Webwatch

What's going on in Mitteleuropa these days? Ian Plenderleith discovers that the angst of the low crowds in the heart of the continent is alleviated only by poetic team names, a healthy beer culture, fine Canadian-made hats and Hungarian goose liver cooked in a patriotic red paprika

One quiet morning recently I found myself sitting at the computer reading out loud the results from the 26th round of play in the 2003-04 season of the Slovak second division. Dusla Sala 1 Tatran Presov 2. It sounded so good that I did it again. There was a certain kind of poetry to it and a special feeling that comes with knowing you are likely the only person in the world right now sitting at his computer and reading out loud the results from Slovakia’s division two.

As far as Ian Plenderleith can see, if you want even half-decent coverage of Euro 2004 at the moment then there's not a lot of point looking at English language websites. Head for France or Germany instead

Summer’s approaching and your team’s domestic hopes have long since melted with the last frost. Happily it’s one of those biennial off-seasons when those ever diminishing football-free days before the pre-season friendlies start are filled with a major international tournament. What luck. Now it’s time for a couple of sessions at the computer so that come June you can impress friends, family and passers-by with knowledge of Latvia’s tactical master plan and an effortless phonetic pronunciation of the Czech back four.

It's a blow to his wife but good news for his credit-card company: Ian Plenderleith has been able to use the internet to further his collection of desperately obscure, occasionally sweat-stained, football jerseys

Borussia Mönchengladbach home, 1997. China, 2002. Sparta Prague home, 2003. Italy, 1994. Glasgow Rangers away, 1992. Various Scotland horror kits with purple lightning flashes or in blinding orangey-pink. Too many Lincoln Citys to mention. Galatasaray home (Istanbul market bootleg), with “Revivo” and No 10 on the back. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of them, but the above are just a part of my undeniable replica-shirt collection.

The internet has sparked a boom in betting and inevitably there are sites that promise to help you to beat the bookies and win endless riches. Ian Plenderleith - just for fun - gave a couple of systems the once-over

I’m not a gambler, but I can bet you one thing for sure. If betting were profitable for pun­ters, bookies wouldn’t exist. Bearing this in mind, I locked up my credit card and examined two websites that promise to help players beat the odds.

Ian Plenderleith finds artists from Norway and Switzerland exploring the meaning and limits of the game (and the language), while Englishmen past and present have captured the game’s historic vistas

The history of football and art is littered with badly proportioned pencil drawings, misty-edged portraits and, on the pitch, mostly miscued overhead kicks that end up leaving their artists flat on the canvas. Once in a while, though, those overhead shots hit the target and we celebrate the beauty, just as the occasional non-playing artist captures some­thing of the game’s elusive but undeniable aesthetic side.

Ian Plenderleith looks at Football Fans Census, a site that attempts to regularly examine the attitudes of supporters to a range of issues and to thereby influence the game’s authorities to take concerns seriously

The advent of the internet has done wonders for fan democracy. It takes very little effort to fire off an angry email to your club com­plaining that the ageing defence, the fumbling goalie, the clueless coach and the thick, sweet tobacco from the pipe of the old boy sitting in front of you all combined to increase your blood pressure to dangerous levels the previous Saturday and you’d like a refund NOW.

Ian Plenderleith has happy memories prompted by a shrine to Aberdeen's European heroes and toasts some hard-drinking yet non-fighting Vikings, but is distinctly unimpressed by the efforts of the G-14

Certain teams capture a boy’s imagination no matter their colours or home town. I’d never been to Aberdeen by the early 1980s, but the last Scottish team to win a European trophy (the 1983 Cup-Winners Cup) boasted one of those long-lost line-ups – crammed with tal­ented native names that never seemed to change – and rarely seemed to lose.

Want to buy a stake in your club? Need to check whether it's worth what you're paying, or 14,975 times less? Or just keen to know if they're going out of business? Ian Plenderleith takes stock of online football finance

Proving that the internet may still be the last refuge of scam merchants, WSC was re­cently sent a link to a website called Framed Share that allows fans to buy smartly framed single share certificates in football clubs. “In the past only the richest football fans could afford to be a shareholder in various football clubs and have their say in how the club is run,” says the blurb, as if we had just emerged from an era when only the wealthy had the nous to pick up a phone and talk to a stockbroker.

A well written, well presented and witty US website on football is neither a contradiction in terms nor something dedicated to fat men in pads and helmets, Ian Plenderleith avers in this month’s review

There has rarely been an online fanzine as densely but superbly presented as The Glo­bal Game, the monthly brainchild of Georgia-based American journalist John Turnbull. Available in browser or Adobe Acro­bat format, the four-page journal combines excellent wri­ting and anecdotal wit to present new angles on the game, and thoroughly re­searched links to places you would never otherwise find.

Football’s best images are those which are integral to the game, believes Ian Plenderleith who finds artistic celebration but also pointless commercial exploitation in this month’s internet review

Football’s lords and masters forever fret about the image of the game, forgetting it has been making its own images for over a hundred years and needs no help from the charlatans behind misguided marketing stra­tegies. This month’s guide takes you to some of the best and worst places online to forage around for football’s colourful heritage.

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