AND NOT EVEN THAT IMPORTANT
What with their country being reduced to smouldering piles of rubble by a paranoid maniac, the chances of their national football team participating at the Human Rights World Cup are probably not weighing heavily in the minds of too many Ukrainians right now. But as the great Arrigo Sacchi once said, football is the most important of the least important things, and Ukraine are scheduled to play Scotland later this month at Hampden, with the winners going on to play Wales or Austria for a place at this year’s ill-advised winter jamboree. As inconsequential as it might seem in the cosmic scheme of things, a decision needs to be made over whether or not the match can or will go ahead. The Ukrainian FA has officially asked Fifa and Uefa for a postponement, casting massive doubt on the likelihood of it being played in three weeks’ time.
As Russian missiles continued to rain down on cities the length and breadth of Ukraine, Fifa reacted with its usual efficiency and decisiveness, issuing a 62-word statement that, like many of its public pronouncements, didn’t say much. What’s more, in keeping with their president Gianni Infantino’s cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, it conspicuously chose not to describe the current horrors being beamed on to our TV screens from Ukraine as the fallout from an illegal invasion or act of war. “Fifa can confirm it has received a request from the Ukrainian Association of Football today to postpone their matches scheduled for March,” it revealed. “Fifa remains in regular contact with Uefa and the Scottish Football Association to find an appropriate solution. Fifa expresses its deepest solidarity to everybody affected by what is happening in Ukraine. A further update will be provided in due course.”
With “what is happening in Ukraine” unlikely to stop any time soon, Fifa appears to be buying itself time while it mulls over a resolution that will be acceptable to Scotland, Ukraine, Wales and Austria without compromising what passes for the integrity of the HRWC. One potential solution is to kick the official Fifa-approved Coca-Cola can down the road and hope the game can be played in June, a scenario that could kibosh Infantino’s grand plan to stage the group stage draw on 1 April in Doha. The Scottish FA has also released a statement and offered Ukraine the use of facilities in the very unlikely event they are able to round up a squad and make their way to Glasgow later this month.
While The Fiver has no doubt that the vast majority of fitba fans feel a strong sense of kinship and solidarity with their Ukrainian counterparts, we were taken aback by the alarming number on – where else but – Social Media Aberration Twitter, who were less sympathetic and called for Oleksandr Petrakov’s team to be slung out of the competition so Scotland can get a bye. Call The Fiver naive, but we expected a little better from the citizens of a country that has had to endure more than its fair share of bullying from an overbearing neighbour down the years.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I always try a little dink. I try it in training and in every matchday warmup, in the shooting. It’s something I practise a lot” – Manchester City’s Caroline Weir gets her chat on with Suzanne Wrack before a Women’s Fizzy Cup final with Chelsea in which she might want to avoid using her favourite finish now she’s flagged it so heavily.
We’ve decided to try this niche thing called “a podcast”. Football Weekly Extra, give it a listen.
“Can we spare a thought for poor Jean-Pierre Gbamin? It may be trivial against the backdrop of war in Ukraine, but after his knack-strewn career at Everton, playing in only five games in three seasons, he finally escaped his Goodison nightmare on 21 February, when he signed on loan for … CSKA Moscow” – Brian Russell.
“Re: email clipping (Fiver letters passim). By my estimate, over the next three editions, I will only receive the following: Fiver, Fiv, F then silence, beautiful silence. Please keep clipping. I’m feeling better already” – Rhys Mathias (and others).
“Here in Canada we are also getting The Fiver cropped/edited and, instead of heading to Big Website, have been watching The Afterparty, where they also like math jokes. The best episode so far features the song Two Shots, with the lyrics: ‘Even thought we get one shot in life, we all get that one shot, twice’” – Andrew Goss.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Brian Russell.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Premier League matches will be blocked by Chinese broadcasters this weekend because of planned displays of solidarity with Ukraine.
Tommy T reckons that just because Roman Abramovich is heading for the Chelsea door marked Do One, it doesn’t mean he is. “I love to be here, I love everything about the club,” he whooped. “There is now an uncertainty, but isn’t it always as a football manager? I hope things will end well.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle co-owner Amanda Staveley “doesn’t think it’s particularly fair” that Abramovich has to sell Chelsea because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We’re always going to have geopolitical issues,” she parped (and here’s another one). “I’m really sad that someone is going to have a football club taken away because of a relationship he may have with someone.”
Dean Smith reckons Norwich’s crunch relegation clash with Brentford is not yet a “must-win” game, which is handy because they don’t do many of those. “It is certainly a ‘must not lose’,” he blathered. “A loss against them means they are 10 points ahead of us.”
Like Natalie Imbruglia in 1997 [and those who she covered it from – Fiver Music Ed], Jesse Marsch was torn when he got the call about succeeding Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds. “I wanted to see Marcelo continue his legacy and keep the team up,” he blabbed. “But I could see the group suffering.” Alas, Bielsa’s wordman Andrés Clavijo will not be staying on to translate Marsch’s USA! USA!! USA!!!-isms into English. “It has been an incredible two years at [Leeds],” he sobbed. “I was treated as one of your own from the first moment.”
And Roberto Carlos scored a late penalty on his debut for Shrewsbury & District League side The Bull In The Barne, in a hard-fought 4-3 defeat to Harlescott Rangers.
STILL WANT MORE?
Those Chelsea sale words placed under a microscope by Jacob Steinberg.
Get your 10 Premier League things to look out for this weekend while they’re hot.
How can Antonio Conte bring Spurs some stability and success? By Ben McAleer.
Barnsley’s Poya Asbaghi tells Ben Fisher about the plane crash his team were lucky to avoid, his family fleeing Iran and staying calm in a relegation fight.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!