Book Review: Fixing Sixty Six – A tale of political corruption that could just be true by Tim Flower

World Cup football and corruption? It’s never been known!

Well, there was that rumour at the 1978 tournament that Argentina needing to win 4-0 against Peru to progress to the Final, gave their South American neighbours a boatload of cash and grain. Full-time score, Argentina 6-0 Peru…

1982. Austria v West Germany in the Group Stages. A win for the Germans would see them and their opponents Austria through and would eliminate Algeria. Horst Hrubesch puts West Germany ahead after ten minutes and that is effectively the last action of the game, as both sides effectively stop playing. Full-time, Austria 0-1 West Germany…

Then there were the accusations in 2002 that the match officials were ‘got at’ as joint hosts South Korea achieved unbelievable wins over Italy and Spain to reach the Semi-Finals…

And of course, who can forget the debacle of the awarding of the 2018 Finals to Russia and Qatar in 2022 due to corruption within FIFA.

Oh, for the good old days, times like 1966 when England showed the world about fair play and sportsmanship in lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy. Not a whiff of corruption. Or was there?

Tim Flower’s Fixing Sixty Six is a fictional look at the tournament told through the eyes of retired journalist Harry Miller. It tells of an undercover government operation to ensure that England win the World Cup, ensuring at the same time the boosting of the popularity of the Labour government under Harold Wilson at a time of economic struggle in the country. Flower’s cleverly weaves fact and fiction to provide a very credible story as government advisor Ludovic Forsyth manipulates and spins away behind the scenes.

The book also provides a believable sketch of life in the 1960s, where a ‘woman’s place is in the home’, where ‘foreigners’ and ‘homos’ aren’t to be trusted, and the idea of exotic food is a boil in the bag Vesta Curry. Whilst football is the focus of the book, the author also touches on providing a comparison with the political situation in 1966 and that when Harry regales his sensational story in 2016, as Britain once again struggles with its identity and its position not only in a European context, but globally.

A minor criticism is that it could have done with a tighter edit as a number of avoidable typos are present. Overall though, it is ultimately an intriguing and absorbing read. That day back in 30 July 1966 may never be seen in the same light again.

(“Talk About Productions” November 2019. 428pp)


Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Tuesday 01 July 2014

Having played in goal over the years I tend to focus on the men between the sticks when I watch a game. To me it is the position with the biggest responsibility as any mistakes are generally fatal for a team.

Take the France v Nigeria game – which like so much of this World Cup – was an intriguing encounter. Both French keeper Lloris and Nigerian Enyeama were excellent as they kept the score at 0-0. Then with just eleven minutes remaining, the Nigerian No: 1 flapped badly at a cross and Pogba was able to head home. In that one instant, all his previous good work had been undone and cost his team the lead. As a consequence Nigeria had to take more risks as they searched for an equalizer, but then conceded a second in time added on.

In the Germany v Algeria game we saw German keeper Manuel Neuer play as a sweeper. Whilst it worked for the Germans last night in allowing them to play further up the pitch, it is a risky strategy. I certainly got nervy watching him charge out of his area, so goodness knows what the German fans felt like. Last night the strategy worked as Germany emerged winners against a lively Algerian team who were not disgraced at all in taking the game into extra-time.

The remaining last sixteen games are played out later today with Argentina v Switzerland and Belgium v USA. It would be all too easy to say it will be a stroll for Argentina and Belgium, but their fates are literally in the hands of Messers Benaglio, Romero, Courtois and Howard.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 30 June 2014

It is some sort of conspiracy?

Fulham get relegated in the 2013/14 season and then in this World Cup, those with a connection to Craven Cottage suddenly turn into world-beaters. So you think I’m exaggerating? Okay, Clint Dempsey. Left us under a cloud and after a spell at Spurs returned last season (just to keep himself in trim pre-Brazil) and has been inspirational for USA as Captain America. You want another example? Bryan Ruiz. Captain of Costa Rica. His time by the Thames was as lightweight and fragile as filo pastry. In Brazil he scores the winner against Italy and was instrumental in the victory over Greece to see his team into the Quarter-Finals.

But hey, what am I complaining about, I could be a Mexican fan. With two minutes to go against Netherlands, they were on their way to a Quarter-Final place. Then Sneijder smashes home from a corner and then in time added-on Huntelaar slots home a penalty. Just think how good the Dutch could be if Sneijder spent less time arguing with the officials and Robben stayed on his feet…

Today’s drama will come from the following ‘Europe v Africa’ fixtures:

France v Nigeria

Only one friendly international fixture between these two teams which came in 2009 and was won by a goal by Nigeria’s Joseph Akpala. Nigeria showed against Argentina in their last group game that they are dangerous opponents. Are France the real-deal or was their qualifying group one of the weakest of the tournament? Super Eagles to fly through or the French cockerel to strut into the Quarter-Finals? I don’t care as long as it’s another barn-stormer of a game!

Germany v Algeria

Much has been made about this Quarter-Final as it brings back memories of the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The pre-unified West Germany lost 2-1 to Algeria in the group and going into the last game against Austria knew that a 1-0 or 2-0 win would be enough to see both of the European neighbours through. West Germany scored after ten minutes and that was about it as far as any meaningful action went as the game was reduced to a walking pace so ensuring a mutually beneficial result. The Algerians were outraged and exited the competition. As a result FIFA decided that the final group games in future tournaments would kick-off at the same time to try and lessen the chances of sides manufacturing results. Revenge is in the air for the Algerians, but I can’t see it happening tonight. And anyway the Germans are my sweepstake team!

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Friday 27 June 2014

Yes I’m sorry, but I’m still banging on about Suarez.

He was quite rightly found guilty and consequently fined and given a suspension by FIFA. From my perspective he got off lightly, but that’s just personal opinion.

Whilst it is no surprise that the Uruguayan FA has appealed, I am surprised that FIFA hasn’t stated, like some other sporting bodies, that whilst an appeal is permissible, if after the appeal the accused is still found guilty, then any ban could be extended. In the case of Suarez what is there to appeal? It’s clear he bit the Italian, an action which is totally unacceptable in the game and given it is his third offence, he’s coped a ban.

The appeal will mean the story drags on during the World Cup and will then become a feature as the build-up to the new season in England begins.

What is difficult to fathom is the reaction of many in Uruguay who can’t see what Suarez has done wrong. Indeed he was greeted as a ‘hero’ as he returned to Montevideo yesterday. Are these people blind? Did they not see the incident? Now the Uruguayan press are in full-cry telling the world that this is a European conspiracy within FIFA to put down the Latin Americans.

But we know the world we live in is generally morally corrupt. Adidas for instance, look like they have no plans to drop their sponsorship of Suarez and will instead give him a slap on the wrist in reminding him of his responsibilities on the pitch. And we know damn well that if Suarez wanted away from England this summer there will be clubs willing to take him on.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing for once it someone took a stance. How naive am I…

And in the midst of it all the final group games took place to confirm the last four teams. Germany, USA, Belgium and Algeria emerged to complete the line-up for the last sixteen. Thankfully today there are no games and maybe just maybe I can get back to enjoying the action on the pitch rather than off it.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 23 June 2014

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and it seemed that Belgium and Russia took that literally in the opening game yesterday. It was overall a game of poor quality, although Belgium started and ended it well. In between it was nothing much to write home about. Dries Mertens was dangerous out wide for Belgium in the opening spell of the first-half, whilst Eden Hazard rekindled the game in the last ten minutes of the second-half as the Russians tired badly. The Chelsea midfielder, Hazard, provided the winner as his cut-back ball allowed substitute Divock Origi to slam home with just two minutes remaining. Belgium through and the 2018 World Cup hosts, Russia, on the brink of exit.

The concept of ‘rest’ continued into game two of the day as South Korea might have well been sat in deckchairs on the Copacabana beach for the first-half against Algeria. Their defensive display by Korea was so inept that they found themselves 3-0 down at half-time (did someone say betting scandal?), although credit to Algeria as they capitalised on their opponents generosity. In the second-half, Korea briefly rallied as they pulled a goal back, but any chance of a comeback was killed off by a fourth Algerian goal, although Korea scored a scored to add some respectability to the score-line.

So to the last of the actions yesterday between the USA and Portugal. Nani had put Portugal ahead early in the first-half and they held the advantage at the break. The goal had come from a howler from Geoff Cameron and looked like it was taken straight out of the South Korean defence training manual used in the previous game. However, the game was all about the second-half. Jones showed real class to curl in the equaliser for USA and when Dempsey headed home with nine minutes remaining, it was Portugal who were heading home. But there was drama to come, as with seconds remaining, Michael Bradley lost possession to Ronaldo and the captain’s cross was headed in by Varela. This group is still up for grabs.

The last of the group games starts later today and hopefully more drama and shocks await…

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Sunday 22 June 2014

I genuinely enjoyed the Argentina v Iran game. To date I’ve been critical of some of the keepers in the tournament so far, but have nothing but praise for Romero of Argentina and Haghighi of Iran who between them kept the game at 0-0 with some excellent saves right up until time added-on. The goal that broke the deadlock on 91 minutes had to be something special and it was, as Messi curled in for an Argentinian winner. Iran deserved a point and whilst pleased to see Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah perform so well, I’d rather he had a quieter last game in the group stages so that he isn’t lured from the Cottage in the coming season.

A breathless evening of matches continued as Germany went up against Ghana. Despite an end-to-end opening forty five minutes, the first-half remained goal-less. Germany though went ahead early in the second period, when Gotze scored, with what looked like a header. Replays showed that it in fact bounced off the Germans nose and then his knee. The lead was brief though, as Ghana were level within three minutes, when Andre Ayew out jumped a static German defence to head home. Just after the hour mark things got even better for Ghana when Asamoah Gyan slotted home after Lahm’s slip allowed the Ghanian through on goal. The Germans though levelled it up at 2-2 when Miroslav Klose prodded in from a corner. The goal was significant in that it meant Klose became the joint leading score in World Cup Finals with Ronaldo (15 goals). Take note Wayne…

Nigeria v Bosnia-Hercegovina might not have stood out when the fixtures were released, but with a game that produced 20 attempts on goal from each side it proved to be worth a watch. Bosnia know they had to win to stay in the competition and Manchester City’s Dzeko was a constant threat to Nigeria. Just as in the Iran v Argentina game, the keepers were in good form. The game had two keys moments, the first was when Dzeko had a goal (incorrectly) ruled out for offside and the second was when in the build-up to when Nigeria scored, in which Emmanuel Emenike made contact with Bosnian defender Emir Spahic before crossing for Peter Odemwingie to fire home. Both were massive decisions, and yet both were accepted without protest by the players. I’m not convinced all the 32 teams in the Finals would have reacted that way – but refreshing to see from Nigeria and Bosnia. Premier League players take note…

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Thursday 31 January 2013

Group D:

Algeria (0) 2 – 2 (0) Ivory Coast

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Despite the fact that there was nothing riding on this game as Ivory Coast were through and Algeria were out, it actually proved to be an entertaining encounter. With the pressure off, Ivory Coast rested a number of players, although Didier Drogba started for The Elephants. Algeria had the chance to go ahead in the first half when they were awarded a penalty, however Ryad Boudebouz could only hit the post and the chance was gone. Into the second-half and on sixty four minutes Arthur Bokam clumsily handled in the box to give Algeria a second penalty. Sofiane Feghouli made no mistake, putting it firmly into the top left hand corner. Six minutes later Algeria scored a second, when Feghoul got down the right wing and his cross was headed home by El Arbi Hillel Soudani, who had easily lost his marker. On seventy seven minutes Drogba got Ivory Coast back in the game when he delicately flicked home a header. The comeback was complete with nine minutes remaining, when Wilfried Bony let fly from outside the box, and his shot found the net after a wicked deflection off defender Rafik Halliche. At the whistle, Algeria left the tournament with their first goals and only point in the competition, whilst for Ivory Coast, the quest for the 2013 title continues.


Togo (1) 1 – 1 (1) Tunisia

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Togo knew a point would be enough to see them through to the Quarter-Finals for the first time in their history, but it was by no means a simple task. They started the more positive of the two teams and took the lead on thirteen minutes. Adebayor made a surging run from half-way before playing in Serge Gakpé who finished smartly. However, replays suggested that Gakpé was offside, but the goals stood and Togo were ahead. Tunisia though responded and were level on the half-hour when Khaled Mouelhi converted a penalty after Walid Hichri was brought down following a corner; 1-1 at the break. The second-half became the story of the referee, South African Daniel Bennett, as blatant penalties were turned away for both sides, and then one awarded for a ‘soft’ challenge on Saber Khlifa. Khaled Mouelhi stepped up again but this time he hit the post; justice done. In addition, Bennett mistakenly booked Nibombe Dare, when in fact the foul was committed by Serge Akakpo. Despite the best efforts of Tunisia, Togo held on to progress. Tunisia like their North African neighbours Algeria were out.



(1) Ivory Coast, (2) Algeria, (3) Togo, (4) Tunisia.


Final Standings:

(1) Ivory Coast, (2) Togo, (3) Tunisia, (4) Algeria.


The competition now has a two day break and resumes on Saturday with the first two Quarter-Finals, with Sunday seeing the remaining two being played. The fixtures are as follows, with the latest CAF Rankings in brackets:

Saturday 02 February 2013

 Ghana (4) v Cape Verde (15)

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth


South Africa (22) v Mali (3)

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban


 Sunday 03 February 2013

 Ivory Coast (1) v Nigeria (9)

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg


Burkina Faso (23) v Togo (18)

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Tuesday 22 January 2013

Group C: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Zambia (1) 1 – 1 (0) Ethiopia

The 2012 AFCON Champions Zambia were involved in a game that is best described as ‘incident packed’. From the kick-off it was a game that featured some, what only can be described as ‘robust’ challenges and Zambia’s Stoppila Sunzu received a yellow card within the opening fifteen minutes for a crude tackle on Saladain Said. The Ethiopia nearly put his side ahead on eighteen minutes, but his lob over Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene incredibly bounced over the crossbar, thanks to a dry and rock hard pitch. The Champions were living dangerously and on twenty four minutes, they conceded a penalty when Chisamba Lungu fouled Saladin Said. The Ethiopian took the resultant penalty, but his weak effort was easily parried away by Mweene. From the ensuing attack, Zambia nearly scored themselves, but Jemal Tassew saved smartly. However, the hero turned villain when just after the half hour mark he was sent-off for an awful challenge on Chisamba Lungu. The keeper injured himself in the process and left the field on a stretcher as the referee brandished the red card. Zambia made their numerical advantage count with the first-half ticking away, as Collins Mbesuma muscled between two Ethiopian defenders to plant his half volley past substitute keeper Zerihun Tadele. As the Zambians celebrated, objects were thrown at the players from the crowd. Into the second-half, Ethiopia remained resolute and on sixty four minutes levelled the score. Addis Hintsa provided a pin-point pass for Saladain Said and he fed Adane Girma who slotted past Mweene at his near post. Zambia searched hard for a winner, but couldn’t find one and so Ethiopia finished with a point that they richly deserved.


Nigeria (1) 1 – 1 (0) Burkina Faso

Another game in the 2013 AFCON and another draw. Nigeria one of the ‘big guns’ in African football failed to deliver in a game they were expected to win. The Super Eagles dominated the opening exchanges and therefore it was no surprise when they took the lead after twenty three minutes. From a through ball, Ideye Brown’s clever back-heel flick fell to Emmanuel Emenike and he reacted quickest to fire home to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead. There seemed to be no urgency from the Nigerians to seek a second goal and the remainder of the half was a pretty uninspiring passage of play. In the second period Burkina Faso stuck manfully to their task, but there was a distinct lack of quality in some of the play from both sides, with wayward passes and equally wayward attempts on goal. As with the earlier game in Group C, some of the tackles and challenges were crude and on seventy three minutes, Nigeria were reduced to ten men when Celtic’s Efe Ambrose was dismissed for a second yellow card. Despite being a man down, Nigeria continued to create chances, with Ikechukwu Uche particularly wasteful. The Super Eagles were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when in time added-on, substitute Alain Traoré levelled for Burkina Faso. Jonathan Pitroipa received the ball out wide and cut the ball back into the box, inexplicably the two Nigerians defenders dithered and failed to clear it, allowing Traoré to slot home; cue wild celebrations on the Burkina Faso bench. Not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but one which delivered with some last gasp drama.

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Group D: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Ivory Coast v Togo

Ivory Coast (The Elephants) are the top ranked CAF side going into the competition and also the bookies favourites. However, they have in the past struggled with this weight of expectation and their one and only AFCON title was in 1992. In qualifying for the 2013 tournament, The Elephants overcame Senegal 6-2 on aggregate. The 2nd leg in Dakar had to be abandoned shortly after the Ivory Coast went 2-0 ahead in the seventy first minute, as violence erupted on the terraces. In their last warm-up game, The Elephants overcame Egypt 4-2. Ivory Coast will no doubt make it through the Group stage, but can they hold their nerve to take the crown?

Togo’s (Les Eperviers – The Sparrow Hawks) last experience of the AFCON was surrounded with tragedy as on the eve of the tournament in 2010, their team bus was attacked and three people were killed. Togo withdrew, but were then banned by CAF from the next two tournaments. However, FIFA halved the penalty which meant The Sparrow Hawks could enter qualification for the 2013 competition. They overcame Kenya on away goals after finishing 2-2 on aggregate and sealed their place in South Africa with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Gabon.


Tunisia v Algeria

The first round of Group games concludes with a clash of North African teams and will see Tunisia (The Eagles of Carthage) up against Algeria (Les Fennecs – The Fennec Foxes). Tunisia came through qualification against Sierra Leone on away goals after finishing 2-2 on aggregate. In their warm-up games, they lost 4-2 to Ghana and drew with Gabon 1-1.

Algeria were more convincing in qualification, and saw off Gambia 6-2 on aggregate, followed by victory over North African neighbours Libya 3-0 on aggregate. In their last warm-up game, Algeria took on 2013 hosts South Africa and played out a 0-0 draw.0

The bookies see very little between these teams, whereas the CAF rankings have Algeria at number two and Tunisia at ten. A ‘local derby’, so a draw with honours even and local bragging rights not settled.


Prediction: (1) Ivory Coast, (2) Algeria, (3) Togo, (4) Tunisia.