Sports Book Chat: Arnie Baldursson

Paul Grech Thursday, October 31, 2013 , , ,
Some time in the late eighties, the BBC issued a documentary called The Official History of Liverpool FC.  With a football-illiterate father and no one to talk to about my growing obsession with the game, that video was played on a semi-permanent loop to the extent that eventually I learnt it all by hear. And, I have to admit, that I thought that I knew quite a lot about the club thanks to that video.

Eventually, I realised that I had only scratched the surface and my education was boosted by reading whatever biographies I could come across. Even so, with a history as rich as Liverpool’s it is virtually impossible to cover everything going bit by bit. Which is why the Liverpool Encyclopedia is such a great idea: it serves as the bible of all things Liverpool.

One of the men behind this labour of love is Arnie Baldursson and the Tomkins Times got in touch to talk about this book and what led to it.


How Early Specialisation is Ruining Kids

Paul Grech Saturday, October 26, 2013 , ,
So, this is how it normally goes.  You, a passionate football fan, take your son or daughter to practice as soon as they’re old enough.  Hopefully you’re enlightened enough not to put too much pressure on them to prove that they’re a great talent but, still, there is that hope in you.  And, unless they’re complete failures – which, in truth, most kids aren’t – or they really hate it you keep on taking them.

After all, everyone knows that with enough practise of the right sort experts can be developed.  Who hasn’t heard of Ericsson’s 10,000 hour theory made famous by Malcolm Gladwell?

All of this is fine, as long as the kids are enjoying themselves.  They might not turn out to be the football stars that you’re secretly hoping they become but their regular attendance is not only keeping them healthy but it is also indirectly instilling in them habits that will help them in other areas.

What could be a problem, however, is if they are forced to keep practising one sport – and just one sport – in the vain hope that they put in the required hours because the truth is that this isn’t helping them.  In fact, it could be doing the opposite.

The rest of the article can be read on Blueprint for Football.

On The Other Side of an Interview

Paul Grech Tuesday, October 22, 2013 ,
Often in interviews I am the one asking the questions so it was a bit different to find myself on the other side of the picture; being the one getting interviewed.  The nice people at Esto Es Anfield asked to talk about a subject close to my heart - youth football - and the result can be found here.

How Habits Shape Football (And Why They Matter To You)

There are very few teams who can do what Barcelona have; keeping the sympathy and support of the neutrals despite dominating Spanish and, to an extent, European football.  Few seem to begrudge their success and, if anything, many cheer them on.  If someone other than my team has to win, then I’d rather it is Barcelona.

The reason for that lies in the way that they play the game.  The verve, creativity and fluidity of their movement is as spellbinding for those watching as it is to the defenders who are trying to stop them from scoring.  

Look closer, however, and you start noticing something strange; that their play seems to follow a very rigid pattern.  The six-seconds rule – press in order to try to win back possession for six second after losing it and if that doesn’t happen, retreat back to your half of the pitch – is perhaps the most famous such pattern but there are others.  

The rest of this piece, which was hugely inspired by Charles Duhigg’s excellent book ‘The Power of Habit', can be found on Blueprint for Football.

More on The Eagle that Delivered Hope...

Paul Grech Friday, October 4, 2013 ,
It is always an honour for my writing to be recognised, not least when it is an influential outlet like The Guardian which ranked my piece on Aquila Calcio as one of the five to read.


The Eagle That Delivered Hope

Paul Grech Thursday, October 3, 2013 , , ,
It was on the 6th of April 2009 that life in the central Italian town of L’Aquila changed forever.  At three thirty-two in the morning of that fateful day, an earthquake registered at 5.9 on the Richter scale hit the whole region leaving devastation in its wake.

In total 309 people died whilst some 1,600 others were left injured – 200 of whom seriously - and in excess of 65,000 people were rendered homeless.  Countless lives had been shattered, dreams snatched away from people and the town itself left in ruins.

Confronted by such human tragedies, it is impossible not to think of how ridiculous it is to waste so much time and energy worrying about the fate of a football team; it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that in the end football isn’t a matter of life and death no matter what we say or how we try to dress it up.

Yet it is also in such moments that sports’ most beautiful of characteristics, that power to unite and help in the healing process, shines brightest.

Talking Italian in the North East

Paul Grech Wednesday, October 2, 2013 ,
Whenever there’s a debate about who is doing it right in the transfer market, two clubs are routinely held up as prime examples.  There’s Porto, the perennial Portuguese champions who have made a fortune off their ability to develop South American talent before selling them off for ridiculous mark-ups.

Then there’s Udinese.  The Italian side’s story is perhaps more intriguing because, unlike Porto, they weren’t one of the country’s traditional big clubs making their rise all the more remarkable.   Up till the early nineties, most of their history had been spent playing in the Serie B or lower.  Then they began striking it lucky finding one talented player after another.
Copyright 2010 Paul Grech: Writer