Chelsea found out shortly after winning the Champions League in 2012, it’s much easier to convince the world’s best available player to join your club when you are the winning side, or as Eden Hazard put it, the “champion’s league winner”. Similarly, the other global giants (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and the Manchester clubs) have very little problems convincing the best players in the world to join their clubs. 
Of course, the comparison isn’t perfect, as the biggest clubs can often afford to pay the biggest wages, while the vast majority of Greenpeace activists do so as volunteers. Nevertheless, top organisations are never short of talented people wanting to work with them.
Greenpeace’s activities in the Champions League have led to some unfortunate consequences for some participating clubs. Duff maintains that “the objective is really around Gazprom, and this isn’t a fight with football or even with the Champions League.  This is a campaign that is trying to expose what Gazprom is doing in the Arctic.”  
While this statement may read like an attempt to placate football supporters, some of the Greenpeace protestors involved at the demonstration at Stadio San Paolo during the Arsenal – Napoli match that took place during the group stages were actually Arsenal supporters.  Writing for the Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson noted in his match report that “amid the general bemusement, [Napoli striker Gonzalo] Higuaín found space inside Arsenal’s penalty area after a pass from Jose Callejón and turned to shoot past [Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech] Szczesny.”  
Arsenal went on to lose the match 2-0, which likely led to some mixed feelings and sleepless nights for the Greenpeace Gunners, and they likely breathed (zero emission) sighs of relief after Arsenal successfully managed to make its way out of the group stage and into the knockout round. That said, the club was paired with the reigning European champions, Bayern Munich, when the winner of their group, Borussia Dortmund (who won the group on goal differential, being level on points with the North London club) were given a significantly easier matchup with Zenit Saint Petersburg.  
Suffice it to say, the protestors likely won’t be regaling their fellow Arsenal supporters with tales of their exciting adventure in Italy anytime soon.
It must be noted that neither Szczesny nor any of the Arsenal defenders have mentioned anything about being distracted by the Greenpeace banner, and any connection to the banner being unfurled and the Higuain goal is tenuous at best.  That said, Greenpeace’s activities have led to some very real consequences.

Read: Part 2 - The Campaign
Read: Part 4 - In front of Platini’s eyes

Greenpeace vs Gazprom: Executing the Protest - Part 3

A tactical analysis of the utilisation of environmental tifosi to combat Arctic drilling in the Champions League’s most important fixture. Read the whole series here.

By Jake Cohen

In order to successfully pull off sneaking into, and then hanging a massive banner at a stadium or in a press conference, quite a bit of logistical and tactical preparation needs to be done beforehand. More than anything, I was particularly interested in how Greenpeace volunteers and employees are able to first acquire the skills necessary, and then utilise those skills to successfully execute these operations.

Read More

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