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Jan 15, 2010

African tragedy takes the spotlight

This was the week in which a terrorist attack in Angola claimed three lives, Liverpool were embarrassed both on and off the pitch, one unlucky student lost £4,400 betting on the African Nations Cup and Phil Brown lost the plot.

Togo bus tragedy unfolds - Friday, January 8

The news broke late into Friday that the Togo team bus had been attacked by rebels and that some of the squad had been killed. After many unconfirmed and contradictory reports, it was eventually revealed that the bus driver, assistant coach and press officer had lost their lives, with many more injured. Angola separatist group FLEC claimed responsibility for the machine-gun attack, although later claimed that they did not know it was foreigners they were firing on.

Over the weekend, the story would change as Togo performed a few U-turns in their decision to leave the African Nations Cup. Eventually, they would leave, but not before the Confederation of African Football decided to officially 'disqualify' them - before then offering their sympathy and claiming they had actually withdrawn with their blessing.

Premier League postponed - Saturday, January 9

A few inches of snow fell before the weekend, so naturally nearly all of the games in the Premier League were called off. The reasons (except for the Wigan game) came from the fact that the outside of the grounds were unsafe and clubs were wary of any legal action that could occur from a freezing fan's fall.

Two games did go ahead, with Arsenal bouncing back to draw with Everton and Manchester United being held by Birmingham but, in the absence of any real action, much of the spotlight went on the debut of American forward Landon Donovan for the Toffees. Still, at least it wasn't as bad as the Big Freeze of 1962-63 - although you'd never have known that from some of the coverage.

Stupid student's Angola hoax - Sunday, January 10

After the dust had settled on the Togo tragedy and the team had flown out of Angola, the African Nations Cup kicked off with the hosts blowing a four-goal lead to Mali. In one of the most amazing turnarounds in history, Mali came back to draw the game 4-4 by netting four goals in the last 11 minutes of their clash.

But, as disappointing as the draw was for Angola, one student was apparently hurting more. The footie fan reportedly lumped all his student loan on Angola to win when they were 4-0 up - which amounted to around £4,400 for a return of about £44 - before they capitulated. The poor chap was said to have dropped out of university because he couldn't afford to stay on, until it was all revealed as a ''joke''. Of course he now wishes he had placed the bet, as the offers have rolled in, but he'll find little sympathy from those who fell for his trick.

Hicks Jnr falls on his sword - Monday, January 11

Just when you thought the Liverpool saga could get no worse, a PR nightmare is pulled out of the hat. Tom Hicks Jnr was forced to resign from the board after abusing a fan over an e-mail exchange and presumably had to endure some pretty harsh words from Dad about his handling of the situation too.

Hicks Jnr had been sent an e-mail by fan Stephen Horner which expressed his concerns over the lack of transfer funds for boss Rafael Benitez. But as if branding Horner "idiot" in his first response wasn't enough, a second response eloquently offered the advice: "Blow me, ****face. Go to hell. I'm sick of you." You could say the unprofessional response blew up in his face.

Jordaan slams Phil Brown, Sol returns - Tuesday, January 12

The fall-out from the Togo's tragedy continued throughout the week, but Hull boss Phil Brown's ill-informed comments - "This throws a question mark against next summer's World Cup" - angered World Cup chief Danny Jordaan.

''He is not well informed,'' Jordaan told BBC World Service. ''I will give him a call and talk to him about it. If there is a security breach in any country it is the responsibility of that country, not ours. If Hull lose against Tottenham Hotspur they cannot play Manchester United because Manchester United were not there, so I cannot understand why you would make such an utterance.'' Not sure about the last bit Danny, but anything that exposes Brown for the buffoon that he is is okay by us.

Elsewhere, Sol Campbell made a shock return to Arsenal after training with the club since his departure from Notts County. The defender played for the Arsenal reserves and made it clear that he would be signing a contract with the Gunners if the paperwork could be worked out. He was at pains to make clear it was "not about money," which is good because if Arsene Wenger has half a brain he wouldn't be offering him much anyway.

Laughable Liverpool - Wednesday, January 13

If Liverpool fans needed any more reason to vent their fury at the situation of the club, Wednesday gave them the chance. Out of the Champions League, out of the Carling Cup, out of the Premier League title race and, now, out of the FA Cup, too. A 2-1 defeat to Reading after extra time saw the Reds crumble once again and calls for Rafa's head could be heard far and wide.

Injuries to Fernando Torres (six weeks) and Steven Gerrard (two weeks) were not tempered by the sight of new signing Maxi Rodriguez, who was seen sporting a very Roberto Mancini-esque scarf as he watched from the stands.

Stab vests for one and all - Thursday, January 14

Roll up, roll up, get them while they're hot. What could possibly be wrong with selling stab vests for World Cup fans planning to travel to South Africa this summer emblazoned with a country flag? Well, everything really. Aside from the fact it paints a picture designed to instil ''panic and tension'' into fans (according to the Football Supporters' Federation), the idea of wandering around with what essentially amounts to a bullseye across your chest is ludicrous. Phil Brown will probably already have his on pre-order. With his own face on it.

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