Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 14th 2013 Contents A55
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, August 14, 2013
LONDON---In international foot-
ball, few rivalries are greater and
none are older.
According to former Scotland
coach Craig Levein, Scotland versus
England is "the ultimate contest.
It really is as good as it gets."
But so fierce is the rancor, that
a quarter of a century ago, facing
a losing battle against rampant
hooliganism, their annual matches
had to be abandoned.
Now, for the first time since
1989, the old foes are meeting
again at their choosing despite
sporadic fan violence returning to
haunt football in recent years and
presenting security fears ahead of
today s game.
A heavy police operation is in
place across London as Wembley
Stadium prepares to host the 111th
meeting between the cross-border
rival since the first in 1872.
The English Football Association
said a considerable amount of
"intelligence-led work" has been
undertaken with the police pre-
pared for an influx of fans from
north of the border.
Police Scotland has sent spe-
cialised hooligan spotters to Lon-
don to work alongside the London
force, with officers particularly
wary of fans amassing in the cap-
ital s main square and drinking
through the day.
"We are aware that traditionally
Scotland supporters congregate in
Trafalgar Square and this will form
part of our policing operation," the
Metropolitan Police said in a state-
ment to The Associated Press,
describing their plan as "appro-
priate and proportionate."
It will be a friendly in name, but
not necessarily in nature.
"There will be lots of banter,"
England coach Roy Hodgson said.
"There will be lots of insults flying
across the way, but it will all be
done in a reasonably good spirit."
The only England-Scotland
games since 1989 have been in
official competitions, with the
neighbors facing off at the 1996
European Championship in Lon-
don, and home and away three
years later in a Euro 2000 playoff.
In May, fears of violence proved
unfounded when England played
Ireland for the first time since dis-
order forced their last fixture in
1995 to be abandoned, raising
hopes that Wednesday s game will
also pass off peacefully. But in 2011
when England hosted another
neighbor, Wales, a visiting sup-
porter was killed in an attack out-
side Wembley by an England fan,
who was later jailed for three years.
"I trust the fans," Hodgson said.
"I think the behaviour of fans has
improved enormously. We did have
a little period many years ago when
fan behavior was a problem, but
an awful lot has been done and
fans are more responsible."
Hodgson, though, is old enough
to remember when football
grounds were a different, less wel-
As is Scotland coach Gordon
He was at Wembley on his hon-
eymoon in 1977 when, after a
memorable 2-1 victory, Scotland
fans poured onto the pitch, ripping
up pieces of turf to take home and
tearing down the goals.
However, a peaceful Euro 96
game, which England won 2-0,
offered hope the rivalry could be
resumed with regular meetings.
But three years later, there were
running battles between fans in
Glasgow around the first leg of
their Euro 2000 playoff, leading
to more than 200 arrests. England
won 2-0 at Hampden Park and
qualified despite losing 1-0 on
It s only the FA s 150th anniver-
sary that has brought the rivals
back together on a football pitch
amid a congested fixture calendar
where England seeks more com-
petitive and lucrative games.
Adding to intrigue is the pos-
sibility that by the next time the
teams meet, the "Auld Enemy"
could have broken away from
A referendum in September 2014
will determine whether Scotland
ends more than 300 years of polit-
ical union with its more populous
Though the two countries have
shared a government since 1707,
centuries-old tales of English bru-
tality and Scottish resistance still
have strong emotional resonance,
with Scottish schoolchildren taught
about victories over invading
armies from the south.
In football, though, the countries
have rarely been a force despite
helping to invent the game and
playing the first international
match---a 0-0 draw in 1872.
England, which recently dropped
to 14th in the FIFA rankings, has
won the World Cup just once in
Scotland, at 50th in the FIFA
rankings, has never won a major
tournament and has not qualified
for the World Cup since 1998. (AP)
VATICAN CITY---Pope Francis cheered
fellow Argentine Lionel Messi and
other football stars yesterday as he
held a morality-focused pep rally of
sorts at the Vatican for Argentina and
Italy s national teams ahead of their
eagerly awaited friendly match.
Francis, the first pontiff from Latin
America, is an avid football fan who
roots for the Saints of San Lorenzo back
in Buenos Aires. Since his election as
pope in March he has accumulated a
growing collection of football jerseys
tossed to him by fans at his public
Barcelona star Messi, his teammates
on the Argentine national football
squad, as well as Italy s national team
players were treated to a private audi-
ence with Francis in the Apostolic Palace
ahead of today s rare match.
But the pope gracefully dodged the
question of whether he d offer a papal
blessing for his home country s team.
"It will really be a bit difficult for
me to root, but luckily it s a friendly
match" whose outcome doesn t count
in the standings, he said. Francis noted
the influence of athletes, especially on
youth, and told the players to remember
that, "for better or worse" they are role
"Dear players, you are very popular.
People follow you, and not just on the
field but also off it," he said. "That s
The pope also said he yearned for
the times of his youth when his entire
family could happily and safely go to
stadiums, expressing hope that "we ll
see families in the stands again."
He also voiced hope that violence
and discrimination would disappear
from the football world, a reference to
fan brawling and occasional racist
chants and banners that taunt players
who are descendants of immigrants to
Europe from Africa and elsewhere.
Italian national coach Claudio Cesare
Prandelli said he didn t get the chance
to invite Francis to today s game.
"He anticipated my question," Pran-
delli said after the gathering. "He said
he has received so many requests" to
attend the game, but indicated that the
Vatican security apparatus gave the
Prandelli said Francis told him that
Vatican security officials scold him "for
being so undisciplined," a reference to
the pope s frequent breaches of protocol
when he embraces the faithful in crowds
or shuns bullet-proof vehicles.
The pope also asked the players to
pray for him, "so that I, on the field
upon which God placed me, can play
an honest and courageous game for the
good of us all."
Such a plea made quite an impression
on Italy s captain, goalkeeper Gianluigi
Buffon, who is a big fan of this pope.
ROME---Argentina star Lionel
Messi and Italy striker Mario
Balotelli will miss the eagerly
awaited friendly match between
the two countries.
Messi has a thigh injury and has
flown back to Barcelona, while
Balotelli has a knee problem and
doesn t want to take any risks ahead
of AC Milan s Champions League
playoff match against PSV Eind-
Both players returned to their
clubs after yesterday s meeting with
Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Italy plays Argentina in Rome
today---their first encounter since
Football-loving pope cheers
Messi, other players
Messi, Balotelli out of Italy vs Argentina
Pope Francis is applauded by Italy goalie Gianluigi Buffon, left, and Argentine
football star Lionel Messi during a private audience at the Vatican, yesterday.
Two big-name Argentines have had a VIP meeting at the Vatican, Pope Francis
and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi. The player, his fellow teammates on the
Argentine national squad as well as Italy's national team players enjoyed a
private audience yesterday with the first Latin American-born pontiff in the
Apostolic Palace. The teams meet today in Rome in a friendly match. AP PHOTO
In this November 17, 1999 file photo, England's David Beckham, right,
and David Seaman celebrate their team's win in the playoffs against
Scotland in their UEFA 2000 qualifier in London's Wembley stadium. In
international football, few rivalries are greater---none are older---than
England vs Scotland. So fierce was the rancor, that a quarter of a
century ago, facing a losing battle against rampant hooliganism, their
annual matches had to be abandoned.
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