Oh Dear, Oh Dear

Wednesday August 15, 2018 at 2:54pm

As the dying embers of the EMF minifootball (yes, in Eastern Europe that word means adult football, not children’s football) slowly wind down, the rump that is left, 20 teams cobbled together from the discarded rejects, the pub teams, play out their matches in Kiev this week.

It is a tournament that is difficult to watch. From the heights of Greece in 2013, it is difficult to believe that the EMF’s flagship tournament has sunk so low.

The TV production, if ‘production’ is the right word, is so amateurish it is reminiscent of the old 1970s Soviet league football matches you can find in the depths of YouTube. Quality control clearly hasn’t been a factor in how the tournament is shown to the wider public.

Not that the wider public is taking much notice. Empty stadiums have been the order of the day. Even for the host team’s matches barely 150 people have bothered to turn up to watch, and most of those are participants in the tournament itself.

In the absence of being able to get any star footballing names, embarrassingly the EMF found a Pierluigi Collina lookalike, and made the EMF look more like a laughing stock than it already is, especially when he turned up in a pair of grey trainers and clearly had been told to do an impression of the legendary Italian referee.

The WMF President Filip Juda, who has tried so hard, must be wondering where it has all gone wrong. Even at the opening ceremony he stood on the pitch, alone amongst EMF officials, looking in wonderment around him, embarrassed, and wondering how he had got into this mess.

The EMF President, David Tibor, more cleverly, stayed in the background, clearly not wanting to be associated with a tournament which would have made a national finals event seem substandard.

No sign, of course, can be seen of the man who has brought the EMF to this sorry state of affairs, the Israeli representative, probably wondering at what point both Juda and Tibor might finally come to their senses and realise exactly who has got them into this fine mess.

Even teams at the tournament itself have been secretly expressing their disappointment. One team, who spoke to us yesterday (but wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal) said it was even worse behind the scenes than what you could see on the livestreaming (when it works). “We’re not going to come again” he said, “this is just a waste of money.”

Another team told us “this will definitely be our last one. In fact, we made a mistake by agreeing to come. There is no atmosphere at all. For some of the first time teams, who probably have very little in their own country, they might think it’s great. But for the teams that have been to EMF EURO in the past they all know, deep down, that this is the worst one yet, and I think a lot of teams won’t come again.”

We, here at UKSA, cannot help but feel sad at what has happened to the EMF. As the EMF slowly fades away to obscurity, and the word ‘minifootball’ is dropped by more and more countries, it is difficult to see how there is any way back. Mr Juda, a likeable man who can be charming, has simply listened to the wrong people. All the countries and organisations within them that could have taken EMF from strength to strength, Greece, Germany, the UK, Portugal, Poland etc. he turned his back on, preferring to listen to those other countries with their own agendas and vested interests.

Mr Tibor can hardly escape the blame for this shambles either. He had an opportunity for a fresh start when he took the helm, but he got drawn in to the Czech Republic/ Israeli conspiracy about the countries that have left, and failed to reach out a hand of friendship when it would have been so easy to be conciliatory.

The EMF now has decisions to make; does it trail in the wake of other organisations, hoping for scraps at the table as it waits at the side of road trying to hitch a lift to somewhere better; Or does it ditch the people that bought it to this parlous state, and try and forge relationships, reach out to others, say they got it wrong and ask for another chance?

For all their faults and frailties, for all the mistakes they have made, Mr Juda and Mr Tibor are not bad men. Listening to the wrong advice is something prone to any of us, from time to time.
However, the true character of any man is when you can admit your mistakes, accept you got it badly wrong, and then try and work with others to make it right again.

After this depressing and embarrassing tournament in Kiev, it will be a long road back for the EMF.

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