THERE was much hype surrounding the draw for the last 16 stage of the Champions League with pundits wetting themselves with excitement at the prospect of Arsenal re-staging their epic clashes against Barcelona last season.
True, both matches were real treats, a feast for football purists and it does seem that Arsenal face the toughest challenge of all the English teams still left in the competition.
Spurs will have their work cut out trying to overcome AC Milan but both Manchester United (v Marseille) and Chelsea (v FC Copenhagen) have moderate opponents.
But just like the Premier League, the Champions League is not all its cracked up to be.
The league structure (instead of a straightforward knock-out competition which it used to be) results in a series of meaningless games which attract very little interest from the public.
Last week’s final round of games included such box office flops as RB Saltzburg v Lech Poznan which drew 5,300 fans; AEK Athens v Zenit St Petersburg (2,000), Debrecen v Sampdoria (5,500), Levski Sofia v Sporting Lisbon (1,600) and the titanic struggle between Getafe and Young Boys which attracted exactly 1,500 supporters the stadium.
Never mind, no doubt all those hard-working FIFA members enjoyed their all-expenses paid trips to the games.
Whilst on the subject of FIFA, it was pleasing to see that their president Sepp Blatter has apologised for saying that gay fans should “refrain from sexual activity if they visit the 2022 World Cup in Qatar”.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Middle Eastern country but of course that didn’t stop Qatar being selected by those wise FIFA delegates to host the World Cup.
Mr Blatter is quoted as saying: “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination. If somebody feels hurt, then I regret [it] and present apologies.”
It would be very easy to pour scorn on Mr Blatter but instead I will just refer you to comments made last week by the Blackpool manager Ian Holloway on reports that FIFA is now considering staging the Qatar World Cup in the winter because summer temperatures can reach over 40C, a move which has received Blatter’s support.
“I think the world has gone completely on its head,” said Holloway. “It’s crazy. We’ll just change everything because their weather is really hot. What happens to our football and everybody else’s that would be playing through it? Do we just stop for a while? Genius, absolutely magnificent.
“I’m going to go home and tell my turkeys, ‘It’s not Christmas, we’re moving it – it’s all right, you’ve got some respite! I’ve had a word with FIFA and we’re going to move Christmas, it’s no problem’.”
Holloway also received support from Wolves boss Mick McCarthy who said: “I think it’s stupid and I think the more airtime he [Blatter] gets, he makes it worse for himself.”
So there you have it, myself, Ian Holloway and Mick McCarthy are all agreed, Blatter is a plonker.
I’ve only seen David Beckham play live twice, both times for Manchester United in Premier League fixtures against the club I support, Derby County, at Pride Park.
On both occasions he impressed me as a hard-working team player who took a useful free-kick and corner.
That’s it, nothing more, nothing less, an average player in a very good side. He also has a famous pop star wife, does some part-time modelling work and often changes his hairstyle.
This weekend Beckham received the BBC’s Sports Personality Lifetime Achievement Award.
Never has a run-of-the-mill player been so over-rated.