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NTSF 098: FIFA sanctions, tectonic shifts in cycling, new F1 leader and more…

The calendar turns yet again into August, a month stacked with events galore for sports fans around the globe. We’re gearing up for the start of club seasons throughout European soccer, with teams already vying for spots in the UEFA Champions League main draw with just one qualifying round left now to decide the field. Tennis gears up for the last Grand Slam of the 2010 season, the hard courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows awaiting the stars of the WTA and ATP Tours as well as a packed field of juniors and wheelchair players. Riders who either missed out on July’s Tour de France or simply want to keep their good form going are now ramping up preparations for the last grand tour of the season as the Vuelta a España kicks off in mere weeks. And the IAAF Diamond League is about to witness a showcase of stars in track and field’s signature test of speed.

All things told, a packed summer of sporting spectacles is showing no signs of letting up its jam-packed schedule. With fall edging ever closer, the time soon looms for looking back inward to the start of the college and NFL football seasons and to the start of the NHL season. After all, there’s more to this Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America than merely the quest for the most obscure events possible. First and foremost amongst those titles is “Sports Fan”, and when you’re located in the United States it is hard not to find some joy in the domestic athletic landscape.

There are plenty of hours in the day to cram in time for another sport. The non-traditional amongst us are ready to stack up our tray like John Belushi in Animal House. The well-balanced diet of the spectator has plenty of room for both the sports with which he can converse with even the most casual of fans and the less-heralded pastimes that afford a more cosmopolitan view of athletic achievement around the world. So grab your tray and follow behind, because they’ve just replenished the line and it’s time to start piling on…

THE JEKYLL AND HYDE OF FIFA SANCTIONS…

Tuesday I sat down, home from work, and was flabbergasted as I sat down to read this story from Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter. Apparently, while FIFA is all too happy to hem and haw about the actions being taken by the French and Nigerian governments, we’re left to hear about much more nefarious deeds going on in North Korea. Long an insular, secretive enclave, North Korea was handed over deferential treatment by FIFA all throughout the tournament — for instance, reporters couldn’t even ask the players whether or not their matches were being televised in Pyongyang and throughout their home nation due to even that being viewed as too political in nature.

This would prove to be the only happy moment for North Korea at the World Cup... but even the lows in South Africa were better than what awaited after returning home...

Yet the reports coming out of the nation show the country flipping out over their three losses in World Cup play. The players were brought before a large session of party functionaries and higher-ups in the Korean hierarchy and subsequently berated for losing and losing and losing — never mind that these losses came to three of the most stacked teams in the tournament, Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. Their head coach has presumably, if reports are to be believed, been exiled to spend his time not coaching football but stooping to the level of forced laborer.

While much of FIFA’s time has been occupied by France and Nigeria and the need to issue fines to the Spanish and Dutch national teams in the wake of their abysmal performances in the World Cup final, this is a matter that is much more pressing. FIFA needs to open up a full investigation as to what’s been happening north of the DMZ. And if it proves true that they’ve been punishing players for losing to the likes of Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast (all heavily favored in their matches against the Koreans), there can be no other course of action than to sanction the North Koreans indefinitely. If they are on the brink of taking this action against France and Nigeria for their government interference into the national FA in those countries, this deserves and demands a far more drastic response. When the simple suggestion by a government that it intends to look into the actions of its high-profile citizens and their actions abroad yields a swift threat of retribution from FIFA, something as drastic as the public tearing down of a roster and the issuance of punitive damages against a coach who was simply outcoached by guys who had far more firepower on their squads demands action…. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

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Zach is a writer and editor who covers a wide array of sports both traditional and non-traditional. Formerly the managing editor of Informative Sports before joining Sports Nickel, Zach has been covering events international and domestic for various publications since 2006. Find him @zbigalke on Twitter.

Zach Bigalke has written 289 posts for SportsNickel.com

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