View Full Version : The 'Post a Football article you've enjoyed and maybe we'll talk about it' Thread

December 10th, 2014, 9:13 AM
Should save this for next year's POTTY season really.

Just read this in the Guardian and it reminded me of a thread I wanted to put together for OT but a sport version actually fits quite well. There's so much online news content out there nowadays and no one can read all of it so I thought a central thread for articles or stories we've enjoyed would be quite good.

This one is about the simmering feud between the linesman and referee who didn't disallow Maradona's Hand of God goal.

How Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal ignited a feud between the men who gave it

On 22 June 1986 the destiny of at least three people was changed forever. By scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against England in a World Cup quarter-final, Diego Armando Maradona fully convinced the watching world he had a unique football gift which was touched not only by God, but also by the devil.

The German press agency DPA called the first goal, when the Argentinian touched the ball with his hand “the scandal of the century” and dubbed the second one as “the goal of the century”. The latter was scored by Maradona with an ingenious slalom through the England half, and half of the England team.

Yet the other two men, whose fate could not have been the same ever since, attended the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on that fateful day dressed in black. Their names were Ali Bin Nasser from Tunisia, the referee, and Bogdan Dotchev from Bulgaria, one of his assistants.

Even if they had kept friendly relations until the day of the game, that day was the last time they spoke to each other. Ironically enough the last time they looked themselves in the eyes was in the 51st minute, when Maradona put Argentina in front with a goal the whole football world still calls the Hand of God.

TV images showed Bin Nasser running slowly backwards towards the centre of the pitch and looking at his assistant Dotchev (whose immediate reaction was to stand absolutely still), while Maradona was celebrating the controversial goal with his team-mates. The glances Bin Nasser and Dotchev exchanged in that moment must have been full of hesitation, confusion and … expectation. An expectation the other should take the responsibility for the final decision no matter what it actually was. Even if the referee and his assistant hadn’t been fully aware of the handball (crystal clear pictures and TV footage of the situation did not emerge until hours after the game), they certainly knew something was wrong. At least that was what the protests of England’s players suggested. Yet the lack of action from both officials became their only action and so the goal stood.

“I was waiting for Dotchev to give me a hint of what exactly happened but he didn’t signal for a handball. And the instructions Fifa gave us before the game were clear – if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view,” Bin Nasser explained many years later.

Then came Dotchev’s counterattack. “Although I felt immediately there was something irregular, back in that time Fifa didn’t allow the assistants to discuss the decisions with the referee. If Fifa had put a referee from Europe in charge of such an important game, the first goal of Maradona would have been disallowed,” Dotchev told the Bulgarian media. And so the war of words began.

Of course, the world and England had already been there before. During extra time in the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany at Wembley the referee from Switzerland, Gottfried Dienst, was not entirely sure if the ball had crossed the line from Geoff Hurst’s now iconic shot. Therefore Dienst passed the responsibility for the decision to his linesman Tofiq Bahramov.

Despite not being able to see the situation clearly the assistant gave a goal, which happened to be the vital third in England’s 4-2 win. Dienst confessed later that he and Bahramov didn’t speak a common language leaving them no choice but to communicate non-verbally.

That was exactly the case 20 years later with Bin Nasser and Dotchev. The Tunisian was fluent in French and English whereas his colleague from Bulgaria spoke German and Spanish. After the game between England and Argentina they spoke in the dressing room only through a translator, who had been provided by Fifa.

Off the field the lives of Dotchev and Bin Nasser couldn’t have been more different. While the Bulgarian had a degree in finance, the Tunisian worked as an engineer. Dotchev also had the added experience of a playing career. In the 60s he was a striker who played in the Bulgarian first division. After the end of his playing days he dedicated himself to refereeing. In 1977 he got on to the list of Fifa’s international officials and was present at the 1982 World Cup as well as at the one four years later. For Bin Nasser, who was nine years younger than Dotchev, the 1986 tournament in Mexico was his sole World Cup experience.

Soon after the game in Mexico City the Tunisian found a peculiar excuse for missing the notorious handball by citing a haemorrhoid treatment that, apparently, affected his sight. For a decade after that he and Dotchev refused to comment on the moment which ruined their international refereeing careers, as if they were comrades from the battlefield who had made a pact of silence. Neither of them was involved in another World Cup match, although Dotchev soon reached the age limit for an international referee and had to retire.

Bin Nasser was the first to speak about the incident again. In 2001, on the 15th anniversary of the game he gave an interview to the Argentinian newspaper Olé. “After Maradona scored I hesitated for a moment, but then I saw Dotchev running towards the centre of the pitch. And because he was better placed than me I decided to trust his judgment. No matter what happened I still think I had a good game,” Bin Nasser said.

Yet the sense of calmness which shines through that interview might be a little misleading. According to the other assistant in this game, Berny Ulloa from Costa Rica, Bin Nasser was “really sad” after seeing the TV replays at the hotel.

And what does Maradona think of the two officials who helped him score one of his most famous goals? In some interviews Maradona calls them “my amigos”. Still there was no warm reception for Dotchev in his native Bulgaria. Instead of staying involved in football he preferred to avoid the city and start a new life in a small village. “Never mind the reaction of the foreign media, the biggest insults I received back then were from Bulgarians. Some even called me a national traitor,” Dotchev said with bitterness.

Unlike his Bulgarian colleague, Bin Nasser continued working in football. In 2010 he even became part of a special technical committee which had to reform Tunisian football. Furthermore one of his sons, Kacem, followed his father’s footsteps into refereeing.

Almost 30 years have passed since the Hand of God goal but the feud between Bin Nasser and Dotchev is not over. In his most recent interview the Tunisian once again put the all of the blame on the linesman. “My assistant did not raise his flag. Moreover, for three years, at the end of every year, he would write me a little note that always said the same thing: ‘My brother, my colleague, there was only the hand of Shilton.’ After that he stopped writing. He had to revise his view of the goal,” Bin Nasser said.

As you might expect Dotchev’s view is slightly different. “Bin Nasser was just not prepared well enough to referee such an important game,” he said. “And how could he be? After all he used to be in charge of some games between camels in the desert.”

They say that time heals all wounds but between these two the debate still rages as it did in the immediate aftermath.


December 10th, 2014, 9:14 AM
Read that earlier. They both seem like idiots and cunts.

December 10th, 2014, 9:19 AM
True. I liked the line about refereeing camels in the dessert though.

Gary J
December 10th, 2014, 9:24 AM
The best article I've read in recent years was about the improvement of Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s rise accelerated under Sir Alex Ferguson and the coach Rene Meulensteen at Manchester United particularly at the start of the attacker’s phenomenal 2007-08 season. “Don’t underestimate the importance of the manager, the father figure,” emphasised Meulensteen on the shaping of the then 22-year-old Ronaldo, “but it’s also about details.

"That season we won the Champions League , at the beginning, Ronaldo was suspended for three games [after being sent off at Portsmouth], so I stayed behind to work with him. I knew what Ronaldo wanted. He wanted to be the best player in the world. I told him: ‘I can help you with that. There’s nothing wrong with your work ethic, it’s a wave pushing you forward.’ So I drew this diagram for him, pointing out his details as a player.

“There’s the ‘tactical’ bit, awareness, understanding, decision-making. There’s the ‘physical’; everyone has his peak fitness, especially Ronaldo, his pace, strength, stamina and agility. There’s the ‘personality’, winning mentality and attitude. The last bit is ‘technical’, the basics, passing, shooting, moves, turns, and other skills to dominate the one to one. I asked Ronaldo: ‘Where are you good at?’ He said: ‘Skills.’ ‘OK, so with one-touch and two-touch play, plus the moves you have, will make you unpredictable and therefore very hard to defend against.’“
Meulensteen addressed another issue. “I told him: ‘The problem is also your attitude and therefore your decision-making. At the moment you’re playing to put yourself into the limelight, to say “look at me, how good I am”. Therefore, Mr Ronaldo, you are doing a lot that doesn’t mean anything for your team-mates’. He accepted this. I said: ‘You need to score more goals. Targets, aims.

"Cristiano, I’ve looked at your goals last season, and you only scored 23 because you want to score the perfect goal all the time. ‘Look at me! Top corner!’ The most important individuals are the ones who elevate the team, not themselves. You think it’s the other way round. No, no, no. Elevate the team and the team will then elevate you.’”
The Dutchman asked United’s No 7 to set a goal target. “Ronaldo said: ‘I think I can score between 30 and 35 goals.’ ‘OK,’ I said. ‘I think you can go over 40. This week, in these training sessions, I’m going to work on your way of finishing.’”
They first discussed Ronaldo’s mindset when approaching goal. “I told him: ‘Look at Shearer, Lineker, Solskjaer and Van Nistelrooy: who say give me the ball, that goes in the back of the net.’“
Ronaldo was focused more on the spectacular. “He was thinking: ‘That ball comes to me, I hit it top corner.’ I needed him to get out of that. I told him: ‘It doesn’t matter how you score, where you score, as long as the ball goes in the net.’” It was time to score ugly goals as well as beautiful ones.
“We worked on positions, which zone he was in, 1 (in front of goal), 2 (to the sides) or 3 (further out). We worked on what type of finish. One-touch. Do you need to control it? Volley it. Pass it in. Side-foot it in. Chip it in. We worked on certain goalkeepers. Did they have a certain trend? It’s details. When [post-Ronaldo] we played Schalke away in the Champions League semi [in 2011], we knew that Manuel Neuer, a good goalkeeper, was like Peter Schmeichel and would come out with a star jump [spreading himself]. So we worked on finishes low to either side, low through the legs.’’ Ryan Giggs scored.
Back in that early-season period at Carrington in 2007, Meulensteen and Ronaldo worked on different goalscoring scenarios every day but with one staple for each drill. “It was four repetitions, move on, four repetitions, move on,” Meulensteen explained. “That’s what I’ve learned from experience. People hold their concentration for 1 2 3 4 Bang.’’
Ronaldo was educated to create an image of the situation and the desired outcome: “Where am I [position]? Where’s the ball coming from? Where’s the goalkeeper? Where’s the finish?” Meulensteen gave colours to the four corners of the goal. “Cristiano had his back to the goal. He had to shout which colour, green whichever, he was aiming for, so subconsciously working his brain. He knew his target in advance.’’
By the end of January, Ronaldo had scored 27 for United. “You have to reset your target because you have already achieved it,’’ Meulensteen said to Ronaldo at Carrington. “You can now do two things, you can take your foot off the pedal, say ‘I’m happy with this’, or break your personal best and then you have March, April, May to come and that’s when these things are won.” Ronaldo was determined to continue his upward trajectory. “Now we worked on ‘attitude’,’’ continued Meulensteen.
“I put a video together for him about top professionals like Muhammad Ali, Pele with little quotes from them. ‘Just have a look at this video,’ I told him, ‘I know you have a big TV. Read the clips. It will put you in good stead.’ There were little quotes about hard work and focus: focus on performance rather than outcome, focus on putting your qualities for the team and also body language. There were loads of times with Cristiano when he shrugged his shoulders, so I put a video clip together.”
The clips were of Ronaldo’s body language. “Do you realise how important an impact body language and facial expressions have on the millions watching?’’ Meulensteen asked Ronaldo at Carrington one day. “What do you mean?’’ Ronaldo replied.
Meulensteen continued: “Do you remember the goal you scored against Sporting [Lisbon on Nov 27, 2007] at home, the free-kick? You turned around to the camera, and did this [spreads hands out]? What were you trying to say? Sorry? Or were you trying to say ‘look at me, nobody else can do that’?’’
One of United’s kit-men was present.
“I asked him what he thought the gesture meant,” Meulensteen recalled.
“I’m the best,” was the kit-man’s take on Ronaldo’s stance. So Meulensteen turned to Ronaldo and said: “That’s what the millions think. They look at you as arrogant. You do the same thing when you get hacked down, ‘ahhh’, toys out the pram: ‘You can’t kick me, I’m Cristiano Ronaldo.’ You need to learn to play football the way Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer play tennis. Ice-cold. The moment people stop kicking you is because they’ve found another way to stop you. You want people to kick you. You need to make sure you see it coming. Make sure you’re clever’.”

It was back to the video-room. “I showed him clips of Johan Cruyff, an expert at avoiding tackles. He saw them coming, would change direction, and people would slide in front of him. I told Cristiano: ‘The most important thing is your facial expression, don’t react at all. Stand up, brush yourself off, and that defender thinks, ‘what can I do next?’ Overpower him with your qualities as a footballer, belittle him with your skill. You’re in control, not someone else.’
“If you look back to the season, he was tremendous. He scored 42 goals. Look back to the Champions League final: he scored the header, fantastic, apart from one moment when he let himself down, the [missed] penalty. That’s when Ronaldo thought: ‘It all comes down to me, that’s what I want.’ What happens? He loses focus. I mentioned it to him afterwards but he knew.”

So what of Bale’s arrival at the Bernabéu? “I don’t think it will affect him [Ronaldo] that much,” Meulensteen said. “In my opinion, Bale is nowhere near on the same level, absolutely not. Ronaldo is a far more complete player. Bale will still be important. He has time to settle in. It will make Real Madrid stronger, even more powerful. But if for whatever reason Bale came and Ronaldo would leave it would make Real Madrid weaker.”


Romford Pele
December 10th, 2014, 11:14 AM
Meulensteen comes across as a bit of a bastard there, in effect taking credit for making Ronaldo who he is.

I'm sure he had a part in it, but not to the extent he has made out there.

December 10th, 2014, 12:19 PM
Ronaldo comes across so well though. I remember reading that at the time and it really went a long way towards continuing to change my opinion of him.

Romford Pele
December 10th, 2014, 12:23 PM
Oh, absolutely.

In Fergusons autobiography he says a lot of the same thing, the guy was just relentlessly focused on being the best. He would be in the gym while the likes of Rooney was on the piss/shagging grannies etc. Therein lies the difference.

Still, he has a ego the size of a cruise liner.

December 10th, 2014, 12:27 PM
In recent years I've begun to question whether the assumption that Ronaldo is a wanker outside of football is fair - you never hear any bad stories about him personally (with occasional mentions of him doing a shitload of charity stuff that he doesn't talk about, for example that silly arrow haircut he had which was apparently in solidarity with some young kid who had had an operation on his brain) and the only real criticism is that he's arrogant on the pitch...but in terms of football, he is pretty much the model professional isn't he? Working utterly relentlessly to become as good as he can be, eventually surpassing even the crazy expectations people had of him.

Don't think Meulensteen comes across badly there, the thrust of the article is his role in Ronaldo's growth, so of course he is going to feature heavily.

It's a bit of a cliché of what a great professional is all about, but Bale said on his first day at Madrid he turned up an hour early to show he meant business, and Ronaldo was already out practising his free kicks. For what it's worth I think Bale could come close to emulating Ronaldo, maybe not hitting the same heights but making the most of his abilities to be a real superstar rather than just someone who is very, very good. The similarities between him and Ronaldo are many.

Romford Pele
December 10th, 2014, 12:43 PM
I dont think off the pitch he has done much wrong, but more the way he comes across ON the pitch. You can compare him and the way he carries himself v Messi and what a difference.

For example, I thought his celebration for the 4th goal of the CL final was ridicolously over the top considering the game was done and dusted.

December 10th, 2014, 12:58 PM
Hardly a big deal though. Anyway, I'll take Cristiano taking his shirt off at every opportunity and having an arrogant smirk over Messi's tax avoidance.

December 10th, 2014, 4:43 PM
I have never had much of a problem with him on or off pitch to be fair. He comes across as a fairly nice chap.