Study: Pollution Killed Nine Million People in 2015

Pollution claimed the lives of nine million people in 2015, one in every six deaths that year, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday.

Almost all the deaths, 92 percent, happened in low- and middle-income countries, researchers said, with air pollution the main culprit.

Almost half of the total toll came from just two countries — India and China – they said.

In rapidly-industrialising countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya, pollution can account for as many as one in four deaths, they added.

“Pollution and related diseases most often affect the world’s poor and powerless, and victims are often the vulnerable and the voiceless,” said co-author Karti Sandilya of Pure Earth, an anti-pollution NGO.

“As a result, pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, wellbeing, safe work, as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable.”

With global welfare losses of about $4.6 trillion (3.9 trillion euros) per year, the economic cost of pollution-related deaths and disease is also concentrated in the developing world. 

“Proportionally, low-income countries pay 8.3 percent of their gross national income to pollution-related death and disease, while high-income countries pay 4.5 percent,” said the researchers.

Aside from outright poisoning, pollution causes an array of deadly ailments such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The deadliest form, responsible for more than two-thirds of deaths, was air pollution, they added. 

In a separate comment, The Lancet editors Pamela Das and Richard Horton said the report came at a “worrisome time, when the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Scott Pruitt, is undermining established environmental regulations.”

The latest findings, they added, should serve as a “call to action”.

The Decline of Holland’s Football Team: Doomed by Total Obsession with Past

London — In Graham Swift’s novel Waterland his narrator, a history teacher going through a mid-life crisis, says: “And where history does not undermine and set traps for itself in such an openly perverse way, it creates this insidious longing to revert. It begets this bastard but pampered child, Nostalgia. How we yearn to return to that time before history claimed us, before things went wrong.”

At some point analysis of decline becomes an ordeal, particularly when the causative factors seem numerous and varied and not independent of one another. Nostalgia lends itself to convenient explanations of why things are not as good as they were, which may overshadow the fact it is perhaps more important that one looks back to move forward and not vice versa. Dutch football has seen four talented generations of players, right from Cruyff and Van Hanegem’s cohort in the 70s, Gullit, Rijkaard, Van Basten and Koeman in the 80s, Bergkamp’s batch in the 90s and the 1983-84-born class of the 00s led by Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.

In the wake of failing to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia Dutch footballers are now criticised for a lack of “winning mentality”. Marcel Brands of PSV, in a discussion in 2014 with his fellow technical directors of the so-called big three, Marc Overmars of Ajax and Feyenoord’s Martin van Geel, remarked: “We develop many intelligent, tactically strong players. We just need to improve substantially in the winning factor. I went to Portugal recently: Sporting, Benfica and Porto. There it is completely different. There it is all about winning. With us, it’s the exact opposite: ‘80% possession, played well, yes but we lose 1-0.’

“That’s not how it should be. If you look at Germany, they have taken a step. There was always physical football, a lot of running. Now, there is a lot more [technical] football than 10 years ago. They also observed us [the Dutch] a lot.”

Tellingly, nearly all of the successful recent exports from the Eredivisie have been players who were scouted between the ages of 16 and 19 – Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and Belgium’s Toby Alderweireld found the Netherlands a prime location to hone their talent, having developed initially elsewhere. But even if the current Holland side lacked extraordinary talents, there was sufficient quality for them at least to make the qualification play-offs. That suggests there are deeper structural problems with the national team. It is clearly more complicated than just Memphis Depay’s preference for wearing hats.

In 2014 all the big three’s technical directors agreed that the KNVB, the Dutch FA, needed a strong technical director. Jelle Goes had functioned as “technical manager” since 2013 and played a big role in drafting the Winnaars van Morgen, “Winners of Tomorrow”, plan for reviving Dutch football; and, when Hans van Breukelen was made technical director in 2016, Goes’ focus shifted to youth.

However, this summer both Goes and Van Breukelen left their roles, with the latter resigning, having made a mess of the national coach situation after Danny Blind’s departure and saying he had not been able to make “his – and the KNVB’s — ambitions come true”.

The KNVB’s lack of a clear long-term vision seemed evident as they let Hakim Ziyech slip through their fingers. The 24-year-old, who played for Dutch youth teams up to the under-21s and was the outstanding Dutch midfielder of his generation, was injured on his first call-up in May 2015 and could not play, but then seemed to be overlooked. He then elected to represent Morocco, making his debut in October 2015.

In March 2016 Blind was asked why there had not been more of an effort to tie down Ziyech. The then Holland manager responded with the specious excuse that Ziyech was not playing as a “true No10” at Twente at the time but as more of a second striker. Immediately his then-assistant coach, Marco van Basten, sitting at the back of the room, turned to the reporter who had suggested the KNVB had failed in this regard and said: “Why? He has gone with the choice with his heart? Then, in my opinion, you should ask him.”

In May 2016 Van Basten called Ziyech and the St-Etienne winger Oussama Tannane “stupid boys” for not having the patience to wait for their chance: “How stupid can you be to choose Morocco if you are in contention for the Dutch national team?”

This, beyond the disrespect, suggests some delusions of grandeur and superiority persist despite Holland’s shortcomings on the pitch. Nearly two years later another young talent – Sofyan Amrabat –is set to follow Ziyech. He still has a chance of playing at the World Cup finals with Morocco, while the Dutch must watch a second consecutive international tournament on their TV screens, still lacking direction in their long-term planning as well as a player worthy of building a new side around.

The way in which Van Basten expressed his view is indicative of the way dynamics can shift when there are many big personalities vying for influence. For the Dutch this is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, as Ajax trailed Twente 2-3 at De Meer, Johan Cruyff, then in a vague directorial role, made his way from the stands to the bench and propped himself beside the coach, Leo Beenhakker, shouting instructions and making tactical changes. In 2004, when Ronald Koeman was manager of Ajax, Louis van Gaal, then technical director, used to sit on the sidelines and commentate on training sessions.

Recently Ruud Gullit, assistant coach to Dick Advocaat, recorded a video for his Twitter feed in the Holland dressing room. Advocaat was unaware of and unhappy with the breach of protocol, yet Gullit was excused. Less than a month later Advocaat suggested Gullit would be his ideal successor because of the way the France players seemed to approach him in reverence at full-time, after they had easily defeated Holland 4-0 in September. “The Netherlands really forgets what a great Gullit is,” said Advocaat. There is bias in choosing to remember the great player – but not the fairly mediocre manager.

Robert Maaskant, who has managed NAC Breda and Willem II, pertinently told De Volkskrant in August: “When I started as a trainer, I thought: ‘I did not have a great career as a player, so I need to get into [management] early. Because between the ages of 42 and 50, all those former internationals [Frank de Boer, Phillip Cocu, Giovanni van Bronckhorst] will start to get involved, and they will get the best jobs first.’ But the lead I had, ultimately led to nothing more. Because experience is no longer as important.

“It started with Marco van Basten’s appointment as Holland coach, without any experience. Since then you do not ‘build’ a career in Dutch football any more: it will ‘happen’ to you.”

Peter Bosz, now at Borussia Dortmund, is a Dutch rarity in breaking that ceiling in recent years but seemed to be swiftly pushed out by the powers that be at Ajax. So a picture emerges of an insular, constricted group of coaches who are granted opportunities with little or no coaching experience. Most share a common idea of possession-based 4‑3‑3 football, which makes Dutch teams predictable while other nations have either bettered 4-3-3 or moved on.

The most successful exponents of the “Dutch” style are no longer Dutch, and given there is little to lose now, perhaps a step in the right direction would be to experiment with appointing a foreign coach. The last one – the Austrian Ernst Happel – did not fare too badly.

Dutch football has always been a battleground of “philosophy” and winning football matches in the somewhat arbitrary “right” way over just winning. That there was still pride in losing the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany – when Cruyff’s talented side squandered a one-goal lead to their greatest rivals in Munich – seemed to set forth the belief that results were, to an extent, expendable in the pursuit of the ideal of total football.

Now, in the friction between the nostalgia for their great footballing innovations of the past and the reality of being surpassed in tactical relevance today, the Dutch seem to have lost their standing and ended up compromising on both the style for which they were renowned and the results they fail to achieve.

In retrospect their shock 5-1 drubbing of Spain at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil signified a strange fork-in-the-road of a game, in which the defending champions had fallen into a predictable rhythm and the team who had lost the 2010 final seemed to be one step ahead. But Spain have recovered while the Dutch have regressed because that is where the insidiousness of nostalgia can lead – to regression, in the assumption that to achieve glory in the future we need to “go back” and recreate a past that has long been lost. Clearly Holland and Dutch football must now look to the future instead.

The Guardian Sport

Howard Wilkinson Calls for Review, Overhaul of Academy System he Designed


London – Howard Wilkinson, the architect of English football’s modern youth development programme, has called for the system to be reviewed and overhauled, accusing the top clubs of failing in their “moral responsibility” to give young players opportunities. Wilkinson, who as the Football Association’s technical director in 1997 designed the current system, in which 12,000 boys are being trained by clubs from the age of eight, said he recognises that the very high release rate causes mental health difficulties to some, which can endure for years.

“What is needed is a serious reasoned review and a commitment from the whole game to commit to the implementation of recommendations which are designed to give these boys a morally deserved crack of the whip,” Wilkinson said. “Change has to come from the top.”

Wilkinson was responding to the Guardian’s report that highlighted depression and other mental health problems suffered by young men in academies, and particularly after they are released. One 2012 academic study of scholars, the smaller elite groups taken on full-time into clubs’ academies aged 16 to 18, found that 99% did not progress to have professional football careers.

Premier League and Football League clubs recruit dozens of young boys locally and nationally, many running development centres even for five- and six-year-olds, yet first-team managers often have little commitment to playing them, clubs preferring instead to sign ready-made overseas stars. Wilkinson cited as exceptions Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton, whose youth development systems are run by the former senior FA coaches John McDermott and Les Reed respectively, and operate more of a policy than most clubs to field young English players.

“Current youth coaches in England are as good or better than anywhere in the world: they are highly qualified, overworked and underpaid, highly committed experts,” said Wilkinson, who published his blueprint for the system, the FA’s Charter for Quality, 20 years ago this month.

“The facilities of academies are second to none; the ingredients are fantastic. One huge problem is the lack of opportunity. If you send your child to a school, you expect the school to give them every opportunity to develop their talent. It is their moral responsibility. For me, football also has that same responsibility. Lack of opportunity is a very serious problem, which can affect the boy long term and is already affecting the senior England team.”

Referring to the hundreds of boys released every year, Wilkinson said: “These are young people and many are not getting what they have been promised and a number naturally feel genuinely let down. They are adolescents, some can and do become depressed.

“There clearly isn’t the commitment to playing the players. The fault just isn’t taking too many boys in; it’s clubs not really committing to giving them the opportunity.”

Wilkinson’s charter, which gave professional clubs unprecedented involvement with children from very young ages, aimed to improve the quality of youth coaching, facilities and development, and prevent boys being overplayed by their schools and clubs. A year earlier an England team whose players had come through the old schools system, and mostly started senior careers at lower-division and non-league clubs, reached the semi-final of the 1996 European Championship. No full England team since the academy system was introduced have reached a similar stage of any international tournament and Wilkinson argues that the current manager, Gareth Southgate, lacks sufficient players for a strong squad.

“Research shows that to have a successful national team, a country needs a group of around 50 players with high‑level, including latter-round Champions League, experience, capable of playing in the team. England does not have that number of players who have been given the opportunity to go on and develop.”

In 2012 the Premier League drove through a series of improvements to Wilkinson’s blueprint, the Elite Player Performance Plan, and has persistently rejected arguments that its clubs’ reliance on overseas stars has undermined the England team. The former FA chairman Greg Dyke held a review into the issue, vowing to investigate whether the lack of opportunities for English players is partly because of top clubs being owned by overseas investors who have too little commitment to the national team. His review ultimately failed even to mention that proposition and its recommendation for a new lower division in which Premier League clubs could play B teams was widely ridiculed and later dropped.

Wilkinson said a thorough review is needed. “It seems the FA and leagues are choosing to ignore the facts; do people care about a strong England team? People [at the FA and leagues] should care; their success has come off the back of the English game, its history and heritage. Germany has shown that World Cups and Champions League success can be achieved through looking after their own.”

The Guardian Sport

Marcus Rashford Stays Grounded but is Hoping to Propel England to Russia


London – As Marcus Rashford stretched out his limbs on one of the white leather seats at St George’s Park, the great young hope of English football stopped for a moment to consider how life had changed since those days when even his team-mates at Manchester United, among them Wayne Rooney, had to double-check his name on the club’s training pitches.

At 19, Rashford is now one of the more recognisable faces of the Premier League and the rising star of a renascent United side. Yet it is not even two years ago that he could probably have walked along Deansgate without being recognised. “My mum used to work in a bookies,” he said, “and my brother used to be a personal trainer. But my brothers just look after me now.” And his mum? Rashford’s boyish smile was a brief reminder that this strapping six‑footer sitting is still, lest it be forgotten, a teenager for a few more weeks. “My mum relaxes now,” he said.

He turns 20 on Halloween and has packed an awful lot into his short career bearing in mind he has already been to a European Championship with England, with the opportunity for Gareth Southgate’s team to book a place at the World Cup by beating Slovenia on Thursday. Rashford’s debut for United owed to a stroke of fortune before a Europa League tie against FC Midtjylland, courtesy of Anthony Martial sustaining a hamstring injury in the warm-up, and to put it into context the teenager’s name did not even appear in the club programme that night. Nineteen months on, a rare appearance in front of the England press corps included one question about what it felt like to belong to the small and exclusive club of the world’s best young footballers, alongside Kylian Mbappé and Neymar.

Another player might allow it to go to his head. Yet an audience with Rashford is a reminder that he has managed to stay remarkably grounded. Indeed, time with the boy from Wythenshawe confirms that everything you might hear about him being an unpretentious and ordinary sort is probably true. He is what is known in the trade as a reluctant interviewee – or rather one who does not seem to understand why these strange journalists, with their tape recorders and inquisitive minds, keep banging on about him living the dream. One certainty: Rashford would much rather continue living it than having to discuss it with a bunch of strangers.

That makes it a slightly unusual interview in one respect, not least because Rashford manages to go from start to finish without a single line that fits into the narrative of what an exhilarating story it has been. Yet that perhaps is how they are taught at United – never to get too far ahead of themselves – and Rashford has come all the way through the system, including the club-sponsored Ashton-on-Mersey School. “There’s loads of different examples I can give you of ways they keep us grounded,” he explained of his days in the club’s academy. “If you are winning a game by a ridiculous scoreline, obviously as an attacker you might start messing about if you’ve scored three goals or whatever. But the coaches will tell you: ‘You’re beating them but still show them respect.’ They drill that into you from a very young age.

“Obviously the coaching is very good, but They also try to turn you into good people as well as good players. It’s about having respect for everyone, regardless of who they are or what they’re doing. That is probably the baseline at United, no matter what age you are. Just having that alone can get you a long way. It’s the main message they give you.”

The result is there is no self‑congratulation from the player who scored on his Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and Europa League debuts, not to mention his first appearance for England, breaking Tommy Lawton’s 78-year record as the team’s youngest-ever debutant scorer. At the same time, it is not shyness that exudes from the 19-year-old. Rashford might have the superstar’s accessories now – the fast car, the expensive clothes, the big house – but he is from a streetwise part of south Manchester and perhaps, for someone in his position, that is not such a bad thing.

Ask him about the biggest change in his life and his response makes it clear it has not all been a bed of roses. “Probably the way you have to look after yourself, and look out for yourself as well, because everyone is always trying to get something off the back of you. You have to take care of yourself. You just have to be smart and try not to put yourself in them situations as much as you can. But there are always people who are trying to build themselves up off the back of you. It can be your own friends, or even people’s family members. It’s difficult, but what are you to know? I have people around me that guide me and kind of keep me away from certain things. Sometimes as a young player, that’s what’s needed. I have friends. I just do normal stuff, to be honest. I play PlayStation and I take the dogs for a walk.”

He has two – “a Cane Corso and a Frenchie [French bulldog]” – and is already thinking about who might be able to look after them in a World Cup summer. It is a reminder of Rashford’s tender years that the first tournament he can remember was South Africa in 2010, aged 12, and even then his memory was sketchy. “It’s going back,” he said. “Lampard and … Germany? That’s the one.”

The impression he leaves is that he is not entirely satisfied operating as a left-sided attacker – “I’m a striker” – and his memories of Euro 2016 also offer an insight into his personality. Rashford was the youngest player at that tournament but he bristles when someone asks if he valued the experience. “I’ll be honest with you, it is difficult to see it as a positive. We went out before we’d expected to go out, and before we wanted to go out, so it was a disappointing end to the season for me.”

The Guardian Sport

Saudi Women to be Recruited in Leading Posts in Civil Aviation

Riyadh- President of General Authority of Civil Aviation Abdul Hakim bin Mohammed Al Tamimi asserted that Saudi women will be able to reach leading positions in GACA soon.

During a meeting with GACA’s employees, Tamimi said the General Authority for Civil Aviation has been among the entities that provided work opportunities for women, and proved their high efficiency and ability, and given them a key role in licensing procedures for airlines or employees.

He also praised women’s ability to accomplish many missions usually practiced by men in the civil aviation sector, noting that on the personal level, he has six daughters, and he is keen to empower women so they can play a prominent role in the service of the country and its development, and vitally contribute to the Kingdom’s future.

The President of the General Authority for Civil Aviation expressed great confidence in the Authority’s employees and staff, and said he is eager to work to enhance their abilities and qualification so they can properly proceed their work and reach leading positions in the authority.

He pointed out that GACA focuses on training its staff in line with the highest international standards in order to empower it and develop it as soon as possible.

Tamimi talked about the authority’s plan concerning the separation of the legislative and the operational bodies; the legislative side will be only concerned in the civil aviation aspect, while the operational side will be independent.

He also stressed the Authority’s eagerness to achieve the objectives of the «National Transformation Program 2020» and «Saudi Vision 2030», highlighting the importance of the civil aviation sector and its primordial role in the national economy.

Finally, Tamimi explained that the Authority in keen to finding the best work environment for better achievement and performance, along with a successful communication among leaders and employees.

GACA’s president encouraged employees to directly communicate with him about any problem or complaint. He urged them to exert efforts and devote capacities to implement the objectives of the Authority.

Sports Can Make the Human Body 10 Years Younger


London — Recent analysis of data from a long-term study into the effects of an active lifestyle show those who lead active lifestyles were around 10 years younger in terms of motor skills. The results of the study were published by the Sports Institute at the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

This study focused on examining the health status of middle-aged people who regularly practice sports, and others who don’t.

Prof. Klaus Bös, who led the study with the scientist Alexander Woll said: “Our data shows that a 50-year-old sportsperson is as fit as the 40-year-old inactive individual,” according to the German News Agency (DPA).

He said data also showed that health problems which usually increase with age are remarkably rare among those practice sports.

The study found that those who exercise less than two and a half hours a week are four times more likely to suffer from diabetes. The study kicked off in 1992 in the city of Schönborn, Germany, and involved over 500 women and men, aged between 35 and 80 years old.

Bös said the physical activity among the study participants increased over the years, but 50% of them did not reach the two-and-half-hours exercise per week recommended by the WHO. However, sports alone is not enough to keep the body healthy as people age.

Older people often eat little or consume foods that lack nutrients, because they prefer easy-to-prepare meals, making it difficult for them to fight infections, said an expert.

“Without a balanced diet, infections such as flu can affect an individual many times,” the expert added.

Family members of infected people should not be surprised that their loved ones need extra help. They should pay more attention to their sick relatives, and make sure they eat nutritious foods. They should also encourage older people to exercise since sports enhances the body resistance.

Experts also recommend sauna sessions that stimulate metabolism and blood circulation and help individuals sleep better. It is also strongly recommended that people above 60 years old receive the annual flu vaccine.

Coffee Machines Stock Germs, Say Scientists

London- Scientists have found that all kinds of pathogens gather in coffee grounds and in used pod machine capsules.

According to the German News Agency (DPA), Fritz Titgemeyer, head of the Food Microbiology Laboratory at the Munster University of Applied Sciences in Germany, said that damp coffee grounds encourage the growth of germs.

If you leave a used coffee pod in the machine for a few days before throwing it out, some mould spores may remain in there and you may be adding them to your next brew.

Titgemeyer noted that a heat-stable poison may have developed, a so-called mycotoxin, and you will not be able to see or taste it.

The water containers and the plastic tubes in coffee machines are also a perfect breeding ground for bacteria if they are not cleaned properly. The expert said that bacteria can settle there in the form of biofilms. All removable components need to be cleaned thoroughly.

Titgemeyer added however disgusting it may be to imagine one’s coffee machine full of microorganisms, they do not really pose a health risk.

“The water is heated to 80 degrees Celsius, which kills any germs present in the water tank,” he said.

If you use the machine to make cold drinks, however, you may need to worry. Titgemeyer explained that in cold-extracted drinks like iced tea or iced coffee, all germs will remain. The good news is that many coffee machines include a self-cleaning program, but there are also extra things you can do to make sure you keep the germs at bay.

Sugar Stimulates Growth of Malignant Tumors

London- In a new scientific breakthrough, a team of researchers from Dutch and Belgian universities said they have finally determined the role of sugar in stimulating the growth of cancer and its tumors. Nine years of research showed that cancer cells rapidly break down sugars, and stimulate tumor growth.

Till this date, scientists have sought to narrow down the mechanism whereby cancer cells metabolize sugar without producing energy. This phenomenon is called the “Warburg effect” discovered by German Scientist Otto Warburg.

Scientists said that sugar is naturally linked to ‘Ras’ proteins, commonly found in tumor cells, which is a vital gene that no cancer cell can survive without. This link is so strong that cancer tumors are not allowed to emerge from the healthy tissue containing tumors.

Experts believe that the results of the study published in the “Nature Communications” journal will change the dietary guidelines for cancer patients and highlight the risk of sugar consumption on other healthy individuals.

Prof. of molecular biology Johan Thevelein from KU Leuven University in Belgium said: “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth.”

In the 1920s, Otto Warburg discovered the phenomenon in which these tissues convert huge amounts of sugar into lactate products, which are milky materials, compared to healthy tissues.

To study this phenomenon, scientists examined the yeast containing the “Ras” protein. “We observed in yeast that sugar degradation is linked via the intermediate fructose (a type of sugar) to the activation of Ras proteins, which stimulate the multiplication of both yeast and cancer cells,” explained Thevelein.

#MeToo Floods Social Media with Stories of Harassment, Assault

New York- Women are posting messages on social media to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are, using the hashtag #MeToo to express that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct.

The messages bearing witness began appearing frequently on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Sunday, when the actress Alyssa Milano posted a screenshot outlining the idea and writing “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

Tens of thousands of people replied to the message. Some just wrote “me too,” while many others described their personal experiences of harassment or assault.

The author and poet Najwa Zebian wrote: “I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it.”

Other celebrities who took part include Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Laura Dreyfuss, Lady Gaga and Evan Rachel Wood.
Men also expressed their support. The comedian and activist Nick Jack Pappas wrote: “Men, Don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter… Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better. We all can.”

Since The New York Times published an investigative report on Oct. 5 detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, social media has provided a galvanizing platform for women to discuss their experiences.

Twitter bolstered the #MeToo trend by promoting it on Moments, its platform of curated stories.

The company pointed to its statement from last week in which it said it was “proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power.” It also noted that its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, had tweeted about the company’s efforts to tackle abuse on the site.

The #MeToo movement is not the first to use social media to highlight abuse against women. In 2014, a #YesAllWomen campaign drew notice on social media after a man cited his hatred of women as his reason for killing people in Southern California. The activist Laura Bates started the #EverydaySexism campaign in 2012 to document widespread sexism, harassment and assault.

The New York Times

Football is a Whole New Ball Game when Players Have Home Comforts


London – When asked by supporters and journalists about Brighton’s game against Everton on October 15, I found myself answering in the same manner: “They are a good side with numerous top players but at home we have a great chance of a result.” Reflecting on that fairly bland reply made me think of two very important words in that sentence that logically shouldn’t make an ounce of difference – “at home”.

However, looking back over my playing career it made me realize the importance placed on home advantage by managers I’ve played for, team‑mates I’ve played with and supporters I’m wearing the jersey on behalf of. For example, as a full-back the amount of times I’ve heard from my coach: “Get forward at every opportunity, we need to play at a high tempo today,” when playing at home as opposed to: “Take the sting out of the game, slow it down,” when preparing for an away game against teams of the same level made me realize that I’ve been mentally conditioned to buy into the belief that a match at home is somehow more beneficial than playing away.

If we were to take emotions and human nature out of the game then logically it shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference where you are playing. Similar-sized pitch, 11 vs. 11, a referee and a round thing that you have to put in a same-sized goal no matter where in the world you are playing means that football should be an identical standard.

Substitute emotion for logic, however, and it’s literally a whole new ball game. Football is a sport played and watched by emotional people who are, on the whole, creatures of habit. Over the years, there have been numerous analyses examining the statistical advantage of playing at home and conclusive evidence that teams playing in their own stadium have a much higher win ratio. Admittedly the ratio is narrowing, but it remains the case and, although stats are great when looking into an anomaly, they’re limited when it comes to painting the bigger picture.

As an experienced professional I can honestly say I have always been more confident and relaxed when playing at home. In fact, it’s only recently in my career that I can say I’m truly comfortable when playing away; experience has allowed me to really not be affected by a partisan crowd, who are itching to see me fail.

There are so many external, psychological influences that change according to playing at home or away. For example, sleeping in my own bed with my wife and children around me, allowing me to keep a strong pre‑game ritual, as opposed to sleeping in a strange bed in a hotel. Also the comfort and routine of being in your home dressing room as opposed to the smaller, less inviting away ones can have an effect, though this is something that is being addressed by many teams, who now go to the length of decorating away dressing rooms with their own colors and imagery, trying to recreate the home feel.

The pre-match messages I have heard from coaches and team-mates also, rightly or wrongly, negatively change when away from home to being more cautious or to quietening the crowd first and playing with a restriction that isn’t on the agenda otherwise – and that’s before we’ve even got to the game itself!

I have always tried to emphasize the importance of the fans’ role at a match and there’s nothing harder when playing away than when the home support is positive and vociferous. I have been on the away team trying to defend a lead and you know the old cliche about the crowd blowing the ball into the back of the net? It’s true. And there have also been games where the home team was in poor form and struggling, with the fans letting them know it, and on the pitch I could sense the nerves of the players and their confidence disintegrating. Believe me, a big home crowd can make the difference between victory and defeat.

And it’s not only the players who can be affected in these circumstances. Logically, the referee should apply the laws of the game in exactly the same way regardless of where he’s officiating, but in my experience it’s easier to give a penalty in front of 40,000 people who would be happy with the decision than a penalty that would make those people extremely upset. It’s no fault of theirs, just human nature.

When speaking of home advantage and why it makes such a huge difference, it’s part of the very reason we all love this sport – it’s a game played by human beings with emotions who aren’t immune to being affected by external influences.

The Guardian Sport