A new documentary by the fans for the fans highlights the ups and downs of Newcastle United

A new documentary by the fans for the fans highlights the ups and downs of Newcastle United
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Updated 09 December 2020

A new documentary by the fans for the fans highlights the ups and downs of Newcastle United

A new documentary by the fans for the fans highlights the ups and downs of Newcastle United
  • We Are The Geordies is released on December 11 across several streaming platforms

Every weekend, from the age of seven, Neil Mitchell would wake up with only one thing on his mind. Newcastle United.

Saturdays were sacred. It’s match day, for the day three generations of his family.

With his father, a former youth player at the club, and his grandfather, a battle-hardened supporter who hitchhiked to three cup finals in the 1950s, the trip to the cathedral-like St James’ Park every other week was a rite of passage for the young Geordie.

If you’re born and bred on the banks of the River Tyne, you don’t get a choice in the matter.

The memories remain as vivid as ever.

“I’d emerge from the dark of the stand into a floodlit St James’, in awe of the vivid green pitch and excited to finally see my heroes in action,” said Mitchell. “It was the start of a lifelong love affair with a club whose ground sits in and is, in many ways, the heart of the city. The synergy between club, city and community is what cements the passion the fanbase has for the team in black and white. One club, one city, one love.”

Now living in Dubai, Mitchell, the founding chair of Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST), has been involved in the production and promotion of a new documentary about the club and its fanbase; We Are The Geordies, to be released in theatres and on streaming services from December 11.

“For most of my teenage and adult life I have been passionately involved in connecting the fanbase,” he added. “Be that via fanzines, occasional columns in the local newspaper and much more. After I moved on from NUST, I set up a supporters group, called NUFC Fans United, with the intention of improving communication with the club for all fans, with my good friends Steve Hastie, Steve Wraith and Zahra Zomorrodian. Zahra, with her background in film and media, came to us with an idea she had about making a film. Not just a run of the mill football flick but rather something that expressed the real passion and love affair Geordies have with our club.”

The 91-minute documentary We Are The Geordies follows the story of Newcastle United and its fanbase.

“We reached out to the club and all the contacts we had and within weeks she was on a coach to an away game with a film crew in tow. The rest as they say is history.”

What they couldn’t have foreseen was that their labor of love would face so many obstacles or to be released at arguably one of the club’s, and football’s, most uncertain times.

“The subsequent three years have had their ups and downs and I know how much blood, sweat, tears and personal finance Zahra and her partner James have poured into this project and we have tried to help and support in every way we can along the way,” Mitchell said. “It gives me so much pride to see their passion project pay off with an amazing film. Something unique and magical. And on a personal note, the fact they chose my father as one of the fans to follow is something I’m eternally grateful to them for as well.”

The 91-minute documentary is co-directed by Zomorrodian, also a producer, and James DeMarco, who wrote the script. It covers the 2016-17 season, which saw Rafael Benitez lead the club back to the Premier League, by highlighting the many highs and lows through the eyes of 11 supporters, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and the beloved Spanish coach himself, among others.

With a tagline of “Football without fans is nothing”, the timely film is in many ways a microcosm of the challenges the club has faced since the unpopular Mike Ashley took over the club in 2007. And how the fans have suffered, as much from misconceptions of the pitch as from lack of success on it.

One myth that continues to irk Newcastle supporters is that they are some of football’s most entitled and demanding. Why this has persisted so many years after Newcastle’s last successful era in the 1990s and early 2000s, is anyone’s guess, though Ashley’s friends in the media, the likes of beIN Sports’ Andy Gray and Richard Keys, and many other ex-professional footballers continue to peddle the line. Mitchell rejects the lazy stereotype.

We Are The Geordies I think is a perfect counter to any of these utterly ridiculous accusations,” he said. “All we want is a team who will always try. To aspire to better things. To represent us on the global stage the way we hope to represent it. That’s all. And I think this film taps perfectly into the thoughts, dreams and aspirations of a fanbase who haven’t seen silverware of any kind since 1969 and yet still turn out week in week out to back the lads.”

With continuing talks of a takeover of the club, Mitchell is keen to highlight what any new owners would be getting for their investment.

For a start, Newcastle – despite its club’s enduring and often vicious rivalry with Sunderland – is, like Paris and Leeds, a one-club city. Established in 1892, one thing this club has in spades is a unique sense of identity.

One of Newcastle’s biggest selling points for potential owners is the imposing 52,000-plus capacity St James’ Park.

One of Newcastle’s biggest selling points for potential owners is the imposing 52,000 plus capacity St James’ Park situated at the heart of the city, still one of England’s biggest grounds.

Newcastle supporters, like fans of many English clubs established in Victorian times, are fiercely proud of their home and their heroes. Outside the stadium you are met by statues of three of its greatest figures. Jackie Milburn, or ‘Wor Jackie’ as he’s colloquially known, Bobby Robson and record Premier League goalscorer Alan Shearer.

The list of club icons, old and modern, is long and illustrious. Albert Stubbins and Hughie Gallacher. Malcolm MacDonald and Kevin Keegan. Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne. Les Ferdinand and David Ginola. And cult heroes like Micky Quinn, Faustino Aspilla and Gary Speed. All names chanted across decades from the raucous Gallowgate End.

It’s this heritage that has attracted potential buyers in the Middle East – and indeed a whole new army of fans in recent years, particularly since the promotion campaign covered in the film.

“Over the last couple of years takeover talk and interest in the club from the Gulf region has most certainly raised the club’s profile and I know living in Dubai we have made a lot of new friends both in the UAE and most recently Saudi Arabia,” Mitchell said. “I like to think of this film on a personal level as a gift from the fans of Newcastle United to our newfound friends here in the Middle East. It is also a showcase to any potential buyer of what comes along with the purchase of the club. You buy the heart of the city. A community who will welcome you with open arms. United by name. United by nature. You take custody of the soul of the city.”

Anecdotally it’s often noted that if Newcastle United win on the weekend productivity in the city goes up by 30 percent the following Monday. Mitchell believes there’s more than a grain of truth in that, and that lifelong adoration and loyalty awaits any new owners willing to take a chance on the club.

“Anyone who can harness that club, city, and community synergy has the potential to shake English football for years to come,” he concludes. “Under the current ownership the club has become a bit of a ghost ship, drifting with little direction. We Are The Geordies shows quite clearly there is still a strong heartbeat there and it lies with the fans. For anyone who owns the club and can unlock that synergy, the sky’s the limit.”

We Are the Geordies (link: https://www.wearethegeordies.com)

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage
Updated 19 April 2021

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage
  • Second round of matches sees wins for Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr while Al-Ahli recover from mauling to claim first point

RIYADH: Two down and four to go. The group stage of the AFC Champions League is starting to take shape and already there are teams that have an awful lot to do if they are to maintain their presence in the tournament going into the knockout stage.

Some are looking good and the feeling around the Al-Nassr camp has improved massively after a 3-1 win over Al-Sadd, one of the favorites for the competition. Al-Hilal collected three points with a comfortable 2-0 win over Shabab Al-Ahli while Al-Ahli bounced back from their opening game mauling to take a 1-1 draw with Al-Duhail.

Here are five things we learned from the second round of matches.

1. Menezes gives Xavi a coaching lesson

Al-Sadd had not lost for 24 games heading into the clash with Al-Nassr. They won the Qatar Stars League without losing a game and with a goal difference of plus 63, which is incredible enough, but when the season is just 22 games long it really is something special. Yet Al-Nassr fully deserved to win.

Abderrazak Hamdallah scored the opening goal from the spot, but after Santi Cazorla equalized on the hour, the Saudi team’s players kept their nerve, their shape, and their discipline and hit the erratic Qatari team on the counter thanks to the intelligent movement and hard work of their forward line.

With the help of two well-timed substitutions, it was a strategy that bore fruit and two goals followed that put the hosts in with a great chance of the second round.

Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes has not had much time to work with the players but on this performance, there should be more to come even if fans should not get carried away by being the first team to defeat Al-Sadd this year.

2. Al-Breik stars for clinical Al-Hilal

After a somewhat disappointing opening game, Al-Hilal stepped it up a level against Shabab Al-Ahli.

Star foreign players Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Carrillo grabbed the headlines with their very well-taken goals in the first half but Mohammed Al-Breik deserves plenty of credit. The Saudi international created both in a perfect example of how a right-back should get forward in the modern game.

The first was a delicious cross that was whipped in behind the Dubai team’s defense with Gomis on hand to sweep home from close range. The second came from deeper but found Carrillo in space just inside the area and the Peruvian international made no mistake with a fine swivel and shot. Both goals were easy on the eye and the defender played a huge part.

3. Al-Owais, Al-Somah give Al-Ahli hope

After seven straight defeats, a 1-1 draw will lift some of the gloom surrounding the Jeddah club. It was snatched in the final minutes against Al-Duhail who had largely dominated proceedings.

The Qataris struggled however to find a way past Mohammed Al-Owais. The goalkeeper dealt with everything that was thrown at him to keep the score line down to a minimum. Shot after shot came in and there he was tipping deflections over the bar and getting down well to push headers around the foot of the post.

It was due to such heroics that Omar Al-Somah’s last-gasp goal, which came after an overhead kick assist from defender Motaz Hawsawi, earned a much-needed point to break that dismal losing streak.

4. Strikers come to the fore

It may well be that none of the Saudi teams are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but it will be pleasing to fans that their star strikers have all scored already.

If Al-Hilal are going to go all the way and get a record fourth title, then they are going to need the goals of Gomis, and the French forward is looking hungry and dangerous.

Hamdallah was one of the stars of the 2020 tournament and while the Moroccan has not looked as lethal this year, to get on the scoresheet will be an immense relief for both player and coach. Al-Nassr need him if they are to get out of a difficult group.

And then there is Al-Somah. There has been a lot written about the Syrian striker this season but whatever has happened behind the scenes, three goals in two games speaks for itself. If one of the best strikers in Asia continues to score, then Al-Ahli have a chance.

5. Next comes the crunch

The next two games can make or break a team’s chances as they come against the same opposition. Al-Nassr are level on four points with Foolad of Iran. If the Riyadh giants can come out on top over these back-to-back clashes, then they really can start to think about the next stage.

Al-Hilal take on Tajikistan powerhouse Istiklol who are going to make things very tough. The new boys in the competition have also managed four points from the opening two games thanks to some solid defending. Al-Hilal have the firepower however and can take control of the group.

And as for Al-Ahli, there are twin games with Al-Shorta of Iraq. These will not be easy, even if Al-Shorta are regarded as the weakest team in the group, but they do offer a perfect chance to pick up a win and start challenging at the top of the table.

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League
Updated 19 April 2021

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League
  • Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the founding chairman of the Super League
  • UEFA has threatened to bar from any competition clubs who join the breakaway league

LONDON: A group of 12 elite English, Spanish and Italian clubs dramatically split European soccer on Sunday by announcing the formation of a largely-closed Super League. They are leaving the existing UEFA-run Champions League structure despite warnings they could be kicked out of their domestic competitions and face legal action.
The seismic move to shake up the world’s biggest sport is partly engineered by the American owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United who also run US franchises in closed leagues — a model they are trying to replicate in Europe.
The power-play came after the rebel clubs reneged on a promise on Friday to back the plan by UEFA — European football’s governing body — to expand the Champions League beginning in 2024. The deal was designed to appease their wishes for more games, seemingly because they couldn’t control the sale of rights to the existing competition.
The Super League plan was first leaked in January but re-emerged this weekend.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the founding chairman of the SL, which said it “intended to commence as soon as practicable” as a 20-team competition playing in midweek like the current Champions League and Europa League.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
No evidence was presented that supporters want a Super League. Fan groups across Europe last week criticized even the current Champions League expansion plan as a “power grab.”
Only 12 clubs have signed up for now — with none from France or Germany — but the SL hopes for three more as permanent members. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the other founding members, along with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Five slots would be left open to be determined each year based on the previous season’s results.
UEFA warned clubs that joining the “cynical project” based on self-interest would see them banned from playing in any other competition — domestic, European or global. It said their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
The statement was issued jointly with the leagues and national governing bodies from England, Spain and Italy.
England has the most clubs with the six including Chelsea and Manchester City, who are due to contest a Champions League semifinals this month. Also included is Tottenham, which is outside of the Premier League’s top four to qualify for the Champions League next season,
“By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid,” said Joel Glazer, co-owner of Manchester United and SL vice chairman.
Another vice chairman of the new competition would be Andrea Agenlli who on Sunday night quit his role as chairman of the European Club Association, which was working with UEFA on enlarging the Champions League to 36 teams. Agenlli also resigned as a member of the executive committee of UEFA — rupturing his previously-close friendship with the governing body’s president, Aleksander Ceferin.
The UEFA leader has been determined not to grant more control of the sale of television and commercial rights to the clubs.
“We have come together at this critical moment,” Agnelli said, “enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures.”
The rebel clubs are all members of the ECA which has a working agreement with UEFA, signed in 2019, which commits all its members to take part in and respect the Champions League and other European competitions through the 2023-24 season.
While FIFA issued a statement in January warning that players in a Super League could be banned from the World Cup, the world governing body has not denied that its president, Gianni Infantino, has been involved in the breakaway talks with officials, including Real Madrid’s Perez.
“FIFA can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures,” the world body said in a statement on Sunday while not answering questions about any role by Infantino.
The Premier League said the Super League would “undermine the appeal of the whole game” by going against the principles of open competition. There was even an intervention by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who warned that a Super League would be “very damaging.”
The Super League confirmed on Sunday that each of the 15 founding members would get a share of at least 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in initial infrastructure grants.
The AP previously reported that this money would be split among four tiers of clubs, with the top six each getting 350 million euros ($420 million). The competition would begin with two groups of 10 teams, with the top three from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. The teams finishing fourth and fifth would be involved in a playoff to complete the last-eight lineup. The knockout phase would still feature two-legged quarterfinals and semifinals before a single fixture final.
The previously-reported Super League proposal hoped to generate 4 billion euros ($4.86 billion) annually from broadcasters.
In comparison, UEFA said the total commercial revenue was 3.25 billion euros ($3.9 billion) for each of the past three seasons from selling the rights to the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup.
For the 2021-24 sales cycle, UEFA is expected to sell around $14 billion in broadcast and sponsor deals for its club competitions, which includes the new third-tier Europa Conference League.
Those sales were completed worldwide on the legal commitment of top clubs to play according to the UEFA-ECA accord. Any breach of the cooperation deal would likely lead to legal threats and suits.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening,” UEFA said of the Super League. “Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”

Quartararo wins Portuguese GP; Márquez 7th in 1st race back

Quartararo wins Portuguese GP; Márquez 7th in 1st race back
Updated 19 April 2021

Quartararo wins Portuguese GP; Márquez 7th in 1st race back

Quartararo wins Portuguese GP; Márquez 7th in 1st race back
  • Márquez had a lackluster race in his return after breaking his right arm at the Spanish GP last summer

PORTIMÃO, Portugal: Fabio Quartararo won the Portuguese Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, with six-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez finishing seventh in an emotional return after nine months.

Quartararo finished ahead of Francesco Bagnaia and defending MotoGP champion Joan Mir. The Frenchman moved into the championship lead with the victory at the Algarve circuit. Quartararo’s celebration after the race included an imitation of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration.

“It’s good to be back in this mindset, I feel like I’m full of confidence,” Quartararo said. “We did an amazing job. Yesterday we were first in all the sessions, and today we won. This is a great way to start the celebrations for my birthday in two days.”

Márquez had a lackluster race in his return after breaking his right arm at the Spanish GP last summer. He missed the rest of last season and the first two races this year.

“I’m relieved,” Márquez said. “Not only about finishing the race, but about being back on a motorcycle, about feeling like a rider again, even though I couldn’t ride the way I wanted to. But this weekend wasn’t about where I finished.”

The Spaniard jumped to fourth at the start and was as high as third during the first lap, but he made contact with another rider on the second lap and eventually dropped to ninth place. He kept a decent pace but could only make up a few positions, finishing just ahead of brother Álex Márquez.

Marc Márquez couldn’t hold back his emotions as he received a round of applause from the members of his team after the race.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to keep things inside and not express my emotions, but I broke down when I returned to the box,” Marc Márquez said. “It was tough.”

Quartararo lost ground early on but was back in front by the halfway point of the race in southern Portugal, holding on for his fifth MotoGP win. He was coming off a win in Qatar two weeks ago.

Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira crashed early in the race, while Álex Rins fell later when he was near the front. Veteran Valentino Rossi also crashed to add to his struggles at the start of the season, while Johann Zarco — the championship leader coming into the Portuguese GP — went down with six laps to go while fighting at the top.

Zarco had finished second in the first two races of the season, both in Qatar. Maverick Viñales won the season-opener.

It was the third straight win for Yamaha this season.

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'
Updated 19 April 2021

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

PARIS: UEFA and English, Spanish and Italian football authorities announced on Sunday that any clubs who take part in a so-called European Super League would be banned from all other domestic and continental competitions.
European football’s governing body said it had learned that some English, Spanish and Italian clubs might announce a breakaway competition.
“The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams,” UEFA said in a statement.
Media reports on Sunday suggested that an announcement on plans to create a Super League could be made later in the day.
Sky Sports reported that Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea were among six Premier League teams set to be part of the plans.
“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” read the statement.
UEFA is planning to announce its reforms to the Champions League on Monday, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two ‘wildcard’ slots expected to be among the plans.
There have been no reports that French or German clubs would be part of the Super League.
“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this,” UEFA added.
“We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.
“This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
The New York Times reported that at least 12 clubs have signed up for the competition, including Juventus and seven-time European champions AC Milan, who have not played in the Champions League since 2014.

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second
Updated 19 April 2021

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second
  • Red Bull driver Verstappen muscled past pole sitter Hamilton on the first corner
  • Lando Norris in a McLaren took third ahead of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari

IMOLA, Italy: Max Verstappen kept his cool to claim a chaotic rain-hit Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday as seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton recovered from a rare mistake to sneak in second.
Red Bull driver Verstappen muscled past pole sitter Hamilton on the first corner at Imola to set up his impressive first win of the season.
“I surprised myself. We worked really hard to make that better. In these tricky conditions we did a great job,” Verstappen said.
Lando Norris in a McLaren took third for the Briton’s second successive podium ahead of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari.
The outcome of a compelling second leg of the Formula One season confirmed Verstappen’s stature as a formidable obstacle to Hamilton’s quest for an unprecedented eighth drivers’ crown.
After winning the season-opener in Bahrain and putting in the fastest lap on Sunday Hamilton leads Verstappen by one point ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix next time out.
A high-speed crash involving Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and George Russell in a Williams forced the race to be suspended as debris was cleared off the Imola circuit.
The pair collided at over 300kmh on lap 34, both drivers shaken as their wrecked cars were lifted off the track.
The red flags appeared a lap after an uncharacteristic slip-up from Hamilton saw the Mercedes world champion hurtle off the circuit into a gravel pit when placed second on a tracherous rain-hit track.
Half an hour after the suspension, a rolling re-start saw Verstappen set off in front of Leclerc and Norris. Hamilton, his car repaired, had work to do from ninth.
As Verstappen calmly reeled in his 11th career victory, but first in Italy, Hamilton weaved his way up to sit third, and then second after passing Norris with three laps remaining.
“First time I’ve made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful I could bring he car home,” said a relieved Hamilton.