News & Current Affairs

August 31, 2008

Sign of the times

Sign of the times

Courtesy BBC

As Russia and the West warn of a new Cold War after the Georgian conflict, the BBC’s Humphrey Hawksley in Moscow tries to imagine what it would look like.

Corridor inside the bunker
A complex network of narrow tunnels broke out into vast, high-ceilinged chambers with the sides curved cylindrically like the hull of a ship

Evgenia Evlenteva strode past a row of old radiation suits hanging on pegs like raincoats.

With a bounce in her step and a torch stuck into her jeans back pocket, she asked: “Right, it’s more than 60 metres (200ft) deep so do you want to take the stairs or the lift?

“Oh and by the way, the door weighs three tonnes. It’s made of lead and metal, and it still works.”

She jabbed a button and, with a groan and a creak, a huge slab slid back and let us into one of Moscow’s key Cold War nuclear bunkers.

It was decked out with its own air, water and food supplies for 2,500 people, should the city have come under nuclear attack.

With Russia and the West now exchanging accusations about starting a new Cold War, it seemed a good place to go, once hidden in a leafy street near the Moscow River and just off Taganskaya Square, where it linked up to the Metro station so the top brass and supplies could get in there.

International crisis

I found out later that, at the same time as our small tour group was taking the stairs down, Russia was testing an intercontinental ballistic missile from its recently modernized Topol system, more than capable of reaching Washington.

Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles

Topol missiles during rehearsals for Russia’s annual Victory Day parade

Over the past couple of weeks, each day it has seemed either Russia or the West was ratcheting up the stakes, as if both sides were relieved to get away from the insoluble nihilism of Islamist terror and work on something that they could get their teeth into.

Russia spoke of tensions resembling the eve of World War I. Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that this international crisis marked a clear end to the relative calm enjoyed by Europe since the Cold War finished.

But it has been difficult to reconcile this exchange of apprehensions with snapshots here, where the bus stops are decorated with posters for the new Batman movie, hoardings advertise global brand-name products and you sweep out of a ring-road tunnel towards a skyline of cranes putting up new high-rise office blocks to keep up with Russia’s high economic growth.

No longer isolated

From the mobile phones, to the makes of cars, to the news-stand Russian editions of the celebrity magazine Hello!, it is pretty impossible to envisage how a new Cold War would actually work.

Room inside the bunker
It’s no longer safe down here from a nuclear attack… The bombs are too big now. It’s not deep enough
Evgenia Evlenteva, Moscow bunker guide

Boeing, for example, has a huge factory outside Moscow. Russia’s Gazprom, the conglomerate much feared for its ability to turn on and off Europe’s gas supplies, is one of the biggest companies listed on international stock exchanges.

And would some Western package of punitive sanctions mean that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich would have to sell Chelsea Football Club?

In the last Cold War, Russians were seen as isolated behind their Iron Curtain, with their own ropey technology and a grim-faced population oppressed by secretive monosyllabic leaders.

Now you can barely stop them talking, as they ferry between 24-hour news channel chat shows.

As we finished our climb down the stairs, Evgenia snapped on the lights to the bunker.

It was a complex network of narrow tunnels that broke out into vast, high-ceilinged chambers with the sides curved cylindrically like the hull of a ship, made of reinforced lead and concrete.

The museum had put in telex machines, old telephones, maps and wooden desks to show what it had looked like.

Present-day thinking

Evgenia ushered us into a lecture hall for a video briefing, where I got perhaps a glimpse of Russia’s present-day thinking.

Black and white film drawn from once-classified Soviet archives began by naming America as the only nation that had ever used a nuclear weapon in conflict, and telling how the Soviet Union was forced to catch up to protect what it called its “sphere of influence”.

The 1962 Cuban missile conflict was a brilliant piece of brinkmanship that re-defined Russia’s global power.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy. The motif of the film was nuclear tests, exploding into bigger and bigger mushroom clouds, both Russian and American.

New bunkers

“So,” I asked Evgenia, when it is finished, “will you be re-opening this bunker for the new Cold War?”

She pushed back her dark hair and creased her brow in confusion. She would have only been a child when the last one ended.

“No, why?” she said. “Who wants that? What family wants that – that you could be blown up at any moment? Why would anyone want to go there again?”

Then, as we set off towards the next tunnel, Evgenia came up to me and said:

“But it’s no longer safe down here from a nuclear attack, you know. The bombs are too big now. It’s not deep enough.

“We have new bunkers in Moscow, though. Maybe 100 metres deep, I don’t know.

They’re still secret and I’m not allowed to go there.”

August 21, 2008

Capello defends England tactics

Capello defends England tactics

Fabio Capello

Capello said he played Gerrard in a supporting role behind the striker

Coach Fabio Capello gave England’s performance in the 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic a mixed review and defended his use of Steven Gerrard.

The Italian was criticized for playing the midfielder on the left wing.

Capello explained he was using Gerrard in a 4-3-2-1 system, with the Liverpool captain and Wayne Rooney supporting Jermain Defoe as a main striker.

“The position he had to play was in the line of the full-backs and midfield,” he said. “He never played on the left.”

Capello sought to get the best out of Liverpool’s influential captain and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard in the same line-up, a conundrum that has dogged his predecessors in the England job.

On this occasion he opted to partner Lampard with Gareth Barry in the middle with David Beckham to the right of the trio.

Capello added: “We played 4-3-2-1. We played Defoe, Gerrard and Rooney and three midfielders behind them. He [Gerrard] went to the left and to the middle.”

Gerrard was replaced by Joe Cole after an hour and the Chelsea midfielder admitted he was played out of position.

“I’m a winger, but the manager wanted me to play off the front man,” said the 26-year-old. “New manager, new ideas. We’ve got to try things.”

Only a last-minute goal from Cole saved England from defeat at Wembley, but Capello drew some positives from the salvaged draw, saying the performance was another step forward for his side ahead of World Cup qualifying campaign which begins in Andorra on 6 September.

He was also concerned by the ease in which England were exposed by a fast counter-attacking Czech side and admitted it is something they will need to work on.

“I think in the first half we played well, we had a lot of chances.

“After the second goal from the Czechs, the direction was not so strong.”

The problem is not with the style we played, but the difficulty we have when the other team play the counter-attack
England manager Fabio Capello

“The problem is not with the style we played, but the difficulty we have when the other team play the counter-attack,” added the 62-year-old.

“It is always dangerous and we have to study this problem.

“At this moment the players are not 100% physically, and important players like Rooney and Gerrard have played just one game.

“I think this result is important. We played against a very strong team and we’ll have more confidence for the next game.”

England’s uncomfortable night was compounded by the announcement that the Football Association’s chief executive Brian Barwick would leave his post by the end of the year.

Barwick was instrumental in the appointment of Capello, but differences with chairman Lord Triesman have led to their relationship becoming unworkable.

When asked about his departure the Italian said: “I am a friend of Brian, but it’s not my job [to comment] – it’s a board decision.”

Meanwhile, captain John Terry conceded that there had been “some plusses, but also some negatives” from their final warm-up game before the World Cup qualification campaign begins.

“Maybe we should have won the game with the players we had out,” the re-appointed skipper said

Of the crowd booing the players off, he said: “The crowd were frustrated as they’d paid a lot of money for their tickets, and we’ve got to put on a better show than that.

“It’s going to be a slow process, but hopefully we can get off to a good start against Andorra and go from there.

“We’ve got players playing in the biggest competition in the world [the Champions League], but sometimes we don’t click on the international stage.

“But I don’t think we should be worried. We have to stand up and be counted, raise our game, match teams with the commitment they show and hopefully our quality can overcome them.”

August 13, 2008

Terry doubts Man Utd credentials

Terry doubts Man Utd credentials

John Terry

Terry is confident Chelsea can win the Premier League title this season

John Terry believes Manchester United have reached their peak and Chelsea can regain the Premier League trophy.

United were European and domestic champions last term, with Chelsea runners-up, but the Blues’ captain believes his side can raise their game.

“I don’t think United have another level to go to,” said Terry, whose side have a new manager this season in Brazil’s Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“They had a lot of players at the peak of their form for the last two years.”

Terry’s comments come after United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said that the majority of Chelsea’s squad had reached an age where they were unlikely to improve any further.

The Scot compared the current Stamford Bridge outfit to that of the Liverpool team of the early 1990s, who slipped into decline after their 1990 title triumph, and predicted that Chelsea are on the brink of a similar downturn.

But Terry has hit back and pinpointed several players at Old Trafford who he thinks will be unable to match their performances of last season.

They include Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 42-goal haul underpinned United’s double success.

“Rio Ferdinand has been awesome for the last two years and Cristiano Ronaldo was unbelievable – I don’t think you’ll see that again,” Terry said.

“[Wayne] Rooney, [Carlos] Tevez, [Ryan] Giggs at his age, they’ve all been fantastic.

“I think we can close the gap because Man United were at the very top of their game last season.

“But we’ve been very close to them and we had injuries and a change of manager.”

Terry says he has been impressed with the business Scolari has conducted during the transfer window.

He also believes a good start will be key if they are to wrestle the title from United, who arguably face a tougher start in their Premier League defence.

“The new manager has come in and made a few changes. He’s made some great signings. Deco looks awesome so I’m excited to see him play,” Terry said.

“We need to start well and get off to a flyer, just keep winning.

“Man United have a few tough games early on. Liverpool have made some good signings and will be stronger this year. We need to focus.

“We have a good home record and if we can continue that and get off to a good start we’ll be all right.”

August 5, 2008

Premier League ins and outs

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Premier League ins and outs

Courtesy BBC

ARSENAL

Arsenal

Ins: Aaron Ramsey (Cardiff, £5m), Samir Nasri (Marseille, undisclosed), Amaury Bischoff (Werder Bremen, undisclosed).

Outs: Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos, £1m), Alexander Hleb (Barcelona, £11.8m), Jens Lehmann (Stuttgart, free), Mathieu Flamini (AC Milan, free), Kerrea Gilbert (Leicester, loan).

ASTON VILLA

Aston Villa

Ins: Steve Sidwell (Chelsea, £5m), Curtis Davies (West Brom, undisclosed), Brad Friedel (Blackburn, £2m).

Outs: Thomas Sorensen (released), Patrik Berger (Sparta Prague, free), Luke Moore (West Brom, £3m).

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Blackburn Rovers

Ins: Robbie Fowler (Cardiff, free), Paul Robinson (Tottenham, £3.5m), Carlos Villanueva (Audax Italiano, loan), Danny Simpson (Manchester United, loan).

Outs: Stephane Henchoz (released), Bruno Berner (released), Peter Enckelman (Cardiff, free), Brad Friedel (Aston Villa, £2m), David Bentley (Tottenham, £15m).

BOLTON WANDERERS

Bolton Wanderers

Ins: Johan Elmander (Toulouse, £10m), Fabrice Muamba (Birmingham, £5m), Mustapha Riga (Levante, undisclosed).

Outs: Daniel Braaten (Toulouse, undisclosed), Andranik Teymourian (Fulham, free), Stelios Giannakopoulos (released), Ivan Campo (released), El Hadji Diouf (Sunderland, £2.5m).

CHELSEA

Chelsea

Ins: Jose Bosingwa (FC Porto, £16.2m), Deco (Barcelona, £8m).

Outs: Steve Sidwell (Aston Villa, £5m), Ben Sahar (Portsmouth, loan), Ryan Bertrand (Norwich, loan), Slobodan Rajkovic (FC Twente, loan), Claude Makelele (Paris St Germain, free), Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart, £4m), Tal Ben Haim (Manchester City, undisclosed), Shaun Cummings (MK Dons, loan).

EVERTON

Everton

Ins: None.

Outs: Lee Carsley (Birmingham City, free), Stefan Wessels (VfL Osnabruck, free).

FULHAM

Fulham

Ins: John Pantsil and Bobby Zamora (West Ham, £6.3m), Tony Kallio (Young Boys Bern, undisclosed), Andranik Teymourian (Bolton, free), Zoltan Gera (West Brom, free), David Stockdale (Darlington, undisclosed), Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough, free), Fredrik Stoor (Rosenborg, undisclosed).

Outs: Dejan Stefanovic (Norwich, undisclosed), Nathan Ashton (Wycombe, nominal fee), Elliot Omozusi (Norwich, loan), Ricardo Batista (Sporting, undisclosed), Tony Warner (Hull City, free), Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennais, free), Brian McBride (Toronto, free), Philippe Christanval, Jari Litmanen, Simon Elliott, Kasey Keller (all released).

HULL CITY

Hull City

Ins: Peter Halmosi (Plymouth, £2m), George Boateng (Middlesbrough, £1m), Tony Warner (Fulham, free), Bernard Mendy (Paris St Germain, free), Geovanni (Manchester City, free), Craig Fagan (Derby, £750,000), Anthony Gardner (Tottenham, loan).

Outs: Michael Bridges (Carlisle, loan), Henrik Pedersen (Silkeborg IF, free), David Livermore (Brighton, free).

LIVERPOOL

Liverpool

Ins: David Ngog (Paris St Germain, undisclosed), Emmanuel Mendy (Murcia Deportivo, free), Diego Cavalieri (Palmeiras, undisclosed), Andrea Dossena (Udinese, undisclosed), Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund, free), Robbie Keane (Tottenham, £20.3m).

Outs: Jack Hobbs (Leicester, loan), Godwin Antwi (Tranmere, loan), Adam Hammill (Blackpool, loan), Scott Carson (West Brom, £3.25m), Peter Crouch (Portsmouth, £11m), Harry Kewell (Galatasaray, free), Paul Anderson (Nottingham Forest, loan), Anthony le Tallec (Le Mans, undisclosed), John Arne Riise (Roma, £4m), Besian Idrizaj (Wacker Tirol, free), Danny Guthrie (Newcastle, undisclosed), Robbie Threlfall (Hereford, loan).

MANCHESTER CITY

Manchester City

Ins: Jo (CSKA Moscow, £18m), Tal Ben Haim (Chelsea, undisclosed).

Outs: Georgios Samaras (Celtic, undisclosed), Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven, undisclosed), Geovanni (Hull, free), Emile Mpenza and Paul Dickov (both released), Sun Jihai (Sheffield United, free), Matthew Mills (Doncaster, £300,000).

MANCHESTER UNITED

Manchester United

Ins: None.

Outs: Adam Eckersley (AC Horsens, free), Gerard Pique (Barcelona, £5m), Tom Heaton (Cardiff City, loan), Chris Eagles (Burnley, £1m), Danny Simpson (Blackburn, loan)

MIDDLESBROUGH

Middlesbrough

Ins: Didier Digard (Paris St Germain, £4m), Marvin Emnes (Sparta Rotterdam, £3.2m).

Outs: George Boateng (Hull City, £1m), Fabio Rochemback (Sporting, free), Lee Dong-Gook (released), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, free), Steve Thompson (Port Vale, free), Lee Cattermole (Wigan, £3.5m).

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Newcastle United

Ins: Danny Guthrie (Liverpool, undisclosed), Jonas Gutierrez (Real Mallorca, undisclosed).

Outs: Emre (Fenerbahce, undisclosed), David Rozehnal (Lazio, £2.9m), Peter Ramage (QPR, free).

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth

Ins: Peter Crouch (Liverpool, £11m), Ben Sahar (Chelsea, loan), Glen Little (Reading, free), Omar Alieu Koroma (Banjul Hawks, undisclosed).

Outs: Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan, £12.7m), Omar Alieu Koroma (Norwich, loan).

STOKE CITY

Stoke City

Ins: Seyi George Olofinjana (Wolves, £3m), Dave Kitson (Reading, £5.5m).

Outs: Marlon Broomes (Blackpool, free).

SUNDERLAND

Sunderland

Ins: Pascal Chimbonda (Tottenham, undisclosed), David Meyler (Cork City, undisclosed), Nick Colgan (Ipswich, free), Teemu Tainio (Tottenham, undisclosed), El Hadji Diouf (Bolton, £2.5m), Steed Malbranque (Tottenham, undisclosed).

Outs: Andrew Cole (Nottingham Forest, free), Greg Halford (Sheffield United, loan), Ian Harte and Stephen Wright (both released), Ross Wallace (Preston, loan).

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Tottenham Hotspur

Ins: John Bostock (Crystal Palace, £700,000), Heurelho Gomes (PSV Eindhoven, undisclosed), Luka Modric (£15.8m), Giovani dos Santos (Barcelona, £4.7m), David Bentley (Blackburn, £15m).

Outs: Pascal Chimbonda (Sunderland, undisclosed), Paul Robinson (Blackburn, £3.5m), Teemu Tainio (Sunderland, undisclosed), Joe Martin (Blackpool, undisclosed), Robbie Keane (Liverpool, £20.3m). Anthony Gardner (Hull City, loan), Steed Malbranque (Sunderland, undisclosed), Jake Livermore (Crewe, loan).

WEST BROM

West Brom

Ins: Scott Carson (Liverpool, £3.25m), Marek Cech (FC Porto, £1.4m), Gianni Zuiverloon (Heerenveen, £3.2m), Luke Moore (Aston Villa, £3m).

Outs: Kevin Phillips (Birmingham, free), Curtis Davies (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Martin Albrechtsen (Derby County, free), Zoltan Gera (Fulham, free), Luke Daniels (Shrewsbury, loan).

WEST HAM UNITED

West Ham United

Ins: Valon Behrami (Lazio, £5m), Balint Bajner (Liberty Salonta, undisclosed), Jan Lastuvka (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan).

Outs: John Pantsil and Bobby Zamora (Fulham, £6.3m), Richard Wright (Ipswich, undisclosed).

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Wigan Athletic

Ins: Amr Zaki (Zamalek, loan), Olivier Kapo (Birmingham, £3.5m), Daniel de Ridder (Birmingham, free), Lee Cattermole (Middlesbrough, £3.5m).

Outs: Andreas Granqvist (Groningen, £600,000), Julius Aghahowa (Kayserispor, undisclosed), Salomon Olembe (Kayserispor, free), Josip Skoko (Hajduk Split, free), David Cotterill (Sheffield United, undisclosed).

Traore signs new Arsenal contract

Arsenal defender Armand Traore has signed a new long-term contract to stay at the Emirates Stadium, the North London club has confirmed.

The 18-year-old French under-19 international has made 18 first team appearances for the Gunners since joining from Monaco in 2005.

But manager Arsene Wenger sees him as back-up for left-back Gael Clichy.

“Everyone at Arsenal is delighted that Armand has extended his contract,” said a statement on the club website.

Traore has predominantly been used in the Carling Cup, making 10 appearances in the competition, including starting against Chelsea in the 2007 final.

Drogba will miss start of season

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has revealed striker Didier Drogba is set to miss the start of the season.

Drogba, 30, has spent the summer recuperating from a knee injury and will not be fit for the Premier League opener against Portsmouth on 17 August.

“Didier will not play in our first game and will probably miss the second against Wigan,” said Scolari.

“If there are no more problems he should be ready for the game after that, Tottenham on 31 August.”

However, Scolari concedes that the nature of Drogba’s injury makes it difficult to predict exactly when the Ivory Coast star will return to full fitness.

The Brazilian added: “When you have a knee injury, you just never know.

“I have been getting a progress report from the doctor every day.

“He’s getting better and is working with a fitness coach back at the training ground.

“I hope he will be ready to start training next week but he will not play until he is in good condition.”

In the absence of Drogba, Chelsea will be relying heavily on Nicolas Anelka, who scored four goals in a 5-0 mauling of AC Milan on Sunday.

Salomon Kalou is away at the Olympics and Scolari has hinted Andriy Shevchenko is not a contender to start the first game of the season.

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