Saturday, February 16, 2008

Even the Hirshey stache couldn't save the Gunners

Yeah, I don't have much today. Arsenal got schooled in every department by a much more determined Manchester United side. But at least we didn't lose to Barnsley at home. Make sure your car is safe, Rafa! Here's some better memories to soothe the pain until the Rossoneri roll into a buzzsaw at Emirates on Wednesday. Titi delivers...

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Trapattoni Gets His Pot of Gold But Little Else


In the late 80s, Englishman Jack Charlton built the Republic of Ireland national team into a respectable side, in large parts with English-born players with a weeeeeee bit of Irish blood (and in Tony Cascarino's case, none at all).

Fast forward to 2008, the Irish have gone English again, this time by hiring Italian coaching veteran Giovanni Trapattoni. Frankly, I don't know what the FAI and its billionaire sugar daddy expect out of him and unlike with Fabio Cappello, who looks to be the right man for England, it's hard to see Trap's reign of Eire ending well.

Whereas the knock on Fab Cap was that, for all his club success, he lacked international experience, the knock on Trapattoni is his international experience, having managed Italy from 2000 to 2004. He brought the worst out of Azurri's defensive tendencies and wasted Del Piero and Totti at their peak.

Trapattoni took over for Italy in 2000, after Dino Zoff took the team within stoppage time of winning Euro 2000, struggled in 2002 World Cup before being bounced out by Korea (deservedly, even if the officiating was shit), and couldn't get out of the group stage at Euro 2004. Considering Marcelo Lippi took over and won the 2006 World Cup, Trapattoni's record as international coach is pretty damning stuff.

His club management in recent years haven't been so hot either. Sure, he won the Bundesliga last year, but that's the Austrian Bundesliga. And he was disappointing as coach of Stuttgart in 2005-06, the same Stuttgart that went on to win the real Bundesliga the very next season.

As for Ireland, they haven't qualified for a major tournament since 2002, and there hasn't been a significant boost to their talent pool since Damien Duff came along. And if Trapattoni couldn't get anywhere with a backline anchored by Maldini and Nesta, I'm not sure what he's going to do with the central defense partnership of Dunne and O'Shea. He says he can help Ireland top Italy for a first place finish in its World Cup qualifying group, but all available evidence suggests he won't.

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The Catalan Press Beckons You

I am in the process of catching up with Lost on DVD, but I'm only about a third of the way through Season 2. (Seriously, don't tell me what happens!) You remember way back in 2005, when Jose Mourinho brought Chelsea its first title in fifty years, Patrick Vieira left for Juventus, and a fresh-faced (ha!) Wayne Rooney left Everton for Man U. 2005 was also the season of the Others. (Don't tell me what happens after Season 2 please!)

Much like the Others, there are currently specters haunting Ashburton Grove these days. They are called the Catalan press, and yet again these Others are lurking around Arsenal's campsite, attempting to steal a few more warm bodies to Barcelona. This week, the latest "target" of a nonsensical rumor is Arsene Wenger. And of course Cesc Fabregas will be leaving for the Spanish coast, even though he continues to deny such rumors.

As my beloved Arseblogger has pointed out on numerous occasions, Barcelona FC is basically full of shit for espousing their "More Than a Team" philosophy while engaging in non-stop tapping-up. The Catalan press seems to have a symbiotic relationship with Barca's management, with both floating out a constant stream of scurrilous rumors and admiration. The fact that most of that admiration is pointed toward pilfering Arsenal's prized talent is beyond irritating. I know Chelsea have reasons to feel aggrieved as well, but at least Drogba has stated his desire to play for Barcelona. Wenger and Fabregas have been nothing if not consistent in their commitment to Arsenal FC. Yet the rumors still persist, floating out on slow news days, only to be picked up by the U.K. press.

In the end, you have to wonder if maybe Wenger got the upper-hand yet again by dealing a gimpy TH14. The results of that move have so far worked out better for Arsenal than for Barcelona. But, it also means that Barca's revenge will be yet more rumors and pining over our players and manager. Flattery? Perhaps, but we all know what happens to Others who don't play nice:

(SERIOUSLY DON'T TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SEASON 2!)

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Keegan's axe is sharp, unlike his strikers


[Ed Note: as per an Update from Koogometer Creator, Bigus Dickus: "It shows Newcastle's free-scoring consistency. So it moves forward a bit if they score 3 in 2 games in a week, it'll shift again. If they score 3 in a game 4 weeks in a row, we will be close to a full swing in the other direction. Fail to score again next week and its back to zero. My discretion!" So there you have it folks, the Koogometer explained]


[I haven't figured out what the increments are on this thing yet. I think each big mark represents two goals... I don't think we need to worry about running out of room.]


Considering that the news day is rather dead today, there's no better time than now to check in with everyone's favourite phoenix, Kevin Keegan. He's doing the Lord's work at St. James' Park, inspiring young and old, thin and dangerously obese, with his rousing brand of managerial wisdom.

It's just a shame that it hasn't resulted in any bloody wins.

This morning, he sacked yet more of his backroom staff: Mark Howard, the conditioning coach [like Barton needs any training in how to hurt people], and Gavin Fleig, the ProZone Game Analysis expert [think FIFA08, but with more stats and pictures!]. This latest cull adds to the departure of Assistant Manager Nigel Pearson and Head of Sports Medicine Mark Taylor earlier in the month, so all this change is good, right? Surely we'll see a swift upswing in goals, performance and success?

Of course not! Newcastle have managed two EPL goals since our last check of the Koogan Klock Watch, both from Michael Owen somehow and breaking a 455-minute goalless streak under Koog, but no wins yet. No sir, nary a peep in the win column. After the jump, get a load of Koog's record to date, and laugh at his incompetence. Thanks to these statistics, it appears that ineptitude is quantifiable!

With Dennis Wise breathing down his neck in an "executive" role, how long before Kev feels the slice of his own axe?


LAST EPL GOAL: Michael Owen, 4" at Aston Villa - Feb. 9th


IN 2008:
Newcastle 0, Man City 2 - Jan. 2nd
Man Utd 6, Newcastle 0 - Jan. 12th
Newcastle 0, Bolton 0 - Jan. 19th**
Arsenal 3, Newcastle 0 - Jan. 29th**
Newcastle 1, Middlesbrough 1 [Michael Owen, 60"] - Feb. 4th**


** under Koogan

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Off to the crisp bowl.


Next stop Leicester.

My lot Norwich City are aiming to make it 14 games unbeaten tomorrow and get back to winning ways in an attempt to join the Championship playoff party. The fact that we are 6 points from the top 6 is still hard to believe. But I am not going to harp on about how good Glenn Roeder is and what he has achieved in very little time. Oh go on then I will.....Just kidding.

Trips to Leicester's Walkers Stadium are always fun.

(If you are not familar with Walkers I'll fill you in. They make chips. In fact they are to the English what Lay's are to Americans. Walkers headquarters are in Leicester but the company is now owned by Frito Lay-who are in turn owned by Pepsi. Got it?)

-Back to the stadium.....

They shove us in the corner and we insult them for it. Having to play in the 'Walkers' stadium is a tough challenge for the Leicester faithful when sell out away crowds roll into town. Especially as they are one of the quiestest crowds I have heard in the division. This provides wonderful opportunities to sing such songs as "Your crisps make more noise than you" followed by a chorus of shhhhhhing sounds made as loud as possible. We cheer when they sing with rousing renditions of "We forgot that you were here" and of course we bust out the old favourite "Worst support we've ever seen". This year the state of their pitch will also provide amunition. Its one of my favorite Championship fixtures. The stadium is pleasant enough. Facilities are not bad, it's not too far and easy to get to so you are back in the local with plenty of time before closing. Well it used to be easy to get to!

Alas no more! I wont be there tomorrow as I live in NY now but when I am listening to Radio Norfolk tomorrow and hear the 3000 travelling Norwich fans directing some home truths towards a certain individual in the crowd regarding his diet, followed by some stern instructions of where he can forcefully place his drum when he is not banging it. I will know exactly who they are singing at. This guy.

(who at all the.....crisps)

The above picture was featured in Ian Holloways column today. There have been reports of Holloway losing his job as Leicester slip towards a relegation battle. I like Ollie I really do. Even after his touchline spat with God Glenn a few weeks ago. He is one of football's real characters. Amusing, passionate and a genuine nice guy. He says what he thinks, has respect for other teams and his interviews provide some absolute gems. But come 4.45 Saturday I hope he has had well and truly had his chips.....I mean crisps.



-Bigus







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Uefa Cup Round Up


Yes, I know. It's not the glamour European event. But for the teams still in the tournament, it's pretty important. The UEFA Cup played the first leg of Round of 32 knockout matches this week. Most of the matches were played close to the vest, as is often the case in knockout phases. Still, there were some surprising scorelines, including one hell of a match played in northern Scotland.

A couple of teams more or less wrapped up their ties with resounding victories. Everton took a 0-2 away result against Norwegian side SK Brann Bergen. Werder Bremen ran Sporting Braga off the pitch 3-0, and Olympique Marseille did the same to Spartak Moscow. Sporting Lisbon defeated FC Basel 2-0 at home, while Fiorentina, Hamburg SV and Tottenham all took decisive away wins, beating Rosenborg, Zurich and Slavia Prague, respectively.

Other winners of home ties include Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 over Villareal, Anderlecht 2-1 over Bordeaux, Bolton sliding past Atletico Madrid 1-0 and Benfica defeating Nurnberg by the same score. First leg draws were had by Galatsaray and Bayer Leverkusen 0-0, AEK Athens and Getafe 1-1, Rangers and Panathinaikos 0-0 as well as Aberdeen and Bayern playing to a 2-2 draw.

Alright, I've held out long enough. Now I'm going to talk about what I came here to talk about, Aberdeen's amazing match against the Bundesliga leaders. As you may recall, I was a little squirrelly going into the match. I held no real illusions that a banged-up Aberdeen squad could hold their own against an equally hurt Bayern. Boy was I wrong.

Aberdeen took it to the German giants from the first whistle. Aberdeen could have had a penalty in the first minute, as Ottl headed onto his own arm in the box while trying to clear. It wasn't intentional, but it did control the ball in a dangerous situation. The rest of the initial quarter hour saw Aberdeen play some quick one and two touch ball, unafraid of their much more fancied opponents.

Around the 15 minute mark, Bayern started to put their stamp on the game. Aberdeen was consistently pinned back in their own half, and certainly not helped by keeper Jamie Langfield's sudden inability to clear out of his own half. Aberdeen resorted to playing long balls up the pitch, hoping to catch out an out of sorts Bayern back line. Aberdeen did catch them out, but it wasn't from a hit and hope effort.

In the 24th minute, some quick linkup play on the right side of midfield saw Aberdeen streaming forward in numbers. After a soft shot was headed back out by Aberdeen, Sone Aluko controlled and passed out to Josh Walker. Walker curled the shot home from 24 yards, and I screamed so loud at my computer that my 7-month-old son started crying. I barely had time to console him before Luca Toni nodded a ball off to Miroslav Klose who made no mistake from 6 yards out. 1-1 in the 29th minute.

Bayern looked the most likely to take the lead over the next 10 minutes, with one point blank effort being scuttled over the bar by Klose. Aberdeen were on their heels and just waiting for halftime.

Or so I thought. In the 41st minute, Sone Aluko ran onto a Lee Miller flick on, deked a defender at the top of the box and scored easily. Aluko almost had a shot at another a minute later. He nutmegged Lucio, but seemed to be playing for the foul. By the time Aluko caught up to the ball, he was barely caught by a covering defender, otherwise he would have been in alone with the keeper again.

Halftime meant I had to leave my stream of the match and go through the rest of the day unaware of the result. When I got home, I feared for the worst. I figured a 3 or 4 goal German onslaught would have sealed the game. I fired up my computer to see that no such thing had happened. Other than Hamit Altintop following up his missed penalty kick and bundling it into the net, there was no other scoring. I will say this about the penalty, no matter what the Aberdeen site tries to say about the call, it was a definite penalty, and a stronger claim than the one Aberdeen had in the first minute. Maybury's arm was extended and it did stop a dangerous cross in the box. Unlucky, yes, but not a poor call.

One of my blogmates asked if this was a big upset, so I'll try to put it into general football terms. This scoreline is not as shocking as, say, Havant & Waterlooville twice leading Liverpool at Anfield. I'd put it more like a First Division club drawing Manchester United or Arsenal. There is a huge gulf in talent and money between the clubs, so the 2-1 halftime lead and even the 2-2 final are big deals. As I said yesterday, Bayern is full of international players, whereas even the Scots on Aberdeen don't sniff the Scotland squad. Aberdeen's two goal scorers were 18-year-olds on loan from lower rung Premiership squads. Even as a fan, I would not have expected this result and it leaves me buoyant and proud to wear my Aberdeen shirt today.

All happiness aside, reality comes back next week. The return leg is on February 21 in Munich. A 2-2 home result is tantamount to a loss when it comes to knockout stages. Aberdeen need a win in Munich, and as Bigus pointed out in yesterday's comments, that's not too likely for a British team to pull off.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Look out Edmonton, the circus is here

10 bucks says he didn't sign that himself.


It's no secret that I hate David Beckham. I've taken every possible opportunity to lay into the guy, the feckless wreck of free-kick fame, modeling, and having an ugly robot for a wife. [NSFW if you're Mormon, probably] His public speaking is overshadowed by his public fawning for whoever is England manager, and quite frankly, I'm sick of the bastard.

But I'll be damned if he doesn't keep popping up in slow news days and giving me something to rant on.

Well, here it is. People of Edmonton be forewarned: Lord Beckham cometh!

The LA Galaxy, club of Landycakes, Lalas and Gullit the Clueless, are taking bookings for their exhibition touring schedule, and the Vancouver Whitecaps are this week's winners. The two teams will meet at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on May 13, and already the praise is flowing about the universe's favourite footballing retard. Gushed Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi:

"No one is kidding themselves. People are coming to see David Beckham...Beckham transcends the sport of soccer."
Galaxy GM Alexei Lalas took his chance to chime in, proving that hyperbole is not just a Canadian quirk:
[This game is] a spectacle, a moment in time. You are going to see something very different. You are going to want to say that you were there on May 13."
He's right, you know. People will define their lives by the exact point in time when they were 1000 feet from a washed-up football player. It's so true. Really.

The two teams did meet last November, albeit to a crowd of only 48,172, much lower than expected due to a Beckham injury that forced the date to be rescheduled and for tickets to be refunded. The Whitecaps expect a sell-out of 60,000 strong at the game in May, a date that can also be moved if Beckham is unable to play [he's contractually obligated to play at least 45 minutes of the game at his meandering loll].

Lenarduzzi is expecting things to go well, and that this should open the door for more high-profile games at Commonwealth Stadium, like a Barcelona, Real Madrid or Chelsea. I can see the joy in Shevchenko's eyes already.

Responses on the Edmonton Journal's web site have been less than flattering so far:

Kevin
Wed, Feb 13, 08 at 06:15 PM

Save your money Edmontonians. The game here was horrible the sport of soccer is too boring to ever take off in North America. It was a complete waste of money.

tammy
Thu, Feb 14, 08 at 02:12 PM

We went to the whitecaps/galaxy game in van last nov. Was a OK show, but not worth the money we paid for it.

Doug
Thu, Feb 14, 08 at 02:28 PM

I don't understand the hype around this guy and I have little respect for soccer players in general. A player can make a fantastic move and land on his head while scoring and then get up and celebrate, but if someone touches his shin he'll fall to the ground like a little baby. There is no comparison to any soccer player to the likes of a hockey player like Ryan Smith

[Ed. Note: I believe that Doug is just Skip Bayless in disguise.]

So get hyped, Edmonton! May 13 is the date of a lifetime! Spend it with Beckham and his overhyped wizardry!

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Ronaldo's leg gives way

[Ed. Note: The Fan's Attic wrote this, but he's too busy litigatin' to post it. Hence, my work. Enjoy!]


Say what you want about Ronaldo: that he's fat, he's lazy, he's not the player he used to be. It's all probably true to some extent, although there may be extenuating factors that have contributed to these facts. But, the one thing you have to say about him is that he was an extraordinary player.

I suspect we will never see him play again [or if he does play, will surely not get close to his peak level] after suffering another catastrophic injury yesterday, not long after his return from a previous injury.

Last night against Livorno, Ronaldo ruptured a tendon in his left knee. In 1999, Ronaldo had the same injury on the other knee. He tried come back six months later but couldn't, taking another 20 months of rehab and two surgeries before making it back onto the pitch. In his return, he did manage to come back close to top form, helping Brazil win the 2002 World Cup.

The man has a full resume. He won the World Player of the Year three times. He was a World Cup champion twice and a runner-up in 1998. He is the leading World Cup scorer with 15 goals in 19 games. He won the 1998 Golden Ball, 2002 Silver Ball, and the 2002 Golden Boot. He has won league titles and the UEFA Cup in 1998 and if he hadn't been cup-tied, he would have won the Champions League with AC Milan last season. He has won nearly everything there really is to win in soccer.

In all, he was a winner through and through. He suffered many injuries but always seemed to come back and play to a high level for which he must be praised. His early injuries probably have a lot to do with his recent injuries, but the man was one of the best players of his era.

He was also a goal-scorers' goal-scorer. He could beat you with pace or footwork. Watching him play was a joy and I, for one, am sad that he will likely go out like this. Let's remember him for his greatness and some awful hairstyles, and pour one out for the fallen homey tonight.


[Ed. Note again: The doctors think he'll make a full recovery, but that's what they're trained to say when a star falls down. Look at Barbaro's doctors. Anyways, below, find some YouTube goodness, including slow-mo footage of "The Injury" and some highlights from his career. Check out this Guardian blog post for more YouTube videos, too.]

The Injury


Ronaldo at Barcelona [arguably the height of his playing days]


His hat-trick against Man Utd in the Champions League, 2002/03

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Getting to Know: Daisuke Matsui


In a way, Daisuke Matsui of Le Mans in France is the perfect YouTube athlete. He plays in a relatively minor league, getting little TV coverage, so fans have to depend on web clips for the most part. And his bull-in-a-chinashop dribbling and trickiness on the ball give fans have enough material to create YouTube compilations.

Granted, you can make any footballer look like the second coming of Garrincha, but Matsui isn't all stepovers and backheels - he gets results. His goal against Lyon knocked the league leader and defending champions out of the League Cup, while scoring a goal completely against the run of play against Monaco, keeping Le Mans in the hunt for a UEFA Cup place.

I'm pretty sure that my co-bloggers who started this feature meant for it to be a way to introduce the Next Big Things, the starlets who are headed to Madrid and Milan if they're not already there, not some obscure Japanese player at an obscure French club, who's closer to age 30 than 20. But fuck it, rules are made to be broken, and hey, he's my countryman so I'm going to rep him.

There are rumors linking Matsui to Serie A, which would bring him to US viewers via Fox Soccer Channel, for now, YouTube will have to do.





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Why Protest?



It's a classic case of supply and demand people.

1: More people watch Premier League football in the U.S than attend or watch MLS games on TV. Asian countries are home to the largest Prem team fan clubs outside of the U.K

2: Fans get to see their teams play in a competitive match. Fans that would not get a chance normally.

3: They are not trying to do this in Italy. They are doing this in countries where the Premier League fans are. And why are they there? Because their domestic leagues are at an awful, unwatchable standard. Those leagues can develop ties with the Premier League. Gain management and training advice and even get players on loan.

4: PL football in the U.S.A (for example) could only draw attention to the game and end up having a positive impact on the inferior league (MLS). I really do not understand what English Premier League fans are complaining about? You either....

A: Take a holiday somewhere you wouldn't normally go.

B: Sit back, open a beer and watch 10 live Premier League games over a weekend that you would not be able to watch normally.

It's a win win. The fans get what they want. The clubs get what they want. Poor standard leagues get cash injections and are forced to raise the bar to improve THEIR league and the quality of THEIR game.

Why are so many against it? How does it effect you and your team? I would love to know?

The NFL sent the Giants and the Dolphins to play in London. The game was a raging success. Whether your team is playing or not you get to see a competitive game played at the highest level available in the world. We have the best league and the best players so why not share them?

I disagree strongly with how Scudamore went about it. He should have contacted the football associations in the countries mentioned and worked with them. The idea however is a great one. Its an extra game. No one loses out. Not to mention the money clubs get in that can be spent on players, advertising revenue. large gate receipts and TV deals. Liverpool V Portsmouth would sell out 80,000 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Wouldn't do that in Liverpool or Portsmouth.

Certain associations around the world are against it now but that will soon change.
The Australian and Asian football supremos are just peeved that they were not consulted. As soon as they have stopped throwing their toys around to justify their overpaid positions they will see the benefits. Watch the attitudes change as soon as Penang gets a couple of Man U players offered on loan and Sydney FC starts to see the interest appear on their doorstep.
Money will come in, better players arrive and they will all be thanking the PL is 10 years time.

-Bigus

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In Hot Water Over Hotpot Dinner

(Photo by Celie on Flickr)

Yesterday, I made a startling discovery that I, as a Japanese ex-pat, was the only non-whitey in the Unprofessional Foul stable of writers. Well, as my first act in the role of the representative of my people, I will give my co-bloggers a word of advice - never get between an Asian and his hotpot dinner. When the temperature drops, we don't just crave hotpot; we depend on it for survival (sadly, the go-to place in my old neighborhood, Happy Shabu Shabu closed last year - anyone know any decent hotpot/shabu shabu joint in New York?).

I bring this up, because Chinese national women's team coach Elisabeth Loisel is this close to being sacked for ordering her players not to attend a hotpot dinner arranged by Chinese federation officials out of dietary concerns.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, Loisel ordered players not to attend the dinner arranged by Chinese officials because of dietary concerns.

But Chinese officials hit back, over-ruling the hotpot ban and issuing a public rebuke against the Frenchwoman.

"The team's welfare is in the hands of management and not the coach," said Zhang Jianqiang, the manager of the team. "She has no right to interfere."
Damn right. Okay, so she has issues with punctuality and her team has underperformed, but denying her players hotpot? That's cultural oppression of the worst kind. China should seriously consider sending her to a Cultural Revolution-style reeducation camp and set the bitch straight.

Though I have to ask - with players like these, do they really need a coach?

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There's Only One Bernd Dreher


Ah, nostalgia. This is John Hewitt scoring the winning goal in the 112th minute against Real Madrid, securing the 1983 edition of the Cup Winners' Cup for Aberdeen. In getting to the final, Aberdeen also defeated European giants Bayern Munich in the semifinals, stunningly winning 3-2 at home after an away nil draw. This win over Bayern is considered by many Dons fans to be the greatest night ever at Pittodrie, though that may all change later on tonight.

Truthfully, there is no reason for Aberdeen to look for a result tonight. They are on horrible form in the SPL, while Bayern continue to maintain their hold on the Bundesliga. Bayern have Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose up top, while Aberdeen counter with Lee Miller. Aberdeen have zero internationals while Bayern are chock-full. Still, hope remains.

It seems that Bayern may have to start 41-year old squad keeper Bernd Dreher, owing to Oliver Kahn being sent home ill, and backup Michael Rensing having injured himself lacing his boots. It's not David Seaman worthy, but that's a pretty lousy way to claim to injure yourself. At least butch it up next time and say you were tombstoning.

The goalkeepers aren't the only ones thin for Bayern right now. Flu has decimated some of the squad as well, while Franck Ribery and Mark van Bommel are out with injuries. Plus, let's not forget that many of the players are German, and they never did well trying to invade the UK in the past, now did they?

Okay, I'm officially clutching at straws now.

Work will preclude me from watching the second half of this match, and I, for one, am thankful. I'll be blissfully unaware of the final outcome until about midnight Eastern tonight. I'll take that extra 10 hours of hope before I'm deposited back into the current malaise of following my club on the back end of what will be a 1-4 loss. You can take that as a tip from the West Ham training ground.
image courtesy virginmedia.com

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thunder Thief!


Last Sunday Sir Whingy Face continued his long standing trend of grabbing the headlines away from teams that have beaten Man Utd. The only possible motive is to steal the other teams thunder, have the press focus on Fergie and not the result. Sir Red Nose Thunder Thief is nothing short of a spoil sport and general bad loser.

After Sunday's defeat to local rivals Man City Fergie refused to speak to the press as he sulked in his office. Instead he dispatched his minion Carlos Queiroz to blame International football and fatigued players on the defeat. Of course Man City's International players could not have been tired at all.

Just for once could Fergie face the press and hold his hands up and say "we were beaten fair and square" or "Well done to them, they done us!"

He did exactly the same thing in 2006 when Norwich City beat Man U 2-0. Yes that's right. Norwich beat United 2-0 with super goals from Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie. If you don't remember the game that's because the following days press was filled with stories of Fergie's anger at losing to lil old Narridge. He refused to speak to the press, acted like a tantrum-throwing toddler at Carrow Road and sent a minion to issue the expected excuses to SKY TV. That day City played the game of their season, outplayed the champs and received little credit for doing so.

Mourinho, Benitez, O'Neill, Wenger. Whatever you think of them, that bunch would never act so childishly.

When all is said and done Fergie may be one of the greatest league managers ever. He will also be remembered for being the most ungracious.

My Man Utd supporting friend Adam said this morning "There's only two types of loser. Sore losers and losers. I'm happy with sore."

Sore losers ARE just losers. And to me, Fergie is the biggest of all.
-Bigus.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF


Seeing this week's shirt makes me want to go back to last weekend's poll and dock the Portuguese League a few spots. After the jump, my uncensored reaction to seeing this shirt for the first time.

HolyFuckingShit. It's a Motherfucking dragon! I think. Either that or it's a fat chicken with a huge back tumor. I really have no idea. I need a drink.

Once the 13-year-old in me settled down, I came up with some other thoughts. First of all, HolyFuckingShit. Sorry, I can't get over it.

This was FC Porto's away shirt from 96/97. This was the middle season in a five-year stretch of Portuguese titles. When you are piling up trophies like that, you can mess with your fans a bit. You can put out a shirt like this and see it become one of your clubs top selling replicas to date. Seriously, people bought this in droves. I guess the Portuguese love dragons. I wonder if they like dungeons, or gatherings of magic as well? Nerds.


shirt image culled from the forums at bigsoccer.com
lolcat built at icanhascheezburger.com

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Premier League Will *Not* Be Welcomed as Liberators


So about that Game 39, the plan to have each Premiership club play a 39th match abroad that was a subject of our point-counterpoint earlier. The supporter outrage was expected and understandable, but turns out, it's also getting chilly receptions in the United States, Asia, and Australia, presumably the three most desirable destinations for the 39th Round.

Oops. You figure when you propose something as explosively touchy as taking matches abroad, the least the Premier League honchos could have done is send out feelers and see how willing the potential hosts were. But the rejection by the Asian Football Confederation should pretty much kill this misguided adventure before it has even left the gate.

The more I think about it, the more I see how ridiculous this idea was from the start. Did PL owners seriously think that Asian leagues, who have a tough enough time fighting for attention with European leagues as it is, would roll out the red carpet? That was about as likely as Michael Dell setting aside space for MacBooks at Dell's mall kiosks because Steve Jobs told him that would sell more Inspirons.
/nerd

You see, the problem in America isn't turning sports fans into soccer fans. No, the challenge now is turning Eurosnobs (and to a similar extent, Mexisnobs) into Major League Soccer fans.
The doubleheaders that EPLtalk envisages will only reinforce the league's second fiddle status. Sure, there is a way to use the European leagues to sell the game and the domestic league, but Game 39 is pure football imperialism.

And now Wigan chairman David Whelan reveals the owners weren't unanimous on the plan as the league claimed, but their reservations were pushed aside. Good lord, the Bush Administration parallels just keep coming.

As with globalization in the marketplace, globalization of the sport is a Good Thing, but it's not without its perils. For one thing, this plan does nothing to stem the growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class (see what I mean about the parallels?). The Lutons and the Leeds and the Sheffield Wednesdays won't in any less of a crunch because the Liverpools and the Chelseas get their millions - trickle down economy is only slightly less bullshit in soccer than it is in real life.

Ultimately, the clubs (not franchises) belong as much to the supporters (not fans) as they do to the owners, and they are part of communities, rather than outposts of a national corporation. No offense to Spectator, but this isn't nostalgia; this is the essence of English football in 2008. And whatever the merits of this plan, pushing a plan without bothering to gauge the reaction from supporters and host countries was a stupid, stupid mistake.

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Joey Barton's relatives prepare to sliding tackle some jail time


Some of you know Joey Barton as the misunderstood midfielder whose no-nonsense style of sound-bitery and media management gets in the way of some extremely raw talent. Some of you know him as the angry idiot who punches up punters on the way home from the pubs.

Well, today Joey got some good news and bad news. The good news: he escaped a ban from the FA for his alleged punch-up with Shawn Moloney on Saturday. The bad news: his cousins are heading to jail.

Kevin Corke and Carl Taylor stabbed and shot a man on Merseyside in a revenge attack, after the victim, Tommy Harrison, had "humiliated" Corke in a fistfight earlier on. Corke was jailed for life after admitting to the murder, and Taylor was given a five-year sentence for manslaughter.

How are the two related to Barton? Corke and Taylor are half-brothers, and also cousins of Joey's half-brother Michael, who's ALSO in jail with a 17-year sentence for a particularly vicious murder [read the link].

It's a tangled web worthy of soap operas or Inside Edition, but when you look at Joey's family life, is it any bloody wonder that he's kicking, punching and strangling players on the pitch?

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They Told Him to Go to Rehab

Adriano, the formerly imperious striker of Internazionale who found himself dropped from the first team for alleged alcoholism and weight gain, was sent on exile to Sao Paolo at the beginning of the year, after Inter couldn't find any European club to take him off their hands. The idea was, a change of setting would rejuvenate him and he'd be back to his old, goal scoring self.

So much for that. He now faces a possible suspension of up to 18 months after after headbutting Santos defender Domingos.

Guess that praying thing didn't work out so well. I'm sure Taylor Twellman's happy to know there's some having an even shittier 2008 than he is, and Joey Barton's wondering why he can't control his anger better.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Think I Got A Straight Six


Yes, Er's sexual innuendo is priceless, but not as priceless as our clairvoyance.

Without checking, I'm going to proclaim this the best week ever. You'd think this would be easy, right? Just pair up a couple of low numbers—lots of 1's and 0's with the odd 2's and 3's and you should get most results.

Eh, it doesn't work that way.

Well it does, but for some arbitrary reason we've made order count here at UF. So the first number we list, that's gotta be the home team's total. No switching as this ain't a game for swingers (but if you want to throw up on someone who's not your wife, knock yourself out, Cashley).

Point being, we've never bested 5 right before this week, and with the ridiculously improbable 4-1 (well, not that ridiculous *cough*Keegan*cough*) we lined up 6.

The downside is that we weren't really close on the other four. We had three draws, which we can't pair with three losses (or wins depending). And the only remaining game with a winner—excuse me: WITH A WINNER WHO IS NOW FIVE POINTS CLEAR AT THE TOP OF THE TABLE—didn't come close to matching the remaining available tally of 5-2.

Oops.


Yipee!

Villa 4-1 Newcastle
Bolton 0-1 Portsmouth
Sunderland 2-0 Wigan
West Ham 1-1 Birmingham
Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
Derby 0-3 Tottenham

Skipee

Arsenal 2 - 0 Blackburn (5-2)

Citeh 2 -1 United (1-1)

Everton 1 -0 Reading (3-3)
'Boro 1-0 Fulham (2-2)


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Counterpoint: The Premier League's Foreign Round Plan is GOOD


In 1948, Bertrand Russell debated Father Frederick C. Copleston about the existence of God. Russell began by excluding what he could not defend: that God absolutely did not exist. Instead, Russell took the agnostic approach. This left Copleston to argue that God absolutely does exist, while Russell could simply sit back and poke holes in Copleston's position.

So, much like the great Bertrand Russell, I will begin my defense of the English Premier League's proposal by excluding what I cannot defend: that English soccer has become far too materialistic and is now largely guided by the almighty pound sterling.

This is a money grab. This is guided not by the purity of the sport, but rather by global marketing. This is about keeping up with Jonses, or more specifically the NFL and NBA. I also agree that there are some serious logistic hurdles facing this plan, everything from the fact that some teams will be put at a disadvantage based on who they draw, to the way in which foreign cities are chosen as hosts.

I am also very concerned by the fact that the FA might use the stupid "6+5" system as a bargaining chip for their support. The point should be to make English football more open, not to use it as an excuse to get all Lou Dobbs.

Having got that out of the way, here's why I am still in favor of an added round of matches abroad: it is reasonably innovative and it will create additional interest in English football around the globe. Sure it's inelegant. But so was that awful NFL match between the Giants and Dolphins at Wemberley last year.

For those of us who believe that the Premier League is the best football in the world, growth can only be a good thing.

Not only that, but growth is inevitable. And growth has already happened. For those longing for the days when teams like Ipswich [or Norwich, ha] won the title, those days are long gone. Today is the day of the top four (Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea and Everton) and foreign-born players and bucketloads of money being paid for that exotic Kazakh left-winger who no one has ever heard of before.

I could do without the unmitigated greed, but on the whole this is all actually good for the English game because English football is now faster, more physical, more skilled and more exciting. All that cash has allowed English teams to buy the best players. More cash from the international round will mean even more great players in the Premier League.

It will be a self-sustaining cycle, like the circle of life from the Lion King. Because the popularity of sports is not a zero sum game, with only a finite amount of attention for each sport and each league. More interest in sports is healthy, more interest in English football is even healthier.

I have selfish reasons too. I want to see my favorite team play in my backyard. And I want all the sports pundits and even the "soc-cer?" crowd to give the game a chance. If planned correctly when there are no major U.S. sporting events taking place, the amount of attention would be fantastic. And yes, even for such exciting potential matches as Wigan versus Middlesbrough playing to a nil-nil draw in Miami.

The fact of the matter is that a huge portion of Americans will simply never, ever tune in to FSC on a Saturday morning just to check out a footy match. But, if Chelsea are playing Sunderland in their backyard, and they've heard that Chelsea are supposed to be good, and they sometimes watch a World Cup match here or there but have always found "soccer" boring but are willing to give it a chance, and holy shit there are no commercials and it was actually a pretty decent match, and maybe they'll pay more attention to the English league and even buy a Lampard jersey for their cousin who plays high school soccer, and who knows maybe even watch an MLS match here or there (bleh!)... Well, you get the idea.

And this scenario is exactly what the powers that be in the Premier League had in mind, plus the idea of 100,000 ticketholders in Japan, 100,000 in Australia, etc. etc.

I guess my point is this: for those who criticize the plan because of the logistics, I would tend to agree with you; but for those who criticize the plan because it represents another threat to the hazy, suspended-animation of English football circa 1967, that train has left the station a long, long time ago. All sports are built on the past, this being reason number one why football is not popular in the U.S., because we have no past with the sport. But sports can't live in the past, especially not football, which, to borrow a phrase from the WWL, is built on which player is next.

Globalization represents the future of sports. It is inevitable that there will someday soon be superleagues that span the Americas and Europe. You will someday soon see the Serbian Mad Ants playing the Detroit Pistons for the World Basketball Association championship. All that stands in the way are logistics, and logistics are things that can be hammered out with a little elbow grease and compromise.

But I applaud the Premier League for embracing the future. If nothing else, the amount of vehement protests from the English punters shows that they are on to something good.

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Point: The Premier League's Foreign Round Plan Is BAD

Ed. Note: This was written by the indomitable Sven of Being Sven... hopefully we shall seem him around these parts more. Find his blog here.


Like a slovenly grade-schooler who's crammed all his cookies down his throat and now hungrily watches the other children eat their delicious treats while the crumbs fall from the corners of his mouth, the Premier League unveiled its utterly ingenious plan to mortgage the future and integrity of its league & clubs for a few more chocolate chips.

In an age where the top tier of English football is as popular as ever and is beamed to every corner of the Earth with streams of cash flooding back in the opposite direction, this week's announcement once again proves that the men who run football are not interested in the touch or bylines (or the good of the game), but merely their own bottom lines.

Firstly, I'm amused/ashamed that the proposal actually uses the word 'auction' -- as in auctioning off the right to host one of the 10 newly created Premier League fixtures. Could they not find a more crass word? While every fan must at least begrudgingly admit that football is both a business and a sport, the clubs and players are certainly not cattle to be put on a block for the highest bidder and the sport & league I love should certainly not be in the business of peddling flesh.

"Come and get it! Step right up! Make your bid for the right to have these little monkeys dance for you and make you some fine coin in the process! All you need is a stadium, some proper infrastructure and a few million quid! Come and get 'em while they're hot!"

This could not be a more deliberate and shameful money grab by the PL. There exists NO other reason for adding another round of matches to the schedule other than just to generate more revenue. You see, some people just can't leave well enough alone. They see the NFL do it while the NBA and MLB talk about it. Why not ruin the perfect symmetry (not to mention common sense) that the home-and-away table provides for a few million more pounds?

Find me one educated person who actually believes that there aren't enough matches on any given fixture list, let alone that it's utterly clogged and actually endangering the game. At a top level English club such as my beloved Liverpool (enter your own 'top level joke' here) you've got 38 league games, two domestic cup competitions and then European club competition (not to mention a likely qualifying round for that, as well... or enter your own 'European club competition' joke here).

And, lest we forget, there is also the matter of the international game, with its endless stream of pointless friendlies and actual tournaments to wedge into the crowded calendar.

That's a shitload of matches to be played. And, when you're one of the world's top leagues (subject to such daunting work permit laws), a good number of your league's players are going to represent their countries. So, not only are we talking about too many games in any given year, you actually have to think about the logistics of traveling the globe in order to play all these games.

Now, why don't we throw another twig on the fire? Why don't we make the players, who already have clocked up thousands of air miles (especially in the summer/preseason months) undergo yet another pointless trek to play in a match that ruins the integrity of one of the world's finest leagues? What could it hurt?

For years, English-based managers have rallied against fixture congestion and even begged for the creation of some sort of Winter Break. While they certainly have their best interests at heart, each and every one of them obviously loves the game and wants what's best for it (with the exception of attractive footy in some cases). So, in it's infinite wisdom (wisdom being spelled g-r-e-e-d in this case), the PL has chosen to rectify the situation by making a mockery of its fixture schedule.

And while I'm a Liverpool fan, the fact that the Top Four wouldn't face each other further (while likely a good idea for LFC) suggests that this dog-and-pony show is merely that, a completely rigged operation sweetened to lure the big dogs over with the promise of a Snausage.

"But, what of the children?! Won't somebody think of the kids?"

I can understand the plight of the foreign fan. Many are unable to travel to England to watch their favorite club live and in person. If only there existed such a mechanism that would allow these clubs to come and play in distant cities, expanding both their and the Premier League's exposure level (not to mention their wallets) whilst giving the fans a real taste of what they yearn for!!

Oh, that's right... they already do. IT'S CALLED THE FUCKING PRESEASON.

What club hasn't already taken advantage of its overseas fanbases by jumping in a jet and hop-scotching around a few countries to play a handful of exhibitions in July and August? (let me rephrase that: What club, that isn't run by fucking idiots, hasn't already taken advantage...) Clubs have been plucking the ripe fruit that are the Asian and North American markets for quite some time. And, as each year goes by, the number of games being played Stateside increases, with bigger names and more illustrious (and some not-so-illustrious) clubs getting in on the act. Now, the Premier League just wants a bigger slice of the pie.

Let's be honest, these proposed games would end up in Asia or North America anyway. Outside of the oil rich Middle East, who else is going to outbid those markets for the games? Because the PL ain't shipping them to Africa for a Showcase in hope of bettering the sport or out of the goodness of their hearts.

You've got to ask yourself three questions. What's the real motivation? What's the upside? And, is it truly worth it?

You know what? I'll answer them for you.

Money.

Nothing.

No.


I'll leave you with a quote from a certain blowhard French UEFA Chief:

"The beauty of football is you have some values, you have the teams, you have the fans, you represent something important and you are not a travelling circus."
Look at what you've done, Premier League. It took an idea of the most moronic proportions to make me agree with Michel Platini. I hope you're proud of yourself.

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Won't Someone Please Think of the Children?

Did you know? During month's National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Baltimore (all in the game yo, all in the game), coaching rejects Steve McClaren and Gerard Houllier were somehow allowed to train our very impressionable college soccer players.

Sheesh, of all the people to give pointers. In McClaren, you have a gaffer who couldn't strategize his way up a buffet line, and in Ged, you have a guy who would draw up tactics to work his way up a buffet line and come away satisfied with a bowl of rice.*

What can I say, kids? If soccer's your career choice, then don't stay in school. Such is the dearth of coaching minds in college soccer that men like McClaren and Houllier are sought for wisdom. Seriously, get out while you can! If you can't cut it in MLS, learn Norwegian and get on the next plane to Europe. Anywhere but NCAA soccer!


*In fairness to Houllier, he's actually a very good tactician and his time at Liverpool was more positive than not. It's just that his conservative tactics made the inability to meet unreasonable expectations even more depressing. But once you get past his well-publicized and expensive busts like Diouf, his transfer record's certainly no worse than Rafa's - after all, he bought the players who would form the backbone of the 2001 treble team and the 2005 Champions Cup winners, not to mention nurturing Gerrard and selling Fowler for 11 million pounds.

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Berlusconi likes them barely legal

[photo credit: NY Times]

So this post isn't actually about the romantic exploits of the soon to be restored Italian prime minister. Although check out Ms. Yespica's dating cv: Silvio, Bruce Willis, Craig David, and Pippo Inzaghi (NSFW pics here). No, this is about an 18 year old scoring just seconds into his Serie A debut for Milan. Video evidence, and the brewing Inter refereeing scandal, after the break.

With Pato out injured, Milan were actually struggling against Siena at the San Siro, failing to convert on a myriad of chances and reverting back to last fall's form. Ancelloti went to his bench and subbed on Alberto Paloschi in the 63rd minute. 20 seconds later, Milan were 1-0 up thanks to this sweet volley from the teenager. The rossoneri went on to win and now sit a mere 2 points behind Fiorentina and the final Champions League spot. Milan have been outstanding so far this year, and next week's match vs. Arsenal should be entertaining. With two 18 year olds, Kaka, and the only-25-year-old Gilardino, Milan look to have found a new generation of attacking players. Now if only they could find someone to replace the ancient Paolo Maldini in the back.

Inter, meanwhile, won 2-0, with the first goal coming from a probably offside Esteban Cambiasso. The ref fled the pitch after the game to avoid the wrath of the Catania players. Inter have now benefitted from shady calls in three straight matches, and remain on top of the Calcio.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

TWAG (This Week at Ginger's): Episode 2 - That Explains the Six Cups of Coffee


It was -5 when I woke up on Sunday morning. The first breath I took when I stepped outside hurt my lungs.

But I have no Setanta and:

A) I wanted to see the remnants of United v. Citeh (if only for the retro kits)
2) I had a commitment from the two ladies you see in the picture above to actually make it to Ginger's to watch the late match of Liverpool v. Chelsea.

And I'm not sure which was more surprising. The Citeh win or the fact that the two girls made it, and even brought a third with them (Note: The pic is not from Ginger's on Sunday but from lunch the day before). The latter because, again, it was below zero (Fahrenheit, kids, we're not cheating with Celsius here) and neither of them know shit about soccer.

The blonde on the right, her name is LeighAnne. Here's an actual conversation we had.

Me: "That's Steven Gerrard. He's one of England's better players."
LeighAnne: "I thought that was Liverpool in red."
Me: "It is. He's English though, so he also plays for the English national team."
LeighAnne: "Isn't that where Beckham played before he came here."
Me: "Well, yes, sometiems. But he also played in Spain at Real Madrid."
LeighAnne: "But he's not Spanish."
Me: "It doesn't matter. You can play your club soccer anywhere. There are Spaniards playing in England and Brazilians playing in Italy."
LeighAnne: "So then they don't play for Brazil?"
Me: "No, they play for Brazil, they just play their club soccer in Europe."
LeighAnne: "How do they play for two teams at the same time?"

What that transcription doesn't give you is the visual of me starting to pound my head against the table.

I tried to explain that, the same way LeBron James plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kobe Bryant plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, when it comes time for the Olympics, they both play for the USA. Somehow she missed the analogy.

She's not stupid. She just clearly doesn't understand soccer, or at least soccer leagues—the game it self it pretty easy: kick the ball into their net, you can't use your hands—but she got irritated that I would call them "clubs" and not "teams" not understanding that all clubs field teams, but not all teams are club teams.

Anyway, a friend of mine had a saying, a variant of Murphy's Law I guess that went: "It's always a good movie, until mom and dad come downstairs and people start fucking."

Sure enough. I drag cute girls to a bar at gawdearly on a shit cold Sunday and what do they get? Liverpool and Chelsea. Between them, the sides combined to score zero goals, created maybe π scoring chances, and put at least 9,458 people into boredom-induced comas.

If not for the girls, I wouldn't have stayed and I like soccer (Soc-cer?).

So instead, to entertain themselves, the girls degenerated into "He's cute" (Ballack) and "I kind of like him. He's rugged in a Matt Damon sort of way" (Riise). Fortunately, for her she only saw Riise from profile during a throw in. From head on, Riise looks like he got struck with an ugly free-kick one too many times. And as for Ballack, meh. The low point of the day was when LeighAnne gushed over how cute Frank Lampard was.

Great, there's zero fucking action on the pitch and my friend is going to become a Chelsea fan because the biggest douche in the EPL is dreamy. This couldn't backfire any worse. Someone alert Rafa, not only did Spain's midweek friendly cost him Torres, but the lack of a good-looking Torres cost Liverpool a potential fan.

So thanks guys, I'm trying to be an ambassador for the game, and a poon ambassador at that, and two of the Big 4 decide to engage in a 90-minute sleepwalk with a couple of stepovers. So yep, soccer is boring. That's exactly what they are going to tell all of their friends at work today when they have the "So what'd you do over the weekend" gossip chat.

And what counter do I have? "Well, you should have seen the Tottenham - Birmingham City match in Novemeber. That was cracking good excitement from mid-table teams. Well, just below mid-table to be accurate."

I should know better: Next time you hoodwink girls (or anybody for that matter) into watching soocer, bring them to an Arsenal match. That's not blatant homerism as, 9 times out of 10, at least an Arsenall match will be pretty to watch, but I'm pretty sure I'll be dragging my ass and my ass alone to the United v. Arsenal FA Cup tie this Sunday.

At least I have the prospect of saddling up to Ronaldo McBoSoxHat. Yipee.

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Open Letter to the Women of Scotland

Dear Women of Scotland,

I am sorry I screwed up that last minute call against your country's national team. I realize now that I am the cause for your pain on the night of November 17 in 2007. Sorry. I'm the bad guy.

Sincerely,

Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez


For those that don't know, the above Mr. Gonzalez refereed the Euro 2008 qualifying match between Scotland and Italy. His bizarre foul call below, which overruled his assistant on that side, led to Italy's game winning goal.

Subsequently, as he gave the win to Italy, he must also be blamed for the immediate rise in domestic violence that followed.

It seems that drunken Scots don't take losing too well. This poorly sourced article attributes a one day rise in violence on women in Glasgow to two factors interacting with each other: alcohol and the national team's loss. What it leaves out--mouthy Scottish women. As any good wifebeater will tell you, these women obviously deserved it. They probably sided with the ref, or said Italy deserved to win, or something like that. Yep, it has nothing to do with the record drinking levels recorded in pubs that day.

UF in no way endorses the actions of the day. Wifebeating is bad, m'kay?
Photo from the beeb. But you'd know that if you clicked the link.

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Man United: where bullshit flies

When I'm sad and depressed [like I am at the moment], all it takes is a good joke to get me back on my feet. Today, I thank the Mancs' assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz, for doing just that.

When asked for comment on their derby day loss to Man City, he had this gem to offer:

"We believe the team was affected by international call-ups...It was really unusual to see a couple of our players playing so slow, without tempo and making mistakes...That's never happened before and if it is a coincidence we will let other people decide...The reality is that the players have been affected. Not only the English players but others like Ronaldo and Vidic were not so sharp."
Hilarious. It's Capello's fault! It's Scolari's fault! It's not the fact that Human Rights FC were tactically sharper and smarter on the ball, nor was it the tireless work of Benjani in his first game for the club, either. It was the fact that the blessed Devils had to slog through international duties midweek.

Is it just me or has Queiroz forgotten that just three short weeks ago, the squad traveled to Saudi Arabia chasing the 2 million pound payout for Sami Al-Jaber's testimonial game against Al-Hilal?

Throwing aside the fact that this is really a non-story and that I'm clutching at straws for things to make fun of, I would love to be in the excuses business. That's what Queiroz does, and considering the fact that his club is still in the title hunt and in two other major trophy competitions, losses like this are unacceptable. I just love the bullshit that comes with it.

Eat a dick, Queiroz and friends... just get ready for next week.


Photo by Brett Rogers

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Sam Allardyce Is Your Delusional Ex-Girlfriend


Joining Steve McClaren in his Recently Dumped Delusional Managers Club is Big Sam Allardyce. Oh, just look at Sam babble away to Steve, Carrie and Miranda about how Newcastle wasn't big enough for him. "it didn't live up to my ambitions in the short time that I was there," said Sam as he gestured to the bartender to refill his martini glass, "And because it didn't do that the club missed a chance to realise its own ambitions."

And look, that's my head exploding!

Seriously, I haven't seen this much logical acrobatics since the Japanese justice minister argued that Europeans don't execute criminals because they don't value life.

Wait, there's more! "The more I analyse it, the more I come to the conclusion that it was never about me or results," continued Sam as Steve, Carrie and Miranda tried their awkward best to keep a straight face.

Oh, Sam. He's going to have one hell of a headache when he wakes up.

Image from Kick n Rush

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

UF Weekend Poll

Once a week, we poll ourselves to find answers to the burning questions of the football world. We are, of course, experts in the field, so the results can be taken as definitive. This week: The Top Ten domestic leagues around the world.


1. English Premier League. The surprisingly unanimous #1. The reasoning varied for some, but for the most part we agreed that it is the most dynamic and unpredictable of the top tier leagues. Any squad (save Derby this season) has a chance to defeat another squad on the schedule. Also gets bonus points for the attractiveness of the game as well as being broadcast in English.

2. Spanish La Liga. La Liga was a strong second choice among participating UFers. Cited for laving a "Latin style, but fast", one of us docked it from beating out the EPL because there are simply too many theatrics in the pitch. Consistently one of the most watchable leagues, no matter which teams are playing.

3. German Bundesliga. 3 and 4 were a dogfight between Germany and Italy, with the Bundesliga taking the honors. I, for one, said that the difference was in the crowds. German stadiums are consistently packed with raucous crowds, while Italian crowds tend to depend on who the opponent is. Others rated it because of its history, and not so much for what it is now.

4. Italian Serie A. The definition of a league coasting on its reputation. Most of us hate to watch it, but we all seem to respect it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the very same reputation of years past still brings the best players from around the world to play, and get paid. Points were also docked for the general perceived dirtiness of the league and its ownership, with scandals abounding seemingly every decade.

5. French Ligue 1. There was a pretty hefty drop from the Top 4 down to France. The domination of Lyon definitely hurts its standing as a league. We do see it as a great league for incoming African players to get a chance to prove themselves.

6. Dutch Eredivisie. The Eredivisie, though not strong all the way through, deserves respect as a Euro league which does a great job at developing young talent. Players come here as raw teenagers and leave to the bigger leagues as finished talents. The prime hunting ground for larger leagues looking for new talent.

7. Argentine Primera Division. The highest rated non-European league. Argentina gets picked not just for its top teams like Boca and River, but also for its fanatical followings all the way through. Besides, no other league at this level can cite the openness of the league to teams winning titles. Recent seasons have seen teams lime Lanus and Newell's win titles, the rough equivalent of Middlesbrough or Newcastle winning in the EPL.

8. Portuguese Liga. Another league defined by its exports to other leagues. See Cristiano Ronaldo. Also, for a smaller league, these are teams that tend to do well in Europe. Besides, this is the league of Freddy Adu, someone most of us want to see do well.

9. Major League Soccer. There was a big drop in points here, but MLS did show up on over half of the submitted ballots. Some see this as a league on the rise, with the Beckham signing giving it validation. Others voted for it to spite Mexico. Whatever, it all works.

10. English Conference. See kids, this is how a single outlier vote can affect your statistics within a small sample size. Always take as large a sample as you can.

Others receiving multiple votes: Mexico, Scotland, English Championship,

Others receiving single votes: Brazil, Russia, Greece, any Women's league, Turkey, USL, MISL, Hyundai A-League (because it's fun to say).

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African Cup Pseudo Live Blog


Egypt came out in a 4-3-3 formation instead of their more aggressive 3-5-2 formation they've used all match. Also Zidan is starting on the bench. Cameroon brought out I think a 4-4-2 formation. I also say "pseudo" because I may have to walk the dog before half-time. Miserable weather to boot.



First Half:

Cameroon has started off pushing the ball up field more, with strong volleys but struggling to finish. Egypt is a making some runs. First free kick near the goal is done by Housy and his attempt is saved by the keeper. Much more physical play, very similiar to an EPL match in intensity. Corner by Egypt is handled well by Cameroon.

My English sopcast stream is being overrun with Nigerian I believe. The Arsenal midfielder Alex Song is replaced by Binya. Song is limping, which does not bode well for Wegner's attitude.

Eto'o is being marked hard, and the Lions seem lost as to what to do without him free. Egypt has had several strong attacks with very good saves by Kameni.

It takes almost 30 minutes into the match before Eto'o gets his first crack at the net, but there is no one for the cross that would of put it in, so he shoots it wide.
Eto'o and the Egyptian keeper do some knee on shin dance, and Al Hadari is down. Eto' o shows genuine concern. Al Hadari is staying in for now.

The Stadium is just getting full. This match deserves a full house.

Atouba goes down for Cameroon right before half. Song is out, Mbia is hurt. Coach Pfister is probably pulling the last few strands of hair out.

First half summary: Egypt is running like fiends and getting some very strong shots on goal. Cameroon is tackling pretty aggressively, which may bite them if it goes the wrong way, Egypt is doing some nice flopping, but the Injuries (or the subs) will be the decider.



Second Half:

Kameni keeps up with his Man of the Match honors, keeping back charges from

Zidan appears, as Moteab goes off for Egypt. He of juggling boot.

Yellow card for atouba for knocking down Zidan. That will have him sitting out the next International match. I'm sure he's crying about that.

Mbami comes in substitution for Epalle, and they switch to a 4-3-3. It's like everyone is too scared to take the initiative to win.

Egypt just capitalized on a Cameroon defensive lapse. Rigberto Song had tied up Zidan, but left Aboutrika open for the poke in. That may be it, as Cameroon has had no solid attack for awhile. 1-0 Egypt.

A yellow card on #17. Hasayan for Egypt. Cameroon decides they want one too now a yellow card is called Idirisiu.

Roberto Song misses a nice chance on a header. And it's over. Egypt wins, 1-0.

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Egypt/Cameroon battle for Group C title


We now have a third place winner already figured out. Now we just need to find out which Group C team will win the African Cup of Nations. How they got here, why I missed Thursday, and hope more inside.


Our finalists:

Egypt





Nickname: The Pharaohs
Name to Watch: Mohamed Zidan

They took out one of our favorite teams - the Elephants of Ivory Coast (or Cote d'Ivorie depending on your level of imperialism) in the semis, beat plucky Angola in the quarter finals, and won Group C beating Cameroon in their opening match 4-2, blanking Sudan 3-0 and playing a meaningless 1-1 tie with Zambia. Zidan had two very sweet goals in the tournament so far, as well as a great goal routine. His play is surprising since he plays sort of average for his home team of Hamburg, in the Bundesliga. Egypt is trying to show Africa their 2006 title was no fluke. Also, you can now switch religions without being condemned to death in Egypt. This may be of use down the road.

Scheduled Lineup: 1-Essam Al Hadari; 5-Shady Mohamed, 6-Hani Said, 20-Wael Gomaa, 14-Sayed Moawad; 8-Hosni Abd Rabou, 17-Ahmed Hassan, 7-Ahmed Fathi, 22-Mohamed Aboutrika; 10-Emad Moteab, 19-Amr Zaki



(AP Photo/Olivier Asselin)




Cameroon

(AP Photo/Olivier Asselin)


Nickname: Golden Lions
Player to Watch: Samuel Eto'o

They made it here by defeating home favorite Ghana 1-0 in the semis. But they needed extra time to edge Tunisia 3-2 in the Quarterfinals. They knocked around Sudan and Zambia after losing to Egypt in Group play. Keep an eye on Goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who plays on one of the Spanish League teams. If they want to keep Egypt down, he will need to be in top form. Egypt will bring it, and often. The backs will have their hands full.


Scheduled Lineup: 1-Idriss Carlos Kameni; 8-Geremi, 2-Augustin Binya, 4-Rigobert Song, 5-Timothee Atouba; 10-Achille Emana, 15-Alexandre Song, 19-Stephane Mbia; 21-Joseph-Desire Job, 17-Mohamadou Idrissou, 9-Samuel Eto'o



Prediction: I still like Cameroon even though Egypt put the hurt to them in the first match of the cup. Egypt brings an attacking style of play, but Cameroon is no stranger to this, and can match up well with them.


Cameroon 3 - 2 Egypt

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