Friday, August 31, 2007
Sevilla (who won the Super Cup last year against Barcelona) already had their Champions League qualifying match against AEK Athens postponed until this Monday due to Puerta's death, and there was serious talk about having today's Super Cup match delayed as well. But Sevilla agreed to play, though it was obvious that despite some urgency in the first half--in which they did score in the 14th via striker Renato--it was going to be a difficult night for them to get through. After the Renato goal, the Sevilla players huddled together and, with fingers pointed heavenward, honored Puerta... their supporters, many of whom displayed flags and banners adorned with Puerta's face, no doubt were offering up prayers, blessings, and thoughts as well.
And the match went on....
Inzaghi, the Great Venal One, elaborated on why he's one of the most hated players in Europe by ridiculously fumbling to the ground in the box in the 20th, which should have earned him a yellow card but didn't. It's easy to hate the rat-like "Pippo." I'm not particularly enamored with him either--he reminds me too much of a degenerate Borgia count, an extra in a Charles Bronson movie, most likely playing "mugger #3" or "rapist #4," or Klaus Kinski's debased brother... the one he kept in the attic and would refer to as Werner...but woe to the player who underestimates Pippo's goal-poaching cunning.
Renato followed with a brilliant opportunity in the 26th but shot it wide. Milan's Seedorf, after Inzaghi comically tried to backheel the ball past Sevilla's keeper Palop, attempted to head the ball in but also blew it. Only thing was, Seedorf didn't look like a fool. Inzaghi bulleted a long shot toward goal in the 33rd, but again there was to be no payoff.
Sevilla's Kanoute had a wonderful chance in the 42nd when he found himself open at the top of the box. Deftly controlling the ball off his chest, he whipped around and rocketed the shot toward Milan's Dida, but the shot (I think it deflected off a Milan player) went nowhere. Inzaghi scored in stoppage time, but surprise, surprise the goal was offside.
But in the 55th minute, Inzaghi wasn't offside--a nice header in front of goal via a beautiful cross from Gattuso from the right-hand side. Game was indeed on, though it became even more apparent that Sevilla was losing form and perhaps inspiration.
Milan duce Silvio Berlusconi beamed from his eagle's nest in the stands, no doubt wondering which "man suit" he would don later that evening for the annual beginning of the season sacrificial ritual. Something fresh or something classic?
Milan's Czech left-back, Marek Jankulovski, a man not known for his scoring, did just that in the 62nd after receiving a textbook clean ball from Man of the Match Pirlo. It was another nice shot, too. And then Sevilla looked like they were going to fall apart. Midfielder Duda received a yellow, then Dani Alves (whose mind, even before Puerta's death, was already elsewhere) wanted a yellow as he rolled around on the ground, looking as if he was auditioning for a role as an extra in a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, then immediately jumped up when the ref looked at him disappointingly. But the ref was kind enough to reward Sevilla's Christian Poulsen with a card seconds later.
Kaka was taken down in the box in the 86th and was rewarded with a penalty kick, which he subsequently missed. But the player, who was just named as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, headed in the ball which had deflected off of Palop's face, serving up the victory once and for all to Milan. Kaka is a class act, though, and he repeatedly pointed to Puerta's name on the back of his jersey (all of the players wore Puerta's name on the back of their shirts) while modestly celebrating the goal. Seedorf also made a point to display Puerta's name when he was subbed off a few minutes later....
Sevilla will hopefully play better against Athens on Monday, and no doubt this will serve as a much needed warm up for a team that would probably rather not have to be playing games so soon after the tragedy. But I'm guessing Antonio Puerta would have wanted his teammates back on the pitch and winning matches, not lost in their grief.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Joan Gamper trophy is a traditional season opener friendly for Barcelona, heavily shadowed this year by the tragic death of Sevilla's Antonio Puerta. Over at the beautiful game, Linda has put together a nice photo essay of the match, which honored both Puerta and a former Barca vice-president, Nicolau Casaus, who died 8 August.
It's been a horrific week for the untimely loss of young footballers: in addition to Puerta, former Zambia international Chaswe Nsofwa collapsed and died Wednesday of heart failure while practicing with his Israeli squad, while promising QPR striker Ray Jones perished in a car accident on Saturday. In better news, Leicester striker Clive Clarke, whose heart attack stopped a Carling Cup match on Wednesday against Nottingham Forest, seems to be recovering. Apparently the recent tragedies have led to calls for routine cardiac testing as part of medical clearances for footballers; I must admit I assumed such testing would be routine and I'm surprised to learn otherwise. It's also my understanding, though, that some fatal cardiac irregularities can be difficult or impossible to detect.
I don't really have a neat end for this post. It's been a sad week.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Everyone who witnessed Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta inexplicably collapse in the 28th minute of the first half in the match against Getafe last Saturday was bewildered by the incident at first. Standing near his own goal just as the keeper was preparing to kick the ball back to the Sevilla midfield, Puerta suddenly crouched down and then appeared to go into a seizure. His fellow teammates tried to keep the 22-year old player from choking on his tongue and eventually team medics got Puerta back on his feet and into the locker room. The game went on.
Subsequent news reports stated that Puerta, who was born in Sevilla and had played his entire career with the club, had suffered a heart attack. In the dressing room, Puerta's heart gave out yet again and he went into unconsciousness. He was whisked to the hospital where he was reportedly stable though in intensive care. But his body was unable to withstand the damage that had wracked it and unfortunately the player died this morning in Spain.
Puerta, a crafty left-footer, was a major contributor (he scored the winning goal) in a 2006 UEFA Cup semi-final match against Schalke... which eventually led the Andalusians into the final against Middlesbrough who they beat 4-0. Puerta also helped his team win last season's UEFA Cup final against Espanyol when the match dragged on into penalty kicks. Puerta also played once for the Spanish national team in October 2006.
Sevilla, who were supposed to play today in a second leg Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens, didn't. The game has been postponed until next Monday. The team's European Super Cup match this Friday against AC Milan will supposedly still be played and the game will be aired in the US via Fox Soccer Channel. The match will be played in honor of the fallen player.
All of us at apm join the rest of the football universe in offering up our deepest condolences to Puerta's loved ones, his team, and the supporters who cared. You can read more about Antonio Puerta here and here.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Both teams are attractive, mischievously attacking squads and—despite some fallow periods last season, especially Villarreal—finished 4th (
I wasn’t in the best mood leading up to the game. Primed, though not necessarily bushy-tailed for the 10:00 am (Pacific Time) opening match between Racing Santander and Barcelona, only to see that the game was not going to be televised due to the ongoing Spanish television rights war. No matter, I guess, since it seems Barca performed poorly and were lucky to slip away with a point from the 0-0 draw. Ugh. It’s still early, right? No need to panic yet. Right? Right?
Friday, August 24, 2007
Pics and match report here.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Okay... we're heading into the playoffs, so you'll no doubt get another chance to see the boys again once they end the season playing four grueling away matches in early September. But why wait? Especially considering that the Timbers' form of late (despite being currently in second place, only four points out of first) has been lackluster--five draws and two losses since July 22nd, one of those defeats being at the feet of tonight's bastardly opponents, the Charleston Battery, who this season serve as the paycheck for our ex-superstar Byron Alvarez.
So come... have some beers (it's Thirsty Thursday, remember)... SING... SHOUT... and root for the Green & White. They need to feel the momentum, they need to feel the love before heading off to finish the season where the chants grow more faint and the enthusiasm dims.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I'm thinking, as always, of the Hammers. Having been football-starved for the better part of a year and plunged back in (to the tune of fifty plus bucks a month) thanks to the kindly folks at Fox Soccer Channel, I find myself in the odd position of watching Alan Curbishley's Irons. Suddenly, I am Katharine Ross as wives around her become Stepford or Kevin McCarthy while body-snatchers invade. Someone has dismantled my team in the dead of night and built an exact and insidious replica in its place, and I have an eerie foreboding as I watch. I am waiting for the mask to slip and reveal some of David Icke's lizard-men.
For starters, seeing West Ham play without Etherington and Konchesky I found wincingly uncomfortable, like watching some fellow without a skeletal structure lurch bonelessly around the pitch. Curbishley tossed "Gamblin' Fool" Etherington in at the half and I breathed more easily; now, at least, they had snapped on a collarbone. I do not resent the passing-on-to-questionable-pastures of so many of last year's A-team. It's an expected and chilling repercussion of managerial usurpation. Reo-Coker and Harewood, even Benayoun I release with blessings. I am troubled, however, by the ease with which I was glamoured into high hopes by the flash and glitz of Ljungberg and Ashton and Neill, all of whom have yet to prove themselves after a singularly unimpressive opening match. Neill, in fact, seems to have thrown his hat into the ring to inherit the Harry Kewell Perpetually-Off-Pitch-With-Some-Vague-Injury crown (what is up with the delicate Aussies these days?), and Craig Bellamy wheels his snappy-but-mostly-useless act into town, fresh from the green grasses of Anfield.
Then there's Bobby Zamora: a lizard-man, unquestionably, perhaps even a cartoon lizard-man. I think he is the Polanski character from "Chinatown", that twitchy speed-freak guy itching to explode into violence at every moment, only somehow transported into a studly footballer's body. Watch his neck and shoulders: he's so tense he'll snap in two if a big wind comes up. I often amuse myself by noting how long it takes him to explode in anger at the ref each match. This time, he clocked in under six minutes.
So these are our boys. Curbishley, the alien at the helm, has a strategical sense which at first glance seems random and dubious. His presence on the claret and blue throne throws strange and tramontane shadows across the castle walls. I am no longer on familiar ground. The king may be mad; the players, well, reptilian. Much remains to be seen. In the meantime, do we, the Faithful, remain so out of duty, pride, habit, or fear of change? What are the repercussions of switching allegiance? I have always had one eye fixed on the Liverpudlians, and Roy Keane is making his Black Cats very seductive underdogs indeed. For now, though, the Hammers keep hold of my attention by sheer force of their fascinating perversity.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Actually, I have my own theory about what's going wrong. It's that damn chant, the one that's been around forever and always seemed perfectly innocuous and has somehow become the default for corner kicks and free kicks, the one that goes, "Here we go, here we go" etc. etc. It's a curse, I tell you. Invariably, I find myself muttering "...and there we went" as yet another opportunity is wasted--and when we did score on the chant last night, leading me to briefly believe the curse had been broken--well, we all know how heartbreakingly that turned out. Personally, at such moments I like the groovy musical numbers the best, the drumbeats accompanied by "Heeeeeyyy...for the Timbers...." which I am firmly convinced conjures up the appropriate football deities for victory. I tell you, it's a demon-haunted world, this business of footie fanaticism.
It was good to see traveling fans from both Minnesota and Vancouver, some of whom even braved the Bitter End for pre-game drinks. We here at apm have a soft spot in particular for fans of the Thunder; back in the day when we first began attending matches regularly we sat right behind the lone vocal fan, whom Army regulars from several years back will doubtless remember. In those salad days of yore the dreaded YSA seemed so shiny and promising and each time the Army roared the imprecation, he followed plaintively, his voice hoarse and failing: No, you rule, Joe Warren! (To this day, when we catch a Minnesota Thunder game on TV with Warren in goal, we cry You rule Joe Warren!)
The Timbers have one regular-season home game left, an August 23 match against Charleston followed by a difficult road trip schedule of 5 away matches, most of them to the miserably hot and humid regions of the USL. It's safe to say we'll make it into the playoffs this year but I'm feeling increasingly anxious about how we'll perform there. I do think they're capable of winning the league but I'd feel better if I saw more consistency, more complete domination during matches. Still, we've known all along this stretch of the schedule was going to be challenging, and we're still in first place, even if nobody seems to feel very good about it. Let's hope Thursday's road trip back to Minnesota will be beset with fewer difficulties than the previous one and somehow up there in the wilds of Garrison Keillor country, our boys get their mojo back.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I guess we'll just have to wait and see with him, and I hope that his professed sincerity about giving his all for the Hammers and all that jazz really does come from the right place in his heart. God knows last year's squad had its share of bloated egos, locker room bullshit, and lackluster energy on the pitch for most of the season.
And then there were the injuries--Upson, Gabbidon, and Ashton. But with those players fit and ready to play again (Ashton's return is perhaps the most important), the Hammers will no doubt be in better form. Unfortunately, captain Lucas Neill (who Curbishley signed to the team mid-season last year and who immediately got injured) is now injured again--he "tweaked" his knee ligaments--and will definitely miss tomorrow's opening match against Sven's Manchester City lads.
All in all, I'm cautiously optimistic for mid-table success. Curbishley, though, has bigger aims for Europe and ambition to be something more than a glorified feeder club to the big four in the Premiership. Easier said than done, of course. We'll see how much of a risk taker he'll be once the bruises start showing....
West Ham United v Manchester City airs Saturday on the Fox Soccer Channel at 6:55 AM (Pacific).
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Fans of Mexican football will be sure to be inundated with excitement tomorrow when PGE Park hosts the Super Classic of Legends tour featuring veteran players from two of Mexico's most popular clubs, Chivas de Guadalajara and Club America. The crowd in the stands and the play on the field should be a blast to behold and a portion of all tickets prices goes to help out the MEChA/Latino Club at Tigard High School. Sounds good to us!
And if that wasn't enough footie action... the glorious hometown Timbers play the melting White Caps from Vancouver on Saturday. Can you say six points for our lads? Oh yeah! I just said it.
Oh... and for those of you who stand in the North End and have wondered why does everyone keep singing that crazy song over and over and over again... and has perhaps wanted to join in but still don't know the words or haven't been able to remember them because of the plentiful brew sloshing around in thy gut... here is a transcript of the feverish, whirling dervish that is known as The Greek Chant. Learn it, love it, remember it:
Group 1: So who are we?
Group 2: SO WHO ARE WE?
Group 1: We are the boys!
Group 2: WE ARE THE BOYS!
Group 1: We're from the North End and we're here to make some noise
Group 2: MAKE SOME NOISE!
Group 1: For our boys!
Group 2: FOR OUR BOYS!
Group 1: And you will see!
Group 2: YOU WILL SEE!
Everyone: WE'RE GONNA JUMP AND CLAP AND SING FOR VICTORY!
AND WHEN WE DO!
YOU'LL KNOW THAT NOISE!
CAME FROM THE NORTH END FOOKIN' TIMBERS ARMY BOYS!
OH ROSE CITY!
OH ROSE CITY!
THIS IS OUR TEAM: THE MIGHTY P-T-F-C!
Repeat until your heart, lungs, and throat explode....