Please, Sven (Kramer)?!

Lance Armstrong’s exposure sprouted a renewed attention for doping in sports. Firstly, of course, within cycling, but recently the debate around performance-enhancing drugs intensified with regard to other sports as well.

For instance, Christophe Rochus stated that he believed that doping is significantly present within tennis, pointing a hesitant finger towards Rafael Nadal. Although this may be the opinion of one player, there are more disturbing signals. Roger Federer called for more doping tests in tennis, since “some substances can’t be discovered right now.” Andy Murray agrees, but adds “don’t accuse me or my rivals of doping.” (Where have we heard that before?) James Blake said something that, to me, sounds sensible: “[we should be] realistic with this much money involved, $1.9 million for the winner of the U.S. Open, people will try to find a way to get ahead.” Continue reading

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The True Winner of the London 2012 Summer Olympics

Last summer in London I experienced the 2012 Summer Olympics. Many were preoccupied with the ‘total medal count’, which counts the number of golden, silver, bronze, and total medals per country (pick that category in which your country is performing best). Of course, the total medal count is not a ‘fair competition’. Some countries have a larger population, which gives them a bigger pool of athletes to fish from. Other countries are richer, which gives them more resources to facilitate the searching and training of potential medal-winners. I wanted to put the achievements of countries into perspective, and more specifically, to be able to say things like “given its population size and wealth, [insert country of interest] performed well during London 2012” with a bit more confidence. As for my motivation: indeed, I come from a small country,  whereas my girlfriend comes from the U.S. – last summer I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” way more often than “Het Wilhelmus“. Continue reading

Two Scary Hours on a Football Pitch

Last Sunday something terrible happened on a Dutch football pitch.  After a match between two amateur, youth teams, three boys (two 15 year-olds and one 16 year-old) beat up the linesman of the other team. The linesman, 41 year-old Richard Nieuwenhuizen, suffered blows on his head and neck, causing severe brain damage. He passed away a day later.

Discussions now focus on ‘violence on the football field’. Let me be clear. I totally agree with almost all measures that have been and will be taken to address what happened this time and to (try to) prevent such things from happening again. This weekend, all amateur football matches in the Netherlands have been cancelled. Meetings are organised at many clubs to talk about what happened. This weekend, professional teams will be wearing black mourning bands and will observe a moment of silence before their games. It cannot get enough attention. Continue reading

Football: Replace the 90 Minutes Official Time by 65 Minutes of Actual Playing Time

Which football supporter has not been irritated by it? Two football teams play each other. The one team (in my memory often an Italian one) is happy with the current score, the other is not. The former team tries to survive the rest of the game without conceding a goal. An effective strategy: don’t play at all. This is referred to as the practice of  running out the clock, stonewalling, killing the clock, stalling, time-wasting, or sandbagging. Continue reading

Ronald Koeman is Right

The past days, some commotion has been caused by Ronald Koeman, trainer of Feyenoord, who benched his player Kelvin Leerdam. Leerdam still has a contract with Feyenoord until the end of the (football) year, and refuses to sign another contract. Feyenoord thus risks losing him without receiving a sum of money. Koeman therefore decided to not let him play anymore for the first team, despite his qualities as a football player, which otherwise would have earned him a spot in the first squad.

Kelvin Leerdam (left) and Ronald Koeman (the other left)

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My First Holland-Germany

Every Dutch child, especially when it is a boy, is raised learning that the most important events in life matches are the football matches against our eastern neighbours, the Germans. For 90 minutes and a bit more, nothing else matters. The rivalry is intense. Historically, the tension has been building, with the Germans winning the European title in 1972, 1980, and 1996, and the World title in 1954, 1974, and 1990. This may already be a source of envy, given that Holland is the only team to have been in 3 World Cup finals but has never won. The German victory in 1974 was especially bitter. We had impressed the world with our Total Football, which still inspires teams like FC Barcelona with their tiki-taka playing style, had star players like Van Hanegem, Cruijff, and Neeskens – but it wasn’t enough. Continue reading