Tuesday, January 23, 2007
So, when I run across a story like this one (by way of Roberto's Timbers blog), about former Timbers forward Fadi Afash's new career defrauding the elderly of their life savings, I am reduced to a state almost unknown to me: speechlessness.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
The prospect of watching one of the first truly exciting live games televised by FSC in a while enabled two-thirds of a pretty move to haul our ordinarily-much-lazier asses out of bed at 8 am on a Sunday morning. Derek swore he was rooting for Man U because a win from them would further endanger Chelsea; I find it difficult to root against Arsenal myself, despite the fact that they often frustrate and disappoint me: there's the balletic grace of Thierry Henry (when he's on, which he hasn't been much this season), a roster rich with players from Africa and France (I dream of a channel that televises African football, and I've not yet recovered from the disappointment of losing La Ligue games on FSC this season), the lingering affection for the squad shared by many of us bookish football fans due simply to the infectious joy of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, and of course their acquisition of one of my favorite Czechs, Tomas Rosicky. Even the presence on Man U of former Barca forward, the great Henrik Larsson, can't mitigate the existence of the wildly talented, wildly petulant, wildly annoying Cristiano Ronaldo.
So as the game gets underway I announce I'm rooting for Arsenal. The first Man U goal leaves no doubt where both our hearts lie; after the shock of its power, we both make a "huh" sound and do not even manage to indulge in our usual glee at seeing the oh-so-flappable Jens Lehmann bested. When a bolt from van Persie levels the scoreline we're leaping and shouting (the neighbors must love us), but it's the 94th minute stunner from Henry, with his characteristic ease, that brings down the living room. In 90-minutes-and-then-some Arsenal has managed to frustrate us once again, falling back on ugly and uncreative play as they do all too often, despite their reputation for pretty moves and Continental flair. But the win is suddenly and dramatically theirs, all at once the Premiership looks to be holding the potential for a much more interesting four-way battle at the top, and van Persie has done his work for Derek's fantasy football squad. For a few moments, at least, football has done its occasional good work of making us feel like all's right with the world.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
In my town, there is a single soccer bar: one of those faux-British places with a nonfunctioning red phone box where they'll give you fish and chips if you give them a $20 bill and a true pint for an additional fiver. I ask the waiter for a match schedule. He says, "Yeah, we show soccer. I don't know anything about it. Ask the bartender." I ask the bartender. He says, "Yeah, we show soccer. I don't know anything about it." Vaguely he agrees that my best bet is to wander in when I know a match is on.
I wander in when Valencia is playing Villarreal. Soccer? I ask. The bartender says, "We can't show soccer during football playoffs. Nobody wants to see it."
Read that sentence again to let the full horror of it sink in. Where do we, Joe Soccer Fan, get recognized as other than Nobody, if not in a town's solitary soccer bar? If you cut us, do we not bleed? If you call yourself a soccer bar, will we not demand soccer? If you make us watch any more American football, will we not run mad?
It was from beneath this pall that I heard the news of Beckham's approach, like the welcome clattering of hoofbeats when the cavalry's on the way. Picture this (I give it a year, maybe two): I am sitting in a random sports bar, some little joint off the highway on the way to nowhere. On the television screen, Sheringham heads in a Benayoun corner to give the Hammers an edge over their Real Madrid opponents. On the sidelines, Fabio Capello is spitting mad. Meanwhile, a guy walks up to the bar, says, "Hey, can you flip it over to the Steelers game?"
And the bartender says, "Sorry, man. We can't show American football. Not during Champions League knockouts. Nobody wants to see it."
It'll happen. (OK. Maybe not the part about the Hammers. A girl can dream.) When it does, you'll be able to draw a direct line straight back to the arrival of the blond man with the tiny voice and the beautiful moves.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
So, all that said, I nearly always root against Chelsea. It's like a reflex. I've taken an unseemly delight, considering my largely-neutral stance, in their struggles this season and I am especially pleased when they are held to a draw or scored upon by a lesser team. Above all, I dislike Chelsea's style of play, which to me epitomizes what I dislike about the Premiership in general--its emphasis on speed and strength, versus La Liga's (or Argentina's Primera Division's) looser, slower, more technical, methodical ballwork--and, of course, the flair, oh the flair above all. I've heard arguments about which league is "better" and that just seems silly to me--both are obviously world class and it really does just come down to the style of football you prefer.
Anyway, Mourinho's ultimatum forced me to face the inevitable: he will be leaving the Premiership, later if not sooner. And man, I'm going to miss him when he goes. That petulant, put-upon expression, the passive-aggressive declarations of persecution, the injured air that everyone is always picking on me, because I am The Special One--all best conveyed in one of my favorite-ever covers from When Saturday Comes. But hope springs eternal in the form of one of the best rumors I've heard in a long time--that Mourinho could be moving on to Real Madrid. This could be the answer to all my prayers: the team** and the manager I most love to hate in one convenient package.
*I base my opinion of Sheva's wife's intelligence entirely on what the guy behind the counter at the magazine store told me during the World Cup, when I was looking at an article about the two of them, and really, if you can't trust the guy behind the counter at the magazine store, who can you trust?
**except maybe for the German national team
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Racism is a stain that plagues a lot of European football, not just in
Lazio were Mussolini’s favorite team. Out-of-the-closet fascists such as Paolo Di Cannio have proudly served them, and Di Cannio infamously gave the fascist salute last year after his team won their derby against Roma. The team’s rabid ultras, the Irriducibili, routinely display banners and flags with Nazi and/or fascist symbolism adorning them (such as the SS Totenkopf), racist and anti-Semitic chants are routine, and up until recently they rarely if ever recruited black players to the squad. And if they did, those players didn’t last long.
ESPN soccer columnist Roberto Gotta would like you to cease being so hard on these lovable black shirts. Sure, his argument is a valid one—be wary of generalizing or demonizing teams, individuals, etcetera. I can’t argue with that. Pretty much all of the major football teams in Europe and
I realize that the Gotta article is a few weeks old, but I just came across it yesterday. I’ve been hibernating.
Monday, January 08, 2007
It was a psychically damaging defeat for Sevilla, especially since their hold on the top slot is precarious--Barcelona is only two points behind--and their inability to capitalize on forward Luis Fabiano's goal in the 71st after numerous attempts was absurdly comical. Exciting match, but it was all overshadowed by the slap party. Okay, it didn't actually start out that way. Real punches were thrown! But in the end, it was all slapstick. Guy Maddin, I think, is smiling.