When Governing Bodies Become Jokes and Sport Suffers

This doesn’t have to do with Barça or football, really, but rather the wider world of sport. Today’s New York Times (along with basically every other media outlet in the world) carried an article about the badminton teams disqualified from the London Olympics for intentionally losing group stage matches in order to gain easier knockout round opponents.

There are several things worth mentioning from this kerfluffle:

Any sporting event that rewards losing under any circumstance is very likely to be a badly designed sporting event.

The concept of a sporting event in which losing can propel you to an easier route is one that has not been properly thought through. I may not like the ever-expanding Champions League format (everyone qualifies!), but it does do one thing quite correctly: the teams who qualify first from their group stage play teams who qualified second from their group stage. This is the same as the Olympic badminton rules to this point, but the twist is that the Champions League has a random draw after the first round. Badminton has a set path (A1 plays C2, B1 plays D2, C1 plays A2, and D1 plays B2) so going into the final group game, you might already know your possible opponents based on the various possible outcomes of your own as-of-yet unplayed game.

While the theory behind A1-B2, B1-A2 is good, the fact that there is no random assignment of opponents in the next round causes there to be a strategic option in which losing is actually better for you in the long run than winning. That is not a flaw of the participants, but rather a flaw in the overall structure of the system.

All sports involve strategy.

Simon Jenkins, writing in The Guardian (via Andrew Sullivan), makes a great point:

Faced with the risk of a tougher opponent later and thus losing a medal, the [badminton] players did what their tacticians said. They lost a round. I cannot see how, in sporting terms, this is any different from sprint cyclists hovering for an age on a curve, waiting for the right moment to surge forward.

Though sprint cyclists are actually trying to win that particular race via strategy, the badminton players have made a strategic decision that they see as increasing their likelihood of winning further matches and putting themselves in position to ultimately win the crown. To me it’s the same as Mourinho attempting to not lose by too much against Barça in the semifinals of the 2009-10 Champions League. Never once did they really attempt to win the match, but that does not make it an illegal or punishable offense; it is merely a consequence of the home and home format.

Further, it should be noted that the opponents the badminton players were attempting to avoid, the Chinese pair of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, had actually come in second in their group (by accident or design I do not know, but I suspect the former). The suspended pairs were obviously attempting to avoid them, but in so doing they were taking the risk that the Danish duo of Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl had actually defeated their opponents fairly and were better. It would be completely perfect if Pedersen and Juhl went on to win the gold.

Rules such as those used to disqualify the badminton players (“not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport” according to NYT) are excuses used by embarrassed governing bodies.

It is virtually a law that governing bodies (political, athletic, or other) are fiercely incapable of real-time self-criticism. Instead of recognizing the ways in which the rules were used to benefit the competitors in a way that is, except for the extremely subject sense of “best efforts”, not illegal and fixing it for the next time around, badminton officials (that these exist is humorous given my own gym class experiences with the sport*) reacted with punitive measures far beyond even the supposed infraction. The competitors aren’t accused of accepting bribes and they’re not accused of collusion with other pairs to further their nation’s progress. Rather they’re looking out exclusively for themselves and are attempting to win the entire tournament.

That badminton officials** can’t see beyond the anger of those who went to see the matches and were upset by the level of play and are most likely too embarrassed to make public amends for their own failures as a governing body. Instead, they chose the heavy-handed route of outrage (OUTRAGE!) over such a terrible thing as their sport being taken so seriously and the stakes being so high that one would enter into the best possible route to victory rather than the most TV-friendly early-round matches.

All this posturing on the part of governing bodies is wearisome. What makes FIFA so hateable is its unwillingness to conduct self-criticism or, perhaps more importantly, to accept that the purpose of criticism is not always destruction. Sepp Blatter routinely makes egregiously out-of-touch statements about the game, handles issues that arise with all the deftness of an elephant playing jacks, and is completely tone deaf in almost all of his responses to media questioning. The same sounds true of the badminton officials. These Olympics have had their fair share of controversies, including Shin A Lam’s controversial loss to Britta Heidemann in women’s individual epee, which is no real surprise given the subjective nature of a lot of judging. Badminton is not particularly subjective, I don’t believe, so the questions are more procedural than they are sporting.

The Olympics is big business and that means huge prizes for the winners and much less (if anything at all) for everyone else.

The idea that the Olympics is anything other than a business died long ago. If you want proof, look no further than João Havelange being the International Olympic Committee chairman for so long. The cost of the Olympics and the potential profits are monstrous. The ad space and “official sponsor” crap is as prevalent if not more prevalent at the Olympics than in other sporting events. Given that, winning a gold medal in an extremely popular sport is worth a ton—and probably still worth a lot in unpopular sports. It has thus gone beyond “pure sportsmanship” (whatever that is). We as football fans live this on a daily basis and are probably pretty much immune to it at this point.

While controversies are not always bad for sport (Did the shuttlecock cross the line? Tune in next week for the eagerly-anticipated rematch!), routine dismissal of teams for playing within the rules but not being particularly sporting about it is a transparent attempt to have your cake and eat it too. To be angry that teams participating in eagerly awaited, sold-out, heavily televised matches are not focused entirely on the spirit of sportsmanship is just a load of crap dropped by that jacks-playing elephant. What football has going for it is that it has accepted controversy into its worldview: RFEF alone has fully accepted that physical assault on opposing coaches is okay, so long as you’re driving up the ratings. Dani Benitez, on the other hand, is scum. And we all keep watching, riveted.

Badminton will deal with these controversies (There were two shuttlecocks on the court!), but as a sport that has not received the international recognition that it obviously craves, it must be more flexible and more capable of foresight. Borrowing the core concepts of round-robin play followed by a randomly assigned knockout stage would be a pretty easy yet large step forward. Instead, we’re talking about how stupid they are and how little I want to watch any of the badminton matches left in these Games.

In conclusion, governing bodies are just a bunch of shuttlecocks.


*obviously they involved the word “shuttlecock” said as much as possible

**I can’t help but imagine a boardroom full of ex-players seriously discussing shuttlecock shape and size, their impassioned arguments augmented by PowerPoint presentations on the history of the shuttlecock.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. August 1, 2012

    Sorry, Isaiah, you can justify their actions all you want but we all know that what those players did was wrong. We talk a lot around here about respecting your opponent and the fans, and those teams did neither. They might just as well have competed in clown suits. It would at least have been a more entertaining spectacle. Deliberately playing poorly to throw a game is cheating (in football we call that “match fixing”, and it is illegal).

    Obviously the organizers should be blamed for how the tournament was structured, but that in no way absolves the players who cynically took advantage of it. (And that Guardian piece is rubbish. Pure contrarianism for its own sake. Journalistic masturbation.)

    • August 1, 2012

      Far be it for me to object to journalistic masturbation…

      I do think, though, that I disagree about it being match fixing. Match fixing it is, in a strict sense (most probably know it as tanking or dumping), but so is hardly showing up if you’re already through to the next round. To me, match fixing involves gambling and doesn’t actually give the team involved an advantage. I am not advocating tanking, dumping, or match fixing by any means, merely pointing out that in a world where we demand absolute perfection and gold medals, how can we not expect loopholes to be taken advantage of?

      Yes, it’s farcical to have this exist, but, honestly, if the purpose is the gold medal, doesn’t it make sense to actually lose those matches? It’s easy enough to say “they should have played harder” (or, really “they should have played”) but do you ever find yourself rooting for Barça to get an easy Champions League group so that they can progress with a minimum of effort or to not draw Russians in the February knockout rounds? While I can’t actually answer that question for you, I know that a lot of people do root for that and I can’t see anything wrong with that, but it is, really, the same thing as this situation. At least to me.

      But then again, all of this goes away with rules that don’t allow for it to be advantageous. No one deliberately loses their way OUT of a tournament, but rather into a better position in that tournament. Why is it wrong to go farther in a tournament by taking advantage of the setup of that tournament?

      Also, if they could please compete in clown suits, I am more likely to watch.

      • August 1, 2012

        Rules are meant to be broken, loopholes meant to be exploited, it seems. More than a few countries, in the interest of getting a few more riders into the track cycling events, have entered them as mountain bike competitors, who are allowed to race another event as long as they start the race in their “official” discipline.

        Germany, for example, has entered Robert Forstermann, a badass track sprinter, in the mountain bike races. Craziness.

        So the rule officially says:

        “the qualification system only allows for a maximum of 8 men and 6 women qualified in Track Cycling. The additional men’s and women’s quota would be possible through the addition of one athlete in each gender coming from a different cycling discipline”.

        So a French track rider rode a couple kilometers of the men’s road race, then dropped out.

          • August 1, 2012

            Yes! There was a pic posted of him next to the German road sprinter Greipel, and it was CRAZY! I have 31-inch thighs. His thighs make my thighs look like calves.

          • August 1, 2012

            :O This picture should has a warning sign. Wow, professional cyclists’ thighs look like that?

          • August 1, 2012

            That pic is in the link Kxevin, I got it via your post on facebook..

          • August 2, 2012

            Forstemann is an anomaly, messifan. He has the biggest legs in pro cycling. Track sprinters are very big, with legs in the continuum between Greipel and Forstemann.

            And to show that it’s still genetics, Forstemann isn’t the world’s fastest track sprinter. These days it’s Gregory Bauge, who is built like an NFL tight end or speed pass rusher.

    • mom4
      August 1, 2012

      If I had spent money to attend those matches, I would have been furious.

    • Ryan
      August 1, 2012

      We have had players deliberately get yellow cards so that they can get their 5th card and sit out vs. a weak team – that isn’t sporting either, right? Sports are meant to be won at the finish line, not midway, and loopholes or shady areas are going to be exploited for strategic purposes.

      • August 1, 2012

        There is strategy, and there is making a mockery of the entire game. Did you actually watch these games? A 10-year-old could have played better. It was disrespectful to the sport, to their opponents, and to their fans who paid to watch them. You can’t compare getting a card for time-wasting to deliberately dropping points in order to lose. A better comparison would be Valdes wearing a blindfold.

        (And for the record, many of us object to getting deliberate cards as well.)

        • Messiah10
          August 2, 2012

          I saw the highlights and I was shocked! The players weren’t even serving it to the opponent. They basically wiffed it and the shuttleCOCK went 2 feet in front of them. If I had paid good money(any kind of money is good money :), even $10) to watch that crap, I’d have been outraged. That said, I think Isaiah has a point. As a competitor I would do anything possible within the rules to win a GOLD medal! I mean anything. I call it gamesmanship. However, what those players did was appalling!

  2. August 1, 2012

    And now we have Japan being told not to score, so that they won’t have to travel.

  3. providence
    August 1, 2012

    Nice article …Isaiah…but remove the Mourihno-Inter issue ….and the RFEF coach-Dani Benitez part and it will make the Article unbiased and more Nicer…..Good Article in all

  4. August 1, 2012

    Dammit, the PSG-Barca friendly on Saturday is NOT going to be on U.S. television. What, did nobody realize that PSG was going to buy everybody, and this would suddenly be interesting? The United friendly is on Fox Soccer, but with BeIN Vaporware having the rights to Liga and Serie A, and the match occurring within their timeframe, that’s that.


      • August 1, 2012

        And ESPN3 means Deportes, which is notorious for not setting its schedule until a day or two out. Think we’re in good shape there. Whew!

        Also interesting is that my local Comcast SportsNet outlets is showing Ligue 1 football. Wonder if this means that BeIN NoLiga is going to adopt local broadcast partners to get the stuff on the air until they get a carriage deal worked out?

    • August 1, 2012

      Apparently, it’s going to be on NBC, which is extravagantly weird, particularly as I thought they’d be showing Olympics pretty much all the time. So. Happy. Right. Now.

      My guess is that PSG will bring out the hittaz for this one. Should be cool.

      • bhed
        August 2, 2012

        I just checked my listings for Saturday on NBC, and its Olympics all day. Where did you get the info? What time on Sat? I would also be so happy if I could see them on the TV.

      • Messiah10
        August 2, 2012

        My brother’s getting married on Sat. and I’m a groomsmen. Hmmmm. Brother’s wedding or Barca vs. PSG? That’s a tough one to be honest. I hate inconvenient social functions. I had to go to Bye Bye Birdie in Chicago for my Grams bday when I was 13 and the Fab Five were in the title game vs. North Carolina! I snuck in a am/fm radio headset and listened to it. Got busted by Moms. She wasn’t down! I’ll get my Barca fix somehow. 🙂

  5. August 1, 2012

    Interesting read, Isaiah! The strategy involved reminds me a bit of the prisoner’s dilemma in game theory.

    OT: looks like Santi Carzola is going to Arsenal. So Malaga is truly in crisis. I don’t know what to think of La Liga anymore. Not enough heads to shake :/

  6. August 1, 2012

    I had the displeasure of watching one of the matches that led to the disqualifications. It was akin to witnessing a football match in which, for a variety of reasons, both teams both chose to kick the ball out for a throw-in, for the entirety of the game. Just because they could. And its not as if they weren’t warned. The tournament referee had a brief chat with them between the sets possibly warning them about the possible repercussions. Yet the level of play didn’t even come close to professional standards, let alone Olympic ones.

    Loophole or not, isn’t it one’s duty to atleast remain professional and not drag the game’s reputation if not theirs through the mud?

    Imagine what went through the minds of the spectators who paid to watch this farce. I would be outraged if I were in the organizing committee. The players’ conduct was unacceptable and deserved the punishment meted out, irregardless of the circumstances surrounding the game..

    • August 1, 2012

      Exactly. I challenge anyone who wants to defend these players to find replays of the matches and actually watch them. All the way through, not just the highlights. At one point one of the Chinese players served into the net 5 times in a row. That wasn’t sport, it was farce.

      If these players end up getting bans from their home country sport federations, though, I hope it is extended to their coaches as well. They were doing what their coaches instructed them to do, without a doubt. Now they will bear the brunt of the “outrage” directed at them–a bit unfair if the coaches don’t get penalized as well.

      • August 2, 2012

        Definitely. The longest rally in the first set was 4 shots. Try sitting through that. Even beginners to the sport can go longer than that.

        Rightly said, its unfair towards the players. One of the Chinese shuttlers is said to have quit the sport. Whoever came up with this ‘strategy’ might not even get punished!

  7. mom4
    August 1, 2012

    OT—A scene in the life of a Barca family:

    Watching Mex v Sui(delayed). Mexican dude just missed a shot. Saw him mouth a certain Spanish “p” word.

    So I say to hubby, “Ooooooh he just said the naughty Spanish word”.

    Without missing a beat hubby says, “Madrid?”

  8. August 1, 2012

    I absolutely refuse to believe that we are talking to Arsenal about Alex Song. I might need a Hector IV for that.

    • August 2, 2012

      Imma take that when phrases like ‘Barca DNA’ and ‘tapping up’ are being bandied around..

  9. August 2, 2012

    Nice article Isaiah.
    I just want to reiterate the fact that two nations didnt conspire against another nation here. I can understand the mentality of those players to avoid their colleagues in semi finals, hoping to earn a gold and silver for their nation.
    I also believe the fact that this came out from Chinese players have bought additional bonus media attraction. If this was done by US or UK, would the media be discussing it so much? I doubt it.
    By my above comments I am not backing what they did at all. I just can understand why they did it. If they have ensured qualification and could store their energy for a future round, just not by playing to their best, it is ok.

  10. August 2, 2012

    Even those who oppose that behavior, are against it because is wasn’t entertaining enough for spectators. Athletes are there to win, not to entertain. It’s usually a one shot in a life time. So they are too busy to satisfy other people needs.

    As annoying as that may sound, but they did what fits them best, within the rules. There is no cheating there. They didnt dive for penalty. They didnt use their hand to score a goal. They didnt get a yellow to decide their suspension timing in a weak match.

    If Barcelona can bench their stars to avoid injuries, others can avoid exhausting themselves so they can win an Olympic medal.

    Entertainment? There are always new movies to watch…

    • Jim
      August 2, 2012

      Not me for one. This was wrong on so many levels. It was wrong because it was against the Olympic spirit which is important to me and it was wrong because I know someone whose only ticket for the Olympics was for that session. Havent spoken to them yet but i know what their take will be.

      I would never accept Barcelona going into any match with the intention of losing it. Can you imagine Messi, Xavi or Iniesta ever accepting that?

      I do accept that no competition should be structured to offer such an obvious incentive to behave in that way. However, having heard the less than gracious comments of one of the Chinese players in announcing her retirement in the huff I’m even more pleased at the stance taken by the authorities.

  11. August 2, 2012

    I think that the strategy was taking advantage of a loophole. Close the loophole for next time. DQing the competitors is bollocks.

    Is is the “evil Chinese” thing? Dunno. I do know that the Chinese swimmer was, on the air by the commentator, essentially accused of doping. Yet a Lithuanian swimmer with a British coach, improved her times by a percentage DOUBLE that of the “doping” Chinese swimmer, in half the time. The non-Chinese swimmer was the same commentator’s “favorute story of the Games.”

    Would the reactions have been different had the competitors been British or American? Good question. You like to think not.

    The Japan football team was ordered by its coach not to score, so that it could not have to travel, and face a very beatable Brazil. FIFA said that was just fine.

    • August 2, 2012

      Plenty of blame to go around. It’s obvious that the organizers are still getting blamed. But making a mockery of the event is also a problem.

      In many ways it’s like the honor code when you’re in college.

    • Messiah10
      August 2, 2012

      I think the Chinese swimmer is being questioned because of the history of the Chinese swim team. 7 swimmers tested positive in Bejing. Over 30 in the 90’s. Also, her time in the last lap was better than the men’s time. I know this will be taken the wrong way, but it’s physically impossible for a top female swimmer to be faster than a top male swimmer. Larger lungs for oxygen capacity, longer arms and legs for bigger strokes and strides, and more muscle percentage per body mass are reasons given. I’m not just throwing shat on the wall to see if it sticks. World renown scientists support and provide this data. I think it’s fair to question the validity of the achievement with all that being said. However, I’m not one who’s questioning it. I’m excited for her. I’m sure she trained her butt off and drank a red bull before her race! 🙂

  12. garry
    August 2, 2012

    This article and discussion is the reason why this blog is the BEST out there.

    @isaiah : A logical and very well argued article. Great work. *Sir, i doff my hat to u.*

  13. August 2, 2012

    OT – Apparently this is how an Australian paper distinguishes the two Koreas.

    • August 2, 2012

      Apparently they haven’t heard of Byungchui Choi. [Warning: possibly NSFW]

      [Source – Nice/Naughty Korea @riffraff40 via @blitzen13. For the other story? Don’t ask :P]

  14. Blau-Grenade
    August 2, 2012

    I would put the blame on the organizers. The players did what was in their best interest. Suspending the players just shows further organizational issues.

    • Jim
      August 2, 2012

      Not sure what you mean by “further” ?? Which organisers?

      • Blau-Grenade
        August 3, 2012

        Hey Jim,
        Organizers of the Olympic games.

  15. August 2, 2012

    Here is a nice post-mortem on the Spanish U23 Olympic football fiasco:


    I pretty much agree on all points. The coach must take the bulk of the blame for poor preparation, tactics, and just plain arrogance in his attitude towards the competition. Thiago would have made a huge difference to that team, but maybe still not enough to overcome the fatigue and poor organization of the team as a whole.

  16. TITO
    August 2, 2012

    This came to my e-mail through a long forgotten forum by me, but anyway, interesting read:

    By Xavier Sala i Martín, former board member and treasurer at FC Barcelona 2004 – 2010

    I have a rule not to comment on Barca unless if it is to defend the board of directors of Joan Laporta, which I was a member of. In three articles published before (October 2 and October 17 and November 2 ), I explained that Sandro Rosell (1) missed the truth when he said that “upon arrival at the club there was not a single euro in the box”, (2) had deceived the newspapers when he leaked few invoices that allegedly showed the unjustified squandering of Laporta (neither there were bills, nor unjustified) and (3) had induced the assembly to vote for actions against Laporta based on a false summary of the whole situation.

    Again, I write about Barca following the presentation of the accounts of the 2011-12 season because the numbers make many things clear. Since coming to office, Rosell has not stopped repeating that he had inherited a poorly run club financially. He said the problem was not the revenue (already a record at the time) but the cost, full of assumed squandering. To get rid of all that squandering, he announced a policy of austerity and cuts: among other things, removed the ink color printers, eliminated some sections and did not pay the invoice of the security system that the club had put in Laporta’s family house (Who received death threats by the violent groups that had been expelled from the club by President Laporta).

    These savings, of course, have brought a huge reduction in spending …Oops! Sorry! Now that I look, I see that the costs of this season, 442 million are higher than the 428 million of Laporta’s last year! I see that both wages and non-athletic sports have increased by 3 million over 2010 and “other amortizations” in 2.6. Operating expenses have increased by 14 million, going from 87.2 to 101,300,000 euros.

    Apart from the amortization of players, the only item that has “fallen” is the “other expenses”, which corresponds to some provisions imposed arbitrarily by the new board when they arrived, reformulated so bizarrely Laporta’s accounts and arbitrarily attributed a lot of “expenses” in the form of provisions. For the inexpert, the provisions are not a result of actual expenditure or waste but a sketch book in recognition of future risk (notable for its magnitude, Sogecable providing 37.5 million). When occurring in timely and non-recurring provisions, it automatically disappeared in 2010 in 2011 and 2012 without having anything to do with Rosell.

    We, therefore, conclude that the supposed austerity of Rosell has not only failed to -comparably -reduce the total costs, but has increased it by 14 million over the 2010! This increase is somewhat surprising especially when you consider that in 2010 they won La Liga and Euro league of basketball, which entailed an expenditure of 38 million in wage variables. Current board has not had the challenge to face such expenses this year, because, unfortunately, has not won any of these two major titles.

    This increase in expenditure leads me to a thought: if, as Rosell said in 2010, allegedly catastrophic situation was due to uncontrolled spending, how the situation may have changed without reducing that expense? Could it be that what they said in 2010 was not true? Could it be that they have failed to cut the squandering because in reality there was no extravagance to cut? Could it be that the alleged losses of 2010 were not real and were not caused by the squandering but were accountants’ and were caused by a malicious and arbitrary provisions, designed to discredit the former president and bring him to justice?

    And while we ask, isnt it funny that Barca get a benefit of 48 million just two years after the current president said he had inherited a bankrupt club? Isnt it funny that they have obtained the highest profits in history right now, when other companies and institutions in the country are drowning in the midst of a financial crisis? The answer is no. It’s not funny because it is untrue that the club that Laporta left was ruined. Plaster is seen in the income statement presented by the club now … Yet not in the expenditure but in revenue!: This season has entered a record 495 million euros. An important part is due to the good work of this board that has managed to negotiate sponsorship agreements, advertising, stadium tours and exploitation. That is clear. But no one doubts that, even if you’re a great negotiator, you cannot get all these contracts without a good product. And the “product” that Russell has found (again, found) when he arrived, was a team that had already won it!

    That is, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Puyol, Abidal, Valdes, Alves, Guardiola, Vilanova and the rest of the sports structure, all are great sports assets. Besides, there are some extraordinary economic assets that have allowed the current board to negotiate a contract, which, without having to cut costs have generated the highest profits in history. And that, although Sandro Rosell and his board persist in hiding, is the real proof of the good management of the previous board, the true legacy of Laporta …

  17. August 2, 2012

    FYI, kids, Keiteeee went public today to call B.S. on the quotes that had him snarking about playing time, and “If Pep said he trusted me, why didn’t he play me more,” etc, etc.

    As I suspected.

  18. August 2, 2012

    It will shock none of you that Adriano is broken before the season even starts. Sprained ankle, doubtful for PSG on Saturday. I think he’s just scared of Ibrahimovic.

    • Dani_el
      August 2, 2012

      I was just about to post that. Considering the last Ibra video I saw from a training in PSG, it would only be logical to be scared. But I think right now his own teammates are more scared of him than his opponents.
      About Keitee, which Madrid biased media posted the lies?

      • Clouseau
        August 3, 2012

        It was Marca article is still on “Capón de Keita a Pep” although they published the true statements 🙂

  19. K_legit in Oz
    August 2, 2012

    Toulalan of Malaga has an offer from Barça? BUY BUY BUY!

    • Kimcelona
      August 2, 2012

      Is Toulalan a DM? Sorry, I’m not familiar with him.

  20. August 2, 2012

    With Adriano’s injury, plus Muniesa out long-term, and Jordi Alba being forced by Tito to take a few days vacation…we have no left back for the game against PSG on Saturday. Unless Fontas gets passed fit before then, which doesn’t seem likely.

    Has Bartra ever played there? I don’t believe he ever did. What do you all think Tito is going to do? Play a back three of Alves-Pique-Masche? Draft Afellay as an emergency LB? Or JDS? Puyol could cover LB, but I don’t see Tito starting him just a few days after getting his medical clearance.

    I suspect we will see a back line of Alves-Masche-Pique-Bartra. Bartra will be out of position, but I think he can handle it. It will be interesting, anyway.

    • Kimcelona
      August 2, 2012

      It is a dilemma. I’m very curious to see what Tito does.
      I dislike 3-4-3 so I’m hoping he’ll get creative..but I’m guessing he’ll put Bartra at LB.

    • August 3, 2012

      He may just use Planas there. A chance to give him such experience with first team. It’s a friendly after all.

    • Clouseau
      August 3, 2012

      Montoya made it on the list i remember him playing for couple of minutes as LB for first Team.
      For now Planas and Montoya can share their minutes on Saturday.

    • August 3, 2012

      I’d like to see Montoya – Mascherano – Pique – Alves.

      Have a feeling Vilanova isn’t a big fan of the 3-4-3

  21. August 2, 2012

    Some selected quotes from Keita’s interview with Rac1 radio:

    Keita: “Quotes criticizing Guardiola? Things have been published that I didn’t say. Didn’t talk with that paper.”

    Keita: I’m sure if Pep has seen these statements he’d say that Seydou has not spoken ill of me, because it is impossible.

    Keita: I have not spoken ill of Pep yesterday, I will not speak ill of Pep today, nor tomorrow.

    Keita: Pep knows who I am, that’s the most important.

    Keita: Pep knows how things go in the press. This has happened many times.

    Keita: I had an offer from China five times that of Barca, but I was talking to the club to stay in Barcelona.

    • August 3, 2012

      Thanks for those. As I noted above, I didn’t believe those Keita quotes. Nice of him to clear everything up.

  22. August 3, 2012

    ESPN Deportes will be carrying the PSG friendly on Saturday, in one of the last times an FCB match might be on U.S. television this season. So live it up.

    • Messiah10
      August 3, 2012

      I’m choosing to keep faith that a deal will be done. It’s inconceivable that Liga won’t be shown on t.v. in the U.S. That said, there was a time when no one was able to watch any league overseas. I’ve lucked out because my Uverse is on the fritz. I can now change services without a penalty because they can’t get it working. I’m waiting as long as possible for a deal to get done before I switch. Please, get it done!

    • mega_tajh
      August 3, 2012

      Lucky for me ESPNCaribbean is showing the game in a live English broadcast. Hoping they continue for the La Liga season.

      • August 3, 2012

        They won’t. BeIN has locked up everything, and isn’t going to have partners, like GolTV did with the ESPN channels.

  23. August 3, 2012

    More ammunition:

    In the men’s Team Sprint, the GB rider admitted to deliberately laying the bike down to get a restart. They won the second ride, and went on to win the event.

    This Olympics has been one of complexity for me.

    Oh, and Japan’s “don’t score” strategy worked, as they downed Brazil in women’s footy, 2-0.

    • Jim
      August 3, 2012

      Don’t know what we’re feeding our cyclists but it’s working ! What a series of displays 🙂

        • August 3, 2012

          Victoria Pendleton in the keirin was absurd. She threw down a 10.9 flying 200, after a 400-meter hard effort. That’s close enough to 40 mph to call it that. Badass. I love the track cycling.

  24. August 3, 2012

    In other news, Abidal is traveling with the club to the PSG friendly. I can only view this as extremely, extremely good news.

  25. Jim
    August 3, 2012

    I’m not an expert but my own favourite moment was in the team sprint when Chris Hoy accelerated like a rocket off an already crazy pace past Kenny to seal gold. It was one of those moments like I remember Seb Coe doing in previous championships as he destroyed great fields.

    Now all we need is Andy to win gold in the tennis ! I love Federer but he’s due us this one.

  26. Jim
    August 3, 2012

    I’m not sure how the games are being viewed abroad but from here they are looking pretty awesome. I’d say they’ve been doing a great job- and I say this as a Scot about the English organisers ! I assume you’re more talking about the IOC ?

  27. Jim
    August 3, 2012

    Sorry – above was a reply to Blau Grenade way above. I’ve already spilt some Shiraz on the carpet at the end of Pendleton’s race now I can’t handle the Reply button. Time to halt the drink 🙂

  28. Alex
    August 3, 2012

    Well, it seems Bein Sports feels bad for the US market and is providing a free live stream of the channel!! They are currently showing Barca TV. They will also stream the Barca PSG game live for free.


    • Alex
      August 3, 2012

      Reading more of there tweets, it seems they will live stream for free until August 15th….

    • Alex
      August 3, 2012

      If this free preview stream is any indication of how the pay stream service will work, I’m all in. Good quality and it plays natively on iPad and iPhone and I assume any android device as well.

      • August 4, 2012

        Thanks for the link! Maybe Ray Ray and Phil will call this game 😀
        The game is at 2:45 pm EST, right?

  29. Kimcelona
    August 3, 2012

    Thanks for the link Alex! This BeIN Sport seems great. I like what I see from the stream..if this is how its gonna be I’m all in as well!

    I’m am TOOOO happy that Phil and Ray-ray will be the announcers for Liga games. Love it!

    Right now I’m watching a friendly between Ewspanyol and Montpellier with Ray-ray and Phil commentary! WOOP!

  30. Dani_el
    August 4, 2012

    This is a translation of brilliant catalan journalist Martí Perarnau:

    And who will it be? Who will “replace” Xavi when the time comes?
    “It will be Messi. Messi the european Tetraquartista. Tito continues the evolution: Messi will be Xavi’s successor. Messi does everything, and because every thing he does, does it well, that too Messi will do. Ahead of him, to scissors breaking the opponent’s defensive line, and Messi keeping the timing of the game. This will be the equation to keep Xavi’s health. (…)
    As a matter of fact, we see Messi closer to Xavi, sharing the rule of timing on occassion from one to another. I remember Wembley’s final, and see both of them fluttering around three quarters of the field, timing the rythm of the game. Maybe it is not that crazy to believe this after all.”

    Actually, I do believe it, as I did believe that Masche would “replace” Puyol in game and heart. Of course Puyi will play until he’s 40.

    • Dani_el
      August 4, 2012

      It was “two scissors”, and “seeing both of them”
      Sorry for the mistake, I don’t know how to edit it.

    • August 4, 2012

      There is no doubt that Messi will play deeper when he get older and his fluidity slows down. We talked about it many times already. Though I think he’ll be more a Zidane than a Xavi.

    • August 4, 2012

      I have this thought that *if* Messi wins the World Cup with Argentina in 2014, he might not be too motivated to perform at the highest level afterward.

  31. August 4, 2012

    Since Adriano is injured and Alba on vacation, I’m all in favor of a 3-4-3 formation. I think the team will use this formation at some points this season, so might as well experiment now against a fairly good opponent. Also, what would happen if Tito uses mostly b-players, Qatar revokes the sponsorship deal? 😛

  32. August 4, 2012

    Dang it! I got my math wrong, so the game starts at 1:45 pm US EST.

    Line up: Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Puyol Mascherano Planas – Rafinha Busquets SergiRoberto – Alexis Messi Afellay

    PSG line-up (official): Douchez – Jallet Sakho Alex Maxwell – Rabiot Bodmer Pastore – Lavezzi Ibrahimovic Nene

    No 3-4-3 😀
    I’m actually excited to see how Pastore will play. I’ve never seen him play before but heard a lot of good things about him.

  33. ooga aga
    August 4, 2012

    something to whet your appetite for the game

    from: *http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story/_/id/1129463/off-the-ball:-banega%27s-flaming-ferrari,-ibra%27s-golazo?cc=5901

    ‘Having spent a couple of days with his new colleagues, Ibrahimovic felt it was time to exert his dominance over his puny team-mates. First he slammed Nene to the ground with a blow to the ribs, leaving him wincing in pain, and then collided with Jeremy Menez, who needed to apply ice to an eye injury.

    …Asked after the match what he made of his new club, Ibrahimovic said: “We will have a better team than Milan this season, for sure.” And why might that be, Zlatan? “Because Milan has lost its two best players,” the modest striker replied.’

  34. Manish
    August 4, 2012

    Barcelona players…look like the lemonade.. i had at the farmers market…:)

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